Now, I’ve lived in this place for most my years so it comes as no shock to get up in the morning and find the ground littered.
My new neighbor, on the other hand, has been watering a new front lawn for a week with a sprinkler system set for around 3 a.m., and well, it looked pretty frosty this morning when I drove away.
There’s not much going on at 3:30 in the morning, it’s a drive to work on a street I’ve driven most my life. I can still see Verne & Doris sitting out on their house porch, corner of Canyon and 12th, waving to me, those warm summer evenings long ago under the great apple tree, he’s bundled and not well. He had worked in the mill for as long as I knew him, years earlier when he was well and strong, I remember late nights watching his car drive past our house, him getting home from the late shift, me just getting by.
When Verne passed away, at the ceremony, they called for stories, some remembrance about this good and decent man, and I would have bared our secret moment, it stands today as clear to me as it was that night, but it was church, a lot of people around and you just never know when a crowd will turn on you so, I kept still.
But I remembered, could envision it before me, the predicament, the night clear and black as onyx, the enormous mountain of lies concocted to lure this older girl back home from the football game, some other, cooler, name, a fable concerning law enforcement impounding my automobile, fabricated age, authenticity and experience, anything to suspend the notion that my real mode of transportation might be a bicycle and I was yet to see the insides of the high school.
Too busy, blending the ends of one lie into another to notice the time, not fully prioritizing the fact that there was only one bus that ran back to Bend from Redmond at night and it had left long ago.
And then, just then, Vern drove by.
There was no one else in the world, and I grasped at his truck as it went by like a life preserver on a wild and open sea, fumbled with the book, dialed the phone and tried to explain; needed a ride to Bend, Sorry, yes, it’s very late, no, can’t really call the folks on this one.
I don’t know what he told Doris, if he ever did, but I remember it was a mighty odd ride back and forth, spotty in conversation with long bouts of questioning silence and an undertone of amused forbearance for the rashness of youth.
The ride back took an eternity, just me and him then, me searching for every feathery topic available and him, window down a bit, hands on the wheel, glancing my way with that look he had, that sly grin that wasn’t quite a sympathetic smile but still made things better, if not completely pardonable.
I bolted from that truck cab like a rabbit from beneath a rock, he waited a moment at the curb watched the door close behind me, I waved from behind the curtain and he rolled off down the street. He was a good and decent man.