Short Stories


Hector

My departure from Ireland was swift, painful, and full of spirits.
Michigan was a foreign land and home a distant photograph I’d
tore up years ago.  A broken heart, a tattered body, and a wild
disposition were what I had to work with now.
I moved from Up North to downstate and in a whisper found myself
in Wilmington, North Carolina…… as an import with so many interesting
stories to tell.
My best friend Meggen housed me temporarily.  She was so good to
even accept me into her home.  Her home she’d worked  so hard
to maintain as a stable environment.  She was in grad school and not
quite ready for the gift of her best friend on her doorstep, broken hearted
with the spirit of the Irish in her veins.
I immediately went looking for a job and cheap bars to get
drunk in.  Everyone was complaining of no work in town.  I always work
there is no other option.  Within two days I had two jobs and a place to live.
My first job was in a bagel shop.  Managed by the cowboy hat wearing,
shit talking, Pabst Blue Ribbon drinking, Iowan Jackie Lloyd and manned
by the tattooed, trouble making, rock’n roller, from South Carolina, Anthony,
who had more stories than sense
What a dream situation for the poor, broken hearted, drunkard
that I was.
I was hired on the spot.  Started work the next day.  Asked if anyone knew
where I might be able to live and moved in with Anthony and Hector.
The house was… well…. a mother’s nightmare,  but it was cheap and only a
half an hour walk from work.
I met Hector at the bagel shop the day before I moved in.  He was crazy,
looked homeless, was skinny, and in a wheel chair.  Hector was my first friend in
Wilmington.  I could be on any wave of sanity or totally abstract…. and he just accepted me as I was.  He told me his stories.  How he wound up in the wheel chair.  How
he at one point lost his mind.  He didn’t work, drew a lot, and ventured in to town
every couple of days if not daily.
We’d go out on occasion for a few drinks, sometimes we’d sit at Greenfield
Lake and talk.  Once he let me try one of his pain killers.  I never felt the need to do that again.  However you slice it… we got close.  Not sexual.  Just close.
In the winter he wouldn’t leave the house as much….  it was cold and icy.
We had no heat.  I’d go to bed in 3 pair of pajamas and I don’t know how many blankets.
It was a common occurrence for me to come home a little more than tipsy…. struggle with the lock, some how manage to get in, and eat anything that came in my way.  One night in particular, I stumbled home, as usual arriving to my destination minutes before all of the drink could really take hold.  My key being attached to a chain that was attached my belt loop was giving me a particularly hard time this night.  I couldn’t get the key off my belt loop and I couldn’t break the chain.
I tried standing on my tip toes to get the key to reach the lock while still attached  to me. No joy.  Finally I looked over one shoulder then over the other… and dropped my trousers and standing there in my boxers unlocked the door and made it in.  Only to find Hector sitting there in his wheel chair.  What a sight.  Me in my boxers with my pants dangling from the chain attached to my key.  He in his wheel chair laughing.
I remember him telling me to sit down.  I sat on his lap and he wheeled me to my bed room, told me to go in, put on my pajamas, get in bed and call him when I was ready.  So I did.
This was the night our tradition of him reading Peter Pan to me would begin.  He had an old worn in copy and
would read until I fell asleep.  Picking up every night from the page we left off……. We never made it past the first chapter.  I’m not sure we ever made it past the first page.  I’d drop to the other side the moment my body felt the weight of the sheets.

I moved house 8 times that year.

I visited Hector weekly for the first couple of months….. then time drifted.
Thanksgiving weekend was when he died that year.  Anthony found him in his room.  His body had shut down.  Having been impaled twice his organs were fragile.
I found out days later.  Having since been fired from the bagel shop and moving on to being a cook at the brewery I didn’t have regular contact with Anthony any more.
One of the guys in the kitchen made mention of Hector’s death.  I all but ran out the door to see Anthony.  No thoughts prevailed.
Bursting thru the doors of Ken’s Bagels I stopped.
Anthony looked at me.  He thought I already knew.

Another rock to be thrown in the ocean.

Another person I once knew.
My first friend in Wilmington.
He called me a pirate.
I have a poem he wrote me for my birthday.  It will always hang on my wall.
Signed ”From your not so secret admirer Hector.”  When I read it I can hear his voice.
His name was Charles.  His family had disowned him.
His body shipped home.  No service.  No funeral.
Just a rock thrown into the ocean this time every year.

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One of the best dates I ever went on was years ago. It’s not steeped in romance or excitement really.  It was pretty ordinary in many ways but the subtleties are what impressed me.
I was living in San Francisco at the top of Pine Street.  I’d met someone I found pretty interesting whom I was also pretty sure had a girlfriend but that has nothing to do with this part of the story.
Kett invited me to a movie.   Finding Neverland with Johnny Dep.  It was about the man who wrote Peter Pan and the family who inspired it.
Not long into the movie Kett became cold.  He was a strong  and healthy man and it created great joy in me to throw my coat over his legs to keep him warm.
Then came the tears….I don’t remember when but he couldn’t stop…I handed him napkins and patted him gently….
I could feel my own building up inside but I wouldn’t cry with him.  Not with out explaining Hector and our bed time stories…the wheel chair and……
At the end of the film I broke down in the bathroom the way we do… like a wave crashing so hard and fast that in a moment somehow still standing you’re drenched….become composed,zip up your coat and return to shore…