When the air begins to get crisp, they meet out at a cabin in the woods. One by one they trickle in, down the dirt road and up to the little lodge. Most of their lives and all of their pretenses are left behind when they travel that bumpy road. Each one has something special to share whether it’s food or drink or possessions or stories. Activities have become habits and habits have become traditions. The first one in will light a fire and pour a drink that will soon become a round as the others arrive. They will be well settled by the time I arrive. As I climb out of my truck I will be enveloped by the smell of smoke and whiskey and the feel of stubble and fleece. Although I was born several decades too late and am of the wrong gender, they have allowed me into their brotherhood. Most have known me since my first days. They have watched me grow from baby to girl to woman and have walked beside me though happiness and heartbreak. They stand beside me without question and when others drift they remain to tell me about how things would be if they were but thirty years younger. Their actions are those of gentlemen even when their words are not. They find me a chair and pour me a glass and we tell dirty jokes and talk about women and morons and each other. The world stands still while we sit in the cold waiting on the evening’s meal. And each night when the time comes, they offer me just one more and I decline and slip off into the night. Their jobs change, their wives change and their lifestyles change, but the bonds that have been forged in the fall night air always remain the same. And now the season approaches. The temperature is dropping and you can almost smell the weather. The tracks are fresh and the rye is green as leaves gently float to the ground. I know my next encounter is just around the corner and I’m getting excited about seeing my motley crew. But now my heart is heavy and I wonder how I will feel. I know we will have laughter. I know we will have stories. I know we will eat and drink and talk about everything and nothing. Yet this time it will be different. There will be cold beer in the cooler and fresh scallops on the stove-top, but this season there will be two empty chairs.
Thinking of Thomas Lee Shannon and Bob McKinnon. May they both rest in peace.
Scout: “Carly Puckett’s my girlfriend.”
Me: “How’d that happen?”
Scout: “She said, ‘Wanna be my boyfriend?’ and I figured she likes me, I like her, so I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ Easy peasy lemon squeezy. It really was a no brainer.”
Dozier: “If we were pirates, we’d be drinking rum right now. That’s really all the pirates drank – rum. In fact, they probably stayed drunk all the time. Maybe that’s why they did such bad things. I’m just saying.”
Scout: “I bet they would have liked an ice, cold Pepsi.”
Dozier: “They would have probably killed for a Pepsi. You know the pirates back then were a lot worse than the ones now.”
Scout: “Pirates don’t exist now.”
Dozier: “Yes, they do. They rob people on yachts and stuff while they’re on vacation.”
Scout: “Well, they didn’t exist in pre-historic times.”
Dozier: “True that. But there were other dangers.”
Me: “Why Pepsi?”
Scout: “Not everybody likes Fresca, Mom.”
Dozier: “It is an acquired taste.”
My feet continued to become numb even under the fleece blanket. The sound of the waves was so loud it almost drowned out my own thoughts. I sniffed a little, either from the crisp wind or the tears I had shed earlier. The events of the day were becoming a blur. The wine remained in the refrigerator unopened. It was too late to bother opening it although the thought of it making my mind murky was rather appealing. I was sad. I was sad that I wasn’t there. I craved the laughter. I craved your hand giving mine a squeeze to steady me. I wanted to be there so I could be with you, my friend. I also wanted to be there to get lost in the fake happiness and false sentiments. I wanted to be the punch line, but my absence made me instead the butt of the joke. What thoughtless cruel things were said and brushed under the rug by those who once confided in me and cried to me and wanted my help? I didn’t think it malicious, simply all they were capable of. I wanted to cry and get it out, but I’d been stifling tears for so long that they just weren’t there. And then I just sat there lost. Not in thought, but in lack of thought. I don’t even know how much time passed. Either the cold had penetrated my skin and reached my bones or I had successfully rendered myself numb on the inside. There was no longer an ache or desire or longing or fear or sadness. There was just nothing. I was void of all feeling and emotion. I had become apathetic to my own state. And then a thought finally crossed my mind. I wondered if this is what it felt like to give up.
Scout accidentally knocked the Nintendo DS off the table and caught it just before it hit the floor.
Dozier’s friend Seth: “Dude, you are really lucky you didn’t break that!”
Dozier: “Yeah man, especially in this economy.”