I’m writing my first novel, he says and he says it like it really matters—like we aren’t standing in the middle of a cul de sac street in a suburb in West Virginia. Like my dog isn’t sniffing his feet and his aren’t barking at me through the window.
Like a retired gentleman wearing a hat has nothing to be self-conscious about—he’s writing his first novel after all.
I bend my head and look closer at my neighbor. I see that his flat cap is made of a tight honey-colored straw weave—perfect for these hot days. The short bill of it sits angled cockily above his brow and he smiles easily. Don’t I already know this? Hasn’t he always waved heartily from the front porch when we walk by? How long has he lived here? How many years have I been walking this dog by his house?
I take a step closer.
It was Lucy Mae what drew him off the front porch. She saw a rabbit in his yard. We had a good laugh at her inept stalking attempts. And when he meets me in the driveway to have a look, I realize this is the closest we’ve ever been.
I don’t know his name.
I can’t remember how we got there, but he says it.
I was a journalist for years. Now I’m writing my first novel…
I hesitate only briefly but I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. I pick up the end of that dangling thread.
I take another step closer.
Lucy Mae lulls in the shade of his rose bush.
Really? I say. I’m a writer too.
And it’s like someone has lit a fire under his skin he looks so happy.
And he tells me about his time in the service—how he was stationed in Japan.
Imagine this light post is the island, he says. I was right here (he points to the finial) at the tippy top…
He tells me about his Japanese girlfriend and how they met, how rowdy the boys were, and how he rode a motorcycle everywhere. He played basketball and during his last month in, some scouts from BYU picked him up. We talk about God and he tells me about his Native American friends from BYU and how they taught him about reverence. He tells me about his time as a ski instructor at Sundance and how Robert Redford always told his wife she has nice legs.
We talk for an hour on that street—Lucy Mae giving me the look and the sun sinking low behind the trees.
He talks about California—living there a time—and how he worked at Paramount. He knew some big names but that doesn’t bother him.
I wasn’t about all that, he says. I was about experiencing things. I was about a story.
He tells me about a movie he just went to see.
They don’t make stories like that anymore, he sighs.
I tell him I have to go—have to pick up my kids at church. But neither one of us want this street talk to end. We’ve covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Because that’s what word people do when they find another like them. It’s a soul connection.
He walks a little ways with me up the street. He’s ready to turn around but I have one more thing.
I don’t even know your name, I say.
He tells me his and I tell him mine and we clasp hands and smile into each other’s eyes and as I make my way up the street, heading back home, I feel happy.
That guy sure can tell a story.
This week's memory verse:
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