Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: MEMORY LANE (04/23/20)
TITLE: Oil and Dates
By Karen Dick
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“Hey there,” he called.
I glanced at him as we continued.
He waved with a cigarette in hand.
I nodded and picked up speed.
Day after day the scruffy man stood on that corner when I walked by with my dog. His recent appearance was a daily occurrence. I lived on the cul de sac down the street, so there was no way to avoid him when leaving. I thought about cutting through neighbor’s back yards, but thought they wouldn’t appreciate a strange woman and dog traipsing through.
Even changing my schedule in an attempt to dodge him didn’t matter, he was always there. He lived in the small old house behind him. I wondered who took care of it…of him.
One day I left my house at sunrise, certain I would miss him. I fastened the leash on Misty, “Okay girl, no growling until we’re clear.”
We sprinted down the walk. The corner’s empty! I exhaled.
But as we passed the dreaded corner, he emerged from his house.
“Hey!” He waved his cigarette hand and held a plastic cup in the other. A small white dog was at his heels. “Zoe wants to meet your dog.”
I stared at his unshaven face, droopy jeans, and potbelly. Lord, what am I getting myself into? Misty’s growls showed her objection to the visit as I pulled her across the street.
Nearly every day after that, as Misty and I left for our walk, we joined Armand and Zoe for conversation on the corner.
“Yes ma’am, I’m from Mississippi. I worked the oil field.” He took a swig from his plastic cup. “I managed a big rig. I had hundreds of fellers under me.” His bloodshot eyes stared at me behind thick glasses balanced on the end of his nose. The scent of alcohol drifted off his breath.
I nodded and glanced at my watch. “I’m sure you were good at your job.” I smiled and took a step away.
“You bet! Those guys never got away with nuthin. They knew who was boss.” He took another sip and grinned.
Each day Armand would tell me more about his life…whether I wanted to hear it or not.
“Now, my first wife, she didn’t like no late-night dates.” He leaned in close and winked. “You understand?”
That day, I was sure I had to get back home for an appointment…in a hurry.
Then there were those days I questioned his stories.
“Did I ever tell you I owned a carnival? Right here down the road.” He pointed down the street. “That was a hoot watchin all those younguns.”
I looked at the homes on both sides of the street, then back at him. “Right here?”
“Yup.” He chuckled and took a long drag off his cigarette.
“You know I made a lot of money,” he said early one Saturday as he stared off at the sky. “But I had too many wives with kids.” He shook his head. “They took a heap of it.”
Lord, help me take his attention to you. I paused then said, “Looks like God took care of you.”
He stared at me, silent.
I tried another early morning getaway one day. Misty and I had made it halfway down the block from his corner.
“Hey!” I heard from the distance. I exhaled and stopped.
“Come ‘ere.” His shoulders were stooped, arms at his sides…and hands empty.
He whimpered as I approached; his face wet with tears.
“It’s my mama,” he cried. “They say she had a stroke.” Armand groaned and wiped his nose with the back of his hand.
“I’m so sorry.” My eyes grew moist as I stood in front of this weeping man. I glanced down at my feet then back at him. “I’ll pray for her, Armand.”
His weeping halted and he dipped his head. “That’d be great. My mama was a good Baptist woman.”
Following that episode, the corner was always vacant. A 'For Sale' sign appeared in Armand’s yard. I prayed for him and hoped his Baptist mama recovered.
Several weeks later as I perused the newspaper, I came across an obituary. Armand Willis, Oil Tycoon, laid to rest.
“But you, who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12
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