"...... Gathers No Moss."
I am a drifter, a vagrant, a hobo, a rolling stone. Yeah, I like that last one. I'm rocking and rolling through town after town.
I never stay long. I come in, get the lay of the land, meet the right people, do my jobs and get out. Quite often, it's only a weekend.
I walk down the main street with my backpack swinging from my right shoulder until I find the inevitable establishment with the name Diner written across a plate glass window in ten-inch, block letters. It's Saturday morning. I open the door and bells jangle my arrival.
I don't talk much. I let others do that, and they usually tell me everything I need to know. I set my gear down on the red plastic seat cover and take my place across the tabletop in the booth. I order coffee and something called the Engineer's Breakfast from a pretty young blonde named, Bonnie.
I eat my breakfast. The restaurant fills with people. I listen.
Little Wendy Carmichael's dog, a border collie, got hit by a car and killed right there on Second Street and the highway where they live. Thanks for the address to where I can find a single mom and a pretty little girl.
Widow Dalrymple is telling everyone that she won the lottery. My ears perk up when I hear about someone winning the lottery. I won it once, myself. Apparently, the widow won quite a lot too, and now everybody knows how much she despises banks since they foreclosed on her late husband's and her farm. She took a lump sum payout. I can't imagine there is a person in the diner who isn't thinking what I'm thinking. Is she actually keeping all that money in her house?
Last week's thunderstorm knocked a tree over onto the garage of the young waitress, Bonnie, and the insurance company says that tree should have been removed a long time ago because it was dying. They won't pay.
George, the retired postal carrier, says his pension check is late, but the Federal Employees Retirement System says it should be in his mailbox tomorrow or the next day. Thank you for that valuable information.
I take notes of all this on my napkin. It's amazing the kind of information folks pass around without even giving it a second thought. Most of these people would cringe at the thought of writing a post on FaceBook about winning the lottery and hating banks. But not in their local diner. Here's the equation the widow is broadcasting: I won the lottery + I hate banks = the money is in my house.
I stretch out on top of a picnic table in a park across the street from the diner. The sun beams down on me from its apogee. I roll up on my side when I hear the bells. Widow Dalrymple comes out and walks along the street to a 1950s cape cod three doors down from the diner. George, the retired mail carrier, walks three blocks in the opposite direction, finds nothing in his mailbox and goes inside. Bonnie, the waitress with the smashed in garage, walks to her car at the end of her shift. Ethel, the owner of the diner waves from the door. Bonnie thanks Ethel for giving her the weekend off so she can go to the city to see her sick aunt. I write down her license plate number. I have a friend who will help find the address.
On Saturday morning, I stand on the corner of Second Street and the highway looking at the house where little Wendy Carmichael plays in the yard. Her mother calls from the house and Wendy goes inside. I use the opportunity to run up to the front porch and hide in the shrubbery. Wendy comes back outside to play. Half an hour later she runs back inside, and I to run to the street.
I walk from one side of town to the other. On the way, I stop at Bonnie's house. The gate to the seven-foot fence is unlocked, and I enter the back yard. The garage is locked, but there is a gaping hole in the roof. I peek in the window and my heart thuds in my chest at the sight of a 1967 VW Beetle with an authentic ruby red paint job. A flatbed truck backs through the gate with everything I need.
Later, when I walk by the diner, George, the retired postal guy and the widow Dalrymple are inside. I go to George's house first. Then I double back to the widow's house. Of course, it wasn't enough that she had a mountain of cash lying around loose someplace, she also left the door unlocked.
I find the money and am nearly finished when the back door opens. I duck into the only room available, the bedroom, then the closet. I hear voices muffled by the clothes around me and several walls between me and their sources. They come closer until I recognize the widow Dalrymple and George, the retired postal carrier.
Fortunately, these two lovers are well into their senior years, and the sounds emanating from the bed don't last long but subside until all I can hear is steady, deep breathing. I'm able to slip out of the closet undetected and into the living room. I finish what I came to do, and walk out the back door.
It's Monday morning, and I stop at the diner on my way out of town. The place is packed with customers. Bonnie is back from the city, George is present as is the Widow Dalrymple. Everyone is happy. I've seen enough. I head off in the direction of the highway.
So here's a breakdown of what I accomplished over the weekend. I had found an overdue notice for the house payment in George's mailbox and an older one on the kitchen table. I know it's illegal to mess with mailboxes, but so is breaking and entering and most of the other things I do. I left an envelope containing enough money for his house payment. That's why he was so concerned about the pension check being late. The guy got a bonus, though, money from me even though he's sleeping with the wealthiest woman in town.
I left a simple note for the widow Dalrymple, encouraging her to visit a bank to see how much more secure her money could be with them. I left the note on top of the pile of lottery money inside her house.
Bonnie came home to find a stack of maple wood in her back yard instead of a tree leaning against her garage. The hole in the roof had been fully repaired.
I'm approaching second street, where it intersects with the highway. A little girl is playing in the yard with a black and white border collie puppy. I stop and watch. The child's mother waves to me. The puppy runs over and sniffs my hands and shoes. The mother says that someone left the puppy and the new dog kennel on the front porch the day before while the two of them worked on Wendy's homework inside.
When I come to town, rolling through like a stone that has been dislodged on the side of a hill, it may look like a random, bouncing stone, but there is a purpose. As I make my way through, I am leaving parts of myself behind, giving, not taking, experiencing the paradox that to be whole as a human is to give of oneself.
© 2017 Chris Mills