The phone buzzed across the dusty surface of my nightstand last night. I’d generally avoid picking up a text at the witching hour, but my current agenda includes answering specific inquiries that I have made through the magic of electronic communication. I’ve been perusing Facebook Marketplace.
I was trying to buy another old aluminum boat. The craft I purchased last year —to replace the one I sold last year—is far too shallow in depth for the safekeeping of cargo that I take aboard. The freight is typically just an old black dog and me, but my granddaughter enjoys catching fish when she comes to the lake, so I’m more aware of safety now.
To add some clarity to my admission, most of my aluminum boats have leaked more than I liked. I don’t spend a lot on them, and it’s kind of a hobby of mine to be perpetually trading up to something that seems slightly better. Usually, they are just about the same, but you don’t lose much money selling and buying disheveled and dented aluminum boats.
I picked up, hoping that the fuzzy-faced, camo-clad character had accepted my offer on the larger modified-v hull. It sported a dull, dead grass green paint job that would blend in with my soon-to-be publicly displayed disappearing act. It wasn’t the same guy.
Him: “Is this Tim Cotton?”
I recognized the name on the account as someone I hadn’t seen in at least twenty-five years.
Me: “Yes, how are you?”
Him: “Hey, Brother, I’m doing pretty amazing. I seen a post with your name at the bottom of it, and I was like, man, I was so thankful for what a great guy you are. I still remember you used to bring me candy bars and s#*t. I come a long way from those days…I know you have kids now, and you know, it just struck a chord with me how you went above and beyond what most people would.”
We last talked when the man was nine or ten, and I clearly remembered him from many not-so-positive interactions. He is featured in my first book, “The Detective in the Dooryard,” in an essay called “The Kid From the Trailer Park.”
I answered the text, of course. You don’t ignore memories that vividly reveal themselves in bold words from a dimly lit screen. I think about many of the kids I’ve met over the years. Their stories haunt me on some days. I usually push it out of my mind by searching for cheap aluminum boats that I don’t need.
I clickity-clicked back to him—
Me: “I’m so glad that I made some impact. It means a lot that you noticed. I’m so happy that you are doing well. Where are you living now?”
Him: “I’m in Tennessee. Telecommunications engineer now. I mean, really, what I’ve come from gave me a lot of perspective that most wouldn’t have.”
Me: “That is so great! I think of you often. I always knew you had it in you. You came up with some tough circumstances. I’m proud of what you have become.”
Him: “For sure. But I’m proud of where I am. I still have my own struggles. It’s called life. LOL, it’s not all peaches. But I definitely look at things differently. I try to learn from my mistakes now. I’m human. But having a leader like you helped me through. I didn’t know it until later in life. But man, it is so good to hear from somebody such as yourself. Know that you had such a big impact on my life when I was much younger. I definitely gave you a run for your money, but luckily, that’s not the case anymore.”
Me: “I always knew you could pull it off. It sounds like you did. That’s pretty great to hear as I get close to retirement this summer. Makes me happy to hear from you. Thanks for reaching out. It means so much to me!”
Him: “Yes, Tim. You will enjoy that retirement, brother. Because I can assure you that you’ve earned it…and I know the type of impact you made on me. That’s the same interaction that you had with everybody you met. So, you left your mark on this world, Tim. I can assure you that everybody knows it. So, again, thank you very much!”
Me: “Thanks, If you get up to Maine, drop me a line. I’d love to buy you a coffee and hear the rest of the story. Be well, my friend.”
And with that, I plugged my phone back in and slid it back across the nightstand.
I slept well. I’ve not heard from the camo-clad man with the dull, dead grass green boat. My offer was probably a bit low.
From the Jagged Edge, I remain,
April 30th, 2022
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