Monday, June 28, 2010

A Weighty Consideration

Wide open spaces, fantastic storm clouds, and air that has cooled enough to be comfortably inhaled. That's what makes the evenings here so nice.

Friday night we spent another one of those evenings at the softball field. The season is winding down and parents are just as stupid as ever. After the game, Jackson and I, my brother Jonboy, and Li'l Drew, who is one of the league officials, gathered around the back of my truck, cussing and discussing.

My niece, Luna Lovegood, accompanied her father to the field. As we talked, she ran from side to side and end to end of the pickup, trying to find a spot where she would be tall enough to lean and gab across the bed of the truck like the rest of us.

She finally ended up on my side, doing a respectable James Dean lean, but the top of her head didn't clear the side of the pickup. I wasn't really contributing anything of value to the conversation, so I watched her instead.

"Don't worry about it," I finally told her. "You'll be tall enough to talk across the back of the truck before long."

Her arms were folded over her chest and she looked up at me from beneath the brim of her softball visor. "I know," she said matter-of-factly, adopting a passable farmer squint as she gazed at the horizon and into the dying sun.

We leaned against the fender in companionable silence for a while.

When she spoke again, she put one hand on her hip and braced herself against the side of the truck with the other. I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised if she had spit a stream of tobacco juice with perfect precision onto the careless weed growing through the crack in the pavement next to my foot.

"I used to weigh just fifty pounds," she told me.

I nodded. We were silent for a moment as we considered this. I kicked a pebble. The sun set a little lower.

"So what do you weigh now?" I asked.

She gave me that same serious, old-soul stare. "Fifty-two."

I bit the inside of my cheek and turned my head to contemplate the empty bed of the truck for a moment.

"Well. One of these days, Junior," I drawled.


The sun disappeared.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And…we’re back!

As I passed M2 in the hallway, her grumbling caught my attention. I asked why she was ticked off.

Last week she got a guy who has a six year sentence on a felony drug charge. He spent the last few months in jail awaiting trial. After he pled guilty and the jail released him, he came to see her for his initial interview. M2 went over the rules and regulations of probation with him. He was not impressed. He also told her he couldn’t comply with several of the rules because he’s homeless. Basically he told her she’d just need to adjust the judge’s order to fit his situation.

M2 explained that people on probation can't live on the streets. You've got to have a permanent parking spot, so to speak. He told her he'd see what he could do and would get back to her on that. Homeless Dude has some family in town but he doesn't want to live with them because they are just filthy. He'd rather live on the streets.

Homeless Dude doesn’t have much of an employment history, even though he's an able-bodied young man. However, there are some possibilities he’s considering, he says. Apparently the big-shot owner of one of the town's major agricultural businesses has tried to get in touch with Homeless Dude several times, so HD will probably deign to go to work for him in some capacity to be named later. Provided the work doesn't interfere with his burgeoning social calendar, M2 assumed.

Finally they got through the paperwork and she handed him an appointment card. He took it, looked at it disdainfully, and shoved it into a back pocket.

“I can’t really make any promises on when I’ll be back in,” he said. “It depends on a lot of things.”

As she explained that reporting in person is not optional or even negotiable, M2's blood pressure topped off somewhere around volcanic eruption levels. She made it clear that he would just have to make room in his busy week to get in here to see her. On the date and at the time specified.

Of course, didn’t show up. She managed to track him down by phone. He was across town, hoeing a piece of property for some extra cash. He told M2 he really didn't think he could be bothered to come see her. M2 made it clear that now would be a really, really good time for him to show up. If he wants to sleep somewhere other than the county jail, that is.

He showed up. M2 was headed to the waiting room to get him. I just laughed, amazed at the guy's chutzpah, and went back into my office. As I began flipping through papers I heard M2 call his name: “Mr. UnusualLastName”

'UnusualLastName?' I thought. 'No way...'

I watched the doorway, waiting for them to pass my office. Mr. UnusualLastName had his head down and sported a huge beard and walked fast to try to keep up with M2. Even so...

I sent M2 an instant message: "Is that JOEY UnusualLastName??!"

M2 replied: "Yes."

(She's wordy like that.)

I just shook my head. Joey UnusualLastName. My cousin, Joey UnusualLastName. I didn't even know he was still in town. I haven't seen him since our great-grandmother's funeral, lo these many years ago. I haven't heard anything about him since...well, since he learned to cook his own meth.

Yeah, my family is close like that.

I ran into my aunt at Wal-Mart a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't seen her for well over a year. She updated me on their kids, one of whom moved to town about 3 years ago. I've not seen him since our grandmother's funeral lo these several years ago. I hear updates on him now and again from people on my caseload. They work for the same company. They love to come in and tell me 'I work with your cousin!' or 'Your cousin is my supervisor!'

Yeah. Close like that.

My brother lives in the same town I do and we managed to speak to each other about a month ago. I see him maybe once a month if we both happen to go to church on the same Sunday. He works for the university and said one of the advancement officers – fund-raisers - planned a trip going to El Paso for business. She asked Jonboy if our cousin Earl still lives there. Earl and our grandfather were cousins. The advancement folks like to keep tabs on influential alumni, especially those of the donating variety. Earl, a former state attorney general from New Mexico, fit the criteria. Jonboy told them that although Earl stays in an assisted living facility, he’s still a complete cut-up who would enjoy a visit from the university folks.

The next week, the development people were back at work. They came to Jonboy's office to thank him. 'For what?' he asked. They went to the facility to visit Earl. They asked for him at the desk and were informed by the management that Mr. Earl no longer lived there.

Or anywhere else for that matter. He died two years ago.

'No kidding? Really?' Jonboy said.

Yeah. We're close like that.

The week after he told me that story, we both managed to drag our sinful carcasses into church again. I nudged him and showed him the printed prayer list on the announcement sheet. I pointed to a name under the "Christian Sympathy Extended To:" column.

Jonboy was as surprised as I. Cousin Merline had died the week before.

Truthfully, I didn't even know she was still alive.

Close. That's how we roll.