Currently listening to: No Surprise by Daughtry
Lines of Fabulosity: It was a September morning, hazy with late summer, and now with all the years in between. - from A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Sarah told me the most fantastic story the other day and I knew I would kill it if I tried to retell it. So here's the story in her own words. Both my best friends are witty and hilarious. I wish I could bribe them to contribute regular features to the Swamp. Maybe someday :) Here's Sarah:
I don't know if Elvis is her neighbor *fingers crossed*, or just a passerby, but the story caused me to pause for some reflection. (How could it not?)
One day when I was home typing up a masterpiece*, I thought I heard something in the garage. I opened the door to find a scrawny old man staring wild-eyed around as though he'd never seen a Civic or a garage full of junk. You would think, since I had just moved back from Dallas, I would remember to keep the garage door shut. Alas. I opened the door and said, "Can I help you?" Always a wrong move, kids. Never open the door for strangers.
"Yes!" His eyes had this weird shimmer about them when he spoke. "I'm your next-door neighbor, Don. My friend The Butcher just gave me some fresh chicken. I have no room in my freezer. I was wondering if I could put it in your freezer instead."** Note he said this as a statement, not as a question.
To make a long story short, I stood there in a daze while Don walked into my residence carrying a blue bag of fresh dead chicken; all slimy and wet and stank nasty. The smell almost caused major barfage. He ended up putting all twenty pounds of stinky chicken in the freezer that day (actually he made ME put it in because he said he had a bad back). It was so weird, creepy, and gross. I don't know why I let him in. My dad dropped by Don's Haunted Mansion on the way home and told Don there was no room for the nastiness. Don said he didn't like chicken and didn't know what else to do with it. Then he offered Dad the rotisseries that were in boxes on top of his car (?). Dad passed. It took days for the smell to leave, even after the chicken was gone.
There are more stories. (Because Don is like a character in a sit-com that kept popping up when you least expected it.) Once, I almost ran over him while he was driving his lawnmower around the loopy road sans a shirt. Another time, I saw him pop up out of a hole in his roof like a prairie dog. I saw him burying a jar in his yard. Another time, he asked my brother if he could help him transport a water heater. When he asked this, my brother was on crutches recovering from a serious car wreck. Don the Chicken Man was a step beyond eccentric, is all I'm getting at.
The second set of neighbors were total sweeties. They looked like fun grandparents. The man's name was Cad (can't remember what it was short for ... maybe Cadberry) and he looked, and talked, just like Alan Arkin. While I was moving, Cad came over to say hello. First, he told me Paperdoll was fabulous (real men read Paperdoll; it's a fact). Then he said, "I wanted to come say hello because I have something important to tell you. You can use it in your writings!"
I sat down on the tail gate of the truck, kicking my legs back and forth, while Cad filled me in on his recent trip to North Carolina. He was going to visit his son and, because of his son's location, it was easier to go through Atlanta than Knoxville. Atlanta. Oh, Atlanta. My niece calls it Spaghetti Junction because the roads are such a twisty turny mess. Atlanta rocks but I think even natives would agree with me in saying the traffic stinks.
I'm paraphrasing a bit, but Cad's story went like this:
"So I was driving through Atlanta last weekend, trying to read my son's instructions. And while I was moving through this heavy traffic, I realized I was going the wrong way," he waved his arms around to illustrate his frustration. "Now you've been to Atlanta, right? It's impossible to get turned around once you go the wrong way. I was so frustrated and I knew it would add hours onto my time."
He crossed his arms again. "So finally my son called and I told him what I'd done. And he said, 'Oh, dad. It's no big deal. You just keep going the way you're going and you'll get here. Without realizing it, you took the right way. All that time, when I was so frustrated, I was going the right way. Do you see the point of this story, young lady?"
Cad is a teacher, has been for years. I have a feeling he's one of those really fantastic teachers whose awesomeness you don't even fully realize until you're an adult. He knows how to make a point. "This is what I learned," he said. "And this is what I couldn't wait to tell you: I learned that even when I don't know where the heck I'm going, God does. And he always gets me pointed in the right direction again. It may take longer. You may get stuck, and frustrated, and you may take all kinds of stupid detours. Sometimes all you know to do is move ahead. And, ya know what? That's all you need to do. Just keep going. He gets you where you need to be."
He smiled and leaned away from the truck. "So there ya go," he winked. "You can use that in your writings."
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I get to write it and share it with you :) But I think I needed the story for myself before I needed to write it. I had boxes around my feet from three different places I'd lived in, all of which I'd moved from, all of which I considered complete failures. I felt like a failure every time I picked the boxes up, like the heaviness of my loserdom was weighing down my heart all over again. But I also had one little goofy dream tucked into my heart, and, as dreams often do, it felt as light as a feather. It's a dream that has always been there, that I keep jumping states to get away from. And for the first time I considered something rather crazy: what if all those epic loser moments were taking me back to that moment, back to the road I needed to be on, back to a dream I thought was impossible. Back to a dream I never would have chased unless every other option had fizzled. Sometimes you're not as lost as you think you are.
Whether your neighbor is a chicken man, an Elvis impersonator, or a sweet guy named Cad whose wife makes incredible oatmeal cookies, there are two things I feel I should tell you here. Well, three. First, don't open the door for strangers. Second, there are really cool stories happening all around you all the time. Be on the lookout. Please take a picture if Elvis is involved. And three, if all you know how to do right now is move ahead, then keep moving. You may not be as stuck as you think you are.
So there ya go. Feel free to use that in your writings ;) Any fun neighbor stories you want to share?
Tooth hurty ... get it? *ltms*
"I'm an elephant trainer. Look at me, I'm driving a bus!" *hahahaha*
* Or watching The Barefoot Contessa. Whatever.
** An appropriate response: Well my friends The Baker and The Candlestick Maker say, "Not a chance. Now get out of my garage."