Half and Half and the Rest of the Story

As a writer, I am often inspired by bits and pieces of conversations, things I see and hear, things I read in the paper or see on the news. Sometimes the inspiration can be something as simple as a picture on the back of a magazine cover or the way a tree looks at a certain time of day. It doesn’t take much.

I would like to give you an example of this, and then I would like to tell you a story.

The example is: I worked late last night, filling in for one of my co-workers. As I walked down the hall, I glanced into a conference room as I went by the open door. The window shades were up and the city was aglow in lights. I could see Gervais Street Bridge lit up on both sides with white globes glowing in the dark. It was, for a lack of a better term, breathtaking. I stopped for a moment and just stared out the glass. When I walked away, the beginnings of a story that I have titled, Ledge began to form. It’s my current Work In Progress.

Now for the story.

I had a Paul Harvey moment this morning. If you don’t know who Paul Harvey is, I strongly suggest you look him up on Youtube and listen to any one of his The Rest of the Story segments.

I was in the kitchen of the hospitality department at work, chatting with a co-worker as he made himself a cup of coffee. The young lady who heads hospitality was in there as well. As me and this co-worker talked, I saw her do something out of the corner of my eye.

“Stop with the Twelve Chairs for a moment,” I said to the co-worker (Twelve Chairs is a Mel Brooks film based on a Russian comedy, or so I learned today).

Before I go much further, I have to explain what I saw. The young lady peeled the top off of a half and half container. You know what I’m talking about, right? Those little cups that hold liquid creamer in them that you pour into your coffee. She then raised the small container to her mouth, downed it like a shot and threw the cup away.

Weird, right?

Ahhh, but not so fast. There’s more to it than that.

You know what she did, now, here’s the rest of the story:

As a young child, both she and her brother spent a lot of time with her grandparents. They were picked up from school by her grandparents, and spent summers at their house, and went to breakfast where coffee was served, and yes, the two little kids were allowed to have some.

It wasn’t just the coffee that the kids enjoyed. It was the creamer. The little .375 ounce containers that looked like white boiler pots that you could see the liquid shaking around inside held, not creamer to the Siblings Duo, but sweet deliciousness. They would get their cup of coffee with breakfast and pour the creamer in, carefully peeling back the top so not to spill any on their fingers, or worse yet, the table where a napkin would have to be used to clean up the droplets instead of a tongue. They would pour what looked like milk into their cups, stir it around a little, and then drink the coffee down, albeit slowly at first until the heat had cooled enough for guzzling.

As the coffee became less and less in the cup, the two children would add more and more of the half and half until, before long, the cup no longer held any traces of coffee, except maybe a hint of aroma. And they would drink all the fatty happiness that was the half and half in their cups. And their grandfather would let them.

Yes, their grandfather let them.

Their mother, however, wasn’t too fond of the children drinking the creamer down like that, either in little shots straight from the plastic cup, or bigger ones from a coffee cup. ‘It’s not healthy,’ she would say and would not allow it. No, her children were not going to have any of that yumminess.

But there was still grandfather.

You see, grandparents are just parents of the parents of the children their children brought into the world. And the sole purpose for parents whose kids have children of their own, is to spoil them, and then send them home, sugar-highed, caffeine-wired, toy-bought, cartoon-watched, goofed-off-all-the-day-long, so that their children could sow what they reaped from their own childhood. Yes, grandparents often spoil their grandchildren in ways they would have never done with their own kids.

And the Sibling Duo’s grandfather was no different. If he turned a blind eye to their constant opening and pouring of the half and half’s into the cups to the point that they would have stacks of empty containers on the table when they left, only he and those grandchildren would ever know. That was their little secret.

For the Sibling Duo of brother and sister, it was their treat, their little tradition with Grandfather.

As we grow nearer to the completion of this story, let me now tell you that not too many years ago, this great man passed away, leaving behind these two wonderful now adult grandchildren who still have a fondness for half and half–straight up, folks, not in their coffee.

This brings me back to the moment in time where two male co-workers were discussing a film by Mel Brooks as the young lady first peeled the top away, and then tossed back the creamer like a shot of whiskey, before throwing the container into the trash. You see, she wasn’t mimicking the actions of someone in a bar, or even just downing the semi-sweet delightness that is half and half just for the heck of it. No, as you will come to know shortly, there was a reason for this quick action, glimpsed by her co-worker.

You see, as explained earlier, her grandfather allowed both her and her brother to partake of the half and half as kids. Now, as adults, and with their grandfather no longer around, it is a tribute to him, a way of honoring him. Each morning, when the young lady in question makes a cup of coffee, she takes a .375 ounce container of half and half and downs it in memory of a great man she loved, a great man who taught her a lot about life, love and, yes, happiness. And that happiness is a half and half at the breakfast table as a little child…

To steal from Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.

I told you that story in honor of, not only my friend’s grandfather, but my friend as well. In life you have to hold onto those little things that make you happy, hold onto the good memories of childhood that helped shape you. In turn, you can hold onto those you love, even when they move on.

After hearing that tale, my mind–being that I’m a writer–instantly said, ‘hey that could go in a story’. I even joked with her about using it. But, after thinking on what she told me, I thought it would be better served, not as a part of a story, but as a reminder about life, about what to cherish and what to let go, about what and who to hold on tight to.

I’m reminded of the recent Bud Light commercials that play during football games. Fans are shown doing all sorts of odd things, but the commercial boldly states, it’s not weird if it works.

What the young lady did this morning struck me as weird at first, but after hearing her story, it’s not weird at all. It’s a pretty cool way of remembering someone, and I’m glad I saw her in the act of remembrance. So next time someone does something that you think is odd, take a step back and think about my friend and her tribute to her grandfather. There’s a story behind everything, and if you don’t know the story, you may misconceive someone’s actions.

Until we meet again, my friends…

AJB

1/16/2013

Half and Half, the Rest of the Story

The Warm and Fuzzy

~Ahem~

Let me preface this for my sister [yes, my favorite sister out of three siblings, two of which are boys] before I write this piece: I will do something similar for you. Now, P-Shorty just hold onto your boot straps for a while longer.

~Ahem~

Since that’s out the way, let me continue.

You may have heard by now that I have a three story collection out there on Amazon titled Along the Splintered Path. If you haven’t heard before now, well, now you have. Follow the link above and check it out. The reviews have been really good so far.

[[Side Note: I know that was a shameless plug and here is a shameless request to go along with that shameless plug: if you have read Along the Splintered Path, would you mind leaving a review? People really do read those things before deciding on buying a book. End Side Note]]

Occasionally in life you have a chance to do something nice for someone. Many folks don’t take these opportunities. We live in a world where it’s all about ME and if we can’t get anything out of it, well, then we’re not going to do it.

Let me say this to that mindset: When you do something nice for someone you do get something out of it. You get the satisfaction of helping a person(s) with something they needed and that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. And if feeling that does nothing for you… well, go ahead and stop reading now because nothing I say from here on will interest you.

As I mentioned above, recently a three story collection was published by Dark Continents Publishing in what is their Tales of Darkness and Dismay e-book release. I’ve done a bit of advertising and seeking out websites to review the book, as well as seeking out places to do guest blogs and interviews. Marketing is tough work.

[[Side Note: To you writers out there, if you have any suggestions on where to send requests to, I’m completely open to listening. Just drop me a note. It’s much appreciated. End Side Note]]

A few of my friends and family were not happy with me because I didn’t tell hardly anyone about the book until right before it came out. I did that on purpose and I’ll explain it briefly here: A few times last year things in the works fell through. I had mentioned these things to friends and family and then those things didn’t come to fruition. I’m not really the superstitious type, but I got tired of telling folks, ‘no, it’s not happening now,’ so I kept this one under wraps until it was a done deal. No need to jinx myself, you know?

In the process of telling folks after it came out, I missed a few people. One of them is a lady I have worked with for a while now. She and I had an instant bond when I saw her reading a Stephen King book when I first met her. We talked off and on after that. When I told her I was going to try my hand at writing, she encouraged me.

And encouraged me.

And encouraged me.

Do you get the idea that she maybe encouraged me?

Besides my wife, she is the only other person who truly believed that I could succeed (as much as success can be had) if I worked hard at it.

Occasionally she would read one of my stories or ask if I had anything for her to look at and I would give her the current project.

She has been a constant believer in me and my abilities. Even when I wasn’t so sure.

I passed by her desk recently and we started chatting about King’s 11/22/63. After a couple of minutes my book came up. The lady was excited. Her eyes dazzled—dazzled, I say—and her face lit up.

But, then the shine faded when she said she doesn’t have a Kindle and she doesn’t use a computer at home.

As a writer I want to get to as many readers as I can. But, this was one reader who wouldn’t be purchasing the e-book. I wasn’t disappointed that I wouldn’t be making a sell. I was disappointed that someone who had constantly believed in me and encouraged me wouldn’t be able to get the book.

I went back to my office and an idea formed. I have the PDF version of the story. I have the cover art. Why not make her a book? No, it wouldn’t be perfect bound like the presses but still… it was something in print that she could hold and read in bed if she wanted to.

I had the book printed out along with the cover art. Then I went to a local copy shop and had them bind the book with a clear front (there is a reason for this) and a hard vinyl back. Then I took it back to my office, pulled out a black Sharpie and signed the clear cover with her name, my name and sandwiched in between were the words:

Thank you for always believing…

A couple hours later I went back to see my friend.

“I have something for you.”

She gave me a curious look.

“It’s not much and it’s not an official print copy, but I had this made for you.” I proceeded to hand over a copy of my little collection.

Her face lit up and I swear her eyes got wet. She gave me a big hug and said ‘thank you’ several times. She then said, “I have every story you’ve ever sent me printed out and in a box at home.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. I wanted to keep them for when you get famous. I can say I knew you when.”

There is more to this, but that is the gist of the story. You see, she believed in me, she thought I could do this writing thing. I’m going to be honest, I was never sure I could do it. Granted, I’ve not done much, but even a little success is more than a lot of folks have.

I walked away feeling all warm and fuzzy. I may not have made a sell, but I did keep a long time fan happy, one who always believed in me. And, really, isn’t that what this is all about?

Closing the Wound Part V

[[~She used her body just like a bandage, she
used my body just like a wound.
I’ll probably never know where she disappeared
But I can see her rising up out of the back seat now
Just like an angel rising up from a tomb…~]]

Life has a way of moving on and for the most part, time does heal wounds. It just leaves scars behind to remind you that you were hurt.

There are no band-aids for death. Those wounds—mental, spiritual, emotional—they never completely go away. Sometimes a memory comes out of nowhere and your mind goes back to that time… that time where you were hurt deeply.

Like flipping through a portfolio of drawings.

I used to draw and paint and experiment with all sorts of imagery. I loved drawing comic book superheroes (and villains). Chris thought it was cool that I could draw Wolverine and Superman and Spiderman and a whole host of others.

“Can you teach me how to draw like that?” he asked me one Sunday before life took its downward spiral.

“Sure.”

And I did. Chris came to my house several times and we’d either sit at the kitchen table or at the picnic table in the back yard drawing. I showed him a few basics on using circles, squares, triangles and rectangles to frame out the characters’ bodies. All simple sketches that created the foundations of the actual pictures.

He got better as time went on. After meeting Christopher, Chris stopped drawing, or at least he stopped coming over for lessons.

While flipping through my portfolio—one my grandmother bought me when I was in high school and wanting to get into a local art school—looking at pictures I had drawn over the years I stumbled across a brown envelope, one I don’t recall putting in there.

I opened it and pulled out several drawings of a superhero, but this one I didn’t draw. They were signed by Chris. My skin tingled as if I had stuck my finger in a light socket. My breath caught and my chest tightened. I wiped my mouth.

The character on the images had a name that could be considered an omen if I had thought about it back when Chris died. His name: Funeral.

No crap. Really.

There were four images, but two of them stuck out. The one of Funeral with his mask pulled over his face, a cape apparently flapping in the wind. His hands were on his hips in that classic Superman stance. Chris had shaded a good chunk of the costume in grays and blacks. It was a good picture.

The second image was simply a casket. Not all that much of a sign you say? What if I told you the casket was closed? That’s right. The casket was closed.

Sometimes little things… little things bring those angels back from the tombs.

Like a picture.

A picture of four guys—two in their early twenties and two in their mid-teens–at a rest stop between Columbia and Charlotte on their way to Carowinds. They stand behind the snack machine bars as if they are prisoners in a slapstick comedy. Four young men, two of them with more in common than I guess they knew and the other two good friends at one time.

Who would have thought that image taken in the summer of 1995 would be the only image of the four of them together? It would also be the last time one of those four seemed genuinely happy with life, however short lived it was.

The picture disappeared long ago and I looked for it every once in a while when Chris came to mind. Then my dad gave it to me one day out of the blue. And memories… oh my goodness the memories that flooded me, that threatened to drown me. All these thoughts and sidebars and random whatevers and lyrics to songs and… and… and events that changed a lot of lives.

They are all things that I never forgot, but pushed way back to the recesses of my mind. They are in one of those books that normally sit on the shelf at the very top where no one else can reach it. But, there it is, sitting on the coffee table of my soul, the pages turning, the images all black and white and some of them a little grainy. If you flip the pages together starting from the beginning of the book, you’ll see the stop motion images play out in a cartoon-like movie. Isn’t that the way of memories?

It doesn’t take much to dislodge The Great Big Book of Memories from the highest shelf.

We live with those memories and we live with the deaths that happen in our lives. If we don’t, then we just die as well, but I’ve said that already. The dead are just that—dead. The living, however, are alive, unless they choose to never let go of the past.

Maybe that’s why I write this. That picture my dad gave me shook those cobwebs off that book of memories and opened up a little sadness that had passed years ago. I haven’t pulled out the images Chris drew. But, I did go back and read the original version of this story. So much was left out before that I tried to put into this one.

This is how I remember things and some may disagree with me on how events unfolded. That’s fine. To each their own and to those I say, have your memories. Again, this is how I recall things. Other folks may have had a different view, but they can tell their own stories, write their own words. This one belongs to me and I tell what I know, what I remember, what I feel…

There’s a lot of negative stuff in here–I’m quite aware of that. It is what it is. But, it’s not always that simple, is it? Chris was a good kid. I can’t stress that enough. Chris was a good kid. Understand that. Know that. Believe that. Like all teenagers, Chris searched for his place among his peers, among those he trusted and liked, among a world that wasn’t necessarily good to him. He and I had a lot of conversations in the course of the short time I knew him. A lot of them centered on that Laura girl I mentioned earlier.

Chris had a lot of questions about life, love, religion and why things happen. Many of those questions no one could answer for him, and to the same, no one can answer them for you. You have to live life to discover them on your own.

In an interesting turn of thoughts, sometimes you don’t realize how sad someone is until they are gone and you spend some time in solitary thought–just you and your mind. That’s when you notice things you missed before. The part of your mind that analyzes things until they are beaten into the ground takes over and you see things for what they were… or your mind tricks you into seeing things that weren’t necessarily there to start with.

I almost feel like Chris was doomed the day his momma gave birth to him. It’s bad to say that. The truth is so many people didn’t listen to him while he was alive. And now that he’s dead, they can still hear his voice…

I’m rambling. The thoughts are all scattered about and there is no real closure to something like this.

October is my favorite month of the year. The leaves are turning colors, the cool breeze is just that: cool. The mornings become nippy and my wife and I tend to snuggle a little closer under the blankets. Should I do one of those smiley face things here?

Halloween has long been my favorite ‘holiday.’ The creepy things, the horror movies, the scary shows, the cheesy songs, the Halloween theme, trick-or-treating and dressing up. I love everything about Halloween. The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of my all time favorite Halloween themed shows.

Halloween was also Chris’s favorite…

Maybe at some point this month, my wife and I and maybe even Chad can get to the cemetery and visit him. If we do so, I’d like to do something special. I’m not going to say what that is… just in case. But, if we do make it, I’ll let you know.

***
[[~But it was long ago, and it was far away
Oh God, it seems so very far;
and if life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car. And objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are…~]]

Before reading any further, I would like for you to consider opting out at this point. There is only one other thing that needs to be told, though the actual details of it are a bit sketchy at best.

You see, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. No, it has the type of ending so many senseless deaths have. One with more questions than answers and, really, only two people know the real answers to those questions. One of them is dead. The other one is in jail.

I intentionally left out this part because I felt there was no real need to go into detail with: Chris’s death. I did that because I only have the mixed up confessions of the last person to see him alive as the map to what happened and when it happened.

It was a suicide pact.

It was a drug deal gone bad.

Chris tried to kill Christopher… blah, blah, blah.

Why and how Chris died isn’t the important thing. His life is. Remembering him is.

However, there are those out there who will feel cheated for reading over ten thousand words of this story and not finding out how he died.

Before you read the next couple paragraphs understand something: most of this is speculation, simply because of the information given and where it came from. It is the information put together by word of mouth, the newspapers, the local news stations and the court proceedings that ultimately found Christopher guilty of Chris’s death.

The police searched for a couple days for Christopher. They found him at a friend’s house, a little disoriented, tired and hungry. That’s what happens when you’re on the run and you have no where to go and no way to get there. I’m not certain if the friend called the police to let them know of Christopher’s whereabouts or if the cops had just followed him until he sat still long enough to move in for the arrest. No need for two young adults to die, right?

I gather he was interrogated. With or without an attorney present, I don’t know. I’d like to think he was scared, terrified even. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to say.

His first confession was that it was a suicide pact. That Chris was supposed to shoot Christopher with a shotgun, then turn the gun on himself. But, when it came time to do it, Chris couldn’t pull the trigger, so Christopher did. The problem here is that Christopher then chickened out and instead of following through with the pact, he set the trailer on fire and fled.

He recanted that statement and said it was a drug deal gone bad and that he didn’t even pull the trigger. Someone else did. Then why wasn’t Christopher dead as well? And why couldn’t he give the name of the person who supposedly killed Chris? Fear? Hell, I’d think going to jail or possibly facing the death penalty would be scarier than giving the name of the dealer up, especially if that person could go to jail for a very long time.

He recanted that statement as well and said that Chris tried to kill Christopher, that they struggled and that ultimately Chris was killed.

Whatever.

Then he went back to his original statement, the suicide pact. Only this time he said it was Chris’s idea.

When all the information came out about what happened, I called bullshit on a lot of it. Chris told me he was getting away from Christopher. I believed him. I speculated that Chris told Christopher that he wanted nothing to do with him anymore and Christopher got mad about it. Do I think drugs were involved. It’s possible. But, I also thought that Christopher stood to lose a lot if Chris told anything to anyone about the drugs and wear they came from. In a panic, Christopher took the shotgun and took off part of Chris’s head before setting his body on fire to hide the evidence. That’s what I speculated then.

As I’ve thought about this over the last few weeks, I’m becoming more and more convinced that my speculation was wrong. My thinking has changed. Why?

Goodbye.

Goodbye is so final.

Chris told me goodbye that morning as if he knew–KNEW–that I would never see him again. At least not alive. I keep coming back to that. Do you understand? He said GOODBYE. If I’m completely honest with myself, I think I knew as well, though I might have thought he would run away and not come back. I never thought he would die…

As I’ve pondered this I’m closer and closer to believing that the two boys had a suicide pact. I’m not so certain that it was Chris’s idea. After all, he was a follower, not a leader. I also believe that it was more a murder/suicide pact where one would kill the other then turn the weapon on themselves. Chris wouldn’t have been able to follow through on this. Christopher would have been–or so he may have thought. I believe Christopher shot my friend in the head and the scene that played out in front of him as and after he pulled that trigger was so devastating that he couldn’t follow through. Panic probably set in for him–that Oh Shit factor that we’ve all experienced from time to time–and he had to do something with the body, but have you seen what a shotgun does to a person? There was a mess to clean up and Christopher didn’t have it in him to do that cleaning. Instead, he set Chris on fire and ran, hoping that by burning the body and the trailer that there would be no real evidence that a murder had taken place.

The problem with his thinking is that the fire department was quick to react to the phone call it received about a fire in Starmount. They were able to put the flames out before the trailer was completely burned down. And what they found inside was the body of a teenage boy, shot to death and burned.

There you have it. The somewhat inaccurate/accurate portrayal of the death of a friend. I only wrote this part for those who wanted to know, who would have been angry to not find out, who would have bitched and moaned and groaned about me wasting their time and not giving out the details of the murder/suicide or whatever it was.

I write. I paint pictures for readers by using words and showing them what I see in my head. I give them scenery and try to build characters and try to create situations for my characters to figure out and I let them figure out how to deal with it. But, I’m not painting this picture any more than what I have in these last few paragraphs. If you can picture the scene, go right ahead. I, personally, don’t want to see it anymore than my mind will allow…

There is one final piece to this story, one final thing that needs to be told. Until tomorrow…

A Picture is Worth More Than a Thousand Words

To most people it’s just a picture. To me, it’s so much more.

My dad called me one Saturday and asked if I was coming over. I gave a simple, ‘yeah, in a bit,’ which was true. I was about to head over there.

“Good,” he said. “I have something for you.”

Something for me? What could it be? Honestly, I didn’t think too hard on it. I have learned that when someone says they have something for you, don’t think on it too much. You could get your hopes up and have them dashed. I prefer to not dwell on it. If it’s something good, it would be a pleasant surprise.

In this case, it was a surprise. One that made me pause and think for a while later that night and on many nights since then.

I walked in the door, my kids in tow. They darted off toward their cousins, talking and laughing and doing the cousin thing, whatever that is. My dad walked into the room and smiled that Dad smile. The one where you’re not sure if he’s up to something good or mischievous. He pulled out the picture, handed it over.

“This look familiar?”

“Wow,” I said. “Yeah, it looks real familiar.”

It was a snapshot of four young men. You wouldn’t know it from the picture, but those four males were at a rest stop somewhere between Columbia and Charlotte. Behind them sits a snack machine to the left and a coffee machine directly at their backs. They stood behind the metal bars that were usually closed and locked—the bars that the vendors put up so no one could tip the machines or take the money out of them. I guess someone left the gate open on that day. It was a mock prison scene.

The two guys on the ends were adults, both in their twenties. The two in the middle were teenagers and part of the church youth group. It was an outing to Carowinds in Charlotte that had that quartet (and others not in the picture) at the rest stop. I think the girls—yes, all of them—had to pee or something.

I gave a chuckle. The one on the right… yeah, that’s me. The kid beside him in the Carolina Panthers shirt and blue jeans holding tight to the red and black Nerf football was Chris. We tossed that football about all day long when we weren’t in the car (yes, we threw it while in Carowinds, much to the dismay of a couple to several dozen folks).

The picture had been taken in the summer of 1995. About three months or so later, Chris was dead. He was fifteen. I won’t get into the details right now, but it was a senseless murder that claimed my young friend.

Chris had been at the beginning of a downward spiral, hanging out with the wrong kids, smoking and from what I gathered from folks later on, dabbling a bit in drugs. On that day you would have never known. That day was a good day.

We road roller coasters and picked on the girls and ate at the joint with the big hockey player as its mascot. I can’t remember the name of the joint to save my life. We talked a lot. Mostly about girls—well, he did most the talking, since he was crushing on one of the females in the group—and we threw the football. Boy, did we throw that football…

As I stood looking at the picture, at the two teenage boys between the two twenty-somethings, I couldn’t help but wish I had known then what I know now; that Chris would become a brooding teen with haunted eyes and an even sadder smile; that another guy with the same name as his would be instrumental in a lot of Chris’s decision making; that that guy would be the end of my friend—a kid who looked up to me, who I taught how to draw cartoon characters and who liked to play practical jokes on me and Steve (he would be the other adult in that picture).

I thanked my dad for the picture and told him I had been looking for it. That was the truth. I had been looking for it and wondered what became of it.

After I got home I showed my wife. She and Chris had been close friends. I remember holding her at his funeral as she cried into my shoulder. I remember the tears tugging at my own eyes, but fighting them back.

Be strong—you’re a man and you don’t want her to see you cry, do you? Not crying doesn’t make you a man. It doesn’t make you strong, either.

Two things before I go, since nothing seems to be flowing the way I want it too and all my thoughts seem incoherent in my head as I write this.

First, the four of us stood behind those bars, pretending we were in prison. I find that ironic now. We were pretending to be in jail. I even made this crazed face (which isn’t all that hard for me. Have you seen this mug?). A few months later another Chris would really be behind bars and, well, I already told you about my friend and where he would be. Someone really went to jail. And someone died…

The other thing, and I leave you with this: That picture sits on my desk. I can see it right now. It saddens me greatly to think that trip to Carowinds was one of the last times I saw Chris really smile and really enjoy life. It was one of the last times I spent any significant time with him and my heart sinks at the thought of that. I didn’t cry when I found out about his death. I didn’t cry at the funeral. I didn’t cry in the privacy of my room that night or any other night. That didn’t make me strong. Now, a lifetime later when you consider Chris’s life was cut short at fifteen, I wish I would have…

(Herbie’s Note: Chris died on Halloween night of 1995. We heard the sirens of the fire trucks as they raced to the place where a trailer burned with his body inside. The fire trucks passed us as they hurried to what turned out to be a crime scene. I remember my wife to be (though neither of us knew at the time) saying, “I hope everyone’s okay.” Everyone wasn’t okay. But, that’s for another day. For now, I spend this month of October in honor of the young boy who died way too soon. And if you will, spend it with me in let me rememeber my friend with words.)