Tuesday, April 24, 2012


[From Memoirs of an Ordinary Guy]

Jerome was a sincere and affable fellow. With his good-natured smile, he was ever eager to engage in conversation with anyone he happened to meet. He was quite articulate when he spoke, despite the severe brain injury he had received as a teenager. The deep scar was still visible on his left scalp where his hair never fully grew back in.

The house he rented while he attended university smelled of dust and old bananas. It had no interior doors, so blankets were nailed to the tops of the doorframes to serve the purpose. A single flickering floor lamp illumined the living room in which sat a threadbare couch, a number of unpacked cardboard boxes, and a large aquarium with brown water and no fish. On the couch, a scrawny mounted deer head stared up at the ceiling, waiting patiently to be hung upon the wall.

We sat on folding lawn chairs around a flimsy metal TV tray and played chess. Jerome, with his eyes gleaming, meticulously set up the black pieces on his side of the board. After I had finished setting up the white pieces, he corrected the positions of my king and queen with a small chuckle and said something about "queen on her own color."

We then waged tabletop warfare and ate Sun-Maid raisins from little boxes. He spoke of his mother, who taught school back in Cleveland, and of his cat Groucho, who had to be left behind. At times, he also made odd references to Darth Vader, in connection with certain moves I made in the game, which he obviously found very amusing. I laughed as if I understood.

Jerome had a firm grasp of the strategy of chess, which I did not. I soon realized why he had so eagerly invited me to play. After several moves that proved unwise on my part, he forced me into giving up my queen to protect my king and my game swiftly unraveled from there. As the light outside grew dimmer, he deftly brought me to checkmate between one of his knights and his queen. He looked up and smiled, obviously pleased with the outcome. He shook my hand heartily saying "good game, good game." I congratulated him on the win and remarked that we would have to have a rematch soon.

As I rose to leave, the telephone rang in the kitchen. After he answered it, I heard him say "Hey Mom," and then, "hold on, ok?"

He looked over to me as I was approaching the door and said "Later Vader." I waved and smiled, and opened the door into the late September twilight.

As I was closing the door behind me, I heard him say, "Oh, I was just saying bye to my best friend Todd."

I smiled to myself and wondered at him saying that because I had only met him just that day.

I looked out upon the darkening world. High clouds were streaked across a fading florescent sky. Headlights and taillights shone brightly along Fort Avenue as the last of the tardy streetlamps blinked awake. The smell of grilling food was on the cool breeze and I paused to imagine from what sort of gathering it drifted.

I approached my little Honda Civic, which was slumbering there in the shadows. The traffic was light as I drove home.

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