I sat at the end of the pier and took out my pen and notebook. I glanced down into the ocean to see a school of shiners swimming beneath me. The sun was hitting them in such a way they seemed more like organic little lights. It was a gorgeous day outside, the sun was out in full force and there was a cool constant breeze.
With my open notebook in hand, I begin to jot down my ideas. Not even a minute had passed when I overheard someone talking to me.
“Are you a writer because I am?” the voice was raspy, weathered, confident and distraught.
“hmm.” I looked up at the man speaking to me.
“Are you a writer?” He had been sitting outside a while. He was in an wheel chair. His outward appearance matched his voice, his body also aged but by the elements more than time. He had a cast on his leg as well as a large bandage on his knee.
“I ask because I’m a writer. You know I love writing.”
Intrigued by what this man said I turned my full attention to him. “No, actually I am more of an artist. I was just doing some brainstorming, trying to sort out my life. That’s why I came down to the pier.”
“Wow, that is smart.” There was a pause “I’m sorry I don’t like talking to people unless I know their name. I’m Harry.” He extended his hand toward me. He was only able to extend two fingers and his thumb to shake my hand.
“I’m Jack, pleasure to meet you.”
“I’m a writer you know pretty good one too. I mean I’m not published or anything yet but, I’ve got this great story. It’s the next Tom Sawyer you know.” From the sound of his voice and the motions of his hands you could tell he was passionate about writing. “It’s almost done, it’s a great story. You wanna hear a poem I wrote? I mean its not very good it’s crap really. I wrote it for my girlfriend”
“I’d love to.” I nodded to him.
Looking off in a contemplative manner. He began to recite the poem.
bq. “Though racked with gout both hand and foot and cancer deep should strike its root.
bq. Do palsy shakes these feeble thighs and hideous lump on shoulder rise.
bq. Through flacid gums teeth fall away all is well if life but stay. ”
I was astounded by the simple complexities of the poem. “It’s not very good but you know sometimes…” he paused.
“You just have to get it out of your head and on to the paper.” He looked at my response in amazement.
“Exactly! Yeah, that’s exactly it. I mean it’s all about the rhythm. It’s not the greatest but… I mean you know Herman Melville?” I nodded. “Yeah, he wrote Moby Dick. Absolutely brilliant! The symbology in it the language everything is just …” He stopped and looked out to the ocean. It’s the type of look you see when someone is completely enamored and lost in thought. “Brilliant. I mean of course there are no giant White Whales! There never was, it represents Herman’s battle in life the whale is the great nothingness! It’s the great struggle. Fuck, the whale is his novel Moby Dick; and he is Ahab putting himself up on that fucking cross.”
The idea was so simple and yet so brilliant. “No one ever fucking sees it but Moby Dick and Ahab it was Herman Melville it was his fucking life.” No sooner than he had finished his sentence then he was off wheeling right next to me looking out at the sea. A classic Schooner was coming into port. “I love this shit, the sea the ocean, it’s my life. Is the ship coming this way? I can’t see all that well. Losing my vision, got diabetes.” He extended his arms out and with a beaming smile looked out longingly towards the boat. “If my leg weren’t so bad off I could handle that boat. bring it anywhere. Those people don’t know how to handle that thing. It’s all motorized now. Look at those pine beams. Look at that rope look at how simple that is.”
Now I had never really paid much attention to boats before but seeing this schooner through, Harry’s eyes was amazing. For the first time ever, I too marveled at the simplicity of the boat. It was amazingly simple and powerful. We watched the boat come in to dock. The boat slammed into the side of the dock, the bumpers barely hitting the dock instead of the boat.
“You see that?!” Harry leaned forward waving his arm at the boat.
“It wasn’t very graceful.” I said, but I was more focused on watching the enthusiasm Harry had for this ship.
“They got damn lucky. Oh, you see that? Oh, know?! What are they doing? You never tie a boat like that!” The kid who got off the boat was tying the stern to a hook well behind the boat. After he finished tying the first knot he went to the bow of the ship and tied the line well beyond the front of the ship as well. “No! You never do that! Never! Always Bow to Stern, Bow to Stern. These kids don’t even know what they’re doing.” I have to admit I had no clue either but Harry picked up on that; because he then turned to me and said “You know why you always tie it Bow to Stern? In a criss cross pattern?” I shook my head no. “It’s because when the tides rise and fall it allows the boat to move with them. The way they have it tied would sink the boat.” For some reason I felt it important to write this down in my notebook. Harry, loved that someone was paying attention to him and what’s more actually listening. Sometimes that is all people need is someone to actually listen and acknowledge their existence. “Hey why don’t we go to the end of the pier and see what they’re catching.” As we headed down to the end of the pier Harry looked up at me with his toothless smile said “Hey, I got an idea give me a something I can convince these people about.” I found the idea intriguing, this man was getting more and more interesting. Quickly I tried to think of a subject without being too un-arming to these poor fishermen.
“A dog; you lost your dog.” Harry looked up cracked a smile again and nodded his head.
“Yeah.. I lost my dog, I lost my talking dog. Hey, does that guy have a cigarette? Excuse me… Excuse me sir, do you happen to have any cigarettes?” Looking back at how he got this gentleman’s attention was quite brilliant. Bait the man with one subject only to switch later.
“Hey Yuh but yuh gotta rollem yerself.” The man wasn’t the most well kept individual. He was a simple hardworking fellow.
“That’s fine I got papers!” Harry pulled out a small packet of cigarette papers and handed them to the fisherman.
“Cripes, what happened to your leg buddy.”
“Shark bite. It attacked me off the coast of Florida.”
“Shit! That’s gotta hurt.” Harry, perhaps intentionally or subconsciously grabbed his leg and turned it. He held at the bandage for a while.
“Yeah it kills, but mark my words Ima get that shark that did this to me. But I’ve killed so many of the buggers in my life I can’t say as I really blame ’em.”
“That’s some karma fer ya.” I was amazed by this whole transaction of words. The conversation seemed quite surreal. The fisherman handed Harry the rolled up cigarette.
“What you got in the bucket? Catch anything?”
“Oh yeeah, Got some Mackerrull. I’m getting ready to head out. Hey either of yas want some fruit punch?”
“No, thanks I’m all set.” I said. Harry just looked at him for a moment.
“Hey, we’re actually looking for my dog have you seen him? He’s a talking dog.”
“What? Are you serious, no way your not shittin’ me? What does he look like? What kind of dog is he?” Harry was caught off guard, and I couldn’t let our ruse fall so quickly after this guy started to believe us.
“Jack Russell actually.” The fisherman’s eyes lit up in shock. My guess had paid off.
“Short little dog brown with black spots?” He was sizing the dog with his hands. Harry nodded.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Kind of curly hair.”
“Yes, he’s got a wire coat.”
“I saw him earlier today on my way down here. What’s his name in case I see him again. I can grab him and bring him back.” I didn’t want him to take someone else’s dog nor did I want to steal Harry’s thunder.
You could tell Harry was trying to think of a name and then he has an idea “Raymond Brown his name’s Raymond Brown.” The fisherman gave us a bewildered look.
“No what’s his nick name, if i gotta git him what do I call em?”
“Nah. No, no, he’s gotta have a nickname what is it.” Harry was starting to lose him, he was catching on to the game. I had to interrupt
“He’s a smart dog you don’t need to grab him he’ll come back to us. Always does.”
“Nick, his name’s nick.” What an ass Harry was and clever at the same time. Of course the dog’s nick name was nick. Why didn’t I think of that.
“Ok, so if I see this dog I don’t wantem to run away so I’ll callem Nick.” I really didn’t want this guy catching someone else’s dog and bringing it to us.
“Oh, you don’t need to catch him he’ll be back he’s fine.”
“Yeah, he’ll probably catch a cab or something. Hell, the dog’s smarter than me.”
“Well if this dog can talk, I think I’ll keep him if I get him and make a ton of money on star search.” We all laughed at the idea. “Ok. well I’ll see you guys later.” With that the fisherman left. After he left I glanced over to Harry. Some what amazed that this guy left fully believing that we had lost a talking dog. It is one thing to know how to convince and manipulate someone’s thoughts it is another to be successful. I looked back to Harry,
“See, he believed us. It’s because people love stories. They love to be part of your world. I’m a writer I create environments for people and take them there. They want to believe because their lives suck.” I couldn’t of said it any better myself, Harry applied what he has observed in this world and used it to his advantage.
* “Part 2”:http://www.excommunicate.net/my-day-with-a-homeless-man-and-how-it-changed-my-life-part-2
* “Part 3”:http://www.excommunicate.net/my-day-with-a-homeless-man-and-how-it-changed-my-life-part-3