Too many fishermen to count today. All men. One very small boy. There is a lake smell coming off the pond. Old men and young men. In between. The sun is out and it's gorgeous. They are all seriously equipped fishermen. They know how to do this.
I watch for a while, but my thoughts are elsewhere.
Today, T came home from her morning walk with some news.
"I met the guy in the tan truck," she said. I listened, stunned as she told me the story.
She'd been at the pond when she spotted a skunk just a few feet away from her. She hurried past and saw a man headed in her direction. He was a stranger to her. She knows most of the regular walkers, but for some reason they weren't out that morning. She did what she always does when she sees a stranger. She carefully took out her phone, finger poised over the 911 emergency button. But, he passed her, saying nothing. She called over her shoulder, "There's a skunk a few hundred feet down. Be wary." He said he would.
T continued on her walk. As she was headed to her car, about an hour later, the sun was up. She noticed the same guy she'd passed sitting quietly at a picnic table.
"I don't know what made me do it," T said. "But I sat down across from him and said that it sure felt like spring. T said that they talked for a few minutes and then the guy told her that that tan truck over there belonged to him. That truck. The tan one.
"Did you get his story?" I asked. T said not really. That he'd told her his name and where he was from. He asked her if she needed any carpentry work done. He told me that he was handy at fixing things, she said. They watched the ducks for a while and he taught her the names of some that she didn't know. Green winged teals. T promised to let him know if she knew anyone who needed carpentry work done.
Will you?" I asked, cautious.
"I don't know," she said. "I don't know his story. I don't know if he's just a down-on-his-luck guy or a grifter. I hate to say this, but it is so hard to trust anyone these days. I did ask him what he did all day. He said that he read books that he purchased from the half priced book store.
"Did he look like an addict?" I asked. "Were his eyes glassy, dilated? Sores on his face? Bad teeth?"
She said no. That he had a beard but it looked tidy. That his clothes looked worn and wrinkled like he'd slept in his car but he didn't carry an odor.
"Did he ask you for money?" I asked. She became very quiet. Finally, she said, "You know, he did, but he looked like he didn't want to ask. He didn't initiate our conversation. I did. And he just asked if I could spare a dollar and that he was sorry to ask."
"Well, why doesn't he apply at McDonalds or Burger King?" I asked.
"I don't know," T admitted. "Maybe he doesn't have an address. You have to have an address to get a real job. Maybe he doesn't have gas."
"So," I went on. "Did you give him any money?"
T looked me in the eye, carefully. Her eyes were moist. "I went to my car and got my spare change purse. It had maybe two dollars in it. I gave him that. He told me again that he was sorry he'd asked. I told him that it was a fair trade off, that he'd taught me about ducks."
Neither one of us said any more about it. I threw my arms around her neck. I was so proud that she was mine. That her heart was this true golden thing.
T went off to work. I went to the movies with my sister. Saw LION. An incredible film, by the way. I told my sister about the man in the truck, asked her opinion. She advised caution. She could be right. She often is.
I came home and sat for a while. Thinking. Do I need to know this guy's whole story? It's probably a hard one. He wouldn't be where he is if he hadn't taken a few bad missteps. I tried to imagine sleeping in my car, night after night. I thought about all of the times that I have sat in Towl Park alone in my lawn chair with no other vehicles around except for the tan truck and the man inside of it. I am an overweight older woman who walks with a cane. An easy target for a thief. He could've robbed me, stolen my car, hurt me.
Except that he didn't. Do I really need to know his story?
I went into our office and found one of my three copies of CENTENNIAL by James Michener. A good, thick book that will take a long time to read. I took a twenty dollar bill and tucked it inside.
I don't know what our next steps should be. I can't afford to trust this man completely. But, what I do know is that he's probably hungry, surely in need of gas or a sandwich. Coffee.
I packed up the book and money and headed out to Towl Park to write. My mother used to say that Jesus or angels sometimes give us the chance to do the right thing. So, here goes nothing. Or something.