Boy, you think you'd just about figured things out. Had some people pidgeonholed for their status in the cosmos. I got a "whoa, there" and a big tug on the reins yesterday.
Way back when (with a nod to Steely Dan) in high school days me and a guy named Brad were best of buddies. Huntin' and fishin' pals. Got suspended together, then grew up a little and took on a Fonzie-like aura. Were the 'Dads' of the senior class, meaning that teachers defered to us in a leadership sort of role, set the tone for the decreeing of what was and was not cool. Kinda like being class president without the title.
It was a pretty small senior class. They didn't have many Dads to choose from.
We were blessed with an unusual array of really beautiful girls in my particular class. I mean not just good looking, but classy, well dressed, generally with rich parents, and having personalities that enabled conversation beyond the limits of the current television sitcom.
They tolerated Brad and I beyond what could reasonably be expected of them. Maybe because they rarely saw us in old fishing clothes with a three day growth of beard. Or maybe that enhanced it. I don't know.
The very best looking of them, call her Jane, elected to hang around with us. She made the comment that "all the other guys in this school are just little boys." She was very warm and smiley, which put Outfoxed into a lock-up state. Beautiful women managed to do that to me. Still do, for that matter. Brad, on the other hand, could carry on and charm the hell out of Heather Locklear if he put his mind to it. Or, in this case, with Jane. Her 'hanging out with us' stage lasted about two weeks, at which point Brad asked her out.
Which didn't end our friendship, but it sure took its toll on the fishing time. Brad just sorta disapeared. He dived into the relationship with Jane and never really did come back up for air. They were inseparable. Rich, artistic, classy city girl goes for country boy. He was hooked just as soundly as the fish we were, by this time, NOT catching on the lake.
He told me, confidentially, that he couldn't believe she had picked him. He figured that more introspective Outfoxed would have been the one. More common interests, you see.
Huh. I was just dumb enough to have not been aware that there was any picking and choosing going on. This was high school, remember. Boys are allowed to be intellectual AND catch fish but never have those traits and be social butterflies to boot. Never. You're only allowed two out of the three.
Brad and Jane were married the following year. She eventually prodded him to go to work for Daddy, and the race was on. They popped out three kids in short order.
Over the succeeding 24 years, Brad and I would bump into each other every so often. We'd talk about fishing and wooden boats and the mutual loads we were carrying. He worked for Daddy-in-law for quite a while but moved off into other firms, eventually. Kids got older, hair got more gray.
I bumped into the two of them in a grocery store one day. Let me tell you, Jane was just as alluring as the last time I'd seen her. Not one day of age showed on her. She could have worn the cheerleading outfit from high school without a thought. I gave her the older brother hug and we talked a bit, in the frozen foods section. Yeah, I've heard that Fogelburg tune. Gimme your Auld Lang Sine and a salisbury steak dinner.
But through all of this, not for one second did my pidgeonhole notion of Brad and Jane change. The one inseparable couple.
Yesterday, I get a call out of the blue, as usual, from Brad. "Well, I just wanted to tell ya. So you'd know. I went fishing one day last spring and when I got back, Jane was gone. Hasn't been back since. Took her clothes and her stuff and moved in with her mother. And uh...the divorce will be final next week."
She left just before the last of their kids was to enter college.
Well then, indeed. What to say? I heard something in Brad I didn't think I'd ever hear.
I murmurred something about how sorry I was to hear it. We talked of walnut gun cabinets and baseball.
Empathy is my nature. It pains me to think of him, alone in his house, with the children gone. The lone love of his life gone. A good man, a good woman. Left with his boat and some memories. Growing old.
I didn't want to watch him grow old like this.
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