The head secretary had a personality like a rose

with only one or two stickers.

On a bad day, she was not to be messed with.

On a good day, she smelled good.

The middle secretary

had a personality like Lucille Ball. There were pink flowers in her hair, and she was always happy.

The bottom secretary was impossible to figure-out—not overly social, she didn’t follow with automatic warm welcomes.

She had a good heart if you got to know it slowly, but like ill-kept flowers, the relationship easily withered, if not taken-care of.

Her daughter was there, with blond hair, wearing spandex and a halter-top.

She had this dog with a black spot on its eye. It was a runt, but looked like a breed.

“What kind of dog is that?” I asked.

“A heeler.”

“What do they use that for?”

“For breeding cows… Oh, I mean, for herding cows,” she said.

“It’s kinda small.”

“Yes, it’s a mix.”

Right then, I got offered a doughnut by our instructional coach.

“No, I’m on a diet,” I said. “But thank you.”

I went back to my office and got organized, until our special education teacher walked in. Then the panic started.

“We were wondering when you would get here,” she said. “Six students have already transferred-in, and we’re waiting on their paperwork.”

“Oh—” I said. “I’ll do it, as soon as possible. How was your summer?”

“I went to Ireland and Scotland.”

“Have you always traveled?” I asked.

“No. In 2018, I decided life was too short not to travel. I had cancer and my ovaries out. Now I have fuckin pockets all inside my body that they see in airports under the scanners. I get detained, constantly.”

“Oh—” I said.

“Let me know when you get your paperwork done.”

“Okay. Good to see you.”

I forgot how crazy my job is. The last few days of summer, I was struggling to write. Now, I have reentered the gold mine, and it’s all mine. I won’t get black lung disease, but I might go crazy.

The janitor walked into my office.

“Dr. J!” He said. When he calls me this, it makes me think I’m the Joker.

Pete has his silver hair combed back.

“Did you work on any projects this summer?” I asked.

“Well… eye-balls,” he said. “It can be so difficult to get the pupils right. Most morons use ping-pong balls. I use molds.”

“I see.”

He went-on to talk about all the anatomical features of the eye-ball, until I was totally creeped-out. It’s easy to be interested in him. Whenever I said something though, he quickly lost interest.

Then he left.

After work, I went to the golf course, and I got paired-up with a white guy in his late 50s. He had an accent. At first, I thought it was English, but that wasn’t right.

Then he told me that he worked as a fisherman in Alaska. He sounded like a Sailor. I thought about patterns of speech and how his way of talking was unique. It belonged on a boat.

“Are you a teacher?” He asked.

“Yeah.” I guess I belong in a school. That’s a crazy thought.

We finished 9 holes, and we had a good time. Writing helps me to take an interest in people. I want to get their story, all of a sudden, which never works. It comes off as trying too hard, but if you just let it happen, sometimes, nothing happens. So, getting somebody’s story is an art.

If I travelled across the country, like John Steinbeck and his dog Charlie, I would have difficulty talking to people. Not because I’m shy, but because everybody has a culture. When meeting women, for instance, a man cannot just walk up to her, and start a conversation, and expect to get rapport. No, he must be known. So, what he has to do, is to get an intermediary to introduce him. This is standard. All of the social rules are meant to sift-out the insane.

On my next 9, I met a new guy. He had a child’s face, with bright shining eyes, despite being 70 years old. He was radiating love. I don’t know how we began our conversation, but it was real. In less than 10 minutes, I got his number, and we were going to play golf again. We talked about evangelism and then he invited me to church.

For a guy who spent most of his summer alone, I’m enjoying all of the people who walk into my world. I want to get their stories and write them down.

5 thoughts on “The People in my Tide Pool

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