Friday, August 16, 2013

True Fate

When I was a kid just out of high school I worked in my dad's used bookstore. Around the time I was attending the local junior college I would come home from classes and then run the shop.

Some of the weirder folk would only drop in for specific items. One crazy old shirtless guy would ride his bike down the street. I could always see him zooming toward the store from a few blocks away. He'd zip along at a pretty good clip. He had a little dog that would blaze beside him, following the bike or running tandem.

The crazy old guy would park the bike, come in and buy the local newspaper. I don't ever recall that he wore anything but a pair of slacks. Not even any shoes. The dog would wait for him at the door. Paper bought, he'd tuck it into his back pocket and off they'd zoom back to wherever the hell it was he lived with his dog.

Another fellow would come in to buy only one item:

FATE Magazine.

I never read it and don't know much about it, except that it focuses on the supernatural and the "true" weird. And that it's still around (at least as an e-mag). But this guy apparently lived for them. He never spoke much and never, apparently, felt the need to talk about the things he read in the pages of Fate. At least not to me.

The fellow was tall--probably at least six feet three. Lanky. At the time I thought he was an older fellow, but probably he was no more than 35 or 40. And he always wore a cloth aviator cap. No matter the weather or the temperature. And this was in south Georgia where a normal summer day is in the mid-90s and it can hit the upper 80s even in winter and no one thinks it's remarkable. But he'd have that horrible aviator cap on even if it was sweltering.

The only time he ever spoke was when he heard me talking about ramps (a kind of wild onion) with one of my friends who had stopped by the store. He came to the counter and explained that he often had trouble with his sinuses and had read that possibly ramps could fix the problem. Since he'd heard me say that I had harvested them when I lived in the mountains he asked if I could get some for him. He needed them intact, with the leaves, so that he could try to grow them in his garden. I explained to him that they were wild and that as far as I had been able to acknowledge, they couldn't be farmed. Also, they flourished in the higher altitudes of the mountains and I didn't think they would thrive in the low country. Still, he wanted to get his hands on some live ramps and I told him I'd see what I could do.

My plan was to get one of my high school pals to harvest a dozen or so and send them to me by post. Alas, each of my old pals were all fled to college and the military. Try as I might, I could find no one to do me the favor. The fellow would ask from time to time about progress on procuring the wild onions when he came in for his copies of Fate Magazine. I explained that I had been unable to to find anyone to grab some of the plants and suggested that he travel to the north Georgia mountains to nab some himself.

Alas, he seemed to be as trapped in that hell-hole of a town as firmly as I was.

Eventually, he exhausted our stock of back issues of Fate Magazine and stopped visiting the store.

No matter the heat.

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