He looked familiar. There are things forty years can’t erase. Not even a grizzled half shaven face and shabby clothes. It was Stony – Stony Callaway. It was just the way he stood as if he were standing away from a surprise. What was he doing on a street corner panhandling?
It was years ago. It was a summer of exploration and a tumble into manhood for both of us.
We worked together, played together, and made plans. We talked about art, music, war, peace, love, the past, the present, and the future. He was going to be a lawyer and I talked about being an airline pilot.
We both wanted to desperately see and explore everything life and the world had to offer.
Strange, I thought. Neither of us did what we set out to do. Stony ended up a panhandler and I ended up selling real estate.
I turned the car around. My heart was full of charity, generosity, sympathy, and love for Stony. For that one summer, we were closer than brothers and like a brother who falls on hard times I’ll be there to lift him up, help him along the way. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”
I parked my car in the closest parking space and made my way to him.
“Stony,” I called out. “Stony Callaway!”
He turned and smiled. That was Stony’s smile.
“Stony,” I said and embraced him. “It’s good to see you, old friend.”
“Josh Yates, you old son of a gun,” Stony smiled broadly. “You are looking good. How long has it been?”
“I think forty years,” I said.
“What are you doing?” Stony said. “You look successful. Well, I never became an airline pilot and never traveled the world like I said, but years ago I got into real estate. It keeps me busy.” My smile turned to seriousness and concern. “What about you, Stony. What can I do to help.”
“Man,” Stony said. “You don’t have to do nothing. I got my law degree and I’ve been on the move ever since. I’ve been around the world four or five times. I’ve lived on the beaches of Western Africa, the deserts of Australia, the lagoons of South Sea Islands, the Andes, I spent a year in Siberia, a summer in Tuscany, a summer in the South of France, I’ve herded sheep on the Isle of Lewis, drilled wells in Canada, fished off the shores of Norway, and that hasn’t even scratched the surface. Man, I’ve done it all.”
“Is there anything I can do?” I said.
“Yeah,” Stony said. “You can stick a twenty in my cup or go with me for the winter in Punta Delgada.”
“Where is that?” I said.
“You can go home and look it up or come with me,” Stony said. “Another hundred dollars and your fair city loses its best-traveled vagrant forever. I’ll have enough for a ticket.”
“How ’bout if I give you the money you need and drive you to the airport myself,” I said.
“No, Josh,” Stony said. “You drop by the house, pack your things, and come with me.”
“I can’t do that,” I said. “I’d lose everything.”
“Josh, my friend,” Stony said. “When you die you lost everything. If you’re dead and had nothing, but could come back to life would you demand everything be returned to you?”
“No,” I said. “I’d just be grateful to be alive again.”
“Do you get it now?” Stony said. “If it’s really yours, it will be there when you return.”
“I’m packing,” I said.