If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of your life would you return to? Why?
Writers constantly do that very exercise. Writers adjust the past or relive it in far greater detail and grander meaning than what was actually experienced. It is likely every event in our life is edited to give ourselves more importance than we should have. That’s the short and sweet of it.
What follow is a a short story about a man I know (not me). I call him Rusty. In reality Rusty’s life was hard. I rewrite his life in order to give him a better one. This is the first installment of his story. I will post a brief episodes each day. I hope you join Rusty in his journey.
Rusty was ten years old when his dad, Samuel Collins, was arrested for murder. That left him alone to be raised by his father’s sister. His mother left five years before his dad’s arrest and never returned.
Rusty’s aunt was a good person. Her husband, Ronnie, thought of Rusty as more of an inconvenience than an orphan and he always strongly suggested that once Rusty was 18 he was to clear out. That really never bothered Rusty; he knew when he wasn’t welcomed. They had their own two children to raise. Rusty understood.
Before Rusty reached 18 his dad was killed in prison. He had only a visit a year; four visits before he was gone.
By many estimations Rusty’s life was quiet and uneventful; married at 22 divorced at 23, no children, always searching and never finding – for what, he was never sure.
At age 40 he decided to move on, away from Pittsburgh. He wanted quiet and solitude. All he owned was now in truck camper. He was going to drive west until he found a good spot, look for a job, and settle-down.
It was his last day of packing, mostly throwing things out. It was early morning. He wanted to get an early start.
He came across a pencil box he had from grade school. It was tucked to the back of a shelf in a closet. He found it by blindly checking to see if anything was there. It was metal, the paint worn away, but in it’s day it had a Superman logo on it.
Rusty slid down the wall of the room and sat on the floor. That pencil box was the only thing he had from his life with his dad. Visions of his dad popped in and out of his mind. He closed his eyes to be alone with them, not to share them with the present or the light. They were private and belonged to no one but him.
He opened the box, two yellow pencils with his teeth marks in them. There was a pen handed out by Pennsylvania National Bank and Trust. He could not recall how he came to be in possession of the pen. Next was something quite astonishing, a chain with a key on it.
“That day,” Rusty said and he went on to remember that day.
The police came to arrest his dad. Sam begged the officers for a moment before handcuffing him.
“Rusty,” he said. “I did something really bad. I’m going away. I love you, my son.”
His father looked around frantically. “I don’t have anything to leave you with.” He searched his pockets for whatever he could lay his hands on. There was nothing. Finally he removed the chain with a key on it from around his neck and handed it to Rusty. Then reaching in his pocket he handed Rusty the pen. “That’s all I have.”
Rusty smiled and his eyes became moist. That was all he had of his father’s. Yet, it was enough.