Henrietta, Texas, 1959: John P. was a thin, wiry guy a year older than me, with a nervous air and a perpetual smile. His family was from Louisiana, with a mild Cajun accent. John signed up for Latin class, and was forever lost. I helped him some, and we became friends, though he was alien and odd.
The story goes that one day John climbed up onto the Coca Cola truck, with the intent to steal a case of cokes, while the Coke man was inside the A&P grocery store. But the Coke man came wheeling his handtruck out the rear door, and caught John atop of the truck. The Coke man scowled.
“What are you doing on that truck?” he demanded.
John didn’t even blink. “What truck?” he said.
Once John invited me to spend the night, and go fishing. I cannot remember where the house was; perhaps we rode there after classes on the school bus. It was way out in nowhere, surrounded by gulleys and a creek and mesquite and odd trees, a poor house it was, thin and unpainted, and his mother welcomed me and made up clean sheets on John’s bed while he slept on a sofa. His father said little, though I had the impression that perhaps John feared him, for John’s constant chatter stopped abruptly at the dinner table.
Late at night, when the moon was full, John woke me. “Let’s go fishing,” he said. I rose and dressed, and out we went into the moonlight. I don’t recall fishing. I faintly recall wandering in the night among the twisted trees, following a pale pathway that twisted as if created by animals, down to a wide pond, as still as magic under the bright moonlight.
Why fish in the middle of the night? I don’t recall, but there was some reason for going out in the darkness.
Perhaps we were not fishing but hunting. Perhaps we had guns and a flashlight, to startle and freeze rabbits. Perhaps we stalked coyotes, and saw none. Perhaps we looked for racoons or possums. I remember no fishing gear, but perhaps the scent of gunoil and the coolness of metal.
How can a memory be so faint? Half-remembered, half-forgotten, twisting yarns of memory as random and cryptic as a dreamscape beneath the moon.