$26 for the happiest day of his life

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He knocked on my front door, needing money . . . the exact amount to the penny for a bus ticket to Chicago: $25.65

Did I have any odd jobs he could do?            (this got my respect)

Overcoming my default NO, I said I figured I had $5 for pulling weeds out of the cracks in my driveway.

It’ll help, he said. And he started yanking at the crabgrass.

After about five minutes, I couldn’t stand the white privilege roiling off me; I approached him with a better idea.

OK, I’ll cover the full price of your ticket if you write about the best day of your life.

He just stared at me, confused.

How do I do that, he asked.

So I handed him a can of Cherry Pepsi, something to sit on, a notepad and paper.

Just tell me what happened that made it happy, I said. Write what you remember.

I went back into my house. Every time I peeked through the curtain or around the door frame, the boy was writing intently.

After 20 minutes, I went to see how he was doing. I asked if he would read it to me and said he would, but it made him shy. Shyly, he read. Sensei-ish, I listened.

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I liked his theme and told him so. He said he wasn’t done yet, so I went back to my work. Maybe 15 minutes later, he was ready. Did I want him to read it out loud again? I said no, you don’t have to.

He returned the notepad and pen. I shook his hand and gave him an envelope with $26 cash in it.

Congratulations, I said, this is your first paid writing project. You are now a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Go to Chicago and keep writing even if no one is paying you. One day they will. You’ll be amazed by your life one day.

I’ve no idea why I felt authorized to say that, but that’s what I said. I think I just always wanted someone to say that to me when I didn’t know who I was.

Then he smiled awkwardly, trying to hide his broken front teeth. He thanked me and walked off.

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Later in the early evening, I was walking Nessy and saw a nearly full can of Cherry Pepsi sitting on the curb just up the next block from my place. It wasn’t thrown down, not even dented; somehow politely, it was just sitting there, punctuating the end of our exchange.

It charmed me.  It embarrassed me.  It was something I would have done at his age when I wasn’t brave enough to say no thank you . . . decades before I learned how to be the person  I myself needed when I was 17.

“Can I take your picture?”

Kit, age 12
Kit, age 12
rabbi
Rabbi on a cell, O’Hare Airport, 2013

the-bbc-fisherman
G. Breedon, Cromarty Firth, Scotland, October 2013

Ilya Kaminsky, April 2014, Kalamazoo Poetry Festival
Ilya Kaminsky, Poet, Kalamazoo Poetry Festival, April 2014

round brown eyes
Faegheh, Arrowtown, Aotearoa, November 2011

Still James
James Still, Pulitzer-nominated playwright & author, November 2014

china doll
the little sister, Whangerei, New Zealand, December 2011

one goodfella
William Ellwood, actor, Kalamazoo, April 2015

young bear
Young Bear, South Dakota 2012

pinklet
Apple of her Daddy’s Eye, Madison, Wisconsin 2012

Gabriel
Walter Gabriel Trachsler XIII, lead vocalist & guitarist with the Rotting Corpses, August 2014

Makena, 17
Makena, St. Joseph County, Michigan, Fall 2014

Jonathan
Jonathan Hall, actor, October 2014

Terri
Terri, the Brown-eyed Girl, Atlanta, 2014

Huingangutu, her Moko
Huingangutu, Aotearoa 2011 (her name means “people gathered to discuss something important”). The chin tat is called a “Tā moko” and it’s considered a sign of beauty.

Nicholas
Nicholas Baxter, musician, April 2015

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Lhaoghiere, Hill of Tara, Eire, June 2014

henri
Henri Medinilla Grau, photographer, New Mexico 2014

The Gilmore Keyboard Festival 2014
Elizabeth Joy Roe, The Gilmore Keyboard Festival 2014

skin like porcelin
Sarah, student, Spring Semester 2013

Giuseppe Q
Giuseppe Q., actor/director, Albuquerque 2014

ari
Ariel, Prom Ready in Vicksburg, Michigan, 2014

manning
Lynn Manning, Actor, New York City, March 2013

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Makena, age 16, northern Michigan

Susan
Susan in the bathtub of the first home she owned alone, Des Moines 2014

Kansas farmer
A Kansas Farmer, Fall 2014

another dancer
Hubbard Street Dance Studio, Chicago, April 2013

IMG_3265Bell Book & Canto, February 2016

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Wm Roberts, classical guitarist/composer, Kalamazoo 2017

anna-ponders
Anna Marie Crovetti, artist, Chicago 2015

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Majken Ruppert, 2019Seaver_2895
Alexander Harsha, senior picture in front of the schoolhouse his ggrandfather built, Vicksburg 2018IMG_1488-001Byce Evergreen, age 15, Freeport, Michigan

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Stephanie Evergreen & Michael Doyle on their wedding day 16 May 2020

2019 Madelyne H.

Quinn & Sydney, 2017
Sue Moore, 2013
Chris G., Olive Shores, Lake Michigan, 2020