THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Anyone who thinks words don’t have power doesn’t understand human beings.
This morning I drove into Paradise to the Appliance Shop. The glass on our oven door had cracked, and Billy from Abilene had ordered another. When I arrived to pick it up the door was locked. I knocked, and Billy let me in.
“Sorry,” he said. “We’re kinda unorganized today.”
“You’re unorganized,” Burl Jr. said, coming out of the back room carrying a big suitcase. “I’m just fine.”
I like Burl Jr. He’s 21 years old and has been Billy’s assistant forever. He’s quiet with most people, a terrific guitarist, and as smart as they come. His father’s a small farmer, but Burl Jr. knows so much about electronics that he was offered a top paying job before his college graduation ceremony was over
“He turned down the job,” Billy said. “He’s leaving town!”
“I thought you just got back from a trip,” I said to Burl Jr.
“He went to Virginia with Ashley, his girlfriend,” Billy from Abilene said. “They were announcing their engagement. Ha!”
Burl Jr. looked embarrassed. “He doesn’t get it. Nobody gets it.”
“Gets what?” I said.
Burl Jr. took a deep breath. “Ashley and I drove to Bristol, where her grandmother lives. Everything went fine till we stopped at a restaurant. The Golden Corral.
“There was this waitress. Her name tag said she was Brittany, and she’s the most gorgeous girl I ever saw. A tiny little thing with long, dark hair and this shy smile…”
Burl Jr.’s eyes glazed over. “I was a total doofus. Could hardly give my order. All I could do was stare.
“Ashley asked how Brittany liked her job. Brittany said she liked talking to people from all over the country. Especially when they told her about where they lived because she’d never been anywhere. Never left Bristol. Not even for a day.
“By the time we finished lunch we pretty much knew her life story. She’s nineteen. She dropped out of high school because she was pregnant. She never married the father. And she and her daughter live with Brittany’s parents. She doesn’t like it there.
“The whole time Brittany was talking,” said Burl Jr., “she was looking at me. I was scared to death of meeting her eyes, but couldn’t turn away. Ever had that happen with a woman?”
“Yes,” I said. “When I first saw Gwen. I called it love.”
Burl Jr. nodded. “I left a $20 tip, and while Ashley and I were getting into the car Brittany came running out to the parking lot with my $20 bill saying, ‘Sir! You made a mistake! You left me too much!’
“I said that’s what I wanted her to have. So she could leave Bristol someday.
She looked like she was gonna cry, and she leaned toward me like—well, like she was going to kiss me. But instead she ran back inside.
“Ashley didn’t talk to me the whole rest of the day. We’ve been home two days, and she’s barely talking to me now. Me, I’m still thinking about Brittany. Maybe I’m crazy, but I can’t let that be all there is of her in my life.
“Soon as my car’s packed up I’m bee-lining it back to Bristol. I’m going straight to the Golden Corral. And the way my life’s going to be is, either I’m going to stay in that town with her and her little girl forever, or I’m going to bring them here to be with me till I die.”
Burl Jr. carried his suitcase from the shop to his car. I stayed with him. All I could say was, “Are you sure—absolutely certain—this is the right thing?”
Burl Jr. put his suitcase into the trunk. “I know it’s right,” he said. “Because the man I respect more than anyone else in the world told me this is what I’ve got to do.”
“Your dad told you that?”
“No, sir,” said Burl Jr. “The man who one day about a year ago wrote this down and stuck it to my chest while I was talking about what I wanted in my future.”
Burl Jr. dug a crumpled purple stick-it from his pants pocket. Placed it in my hand. “I’ve been walking around with this ever since.”
I looked down at the note.
“Don’t you dare not go for your dream,” it said. And it was signed:
Words. Choose them carefully. They’ve got real power.