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
In the two plus years that I’ve occupied this space I’ve gotten a variety of responses to the words I’ve put here.
On the positive side, once while walking through the Paradise Town Square I heard someone say, “That’s the most intelligent man in the county.” (At which point I could only stop and turn and say, “Um…probably not, but thanks.”
On the negative side, there was the old boy who marched up to me and said, “You’re makin’ trouble for me with my wife. She wants me to be more creepy-crawly crazy like you.” (To which I could only say, “Um…sorry—I think.”)
I’ve gotten e-mail from people thanking me for what I’ve written, “because seeing the mistake that woman made when she married a man she didn’t know very well kept me from marrying the same kind of guy.”
And I’ve gotten e-mail from people furious about what I wrote, “because you’re so wrong about everything from dogs to doctors to ghosts that it just makes me sick about where our world is going these days.”
But today, as a result of some words I put down awhile back about speaking at Paradise High School, I received a unique response.
A heartfelt note about something that just happened to a caring high school teacher and former student of mine here at Cloud Creek Institute For The Arts. Here, cut a bit so it’ll fit and minus her name because she asked that it not be used, is what she wanted to share:
“Steve and Derek were two seniors placed in my study hall last year by a dean determined to see them graduate despite their frequent self sabotaging efforts. It was bad enough they came with attitude and became worse when they discovered a few friends already [there]….
“I probably paid a little more attention to [these two] because the dean asked me to help her out…My interest wasn’t rooted in oppression but in the desire to see them secure a future – something most adults didn’t believe about them….
“They began sitting with me up at my table…I brought in breakfast. We studied. We talked. I learned about their lives, enough to know there ought to be an award for kids who find the strength just to get on the school bus every morning….
“They talked to me like I wasn’t a teacher. We talked about the things they were interested in and as it is with most teenage boys we spoke mostly about girls and cars.
“My dad left the 1967 Chrysler 300 that sits in my driveway. The one…with the 440 under the hood. The one Derek listened to at lunch when I said it made a funny noise. The one Steve made me promise to sell to him if we ever wanted to get rid of it.
“After they graduated, they came to visit…asking about the Chrysler and more then willing to get it in driving condition this summer, for my son.
“Except that’s not going to happen. Friday, Steve shot himself at Derek’s house. Estranged from his family, depressed and drunk, he’d been crashing on Derek’s couch for several months….
“I came across Derek in the hallway. On seeing me, he gave a weak half wave, then walked over, put his head on my shoulder and cried. I hugged this boy who discovered his best friend’s body on his bathroom floor and I told him I was sorry because I couldn’t say it was going to be okay….
“I [too] cried for …the good kid with the big heart, who was born to a crappy life and got so very, very lost… Maybe I can’t write a different ending for Steve, but I can make sure there’s a record somewhere that he existed.
“Steve was nineteen years old. He had dark brown hair and brilliant blue eyes. He wore T-shirts, never white, and a black leather jacket all year round. He loved cars and he wanted to be a mechanic.
“This is all I can bring myself to say. It is not enough to describe the soul of the boy who no longer walks this planet. There are not enough words….”
My Former Student the High School Teacher is right. There aren’t enough words. There never are. But hers are strong and straight and true.
And they’re on the record, here and now.
Just as Steve himself is on record in the Universe’s Honor Roll, for living and trying—and getting on the bus.