There was a job that Gator took on. He had not worked for many years, regularly that is. People would tell him; “Must be pretty good to be retired now!” Gator would bristle a bit inside as though they were really telling him; How does it feel to be somewhat useful and just hanging about an old couch?
Gator would then tell a joke about he didn’t need new tires and that he was working harder then ever. He was, somewhat. Not behind the desk and in front of the toolbox with his name on a blue work suit. A business he built up for four decades, now managed and staffed by his eldest son and his son’s younger friend. It was hard at first, not being in charge but after a botched anesthesia, Gator began having seizures. He had to turn over the business to Stijn and it worked well for all of them.
But still, Gator worked hard at Gardening, land upkeep, and writing ‘the book’ about his very strange and exciting life. Hurricanes at sea, betrayed love, deliverance from heroin by five words spoken to him in a closed room. Things like that. Bold things, near death experiences. Imprisonment in Spain, torture by his jailers, preceded by escapes and living on the street in Rome. Hard work on the steel gangs and bold section men who could handle the steel tools and rails. More Hemingway life.
Many more things Gator wrote about and his editor at the paper encouraged him and is attempting syndication of Gator’s columns. Then along came a job paying good money for traveling around the extended area, interviewing people for a government program. The census. Gator got a plastic badge around his neck, a clipboard and an iphone. He drove a lot and found roads not traveled and places that were somewhat unpleasant and threats from people that didn’t want to talk to him. However, the pleasant folks that opened up their homes and front porches made up for it. Gator got pretty good at establishing common ground and had some great chats about experiences in the military. Often, some would notice Gator’s demeanor and know that he was a man of faith or a pastor working for a little extra cash. Great conversations occurred and made all the scary encounters fade into the background. Connection and often, shared lives that were just like everyone’s: Heartache, loss and loved ones gone. There once was an invitation to share sloppy Joe’s at a lakeside cabin.
The money was earmarked for a new sidewalk from the Gator families house to the shop. It’s almost done now and was worth all of the tough interviews. The connections with people from the high end, golfers putting near their private aircraft to the very run down houses with wary women peeking out from the very not opened doors. All of them worthy of the love of God. Equally and, in their own ways, somewhat open to this strange Gator at their front door. Of course, there was a bit of friction when deadly force was mentioned in retaliation for Gator daring to show up for the government’s people counting. People of different ethnic backgrounds, poor and rich, helpful and insulting. It was life in a distilled time of weeks and roads not traveled. Road food and decent pay.
A side benefit was a sign in the back window of the Gator’s car that had a real official government look about it. Tailgaters would get close, get a glimpse of the sign and suddenly drop back a decent amount. Gator wasn’t driving a Dodge charger like the squads, but it was very subtle and effective. The sidewalk is done. A little of the paycheck left for a few espressos. It’s pretty good. Jack