Your elevator pitch—tell me, she said. What’s your book about in a 3-4 sentence summation? I didn’t have an answer at the time, but this is what I’ve come up with so far:

Mine is a story of being the second of seven, each born within 9-years, and raised by an impervious single-mom. (That three-tent circus alone might be “worth the price of admission,” as my dear friend Nan would say.) I’ll also revisit the impact of my father’s compulsions, which resulted in unprecedented consequences by way of his genius, albeit deviant, manipulation. And I’ll explore faith vs. folly as they pertain to my mother’s independence, which was often at odds with her installation of the LDS church as patriarch by proxy of our home.

So this blog may be a forum for wordsmithing—pounding out, if you will—some of the memories that are trying to make their way into my book. On top of that, I might stomp in the puddles of parenting, wrestle in the reeds of politics, or sit on the dock musing over the inner-workings of the universe. Whatever I’m writing, this blog is my pond to play in, and you’re welcome to swing by for a friendly splash.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Wise Words: "Why's everyone gotta be in such a hurry that they can't even let a good person be good?"

Jeremy has been homeless since he was 23. He was perched casually on the sand colored brick wall at the foot of Walmart on Parley’s Way holding a typical cardboard sign, which I didn’t take time to read. I chose to read his face instead. Friendly. He seemed friendly.

Mr. Cheeks and I approached, out of breath. Cheeks was insistent that he had walked enough, so I’d been carrying him for a few blocks now—my eight pound, short-legged companion. 

I’ve been traveling for work a lot lately, and was feeling a sense of isolation, even though I had been home since the previous evening. And here was a person whom I imagined might be feeling a little isolated as well.

I asked Jeremy if I could join him and he offered a corner of his sleeping bag to pad the unforgiving surface of my new found seat. 

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Pretty good,” he said. “Just tryin’ to get a few coins together—they add up ya know.”

Soft blue eyes looked back at me, with a few stripes of gold pointing toward his pupils. They were curious and cautious eyes, like the eyes of a kitten not ready to trust the string held in front of him.

Short hair peeked out from under a ball cap. I don’t recall the color of his hat—maybe white with a black and red logo—but I’m not really sure. I did notice the sandy curls that lapped around the edges though, and they made me think of my own boy, whom I assumed would be close to the same age. 

“Where are you from?” I asked, hoping he’d indulge me with his story.

“Colorado,” he said at first. And with an embarrassed snicker he corrected himself. “Nah—actually that’s where I’m tryin’ to go,” he said. “I’m from Oregon. That’s where my family is. But I left and went to Colorado because pot’s legal there, ya know; and then I went back to Oregon, and now I’m tryin’ to get back to Colorado, cuz I know people there, and have friends there and shit. So I’m hitchin’ rides and askin’ for coins cuz they add up, and they don’t mean anything to the good people that give them to me. Like you. You gave me some and you’re a good person. You must be a good person, cuz you do good things. And there ain’t very many good people, ya know? Like maybe one in a thousand or somethin'. But you’re a good person. So don’t you forget it. Cuz there’s more bad people out there than good. And they can’t do good because they’re bad. People are either good or bad. Because they either do good or bad.”

An older-model mini-van pulled up, clicking and wheezing—pistons struggling to keep the engine alive. The light had turned red, and the woman within the van was fidgeting with a slightly tattered clutch, pulling a bill out while simultaneously trying to get Jeremy’s attention.

He continued talking as he sauntered to the driver’s side door. “Thanks, mam,” he said, just as a horn blared from the German car behind. I glanced at the light, which was now green, and I looked back at the offending car. An exasperated man—buttoned up tight and proper with a nice looking tie—gestured, both hands in the air, and slammed them down on the steering wheel as the van in front of him rolled on.

“Fifteen seconds,” Jeremy said as he returned to the wall. “Fifteen seconds and that guy has to be an asshole. Whys everyone gotta be in such a hurry that they can’t even let a good person be good?”

 “I study the Bible,” he continued. “I’ve read it twice all the way through. There are lots of people that think they’re good because they go to church, but they’ve never even read the Bible.”

“Look,” he said, raising his left hand off the wall. A pentagram with precisely spaced numerals—666— was freshly scratched into the curve of his hand between his thumb and first finger. Graphite shavings smudged over the incision finished a self-administered tattoo.

“They say it’s the sign of the Devil,” he said, “but it’s not. How can it be? It’s in the Bible,” he said. “And God created the Bible and he created the Devil, so really it’s a sign of God.”

I wondered if he could sense my uneasiness with the concept. And I wondered if his unorthodox perceptions were a symptom of mental illness, or simply a skewed interpretation of the ancient book. 

I couldn't say. I've never read it cover to cover.

Jeremy was still talking. Still sharing his deeply held beliefs. He referenced Lazarus and Job. He spoke of Adam and Eve, the Immaculate Conception, of Jesus and the Cross. He knew the stories, or at least his perception of them.

He didn’t really pause, but I managed to ask him where he learned so much about the Bible and he told me. He read it straight through—not once, but twice. In a jail cell.

Which made me wonder if he thought of himself as good, incapable of bad; or did he think of himself as bad, incapable of good?

And then he asked, "You know why I don’t like jail much? I missed my family. I couldn’t see my family when I was in jail.”

“Where’s your family now?” I asked.

“In Oregon.” He mused on, “I miss my sisters. It’s crazy how fast time goes. How fast it goes and they’re all grown up. I spent 15-years with them, and now they’re all grown up,” he said. “I miss my brother too.”

“When was the last time you talked with them?” I asked.

“Ah, a couple weeks ago, I guess,” he said. “I talked to my mom a couple weeks ago, I think.”

“I’ve got four kids,” I shared. “I’d go nuts if I didn’t know where they were for two weeks. Do you want to call your mom?”

“Yeah? You’d let me use your phone?” he asked.

“Sure, why not?” I said as I unlocked the screen. “Give your mom a call.”

He continued rambling about good and bad, God and the Devil, as the phone rang on the other end.

“Hi. I’m in Salt Lake City,” he said. “Some people are nice enough. Like this lady here. She just let me call you. Yeah. I’m alright. Just gettin' rides…”

I set the dog down and took a few steps away to offer some privacy. The call was brief, but Jeremy seemed more at ease—more in his body and less in his head—as he handed the phone back to me.

“Thanks,” he said. “That was good. I miss my family.”

We both looked down, and in a way, I think he knew I was sending up a silent prayer for him and his family.

“Well, I should probably head home,” I said, looking back up and extending my hand to shake his, instantly wishing I had offered a hug instead. “Good luck and safe travels, Jeremy. I appreciated the conversation.”

And as I walked away, I hoped he felt less alone. I definitely did.


  1. You are a good person mom. Don't you forget it. You're busy as can be, but you always make time for the people who need you, even if you don't know them. You know I believe in Christ, I think you're one of the most Christ-like people I've ever met and I admire that about you. I love you. And you're always in my thoughts, even when you're feeling alone. I love you.

  2. I'm in chickens over this my friend. So many chickens. Thanks for writing. Thanks for daring to put your stories forth. Thanks for helping him call his mom. I love you.