When you move away from your hometown, you never think you will need its warm embrace ever again.
Until you do. And I did. That’s why I was there.
I had just ordered a draft of Allagash beer and was sitting at a restaurant bar in downtown Melrose, Mass., trying to keep pace with the madness that was rushing out of the mouth of my oldest (and shortest) friend in the world, one Egghead Lyons. This tightly wound middle-aged man can spout nearly a 100 words in under 10 seconds, half of which are regularly pronounced incorrectly. And then there’s the spittle, massive amounts of it, flying from his lips.
The Eggman was being filled-in on my reasons for returning home, a place where I lived for 30 years. He cared little for my reasons and was more interested in asking me how defined I thought his legs looked after a midday run on the tennis courts.
“They look short, kind of stubby actually, like kid legs.” I told him. “And, do you really shave them? They look shaved, guy.”
Our gathering was a rarity for us, with me living a whole 50 miles away in Manchester, and the Egg, unwilling to travel to the “sticks” as he refers to the Queen City. I agree, readers, this lad needs some adjusting. Maybe shock treatment. Still, we hadn’t hung out in ages, and by coming home only about four times a year, I have missed a lot of the changes in downtown Melrose. It’s a gorgeous street, Main that is. There are only a few places on the street to get a beer, maybe four, but I still wanted to hit every one of them, slam a few back and see some old faces, if lucky.
Three sips into my Gash, just before the calamari arrived, my cell phone rang. The wife.
“Hey.” I said.
“Did you lend someone your pickup truck?”
Squinting into the phone, knowing right away that that Allagash wasn’t going to be finished, that the calamari wasn’t going to be touched and the remaining wet holes on Main Street that I planned on visiting were no longer an option, I stepped outside to hear the shitty news.
“No, I did not lend my truck to anyone. Why!?”
She told me that she had just seen my truck being driven around our neighborhood in Manchester by a guy with gray hair about a half-hour ago. Interesting, I thought. Plenty of my friends have gone bald, not many have gone gray. As far as I knew, my 1988 powder-blue Dodge Dakota pickup truck was sitting in my friend’s driveway down the street from my house. He had used it to do some yard work, which he completed at the dump over the weekend before heading to the Carolinas for a week for work.
So, if my buddy wasn’t driving my truck, who’s the Dirtbag who was?
I was fired up. I know the city, its knots and bruises, and I love Manchester for just those reasons. I like “Heathens and Black Angels” as Ray Wylie Hubbard sings. Nothing wrong with a little grit on a town. Character building keeps the conversations moving beyond a blank stare. I just don’t like the dirt to rub off on me. Now it was. And I was annoyed. Someone stole my truck!
Gunning my car up 93 North, crushing the lanes, barely hitting the brakes, feeding off my anger, my confusion, my fear that my favorite toy in the world, my Dakota, a truck I bought for the sole purpose of pretending to be Sam Shepard on the weekends, was gone for good, sold for scrap metal or a bag of dope.
I reached the border in what seemed like 10 minutes, texting and calling anyone that who listen. Another friend had said she saw the truck being driven in the early morning by someone that wasn’t me while she was out on her morning walk. Then someone else said he had seen the truck being driven earlier in the day, but thought it was me.
A brighter man might relax some, take into account that the truck cost a whole $800 and that it won’t affect my life one way or another if she is never seen again. But, in fact, it would. I felt violated, and not in the good way. The crude, dirty thieving, pill-popping bastard had broken into my friends house, apparently had found the keys to the truck sitting on the kitchen counter and decided, “Sweet, this cat’s gone for a week. I can take the his truck and go and fetch my habit.”
Now, that’s just rude.
I figured that this tar-lipped tweaker was likely sitting in my truck somewhere around town, listening to my music, dabbing at my cologne, chewing my gym, farting into my leather bench seats and BURNING MY GAS!!! Buzzard and cheater!
I got to my buddies house and, now wait, what the ??? … the truck was sitting right there in the drive, same spot where I had seen it last No shattered glass, no wires ripped from under the console. Everything looked intact. He may have cuffed a slice or two of gum, but who could blame the fiend. Pills gives you horse breath. But he still had emptied a tank of gas carousing around town, doing his filthy jive.
I needed answers. Who did it? How did he get into the house? Why did he return the truck? Did he have something against extended beds?
Smelled like an inside job.
A neighbor was sitting in his living room with the screen door open as I circled my truck, trying to figure out just what went down. I shouted to the man. “Excuse me, sir. Did you see anyone drive this truck today?”
The man got out of his recliner, stepped out onto his deck and said, “Ah, yeah. A guy was in and out of here all day. Saw him leave in the truck and bring it back.”
This was some crook. Junked out of his mind and without scruples, but polite nonetheless.
I called the Manchester Police and was told that yes, someone called the cops that night in the neighborhood about a prowler. He was gone by the time the cops got there. Stealthy lass, a true night crawler.
“Can we open a case?” I asked the officer on the other line. “Can we get him for auto theft?”
“You said you have the truck now?” he inquired. I could smell his distain for me building. “He brought it back?”
“I do, and yes.” I said.
“Well, then, there isn’t much we can do.” he said. “I mean, I could dig deeper and interview some people who called the station that night….”
I stopped the officer right there and said, “It’s not my house, my life, my web to untangle. And I have my truck back. Forget it. Thanks for everything.”
With that, I got into the truck, backed her out of the driveway and then realized that sure, my hometown romp was a bust, and someone had stolen my truck and used it for the day, and yes indeed, I was already missing the calamari, but the real kicker was, the thief had the audacity to disconnect my iPod and pass on listening to my Woody Guthrie compilation.
Some people just don’t get it.
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