Come on home
I met Tim not long after the stray pitbull ended up bleeding down the road a bit, and anxious streetfolk showed up just as the storm was breaking at the southern hills, to ask what should be done.
Well, I took in the dog. Just for the night, mind you. Just until his home could be found. When a dog is hit by a truck and thrown to the ground, bewildered and broken, it just seems to me you can’t stroll on and pretend nothing has happened.
Tim showed up a few months later. Champ, the pitbull, had found life as a bookstore critter pretty good. His injuries were healing, but his nerve torn leg needed constant tending and his bandages brought sympathy.
Tim was tall, young, slow spoken in the way of southern folk. He loved dogs, having grown up with hounds. He was an artist, a wanderer, a seeker. He liked old books and philosophic discussions.
Was he here months, a year? I no longer recall. What I do remember is looking at each new carving in wood or stone and listening to his stories.
In these carvings women turned into birds, the wise people of the forest walked under the stars, a dog prowled, an owl spread her wings, a fern unfolded, a baby’s eyes sought the light for the first time.
They were magic.
Tim slept rough. I might have helped him with a blanket or two, with a coat, or a sandwich now and then—I don’t really remember. What I do remember is the photos of the little girl feeding the ducks. The daughter he fathered, and gave up to a nice adoptive couple. The new father was a doctor. They had money. The pretty child looked happy and well cared for in those dog eared photographs.
And I recall the times the dark and lack of food and loneliness and stress brought him to my door and he sobbed in my arms. Because, damn, the world is beautiful and the world is broken.
He didn’t talk about his time in
When he came to tell me he was moving on, 3 years ago or so, he gave me an old book he’d carried with him since he’d cut out on his own. Had been his granddad’s. He thought maybe I could sell it for a lot, and help Champ a little more.
I didn’t tell him it wasn’t a book of great monetary value. I took it gently into my hands as though it were, as it is, a gift of much preciousness, much rarity. I thanked him.
And the months, the years, passed. Yesterday the phone rang and that slow southern voice came over the line, a bit hesitant. He’s been in another state, where he is living in his 8 mile to the gallon old van, and doing gardening work. Yeah, he’s still carving. No, he doesn’t know where his path is really taking him.
The nights are hard. He no longer hears from the couple raising his little girl. His choice. “Tore me up too bad, I couldn’t take it.”
He said he’d just been feeling homesick, remembering the dog, and the bookstore, and our talks. He asked that I pray for him.
In an ideal world maybe I could have said “come on home” and there would have been space for him, with the injured pitbull and the rescued cats, with my children and my partner and all the piles of books.
Because walking by the broken and bewildered, the ones slammed by life and left by the roadside, isn’t good.
Pat Champ for me, he said.
I said I would.