Dwayne the Earth Mover called the other day, and he sounded even more surprised than I did.
“Larry B! How you doing? Why didn’t you say good-bye?”
It’s been almost a year since I saw Dwayne last, so it took me a moment to recognize the voice. That seemed to be fine with him because he plunged right on:
“Here I am, figuring life’s like always and you and Gwen the Beautiful are dancing and loving and living the dream, and then I hear from Brannigan that you’ve gone and departed your Mountain for some flatland that’ll be on the ocean floor any day!”
“It’s just for awhile,” I said. “Gwen told Elizabeth what was happening when we saw her at the bank.”
At the mention of his wife, Dwayne was silent for so long I thought his cell had dropped the connection. Then, with his usual fast-talking effervescence: “So what’s it like, starting over in a new place?”
“Tougher than I thought, that’s for sure. Been here a month and still haven’t found the TV remote. The dogs can’t get it into their heads that they don’t have to announce every visitor anymore. Met the neighbor across the street when she came outside to yell at me for yelling in the neighborhood because I was calling out to another neighbor —”
I stopped myself. Because I realized I was running on about…well, about the same kinds of things every move to a new home has brought to my life.
I remembered when I went off to grad school at the University of Iowa and was stopped for speeding just as I crossed the state line. State Trooper got out of his car and came over to my window with a big smile on his face. “Welcome to Iowa, sir!” he said. “Drivers license, please….”
Then there was the time I whisked Gwen to Santa Fe. We’d just gotten married in Vegas, where an Elvis impersonator walked us down the aisle at the Graceland Wedding Chapel and were about to settle down in a house I’d rented on the Santa Clara Pueblo just north of town.
We were treating the drive like a honeymoon. Until we got to Kingman, Arizona, where my hot new truck got so hot it caught fire on I-40. While a local dealer waited for the new driveshaft the truck needed, Gwen and I drove on in a rental car and got home just in time to learn that, as beautiful and modern as the house was, the builders had neglected to install one necessary ingredient.
A heating system that worked.
And how could I forget the first time I wrote anything in this space? It was about an event our first week in Arkansas. When the horse transporters pulled onto the Cloud Creek Ranch driveway with Huck the Spotless Appaloosa and Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang. And promptly got stuck in the mud. For a good long time there it seemed as though the wranglers were going to be permanent residents of The Mountain with us.
None of these things compare, though with the Biggest Move I Ever Made. The one to L.A.
It was over 40 years ago, but I still can picture every detail of the night I arrived at LAX. I was heading for the baggage carousel when a white-haired old lady collapsed to the floor in front of the chute.
Immediately, her companion, an only slightly less white-haired woman, bent down to help, wailing, “Somebody get a doctor! My friend is dying! Get a doctor, please!”
That’s when the baggage started coming down. As I stood there, not able to make myself move, I saw all the other passengers surge forward, stepping over the two women without the slightest visible hesitation, and getting their bags.
Another passenger from the flight turned to me. “Hey, kid,” he said. “Welcome to L.A….”
Dwayne didn’t say much as I told him all this. When I finished, he laughed but didn’t sound amused. “The reason Elizabeth didn’t tell me you were going was that we don’t talk much anymore. Me working in Little Rock, her in Paradise, we kinda came to a parting of the ways.”
“I’m sorry, Dwayne,” I said.
“Thanks,” Dwayne said. “And for the stories too. But I hope you understand, bud. Way things are, I’d rather be stuck in the worst beginning ever than the ending I’m in now.”
I didn’t disagree.
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer. He, his wife and their various animals divide their time between the Ozark Mountains and Puget Sound. The other residents of Larry’s mythical Paradise reside entirely in his imagination and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.