I’m not looking for alternative employment, of course … I really can’t imagine a more satisfying position in life than my current role as Vice Assistant to the Assistant Manager of Dreary Repetitiveness in a large governmental agency. I believe that my situation is referred to by the youngsters these days as “livin’ the dream.”
No, this was far more than attempting to justify my 30+ year string of less-than-6-months-in-duration jobs; this was an assessment of my character, of my very moral fiber.
You may or may not believe this, but this is the honest truth: I am, on occasion, able to force myself to set aside my official duties while at “work” and peruse the googlytubez, lest my feverish and frenzied zeal for my job overwhelm me to the point of collapse. And so it was, yesterday, that I stumbled across a posting on Craigslist for … a $10 croquet set.
That’s not quite right – it was for a croquet set being sold for $10. There were accompanying photographs, and seeing what was being offered, I thought that surely the seller must have left off a zero or two on the price. Either that, or he was simply mad. It was a Spalding 6-player kit, and was housed in a heavy canvas carrying case. The wickets appeared pristine, and the original documentation was intact. “Sweet honey mustard!” I exclaimed aloud. “I've no time to lose!”
I immediately telephoned Carl, the seller/madman, and nervously asked if the set was still available. “Well, sure …” he replied. “I just posted it a minute and a half ago.” (It’s eerie that at the one time I happened to click on Craigslist, such a gem had so recently been posted. It’s not like I’m surfing the site every 15 minutes or anything, you know.) I told him I’d be over directly, and dashed out to my bicycle, leaving papers fluttering to the ground in the wake of my hasty departure.
Carl was standing out front when I arrived, and I could immediately sense that his was a tortured soul. A certain sadness seemed to surround him, and I approached him with no small trepidation:
Carl: “You the Dead Acorn?”He led me over to a picnic table upon which the case lay, and slowly, methodically, unzipped it and revealed the treasure within. I tried, unsuccessfully, to stifle a gasp.
Dead Acorn: “Y-y-yes sir. Carl. Sir.”
Carl: “Well, let’s get on with this, I guess.”
Carl: “You can see it’s in pretty good shape. None of the balls are chipped, and the rubber mallet head caps have been well taken care of.”He paused for a few moments, looking wistfully off at the mountains to the north. He then told me about how he and “the missus” were heading down to Mexico for a spell, and didn’t think it right to just leave the set gathering dust in the garage.
DA: “It’s … it’s … beautiful.”
Carl: “Well, we’ve had it for a while, but haven’t had much opportunity to play. As a boy, my grandfather and I would play from dawn ‘til dusk. I remember squealing with laughter at his faux rage when I would send his ball scattering after a lucky roquet – I was never near the striker that he was, but he let me in the game. O, those days … that I could live those days again.”
DA: “It sounds wonderful, Carl. Sir.”
Carl: “You know, I bought these to play with my grandkids – they live across the state, but we see ‘em as much as we can, and I thought they’d enjoy it. They tried, I guess, but kids today have their music things and their phones and whatnot, and they’d never seem to stick around for too long. It’s sad, I guess, but things change, and there ain’t no changin’ that."
Carl: “So you play the game?”Carl looked at me, and I looked him back right in the eye. I knew he was making a decision, and even though I didn’t feel worthy of the set, I hoped that he would see something that would convince him that my home would be a loving one - the right one.
DA: “Yes sir, but not for a while. I played a lot as a child with my brother and sisters. I don't get to see them too much anymore. I’ve been playing bocce ball more recently – my daughter gave me a set of those a few years ago, and we’ve had some wonderful times throwing them around the lawn. I thought that it would be nice teach her croquet as well.”
He stood silently for well near three minutes, then finally spoke: “Well, okay then. You treat ‘em how they oughta be treated.” I nodded, and handed him a ten dollar bill. He smiled faintly, and put his hands in his pockets. “It ain’t about the money,” he said. “It ain’t about the money.”
We shook hands, then he turned and walked inside.