Sunday 24 November 2013

Alan P

Sometimes I wonder why memories flit in and out of your head like butterflies. That is just a saying; I don’t actually have butterflies going in and out of my head. That would be pretty cool though and I imagine it would be a very weird feeling.

My mom had one of those exercise machines that had a belt you would put around your thighs and it would supposedly get rid of excess fat. Mom used it a couple of times, but for the most part it just took up space in their bedroom. Steve and I put the belt on our heads more than a few times just to see what it was like. It was indeed a very weird feeling, not at all what I imagine butterflies would feel like.
I was thinking about Alan Patterson for some reason today. Alan was a friend that lived on my street when I was growing up. I think Alan was a year or so younger than I was, but we were often on the same team when we played road hockey, football or work up baseball. He was a nice guy, not a good friend but one of those people who bring a smile whenever you see them. I lost track of Alan in my teen years and pretty much forgot about him.

I did run into Alan in my mid twenties, at a local shopping centre. We saw each other at about the same time and I was genuinely happy to see him. We shook hands, hugging between men was more than a couple of decades away at the time. I asked him what he had been up to over the past few years. He gave me a kind of sideways smile and said “I’ve been in prison for the last three years and just got out last week.”

“Well, I’m going to have to buy you a coffee and donut while you tell me what prison is like.” I told him as we walked into the donut shop. We sat on a bench just outside and basically caught up. He said that jail was mostly not too bad and it was a great place to learn. I figured he was talking about furthering his schooling, but he said he learned how to be a better crook. It turns out that when you put a bunch of morally flexible people in close quarters for a few years, they swap trade secrets.
I asked him what he meant and he looked off into the distance and said, “Well Ken, suppose that you and I decided we needed to make a lot of money without actually doing any real work. We could rent that empty store over there and start a travel agency that would specialize in cruises. We would sell passage on the Queen Mary and take …say…$100 dollar deposit from everyone. That is the money we use to live and pay for our expenses. A week or so before the cruise, we collect the rest of the money and disappear. We do that in Toronto, then move to Regina and end up in Vancouver. You just do it three times and we would each end up with about $500,000.”

I looked at him and said that I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that, and he told me that he wasn’t comfortable doing it either, but sometimes you don’t have any other options. We had run out of things to say to each other and we got up, shook hands and said “See You later.”

I called over my shoulder, “Be good and stay out of trouble Alan!”

He called back “Same to you.”

A couple of years later, I ran into Alan at a warehouse that I was making a delivery to. Same guy, same winning smile, and happiness that he didn’t have the last time I saw him. It turns out that he married and had a baby since I had seen him last. Life wasn’t easy, but it was good.

We couldn’t talk long, but I was really happy for Alan. I haven’t seen Alan since then and probably never will again, but every now and then he will flit in and out of my memory.

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