The Connection

The two old men purchased a pitcher of beer at the bar and then moved into the very back booth of the quiet neighborhood tavern.

“I’m tellin’ ya, I can’t do it any more.”

“What’s that?”

“Drive down here… it’s too much, the traffic, the trucks…”

“You were born and raised in this city for chrissake. What’s the matter with you??”

“Ya, so how many times a year do you drive up to see the wife and me?”

They smiled and the conversation turned to grandchildren.

After a while they lapsed into an easy silence and looked each other in the eye.

* * *

The two young teenagers worked hard at their cleanup assignment in the ROTC drill hall. They had met as incoming freshmen and immediately sensed a bond. They worked well together and enjoyed one another’s company. The chairs were folded and stacked. The flags covered, wastebaskets emptied. They stopped and admired their work.

“I want you to be best man at my wedding,” blurted out the one youngster.

“And I want you to be best man at my wedding,” replied the other, dead serious.

They looked shook hands and looked each other in the eye—and there it was—the silent connection: “We don’t even have girlfriends.” They laughed. It was at once the most ludicrous conversation and the most poignant pledge two fourteen olds could put together. And it was their first connection but they hardly noticed.

* * *

The two high school seniors mopped the basement floor in preparation for the evening graduation party. There were girlfriends now and other close friends that did not approve, resulting in a big time eighteen-year-old type crisis. They worked in total silence but the connection was humming this time. They finished and brought their mops over to the twin utility sinks. They stopped rinsing for a moment and looked each other in the eye and for the first time spoke aloud.

“Why are we thinking what we’re thinking?” By now the connection was a natural phenomenon.

“We know what we have to do… but after the party. No point in spoiling everybody’s night.”

The connection came more frequently and naturally now, not continuous of course, but from time to time, always unspoken. It was often enough and ordinary enough that they never stopped to question it or analyze what was happening.

* * *

The two servicemen sat in the back seat of the sedan, heading back to base after a night of more than too much to drink. It started with an elbow to the ribs, and then some closed fists to the torso. Neither would back off or retreat and it soon escalated to bare knuckle punches to the face and head. Now there was blood and the driver and front seat passenger pulled off the road to tug them apart.

“Hey you assholes! If the MP’s come by we’ll all wind up in a cell…”

There was a bloody lip and the other had an eye that was purple and starting to close. They winced when they touched their faces but the two reached out and gave one another a playful cuff on the back of the head. They caught each other’s glance and connected briefly. “Hey, that was fun!” They laughed.

* * *

It was the ultimate guy’s getaway road trip and Yellowstone National Park was the midpoint. The two young men drove off road onto a fire trail. The old Buick’s suspension creaked and groaned over the ruts, but they found a spot to pitch the tent for the night. Park regulations strongly encouraged the use of designated campsites, but then that wouldn’t be the wilderness. Bears were their most serious concern so they parked the car some fifty yards from the tent and left all the food items locked inside. After dark the starlight and moonlight actually cast faint luminescent shadows through the trees. But they had driven for the past twenty hours and could barely climb into the tent. It was a warm night and they lay atop their sleeping bags and were instantly asleep.

In the middle of the night came the unmistakable sound of scratching at the foot of the tent. He worked his foot free of the sleeping bag and scratched the inside of the canvas. Yep, that was the sound and it was instantly answered by another scratch. Bear! What to do? His heart was pounding now. Was he sure? Try it again. Scratch… answering scratch. Suddenly the connection clicked in.

“Is that you?”

“Yeah, is that you?”

“Jagoff!” he said aloud.

“Me? You’re the jagoff…”

They laughed. They would tell the story many times over once back home, but neither of them would mention the connection.

* * *

The widower stood near the front of the funeral parlor close to his wife’s casket. He was in control, or maybe just in shock. His three young sons would not be allowed here he had decided. His friend approached and a tentative handshake turned into a hug and then the two of them embraced and sobbed. They found that tears came more easily with age. They parted and looked each other in the eye. They were both overwhelmed and neither could speak, but they connected.

“It’s not supposed to be this way.”

“I know, I know.”

* * *

The old man broke eye contact and refilled his friend’s glass and for the first time in several minutes spoke aloud.

“We’re not there anymore,” he said, “And we can never go back”

“I know… that’s probably a good thing. There were good times and bad times. Funny how you tend to remember mostly the good times,” he said staring intently now, into his friends eyes.

“Stop it! You know it’s not just the eyes… it comes when it wants to.”

“Wouldn’t it be neat if we could turn it on whenever we wanted?”

“No, that would be creepy. Leave it be. This way it’s just a natural kinda… kinda…something.” He filled his own glass, set the pitcher down and glanced across the table.

“See! It is the eyes!”

“No is isn’t!”

“Is too!”

They laughed aloud.

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15 Comments on “The Connection”

  1. Tom Nangle says:

    Jim, you have a good window into the ways of the human soul and you put it into words well. I think a lot of us read your stuff and we understand our own selves a little better because of your words and insights. Your writing is always positive which isn’t always easy when writing about life in the police lane. Well done, my friend.

  2. Jennifer K. Stuart says:

    You’ve captured the male friendship perfectly ( or from what I can understand of it as a female observer). Just love those furtive moments of silence between men. Now that I have a son and a husband who has coffee drinking buddies, I understand the importance of this. Good stuff, Jim. Thanks for posting it!

    • jimpadar says:

      Thanks Jennifer, now if someone would write me a primer on female friendships… 🙂

      • I felt like a fool as a younger man in that I couldn’t understand women, when they came on to me, and their own relationship dynamics.

        As a man of 43, married with two kids, I still don’t understand women.

        Great post BTW. You seriously should write a book. Even if you just self publish it. My dad, being an since deceased old Area 4 auto theft det, comes to mind when I read your stories. As a kid you believe that you know your dad better than anyone, but then as you get older, you realize that your parents have lives outside the house, and relationships with co-workers, partners, etc, that are a whole new dynamic. Sometimes it takes getting older to realize how important those out of family relationsips are, and in reality, those people in your non familial relationships are just as important in many ways as your immediate family relationships are.

      • jimpadar says:

        Thanks for your comments. I think the key word is “history.” We fail to realize that, our parents in particular, have a history that we are totally unaware of… much of it from before we were ever born. They played the game of life at every age, won sometimes, lost sometimes, did some stupid things from time to time. A lot of it with people we didn’t know, or even if we knew them, we still lack appreciation of the full history behind the relationship.

        I am not sure if this makes any sense, but I am going to hit the send button anyhow. 🙂

  3. Greg Bernacki (RET CPD) says:

    Jim,
    Please write more. That’s the highest praise I know.

  4. Matt Dougherty says:

    Jim, THANK YOU for letting us be a part of your life. I look forward to getting them in my inbox. God Bless. Matt

  5. Pat Cronin says:

    This story has true staying power. Always a delight.

    Best, Pat

  6. Phil says:

    Wonderful story Jim, and you show what a lifetime of friendship means. Those of us who are lucky enough to have sustained and remained friends have all those years of both laughing and crying together. In my own marriage of almost 53 years, I’ve been very fortunate. We almost act as one. Know what each other likes and dislikes. Finish saying what’s on each others lips. (Which can be a pain) “Let me finish MY story!” We have the same interests, taste in both food, friends, places of entertainment, and a love for each other that most will never know. For this I’m blessed! Thanks for refreshing what friends and loves are really all about! Keep up the great work, and I await the next edition!

    • jimpadar says:

      I laughed when I read your line, “Let me finish MY story!” How many times I’ve heard that from my wife… “You’ve got the blog, let ME tell MY story!”

      Thanks for your comments, Phil.

  7. Rich Rostrom says:

    I’ve pointed two friends at this blog, and both were very impressed.

    However – I don’t entirely get this one. What did the two guys have to do after the graduation party? What is it they can’t turn on, which would be creepy if they could?

    A psychic connection between friends? The dialog is very suggestive of something, but what?

    It’s a bit too understated. Sorry for nit-picking, but that’s my reaction.

    • jimpadar says:

      Rich, thanks for your comments.

      I wrote this piece with the intention of letting the reader fill in some of the blanks. I generally don’t like stories like that myself, so I know where you are coming from.

      The guys in the story were never able to turn on “the connection” at will. It was “…just a natural kinda… kinda…something.”

      Thanks again for reading the blog and double thanks for your comments!

  8. jim brown says:

    Jim

    excellent writing.

    jim brown


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