And there goes Stu.

Stu was a friend of mine, though in retrospect I never knew much about him. He didn’t often talk about himself, and anyway, what do you really know about anyone in high school? He went to a different school, and he was more Leon’s friend than mine, but when Leon and I started hanging around together in high school, Stu was usually there, too. 

He was a big guy, loud and brash, who always had a fart joke and often a fart to go with it. He made many wisecracks about sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, but he didn’t know much about such things. He never had a girlfriend and rarely a date while I knew him, and I knew him for almost twenty years. He never medicated with more than occasional marijuana. His connection to rock'n'roll was turning up the car radio when “Duke of Earl” came on the oldies station.

At a fast-food place with self-serve condiments, he bombed us with pickle chips, one chip at a time, which was hilarious for us, but probably not so funny for the people who worked there. Then he slipped on a pickle chip and went down, cracking a bone in his wrist.

Stu liked movies, but only went with Leon and me if we were seeing a blow-things-up movie. He never wanted to bother with movies where things didn’t blow up, and he was especially uninterested in movies where characters kissed. Which sounds cute if a 7-year-old says it, but Stu was 17 when he made that announcement.

We went to a porno theater once, though. He didn’t object to that, but then again, nobody on-screen did much kissing.

We went to baseball games, and Stu taunted the players on the other team so loudly and relentlessly, me and Leon moved a few rows away, until other fans of the local team asked him to lower the volume a few notches. 

He wanted to excel at sports, but he couldn’t make the football, baseball, or wrestling teams in high school. He ran cross-country, and earned a letterman’s jacket. I knew Stu until he was 35, and he always wore that letterman’s jacket.

My most vivid memory of Stu was when our church group went on a field trip somewhere, which involved a ferry ride across Puget Sound. In Washington, the ferries are huge, carrying hundreds of cars, thousands of people. Puget Sound is an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, and it’s huge, too — the view while crossing can be awe-inspiring.

As this ferry was steaming along in the middle of the water, a pretty girl was standing on the deck with her hands on the railing, admiring the view of water and, far in the distance, shore. This girl was in our church group, so we knew her but not well, and Stu wanted to make an impression. Did he sparkle her with witty conversation? Did he tell a joke? No, he snuck up behind her, grabbed her by the ankles and lifted her legs high over his head, so she was looking almost directly into the water as the ferry cruised at 30 knots per hour. 

She was wearing pants, so she wasn't exposed or anything, and yet she was not charmed. She gripped the rail as if her life depended on it, because it did, and she screamed in terror. Stu sheepishly put the girl's feet back on the deck, and she called him names in furious Spanish as she ran away, crying. Stu had lifted this girl over the ocean, without warning or permission, and been one hiccup from accidentally dumping her into the water — and he told me afterward that he didn't understand why she didn't think it was funny.

Usually, though, Stu wasn’t an ass. He was just a big galoot who tended to say and do the wrong things. Bull in a china shop, so they say, but he was only an awkward bull, never an angry one.

When we were out of high school and beginning to be adults, all three of us mostly talked about shallow stuff — sports, music, the Swedish Bikini Team, etc. With Leon, though, if the conversation went somewhere unexpected, he'd go there too, so Leon & I occasionally talked about politics and religion and the lack of meaning of life. Whenever we talked about such things, though, Stu had nothing to say. He'd sit quietly, maybe nod, until the topic came back to football or hamburgers.

We went camping for a week at a time, several times. We took a long driving vacation through Oregon and California. We had season tickets to the basketball team, so I sat next to Stu through 41 games a year, and never once did he offer an opinion on anything beyond sports and dames and what's for dinner.

In his 20s, he worked as a cab driver, but not for long. After three fender-benders in three months, he moved on to driving a tow truck. When that job didn’t work out, he worked in roofing for a while, which always worried me, because Stu was clumsy, so walking around on sloping roofs seemed like a bad idea — and he did slip a few times, but he never tumbled over the edge. Later he poured cement, cleaned city parks, and drove a delivery truck for a bakery. When I left in the early 1990s, he was sweeping up at a museum.

Last time I visited Seattle, a few summers back, I spent time with Leon, catching up on all my years away. I didn’t see Stu, though. Nobody sees Stu.

Leon told me that Stu had gotten married, had two children, but it wasn’t a happy marriage. One night after an argument with his wife, Stu had stormed out of their house, and never returned.

He’s been gone for six years. The cops don’t know his whereabouts, his wife and kids don’t know, Leon doesn’t know, nobody knows. There have been no post cards, no phone calls. If he’s working anywhere under his real name he’d be easy to find, and I don’t think Stu has the underground expertise to get a false identity, so he’s probably dead.

Maybe he accidentally drove over a cliff and into the water, and the wreck has never been discovered. Maybe he was murdered, and the bad guys disposed of the corpus delicti. Maybe Stu committed suicide, and somehow his body has never been found.

When I didn't like my life, I ran away, moved to California and started over, and I could understand if Stu did something similar. There were years when my family didn’t know where I was, didn’t know whether I was alive or dead.

I was single when I left, though. I did not abandon a wife and kids. I could even understand dumping the wife, but not the children. That’s simply a scumbag thing to do, and it would be unforgivable, so, yeah, I prefer to think that Stu is dead.

Fart jokes and pickle chips forever, my old friend.



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  1. What he did on the ferry was assault.

    1. I am not a lawyer. It was a jackass thing to do, though.

  2. >In his 20s, he worked as a cab driver, but not for long. After three fender-benders in three months, he moved on to driving a tow truck.

    Re-reading this diary entry, cuz it was linked from today's - This line is fucking hilarious.

    1. You would've liked Stu. Nice guy, with a knack for usually doing or saying something he'd regret.


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