As a tribute to Bob, to celebrate his work and the positive impact his life has had on so many, I would like to share Bob's final writing assignment from our recent flash fiction class. Bob's story below was written in response to an in-class writing exercise that asked the students to play with big leaps in time, to show a lifetime in a small space. I remember Bob reading this piece out loud in class, his deep, rolling voice filling the room, moving us all.
by Bob Lockhart
Crouching low in the underbrush beside the shallow creek beneath the huge green canopy, Billy held his breath. He could feel a jaguar approaching, although he didn’t hear it. The bottom of the nearly dry creek bed would afford him a better field of view to spot the approaching jaguar, but he knew the creek was used by anacondas to traverse this area of the Amazon basin. Despite the dangers, Billy felt good about his chances—to defend himself, he had his ten-inch Buck knife, and his wits. Billy did survive that day and many more spent in the Amazon Basin, and in the jungles of Vietnam, and in the rain forests of the Congo. Of fertile imagination, Billy was eleven years old, and he was in the twenty-acre tract of woods on his grandfather’s farm. Oh, there was a creek, and there was a canopy, this one created by huge old hardwoods—oak, hickory, and walnut. Billy so loved those woods.
Beaming, Bill strode out of Simmons’ Appliances and threw his briefcase on the passenger seat. He’d just sold six washer-dryer combos and four refrigerators to Fred Ellis Simmons, owner and proprieter. During his presentation, Bill had referred to them as “ice boxes” and “warshers” because that’s how they talked in Cairo, Illinois. Bill was proud of his adaptability; he could converse comfortably with both department store buyers and rural retailers. Ironically, when his wife divorced him, one reason given was “inability to communicate.” There was, of course, much more to it; she’d quickly sold the house and left with daughter in tow. She left one thing, a terse directive not to search for them. It hurt. But he still had his job.
It was a Thursday, he thought; it didn’t matter if it was or even which one it was, if it was. He sat on the veranda—that’s what the apartment manager called it, a “veranda”—Bill called it a 12 by 15 concrete slab encircled by black wrought iron. There was an identical “veranda” on his left, and on his right, and three more directly overhead. The apartment was comfortable, but it wasn’t a home. Forced to retire at 66 (they wanted young tech-savvy bucks in the field), he was alone. He stared out at the acre of woods beyond the picnic tables behind the apartment complex. He’d walked through it several times. There was a slight gravel-lined depression right in the middle of the woods. It almost resembled a creek bed.