Interesting Visitor

I just had the most interesting experience. I was down in the basement, messing around online, when I heard a knock on the door, closely followed by the doorbell. I had the door open and the screen door locked, so there was no pretending I wasn’t home once I saw that it wasn’t UPS. It was an older gentleman, bearded, tallish, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. No clipboard, no nametag.

“Hello,” I called from the screen door.

The man introduced himself by telling me that he lived on the other side of South Avenue, was a retired English teacher and amateur astronomer, and was working on his third novel. He said that he takes a long walk every day — I was his last stop, and he’d walked three miles already — and that he stops along the way to ask if there’s any yardwork or odd jobs that he can do for a couple of dollars. We talked politely for a moment, and I assured him that, no, I’d pass on the offer of yardwork.

Then we chatted for a while longer, briefly discussing his trip to Ireland, where palm trees apparently grow in people’s back yards, because of the warm Gulf Stream bringing the large seeds up to the isle; his trip to northern Canada, where the nights are short and late and the sun barely moves from east to west; our trip to Japan and the accompanying God-awful airplane flight; his novel-writing experience and our mutual respect for short story writers; and his stint in the National Guard during the May Day riots in Washington, guarding the White House, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Vietnam vets who were accustomed to shooting human targets and feeling mighty uncomfortable about it.

Then he apologized for taking up so much of my time, and I assured him that I’d enjoyed talking with him — which, oddly enough, I had. He said, “Dou itashimashite,” which means “You’re welcome” (I think that may have been all the Japanese he knew, but it’s more than most). I couldn’t call up an appropriate answer in Japanese, so I answered him with a basic hai, and bid him enjoy his three-mile walk home.

I’m not entirely sure how much of that was factual, but he was certainly an interesting fellow. I didn’t mind talking to him, really. If he came back some other day, I’d probably talk to him again, and ask him if either of his novels have been published.