Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH (08/31/17)
- TITLE: WHAT CHANGED "RAPID-FIRE" ROCKY?
By Lillian Rhoades
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Rocky had to be wired to a talk machine that only had an “On” button. No other possible explanation. Words popped out of his mouth in rapid fire. In fact, we dubbed him “Rapid Fire” Rocky.
He was always shootin’ off from the mouth. Spoke when he shouldn’t, and said things others wouldn’t. To say that he lacked savoir-faire would be just about right. Forethought was an unknown quantity and restraint a stranger. Whatever he was thinking made a beeline from his brain to his mouth anytime and anywhere. He always thought “out” and loud.
Even though Rocky was our buddy, close knit as they say, there’s no denyin’ that whenever we met, as us guys often did, I had my ideas about Rocky. I couldn’t help thinkin’ and wonderin’. What would it take to make him keep some thoughts where they came from? He surely needed a good polishin’ up on what to say and when.
But Rocky was one us…thirteen in all, and we spent a lot a time hanging out.
So there we were one day at the Dig In, our favorite eating spot, when our waitress showed up wearing a uniform that had missed numerous appointments with a washing machine.
“What can I get for you guys today?”
Rocky bust out with, “I don’t think you can get anything for me with that dirty uniform you’re wearing.”
I wanted to throw my ice water at him.
Hey Rocky! Didn’t anyone ever tell you to think before you speak?”
Twenty minutes later, just when we thought Rocky’s outburst had cost us lunch, another waitress showed up to take our order.
But that was Rocky, crude, unbridled, and unrestrained…and we loved him, especially Jesse.
And he loved us. His loyalty to us guys bordered on recklessness. He spoke up for us, no matter what, no matter when. Even I realized that Rocky was more than his run-away rhetoric. He just needed a little smoothin’ around the edges.
Tamin’ Rocky’s tongue could have been impossible were it not for what happened to Jesse. We called him gentle J.J. No matter how often Rocky failed to rein in his vocal impulses, Jesse would come up with something like, “Now, now, let’s not be too hard on him, he probably didn’t mean it the way he said it.”
That was Jesse, the justifier. Jesus like.
It was his idea to go fishing.
The day favored us, a fisherman’s dream. One would have had to make a cloud to find one. The sun bounced off the rippling lake, while our boat, buoyed on by the wind’s whispers, drifted to the middle of the lake. We fished all day, and just before sundown headed towards the shore.
I barely caught a glimpse of the speedboat from the corner of my eye, then Rocky’s boisterous, menacing, “HEY!” In a sliced second, staying alive was the only thing left on my bucket list.
Even in the dimming light of dusk, I could see eleven heads surfacing the water.
We lifted Jesse’s lifeless, mangled body from the water onto a makeshift raft made from the wreckage and pushed him back to shore. Thirteen men went fishing, and thirteen returned. I’d made sure of that.
For weeks after Jesse’s death, Rocky went missing. Then one day he showed up at our meeting place, just like that…unannounced.
“Been missin’ you guys.”
“Hey, Rocky! Where’ve you been? We’ve been missin’ you, too.”
I gave him the once-over.
“Looks like you could stand a meal or two. Feel like joining us at the old hangout?”
His eyes scanned the room until they landed on Jesse’s empty chair and lingered.
At the Dig In, Rocky thanked the waiter who found a table for us. He made no beef when his, “well done, please” hamburger came back medium rare. When the guy at the table next to us started talking on his cell phone, voice volume high, Rocky kept quiet; remindin’ me of Jesse, not the Rapid-Fire Rocky I knew.
In the aftermath of grief, the path to acceptance often includes change. Is this what had happened to Rocky?
I’m guessin’ so, after I noticed an image of Jesse tattooed onto the top of Rocky’s left hand. Beneath it:
What would Jesse do? What would Jesse say?
Inspiration to write this story came from Matthew 16:18: “And I (Jesus) say unto you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’)…”
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