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Wagon Wheel

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“You know what they call me?” he asked, a little too loudly.

I’d been keeping an eye on him for a little while, off and on, because he was Italian. Some of the staff, for all of their intelligence, don’t know how to handle it when a guy whose parents came over from Italy starts acting normal. “Normal” for an Italian guy is to talk loudly and rapidly, wave his hands about, and get “uncomfortably” close, and on rare occasion I’ll get a call about a guy “getting in my face and yelling and making threatening gestures”. It’s kind of funny, I think.

I had no trouble connecting with him, and he was free with his verbal affection for me. To top it off, he was intoxicated and getting “up there in years”. A little earlier, he’d mentioned that his father died at age 90; not too long after, he mentioned, in a little too offhanded way, that he himself was 89. So I’m thinking that he’s thinking about how he’s probably going to die soon.

Anyway, so he asked me if I knew what they call him, and I said, “No, what do they call you?”

“They call me Wagon Wheel.”

I thought that an odd nickname. “Wagon wheel?”

“Yeah, Wagon Wheel.”

That’s odd,” I said.

“Yeah”, he added. “Wanna know why they call me Wagon Wheel?”

“Sure.”

“It’s cuz I been through a lotta shit!”

How could I not laugh?

I tore myself away and went to take care of other business, but I stopped in and checked on him a couple of times. When it came time to let him go home, he said, “Hey… are you going to remember anything? Have I given you anything?” It really mattered to him.

“Yeah, you bet. I’m gonna remember “Wagon Wheel”.

“You a wagon wheel? You been through a lotta shit?”

“Sure,” I said, “I been through a lotta shit. They could call me Wagon Wheel too.”

“Well, then, remember this,” he said. “There’s four wheels on a wagon. Three other wheels been through the same shit as you.”

If he was worried about leaving a legacy, he can stop after that.

Written by Michael DeBusk

February 14th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

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