My real father never did much for me, aside from giving me life. My stepfather on the other hand, he showed me what it was to be a man, to be successful…responsible.
He was a long haul over the road truck driver. That fact alone may be why him and my mother got a long so well. Because of his occupation, I never saw him much. See, he was kind of a gypsy, my words not his. It was the gypsy in him that drew him to his profession. I think it was the gypsy that allowed him to impart on me life altering wisdom.
When I was about twelve, he took me aside, just hours after coming off the road, for a talk about life. He pointed out that I was a bit of a dreamer, always with my thoughts in the clouds, looking to the future, never living in the present. “That was fine,” he said, “a man must have dreams. But to follow your dreams, you must have wisdom, and a sense of purpose.”
He then pulled from his satchel a Magic 8 Ball. You know the one, the toy that you held in both hands, asked it a question, and turned it over to view some vague answer that appeared in a little window.
Well this one was different, it was heavier, warm to the touch, and the there was no window.
“This was given to me by my grandfather Caleb,” he told me as he held the eight ball out to me. “It is not a toy. This one will guide you if you ask it. If you come to an important decision in life, ask it to guide you, and it will show you the consequence of your decision.”
“Wow,” I exclaimed.
“However,” there is always a however, “you can only ask it once every five years.”
“Yes, the first one can be today. But use your questions wisely. Don’t waste it on questions about choosing between a bottle of Rondo or Coke.”
“Rondo every time,” I said emphatically.
“Seriously Caleb, I pass this to you because I no longer need it. It showed me that marrying your mother was a good path, and it was right. Now it’s yours, choose wisely.”
I took that eight ball and placed it on a shelf in my room, the black eight surrounded by white watching over my room. As the decisions in life came and went, the most valuable lesson garnered from my step dad was discipline.
When Suzy Farcus named my privates Henry, and told me hers was Henrietta, and she really wanted Henry to meet her Henrietta, I was tempted to consult my Magic 8 Ball, but resisted. Both asking the eight ball and introducing Henry to Suzy’s Henrietta. I was only thirteen!
Then I met Candice. She walked into my life via my best friends’ front door. That same best friend said there was no such thing as love at our pubescent ages. I disagreed, Candice was love at first sight. Her auburn hair, cinnamon colored eyes, and a dazzling smile framed by dimples. I had to have her.
For eighteen months I pursued her. She was no easy catch, but once she gave in, it was worth it. For the next twelve months, we knew nothing but happiness. Then things changed. My mom and step-dad were selling the house and moving us to the country.
I was almost fifteen at this point, and a driver license only a year away. So, maintaining a relationship with Candice would be a cinch, I decided. My friend who introduced as thought it was my opportunity to explore new fish…country fish.
I was torn. Candice was my world, but being a fifteen-year-old boy, dating a teenage girl with deep virtues created certain frustrations. Remain in an abstinent long distant relationship or hope some country girl would pop my cherry.
As I sat on my bed, pondering my choices, I looked to the black orb with its black eight staring back at me from its shelf.
“If ever there was a time,” I said to myself. Then thought through the consequences. The next time I could ask that orb a question, I would be twenty.
I stood, lifted it off the shelf with both hands, lowered it to chest level, and adjusted it so I was looking right down at the eight floating in the white disk. For a long time, I pondered my dilemma, then finally asked.
“What will my life be like without Candice?”
At first nothing happened, then the white disk slowly absorbed the eight, then swelled until it consumed my whole existence. I felt the world around me cease to exist. Other realities pulled at me from all directions.
There was a cute country girl who gave me her virtue, only to lie to me later, resulting in a child. A couple years later, she looked at me with scorn as she took credit for torpedoing my military career.
In one existence, I tramped about the country following my step-father into his profession. My long absences leading to one broken heart after another.
In a long-haired rock and roll bar, I met a stunning redhead. More lies, children born who should never have been born. Two decades of struggling to survive, paying the price of addiction, hers, not mine, time in prison for a crime I did not commit. As I cast about in this scenario, all I felt was misery and high drama. My children going without so much, even though I worked so hard.
I wanted the visions to end, I had seen enough, but there was one more. An open casket, my hands laced across my stomach. Church pews a plenty filled with only a handful of mourners.
The white shrank away, spiraling back into the face of the orb, forming its perfect little disk, the eight once again taking shape. I stood there stunned, wondering. How could one decision lead to such chaos. How could one man suffer so much through no actions other than making a single decision.
* * * * *
“Your telling me, that if not for that Magic 8 Ball, we would not be together right now,” Candice asked, doubt furrowing her arched eyebrows as she looked from the eight ball, to me, then back to the ball cradled in my hands.
“You were going to break up with me?”
“I thought about it…yes.”
“Because I wasn’t putting out?”
“That is what you got from this story? We are about to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary, and you’re going to be pissed because a fifteen-year-old boy was horny?”
The scowled melted away with her still stunning smile, “Do you really think that other reality would have happened?”
“Who knows. Doesn’t matter, this reality offers no regrets.”
We kissed, then as she pulled away, the scowl returned, “Did you ever use the eight ball after that?”