I never knew Jackson well, only that he’d worked for TWA for forty years as an aircraft engine mechanic . Nobody knew him well. He wouldn’t allow it. At least that’s the impression I have of him. Perhaps I should say had. He’s gone now. Left the world, I suppose, but I don’t know when. There was no celebration of his life. No fanfare. He simply vanished like a candle flame is extinguished.
I hardly noticed him that winter evening, the third of October at the entryway to Safeway’s. The temperature was hovering around thirty-three degrees. An unseasonably cold snap had gripped our community. We were all chilled. I started past him, but something about gave me pause. Perhaps it was the fifty-pound bag of wild bird seed. I’m still not sure.
“Are you waiting for someone?” I asked.
“A taxi,” he responded in a shaky voice. His teeth would have chattered had he had any.
“How long ago did you call?”
“There will be one along soon.”
“Where do you live?
“A few miles out,” he replied, his eyes constantly scanning the parking lot.
His hands were starting to tremble from the cold.
“I’ll watch your stuff while you go to the pay phone and call a cab,” I suggested.
“That’s alright. A taxi will be here directly,” he said, avoiding eye contact.
I started to offer him a dime for the pay phone, but then I changed my mind. “Wait here while I get my car. I’ll drive you home.”
“You can’t do that,” he objected, but the cold was making it difficult for him to object. The evening sun was low as we loaded his things in the trunk. Following his directions we drove nearly ten miles beyond the city limits before we reached a small cabin setting in a clearing back from the road. A large red dog greeted him on the pathway. Touser, he called him, seemed to be his only companion. He and the birds.
That was the first of several time I took Jackson home the following year. Then one day he wasn’t at Safeway’s. I drove out to his cabin, but it was vacated. Even Touser was gone. I never saw Jackson again.