"We were childhood friends," said Peter. "Daryl and me. From birth. Our mamas were best friends."
Peter—which is not his real name—has white hair, broad face, and hands like baseball mitts. I saw pictures of him as a young man. He looked like a defensive tackle. Only, his daddy kept him too busy in their auto garage for football.
“At first,” Peter said. “I loved working in that garage. Ever since I's a kid, I wanted to to do what Daddy did. But when you get older, you get tired of it.”
Before I go any further, I should tell you about Peter's childhood friend, Daryl. They were best friends. They did all the things rural Alabamian boys do. Catching lizards, climbing trees, playing in the river.
“When we got to seventh grade," said Peter. "I knew Daryl wasn't like us boys. He wasn't much for girls. I'm ashamed to tell you how mean other kids were to him. In high school, Daryl even tried to commit suicide.”
And, Daryl's daddy was even meaner—a hunter,
and fisherman. He was hard on Daryl, angry that his only son didn't appreciate camouflage, or pin-up calendars.
But Peter didn't give a dime how different his best friend was.
Peter said, “Minute I heard someone call Daryl the F-word, I kicked their ass. I whooped a lotta loudmouths on Daryl's behalf. I loved him like my brother."
Time went on. Peter got married. Daryl moved away. Daryl and Peter lost touch. Peter made a family. Earned his share of wrinkles.
No one ever heard from Daryl.
And then, one July Sunday, when everyone was at church, Peter was alone in the auto garage. He laid beneath a 1960 Ford Falcon. It was routine maintenance. He could do this kind of thing in his sleep. The vehicle sat suspended, on a bottle jack.
He slid beneath the car.
The jack slipped.
The car fell.…