The filling station sits on a rural highway, across from a kajillion acres of peanuts. A kajillion, you will note, is more than a bazillion, less than a zillion.
He is outside the filling station, sitting in a wheelchair. He wears a camouflage cap, hunting T-shirt, tattoos everywhere. He is drinking coffee from a Styrofoam cup. He is young.
“Nice weather,” he says when he sees me pumping gas.
And no matter how old I get, I love to cuss the weather. I come from a long line of men who cussed the weather. It’s something humans have in common. We can all talk about the weather with complete authority even though we don’t know much about what it will do.
“Yeah,” I say. “Great weather. But a little hot.”
“I know,” he says. “But I like the heat. It’s better than being stuck in a dark house.”
He seems to know what he’s talking about.
He parks his motorized wheelchair here at this station almost every day except Sundays. He does it because he is Chatty Cathy. Here, he meets people. And he likes people.
“I get all cooped up in my house,” he says. “I need to be around people, and feel like I’m really here.”
After his accident—which he tells me nothing about—he’s been isolated from life. His friends have all have jobs, and girlfriends, and he’s been fighting to recover.
“Man,” he says. “I used to do so much cool stuff, four-wheeling, and hunting, and fishing, and you know, everything. It’s tough not being able to do that no more.”
He doesn’t say it, but I can see it. He’s lonely. He just wants someone to talk to. Someone to do things with. His friends used to go fishing with him, and go riding.
Even so, this isn’t getting him down. Not when the weather is pretty like this.
I ask about his daily life.
“Dude,” he says, “I come up here and meet all kinda people, I even met a guy from Alaska last week. And you know what I tell the people I meet?”
“I tell’em: ‘have a good day,’ and ‘God bless you, bro,’ and stuff. That’s my main thing.”
He doesn’t push himself on gas station visitors. But he likes to talk, and he hopes they do. A small conversation is better than none. And just a few minutes with a friendly face is enough to last him for a few weeks.
“I learn from people,” he tells. “And maybe I can even encourage them, you know?
“I mean, if I can come as far as I have, then anyone can do it. You wouldn’t believe how far I’ve come.”
I can see scars on the side of his face. They stretch upward along his temples and beneath his cap.
“Know what?” he goes on. “At physical therapy, I walked. For TEN WHOLE MINUTES. My doctor said he ain’t never seen nothing like me. And they told me they were all shocked, man. I’m walking. End of this year, I ain’t gonna need this chair.”
And it gets better.
This year, he has enrolled in community college. It was his mother’s idea. He has new friends, and he gets to talk about the weather as often as he wants to. He’s already been to a few classes.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” he says. “I’m taking a music class, a drawing class, and a pottery class. But my pottery looks like crap.”
It’s a nice laugh.
After our conversation, I go into the filling station to buy some snacks for the road. Namely: Chili Cheese Fritos, sunflower seeds, and black coffee.
The cashier is an older woman with gray hair. She hands me change and says:
“That child is the sweetest… He tell you about his girlfriend?”
“Oh yeah, he’s got him a little girlfriend. She drives him on dates and stuff. It’s precious.”
I’ll just bet it is.
I leave the store and walk to my truck. I say goodbye to my new pal. Before I roll away, he smiles at me and God-blesses me. He turns his wheelchair toward home. And he’s gone.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about life. But I don’t need to. Not after meeting this talkative boy. A young man who surprised a room of medical professionals when he grit his teeth, gripped the rails, strained his muscles, hollered, shouted, and maybe even cried. And by unseen forces, he got out of his chair.
And walked again.
Yes. It sure is nice weather we’re having.
Andrea - September 19, 2018 6:36 am
I really Loved this story & Needed it too. God Bless you for writing it & him for living it.
Inspirational. Very a
Sandi in FL. - September 19, 2018 8:28 am
Really love this story, Sean. With your vivid descriptions and detailed dialogue, it felt like I was right there at the gas pump listening to you two guys talking! You probably made his day a hundred times happier. I can say with assurance that he made yours better, just from the tone of your typed words.
Carolyn - September 19, 2018 9:23 am
Perfect summary Sandi in FL !!! ♡♡♡
Laurie A Wasilewski - September 19, 2018 10:45 am
Beautiful, just beautiful. I have come to love having, in the early hours of my days, some meaningful and touching writings to read.
Thanks, Sean, you make a difference especially to this lonely, old gal!
Dianne - September 19, 2018 11:04 am
Thank you, Sean, for a wonderful beginning to my day. We all have so much to be thankful for, don’t we!!
Joe Patterson - September 19, 2018 11:40 am
Nancy Thomaston Rogers - September 19, 2018 11:48 am
Yes, it is glorious weather. Amen.
Terri C Boykin - September 19, 2018 12:05 pm
Sure wish I could take that boy fishing, yes I do.
Love you much Sean.
John - September 19, 2018 12:08 pm
Chatty Charlie. ?
Joy - September 19, 2018 12:12 pm
Thank you Sean! All of us are in some ways like Chatty Cathy…we need people to talk to and for them to listen to us. You do that so well…listening to people and ‘making their day a little brighter’. I know you make my day brighter with your writings every morning. You are right we are having ‘nice weather… I have always said, that God gives us the weather so we can complain about the weather and not people. God bless you and all the Chatty Cathy’s!
Jackie - September 19, 2018 12:53 pm
Brought tears! We are so blessed & don’t know it half the time. What a wonderful young man. I sure hope & pray someday real soon he’ll be out of that chair & dancing with his girlfriend!
Thank you Seen for starting my day with something so uplifting. God Bless you!
Connie Havard Ryland - September 19, 2018 1:07 pm
Beautiful story. Thank you again. Love and hugs.
Shelton Armour - September 19, 2018 1:39 pm
And to think, I believe I have problems in life. You just gave me inspiration. Thanks!
Jody - September 19, 2018 2:34 pm
Thanks for the message. Your positive perspective is a wonderful way to start the day ?
Pat - September 19, 2018 3:37 pm
Beautiful weather is in the eye of the beholder.
Debra Crosby - September 19, 2018 6:55 pm
Started to read this right away when I saw the title because I thought you were going to talk about a favorite doll I had from my childhood, but loved this story even more. We all have our Chatty Cathy’s in our life and small towns. Mine most favorite now though is my brother who has been put on oxygen and forced to retire. You met him one night in Andalusia at a function (the tall guy in the hat with the nickles on it). He keeps on talking and he’s one of your biggest fans.
Ellen - September 19, 2018 7:34 pm
God Bless this young man and you also Sean!
Edna B. - September 19, 2018 8:26 pm
I loved this story. God Bless this wonderful young man. And God Bless you for taking the time to chat with him. You have a wonderful evening, hugs, Edna B.
Karen Dees - September 25, 2018 3:13 am
You know what they say…It ain’t over til it’s over.
unkle Kenny - November 15, 2018 5:40 pm
a good story alwaws needs retold for the sake of those who missed it the first time and those of us that just wana read it again. great story. uk
Jeanine Enterkin - January 2, 2021 5:14 pm
I hate loneliness. I hate the thought of it. I’ve been lonely. I wanted to go pick this young man up in my truck and let him ride around with me on my next long drive. I’m so glad he’s got a friend.