My wife and I ate Chinese take-out tonight. My meal came with a fortune cookie whose fortune read: “Relax, you have all you need.”
I’m not one to take life advice from a cookie that tastes like cardboard, but it can’t be all wrong.
My home is small. One-story. Simple. There is a mobile home beside it. Across the street, there are three empty trailers, old, and covered in grime.
I own two rusted boats. One works. I have a workshed, and one orphaned dirt bike that needs its gaskets resealed. It sits beneath the shade of an oak tree, broadcasting to the world that my neck is a little red.
We live on a dirt road—a point of pride in our family. A few years ago, they tried to pave our street, but they didn’t pave our particular section of the road because my wife was standing in it, shouting death threats to the bulldozer driver.
My truck sits parked beside my boats. It is a Ford, 2003. The tailgate is rusted. The paint is flaking off. There is a mountain of junk piled in the truck bed. I keep meaning to clean it out, but…
Maybe some other day.
Every night, my wife and I walk our dogs after supper. We eat early because we are getting middle-aged and we don’t sleep well if we eat late.
We walk the dirt road, then down the paved street toward Hewett Bayou, which is on the Choctawhatchee Bay. And though I can’t prove it, I believe ninety-nine percent of the frogs in the Southeastern United States are conceived in my backyard.
On our walks, we talk. Mainly, about what we would do if we ever had money. Then we laugh and realize that we will never have money because we are not money people.
You are either a money person or you aren’t. You can’t be both. You either love money, or you don’t care about it as much as you should.
I am the latter. I spend what little cash I have on stupid things like used books from flea markets, Atlanta Braves paraphernalia, and antique pocket knives. And my wife is really into essential oils—which come in little glass bottles and cost more than an average human kidney on the black market.
On our walks, we pass neighbors. The old lady who is sort of weird, whose boyfriend always wears tank tops that show his belly and have phrases printed on the fronts, like: “FBI: Federal Bikini Inspector.”
We also pass the man with the long beard who carries a backpack and a walking stick. He doesn’t live on our street. We think he camps in the woods nearby.
When the sun finally sets, we sit on our porch. We slap the mosquitoes. And the yellow files. And the horse flies, black flies, turkey gnats, buffalo gnats, noseeums, blow flies, bottle flies, deer flies, mud daubers, blood sucking leeches, anacondas, etc.
Then we go inside to scratch our bites. And we watch television. My wife likes “Downton Abbey” reruns, I like baseball.
Usually, we compromise. We watch an hour of baseball, and one hour of British melodrama which actually feels like six hours because the plots move about as fast as the Jurassic period.
Our bedtime gets earlier and earlier the older we get. One day, I am certain we will start crawling into bed right after “The Price is Right” is over.
It’s funny, I remember when we used to go to bed at 1:30 A.M. Now we wander into our bedroom around 9 P.M. and one of us starts snoring by 9:12 P.M. But I won’t tell you the name of this snoring person. Because my wife would kill me if I used her name.
And this is our life. It’s not glamorous. It’s not exciting. In fact, some might think it’s boring.
Maybe I screwed up somewhere. God knows, when I was a young man, I did almost everything wrong. I made a lot of mistakes that still embarrass me.
Sometimes I wish I would have attended high school. I wish I would have gotten a journalism degree, or found a job writing for a newspaper. Maybe then I could hold my head up at dinner parties.
Instead, I went to community college as an adult, and tried to please teachers who were a few years younger than me. I never did get to write for a newspaper, and I hate dinner parties.
But there is no going back now. And I wouldn’t want to. Because when I stop and think about it, if I am honest with myself, everything turned out great.
All I ever wanted was a little house, dogs, a rusty boat I could call my own, a broken dirt bike, and a woman who thought I was something, even though I am not.
Once, a hundred years ago, I remember when my father took me out for Chinese food. I was maybe five or six. We sat in a booth, and he read his fortune cookie aloud. I’ll never forget it. He smiled when he recited it:
“The man who knows when enough is enough, will always have enough.”
I’ve seen that same fortune a few more times in my life. And I believe it.
These cookies might taste like cardboard, but they aren’t all that bad.