The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

When it's my moment in the sun, I won't forget that I am blessed, but every hero walks alone, thinking of more things to confess

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hot, Black, and Full of Booze


It is the punchline to a joke a friend told me once.

I am not a big coffee drinker, I usually only drink coffee when it is cold or I don't feel to good.

And this past weekend, I was over at my friends Kent and Kristen's house and Kent asked me how I liked my coffee. I stole my friend's joke.

I like my coffee like I like my women, Hot, Black and Full of Booze.

We all laughed.

But Saturday night, I thought of my friend, Jack.

If you are trying to think who in the world Jack is, stop trying to figure it out. Because you don't know Jack. I barely knew him, and until this writing, I have never talked about Jack to anyone.

Jack was a homeless man that used to frequent a sidewalk near Brown University on College Hill Avenue in Providence, Rhode Island. He was pretty young, somewhere in his late 20's with a blue sock cap and an old black coat.

He never said he was homeless, he always would call himself a "vendor." He sold little trinkets that he had found in the trash. He also sold newspapers called "The Homeless Times" that various organizations would hand out so people would not be cited for pan-handling.

I would stop by and talk with Jack for a while. I would always buy a paper from him and then run across the street and get him a cup of coffee. Man, that was such a cold winter.

And every time I gave him his cup of coffee, he would always tell me his joke about how he liked his coffee.

I found out after many cups of coffee that he was originally from South Carolina. He had ran away from home when he was a teenager. He evidently have a very good relationship with his Dad, who was pretty strict, religious, and had a pretty good mean streak. They argued a lot, and one day he just left. He had spent some time in Virginia and eventually made his way up to Rhode Island.

He asked me what I did one day. I told him that I worked with troubled kids. He smiled and then looked at me very seriously. He grabbed my wrist and said, "Make sure they know that they can end up on the streets like me. Tell them it isn't worth it."

I asked him if he remembered the story from Sunday School about the prodigal son. He said he did, but it was too late. I asked him if he wanted me to help him out, find a place to stay. He refused. I offered him some money, he refused that too. He said he appreciated the coffee each week. He said the people that ran the shop didn't want him to come in. We slurped our coffee and sat in the cold, I am sure we were both thinking of warmer places.

I brought Jack coffee whenever I was down on College Hill at the bookstore. We would joke around. He would ask me about the book I had just bought. Somehow, I hoped that it made him feel a little bit good, a little bit regular. All the smart kids walking around dumb and numb to the fact that there were people on the streets that needed help, at least maybe one person cared.

Then one day he wasn't there. I asked around, but no one pays much attention to bums. I looked for him every time I was hanging around Providence, but I never saw Jack again.

I don't know what happened. Maybe he decided that it wasn't too late. Maybe he somehow found his way back to South Carolina and forgiveness.

But wherever he is, I hope he is warm and has a hot cup of coffee in his hand.

7 Comments:

Blogger Nelson said...

Amazing

8:19 AM  
Blogger Shelli said...

That is a beautiful story lafe.

9:50 AM  
Blogger shauna said...

i drink coffee only when i'm cold too!!!

yes, good story.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Nelson said...

I don't drink much coffee, but I would agree on liking it like I like my women: full of sugar, milky-white, and smelling like french vanilla.

I have no idea what that means.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

son,

very nicelly written.

dad

1:18 PM  
Blogger Lafe said...

John, I am nominating your last comment as "Comment of the Year" because I, too, don't understand what that means.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

This is Nate, not Sarah. Awesome story Lafe. I enjoy reading your blog. You rock! I am doing the Dante right now in your honor.

11:41 PM  

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