cherry pickin’, part DEUX. . .
I knew the type of person Steve McGuire was before I wrote one word of CHERRY. I knew him up, down and sideways, inside and out. How did he get to be so sweet? Considering his history, what he’s endured, how he makes his living, and yet he’s a kind person. In a lot of ways, he remains an innocent. He’s not perfect but he has a good heart and a gentle soul. He’s a sponge trying to soak up everything, learn everything. Maybe because he knows his time is running out. He has an unshakeable belief system, an unwavering faith, a remarkable capacity to forgive. I love him. Can’t help it.
“You’re not making sense. You’re mixing everything up.”
“No, I’m not, Mr. B. I promised her. I told her, ‘I’m sorry I killed you but I still want to be your son’ and she said, ‘Then you can’t be older than me, Steve’ and I said, I said. . .”
Oh, shit. Here we go. I stood up.
“I said, ‘I won’t, I won’t Mom’ because she told me . . . she said. . .”
“Yeah, I’m in working mode right now.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, my name’s Cherry right now,” he said. “And I need to make some money.”
“Hey, Mr. Bee, this is a good one. It starts out with this guy who does high dives. Man, that Elmo.”
I smiled. “You’d better not call him that, Steve. I don’t think he’d appreciate that.”
“Yeah, if he ever heard me call him Elmo I bet he’d say, ‘Not cool, Steve. Now I gotta break your legs.’”
“I can’t live longer than she did.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying, for Christ’s sake.”
“Yes, I do. I want to be with my mom.”
“Hey,” I said, out of the blue, “You’re charging me too much. You shouldn’t be charging me a damn thing, Steve.”
“Cherry, remember? I—”
“I think I know what you’re trying to say. It’s human nature to want to love and be loved, but people are imperfect, so—
“So, they mess up,” he finished.
“But they have to keep trying,” he added.
I whispered, “Remember that on December 15, Steve,” and the kid whispered back, “I will, if you remember it on my birthday.”