I watch the chimney smoke lift and drift. It paints and then erases, shapes and defines. I think of Heck Bollinger, in the hardware store. Shot dead before he could open his wallet. He asked me to go with him, said he’d buy me lunch, maybe pick up a bottle.
He was like a younger version of my old man. Handy, knew his stuff. All lean-muscle and dark complexion. He had a no-bullshit-accepted attitude. We worked at the same hospital, different shifts. He was the one who told me about Heather. I’m not sure why he told me. Sometimes, I guess, loneliness is too obvious to hide. He knew I kept to myself, minded my own business. He was more gregarious, sometimes the class clown, sometimes the gypsy story-teller. His eyes were brooding, like he had a secret that haunted him, but his quick smile made you wonder if the secret was just a joke. He knew I was a loner, and dug in until we became friends. Eighteen years.
The chimney smoke keeps drawing sketches of nothing, and then it disappears.