The start of a new school year always makes me nostalgic.
This year I’m thinking about Bradley. All I remember is he had short blond hair — oh yes, and that he sat under the drinking fountain and cried.
Bradley and I began our school careers together in kindergarten. Me and the other pint-sized scholars in our chairs, Bradley under the drinking fountain crying.
Of what was Bradley afraid? I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.
Kindergarten was OK by me. We learned to tell time and to tie our shoes. We each had our own little cubbyhole for putting stuff in. There were toys to play with. And kindergarten gave me my first audience for the smart-alecky, paste-eating, back-talking behavior that was to become my comedy act for the next nine years.
But Bradley wept. Nobody was going to hurt him. Why didn’t he know that? Was life so great at home that he didn’t want to leave it?
I don’t remember when or how, but Bradley must, eventually, have stopped crying and ventured from under the drinking fountain.
I assume he finished grade school. I sort of remember him through those years. And he must have gone to high school. College, perhaps?
And I further assume he has been working all those years since.
But I wonder:
Is Bradley hiding under some water cooler in some office somewhere, crying and waiting for the next downsizing, rightsizing or greedsizing to obliterate him? Is he an impact? I heard that term used the other day to describe workers who are laid off — worker will be impacted, more than 400 impacts will occur, etc.
Probably he’s not. They wouldn’t let him hide under the water cooler.
And any crying he does would have to be on the inside.
But no, I refuse to believe that’s what happened to Bradley. He didn’t end up like that, like so many others. You know what I think? I think Bradley — obviously a sensitive person — became a forest ranger.
Today, he lives in a darkly lush forest. It is very quiet there, except for the music of the birds.
What he does is rescue lost tourists. He alerts people to forest fires.
And he takes care of animals, tending their wounds and feeding them when food is scarce.
That’s what Bradley does.
And you know, bears eat right out of his hand.