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The One Who Knows

I first saw him
while driving
up the highway near the old railroad tracks,
walking fast
alongside the ditch
with purpose,
a goal in mind,
wearing a cardboard box on his head
covered with aluminum foil.

I made a U-turn
and pulled into the parking lot
of a roadside stand
selling organic vegetables
and homemade jellies.
I grabbed my camera
and surreptitiously snapped away
at his quickly retreating figure,
then headed in to buy peaches.

Putting them into the car,
I could feel him
standing behind me
before he tapped me on the shoulder.

"You owe me some money" he said,
"for taking my picture".

Surprised, shaken, tight chested,
I turned, mouth open
ready to say I didn't know
what he was talking about.

"I know what you did... they told me.
They told me, your camera clicking away...
you owe me money," he said.

My mouth dry,
bravado covering my discomfort,
"And how much do you think I owe you?"

"Twenty dollars!"

I gave him peaches, instead.

Years later,
he no longer fervently walked
with aluminum foil on his head.
He lived upstairs
in the apartment above me.

Different priorities controlled him.
Demons needed destroying.
He fought the battles
to save the world.

Every day.
Every night.
He swung his machete through the air.
He climbed
onto his kitchen counter
and leaped to the floor,
Thump... thump... thump.
my chandelier swinging from the ceiling

Then preached the words from
the Good Book,
memorized in measured rhythm
with his machete.

When I saw him yesterday
and asked if he got the note
from management,
he didn't seem to
know what I was talking about
at first.

When I told him
that the patio balconies
were going to be repaired,
he nodded with assurance,
"They are trying to steal our souls!"

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