Can I Tell You

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            The first thing you need to understand about my man Bobby is that he doesn't take shit off anybody. Me, I'm a coward. I've got a spine made of jello, but Bobby is a real man. I once saw him look a tiger right in the eye at the zoo. They stared at each other for like thirty seconds. Finally, that tiger backed down. You don't mess with Bobby.

I first met Bobby at the supermarket. I was working as a stock boy at the local Publix, and Bobby worked the checkout lane. He was good at his job and friendly with everybody. Just because you don't take shit off of anybody doesn't mean you can't be personable. Bobby was tough, but he had a big heart. A great smile, too. He could chat those old ladies up. They loved him. His checkout lane was always full. He liked kids, too. He kept a jar of candy behind his register and he used to always give kids lollipops even if they were upset and crying. I can't stand kids even when they're good, but Bobby had a way with them. They always came away happy.

I'll never forget the day that Bobby told me he was going into the Army. I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't imagine Bobby wearing an army uniform and saluting some stuck up captain or whatever they do. Bobby said he wanted to do his part, serve our country and he couldn't work the checkout lane forever. It was time to grow up and get out of LakeCounty, he said.

Bobby died on a Wednesday. That's what the official report said. I tried to get more details from his family but that's all I could get. He saved a bunch of his fellow soldiers when they got caught in an ambush in Afghanistan. That's Bobby. He always thought of others before himself. Now he's a hero. He's a hero, and I've got one less friend in the world.

I never got a chance to tell Bobby how much he meant to me. I guess I never will. I miss him. I miss my friend. It's not fair that life takes away someone you care about, but it happens all the time all over the world. I'm not special. Why should it be any different for me? I'm just a guy who works at a grocery store and that's probably all I'll ever be. Bobby was going to college after he got out of the Army. He was always talking about college. That was the magic ticket. The thing is I could have told Bobby that there's not such thing as a magic ticket in life. Life isn't like in those Harry Potter books. Life is work and then you croak. You try to find happiness where you can. You turn over rocks looking for it, but somehow it eludes you. It's all heartache in the end. I'll tell you.


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