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It was all I could do to keep quiet.
This young fella sitting beside me started snickering and pointing at an older gentleman who was walking by.
The lips of the old man (who by the way, was about my age) were moving, but he wasn’t saying anything.
I didn’t see anything strange about his behavior at all. It looked perfectly normal to me.
Bless Pete, I used to do it all the time when I was growing up.
Evidently, this young upstart is not attune to the wonderful world of invisible friends.
Shucks, he doesn’t know what he’s missing out on, I thought.
There are two types of invisible people. I learned that as an only child growing up in a big two-story house on Chesterfield Avenue.
One is a booger.
Now, boogers are kind of peculiar. They make things go bump in the still of the night and are especially adept at making stair steps creak and pipes rattle. Then, they silently giggle and stir window curtains when you bury your head beneath the bedsheets.
No sir, I don’t care for boogers very much.
I preferred to spend time with my invisible friend.
Talk about being closer than a brother, shucks, I couldn’t have asked for a better sidekick.
From flying airplanes on the back steps to sailing the high seas on a pirate ship and riding shotgun on the stagecoach, he was always right by my side through thick and thin.
I spent many a lonely afternoon with him when Billy Pipkins wasn’t around.
But for some reason, I never got his name.
That wasn’t a big deal, though. I didn’t need it. Lucky for me, he was only one thought away.
Why, if not for him, I would’ve met my demise from the hands of countless crooks, cattle rustlers and enemy soldiers whom I constantly found myself at odds with.
And boy, was he ever fearless. Nothing scared him; he was just as at home in the plunder house as he was in the scorching desert sand, on mountain peaks, creek banks and around railroad cars.
He never flinched and always followed my instructions, which sometimes were fairly dangerous. It was uncanny to watch him sneak around or over the top of a big rock to get off a better shot.
Why, he saved the day more than once.
I was kind of jealous of the old fella who just walked by. He still had an invisible friend. Mine just up and disappeared when I was about 13 years old.
But that wasn’t my last encounter with imagination.
Years later, I learned my daughter had an invisible friend.
“His name is Lefty,” she said.
Now, Lefty was about half-booger. He had a bad habit of throwing toys in the floor and pulling stuff out of bedroom drawers that were left open, or so my daughter said.
My son never experienced the magic of a mysterious unseen friend, but he did have a very real shepherd collie named Rover.
Rover was a gift from my mother and these two became bosom buddies from the very start. It kinda reminded me of my relationship with good ol’ Tiger.
That’s why I was somewhat puzzled by Rover’s behavior one winter day.
A pile of dried leaves began to blaze away the yard. After the fire was out, I was dumbfounded to learn that dog liked to play with matches.
It didn’t end there. To this day, it still amazes me at all the mischief that dog was involved in. When accused, Rover would just switch his tail and nod his head. Bless Pete, Rover sure had me fooled.
You know, my wife sometimes complains about me nodding my head as if I’m listening to somebody else.
Well, she’s right, I guess. I might not see my invisible friend, but he’s still right here, listening in.
And he’s as faithful now as he was some 70 years ago.
He doesn’t argue back when you call on him and he lets you get stuff off your chest without passing judgment.
So young folks, if you occasionally see an old man (maybe me) walking through the store moving his lips and not talking aloud, don’t worry; we aren’t touched. We are merely carrying on an intelligent conversation.
I just wish I could get his name. I reckon I better just keep quiet.