Manny thought frequently of writing a book, and like many aspiring writers this means he spent significant hours reading. Sometimes, when enough drinks lofted him to a place of inspiration he scribbled on a yellow legal pad until exhausted- he fizzled out somewhere above the 13” mark. This slow and sporadic progress never discouraged Manny. For Manny, every page was a monument and every word a rare coin.
Coming back to this town for personal reasons was something new for Manny. The reason was his old English teacher Mr. Howard had died, dead of a heart attack at 63. The memorial was to be held Saturday and he was only 100 miles away. Closer than the 300 comfortable miles he normally maintained from the Central Florida orange grove town where he grew up.
Manny was hung-over badly. His shoulders and neck felt like they were filled with gravel and fiberglass dust and every move was surely scraping away his insides. He pictured his blood running from tears and cuts in his neck and pooling in his stomach, which then explained the churning and boiling going on down there.
He had no choice. When he first learned of the service three weeks before he was so shocked and moved at the loss of his early friend and mentor that he passionately decreed that he, Manny Fiesta, would make the noble effort. Someone must be told that Mr. Howard’s time spent in this culturally anemic community of newlyweds and nearly-deads was not for nothing, assuming Manny amounted to something.
He looked at his phone and calculated his arrival time at home if he got back in the van right this very minute and hit the road. Contemplating this complete abnegation of his avowed principles Manny covered the furrowed ground of his past capitulations.
He knew he was capable of walking away and leaving Mr. Howard’s history to be written without him- then he heard a woman say she was Mr. Howard’s sister. Taller than Manny, and elegant in her grief, her chocolate brown shawl floated as she turned to an approaching Manny.
“Your brother was my teacher 20 years ago. He was the only one I liked. He told me to study English-which I did. I’m sorry he’s gone. I just wanted to tell someone he was a great teacher. Mr. Howard was the best. Mr. Howard was a real class act.” He hoped one of those comments had done the trick. He had not intended to use them all. In his mind he had pictured himself saying just the right thing, nothing more, and then leaving. Now this woman was crying and she wrapped her arms around Manny Fiesta’s gravelly neck and shoulders. He laid his head against the chocolate brown shawl, soft and scented of roses.
Manny hugged her back, reassured that he had made a good decision. For Manny Fiesta, one good decision was considered a roll.