Sure, everyone knew George and Gracie. Back when I was a kid it wasn’t frowned upon to have strangers show up on your doorstep; no one scowled, called the cops, or did anything other than making whoever showed up feel welcome.
I was delighted with the pair; Gracie was the quiet one and George outgoing; they never failed to put a smile on the face of whomever they happened to be around.
I don’t fancy that I was one of their best friends because I know it per virtue of the time they spent with me. Maybe it was because they had felt like outsiders due to their unique way of living from moment to moment instead of seeking the security and comfort others in their position might have killed for
They visited so often that my parents grumbled it was costing money to host them. The day after the complaints, I called into the party line in my town so I could earn money…if it meant they would come even more often or stay for good, I would have done anything.
Each had something to offer me; George’s sense of humor, Gracie’s depth and quiet constancy.
I needed both; the points of view held towards such an unlikely pair were perhaps what drew them to me, and vice versa.
I was bad.
I didn’t think so personally, but it was the common opinion of me; not that I gave a rat’s ass.
No one tarred George and Gracie with the same brush, and I was glad of it.
We made an odd threesome, and many happy summer days were spent in each others company.
They demanded nothing of me that I was unwilling to give, and I gave them what I could when they were around.
While their visits became more frequent to me that summer, they went off on their own to find new people to befriend, new places to see, different things to do…and I didn’t begrudge them a moment of their time spent away from me.
I did dream of living my life as they did theirs one day; they gave me that.
A world where words did not hurt me; where I could be who I was with no words of recrimination, no frowns, no need for those who embraced me for me to explain away what I could do, which is and was as much a part of me as my brown eyes.
George and Gracie embraced and exemplified freedom and acceptance far better than any other I’d known.
When they went missing, I did not fret; they liked to roam wide and far in search of new experiences, and I applauded that.
But after a week, then two, and then a month, I was confused, hurt, and upset.
I asked my parents for any word of George and Gracie, and the snippets of their travels they gave me were unsatisfactory, to say the least.
Until the day one of my parent’s friends showed up.
I was totally uninterested in the guy; kids don’t care much for whatever political or weather related conversation adults have.
My ears perked up only when my mother remembered to ask if he’d had news about George and Gracie lately.
Turns out he had.
In disbelief, I listened as my parents nodded and clucked in disapproval at the tale their friend told.
George and Gracie had traveled quite a few miles to come across a neighbor well known for his foul temperament.
As was their norm, George had approached with a smile on his face, with Gracie following a few paces behind.
The temperamental neighbor had not only ignored George’s greeting, but went into his house without a word.
Not knowing what to do, George had stood there, still with a smile on his face, Gracie sitting beside him.
When the neighbor emerged from his house, George and Gracie stepped forward to try greeting him again.
I don’t know what Grace thought when George fell down dead beside her.
I only know that Grace fell next; that she did not die as easily or quickly as her mate.
I know that the neighbor looked at his handiwork with more pleasure than he looked at most things; he was a man who expected a living handed to him; when it was not forthcoming, he took it out on whoever was handy.
No one seemed to realize this was cold blooded murder, and I looked on aghast as the adults easily continued their conversation.
It still doesn’t make sense to me, though it might to others.
See, the fundamental truth for me will always be that you don’t have to follow in another’s footprints to get where you need to be or learn what you need to know.
Sometimes you are better served to follow paw prints.