by Annette Dashofy
I suspect we all know at least one. And I don’t necessarily mean crazy Uncle Louie. I mean those “colorful characters” you see around your town. The ones that when you ask someone else about them, describing them with a few key words, the other person immediately says, “Oh. THAT guy.”
Years ago, when I was working in a kiosk in the local mall, there was a young guy who walked around town with his hands holding an invisible steering wheel. He made car sounds as he “drove” on foot. Needless to say, he was mentally challenged. Everyone knew him as Tommy the Car. Some people eyed him with suspicion and distain. But mostly, everyone watched out for him. And when circumstances demanded that he move into a more institutional setting, we all missed him.
He was a colorful character. No one knew his last name, but everyone knew Tommy the Car.
There’s an old man I pass several times a week. He hitchhikes from one small town to another small town and back almost daily. I’ve never picked him up, but apparently others do. And if you mention the guy who hitchhikes on a certain road, folks who travel that road know who you mean.
I have a bit of a fixation lately on a local colorful character. It’s the crime writer in me who is fascinated with this guy. He hangs out at one of my favorite coffee shops and I’ve spotted him elsewhere. He’s hard to miss. The guy could have been a pro linebacker for all I know. I’ve discretely asked several people about him. All I have to do is give a quick description of his height and his hair and the response is, “Oh. THAT guy.” But I haven’t had much luck getting details beyond that. I admit, I had created quite a story for the guy in my head. Scenarios ranged from rich and eccentric to homeless with an interesting wardrobe. But the comments I’ve received about him include words like “weird” and “notorious.” There was mention of “trouble with the police.”
That last one adds fuel to my curiosity. It also scares the bejeezus out of me. As if being the size of a small sequoia isn’t intimidating enough. Now I make great efforts to NOT establish eye contact. Let’s face it. I may write crime fiction, but I am an unequivocal chicken. I’m curious, but I am well aware of how that worked out for the cat.
So I continue to ask a few cautious questions in whispered tones when this particular colorful character is nowhere around. I’ll let you know if I find out anything. Maybe. Perhaps he reads blogs. Note I haven’t mentioned much detail of his clothing or appearance beyond his size. There’s a good reason for that. He scares me.
But inquiring minds want to know.
Now, tell me about your local colorful characters, past or present. I know everyone has to have known at least one.