Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 14 August 2006

The Toolbox

Charleston, South Carolina

I opened the rear storage compartment on the outside of the RV last night and the toolbox was gone. The compartment has been locked since we left Tampa, so it had to have been stolen there.

It was a nice collection of metric and standard ¼ and ½ inch socket wrenches as well as box, open end and Allen wrenches. There were a few nice touches like the mirror on a swivel for looking around corners. Everything was neatly separated in freezer bags so there was no need to fumble finding the correct wrench.

I bought the toolkit for Ken in 1972. He was down on his luck again and needed the toolkit and money for a ticket to England to work on Bell helicopters. He was fired from that job after hitting a factory representative in the head with a wine bottle at a reception. Eventually, he was deported from England as an undesirable character after being arrested following a fight in a pub. He gave me the toolkit as partial payment for the loan. It had everything you might need to repair a helicopter.

I met Ken in High School. He was a football and track star and academically very talented. He joined the US Marines in 1960. I ran into him again at the University in Tallahassee in 1965 and became his roommate for a time. He took me to a cast party in November, 1965 where I met Carol. Carol’s date and Ken went home alone that night.

In 1968, after graduation, he went to Viet Nam again, this time as a civilian F-4C mechanic. He came back a year later with his alcoholism in full bloom and a nasty heroin habit.

Over the years, as my life became stable, he would drop by to visit us about once a year and borrow money. He took to using our address permanently to receive mail. Once a year I would help him with taxes. Sometimes we would drink together, but I stopped doing that after we got in a drunken fistfight one day and I bit off a piece of his ear. He often lived in a cardboard box and sometimes worked on a tugboat.

In 1996, I got a call from Morgan City, Louisiana. Ken had died in his sleep. His employer, a tugboat company, asked me for help disposing of the remains. Over the years, the toolbox always brought back memories of Ken when I needed a wrench. Carol wants me to buy more tools, but they won’t be replacements.

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