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Mack Dog’s Brother

September 11, 2012

“I didn’t get kicked out of Evergreen. The only person I know who got kicked out of Evergreen was Mack Dog’s brother, and that was for putting a fork through someone’s hand.”

David’s words jarred me back to reality. I’d been daydreaming to the sound of the creek while he and Derek talked story. We were taking a well-deserved rest from hauling rocks into the shape of a swimming hole; the whiskey and ginger ale may have gone to my head.

It’d been ten years since the three of us were last together. I’d met David in the kitchen of a pizza shop; the son of a businessman and political lobbyist, he had the heart – and purse – of a philosopher. When I’d introduced him to Derek, one of my oldest friends, they hit it off famously, and often to the exclusion of myself. I was the friend who stayed home while they huddled around a smoky pool table in the wee hours of the morning. I was the one who dreamed of leaving Portland.

Now Derek lived on a small homestead, and recently David had moved into his adjacent art studio. I was visiting for the weekend before returning to the city’s grind. How had it worked out this way?

“Mack Dog’s brother?”

David launched into a monologue about Mack Dog, a tall skinny Caucasian DJ who often got the party going during their college years. Mack Dog was okay, but his brother seemed a little extreme. One day someone had been pretending to steal his food and he – allegedly –skewered their hand with a fork.

That was when I realized how special our little reunion was. Here we were, ten years later and three hundred miles from our original meeting place. I had a child, Derek was married, and David… well, I don’t really know how he spent the interim. The last I’d heard he moved to Aspen for a job as a massage therapist, then moved back. We’d played poker once or twice over the years. But the bond of friendship was strong enough to reunite us regardless of the time and journeys in between.

The drink was definitely going to my head.

At the very end of Stand By Me, the narrator wrote: “I never had any friends like the ones I had when I was twelve… Jesus, does anyone?”

Without conforming strictly to his age requirement, I would have to agree. There’s something about old friends that’s deeply reassuring. You don’t have to entertain or impress each other. You can just be. Sitting by that creek last Saturday I felt I’d come home after a long hiatus.

For some reason the name ‘Mack Dog’s Brother’ stuck in my head. I didn’t catch the entirety of the story – the creek’s lull pulled me back into its embrace – and felt no reason to ask David to repeat it. What more is there to say about a guy who sticks a fork in someone’s hand? But it served as a testament to the years in between, a concrete reminder of our divergent experiences. And that was all the more poignant for the closeness I felt in that moment.

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