Juan Darer’s funeral was the saddest and the most modest funeral Harwood had ever attended. There was no one there but him and the Pidgin ladies. Dilly held her mother’s hand as the older woman stared at the grave with a distant look of someone who was not quite there. Heavy grey clouds obscured the sun but blissfully there was no rain. Only a strong gust of wind pulling the yellowing leaves of the trees and scattering them on the drying grass.
It all fell hard on Harwood, the silence of the grave, the finality of it all. He missed Juan already. There was no one left here in Twinbrook who knew him as long, and as well. Yet he had to hope Juan was in a better place right now, safe and happy, with his beautiful young wife, his Lacey. That gave him comfort in the day that immediately followed the passing of his best friend but not now somehow, not standing here. All he felt here was this humongous grief threatening to overwhelm him whole.
He found little comfort from the other visitors. He and Dilly spoke courtly, mostly about her mother’s deteriorating health and their toddler son Billy who had stayed home that day, safe with his new babysitter Christie and Harwood’s loyal dog Rookie. Reflecting on it later however, Harwood concluded Dilly was there for him as much as she was for her mother who was at some points of her life romantically involved with Juan. He was grateful for that looking back but on that grim day it didn’t help. Yet It was good to know he wasn’t completely alone.
In a way that was the scariest thing of all he realized when he got into his cold bed that night thinking back on that dismal morning at the graveyard. Deaths did that to you. They made you think of your own morality in a harsh and brutal way. Harwood didn’t think of himself as a death fearing guy, not really. Yet he wondered who would come to his funeral? If he had died before his retirement in Bridgeport a lot of people would come. They would all cry for the camera and claim they knew him oh so well, and tell their friends how it was them crying at the front row… A sickening thought. Here in Twinbrook there would be no such fakers Harwood knew. Here his death would just be a sad passing of a very old man. But who would come? Would Billy be old enough to know what is happening? And why do those things even matter?
Harwood asked himself listening to the soft thud of rain against his windows. Maybe he didn’t care about his funeral, not really, maybe he was afraid of being alone here, in this world, in this house, in this bed… When he finally felt sleep catching him in his grip that night he was sure he would dream of his wife Macey again, she would come baring some omens but she didn’t. No dream did.
When he woke up next morning he realized he was not alone after all. Rookie must have climbed up in his bed sometimes during the night and settled on the blankets. Harwood wanted to be strict, Rookie had his own bed, one he slept in since he was no bigger than a pup but there was something so heartwarming seeing his little furry friend there that he said nothing, he just petted his white and brown fur as softly as he could.
So maybe Harwood wasn’t alone yet it didn’t change the fact that life was short. That was the lesson Harwood took from the death and life of his best friend. Too short too live in the past, too short to live all alone. Too short not to make more art, too short not to make more friends, to short not to ask that lovely young girl that was obviously interested in him on a date…Too short for so many things…
First Harwood focused on the art. Then he made a friend.
He and Buddy met at the general store in town. Oliver Greenwood called one day saying they had gotten something that Harwood might find interesting and he was right. A shipment of new, eco friendly paint and other art supplies had been on sale and Harwood was amongst the first to get there and muss over them. Buddy was the second.
Harwood was mulling over some paints, checking the labels, making sure they were as “green” as the adds said when he heard a man speak his name.
“Harwood Clay!” The excited voice exclaimed loudly enough to turn the heads in the whole store. “I just can’t believe my eyes.” The owner of the voice was a thin, young, bespectacled man with an orange hair and a beard. Harwood was in a good mood, having found the paints and all and he smiled.
“In the flesh.” He said calmly watching the younger man’s face light up with a large, ear-to-ear grin.
“Well man, I just have to shake your hand.” He said extending his arm towards Harwood across the paint aisle. Harwood took his hand gladly. “I am a huge fan by the way. ” The younger man added. Harwood just nodded. It was something he was used to, not as much in Twinbrook as before when he lived in the big city and moved exclusively in art circles. He knew the protocol for these things, a little more mindless chatter, maybe he would get asked for an autograph, or a picture and then each man would go its separate way, it was only polite.
“You should definitely buy those.” The man said turning away from Harwood to the paints displayed before them. “Whatever helps save this planet. It’s the little things that count, believe me.”
“Well then I guess I shouldn’t miss out…” Harwood replied taking the paints one by one and placing them in his shopping cart. The other man grinned widely.
“Now I love you even more man!” He exclaimed picking up some paints for himself. “I am Buddy by the way. ”
And so, just like that a friendship was born. They ended up talking all the way out of the store and back home. It turned out Buddy, whose full name was Buddy Bailey lived right here in Twinbrook and not so far from Harwood himself. He was also an artist with a strong passion for protecting the environment. It was a perfect match which is probably why the two became so close so soon.
Buddy was immensely talented Harwood judged just by looking over some of his sketches the younger man showed him on his first visit. It surprised Harwood to hear he was unable to live of this talent of his and so he took on yet another task, he became Buddy’s mentor as well as his friend.
In time that led him to discover what his problem was. He was as lazy and unfocused as one could get. He spent most of his days watching TV shows and could quote every line from every single one of them. Or at least he said he could, he produced quite a lot of those quotes in his normal everyday conversation but to Harwood it meant little. His TV hasn’t seen much use until Billy came to live with him. And now it was mostly cartoons and cooking shows that got watched by the two of them, sometimes three if it was a rainy day and Rookie stayed inside with them.
That didn’t stop Buddy from going on and on about his shows, characters whose names slipped Harwood’s mind the moment he was out the door, and sharing his damn quotes whenever opportunity presented itself. Still Harwood enjoyed spending time with the young man, he knew who Harwood was on sight but he didn’t make a big deal out of it, he was nice with Billy, and despite his ramblings all in all he was a great company to have a beer with, no matter the time of the day, or the day of the week.
When he first heard Harwood play the guitar his first words were: “Man I wish I was that good.”
“Just a lot of practice. That is all.” Harwood said with a smile.
“Still if I was good we could start a band together… We could be the talk of the town, and more…” Harwood laughed. Knowing Buddy’s working habits that was a long shot, at best.
“Tell you what, what if you and me start a band first? That could be your motivation to learn.”
“That is the best idea ever!” Buddy exclaimed loudly. “We need to have a name though…” He added thoughtfully.
“I already have one.” Harwood said with a smile. And that day Goopie’s Groopies were finally born.