50,000 Good Ones
An American Short Story…
“They say you’ve got 50,000 good ones in ya…” That’s what Bill White told me. I was 18, and I’d probably used up no more than 50, so far.
An American Short Story by David Stone
We were going to Springfield, Mass, to stay with his girlfriend. That would be our home base while we went out selling encyclopedias.
I was absolutely horrible at that job, but the Grolier guys thought I had promise.
Pickings were slim, I realized later.
What I remember best about Springfield was Sunday afternoon on a bridge over the Connecticut River. It was one of those moments you get when your whole world can change on a pivot.
I had no one I belonged to and nothing I had to do. I was a young man with a broken heart, and I could disappear into another life, another place, without much effort.
I was standing on that bridge, exposed to my future, ready to erase my past, because Bill’s girlfriend accused me of staring at her. It made her uncomfortable, she told him, and he sent me packing alone to the Y.
Evidence for 1 of 50,000 Good Ones
Hence, Sunday alone on the bridge.
Bill had given his girlfriend one of his 50,000, a good one, and she was about six months gone. That might’ve accounted for my staring. I don’t know because I don’t remember doing it, only that she sat directly across from me in this unfamiliar apartment and that I had no feel for why I was there, where my anchor was, or where I was going.
So, after bacon and eggs on Sunday, I walked over to the bridge. I watched the current carrying the river south toward Long Island Sound, down through the round-topped foothills.
Later that day, I quit my job. That was easy because I wasn’t making any money, and maybe Bill, who did not object, just wanted me along for the company.
Monday, he drove us into New York along Route 20 to avoid Thruway tolls.
He was on his way to his home in Utica where he had a wife and kids, and no, I sure as hell don’t know how anyone does that.
Dropped off on a state two-lane heading south, I began hitchhiking, late in the afternoon. My life had to change, to be different, I knew that. Untethered meant filled with risks, no money or place to stay, and nobody who gives a shit.
A soft, late summer sunset was settling. It was dark by the time I got to Binghamton.
At home, my family shook their heads. Nobody asked.
I was back, and that was that.
50,000 good ones still to go.