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Georgie Was His Name

His name was Georgie. He never finished school. His mother kept him at home and he grew up to be a very strong man. But he was always a child inside. They lived outside of town and only came to shop once a week to the small town that was their source for food and pretty much everything they needed.

No one asked where the mother found money to live on. She seemed to do well enough and local people were not nosy. Perhaps some knew. In fact, some certainly knew. But they didn't gossip about the less fortunate in their community. They all just made do and helped each other as they could.

Jeffrey and his family moved to the town when he was in high school. He made friends quickly enough and did rather well in school. So well that he was happy to be at the top of the class after a few months. It didn't take long to get to know most of the people in town. Only about 500 or so lived there.

And it didn't take long for the town to get to know Jeffrey and his family. He had siblings, but he was the oldest, and he knew he was the example for his whole family. His mother was single and had to work. He had an aunt, an uncle, and cousins here. The family was accepted with no problems. His siblings were young enough to adapt easily.

The first time Jeffrey met Georgie was at the small grocery store where Jeffrey worked. He worked after school and all day Saturday. He earned ten dollars a week. He worked the register, restocked the shelves and swept the floors often. The ceiling was made of pressed tin and the floor was a black, rough concrete that was very cold in the winter, but nice and cool in the summer.

Georgie and his mother would shop on Saturdays. They came to Jeffrey's store. Jeffrey didn't quite know what to make of Georgie. He had never seen someone like Georgie. They had a name for people like him back then. We don't use it anymore. Let's just say that Georgie was mentally challenged. Jeffrey was surprised when Georgie seemed to be very happy to meet him.

Later in life Jeffrey would realize that Georgie must have been starved for notice, for recognition, for simple friendship. But at the time he just didn't get it. But Jeffrey was not the type to judge. He had difficulty understanding Georgie, but smiles are universal. He smiled and Georgie smiled back.

Their friendship was limited to those short Saturday visits where Jeffrey learned to understand Georgie and they talked about the things that interested Georgie. Mostly that meant Jeffrey would recount what he had been doing in school or the places he went on the weekends. Not much. Just enough that Georgie knew he was part of Jeffrey's life.

Then it was time to go away to college. Attending the university meant that Jeffrey was only home during holidays and the summer. Jeffrey had no car but he could get rides home with friends or else his mother would drive up and bring him home for the long breaks.

Jeffrey was quite surprised when, the first time he was home from university, Georgie phoned him and he asked Jeffrey to come out and visit. What to do. It was simple really. After dinner Jeffrey borrowed his mom's car, drove out to Georgie's house, and knocked on the door.

Georgie's mother came to the door. She knew Jeffrey, of course.

"Hello Jeffrey. What is it?"

"I'm here to see Georgie."

"Did he call you Jeffrey? I told him when he found out you were home that you didn't need to be bothered."

"It's fine ma'am. Really. I thought I'd take Georgie into town to the Dairy Queen and play a game of pool. If you don't mind we'll get some milkshakes, too."

"Now Jeffrey. You don't have to do that. But if you want to, then fine, you two have fun."

"Okay, Georgie. Let's go for a ride and play some pool."

They played several games of pool. They had their milkshakes. They talked about whatever Georgie wanted to talk about. It wasn't a lot. But he was smiling. And finally, when Jeffrey took him home, and let Georgie out at his farmhouse, Georgie gave Jeffrey a pack of Wrigley's Spearmint gum. Jeffrey took it, said thank you, and they parted.

The break passed and Jeffrey went back to university. He was not a great student. He was bright enough, but his natural inclination was to be lazy. It showed. He did rather poorly in school. Just well enough to stay for two years and then he had to leave. Poor grades meant the draft back then. Jeffrey made a decision.

All during those two years Jeffrey had returned home during breaks and the summer. And Georgie always knew he was home and called the day after he got home. Every time, like a ritual, they would go out to the Dairy Queen, play pool, have something to eat and then Jeffrey would drive Georgie home. The last part of the ritual was the packet of gum. Always Wrigley's Spearmint. Jeffrey took it, thanked Georgie, and they parted.

Finally, Jeffrey was out of school and he went into the Navy. He went away to Boot Camp in San Diego. As part of his enlistment agreement he was sent there instead of Great Lakes. He hadn't wanted to go up there. He wanted the California climate.

That was four years of service. When he returned he was fully grown. It was time to start a new life.

Georgie called the day after he returned and they went out. Jeffrey got his gum and then Georgie shook his hand. He had never done that before. After that, Jeffrey was seldom in town. Life had changed.

He never saw Georgie again.

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