“Hey Gary, got a minute to listen to my water pump? It’s got a clatter goin’ on.”
Minutes later, socket and ratchet in hand, the wiry young man wriggled beneath his fellow student’s old car. He felt as at home here as an armadillo in this South Texas heat. It was why Gary Pokorney’s conquest in Korea left me mildly puzzled.
Gary was no slouch. His dogged probing of a carburetor or gear box on any number of nearby vehicles attested to it. And there were plenty nearby. The Bible school parking lot gave a shade-tree mechanic projects abundant.
“Jerry, how would You and Ann like to join Beverly and me on a pizza date – celebrate our graduating departure from the Hill?” Hallelujah Hill at the Northwest edge of the city, barely inside 410 Loop, home to International Bible College.
The Italian eatery along Fresno Avenue offered up the best deep-pan pizza.
Raising my napkin to dab a speck of red sauce lingering from my last bite, I grinned, “Hey guys, let’s plan another one – a pizza date. Down the road next time, when you furlough home from Korea and we’re back from Africa?”
“That’s a date!,” the Porkorneys chimed.
Two years passed. Ann and I had settled into life in the great Continent of Africa. Turning my Nairobi post office key and swinging open the box one morning I drew out the latest copy of my alma mater’s paper. Travelling surface mail via land and ocean it was seven weeks arriving. Any mail from home brought instant smiles, especially of friends or family. A lead article in the Torchbearer caught my eye. “Gary Pokorney Honored in Oratory Feat”. I read on.
Astonishing phrases leapt from the newsprint, “. . . Pokorney wins first place. . . nationwide oratorical contest. . . Korea’s First Lady hosts reception. . .”
I devoured the piece – amazed and proud for my old school acquaintance. Over dinner, Ann and I recalled fond scenes. Of the Hill, of special friendships, memories. All refreshing.
“To think, babe,” I looked her way. “Just listen again. First Place. . . the wife of the nation’s president hosted a special tea in Gary’s honor. . . The Head of State himself remarked that if he weren’t looking at Gary firsthand he would swear the speaker was a Korean national.”
Later that evening my fingers pecked away at our small green Hermes typewriter. “Dear Gary,” I began. .
“We just got news of your achievement. Wow, Congratulations, sir!” A post script wrapped up the note. . .
“I do want you to know this. When I read of your feat I retreated to my room. I seated myself in sackcloth and ashes, and wept over my Swahili-English dictionary.”
©2017 Jerry Lout