I try to never miss the annual chop suey dinner at St. John’s Lutheran Church. I’m not a big fan of chop suey, nor am I a Lutheran, but this church always has an attractive kitchen, if you get my drift. My good friend Chuck Larson was a converted member for the duration of his first marriage, so I think he attends out of nostalgia—or perhaps penance. Any Midwest church basement feed is a great way to socialize, and Chuck and I found a spot at one of the long paper-covered tables next to Wally, who was on break from Lake View Inn bartending duty.
The conversation first turned to Billy Swanson, a young man we are all trying to mentor toward successful adulthood as his frontal lobe fully develops.
“So, Billy was down to the last payment on his Ram truck, and he went to the dealer to settle up and clear the title, and instead he drove away in a brand-new truck,” Wally said. “I asked him if it crossed his mind to go a year or two with no loan payment.”
“And what was his reply?” I asked.
“He said the new Ram has air-conditioned seats,” Wally said. “The dealer offered to just roll over the old loan on a new truck. So, now he’s paying interest on air-conditioned seats.”
“Well, you know what I always say. Why buy new…”
“…when used will do,” Wally said, finishing my line.
There was a pause as we all chewed our Lutheran chop suey.
“Some people are just used to always having a car loan,” Chuck said. “And it’s fun to have something brand-new. I’d kinda like to have air-conditioned seats.”
More chewing. Chuck suddenly pushed back his brown folding chair and stood. I thought he was headed for the dessert table.
“I bought a brand-new Aluma-craft!” Chuck stammered. And then he sat down.
Wally and I set down our forks.
“I know, I know,” Chuck said. “Why buy new? But I’m tired of fishing from a boat with stains on the carpet from some other guy’s spilled bait, and a hole in the console for his old Lowrance flasher. I want to write my own story for once.”
I stared at Chuck. I’d never seen him this emotional. Please, I thought, don’t start crying right here in the church basement.
“You know what it feels like when you sit in your brand-new boat?” Chuck asked. “You feel like a big boy for once, like you don’t have to use the fat crayons anymore.”
Wally and I picked up our forks.
“Wonder what the dealer is asking for Billy’s old truck?” Wally asked. “All it needs is a quiet muffler.”
“No clue,” I said as I pushed back my chair. “I’m going to check out the desserts.”
The fat crayons, I thought. I always liked those fat crayons. They felt really substantial—especially when they were new.