A man of a certain stride, a man of a certain haircut, a man of a certain uniform — he is recognized in this town by most everyone.
This certain man with the certain hair and the certain tinted glasses carries with him a ticket pad and a long stick with a piece of chalk attached to the end. He does only this, other than occasionally answering the phone at the police station in a gruff and obtuse manner.
“Hi, this is Sarah with the Bolivar Herald-Free Press,” I once announced when he answered.
“Who with the what?” he asked rudely.
“Sarah with THE ONLY NEWSPAPER IN TOWN, MORON.”
I only thought the latter to myself.
Other than these details, I know little about the man. Anything else about him could only be supposed. So, suppose I shall:
I suppose this man could have been born in another small town not too far away. I suppose he could have had a mother, a father, three older brothers and a younger sister.
I suppose he could have been sickly in his childhood, constantly falling victim to rickets, black lung or other maladies.
He likely fashioned friends out of the thinnest of air, offering them tea in grandmother’s dusty, cobwebbed attic. These were probably his only friends — not books or frogs or baseball buddies, like his brothers, or dolls or violin instructors, like his sister.
His father was a dentist, had put himself through dental school while working in the mills. His mother ran away from her aristocratic family to wed his father, who proved himself to his in-laws, in the end.
Determined to inspire his sons to greater heights, the father read Dickens and Chekhov and Aristotle to them in the evenings.
The oldest became a doctor, the next a lawyer, the middle son an accountant. Even this man’s younger sister pursued a lofty career as an anthropologist nestled in the trees of Indonesia, studying the nomadic Korowai Tribe.
This man, however, when he finally became a man, chose the only career that had ever interested him — issuing parking tickets.
Can you imagine the opprobrium of the man’s father when he made known his choice? He could not believe his youngest son would choose such a life.
“I did not raise you to be a lowly servant, distributing tickets like a carnival man,” his father said. “Could not you have chosen something more suitable to our line?”
His brothers railed at him, too.
“You bring dishonor to the family name, little brother,” the eldest told him.
“You will never be able to support a family working a mere 40-hour week,” the second told him.
“You owe me $40,” said the third.
In a letter from his sister, dated two months before its arrival, she wrote, in her terse form: You are a most curious subject.
His mother wept in silence.
Nonethless, the man pressed on. He was determined to make his family proud, despite their conflicting opinions of his profession.
Parking violations are something you mark on your own, the man thought to himself one day. No one can go with me. I travel this path in my solitary fashion, marking time alone just as I mark the tire and asphalt in a straight line of monotony.
He thought himself rather brilliant for this realization. He wrote to his mother.
In her reply, she was not as impressed as he would have supposed her to be.
“Your brothers have only had daughters and your sister shows no sign of settling down on the same continent of any man we would consider appropriate for her,” she wrote. “Don’t you think you had better reconsider your decision to ‘mark time alone’?”
But the man knew he could never take a wife. His duty called for great sacrifice – the sacrifice of the life of a family man, one who knows creature comforts of a warm hearth, fresh-baked bread and the giggles of his own miniatures.
He thought of himself rather like a pirate or a soldier. Often, when bandying about with his chalk on a stick, he thought of it as a cutlass, and swiped at the tires and ground as if driving back the black-bearded swashbuckler who sought to o’ertake his vessel.
I am sorry to say I do not know how the man did the same, day after day, in the intervening years, until I knew him — in my limited way — and dispatched of him with my car. I only knew the glint of the noonday sun as it tickled his glasses, his certain stature born into the air with the enthusiasm he always applied to catching a car parked too long in its spot.