Stepping Off the Ledge

lakeannaOn another visit, we went fishing at Lake Anna, in which Virginia Dominion Power stores cooling water for Louisa's North Anna nuclear power station (the same facility from which, during its construction, both Jerry and Ted got fired for not showing up for work when they were stranded in Richmond after a snowstorm). Jerry waded out from shore and suddenly disappeared, leaving only his hat floating on the water. A second later he popped back up right under his hat, a dripping and now-extinguished cigarette still hanging from his mouth and his fishing rod still in his hand. I laughed at the slapstickness of it. Jerry didn't. He'd stepped off a ledge and said he got so disoriented under the water that he wasn't sure which way was up. I think I hurt his feelings because I laughed so hard.

A dead guy in Ted's bedOnce Jerry left a dead guy in Ted's bed. A grotesque rubber mask had been floating around the house. Jerry stuffed pillows under the blankets, stuffed the mask with something to give it form, then placed it on Ted's pillow. He supplemented the mask with a fake foot that stuck out at the end of the bed. Ted wasn't fooled, of course, but he appreciated the gesture.

Jerry was a good friend. He was also a prankster who stayed out of trouble with the law and made himself useful. He gave me a lawnmower once--a manual reel mower he rescued from somewhere, cleaned it up, sharpened its blades, painted it, and used adhesive vinyl letters to put my name on it, "Lucinda Roo Roo." He once presented me with a single red rose in a little white vase, for no particular reason.

He spent many nights sleeping on our sofa. He always cleaned up after himself, always paid his way by feeding the pets, emptying the dishwasher, replacing the paper towels in the kitchen, or fixing something that was broken. He was good company, a good story teller, and he always left before his welcome was up.

Jerry wanted the world to believe he was a jerk. He said he would cruise a parking lot to find somebody's new car parked way off in the distance, then park his heap so close that the owner couldn't move without banging into Jerry's car. He said he stopped his car and blocked two lanes of traffic on the Whitehurst Freeway at evening rush hour, just for fun. I don't believe it.

For two or three years, Jerry worked for his father and stayed put in Arlington, managing to buy a truck and keep it gassed up. I was riding with him in the truck once and noticed a pair of tap shoes on the seat between us. Jerry had enrolled at Arthur Murray to take tap dancing lessons. I don't remember that anything came of it, but he had fun nevertheless and got some good stories out of it.