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Melford and the night we discussed love: A Martinez, Cali Story


Our conversation on love happened the year Melford won the garbage man Olympic gold medal. Melford moved away from town a few days after we discussed love. He followed his life-long friend to San Luis Obispo where his friend went to school and after a few days, friend or no, his friend demanded Melford get a job. The only thing Malford knew was how to pump iron weights, tackle people, flunk classes on his own, and not much else.


One morning when he was taking out the morning trash the garbage man on the route yelled out: we are hiring, and it looks like you can haul trash. Melford laughed at the early call for help. Instead, he worked a few jobs pulling asbestos from walls, bussing dishes, and anything that came along. After two weeks he’d seen enough and Melford went to the dump and found the guy who implored him to join the garbage team lot. And to Melford’s surprise he enjoyed the job.

He got up early, sometimes a few hours after he left the bar. Didn’t have to dress particularly well because he wore the company blue overalls over whatever he had on. The routes took from six in the morning to noon and then he was home sleeping again. Just the type of schedule that a growing boy in his twenties could appreciate.


Melford had the strength and stamina of his youth and it was that still strong body that would eventually win garbage Olympic gold. At least the medal gave him something he no longer had, people’s admiration. Because it is kind of unique to win a gold medal for garbage man strength and technique. Milford was the only garbage man gold medal winner I knew, and if you asked people you would find few who had friends who had won one too.


As I said above, Melford and I would talk of love. He invited me for drinks at the one local dive that had not yet banned him for life, cause Melford could be handful with a belly full of booze. I had not seen him in many years, and I went just to see what had become of my rowdy childhood friend.


She does not love me. That’s the first thing he said. I tried everything, but she told me she wants me out of her life. I called you because women seem to like you and I want them to like me too.


I asked what happened and he said that Carol had left him after just a few months. Her brother had come over and told him in no uncertain terms that either he (Carol’s brother), her father, or every cousin that Carol knew or had would beat him senseless if he came anywhere near her again while they (Carol and Melford) shared oxygen on this earth. And despite this ominous warning, Melford thought he could win Carol back, and wanted any help I could give him in achieving this task.


Surprised by his belief that I could help (I really was no ladies’ man), I told him point blank I can’t speak for or know Carol that well, so I don’t believe I can help you get her back. I was honest with him: I have never been with a woman long enough to see a full

toothpaste tube gets used.


Women think it’s great to live with a writer until no checks arrive and rejection slips crowd the morning mail. All I can tell you is what some of the characters I created say of love. It hasn’t helped me any, but it could give you something to find someone who makes you forget Carol.


Like Sancho and Don Q, we talked in general platitudes of things neither of us really knew but thought that maybe if enough words were crowded together this love thing might be understood.


Melissa Drysdale, no relation to Don, was a character from a short story that never sold. Of love she said, it’s like the butterfly that every so often lands on your hand. You look at it with fondness before it flies away and there you are left butterfly-less waiting until the next one comes back one day.


And Melford, fond of writing on bar napkins, wrote: 1. Butterfly. And eagerly looked up waiting for some more.


Domingo Derovon was part of a family that owned vineyards near a small village in Tuscany. His part in the unpublished novel that sits on the shelf was small but of love he spoke as if he could never let go. Amore once in your veins is like the first blush of wine that lifts your spirits to heights you never saw before, like a waterfall pool naked swim where you and your beloved embrace as if nothing else mattered, like the tears from a child’s eyes if you lose the object of your desire.


And Melford wrote quickly but with care not to smudge the napkin: 2. Waterfall pool.


Harry Lawford, an attorney who helps Ms. Smith fight her eviction from her lover’s mansion in the still-being-peddled romance trilogy Too Much Time and Not Enough Money, confided the secrets of enduring love to the attorney representing Mr. Smith. Love that lasts is built on fire. For fire helps feed life and life creates love and love endures if we simply tend to the fire.


And Melford, listening to every word, wrote: 3. Fire.


After writing this last entry, Melford said he’d heard enough. Though none of your works have sold, I have gleaned much from the characters of whom you speak (Milford did not really speak like this. I put words in his mouth because his reaction to all I said was a simple nod of his drunken head and one acknowledging word: cool.)


But Melford also did say this as he parted, leaving me to pay the bill. Thanks, I know now what I must do. I need to find a butterfly near a waterfall pool and start a fire and then my wish for love will come true.

Last I heard Milford was still trying to find all three things and his search for love at least now had purpose, focus, and unattainable desire. And when I saw him last, Milford seemed happy with that.


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