Running Backwards

My Dad’s best friend was a Mexican-American who taught me to water ski.  They would ride tandem on my Dad’s Lambretta Scooter to Valley College with books and concealed weapons.  Hank packed a .38 Special; my Dad carried a 2 Shot Derringer.  They were getting college credits because a degree meant a promotion and more money from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  They had cars but the scooter was easier to park.  It was a funny sight to see two large men on a small scooter.

My Dad liked to make jokes and puns.  Hand could find the humor in most any situation, even my Dad’s jokes.  In his mid-thirties, Hank, and his wife had a daughter.  Hank also earned a pilot license that year.  He inspired and encouraged by brother to get his license too.  Hank was in that little Cessna the first time my brother took me on a flight.  When the nose dipped below the horizon and I felt out of control of my stomach and my future, it was reassuring that Hank did not scream.  He just smiled.

Hank used hot sauce (Tabasco) with all his meals.  His mother warmed tortillas right on the burners of a gas stove top.   He worked undercover for many years.  His license plates were from Nevada.

Hank helped me get my first job; helped me write a screenplay a few years after that.  He had some good stories to tell.  When he was in high school Hank was having a hard time at home.  He was ready to quit school.  The track coach let Hank live at his house as long as he stayed in school.  Once Hank and I had a foot race, because compared to the kids I knew I was pretty fast.  He beat me easily.  The bad part was that he was running backwards.

The last time I saw Hank was at my Dad’s funeral.  Fifteen years later his picture was in the obituaries.  My Dad’s best friend was an American, a mentor and a mensch.

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