So Long Bob, and Thanks for the Memories

Sep 30, 2023 by

On January 30th three inches of snow fell. Then it rained, and the world turned to slush. Then it snowed again, only to be topped by a smoky-looking Scotch mist. Overnight temperatures glazed the landscape.
Being one of those eco-conscious schmucks, I didn’t buy any rock salt. So I sharpened my ice scraper and ate a big bowl of Wheaties the next morning.
After hours of chipping and scraping and shoveling what looked and felt like tons of shaved ice, I opened my jacket to cool off. An invisible cloud of a goat-like odor wafted upward. I hung up my tools and headed for the shower.
After remaining under the hot water long enough to resemble a hundred-and-eighty pound cooked lobster, I dried my hair and ran to the bedroom for warm clothes.
My head popped through a cable knit fisherman’s sweater and I noticed a very large man sitting in a wingback chair in the corner of the room. He scratched his mustache with an index finger as he looked at me. I knew the face.
“How the hell did you get in here?” I asked.
“You don’t lock your doors.”
“Yeah, but don’t you knock?”
“Not any more.”
“I know you, but it’s not like we’ve really met.”
“Uh-huh, you can call me Bob.”
“Nice to finally meet you,” I said. “It feels like I’ve known you for years.”
“I guess I’ve had a pretty good run.”
“You think?”
He smiled and ran a hand over his crew cut in what I guess he thought to be a gesture of modesty.
“I heard what happened,” I said. “I’m sorry.’
“Thanks. Happens to everybody.”
“You have anything half finished?”
“Two things, actually, one in progress and one rough outline.”
I smiled. “Looking for someone to help tie up the loose ends?”
“I think Joan can handle that.”
“I thought she might.”
Bob showed me a big grin and nodded. The brown leather A-2 jacket he wore looked big enough to cover a VW beetle.
“You dedicated every book you wrote to her,” I said. “That was cool.”
“We’ve been together for a long time. Had a few rough patches, but she’s a good girl. She deserved all those dedications.”
I nodded. “End of an era, huh?”
“Yeah, I’m afraid so.” He spoke with a Boston accent.
“I’ll miss Spenser and Jesse and the black guy.”
“His name’s Hawk,” he said, and frowned.
“I know. I just wanted to hear you say that.”
He smiled. “Oh, yeah, now I get it. And don’t forget Sunny.”
“Yeah, I like her, too.”
“So do I.”
I began to wonder why my guest came to visit.
“I’m honored,” I said, “but why did you, ah . . . stop by?”
“Oh, yeah, good question. I guess I wanted to see a few people before . . . you know.”
“But for what?”
“I hear you’re getting impatient. Your first book’s not selling. Time to regroup. Write a new letter and keep trying. In this business sometimes tenacity trumps talent. But you’ve got something to say. Don’t quit now.”
“Yeah, easy for you to say.”
He laughed. “Everybody starts in the same place. I like your characters, and you’ve got a good line of shit.”
“You’ve read something of mine?” I sounded surprised.
“Can’t remember where, but yeah. I liked it.”
“No kidding?”
“No kidding.”
“Sure.” He stood up and stretched. “Listen, I gotta go.”
“Well, thanks for the pep talk. And it was great to meet you. Should have been years ago.”
“Your welcome, and yeah, that would have been nice.” He zipped up his jacket. “And good luck.”
“Thanks again. Hey, I’ll walk out with you.”
“That’s really not necessary. I don’t do things conventionally any more.”
“Oh, yeah . . . well, take care.”
“Okay, you, too.”
He walked out of the bedroom and turned to go down the stairs. I gave him less than ten seconds and followed. The door at the bottom of the steps was closed. I didn’t feel any cold air from it having been opened. I heard my wife on the phone in the kitchen. Bob was gone.

For Robert B. Parker
September 17, 1932 ~~ January 18, 2010
“Put the most meaning in the fewest words.”

For a list of his books and other credits go to

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