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by Ron Cruger
Full Circle
For thirty years he drank two to three dozen cans of beer a day. He would get a large cooler, fill it with ice and beer and place it on the floor in the back seat of his car and drive and drink. He would stop to do his only job of the past twenty years – shoplifting. 
           He got into fist fights, gambled, swore consistently, preyed on women and was not above lying or manipulating acquaintances, mostly to get cash to support his vices.
          His mother was a lifelong alcoholic. He never laid eyes on his father. 
          The California court authorities hunted him for defying an order to pay child support. He evaded the authorities for five years by running from state to state, lying and scheming from one con to another. He married either six or seven women during the five years (he couldn’t remember the exact total). Finally, the law enforcement officials found Dick during one of his return visits to California and arrested him for failure to pay child support to his two children from an early marriage. He served two years of a five year sentence. During his prison term he claimed to have become a “born again Christian.” From the day he was released Dick never again spoke of any faith or religion.
          Once, I was having breakfast with Dick (his real name) in a Honolulu restaurant when a waitress approached a table near ours. Dick slouched down and placed the menu in front of his face, hiding. When the waitress turned towards the kitchen Dick slid out of the booth and quickly left the restaurant, nervously waving me to follow him. Outside, I asked him what was that all about. He answered, “I think I married that waitress in Ohio a few years ago.” He couldn’t remember her name.
          Dick was six feet, one inch tall and during the last thirty years of his life weighed more than 300 pounds. He wasn’t a particularly handsome man and carrying that weight he had a tendency to perspire profusely.
          He married a woman in Hawaii and a few months after the ceremony she did something that irked him. A week after the incident that ticked him off she left Hawaii to visit her mother in Los Angeles. Dick realized he could accomplish two things during her absence. One, he could skip out on her and secondly he could get some needed cash, so he advertised a garage sale for the weekend and he sold everything in the house, including his wife’s wigs, jewelry and every piece of furniture and clothing in the house. He skipped town and when his wife returned she found a bare house totally cleaned out.
          Two years later he returned to Honolulu and found a job managing a porno movie and magazine rental shop. Feeling lucky, Dick bet $1000 with a bookie on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Dick lost the bet, and didn’t have the $1000 so when the bookie sent an enforcer to collect the $1000 from Dick he told him he would pay him in the afternoon. By 3 p.m. Dick was on a plane to San Francisco.
          Dick waited three years before returning to Honolulu, where he contacted me and asked me to lunch the next day. We met at the place of his choice – the Hard Rock Café. Dick told me stories, most likely lies, of the past three years. Our waitress was no older than 19. Dick, by now in his middle 50’s and carrying 300 plus pounds, was sweating rivers. He flirted with the young waitress through our entire lunch. When we were done I grabbed the check, payed it and we parted.  The next day Dick phoned me to tell me he had picked up the young waitress and spent the night with her.
          Dick and I first met when we were sophomores in high school. Dick played football and I played baseball. Dick was underage, but he still bought me my first bottle of beer. We sat in the darkened bleachers of our high school football field, just the two of us, and got drunk together. I got sick to my stomach after two bottles. Dick continued drinking and laughed as I wretched. That was the last time I drank with Dick.
           Dick’s last employment before he took up shoplifting full time, was as a counter man at one of Honolulu’s low priced car rental firms. Dick told me of how he “stole the company blind.” He boasted that he even pocketed the coins in the Coke machine twice a week.
In January, 1998 Dick phoned me from Los Angeles. “Cruger, I got the big C,” he said in his boisterous voice. The same tone as if he had won the lottery. He told me he had bladder cancer and the doctors didn’t give him long to live. We stayed in touch every day on the phone. I sent him whatever funds I could spare.
          In August Dick phoned me and asked, “Cruger, if I flew to Maui would you meet me there and stand up for me? I want to marry my girlfriend, Aimee, so she can legally have my life insurance and Social Security funds when I die.” He told me, “ I love her and she’s been good for me.” I told him, “Of course – I’ll be there.”
          I met him and Aimee at their hotel on Maui. Dick appeared to have lost 150 pounds, his skin was a grayish tone and he couldn’t walk without assistance.
          The three of us walked towards a cliff overlooking the sparkling Pacific. The water appeared to have diamonds in it. Dick was exhausted by the time we joined the minister. With our backs to the ocean the minister began the ceremony. I was standing to Dick’s left when I felt his hand reach out for mine. He wrapped his bony hand around mine and squeezed. Just before the minister finished Dick leaned towards me and whispered, “I’m scared.”
          Back at their hotel, Aimee, Dick and I raised glasses of champagne and toasted their marriage. Dick was worn out. I hugged my friend of almost 50-years and said, “Aloha.” That same afternoon I flew back to Honolulu.
          That was the last time I saw Dick. He died September 15, 1998. He was 63 years old.
          There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.
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