The Bud Man
Thirteen years old, we launched water balloons at his tiny apartment
in the hope he’d finally notice us. He was the Bud Man.
Written on his curb, in melted surf wax, was “Camp Bud ‘90.”
He drank Buds in his concrete yard with other local surfers,
the Bud Men. They were older, but not old. They were
so cool and didn’t act cool, which was beyond cool.
Big waves, cold Buds, babes on the weekends. Wetsuits drying
on his flaking wooden fence. Monday morning trashcan
overflowing with Bud bottles and Bud cans and Bud boxes.
My mom called his apartment and its twin the “Mud Huts.”
They were on our corner, and they did look made of mud.
As we kids got older, we started calling them the “Bud Huts.”
That’s the name that stuck. Sometimes mom used it too.
The Bud Men were legendary surfers, to us at least.
On days when the waves were so big the beach shook,
they would paddle out and pull into barrels that seemed
to us like howling chambers of death. One day as I watched
with a pounding heart from the shoulder, a Bud Man we called
the Walrus steered his twelve foot blue behemoth board into
a steep sucking barrel and before he disappeared into the thump
I saw the look on his face and it wasn’t fear or bravado or awe
or even focus, his blue eyes were just open, and in he went.
The other week my mom sent my brothers and me an email
with a photo attached. She asked if we remember the Bud Man
who lived in the Mud Huts. The photo was of an obituary
in our local paper, talking about a 58 year old man who’d died,
and pictured was the Bud Man, the original, the one
we’d targeted with our flirtatious water balloons.
The obituary left out the details. Mom said he’d been diagnosed
with Parkinson’s and had killed himself, no mention of how.
I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I hope I’m wrong about that,
and I hope it’s full of thumping waves, babes and bros,
a fridge full of cold Buds. There was more to the Bud
Man than all that, and so whoever and whatever else
he loved, I hope that’s there too. And I don’t know if the Walrus
still roams this earth, but if not, I hope they’re up there together,
and I hope the first thing the Bud Man saw when he arrived
was the Walrus steering his blue behemoth board into a
howling barrel so massive you could fit both Bud Huts inside it.