THE MEMORY COLLECTOR
By Peter Dargatz
“There he is again,” Michael said to his sister on their walk home from the library. “I swear I just saw him by the grocery store yesterday and at my baseball game last night. He’s everywhere.”
"The can man,” Michael told his little sister. “He walks around town with a big bag and a cart collecting cans. I think he might be really lonely. . . .or maybe just strange.”
“Why do you say that?” Aly asked.
“Anyone who has nothing better to do than walk around all by himself with a bunch of cans must be lonely. I mean, what a waste of time.”
Aly looked puzzled. “Have you ever talked to him?”
“Talk to him! Not a chance. I avoid him. You should too.”But it was too late. Aly had already grabbed a can from the ground nearby and was walking over to the can man.
“Hello sir,” she said timidly. “Here is a can for you.”The can man lit up with a mile-wide smile. “Why thank you little lady! How are you this beautiful afternoon?”
“I’m fine. Just walking back from the library with my brother, Michael.”Just as Aly mentioned this, Michael came up to them both. “Aly, we should really be getting home for lunch.”
“Ahh, Michael. Your lovely little sister was just mentioning you,” said the can man.“I bet,” replied Michael. “Sorry for bothering you.”
“No bother at all. Just enjoying stroll on this beautiful day.”
“Is that what you are doing? Going for a stroll?” asked Aly.“Yes ma’am. Cleaning up the neighborhood as I go.”
Aly saw his bag of cans. Remembering her brother’s words, she couldn’t hold back from blurting out. “Don’t you get lonely?”“Lonely? Not at all. I’ve got my collection,” can man replied.
“But they’re just cans,” Aly responded.Michael nodded in agreement.
Can Man laughed. “Oh these? Yes, you are right kids. They are just cans.”“Then how are they a collection?” Michael asked.
“The cans aren’t my collection. You see, I love walking around the town. While I walk, I figure I might as well collect cans. It cleans up the neighborhood. The neighborhood I love so much.”Aly still looked confused. “So. . . .you’re not lonely?”
“Never. I have this.” He pulled a small red notebook out of his pocket. “This was a gift from one of my students.”“Students! Like in school?” Aly asked. She looked to Michael.
“You’re a teacher?” Michael asked.“Used to be. I taught elementary school for nearly thirty years. About seven years ago, I retired and have lived in this town ever since.”
“So what’s in your book?” Aly asked .
“My real collection, my memory collection. The time I saw a young man and woman became engaged right near the river. The crash and boom of the car accident I saw right across the way. The baby bunnies I saw scamper out from under the bush. The tornado sirens I heard blaring one balmy August evening. The cheers and laughter I heard from the holiday parade.“I get it,” Aly boasted. You’re not the can man. You’re the memory collector.” Michael and Aly smiled.
“I like that!” The man grinned. “But I do more than collect memories. I record them in my book. And today, I can record the meeting of a lovely and inquisitive young lady and her big brother.”Michael beamed with the kind words of the can man. A look of excitement burst came over Aly’s face. “Wow! I wonder if I could start my own memory collection.”
The memory collector ripped out a fresh page from his red notebook and handed it to Aly. “There’s no better time than now.”
(final page of book would be a page for reader to start their own memory collection)