By Ruth Starr
I ran into Maggie at the local TJ Maxx store. I hadn’t seen her in years. We were once close friends who spent a lot of time playing tennis together. Catching up she says, “Remember Sam, my ‘so called’ classy husband who always made me feel so useless? Whatever accomplishment I had, he always managed to put me down. I was losing my self-worth, so I left him. I met this guy, Lenny, and he treats me like a queen.”
Maggie pointed out the window at her Lenny. “You gotta be kiddin’ me Maggie, what do you see in this guy? He doesn’t look like your type.”
“Ya know,” Maggie went on, “Lenny adores me. He is different, but I really like him. I know what you’re sayin’. He comes from the other side of the tracks—the way he dresses, he’s uneducated, a bit rough around the edges. His parents were druggies. They were arrested and spent time in jail.”
My response was swift, “Maggie, you’re a classy woman, smart dresser, and highly educated – and you hang out with him? And that truck he’s standing next to with Fast Lenny in large letters on the sides…really Maggie? He looks like a loser.”
Lenny and his younger sister became wards of the court. None of the relatives wanted them, so to foster care. Worse, they were separated. Lenny was fourteen when he landed in a home with money-hungry foster parents.
He was often slapped around, rarely got decent food to eat, and lost track of his sister He went to another home. “My heart hurts when he shares these stories, explained Maggie. “No kid should be treated like that. Never found his sister.”
“Was there more?” I asked.
“Yeah, he discovered a flea market not far from where he was living and started going there every Sunday wandering around seeing what was being sold. Not having any spare money, he went through alleys and found discarded items that were still usable. At age sixteen he gathered as much as he could from alleys and sold them at the flea market. Every week he searched alleys, making more money, and saved what he could to eventually buy a truck. It was a dream for him. He discovered wholesalers to buy merchandise from and thus, Fast Lenny was born.”
“Wow Maggie, that’s actually a great story. I’m beginning to understand what you see in him. He made something out of nothing with the odds against him. I’m sorry that I jumped to conclusions and judged him.”
Maggie added, “He keeps active, too. One of Lenny’s favorite things is playing racquetball. He even taught me to play. So much fun.”
Soon after this encounter, I moved to another city. Maggie and I stayed in touch. Her emails were newsy and filled with stories of her sweet Lenny.
When I read her last note to me I expected yet another report of how she and Lenny were shopping for deals or improving their racquetball game. So, it was truly a surprise when I opened the note and all it said was: “Lenny died on the racquetball court, had a heart attack. I am so sad.”
The news hit me hard. I had grown to appreciate Fast Lenny—even admired him in a way. Feeling Maggie’s loss, I realized we are often too quick to judge. Hopefully next time I’ll look a little deeper and appreciate my fellow man a little more. After all, we’re all just doing the best we can.
Ruth Starr has lived in SLO for 22 years near both of her children. She is an ardent storyteller, loves dogs, plays at golf, and has had many stories about people in this area published locally over the years. Ruth is a member of SLO Nightwriters, for writers at all levels in all genres; find them online at slonightwriters.org.