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  • This is the story of Vincent Lagabonti.

    He was brave and therefore fame was attributed to him.

    He lived in a small suburban area of a large city where nobody knows anyone, but where he lived everyone knew him. Tall thin guy with the slicked back black hair, mustache. He was a good man, they always said of him, with an elaborate emphasis on the word good.

    Everyone knew him for the first time in the jungle, which is where he was born. The other men would sleep at night or in the afternoon and Vincent would listen to things in the dark that would scratch and crawl. On the ground, in the trees, whatever. When you have to listen for each leaf to turn over and it could be the second to last sound you ever hear, you listen carefully. In the morning Vincent would watch the sun struggle to make its way above the smothering fog and vine strangled hills and he would cry, very softly, grateful for the chance to see another day. None of the other men ever saw Vincent cry, that he knew of. But that’s when he knew he had been born, because he was terrified into bravery, like a baby.

    He held a gun in his hands, and in his hands the gun did what it was supposed to do, no more and no less.

    When he saw that the other men had found a way to stop listening to the jungle noises he knew that he could be brave enough to go ahead and do it too. The noises didn’t stop of course, but he could just let them be, instead of grind his teeth and clutch his gun. Once when he was not listening, he got a tattoo on his ankle of a snake coiled and with a head at either end. He though at the moment, while he was shaking and sweating terribly, it meant that there would no way to sneak up on a snake like that. After a while he just figured a snake like that couldn’t very well crawl away, could it? Crawling both ways at once, that’s how he felt.

    When all that was over Vincent flew back home and spent some time in a hospital which he was assured by many good folks was the best idea for the time being. Fair enough, and he was home before he knew it.

    Things went pretty well. There was a program that someone told him about where they would teach you about selling insurance, which is something he really understood. You sit on your helmet in a medivac so your balls won’t get blown through your jaw. That’s insurance for real, he thought, but he didn’t tell people that. He did say a couple of times that sleeping with your boots on for three weeks straight was insurance but he omitted the part about pissing on your toes every chance you got to kill the fungus that comes from never taking your boots off.

    He sold insurance for a guy for about a year and became very uneasy about the guy, so he quit. The guy creeped him out, wanted to know things and talk about stuff that Vincent didn’t want to discuss. Plus he thought the guy was, well, maybe not “out to get him,” but for sure just not in his corner.

    He kind of re-met a great gal that he’d known a bit from before. She talked him into starting his own insurance business right over in the neighborhood, which he might not have done had she not offered to help out with files and such, and besides he had in mind that she was in his life for good. She talked to a guy that got them a small, plain office and they set up shop. She knew lots and lots of folks and they became customers over a short while and he was able to make a go of it.

    Here’s the thing - it turns out that he had a special knack for the insurance game. He really deeply wanted people to protect themselves, to plan for the unknown, to secure their positions. He knew this was just leftover feelings from before but it was helping folks so he thought, why not?

    After a while Vincent got married, of course to the one person that was truly, undeniably on his side, no matter what. He told her the tattoo was just from before, not to worry about it. She said it made him seem tough, which made them both laugh. He said there was a lot from before, and she said they should go to church, so he did. He met lots of folks at church and they said that he sure was lucky to have a gal like her who was really supportive. He figured they could watch out for each other and he felt good about that.

    They bought a house. It had two bedrooms and a bathroom and a garage. Not very often it seemed to him, but sometimes, Vincent slept on the couch in front of the sliding glass door which looked out onto the trees in the backyard. If there might be anything to hear, he would be listening for it there. It was the only way he could sleep sometimes. Not often, but just now and then.

    They had a baby and Vincent figured they needed a bigger house. That was A-OK since there was money enough for that and to hire a young lady to help in the office so his wife could be there to take care of the baby, which is the only way it made sense to him. Vincent liked being a father but was uneasy about taking care of the baby. He didn’t like thinking about why or if that’s what he wanted or what else there might be. Wife, business, house, baby, all good. But the real reason was that this little baby girl was hard for him to figure out. It was the noises she made. As much as he strained to listen he couldn’t get the sounds to mean anything. And because of the lack of understanding there was a lack of trust, is what it felt like, although Vincent couldn’t say what that meant.

    The bigger house had a bigger couch in the den and a big creek in the backyard on the other side of the patio door. He didn’t sleep there very often, but when he did, after a night of listening, he was grateful to see the sun rise each day and go on to work.

    At some point Vincent Lagabonti’s wife became concerned about becoming older. She was dismayed by things that Vincent felt were natural, unavoidable consequences of just being alive, which he didn’t want to have to tell her was by no means guaranteed.

    From the time the baby was old enough to have someone take care of her, his wife jumped at the opportunity. Got a part time job, membership at a health club and other undertakings that Vincent couldn’t figure out the reason for. He’d been confused but accepting of her actions until she started trying to justify herself. Life is simple he told her: make foreword progress, prepare for contingencies, and if you’re lucky you can get to a place where you don’t have to worry so much.

    But she was on and on about things that made him uncomfortable. Why couldn’t she just let things be, he thought. She used words that were tied to small balloons that drifted away when she spoke. Sentences that ran down dark hallways. He knew she could tell it bothered him and, knowing just this, it perplexed him as to why she persisted. He had begun to think about how not to listen.

    After a while the baby started school and Vincent’s wife had made herself scarce. No big deal, he though. Better in fact. Things were A-OK just the same.

    Anyone who knew him could have told Vincent what was going to happen. He found himself alone in the house. So much had happened, and so fast. All so unnecessary, he thought. No strategic advantage to her actions. He wasn’t “all broken up” over it or anything but being by himself was a problem.

    He had never really noticed the sounds that come from being alone in his life were like the sounds he heard before. Someone spoke about that in the hospital long ago but it seemed like nonsense so he tuned it out.

    Vincent’s life took many unfortunate turns after that and as things got more confusing it seemed like there were more noises and still more new ones to be discerned. It wasn’t long before he stopped listening again. And again the noises didn’t stop. So in the way that he had before he found a way to just let them be.

    And so Vincent Lagabonti, who was no doubt brave and known by everyone, was once again famous. And he had gone back to where he had been born.
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