This is the fourth piece I’ve published since 1996 about Joe, a friend I made during the summer I lived in Alpine, Texas. It begins like this:
Remember Joe, my old friend from Alpine? He would be 80 years old this year, but he’s
long gone. Survived cancer long enough to see the truth of God—he’d finally asked to see a priest after a lifetime of avowed atheism—and watch the twin towers fall. A month later I was driving to Midland for a burial in a place he never wanted. But Joe haunts me still. Especially when the economic news gets bad. I can hear his voice: Do you know what a derivative is, Michael? A liquidity put? Phantom envelopes mailed from Alpine arrived filled with clipped newspaper articles and forecasts of human greed highlighted with yellow marker. The words in my ears: Michael, you need a gun, and cash, small bills.