They’re as old as herpes and cockroaches.
If whoring is the oldest profession then gossiping is the oldest internship.
Everyone does it for free. If you expect a check you best line up with a tabloid. Then again, you might become the deacon of a good old church in some good old town full of good old people. That seems to work too.

They were the ones who told me all about Jimmy Collins. They told me about his drinking skills and how, one time, this guy called him a “Fag” in public. The next night that guy’s trailer burned to the ground and they found his dog in a well, along with fifty pounds of salt and kerosene. Everyone knew Jimmy did it.

After that one of them said, “We should call ole’ Collins-Collie-you know after the dog.” A few drinks into a Tuesday afternoon and that sounded like a good idea. But none of them had the stones to call Jimmy Collins, Collie. They used to say that you shouldn’t even call him “Sir” unless you wanted to bring up memories of his old man.

I was getting back from where I’d been back then. Not too much to talk about really. A few thumbed rides, some truck stops. Apple pies with Ice Cream, waiting for something to give way. Anything would’ve been fine. But nothing happened. So I came back. That’s when they told me about Jimmy Collins.

They gathered around a table of scattered coffee mugs and plates of cold eggs with toast. I could see scratch marks on the table’s edge. Someone had carved their initials in the settled grease finish. Years of minimum wage cleaning, I guess. They all were smoking unfiltered cigarettes. I stood nearby, waiting for my to-go plate and wishing for a clean bathroom.

Jimmy took a job up in Richmond, working in construction.
“No, he was working at a window company.” one of them said.
Ok, it was a window company. Jimmy stopped off on the way home, got himself a six-pack or two.
“I thought he only drank liquor?”
Ok, it was liquor, maybe. Anyway. He was coming down and around that big curve up on 360. You know, the one near that old country store?
“I used to go there as a kid. Dad said they had the cheapest gas. It was about four cents a gallon then.” one of them said. He looked at me hard when he spoke.

Ok, so you know that spot right? Anyway, Jimmy comes down and around that curve and he spots a deer. A big ten pointer just standing there like Moses waiting on Number 11. The deer don’t move see, so Jimmy swerved.
“I heard he hit it.” one of them said.
Ok, he swerved, then hit it. Anyway. His pick up truck flipped over about ten times. I gotta buddy who was there and he said Jimmy’s Ford was about two-hundred feet from the road when it stopped flipping.
“That’s when he got out.” one said. He took a sip of coffee.
Yeah, he got out. The cops said he was standing next to the truck. It was on fire.
“I heard the fire was out by the time they got there?”
Ok, anyway. He was standing there without a scratch. Not one mark on his head. Nothing. A cop come up and said,
“Jimmy, you OK?”
Jimmy sort of smiled funny and said,
“I saw an Angel. He come in my truck and wrapped his arms around me.”
The cop says,
“You hit your head Jimmy?”
“Nope.” Jimmy said. “An angel wrapped his arm around me and kept me safe. It was God’s will.”

The table was quiet for a second. One of them exhaled smoke. Another one cleared his throat.
“Then what happened?” the one who cleared his throat said.

Then the cop turned around to see where the ambulance was and when he turned back around Jimmy was gone.
Yep. Gone. The cop called out for him but never heard Jimmy call back. He walked around the truck a few times, looked for blood tracks and stuff you know.
“So where did he go then?” one of them blurted.
Nobody really knows. That was four years ago this week. They ain’t never found Jimmy Collins, or his body, or nothing since. It’s like the man vanished.
“I don’t believe it.” one of them said.
Well, you think the damn Redskins is gonna win the Superbowl every year so what the hell do you know?
They all laughed.
The waitress brought out more coffee then went back into the kitchen.

I nibbled on my to-go plate as I drove to work.
I went up 360 and when I got to that big curve near the old country store, I glanced over into the woods.
Just for a second.
Most times, they will lie to you.
But sometimes, well, you never know…