Friday, April 18, 2008

The Maven

Wally could help you with just about anything. When Mr. Housepoor's boiler stopped working, the guy from the oil company terrified him. He said the boiler was dangerous, and might blow up the entire block any moment. It wasn't safe for a second in that house, and the only thing Mr. Housepoor could do, if he valued the health of his family and community, was to buy a new boiler for ten thousand dollars.

Wally came over Mr. Housepoor's house with a tool kit, fiddled with the converted coal boiler for ten minutes, and it lasted another fifteen years, right up to the point where he sold it. The person he sold it to, unacquainted with Wally, quickly bought a ten-thousand dollar boiler in order to save humanity and the world as we know it.

Do you want a dog? Papers say you have to pay thousands for certain dogs, but Wally, who knew someone, could get it for you at a fraction of the price. Do you have a problem with your car that the mechanic wants an arm and a leg to fix? Wally will invite you to his house, where he'll fix it for you free. And if you had anything he couldn't fix, he knew someone who could.

But that wasn't Wally's main talent. His best talent was teaching math to kids who couldn't seem to learn it from anyone else. "You don't know anything," he would tell them, "so we'll start from the beginning."

Kids would rave about him. "I sat there in math class for years, and never understood anything. I copied notebooks full of math, and none of it ever made sense. But there in his class, I'm doing it, and I know what I'm doing." I honestly wished I'd had him for high school math.

Now he's retired. He looked at the 2005 contract, decided the job would never be the same, and put in his papers. I miss him a lot. He knew everything, and I've yet to encounter his like.
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