CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)

AUTHOR: ARMIST

HED:Sometimes real love has to take real risks

By John Armistead

Daily Journal

@sc: "He was nice enough," the Rev. Bubba Voltaire told me after he'd dropped by Nemo's place to visit with John Jones. "I took him a Bible. I'd marked special passages for him to read."

Sissy told me she is afraid to go over to Nemo's as long as "that man" is there. She does phone Nemo every day just to see how he's doing. She also reminded him to watch out for any sores he might have. "There's more than one way to catch AIDS," she said.

Nemo and I were at the grocery and ran into Dio Genes and Pharis Aical at the produce section. "I cannot believe his name is really John Jones," Dio said. "That's an alias if I ever heard one."

"Oh, no, " said Nemo. "I had to write a letter to his wife last week because in all his running around he lost his glasses. He thinks he may have dropped them when he hopped the freight coming out of Texas. We're going to have to make an appointment for him to get a new pair."

"Wife?" asked Dio.

"He has three kids, too," Nemo said. "And he had me put 'With all my love, John' at the end."

"John I can accept," said Dio. "It's the Jones I'm suspicious about."

"Why? Why does anyone have to be suspicious about anything?"

"People are like fruit," Pharis said, picking up an apple. "They may look okay on the outside, but who knows what they're really going to taste like?"

"Taste?" asked Nemo. "What are you taking about?"

"'Ye shall know them by their fruits,'" he said.

Nemo hurried away to the bread section. "Why does everybody have to act that John has done something wrong just because he needs a job?" he asked.

I couldn't answer.

I was struggling myself, I'll admit, and hoping, for my friend's sake, that John Jones was all he presented himself to be.

Late in the afternoon day before yesterday, I dropped over at Nemo's just to check on things.

"He ain't here right now," John Jones said through the screen door.

"Where is he?" I asked trying to see behind him into the living room.

"He didn't say where he was going. You want to come in? We got Cokes. It sure has been a scorcher today, ain't it?"

I opened the door and went inside.

He closed the front door after me. "I just love this air condition," he said. "I ain't never lived no place with air condition. I told my kids about it when I wrote them last week."

"Any leads on a job?" I asked. I looked down the hallway. I wanted to check out the bedrooms.

John Jones or whatever his real name is brought me a can of Diet Coke.

"Not yet. I'm hoping to get some interviews this week, though. Maybe something in one of the factories. I hear they got good benefits."

The front door opened. It was Nemo.

"Hey," he said to me. Then to John, "I got the mail. Guess what? You got a letter."

"What?" he asked.

"Postmark is Pecos, Texas."

John smiled. "You don't say? Well, open it. I mean, if you don't mind." He looked at me. "I lost my glasses. Nemo has to read stuff to me." He turned back to Nemo and waited.

Nemo opened the envelope and unfolded the lined notebook paper.

"'Dead Dad,'" he began. "'We got your letter. We sure was glad to hear from you. That there air condition sounds real nice. You think we can get some air condition when we come? Mama sends her love. She wonders if you found anything yet. She hasn't been feeling too good. We love you. Tell Mr. Nemo we love him too. Your son, Finus.'"

John grinned. "That's my 12-year-old. Look at that writing. He done that hisself." He took the letter out of Nemo's hand and gave it to me. "Look at that."

"It looks good," I said, looking at the block-printed letters. "Real good."

John Armistead is Daily Journal religion editor.

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