Amos Lee

{Disclaimer: The name Amos Lee was arbitrarily chosen to conceal the true identity of the person in this character profile.  I have chosen this name, because I do not know an individual that has this name.  If there are any individuals that have this name, and they believe that I have damaged their reputation in any manner, please notify me by replying to this post.}

It was a disappointment to those of us who wanted who to adore Amos Lee that he wasn’t more than he was.  When he decided to turn it on, Amos could leave a person breathless with anticipation.  He created that expectation.  He created this problem.

Amos Lee could spin a yarn as well as anyone I’ve ever known.  Were any of his stories original, I don’t know, but if they weren’t he told them in a manner that led you to believe they were the most unique stories you have ever heard.  Were any of his stories as great as I thought they were?  Probably not, but as Mick Jagger once said, most of the times it’s the singer not the song.

Amos was an economist of words and delicate with his detail.  He didn’t use typical words.  He didn’t use big words.  There were no flowery descriptions or exclamatory words in Amos’ stories, and the listener was never sure how they arrived at the emotional reaction they did.  His patterns and progressions were all foreign, yet they were fascinating.

To the young person on his lap, it appeared as thought he had spent a lifetime accumulating the most fascinating stories.  He appeared to have a story for every occasion.  He was magic to a young mind looking for those special stories that involve knowledge and adventure in the same sentence.  Every story was better than the last one.  Then, as if Amos had been holding his best for last, he told the story of the Purple People Eaters.

The Purple People Eaters were horrifying to the young boy who sat on his lap and listened with wide-eyes.  Amos loved that story.  Amos Lee was on fire when he told it.  It was his story.  It was the first story the young person on his lap heard that left him panting for more, while wanting it to end quickly at the same time.  It was the first time this young boy had learned of the power and glory of the story.

Every exacting detail lit that room up.  Amos’ eyes danced with fire.  He was in his element.  He appeared to struggle with restraint while telling the story, in the manner a joke teller struggles to restrain themselves from progressing to the punch line too quickly when they have a real juicy one.

Amos only told the story one time, but by the middle of the story the young boy on his lap had it memorized.

Amos couldn’t help himself when he got going.  He sought reaction, but that wasn’t obvious to his listener.  The listener simply thought they were getting reality punched into their heart.  Amos would move through the horror of his story with the grace of an Olympic skater.  He would punctuate and intone his stories with a mastery that the young boy wouldn’t see again until he was nearly a full grown adult.  Whether you wanted it or not, you were there in the lands this man described, and you were experiencing the travails of his main character.

The young precocious person on his lap would ask questions, and Amos would patiently stop and answer all of them. He would refrain from answering if he deemed the answer harmful to the story, or the pace and progression of his story.  Amos would delve into his imaginary world, until the sensorial high became too much for the young boy who sat on his lap, and to that reaction Amos grinned.

The grin wasn’t one of a mean-spirited nature, nor was it one of an old man having fun with a youngster.  It was a grin that told you he loved telling the story as much as he thought you enjoyed hearing it.  He smiled again, after a brief look of fear arose on his listener’s face, and it dawned on him that the story may be too much for a young mind unable to discern the fine line between fantasy and reality.  That second smile was accompanied by a coo.  He assured this young boy that The Purple People Eaters were make-believe, and that we had nothing to fear from them, and the young boy believed that as much as he believed the horrifying details of The Purple People Eaters.

The problem was that Amos could create such moments effortlessly.  The man could cause intense fear and inner peace in the space of a few sentences.  He could have a child dizzy with emotion in the stories he told and in the sympathy he showed afterwards, but the eventual truth of Amos Lee would arrive when that young boy wanted to hear more than Amos Lee was able to deliver.  The eventual truth was that Amos Lee didn’t enjoy telling stories as much as he enjoyed smoking a cigar on his couch.

That was it.  The story was done.  Amos was done, and you were expected to then climb off his knee and go play marbles.  Who could do that?  Who could just go on with their life, as if nothing happened, after hearing what they believed to be the greatest story ever told?

Amos was done though, and when I would argue with him that I never wanted this moment to end, his wife would whisk me away with whatever excuse she dreamed up for Amos.  I would fight with her.  I would tell her that I didn’t want to do whatever excuse she had dreamed up.  I would tell her that I didn’t want it to end.  I couldn’t get enough, but Amos could, very quickly, and she knew it.

His lessons were taught without the condescension adults normally used.  His lessons were point blank.  They weren’t told with a lesson voice, and they didn’t have the follow up lines one normally uses in his lessons to show that he is proud that he knows something the listener doesn’t.

Amos Lee never patted me on the head and told me that everything was going to be okay, but I felt like if I had a question about the world, Amos Lee would be my go to man.  Everything seemed to lock into place when he said something to me.

I’m not sure if I was as precocious as I believe I was at that age, but I do know that my thirst for knowledge was unquenchable on his lap.  His stories and advice were intoxicating.  He could say something that was plainly obvious, and make me think I had never considered it before.  He appeared to have answers for questions I hadn’t even thought of yet, and he could do it all in three to four sentences.  For the first time in my life, at that point, it all started to make sense.  All that confusion moved away, like a cloud moving ever so slowly to reveal the bright light.  It was my first experience with euphoric knowledge, and I never wanted it to end, but all he wanted to do was sit in his chair and smoke a pipe.

“You can’t do that!” I wanted to say to him.  “You can’t just sit there!  You’re too important!”  But I couldn’t tell him that.  I couldn’t tell him how important he was for fear of disappointing us both when he failed to deliver.  I couldn’t tell him what kind of man I thought he was when he wasn’t around.  I had to just sit there and realize that I was the powerless little kid in our conversations.  I was on his schedule, and I had to wait until he felt like indulging me.

I never wept inconsolably, to my memory, until I learned that Amos Lee’s story was over.  I wept with the idea that I would never be able to speak with him again, that I would never be able to play ball with him again, and that I would never be able to spend any more time sitting on his lap again, listening to his masterful stories.  I also wept at the fact that I would no longer have the wisdom and reason he gave my otherwise chaotic and random young life.  I would be left with novices, and my own experience in life to lead me.  I also wept over the fact that Amos Lee would never be granted the opportunity to live up to the hype he generated in the mind of one eager, perhaps precocious, young mind that Amos had never taken the time to live up to.



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