Benny is the type of guy who always has loads of money. He never needs to think about it. Here’s an example: Benny and I were in a restaurant and I was telling him about my Mom and getting real choked up about it – she died a couple years ago and I don’t really think about her as much as I should – and he paid for my dinner, and his dinner, and then he had everyone leave the restaurant for an hour. I didn’t even notice it ’cause I was blubbering, but Benny just thought I would like to have that emotional moment in private, so he basically bought the whole restaurant for a night.
He’s a real nice guy like that. But it makes me want to pay him back, even though I have trouble knowing how. I mean, he can buy me a restaurant, but I can put my hand on his shoulder and tell him everything is going to be okay, which is all I really wanted from him that night when I was talking about my Mom anyway.
Benny and I met a long time ago when I was trying to get across country to see my family and he picked me up in Evanston, Wyoming. He asked me what I was doing in the little brewery in town and I told him I was just floating on home. I had drunk a few too many, and he told me he could take me as far as California, because after that, it’s just water.
Thats where I was headed anyway.
When we were driving, he asked me what my philosophy on life was, and I told him. When you’re driving, even if you don’t want to, you get really philosophical on life. The road just does that to you. I said, “Well, I think it’s all about karma. I think if you’re a bad person, you’re going to come back as an ant or a beetle or something, which is why there are 600 million different types of insects these days. So many different types of ways to be bad. But with so many people being bad, and dying, there were less and less people being born or reborn, so animals had to take their place.”
“Animals?” he said.
“Yeah. Animals die and since they’re so good and keep to themselves and just survive. Think about a really good dog that keeps old folks company in one of those retirement homes. That dog dies, and he gets to become a person. That’s why I think people are getting better these days. That guy trying to save the world, Al Gore? He was definitely a real friendly basset hound.”
Benny laughed and asked what I thought I would come back as when I died and I said I still hoped I had time to change that. He told me he was worried too, because he had hit a little baby squirrel with a rock at his last rest stop on accident, and that would be bad for karmic points. And that was just the latest on a long list of badness.
“Was it on accident?” I asked.
“Well, I was throwing rocks at the thing, but I never thought I would hit it. It made my heart stop.”
“Feeling bad about it makes me think that you’ll be okay in the karma department.”
Anyway, a rich guy like Benny, he decided to take me on as his Karmic Supervisor, even though I’m not a shaman or anything, and he basically likes to follow any of my good deed whims. I think he’s worried, that if he were left to himself he would just keep doing bad. I think it was after the Wizard of Oz when I told him we should get into a hot air balloon and let the wind take us and fix the problems wherever we landed.
He wasted no time. He bought a big hot air balloon that looked like a globe and we headed anywhere the wind blew. We would land and he would try to fix problems with me talking to folks and him paying money where he could. It was satisfying. It made me think back to that trip to my Mom, when I first met Benny. I guess I was his good will project back then – he took me to the hospital and he got a better room for her, and a better hospital bed and better doctors. He hated seeing me cry, and I was blubbering every single day. I wish he had been doing it for my poor Mom instead of for me, because I think that’s what happened, that’s what went wrong. The good will in the room was misplaced, and that’s why she died. He worked tirelessly on any project, but it made me wonder sometimes if it was the right project.
He paid a company to help us float over the Atlantic Ocean and over Europe when we got bored of bird’s eye America. We hardly ever touched down, except for once we saw a cruise ship helping a steamer that had gotten wrecked in a storm.
Europe made Benny cry. There were so many parts that were still broken from the wars. Benny looked at Europe the same way I looked at my Mom. He was crying at the churches that were still broken and the battlefields and the war-torn ghettos the same way I cried at her frail, broken body.
“My family, Winston. This is my family’s fault. We’re the ones who build the explosives.”
I wanted to console him. Hand on his shoulder, something like that. But I had no idea what to do. We flew over Germany, looking at the remains of the Berlin wall.
“Did we do too much good, Winston? Or did we not do enough? I hope I get to choose what I get to be next, Winston. Because I don’t ever want to be human again.”