By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Jay Bell, my good friend from “Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida,” is a deeper human being than you might suspect.
Yeah, his three food groups are Pepsi, Yoo-hoo and Budweiser, but once you scratch below his sun-damaged surface, you’ll find a swirl of complexity.
When I first met him, I was 25 and he was 26. After a significant amount of Budweiser one night, he said he didn’t expect to live past 35.
I was shocked because I’ve craved a long, fruitful life since the second I figured out death was possible.
He lived the next 10 years as though he meant exactly what he’d said. Jay Bell complains that I don’t write the whole story, but several tales from that decade will never see print and he’s glad for it.
They were the prime Jaybird years.
“Wasn’t easy,” he said.
“You made it harder than it needed to be,” I said.
“Stupid is as stupid does,’” he said. “That’s from ‘Old Man and the Sea.’”
“Sure it is,” I said.
I have two kids and every so often I find myself praying they’ll never indulge in my more idiotic behaviors. The thought that they might go through their own Jaybird phases nearly puts me into anaphylactic shock.
“You gotta be tough, Morris,” he said.
“So did your parents,” I said.
“Amen, brother,” he said.
Jay Bell survived to 43 and counting. Now, he’s ready to bury the Jaybird, and that’s our purpose here today. He made the point that I’m the only one who still calls him Jaybird. It’s usually when I put him in the Mighty Daily Journal.
“You used to call yourself the Jaybird all the time,” I told him. “You’d say, ‘The Jaybird can’t go camping this weekend because he’s got too many strip clubs to visit. The Jaybird has a schedule to keep and expectations to meet.’”
“Morris, you’re making things up again,” he said.
“Not by much.”
“Yeah, well, that was when I was supposed to die. I didn’t die, so I’m done with it. Time to move on.”
Fine by me.
I’m fully capable of letting go of the past, though it might be difficult to write the next couple of Jay Bell stories without the Jaybird.
On the plus side, Jay Bell gets more complex as he gets older. The other day he said there might be actual drawbacks to the bachelor life. In the old days, that was something you heard only in the immediate aftermath of a Jaybird adventure that had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I can’t be more specific about those adventures. The important thing is to leave them behind, along with the Jaybird.
“He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride,’” Jay Bell said. “That’s from ‘Old Man and the Sea,’ too.”
“Sure it is,” I said. “Sure it is.”
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.