"the back shore"
As long as I've been visiting my family in Maine now, I've known the town's odd man out. I guess it goes back to the late eighties. My parents befriended him when they bought a house here down on the coast. It's beautiful, blustery; unforgiving and lonely in winter, lovely in summer. There's that constant sense of tension between the summer people and those who work for little and live here all year long. That's age old in places like this.
But the town odd man was a brilliant ship engineer. (There is a Maritime Academy here.) And he retired here long before my parents arrived.
You can often see him chopping wood for the winter in his front yard. He also saves everything. Other people's throwaways are his treasure. He knows crazy facts about the most obscure things. And when my nephews and nieces were little, he'd always have some hand made whistle, or puzzle that would obsess them for days.
He always recognizes me when I come to town, but there's never any small talk. Just a ruddy smile and a challenge, "Guess what business I'm in these days?"
Well I'm not sure any more Paul, what IS your business these days?"
Well, I've always said you look a little like Jesus, or at least an apostle.
"Not that kind, recycling!"
He rides around town on an old black bicycle with a huge double wide milk crate bungee corded to the handle bars, and he finds, rescues, picks out all that can be redeemed for Maine's 15 cent guarantee.
Today he helped pump air into my mom's tires. "OK, you're on your way now," he said, and disappeared into the Taratine convenience store to pick up their discarded beer flats.