And if Pop could manage to steal a scarecrow, well then that was good news for my brother and I. It meant two outfits: The denim overalls and then whatever garment Ma could make by sewing the scarecrow’s straw body together.
“And I got the straw,” I said to the tourists. “It’s a cape.”
“We’re kind of in a hurry,” said the mom. “Can you please just take the picture? I’m sorry. I know you’re doing us a favor, here.”
“Don’t mention it, Ma’am,” I said with a smile as golden as my straw cape.
The mother and her two sons huddled together and posed as I lifted the camera to my face, backwards.
“Wait,” the young boy started to say, but I took the picture. It was bright. The mom stepped forward and retrieved her camera.
“It’s fine,” she told her young son. “We’ll do another one later.”
For the rest of their lives, the mother and son only thought of me twice after that. Once when they got the film developed and then about a week later on the news.
The report said that the crane had been lifting the gigantic telescope lens into the museum when some guy covered in straw had accidentally walked under it.
“He just burst into flames,” said a witness.
“But he was also kind of melty,” added the young son of the witness, whose learning disability made him prone to tactless observations.
“Yes,” said the man. He reached down and tousled the boy’s hair, a gentle plea for silence that was successful in both its intent as well as summoning the man’s guilty conscience. Every book he’d read had lauded encouragement in these instances; One even going so far as to describe it in a tangible sense: Seeds from which miracles grow.
In his heart he thought it was probably all bullshit, but what the hell? Encouragement was free.
“Yes,” said the man, once again. “He was melty like a candy bar.”