June 18, 1996
His name was Ned, or so I was told, and all I ever knew of him was that he served in the Vietnam war and spent most of his adult life wandering aimlessly around town.
I would see him most every day as I drove to work, crossing the street without looking, caring not whether he was hit or killed, or walking down the sidewalk, blankly staring ahead. His body made it back from the war, his mind did not. Ned was maybe fifty years old, he looked sixty. The Veterans hospital had to let him go for lack of funds many years before. He certainly was not a threat to anyone, least of all himself, that much I could sense and was assured by folks who knew him. Over the years I picked up bits and pieces about Ned: he grew up in this town with his sister, he was an average, likable kid with a passion for baseball, like most kids. This explained the baseball hat he wore, though I never figured out what the "S" stood for. Ned's parents and sister were killed by a drunk driver a few years after he returned from Vietnam. Ned did not speak to anyone unless they were known to him in the years before he went to war. He went to stores where he knew the owners and would speak only to ask for something or to use the restroom. Ned stayed at halfway homes, he was an addict, in the park, in an empty building, shelters in the winter, jail when he was caught for vagrancy in an election year. I never once heard anyone say he stole anything, threatened to or hurt anyone; all Ned did was wander the streets without a word spoken, every day, all day, for well over ten years.
I remember wishing to myself once as he walked past me that Ned's mind was safe in childhood. I wished his mind to be in King Arthur's court, a Knight of the Round Table, roaming the countryside looking for damsels in distress, bandits or invaders, in service of his King.
Nathan told me last month that Ned had passed away last winter, cause unknown.
I share this with you for Ned and the wish I made for him, because I've often thought about Ned in Camelot and how on certain days I would really like to be there with him.
Copyright © 1996, Frank Wycoff.