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 Texas : Features : Columns : Spunky Flat and Beyond :
CUJO
by George Lester
George Lester
I suppose there was one in every class, in every school, everywhere in the country. A class hero. We had one in our class at Eureka School. The boys idolized him and wanted to be like him while the girls swooned over him. His name was Cujo. At least that is the way it was pronounced, but Iím only guessing at the spelling. It was a nickname, and I donít remember anyone ever calling him by his given name. Cujo sounds like a Spanish name, so I looked it up in my Spanish/English dictionary, but it wasnít in there. I asked a Spanish speaking friend, and he said it sounded like the name of a sparrow-like bird down in Mexico.
You couldnít really define what made Cujo so likeable, but when he told us stories about the places he had been and the things he had done, we were all spellbound. He rode a beautiful horse to school, and his equestrian skills dazzled us as he put his steed through its bag of tricks.
I once asked him if he would consider coming to my house on a Saturday and letting my family see his magnificent horse. He said he would, and I arose before dawn on that day, too excited to sleep. Awaiting his arrival, I looked out the window and noticed it had started to rain. Surely a little drizzle wouldnít keep him from coming, I reasoned, but after a while it started raining harder. My mother tried to be as gentle as she could when she said he probably wouldnít be able to make it that day. I didnít give up until it was almost dark. Not only was I devastated because he didnít come, but I had told all my friends at school about the big event, and now I would have to go back and admit that the great Cujo had not honored me by coming to my house.

Later, Cujo invited Sam and me to come to his house after school on Friday to spend the night and all day Saturday. At last, we were going to be the envy of our classmates. Our mother said it was all right, so that Friday after school we followed him, riding his horse, for the three-mile walk. Upon arrival at his house, I knew something was wrong when his mother called him aside. We were too far away to hear, but the way she was waving her hands and the expression on her face told us it could only mean trouble. After she turned and walked back into the house, he came over to us with his eyes glued to the ground. He explained that they had planned to go somewhere that weekend, and he forgot to check with her before he invited us. Our home was in the opposite direction from school, so now we faced a six-mile walk back home, and it was getting late. For some reason, neither of us was angry with him. We just considered it an unfortunate incident.

Many years later, I met some old school chums from Eureka, and they told me that Cujo had married into one of the wealthiest families in Marlin and that life had really been good to him. Unfortunately, his good life didnít last long after that. The next time I was in Marlin, I heard that his health had deteriorated and he didnít have long to live. I found out where his home was and drove over with the thought of seeing him again for the first time in over sixty years. However, as I parked on the street in front of his house and put my hand on the door handle, I changed my mind. I reasoned that he was probably too ill to have company. Later, after I had time to think about it, I guess I was just afraid that he wouldnít even remember me anyway.
© George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir
- January 1, 2006 column
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