The Cast: Erich (brother), Monty (brother), Myself (unsure).
They say that seeing is believing. I hadn’t seen. I didn’t believe.
I had known Erich for almost two years before I finally met his father. And, while that may have been a little unusual, there was another mythical creature. Who was he and why was he never seen? They called him: Monty.
If you’ve lived on the tail end of the ‘70s you may be familiar with the large photo frames that included many mini photo frames within them. The frames themselves could be medium to large in size, and they contained inside themselves a large sheet of cardstock (usually a brown or dark brown color) with multiple windows cut out for lots of family photos to be placed in them. These windows could be oval in shape, or rectangular with rounded corners, all with a subtle gold trim framing each of the openings. While some might consider them tacky (like my mom), I thought they were cool. It was a great way to show family and fun times all in one big frame.
At any rate, Erich had about six of these in his home, and they were spread throughout the house. As the two of us would wander about his home I would peruse the visuals of the walls and see what his family had done—vacations, holidays, and the like. Withinn these frozen moments in time there were a few figures that I didn’t know. One of which was this white-haired figure that Erich referred to as Monty.
Monty was Erich’s older brother—well, that’s what I heard. I had met all the other members of the family—at some point or another (again, it had taken two years before I saw his father)—but I had not yet met this supposed ‘Monty’ fellow. Years would pass. Each of Erich’s siblings that I had met would be married, moved out, and begin to have children of their own. Erich and his mother would move into a smaller home—still in Manti. Much time would pass. Still, no Monty. Erich would talk about time spent with this brother. Still, no Monty. It was almost as if Monty was part of an elaborate prank being expertly, and flawlessly, played upon myself. Points to Erich for pulling it off. Then, many years later, came a special Christmas miracle.
Because my family was still nearby Manti, and my wife’s as well, when Erich mentioned that he would be at his mother’s home for the holiday’s… Well, it was easy to make the stop. Cindy, myself, and our little firstborn arrived late one wintery night at Erich’s mother’s home in Manti. She had moved from the last place I had known she was in, but the new one was easy to find—it was across the street from the only gas station in town. Erich and I had walked past that place more times than I could count. Anyway, the five of us sat and talked. Cindy and Erich’s mother looked after the baby and chatted, Erich and I got involved with a video game (I know it was a James Bond, I think GoldenEye 007, for the Playstation. I just know that we were playing a level where Erich drove a car and I fired a gun and tried to shoot down enemy aircraft—it was sooo much fun).
Then, unexpectedly, the front door to the house opened. At first we all thought it might be a gust of wind. But, there were foot steps. However, we couldn’t see who had walked in.
“Hello? Merry Christmas, everyone!” Into the home had walked a tall and snow cover fellow with white hair. Not the I’m-an-old-fellow-and-it’s-grey white hair, just the I’ve-got-white-hair-so-what? kind of white hair.
“Monty?!” Both Erich and his mother were very excited by what was clearly a surprise visit.
Cindy leaned over, “Who is this?”
“Obviously it’s Monty.” Was all I could say. She had never met him, and she didn’t know that I never had either. At this point, Erich and I had known each other for about 10 years and I still had never encountered this Monty so often spoke of. I had honestly begun to believe that he really didn’t exist. Like, maybe Erich had had a brother named Monty but, maybe he had died or something. Or, maybe he was a fictional character that Erich had made up to deal with some sort of childhood trauma. Seriously, how does somebody spend as much time together as Erich and I had, and not meet all of the brothers and sisters? Ten years! It took ten years to meet this guy. Finally! Sheesh.
The rest of the visit was quite fun. Monty had heard tell of me and was glad to finally meet both myself and Cindy. I was glad that Erich and his family weren’t mentally deranged to the point where they believed that a son, and brother, existed that didn’t really exist—but he actually really existed (I think that got away from me. they thought he existed… but he didn’t… but he really did… oh, never mind). Seriously, how do you hide an adult sibling for 10 years? Honestly, I thought they might have been a little bit mad in the head but, I loved ‘em so, who cared? Not me. 10 years! Seriously… ten years…
Eventually, the evening drew to a close, Cindy, myself, and our infante headed on to our destination and I related to Cindy how I had begun to believe that Monty wasn’t real. I provided all the supportive evidence that lead me to that conclusion and we laughed about it all. Later, I would find out that Monty felt the same way. He thought I wasn’t real. Not because we hadn’t met, but because some of the stories Erich had told him had been so fantastic that Monty was positive that his brother had been lying and that I was a made-up person. Ironic (at least, I think that’s the right word for it. or, would it be poetic?). Still, at last we had met.
More time would pass, my family would increase, Erich eventually became engaged—and wanted a bachelor party. No problem. No singular problem, anyway.
Due to circumstances of work and such, it looked like it would be just me and Erich. And, since neither one of us drink or do other such related activities we needed to figure out what else to do. “Paintball,” was the suggestion from my wife. Why not? This way we would get to do what we had wanted to do for years: Shoot each other without having to die—or go to the hospital. (I know what I wrote)
Lucky for us, in the town where I was living (still live) a high school friend of ours was currently residing and was free to join us for the shoot fest. Erich and I should have known what we were in for when we found out he had his own equipment. I say this not as an excuse, but to explain. If you have ever shot a firearm (rifle, pistol, or other—yes, there is an ‘other’) then you know that they operate differently. I’m a good shot. Not a fantastic shot, but a good shot. I can hit my targets. Paintball guns do not shoot like bullet projectiles do. Not the same physics. Erich and I did alright, once we got the hang of it. However, our buddy Tyler, in the aftermath wore less paint—by far.
We had a great time running around the nearby canyons and desert terrain painting each other and enjoying the pain of male-bonding. Paintballs can hurt when they hit you in the right spots. I was shot in the back of my head and I was certain someone had hit me with a rock (and I know what high-velocity rocks feel like), but nope. Just a paintball. I was bleeding. Nope, just red paint. Wait… Yup, red paint. Red paint…
At one point, Tyler and I found ourselves in direct line-of-sight with each other. Each of us were trying to hit the other first. We could see our paintballs smashing against small plants and rocks, splattering, and leaving our intended target unmarked and ‘alive’. It was getting quite intense. Then it happened. I cannot forget it. To see one’s own death. It was kind of interesting—to say the least.
Tyler and I were laying prone (on our bellies), perfectly lined up with each other, maybe twenty feet apart. I had just fired. My paintball had made impact with a sturdy weed, just inches before it would have hit Tyler right in the head. Nuts. A split-second after my munition failed, Tyler pulled his trigger.
I watched the gas expel from his barrel. The yellow ball emerged. It tumbled toward me. Right at me. My eyes couldn’t leave it. Then, I realized my eye couldn’t leave it. My left eye. It was going to hit my left eye. And it did. The ball hit my face shield directly in front of my eye. I would have been killed (if it were a real bullet). I would have seen the bullet enter my eye and then my brain (I know what I wrote). It was kinda like a cool, slow-motion thing. Freaky. Yet cool.
Okay, so, once we were finished pelting each other (at close range—we’re men!) we wrapped up the event and headed back to my place. Before we had left my apartment, I had checked and had enough fuel to get to our destination and back. I thought. It turned out I didn’t.
I loved my old car. It was a good car. It survived quite a bit. And, I drove it until it couldn’t anymore. And to its credit, it only failed me twice. This was one of those times. The fuel gauge read wrong. On the way home, it ran out of gas. There we were, on the freeway. About eight or so miles from town. No fuel. Cell phone not getting a signal. The three of us were on our own. Fine. Walking was not an issue for any of us. It just kinda put a damper on the mood. Oh, well.
As we walked and talked, we played catch-up with each other and our lives. I apologized for the situation multiple times. “Just another 500 miles,” Erich commented. Tyler was confused, so we told him of the tale.
Vehicle after vehicle passed us by—none of which offered the three of us dirty, camouflaged, paint-covered miscreants a ride. Then, a Knight Transportation diesel began to draw upon us from behind. The grand logo emblazoned upon the trailer. “Hey,” began Erich. “My brother, Monty, drives for them. Wouldn’t it be funny if that were him?”
“That would be the day.”
“Especially, if he could give us a ride.”
As it passed us by, the rig began to slow. It then pulled off to the side of the road.
The passenger-side door of the cab flew open and a tall, slender, I’ve-got-white-hair-so-what? figure leaned out—almost too far out, “Erich?! Is that you?”
It was indeed him. He was on a solo run.
“What’re you doing here?” Monty wondered.
“Walking. What’s it look like? What’re you doing here?” Erich returned.
“Driving. What’s it look like? And, apparently rescuing you three idiots.”
Yes. Yes, he was. He was our white-haired knight to the rescue.
We gratefully climbed aboard and received a few drinks and snacks, then told him of the stupidity of what had occurred. Once in town, we repaid his kindness by replacing his used food-stuffs with other food-stuffs. Then, our hero-of-the-day continued along his way. What are the odds?
In the thirty-plus years that I have known Erich, I have heard plenty of fantastic tales of the legendary Monty, many a time. But, I have only ever seen him twice. And, that is still three times more than others have.
(I know what I wrote)