Lazy Man

A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

Stugie’s, gone now, I saw him off, the other day. I feel humiliated and ashamed, I could have done so much more!, before he went. I have known Stugie most of my life, since we were boys together, Stugie and me, – and little Huru always running behind us, his spindly legs unable to keep up. Stugie and I had horses, but Huru didn’t so we would take turns doubling him behind us. He was so small and agile that when we were riding knee to knee at a trot or a canter or even in a gallop, Huru could transfer from one horse to the other leaping ,like a monkey. We went everywhere together, when kids.

Finally, we separated and went our own ways. I went to secondary school in Auckland, Huru joined the Army and went to the war in Korea, but he never came back, Stugie joined the Forestry in our home town.

I joined the Forestry too, after my schooling, and wound up stationed not very far from the town where we grew up. I saw quite a bit of Stugie in the earlier days, we played football against each other and went to the same parties, we were always mates, we both missed Huru. But, we drifted apart in our interests, and for the past twenty years hardly ever saw each other, only a brief word at a tangi or a wave in passing on the road, a pity really.

One day recently, I was behind schedule on a job for the Forestry, opening up access roads in very steep country. To assist me, the forestry department of my old home town lent me a bulldozer and driver. One day one of my supervisors called into my office, asking me if I knew a fellow called “Stugie”. He was hesitant, for “Stugie” seemed a very unlikely name to him. Did I know Stugie?, Bloody old Stugie, my oath I knew Stugie! It turned out that Stugie was the operator of the borrowed machine and had asked to be remembered.

I resolved then and there to go down to the job, to shake his hand and have a yarn about the old days, about Huru, and the others we knew, I went down to the job a few times but always Stugie was well away in the scrub pioneering tracks on his machine,

I was always busy, or maybe because I’m getting old, or lazy, but I always avoided the rough hour long walk into where he was working. “Plenty of time, there will always be another day”. But there wasn’t!

Before I got to see him, Stugie, driving through high scrub put his machine over a high cliff. Stugie never survived the fall. So I stood in my sorrow the other day, sad and ashamed of myself for my laziness. Yes, laziness is what it was, being busy and growing old was only excuses, not to take that walk to meet my old friend.

It would have been so much better to have walked in, to chew the rag, to relive our youth once more. Stugie never had much, it would have given him joy and pleasure on one of his last days, but I blew it, because I was lazy and selfish! No wonder I stood there paying my last respects guilty and ashamed, not looking the other mourners straight in the eye.

Of the three of us, bright agile young Huru went, all those years ago, now solid dependable old Stugie has gone, I wonder how long a lazy man will live on, with his memories, and his regrets.