Rich retired after 30 years with the company. He called me every day for the first couple of weeks, but the calls tapered off. His last call came at three in the afternoon. I was at work, and he was home in his pajamas. He told me about his new hobby called string art. Remember string art? It was a bunch of little brass pegs hammered into a board covered with black velvet. And then you used different colored string to wrap around one peg to another. Anyway, Rich made a picture of a sailboat, and couldn’t wait to hang it in his living room. In short, Rich dropped dead in a matter of months. I figured that if I retired early, I could do whatever I wanted to do until I retired twenty years from now. I loved working on cars; new and classics, so I traded in my gray suits and featherweight shoes for overalls and work boots. Using every possible resource, which included every dime I had, I opened my own auto body repair shop: MATT’S AUTO BODY AND COLLISION. It was time I ate my own slice of American pie. As expected, the minute I opened my own business, my family and friends had nothing but bad to say. They battered me with non-stop gossip. They were sure I took the easy way out and I was making millions of dollars, and I can come and go as I please. You can’t imagine how many times I heard, “It’s a walk in the park. Oh yeah, he’s got it made; it’s a walk in the park.” Oh yeah, sure – it’s a walk in the park all right! – maybe if I had a little candy store and sold coffee and donuts to a bunch of farmers in no where’s land; but it’s not! Instead, I opened an auto body repair shop deep in the bowels of the inner city. Yeah, I’ll take a walk in the park around here, if I could find one. Let’s see how long I’ll last before every homeless person in the world mugs me for cigarettes and loose change.
Matt Ponticello has recently released AMERICANA: BOILED ALIVE IN THE MELTING POT, and is the Author of "How to Beg for Cigarettes (First and Second Editions)" "The Sunbottle Stone," "V-Positive: The Bloodbaby Chronicles," and "The Poet Blossomed." Today, he has retired to writing, and lives at home with his wife, children, grandchildren, and cats and dogs, in New Jersey