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Potso lived in the gray shingle house two doors up the street from me.
His real name was Robert Stanley.
I don't know how he got the nickname "Potso".
He was Potso when I got there.
He was a couple of years younger than the rest of us neighborhood kids,
and not very good at sports,
but he tried.
His nose ran a lot,
especially in the winter.
It's hard to be cool when your nose is running.
I don't know who tagged him with "Potso",
but I don't think any of us meant it in a mean way.
Mr. Pennell, a neighborhood dad,
made a rock garden in his backyard,
and decorated it with cement imitation stones.
Each stone was engraved with the name of one of us kids.
"Potso" was there in a place of honor.
I can tell you this:
If anybody picked on our "Potso",
they'd have to deal with us.
As a couple of years went by,
Potso began suggesting that we call him Robert.
I think it was his mother's idea.
She was a pretty and intelligent lady,
but I didn't realize that until later.
We tried to remember to call him Robert,
but habits are hard to break.
Robert's father was everybody's handyman,
doing simple chores up and down the street.
My parents said he was "shell-shocked".
He was a sweet, childlike man,
who smiled, but never talked much.
He walked with a slightly unsure gait.
The Stanley's were the object of quiet sympathy.
Sympathy can hurt.
One day we were all shocked to hear that Mr. Stanley had died.
Kids aren't used to death.
I don't remember when Robert and his mother moved away.
A few years later,
I got a Christmas season job jumping on and off a delivery truck
while the driver sat in the warm truck
smoking cigars and drinking something from a bottle in a paper bag.
One cold afternoon,
we were delivering in a section a step or two classier than where I lived.
I went up the porch stairs of the two-story brick house,
and rang the upstairs doorbell.
Robert Stanley answered the door.
He looked different.
I think he was on his way out
because he was wearing expensive looking clothes,
with a camel hair fingertip length topcoat.
He still had the rosy cheeks,
but his nose wasn't running.
I was happy to see him,
and started a conversation.
His mother came down the stairs behind him
and told him he'd better hurry.
She was polite,
but I could feel she was not glad to see me.
I felt a little slighted,
but after I thought it over I realized this:
They had their new life
where nobody felt sorry for them.
She didn't want him to be Potso anymore.
Copyright © September 25, 2002 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.