Eric Fable* worked in the kitchen. He was ten feet tall, tattooed and drug addicted. He drank malt liquor as if it was mamma’s milk and skated a vert ramp like he was the love child of Tony Hawk and Evil Knievel just released from the Oregon State Penitentiary. He was dangerous and we knew it, but for two hours a day – between feeding 200 campers dinners of mushy yakisoba noodles and questionable salad greens and the pitch black dark that settles over small towns bereft of stoplights and drive thrus – he was the messiah on worn Independent trucks and slip on shoes and we knew that, too.

In between camp sessions Fable would disappear. It was rumored he’d spend the off days in Portland sleeping in the deep end of the pool at Burnside, watching the girls at Union Jacks peel down to nothing but the electrical tape that covered their nipples. One time a camp van passed him as he skated barefoot down the shoulder of Interstate 84, toes curled against the sandpaper griptape, a brownpaper bag holding a $1.79 40ozer in his right hand. They said he was doing 25 mph easy. I heard he rolled into camp at 4 am the next morning, having hitchhiked the last 3o miles up the mountain with a family of undocumented farm workers. He fed them breakfast in thanks: pancakes, coffee that could melt a spoon and soy sausage – Fable didn’t eat meat. They were still there speaking rapid fire Spanish across the table when the first round of campers came in for Cheerios and Frosted Flakes at 7:15.

On the door into his room, Fable had hung a cardboard sign with the words, “You want it? You got it. No Problem.” I think he figured that if you had the nerve to ask – whether it was for a vegan dinner option, a ride to town or a quiet place to hide out from campers and camp management – then you probably really needed it, and he’d do whatever was in his power to make it happen for you.

In the middle of the summer Fable was fired from camp for being three days late for the start of a new session. The kitchen suffered without him, the vegans went hungry. Within a year he had disappeared from the Northwest entirely, cutting ties and disconnecting phone numbers. Last I heard he was in Hawaii where his frequent lack of shoes wasn’t quite as noticeable. These days I think of Fable when I see people having a hard time, when they’re in need, when they’re tired or hungry and wanting. I see his sign, written in Sharpie, “You want it? You got it. No problem.” and I try to be more like him.

*Name has been changed.

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