I hope everyone will forgive me, I’m not waiting to post this one, and it’s a bit red and raw.
I woke up smelling of gunpowder and steak, spent the night with the in-laws bbqing and launching fireworks.. nevermindwhere. That being said, I was gone when the announcement came: CJ Henderson’s Amazon Page had lost his battle with cancer.
Years ago, I sat in the kitchen of Dannielle Ackley Mcphail and her husband Mike. I had been invited into the coven of far more experienced writers, to submit next to them, to stand among them like an equal. I wrote the story, and they were asking me about it to find out how long until submission.
Being young, and without the confidence God gave the common church mouse, I was lamenting whether it was up to snuff, whether I could pull it off, whether I deserved to be in such august company.
Then, at the end of the table, this column, a steel haired mountain of a guy, pipes up with a voice as comforting and gentle as a sandpaper covered sledgehammer. “Jesus, Dan! If it’s good enough, it’s good enough, if it’s not, it’s not. All I know is they think it will be good enough to be next to my stuff, and I’ve been doing this for years. So either submit the damn thing or just quit. >I< don’t need the competition.”
And it was said just that way. The words tumbled across me like an avalanche.
Because, when faced with that level of dumbass (mine), only the bluntest of tools will do (his).
This began a strange, avuncular relationship between CJ and I. It wasn’t totally amicable at times. Cj had opinions he treated as natural laws, and I get the feeling that he saw me like that small dog that hands around Spike in the Warner cartoons.
But he did continue to dispense wisdom, though at times I knew he would rather have just smacked me with a “Neh.” And from time to time I guess he did. I responded with word games, getting under his skin, and expressing opinions I knew would send him into a tirade about Godzilla, the Magnificent Seven, or any number of his sacred cows. I know at times he got tired of it.
And Yes, this guy:
But then came the cancer.
I didn’t get to see Cj for most of his battle. I had moved to a new city, new job, and then got fired from the job the second they could replace me with a college kid. I bring it up because when I saw CJ, he knew. He had followed the posts, because the same thing had happened for him. He planted a seed then, mentioning when he had lost his job, he began writing full time to make ends meet. More on that if I get wacky crazy brave.
But that is when it struck me: This guy, who is afraid every single day will be more painful than the last, this guy who I had annoyed and competed with, this guy:
Yeah, that guy asked me how >I< was doing. He listened to me talk about getting laid off with no notice, and he listened to my dumb ass vent. He remembered to me when it had happened to him.
Of course I asked him how he was doing, but he didn’t just ask back to be polite. He cared, as he had always cared from the second he had told me to grow up and stop being such a pansy.
He was one of the good ones. The best.
Which I guess brings me to my point. The man lived like a hurricane. He performed like a master. He even took age and all the related goofy bits with a kind of cranky grace. An while now he is dead, he still has his thoughts in hundreds of places in print that will outlive him for decades if not centuries.
The point (for those that skip to the end) is you can say that CJ ‘lost’ his battle with cancer if you really must… But, Goddammit, the reaper has a few less teeth than he did, and when he goes home he’ll damn sure remember the name of CJ Henderson.
Gotta go, everyone. Goodnight.