I have held my breath since fall, for I have been in Duncan several months now without a visit from my lifelong friend and childhood hero, Toby Dawn McIntyre. He pops up at the most inconvenient times to harass and pester me. Unfortunately, time finally ran out, for this Sunday, Toby Dawn celebrates his twelfth birthday, and nothing is more important than his birthday, because February 29th only comes around once every four years. In fact, he insists on claiming to be 12, despite what his driver’s license indicates. When I saw his big lanky silhouette outside my front door last night, I knew Toby Dawn had come to Duncan.
“Happy Birthday to me, Tommy Boy!” he said sarcastically as he pushed past me to explore the house. “So, my best friend moves to another county without even telling me!” His freckles and red hair flared brightly at times like this. “You owe me big for my 12th leap day.” And with that, Toby threw his duffle in our guest bedroom and stretched out on the bed. As Toby recounted the last 6 months of his life, it all began to make sense why he never answered any texts or emails. “I finally lived my dream of riding the rails,” he reminisced. Yes, Toby Dawn claimed to spend the last 6 months as an old-fashioned hobo, and according to him, “Boxcar Willie didn’t carry an iPhone,” so he unplugged as well. For once, I was truly interested, until he mentioned the dining car. The darn fool had a Rail Pass from Amtrak and never saw a freight train.
This sort of behavior is normal for Toby. Other than Panama, where he can no longer visit due to an unfortunate incident with a Jet Ski on the canal, he is likely to be just about anywhere, with anyone. I once saw him as a zombie extra on The Walking Dead. Yes, the tall redheaded zombie is Toby. And once during a high school field trip to the Oklahoma City Zoo, he disappeared, only to emerge swimming with the dolphins during the dolphin show. Ever since then, he has refused to visit Sea World. Free Willie is his favorite movie, and he takes personal credit for the zoo cancelling the dolphin shows. “They are like people,” he says wistfully, “we connected in that tank, Tommy Boy.”
I suppose that Toby Dawn’s birthday being on leap day is appropriate, considering his propensity to leap into just about any situation, including the bed in my guestroom. In no time, he talked himself to sleep, and I covered him with an afghan. He was still there this morning, snoring away with our chihuahua, Peanut, cuddled next to him. I was glad to see my old friend, but I was even happier to see him sleeping so soundly, for it’s the only time he ever shuts up. It also gave me time to plan something for a 48-year-old’s 12th birthday.
I must warn you, however: Toby Dawn’s visits are rarely so uneventful, and he feels called by God to dog me as superintendent. Sometimes, I turn on my living room lights to find him sitting quietly in the dark, and sometimes he shows up with a troupe of his cousins to stir up trouble. He usually starts with a sneer, “Well, Mr. Superintendent . . .” and lets me have it. Strangely enough, it does not bother me much, because he usually hasn’t put anymore thought into it than his swim with the dolphins or backing up the Panama Canal in 2015. Usually, however, he just pops in to add a little color to my life. So if you see me and a large redheaded man looking at antiques this weekend, you know it’s Toby Dawn hunting for train or dolphin collectables. Hopefully, he doesn’t have to visit much, but if he does, you can rest assured that he will entertain you at my expense.
Dr. Deighan is the Duncan Public Schools Superintendent. To reach him, email to email@example.com.