Lucky Garvin

I love ‘Paradigm-shift’ stories.

Paradigm shift. What does that phrase mean? We hear a body of facts that leads us to conclude one thing, [that’s the ‘paradigm’] and then a single fact makes us suddenly change our minds. Not merely change it; often change it one hundred eighty degrees. [That’s the ‘shift.’]

There are amusing paradigms shifts, and there are those that leave us thoughtful, reminding us, rightly, that it’s always best to hear both sides of the story.

A man answered his business phone to hear his son’s quavering voice. “Hey Dad, you know that big, new picture window we just had put in the house? The one you said was so expensive?”

“Son…..”  The father, anticipating the coming confession, suddenly tightened up.

“Well, me n’ Joey were on the front lawn playing baseball…”

“Timmy! You didn’t!”

“Dad, I didn’t mean to! I hit the ball…”

“Timmy, I told you…!”

“I hit the ball, and, I didn’t mean to, and you know the big picture window…?”

“You’re grounded forever!”

“The big picture window? I broke the little window right beside it.”

But not all such tales have a happy ending.

A good friend of mine used to regularly drive into Roanoke along a route which would take him through a poor part of town. He began to notice an old man with tattered clothes and worn out camouflage pants.

Whenever he saw him, the man was holding a glass jar up to his ear. The old man would mumble something; then listen, leaning into the glass jar as if to better hear. My friend noticed that no matter what time of day he drove in to town, morning, noon or after dark, there the man would be, mumbling; listening. A crazy street person long ago lost in the forest; irretrievably mad.

Apparently, others had noticed the derelict, and reported this home-town phenomenon to the local newspaper. They sent out a reporter.

The reporter learned very little about the man in their interview: his name and a few other scraps of information – the old man was unable to spare time from his urgent communication. After a bit of listening, however, the man’s mumbling gradually took on form. “Able Charlie, this is Delta One! Get out of there! Come in!” over and over again, then craning his head to hear the response from the glass jar.

The reporter was not at all convinced that any additional research would change the conclusion that man was merely odd – he did live in a city shelter after all; he did smell after all; but no smell of alcohol. The reporter nevertheless undertook to investigate with the minimal data he had accumulated from this madman.

Let’s make up a name for the old man: Nick Anderson. The reporter’s findings: a multi-decorated Vietnam vet [combat citations – Nick had earned his awards the hard way] a Lieutenant in charge of a platoon of young rookies. He sent them on a mission, he would soon rejoin them. While separated, he learned that he had unwittingly sent them in to a “hot zone.” He got onto a radio and called repeatedly, “Able Charlie, this is Delta One! Get out of there! Come in!” Too late, the young men under his command had already been annihilated.

For forty years, Nick Anderson, their leader: the man who is responsible to direct, train, and protect his men has been trying to reach them, to warn them – now long dead – they are headed into harm’s way. And he had sent them there.

Is this a mind driven mad with lunacy? Or a caring heart, driven mad with guilt…

Lucky Garvin



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