Home is a relative term where Bud's lodgings were concerned. Abominable hovel is probably a
better descriptor. His fortunes had diminished considerably in the previous decade. But,
shockingly shabby as it was, his rooming-house apartment was a step up -- he'd spent the
previous winter under a bridge in Broadripple. Things would eventually Improve for him, but
over the next decade he would go through a string of dilapidated digs at which even vermin
chittered in contempt; except for cockroaches, who seemed to have a special affinity for Bud.
And so begins our first story.
Once upon a time, Bud gave shelter to a young Mormon woman of eighteen, on the outs with her
monstrously restrictive, controlling, unreasonable family. In exchange for light cleaning
she was afforded a spacious room on the creaking second floor, lessons in film processing
and darkroom basics -- whether she wanted them or not, as well as rides to work and back.
There was only one house rule at Bud's: Thou shalt NOT touch the loose wains-coat panel
behind the kitchen table! I don't have to tell you what happened next but I will, anyway.
She was brooming the grungy kitchen one day when the panel, perhaps by its slight bow, its
imperceptible skew, vexed her sense of cosmic order and drew her inexorably to straighten it.
It popped off the wall, and five thousand cucarachas cascaded onto the floor in a skittering
brown deluge and rushed of in all directions.She called her wonderful, gracious parents in a
shrieking frenzy, and we never saw her again. The bugs stayed.
Necessity is the Mother of invention, and Bud was the father of Dr. Thompson's World Famous
One Part Roach Killer. Aside from apple-cider vinegar and honey, there was no other
concoction on which Bud relied more heavily. I'm talking straight K1 Kerosene, folks.
Sprayed liberally on bone-dry base boards in a big, old, two-story duplex. Regularly. For
There is a lovely grassy lot there, now. It also covers the ground where the neighboring
house stood. Bud learned some years later from his former landlord that the old place was
vacant when it went up, and was completely incinerated along with the neighboring house. He
mentioned that arson was suspected, because the whole place smelled like kerosene. Bud
could barely feign an air of surprize to cover his deep satisfaction and amusement. It was a
rough, crime-ridden neighborhood and he had hated it, and the roaches.
Another one of Bud's K1 tales vaguely inspired an event in Uncle Arctica. The story goes:
that one chilly, rainy, San Francisco evening back in the '60's, Bud returned to the
spacious Victorian rooming house he shared with several friends, only to find it empty, and
the conical, metal fireplace in the living room cold. He gathered several logs from the
porch and loaded them into the freestanding grate. They were too wet to light, so he doused
them with a cup of--you guessed it--Dr. Thompson's World Famous One-Part Formula. He went
upstairs to give it time to soak in.The next roomer returned and, seeing the glistening wood
Un-ignited in the cold fireplace, also decided to add a cup of K1 marinade. The third man
returned --cold, wet, and anxious for a roaring fire (and apparently completely devoid of
any sense of smell) added his cup and went to his room. Bud finally returned to the
fireplace and, splashing on a cup for the road, lit a match and tossed it in.
The blast knocked him flat on his kiester, and brought the other men running downstairs.
Miraculously, Bud was only lightly toasted. As they were getting him to his feet and
checking for damage, there came an excited rapping at the door. They opened to greet a
middle-aged woman who asked for the owner and stated emphatically that she wanted to buy the
house! The men explained that it wasn't on the market, but the woman insisted that the
owner would sell, because while she was walking through the neighborhood looking for a house
to buy, she began praying and asked God for a sign. No sooner than the words had left her
lips than a thirty-foot pillar of fire erupted from their chimney and fanned out in five fingers. "just like a hand." she pantomimed. They put her in touch with the landlord and...he sold her the house!
Impossible: yes; but true.
However entertaining or maddening his eccentricities were -- however tragic his circumstances, Bud Thompson was a decent, humble, kind, and humane man; a thoroughly human individual whose aspirations were frustrated by the cards life had dealt him, and further complicated by the way he himself played them. Bud readily admitted this.
It was a hard, snowy winter the year Bud died. I trekked through the white and drifted
boondocks of Owen County to find the Trustee, who doled out $600 to cremate my old friend. I
was out of work, again. Even had the ground not been frozen, I wasn't able afford to return
to his cabin to inter his earthly remains. So, the small, cubical, cardboard box of powdered
Bud sat on my basement workbench for nine months. Eventually, the accumulation of
clutter,tools, and such obscured and finally inundated him to the degree that I could truly
say that Bud was buried somewhere in my basement. Finally, in the autumn in of 2012, I was
back to work. I had a dream: I was in a rustic hotel lobby in the desert -- White Sands New
Mexico, I think. I was packing some things into a cardboard box when I spotted Bud coming up
the walk. He was wearing new jeans, a wonderful plaid shirt of rust orange and deep blues,
and of course, one of his homespun leather vests. I rushed out to meet him. We hugged, and I
took his hands in my own. He smiled and said with humble excitement "I'm glad you could make
it. I'm so glad you could make it!"
And that is all I remember. I knew it was time. I fetched a shovel, retrieved his box from
the workbench, and headed back to Poland, Indiana. I buried him in a beautiful spot by
lake, covering his small grave with large chunks of white limestone.
Of all of the memories I have of Bud, the one that I hold most dear, now, is that dream.
Bud so happy and healthy. I am so glad that he could make it. So glad.