My family’s friend—Matt Barnes—has sent us postcards and all sorts of
knickknacks from the places he’s been around the world. And he’s been to a lot of places. I’m not sure what he does there exactly. I’m not even sure my parents know. Anyway, I keep his postcards—stacks of them—from all around the world.
“It seems that Matt Barnes has come out of hiding,” Dad would say when we receive a package or postcard. “He’s in Irian Jaya these days.” Or, “Looks like he’s enjoying the beach near the Cape of Gibraltar.”
I then run to our globe and hunt for the place where he was. Sometimes, it was easy to find. I found Rome. But pinpointing Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada was tougher.
Sometimes, he would send packages, although they were rare. And that makes them all the more precious. In one small package was a block of salt. After opening it, Dad tasted it and cringed. A note said it was from a salt train that had crossed the Sahara Desert in Africa. Matt Barnes got it near the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali.
Considering all this, I first thought, he’s a professional vacationer. Lounging on beaches or climbing high on mountains or living an exciting life in big cities. But that’s absurd. However, there could be more to this man than simply sitting poolside at exotic resorts. In my imagination, he’s conducting secret missions. That notion is intriguing.
When he sends us things, I just imagine what might have been going on …
Matt Barnes took the small cup of steaming tea from the dark-skinned man’s crusty hands and nodded as a silent thank-you. In an hour or two the man who led this caravan through the Sahara Desert would not be so thoughtful.