A few mornings ago, the news broke of the loss; cell phones rang and text messages beeped throughout town.
He and I shared bits and pieces of our childhood together, especially during those middle school years, afternoons over at the Crews’ house, playing our own remixed version of Dungeons and Dragons, or weekends at the beach house, running back and forth across A1A to catch waves. Josh with his fins and bodyboard, me with my surfboard. Josh yelling up to me, ‘hey hana-baby, wait up!’ It was the nickname he gave me, Benihana with an affectionate twist.
He was gregarious, told stories larger than life, and loved to add ‘baby’ to the end of words he spoke.
As kids, both Josh and his older brother, Matt, read through books at a staggering pace, often several books per week. My father, an avid reader, coveted that and always urged me to “do some reading like the Crews boys”. Father offered me 10 dollars per book. I read the usual book report stuff for English class – Animal Farm, Old Man and the Sea, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye – but nothing clicked for me.
Josh, on the other hand, built relationships around his favorite authors. He tore through every book of each one, sometimes reading the same book over again. This was the case with James Clavell, who Josh idolized and could not stop discussing – Shogun, King Rat, Noble House, Tai Pan – his infectious excitement over Clavell moved me. I borrowed Shogun, the longest book I’d ever attempted. And there, I found my first love with a novel. Over the coming months, I also tore through all of Clavell’s books, even Whirlwind his 2500 page monstrosity that is subpar to all the rest. Josh and I connected over those books and many more in the remaining years. I think he held respect for other readers who respected his reads.
In later years, I saw Josh here and there throughout town, at someone’s house party, out drinking with friends, over at the beach, at the grocery. I always asked what he was reading, and he’d often turn me onto my next favorite author.
Josh was quite a storyteller himself, and he spoke with me at times over the years about his dreams to be a fiction writer. He became glassy eyed and serious discussing it, his desire to write quality fiction. He made attempts and hit roadblocks. We discussed them. One time, I told him that I felt it was his destiny to write a great novel, and he would never feel complete without that.
Last we talked, he discussed Florida cracker historical fiction and told me of a few books to purchase in that vein. He knew so many stories, more than anyone I’ve met. I’m not sure how far he got on his novel, but somewhere in some dresser drawer or closet there is a gem waiting to be discovered.
R.I.P. Josh Crews