One day Ed "Doc" Ricketts, the local marine biologist, met Aron at Wing Chong's market. Engaging the older man in casual conversation, he realized that Aron knew a great deal about sea lions, whose barking could be heard in the distance as the two men exchanged a few words.
After that meeting, Doc would sometimes wander over to the pier, to try to pry from Aron what he knew about the the massive pinnipeds. Doc usually didn't have much luck, even though Charles knew a great deal about the the creatures he studied so casually.
Doc's friend, John Steinbeck, would occasionally come to the pier, specifically looking for Aron. Steinbeck, a writer, knew a bit about Aron in the moment. He noted the man's lined face and calloused hands, one finger sporting a Stanford University ring. The writer wanted to know the story behind the callouses and lines. As often as not, though, with just a few seemingly casual questions of his own, Aron managed to find out more about Steinbeck than Steinbeck discovered about Aron.
"There's a story inside that man waiting to be told," Steinbeck said to Doc one afternoon, as the two of them sipped their own beer, staring at a recently dissected echinoderm.
"Maybe the story, John, is that there is no story about that man," Doc said, his eyes beginning to water from the formaldehyde pickling the fat worm laid out on the lab table. "Maybe some people have stories that just shouldn't be told."
Steinbeck would think about Aron, hunched over a table on the dock, writing away about something. Something.
One afternoon Steinbeck wandered out onto the old wharf to look for Aron.
"He must be under the pier again," someone said. "He's already liquored up."
Steinbeck wandered down the rickety steps that led under the pier. The perpetual barking of the sea lions had grown suddenly louder. At the bottom of the pier Steinbeck found the red parka that Charles always seemed to be wearing. A small photograph of a young woman and a folded sheet of lined paper sat atop the parka. Steinbeck reached down and put the picture in his pocket.
Aron himself was in the water, crushed between the pier and the floating dock, which, jammed with seals, weighed at least a few tons. Steinbeck thought he looked a bit like the fat worm Doc had dissected a few days before. He thought he would soon wander over to Wing Chong's market, and pick up something with which to pickle himself and Doc.
The story of Aron, at least the story of his death, made the paper the next day, and rated two paragraphs. Only two men came to his funeral. That same afternoon, an old photograph of a young woman and a lined sheet of paper with neatly written words, each torn into pieces, were ceremoniously dropped off old pier, and Aron was given an invisible salute by Doc and Steinbeck.
"You got your story, after all," Doc said, watching the antics of the sea lions below.
"No, you were right, Doc," Steinbeck countered. "There was no story to tell."
Nothing more of Aron ever surfaced in Monterey.
(Photo suggested by Charles Hamilton.)