Sunday, October 30, 2011

Frankie Walker -Chapter Five

Chapter 5

            Frankie waited until he could get a few thoughts together before he moved around too much. His eyes told him he was not at home, he had peed in his pants, and that overall things weren’t good at all. His eyes told him the jail was not a real good home away from home and that he needed to think of something quick. They needed to get out of there, all of them.
            Frankie guessed it was early morning, but who could tell when locked up like an animal. He certainly didn’t deserve to be treated like this. No way.
            Think back, think.
            Bill had something to do with this. He hung up on him, Frankie remembered that, but why was he over at the house running around outside? Frankie couldn’t remember that part. He had been mowing, had a few drinks, even mowed the other people’s yards in good faith. Sure he had nicked that old car, but it was nothing worth getting upset about. You’d think the woman would be happy somebody was trying to help her out, what with all those kids she had and that husband who was always away at work. Oh and then the cops came. He remembered that now that he thought about it. Frankie guessed Bill must have told the woman to call them on him and then he must have still been mowing outside.
            Frankie started hearing other noises. There were lights being switched on, could smell coffee a brewing, and heard voices. He heard them talking about a bad wreck just outside of town, towards Fort Worth, where some guy had caused a whole cattle truck to run off the road. The cows had to be shot right there on the spot because they were in such bad shape. The driver survived, but those poor damn cows didn’t stand a chance. They probably couldn’t even use them for meat given the circumstances.
            He remembered his Daddy’s cows. He took better care of them than he did his boys. At least those cows ate every day. That certainly couldn’t be said for his daddy’s family. They starved themselves almost to death, waiting for a break, waiting for some money, waiting for a meal that didn’t ooze itself out of a can with ‘beans’ printed on the label. He wanted meat, gravy, bread. He wanted something to fill him up.
            His momma worked at the motel during the day, washing people’s sheets and cleaning their rooms, so when she got home, she was tired. His daddy messed with the cows, repaired fences, put out salt blocks but didn’t really take an interest in the kids or their needs. He grew his hay, bailed it with the help of some workers living close by, people worse off than them, and then let the money slide. He let it go. He put every last penny he could jingle out of the grocery bill, the insurance company, the welfare, whoever, he used it all to feed the cows. It was always about the heifers, the bull, the fence, the damn feed pellets and how much per bag they cost and how many he needed to keep the herd alive. And his daddy certainly didn’t over spend. Those poor cows under his care looked about as bad off as he did. Frankie’s pants were never too tight, that was for sure, and the cow’s bellies were never too full. He had everyone on the verge of starvation, lest they forget where they came from.
            One day, when Frankie’s tummy was growling more than usual, he watched his daddy dump a big bag of feed blocks out onto the lot with cows chasing him from behind like he was the most fantastic human specimen around, and he was, because they hadn’t seen any other people with feed. Frankie really, really watched him, and saw his daddy’s joy. His Daddy loved those dumb ass cows, loved to watch them hustle and bustle around. He watched his comfort with them eating up every bit of spare cash his family had and it made Frankie so mad. How could his daddy not get it? Here they were heating up cans of pork-n-beans on the pot burner at home when these cows were eating feed cubes like treats and loving it? Frankie wondered how good those pellets were. If his teeth were any stronger, he’d gnaw on one and see just what the cows were enjoying. They were bound to better than a can of ranch style beans.
            Frankie’s stomach growled. Damn he was hungry and these jailers probably didn’t have nothing to eat except for day old biscuits and such, probably just as hard as those pellets his daddy fed the cows in the winter.
            And man, those winters were cold growing up. The house they lived in didn’t have any central heat or air so in the winter they froze to death and in the summer they sweated to death. It was never comfortable. They were either standing by the wood burning stove or airing out on the porch. His momma did what she could to make them comfortable like laying their clothes out by the heater during the winter so that when they got out of bed, they could crawl into warm clothes before their walk to school. In the summer she would sometimes hook a sprinkler to the hose and let them run through it with their boxer shorts on. Then she’d get out a frozen treat from the freezer. She’d kiss Frankie and his brother and tell them she loved them and that she was sorry.
            They would ask what she was sorry for.
            And she would tell them she was just sorry for everything.
            She would walk back into the house, rubbing her hands on her apron. Her eyes looked far away when she got like that, like she wasn’t there at all.
            Frankie’s daddy would come home every evening and start drinking his beer. He would sit at the kitchen table telling them all to keep it down so he could think. He would get out his little notebook where he kept his notes.
            His cows were closely watched. By each of their names he would write where he found them that day, if they were pregnant, when he thought they would give birth.
            So he had “Sofa”, “Chair”, and “Christmas” all named after what he planned to buy for the family when he sold them. Each cow was marked for something bigger than them, not that he ever had any intention of following through with his ideas. He mainly just did it to get Frankie’s momma off his back. She never let him just live. She was always there telling him why they needed to sell the livestock, move into a house with central heat and air, and get a kitchen that had more than a pot burner.
            Always nagging at him. It never stopped.
            And she smoked almost every day of her life. She worked at the motel for as long as she could because she wanted her boys to have something more than empty promises from cows. She wanted them to be able to eat 3 meals a day and have a pair of shoes that fit, so she tried to keep things afloat. Frankie’s older brother Bruce started working for the feed store as soon as he turned 16 but that money mostly went back into feed for the cows. Frankie’s momma didn’t want to think it, but she suspected not all of the bags were actually “purchased” from the feed store but never said anything about it. With the government grabbing what it wanted out of her paycheck, she almost felt like if Bruce and his daddy could pull it off without getting caught, she could certainly look the other way while they did it. What comes around goes around and that’s how the world worked. Government stole from her, they could steal from the feed store.
Frankie never really took much of an interest in the cows, or work for that matter.
When he finally graduated from high school, Bruce helped him get on with the Deck Boat plant in town. Thus his fiberglass career began, not a long career of course, but he did work for a few years. His momma died that same year. He guessed she felt like she could pass on now that her kids were on their own two feet. Frankie’s daddy had a small service for her. He changed the name of the Christmas cow to Funeral cow and sold her to pay for the burial. He was officially on his own, and happy about it. No kids to feed, no wife to have to listen to, just cows. He ran about 25 head up until the day he had an unfortunate accident with the tractor. He had driven over that creek a million times but on this particular day the rocks underneath moved, his tractor shifted, he lost control and it fell on top of him. He drowned underneath a load of steel, tires and rubber hoses.
            By the time Bruce found his daddy, the body had become pretty bloated and some of his clothes had washed on down the creek. He went back to the house, called the sheriff then waited on the porch for the authorities. He didn’t want to sit by his dead daddy all by himself.
            After the second funeral in 6 months, Frankie and Bruce decided to sell all the cows, the 4 room farm house they grew up in as well as the 50 acres it sat on. Bruce wanted to take his momma’s car which was in pretty good shape since she just went to the motel, the grocery store and home. That was fine with Frankie. He wanted his daddy’s old blue truck and knew a lot about working on it. After taxes, they each had a little money to put in the bank. Nothing to get excited about but it was more than either one of them had ever had before.
            Frankie bought a trailer intending on staying in Maypearle but Bruce decided to leave Texas. He drove off in his momma’s car and went straight to Las Vegas. He played the slots until he decided the Craps table was really where the money was made. And he did win for a while. He doubled, tripled his money. He sent Frankie a couple of postcards he had made of himself in the casino. In both of them, he had a good looking girl wrapped around him and piles of chips stacked up at his place at the table. He had different girls of course in each picture, but the same smile was on his face. He wrote “Frankie, I’m in paradise! Come out here if you can. I can set you up in the hotel. Hell, I might even be able to set you up with a girl too. They’re not that picky here! Later man, Bruce.”            
“Frankie, this is a hell of a lot better than running cows or throwing around feed sacks. These girls are hot and I am on fire! Cheers man!”
            Frankie thought about it too. Here Bruce was wheeling and a dealing in Vegas while Frankie was on the fiberglass line building boats, not rolling in the dough. But if he left the plant, that would be it. They wouldn’t hire him back and he had pissed off several of the other establishments in town with his hell raising. Nope. He just better find his entertainment down at the Happy Trails Honky Tonk he frequented every Friday and Saturday night. He usually managed to score a dance and every now and then, sometimes a little more than that. And he had a paycheck. There’s a lot to be said for steadiness and 3 meals a day. Vegas just didn’t seem like the place for him.
            A few months later, Bruce sent a letter instead of a postcard.
            “Hey, Frankie. I just wanted you to know things kind of took a turn for the worse. Lady Luck decided to take a big shit on me so I’m going to give Reno a try. I got a few people looking for me so I don’t have a phone number right now. I’ll let you know where I’m staying when I think it’s safe.  Stay in Maypearle. This may have not been such a great idea but I’m going to give it one more try. If I can get a couple of wins, I’ll be set and will quit while I’m ahead. If I don’t, I’m screwed man, and I don’t mean by just a little bit either. But I can’t come back with nothing. I just can’t. I’ll write you later with the good news. And I don’t mean to be weird, but I love you brother. If something happens to me, I want you to know you were always my favorite person out of our whole screwed up family. Keep it clean brother, Bruce.”
            Well, that worried Frankie. So far he’d lost his momma, his daddy, not that that was a huge loss, and now his brother was on the run. He knew those gambling bosses could get pretty serious when they were collecting their money and he’d heard in Vegas, one minute you’re up then the next you’re down and that’s just how it goes there. And no one cares about the losers except the ones wanting them to pay up. He couldn’t imagine being the only one out of his family still alive. He didn’t see that coming at all.
            He went to work every day, thought about Bruce, what he must be going through. He was probably driving at night, sleeping during the day, probably feeling lonely. And Frankie really hated that. They had survived their childhood. Life should be better for them now. Frankie came home every evening, went straight to the mailbox, ate his frozen dinner and drank his beer wishing he had heard something by now.
            Two and a half months since the first letter, the second arrived. Frankie pulled it out of the box hopeful because that meant Bruce was still alive enough to put words on paper. Frankie waited until he got inside and got his beer before he ripped it open.
            “Frankie, it’s me. This is probably the last letter you’re going to get from me for a while, a long while. I’ve got to go down to Mexico for a bit, let things cool off here in Reno. I was winning again but then it happened. I lost, big time, so I borrowed a little knowing I could pay it back just as soon as the tables turned, but they didn’t and now I’ve pissed this guy off so bad he wants to kill me and has even taken steps to ensure that happens and quick. I’m leaving tonight in momma’s old car. Yeah, it’s still running as good as ever. I’m taking my girlfriend Maria with me and I’m going to spend some time on the beach drinking beer and margaritas. She’s got family there so I think we’ll be fine. If we can make it across the border, we’ll be home free. I will call you when I can. Don’t worry about us. Oh, and congratulations, you’re about to be an uncle. Maria is 2 months along. I think it’s going to be a girl and she does too. Things are going to work out, I just know it. Adios amigo, Bruce.”
            Frankie grabbed the envelope. It was post marked El Paso, Texas 3 days ago. Man, he hoped they made it across. And he had gotten a girl pregnant. Frankie shook his head. Bruce was living large, that was for sure.
            As Frankie slowly sat up on his jailhouse cot, he still wondered if Bruce made it across and if the baby really was a girl and if he’d had any more kids with Maria. He hoped to hell they hadn’t killed him. Bruce deserved a break since he’d never gotten one growing up.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Frankie Walker -Chapter Four

Chapter 4
            Nolan walked with Dorothy so she could tell Mrs. Bernard and Mrs. Lowery how sorry she was for the damage. Mrs. Lowery told her she was sorry she was married to him and that hopefully the law could keep him locked up for awhile to give them all a break. Mrs. Bernard told her she was pressing charges but since it was mostly just the bumper of her car the policeman who filed the report said jail time wasn’t really a possibility but that her husband would kill him if he ever stepped foot over onto their property again.
            Dorothy and Nolan walked back to her trailer. Cristy had said she would leave in 30 minutes, had to finish up a report first, but then would be there before the kids got off the bus. And that was fine with Nolan. He wanted to talk to Dorothy a while in private. They sat at her kitchen table.
            “Where are my manners, Nolan can I get you something to drink?”
            “No, I’m fine Dorothy. I do want to talk to you a little more though about what’s been going on lately. Do you feel like you’re in danger? Because if you do, I can find some reason to keep him locked up for a few days while he cools his heels.”
            “Oh, I’m not going to lie to you. He wants his 3 meals a day, his liquor cabinet always full despite the fact he drinks it faster than I can replace the bottles, and sometimes, well, there are times when he’s a little rougher than he probably should be, but he doesn’t hit me. And usually he’s so drunk I can run back over here before he even knows I’m gone. And he doesn’t have a key. I’ve told him as long as we’re married, I’ve got to be able to have my quiet time and if that’s not okay then I won’t go over to his place at all anymore and he’ll be on his own.”
            “So, he’s mostly bark and not too much bite is that what you’re saying?”
            “Yeah, oh gosh, Frankie gets mad but then in just a few minutes he doesn’t even remember what he’s supposed to be mad about.”
            “What about this Bill thing? I knew he didn’t like him, but riding around on a lawn mower with a whip? That doesn’t sound real stable Dorothy.”
            “I reckon you’re right about that but I think it was just because he’d been drinking since breakfast after being drunk the day before. I think it just caught up with him this time.”
            “I want you to keep my cell phone number in your purse and call me if you think he’s going to hurt someone. Don’t call 911, call me and I will be here in a flash. Then I’ll bring in the troops as needed, okay? You know, I just live about a mile down the road in The Oaks so even if I’m not on duty, I can be here in two minutes.”
            “Thank you Nolan, thank you.”
            He handed her two of his cards. Her hands were shaking so much she couldn’t take them from him.
            “Here Dorothy, I’ll put them on the table, but you get them later on and keep them close.”
            They were quiet for a while. Nolan liked her little trailer. It was clean with lots of pictures of her grandchildren. He had 3 grand kids himself and thought they were about the same ages as hers. He shouldn’t be thinking the things he was, his wife would cry if she knew, but he still thought Dorothy was a beautiful woman. He liked looking at her diploma on the wall. She was a good nurse, always easy to work with, always easy on the eyes, and still was. He felt those feelings stir, started to reach out to steady her shaking hands when Cristy walked in the door.
            “Oh momma, I’m so sorry about Daddy.”
            She walked over to Dorothy and put her arms around her without even noticing Nolan.
            “Honey, it’s going to be okay. Nolan here is going to look out for him.”
            Cristy turned to see him for the first time.
            “Oh Nolan, I’m sorry, I didn’t even see you. I was so set on hugging Momma, I didn’t look around.”
            “That’s alright Cristy. I just thought it would be best to sit with Dorothy until you got here. I’ll head down to the station now to make sure he’s being well cared for. I’ll bet he’s sleeping like a baby but just in case things get out of hand, I want to be there. Cristy, you be sure and tell Bill what all’s happened. I want him to be aware. Your daddy, for whatever reason, is pissed off and Bill’s number one on his list.”
            “Thank you again Nolan.”
            “No problem ladies. Bye now.”
            As Nolan walked to his car, he gave himself the speech.
            She is not your wife, she is a citizen, and you are to protect her. You are not to hold her hands, you are not to kiss her lips, or sleep beside her in her bed while her husband is in jail. You are a public servant who enforces the law, you do not break them.
            He sighed after he sat down in the seat. He thought it a shame such a beauty was standing by such a loser of a man. But then he guessed his wife could say the same thing about him. If Dorothy had ever given him the slightest bit of a chance, he’d be right there, making sweet love to that woman, all night long.
            Cristy sat down where Nolan had been.
            “Your Daddy pretty much did it this time. He mowed down a whole flower bed, hit a car, almost hit a kid and had a whip out yelling something about Bill.”
            “A whip? He was driving the mower around with a whip?”
            “In broad daylight for all of the world to see, yes baby, he was. Then he hit the tree, was arrested, spit at a cop then passed out in the backseat. I’ve never seen him that bad before, and I’ve seen him pretty much out of his tree.
            “And the Bernard woman, she’s out for blood but since he was just driving a mower, there’s not much she can do. Her husband will be fit to be tied, so it’s probably a good thing Frankie’s behind bars tonight or else he’d probably get his ass kicked. Luther Bernard doesn’t put up with a lot and will not be happy about his wife’s car.”
            Cristy went to the fridge and got them both a bottle of water.
            “What do you think we should say to Jay and Katie? Their Poppa Frankie’s in jail for riding a mower around yelling about their dad?”
            “Do we have to say anything? I don’t want them to feel bad.”
            “Momma, if we don’t, the kids at school tomorrow will. They’re going to hear it and then the story won’t be from us. I’ve been there done that growing up and it sure ain’t easy.”
            “I know, you’re right, baby. We’ll tell them the truth. Lay it out on the table that way if anybody says something at school they can just say, ‘I know all about it’ and move on. I just hate they have to deal with his stuff. Frankie has got to get control! When he gets out of jail, I’m really going to talk to him.”
            “I think he called Bill this morning because when I talked to him he sounded upset and pretty much the only time he gets cross is when Daddy has been messing with him.”
            “Does he know about this?”
            “I haven’t told him yet. I mean, how can I?”
            “I know honey, but he’s got to know. I don’t think Frankie would ever harm him physically, but he still needs to know, to watch his back just in case your Daddy loses it again.”
            “You’re right momma, I just hate hurting Bill, you know?” Dorothy nodded. He was the salt of the earth. “You mind if I call him right now, get it over with before the bus gets here?”
            “Course not. Go ahead. I think I’m going to lie down in my bed for a few minutes, recharge my battery, because it’s pretty shot right now.”
            Dorothy walked back to her room, laid on top of her covers. She closed her eyes listening to Cristy’s voice coming from the living room. Such a sweet girl, always worrying about other people’s well being. How Frankie was her father was a mystery. Not a medical mystery of course, she was there when that happened, but how Frankie was able to have his DNA alive and breathing in such a beautiful angel was nothing short of a miracle. And Dorothy thanked God every day Cristy was her best friend, her daughter, and was so sorry she had to carry the burden of Frankie. She was sorry they all did.
            Dorothy was actually able to fall asleep for awhile. She woke up to hear Bill talking to Katie and Jay. He explained to them Poppa Frankie had a little too much to drink, had a couple of accidents and said things he didn’t mean. They asked questions like, how much damage did he do, was anybody hurt, did he say cuss words real loud again, will he be in the jail long, do you think he would ever hurt us. Valid questions and Bill answered every one of them just as a gentleman would. No, not much damage was done, nobody was hurt except Frankie’s head, he wasn’t sure what his exact words were, no he won’t be in jail for more than a night, and he would never hurt us.
            She could hear Cristy telling them if any of the kids at school mentioned it to just tell them they already knew the details and that their Poppa feels real bad about everything.
            That was a sweet lie.
            Dorothy sat up and fluffed her hair a little bit, straightened out her blouse, then walked into the living room.
            “Grandmommy! Are you okay?”
            Katie ran over to hug her. She was so much like her mother.
            Jay wanted some love too, so he was right behind her. “Grandmommy we’re sorry about Poppa Frankie. He got a little crazy today, I guess.” Jay and his freckles, he had angel kisses all over his face.
            “Oh, babies, he sure did, but you know, this could be a good lesson for him. A night on a cot at the police station may make him realize how good he’s got it here with all of us. Sometimes adults make mistakes and then they have to be punished and I think he’ll learn from this, I really do.”
            “Dorothy, I just told the kids and Cristy I’m going to take everybody out to dinner tonight. Does the Fish & More sound good to you?”
            “Bill, you’re so sweet to offer, but this day has just kind of worn me out. I think I’m going to stay home tonight even though I’d like being with all of you. I’ve got some leftovers in the fridge I can heat up. I’ll be fine”
            “Are you sure Grandmommy? Fish and chips would be pretty good tonight …”
            “I’m sure they would be but y’all go on and have a good time.”
            Bill and Cristy searched her eyes closely when they left to make sure she was really okay. Her eyes said that yes, she really wanted to just be quiet, and think for the night. It seemed like it had been forever since she had just felt peaceful.
            After they left, Dorothy opened a bottle of wine she had been keeping under the sink just in case Frankie got in and started looking for liquor. When he ran out, he had no problem knocking on her door asking for more. Plus this one was special. The last time Cristy and Bill went to California on vacation, they brought it back for her. It was from a fancy vineyard called Artesa and she had been saving it for a special occasion. Frankie making an ass of himself and landing it in jail was not what she had in mind, but she would drink to it anyway.
            She opened the bottle, poured the red wine into the crystal glass she didn’t use very often, then to no one at all she said, “Cheers Frankie. You’ve managed to really embarrass us this time. Here’s to you, guy.”
            She took a long sip letting the warmth help.
            Dorothy sat down on the couch. She didn’t want to watch TV, she didn’t really want to read, which was unusual. She just wanted to be. She wanted to figure out how it got to this point. Her phone had been ringing since about an hour after the arrest was made but she didn’t want to talk. She knew her girl friends were worried about her, but she wanted to be alone with her thoughts before she started fielding questions. Nolan had been pretty inquisitive and she hoped she hadn’t given too much away. Frankie had bruised her more, pushed her more, cussed at her more, but she didn’t want him to wind up in prison. Jail for one night was bad enough, but real time would be awful for him.
            When they were dating, he wasn’t this bad. He drank, he smoked, but he was also cute and for the most part, polite. He was a little shy but could still make her laugh. He would say silly stuff to Cristy to make her giggle when she was swinging on the swing set they still had to this day between their two trailers. He would run underneath her then act like she’d pushed him down. She would laugh so hard she couldn’t catch her breath. One time they were playing hide and go seek and he pretended he thought he was hidden behind the very tree he hit today. When Cristy walked over to him, he would ease around the trunk and act like he thought she still couldn’t see him. It ended up with her running and him running right after her all around it, much different than today’s events. Today it was just him, his Jack Daniels, a whip and the police. Not so cute.
            Dorothy slid down onto the floor and rummaged through the photo albums she kept in the coffee table cabinet. There was Cristy when she broke her arm on the playground at school. God Bless her, she just couldn’t hang on to the monkey bars. There were pictures of her at dance recitals, pee wee cheerleading, and sitting in Santa Clause’s lap. Dorothy grabbed an older album. There she was sitting with her Dad in bed. That was when he was pretty much out of it. That was after the accident. Things had started changing at that point.
            Frankie was working on the line at deck boat. He knew he was one of the best fiberglass guys they had and didn’t hesitate to let the world know it too. If it weren’t for him, the plant would pretty much shut down. They were lucky to have him. The guys on the front matter to the company’s bottom line that was for damn sure.
            Frankie was at his post when Hunt’s secretary came down to get him. She told him he needed to go up to the office. Mr. Hunt needed to speak to him.
            Well it’s about damn time, he thought. I’ve been deserving a promotion and a little recognition ever since I got here.
            He walked up the stairs behind the secretary, noticed her nice ass in the skirt she was wearing, thought about grabbing it since he was about to move up in the world but decided to make her wait awhile longer for his piece of action. He would visit her again when he wore a suit. It would be worth the wait for her.
            She knocked on Hunt’s door, opened it and told Frankie he could take a seat.
            As she closed the door, Hunt turned his chair around to face Frankie.
“Before you say anything I just want you to know I understand how important a job well done is to this company and I’m honored to be one of your, how can I say this, one of your more valued employees. It is MY honor you called me in here today Mr. Hunt.”
Frankie looked the man straight in the face with conviction.
            Hunt then looked back down at the file in front of him. What it held inside was a pink slip. The plant had been making fewer boats and Todd, Frankie’s partner was far better in production than Frankie would ever hope to be. The company couldn’t afford to keep both of them, one had to go, and Frankie was it.
            “Actually Mr. Walker,”
            “You can call me Frankie, unless you prefer Frank. I’m fine with either, I’m just glad to be here, um, Sir.”
            Frankie fidgeted with the armrest and wondered why they had such cheap office furniture where the big wigs did business. He would change that as soon as he had the authority. The place needed a little more class, a little more decoration.
            “Okay, Frank, I know you do a good job on the fiberglass line, but the truth is, we’re starting to scale back a bit. The speed boats are selling more than the deck boats are and bottom line is the company has to let some people go. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re one of the casualties of the market we are experiencing today.”
 Mr. Hunt opened the file to the pink slip.
            He picked it up, handed it to Frankie along with his final check.
            “Attached you will find your paycheck for the past two weeks as well as vacation time compensation you have accumulated throughout your time with Deck Boat. I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors.”
            “What the hell?” Frankie looked bewildered. “You’re fucking firing my ass? I can’t believe this!”
            Frankie grabbed at the official papers.
            “Mr. Walker, I know this isn’t easy for you to hear, it isn’t easy for me to say, but we are in the process of scaling back, repositioning ourselves in order to adjust to the market.”
            “Then who the hell is going to do the fiberglass? That joke of an idiot Todd? I have seniority over him. If anybody goes, it’s him by golly!”
            “I’m sorry, but his output is greater than yours and honestly, his quality is better too.”
            “You’ve got to be shitting me here! Todd wouldn’t know a quality job if it crawled up his ass and bit him!”
            “This meeting is over Mr. Walker. Take your check, get your things, and go. You are no longer employed at Deck Boat, Inc. Thank you for your service, sir.”
            Hunt stood up with his finger poised and ready to go on top of the ‘security’ button.
            Frankie grabbed his check, flung open the door, muttering something about ‘sons of bitches in suits’ then stormed out of the plant. He left his lunch box and jacket behind.
            He got in his truck and started driving. It was 2:30. He usually picked Cristy up from the hospital day care at 4:45, 15 minutes after he usually left the plant, so he had a little over 2 hours to figure out what the hell he was going to do for a job now that Hunt had just shit on him. He drove to the beer barn, got him a 12 pack, a fifth of whiskey, a coke and went down to the lake. He sat on a picnic table and watched the water, watched the boaters, and knew he was screwed. He didn’t really have a skill other than fiberglass. He had barely graduated from high school, pissed off pretty much every other employer in town, which comprised of about 5 of them, and was not going to work at the damn grocery store.
            He stood up and threw his beer can toward the water.
            The universe was quiet. He did not get an answer.
            He sat out on the table by the water until his watch said 4:20 then started back toward his truck. He crawled up onto the seat, took a deep breath, and finally started the engine up. He would have to tell Dorothy. He couldn’t hide it from her.
            As he drove, he tried to find the words.           
Hey, honey, I got canned today.
            Babe, Hunt fired me but what’s for dinner?
            Sweetie, did you know I learned that people don’t buy as many deck boats as they used to? Yes, and that’s why they fired me today!
            Frankie was deep in thought while he drove to the hospital, so much so, he didn’t see the beer truck of the very same brand he had just bought and consumed, headed right through the red light it should have been stopping at. Frankie’s signal was green, yes, so he proceeded through the intersection when the truck slammed into the passenger side of his truck. It nailed him good. Even though alcohol was detected on Frankie’s breath, it was not cited as the cause of the accident. Apparently the beer truck driver had consumed quite a bit more of his own inventory and was in a little more trouble than Frankie.
            Dorothy was working ER when they brought the accident victim in. She entered the room prepared to help the wounded then began sobbing.
            The other nurses rushed in to help her, to hold her up. He wasn’t good. He had multiple fractures, one lung had collapsed. He was not responsive.
            Dr. Bates told Dorothy she was off duty for the day, to go get Cristy from the day care, and wait outside. He would let her know when he could how Frankie was doing and to not worry.
            The recovery was hell. His right arm was broken, his right leg was so broken it needed pins, his right eye had to be placed back inside its socket, and he was not to even think about walking for the next 6 months.
            And Dorothy was his only caregiver. And she had to work and take care of Cristy too.
            Frankie hired a lawyer to negotiate with the Beer Company. He settled for $500,000 and signed every document they had saying they were done with him. He would take his money and run. It gave them enough to put into savings, live off the interest and have Dorothy quit working so she could nurse him back to health. Dorothy never really planned on leaving the hospital but she was between a rock and a hard place and didn’t see she had any other option.
            Frankie took his pain pills, as many as he could talk her into giving him, and slept a lot. Cristy would crawl all over him and most days he thought it was funny, but every now and then he would get a little irritable with them. Dorothy told herself it was just the pain talking and not to give it much thought. Just keep him comfortable, help him get better then maybe he could start thinking about another job. Get him out of the house some.
            But he wasn’t really looking forward to the grind again. Frankie liked Dorothy waiting on him, cooking for him, taking care of the baby, always just a holler away. He just didn’t like the nagging she would pull every now and then.
            “Frankie, you really need to do your exercises. Your leg’s not going to get better if you don’t start doing what your physical therapist told you to do. Here, I can help if you want me to.”
            “Damn it Dorothy, I know what my body needs and it needs rest right now. I’ll start on that stuff when it’s time and it ain’t time yet and I know it. They say listen to the pain, and that’s what I’m doing, I’m listening to it, medicating it, and will stay ahead of it with the pain pills until it gets the hell out of my body. Now are we square with that?”
            Dorothy knew her hands were tied. If she argued he would get himself all worked up and fall down like he did the other day when he got mad at her for not bringing his beer to him while he was watching the Price’s Right. He didn’t want to swallow the pill with water, he wanted a damn beer. Even though the beer truck caused all this commotion in the first place, he still got thirsty for one every now and then, and where was she anyway?
            She had been changing Cristy’s diaper and had told him just a minute, but apparently he didn’t have a minute to spare, so he got his crutches, started hobbling towards the fridge when his good foot stepped on one of Cristy’s rattles and down he went. Oh, he was so mad. He had yelled everything he could think of at her. She came running then, by God, and got him back in his chair. Bob Barker didn’t know what all had just happened so he kept spinning the wheel and giving the cars and money away. And all Frankie had wanted was one damn beer so he could swallow his pain pill.
            Dorothy held the picture a long time: Baby Cristy, sitting on top of Frankie’s chest, his arm in a cast, his wavy brown hair a mess with her clapping. His eye was still a little crooked and probably always would be. Now he was in the jail for the night and Dorothy didn’t want to be but she worried about him. He was always with her, that is, until she went back to her trailer after she had had just about enough. What was he thinking? And Bill was just about the sweetest, sincere, most honest person she had ever met. She didn’t understand what Frankie was thinking carrying on the way he was. It took time to get a business started and he was doing it, well. He had the best reputation in town, Cristy adored him, he was good to his kids. What else could a man do to be any better?
            Dorothy finished her glass of wine, poured a second, then turned on the CD player. She stretched out on the sofa, looked at her pictures and hoped Frankie was okay while he was locked up. She also hoped he wasn’t causing too much trouble in there, she knew how he could be at times, and this was certainly a time.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gallery of Pets

My brother Joe and his wife Glenda own this pet shop in Austin ... he is holding the dog and Glenda has the bird Bailey on her shoulder ... beautiful store!!! If you live in the area, go check the place out!
This is what I am inspired by right now.  It has been a rough week, but keep the faith. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Frankie Walker- Chapter Three

It hadn’t been easy for Frankie growing up. His mother and dad were always fighting, always drinking, and always, always yelling at each other. And here he was the youngest of 6, trying to make it on his own, even at age 7. He slept in boxes, listened to rats chewing through, beat them off after they did, and warmed up stew in the can over the pot burner he randomly made ready as he needed it in the backyard when the lights had been turned off.  If they weren’t going to cook, by God he would. He had to eat. His body needed it and it tasted good. He worked at odd jobs and that was the way he lived for a long, long time. So when he got his Deck Boat job, he felt powerful. He felt like he was finally good at something, and the rest of the world should bow down and praise the Frankie, King of Fiberglass.
            Reality was, on the assembly line, Frankie was suitable, but not outstanding. He was fast, yes, but a bit sloppy, and from the viewing area above, he could always be seen glancing over at the painter girl’s breasts.
            He was groping them with his eyes at least 80% of the time.
            That didn’t go over well with management.
            But he was good at what he did, so Mr. Hunt decided to keep him on the line, until, or if, he really screwed up. Then that would be it for Frankie. Plus Hunt knew about Cristy and didn’t want to cause Dorothy any worry or harm. She was always so nice to talk to you, even about boots.

            Dorothy kept driving on the road headed east to nowhere. She had been, she guessed, 45 minutes just thinking about nothing, headed out through the world, the space outside of Frankie. He always kept such a strong hold on her, this was a rare and blessed event to look at the prairie instead of his angry, drunken eyes. She turned up the radio to hear Robert Earl Keen Jr. singing about the road that never ends then Lucinda Williams sang about a drunken angel then John Prine said it all when he told the story of Sam Stone. Some people had it worse than her that was for sure. Not many, but at least there were a few. 
She turned the volume up to hear the road, to listen to the tires, the groove, the voices heaven brings to those down here driving around the country, looking for directions to relief.

            Cristy got to work on time, as usual, and was pleased with herself for losing 2 and a half pounds the past week. Her Weight Watchers meeting had become a source of inspiration for her. She had lost a total of 18 pounds and had only been going for 6 weeks. It felt good to talk about the shame her weight brought her, the load she carried mentally as well as physically, then to hear other people’s struggles. Not all had as much weight to lose as she did but everyone in that room struggled with overeating. Whether you had 15 pounds to lose or 50, your pants still didn’t fit right and that hurt.
            Before she started going to the meetings, she would look at women complaining their size 6s were tight and hate them because she couldn’t even squeeze into a 16. But after hearing them talk about their disgust for themselves she realized everyone had a demon talking to them. Her demon was bigger, yes, but there’s not a demon around that doesn’t make a person feel bad. And working Mom’s just didn’t need anything else heaped up onto their already burdened shoulders. But Cristy couldn’t wait to call Bill and tell him he had less of her to love. He was so good to her. He told her if she didn’t lose one pound, he didn’t care. In fact, if she gained a pound he would love it just as much as the others. He said he didn’t want to be discriminatory to any little piece of her. Then he kissed her long and told her how beautiful she was.
            And Cristy felt it inside. She knew he wasn’t just saying it to make her feel good. She had somehow married the most fantastic man on the earth and didn’t let one day go by without telling him.
            She also enjoyed the recipes she got from the meetings. Each week the instructor would have one written up on the blackboard. She always carried a spiral notebook in with her so she could write it down. Sometimes her mother would call her at work later in the day and ask her what she needed from the store and then go get it for her so she could make it that night. After awhile, her notebook would be full of delicious healthy weight reducing recipes she could share with the whole family, not that the kids or Bill needed to lose weight. They were all of normal size, but were excited to eat what she made, and were glad to see her smile so much lately.
            If only her dad could see how happy Bill made her. All he saw was the lie he chose to believe. Here Bill was working from dusk until dawn, most Saturdays and then as soon as he got home he played with the kids outside, helped Cristy with the dishes after dinner and asked her about her day before they went to bed. He told her he loved her every time they talked on the phone and right before he went to sleep. He didn’t drink too much, smoke at all, and was nice to just about everybody in town. He was the complete opposite of Frankie Walker.
            And she loved her dad – that was the hard part. Yes he was an ass and she knew it, but she loved him anyway. The fights she remembered her parents having were awful, sometimes even the police got to play out a part in the drama Frankie carried with him, and she felt so sorry for Dorothy her mother. She had hung in there that was for sure, and was still sticking around. Why she did, Cristy never knew. They didn’t talk about it a lot. Dorothy was a loyal woman that was for sure. And Cristy just tried to be a happy spot in her life like Bill was for her. God had given her the best husband in the world so she would do anything to bring her mom a little bit of joy since she had ended up with one of the worst.
Why does it all happen the way it does? Cristy shook her head. It was ironic as hell.
            Bill was having a busy morning what with all the 7:00 a.m. drop offs and pick-ups, the emergency’s. Bobbie Scott, the mayor, his Suburban’s electrical system was going hay wire and then Dr. Bates, the town’s brightest doctor, was having trouble with his Jeep. It was a good thing Bill had a few rentals on the lot and had the expertise to deal with all makes and models. Some of the foreign ones like Volvo and Mercedes, they were still not completely well versed in, but they could certainly wing it. And plus, there weren’t too many of those running around town yet thank goodness. But they would be soon, and he would be ready for them.
            Bill sat in his office drinking a little coffee after all the chaos had died down. It was about ten o’clock and he wanted to call Cristy and see how the weigh in went but if it was bad, he didn’t want to upset or embarrass her. She would call when she wanted to talk. And either way he was happy. He knew she was trying, liked the meetings, and would be positive no matter what the scale said. Still, she was a woman, and sometimes, things could be confusing.
            The parts order was done for the day, the work orders were entered into the system and Margaret was back there putting the printed tickets into the pickup tray. All the guys were at their posts, including his best mechanic Richard. He was back there whistling away to Willie Nelson’s Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, leaning over a white 2001 Mazda MPV van the people told him was called Sparky. He cracked up over that. Sure, he was a car man, he understood naming them, but Sparky? The more he looked at the little thing though, the more he was sure the name fit. It carried the family around no matter what with vim and vigor. Sparky just had a little ‘cold’ Bill and his guys would be able to fix by the time school let out. He liked the mom. She was pretty cool. She always told him the name of the van as if she was dropping off “Rover the Dog” and looked back as she walked to the parking lot to make sure he was okay. She took care of her own and Sparky would take care of her for another 100,000 miles. He just needed a spa day every now and then. Bill didn’t do this for everybody, but for this one, he always made sure they vacuumed Sparky out before they sent him back to her. And she always said thank you. That went a long way in the car business.
            Bill had an interview at 10:30 for another mechanic. He had 3 including Richard, but needed at least 2 more. Cristy had worried about putting in so many lifts when he built the garage but Bill knew they would need them some day, as word spread. And then there was the sixth, unfinished side garage he kept closed. He would eventually make that the State Inspection area. And if business kept up the way it had, that little dream would become a reality and Cristy could finally quit her job at the tax office. He would have her at home with her kids and her mom would be over all the time, and she would smile.
Not that she didn’t now, but life would be a hell of lot easier for her.
            The phone rang so Bill grabbed it knowing Margret was back there in the back with the  new morning tickets. And he regretted it as soon as he heard the voice on the other end.
            “Bill’s garage, Bill speaking.” He always said it that way to let the person on the other end know it was him.
            “Godamnit Bill, why don’t you hire yourself a secretary? You should be under a car or something back there in the garage earning money. Shouldn’t you be working instead of answering the phone like a little girl?”
            “Hello Frankie.” Bill’s throat tightened.
            “Yes, greetings to you too, idiot. Look, I’m worried about Cristy. She’s working down in the basement of that tax office everyday and your kids are over here every afternoon after school eating all our food and making a hell of a lot of noise, and I just don’t think it is right Bill! Why can’t you make something of yourself? Huh?”
            “I have Frank. I have a good business here!”
            “And why do you have her thinking she’s fat? That precious angel is probably just over eating because she has to steal money from honest working people everyday down there in that damn basement! I can just see her at lunch time eating in the dark kitchenette while the line gets longer and longer in front of her register! I didn’t raise my daughter to be stuck down in a basement making people pay their taxes to her all day long while getting fatter and fatter!”
            “She’s not fat Frank and I think you’ve said enough.”
            “If she’s not fat, then why do you have her signed up for Weight Watchers, Bill?”
            “I don’t have her there – she joined on her own. I love her no matter what and she knows that and you would too if you already weren’t too drunk to remember!”
            “Well, you son of a bitch, I ought to drive down there right now and let you really have it.”
            “Too bad you can’t Frank. How long you been without your license now?”
            “Well, that’s no thanks to you and your big mouth. I was fine that night but no, you’ve got to make a little call and then I’m surrounded by uniforms with guns and badges. And speaking of retarded men, how are your employees? Still hiring the mentally challenged down there?”
            Frankie chuckled a little over that one.
            “My mechanics are very good Frank. They are highly trained professionals that can work on most every make and model. And I’m hanging up now because I’m about to interview yet another highly trained professional to add to my team so BYE!”
            Bill slammed the phone down, took a deep breath and wiped the sweat off his forehead, just in time for the new hire walking into the building with Margaret. His hand was still gripping the handset when Eric appeared in the doorway. He was skinny, dark haired, dirty finger nails, just what you’d expect. He told Bill he used to work down at the Chevrolet House but that he wanted to branch out and start doing a little bit of everything. Bill had seen the boy’s resume, talked to him enough to know he was able to do the job, but wanted to let him know what was expected before he told him, yes, you’re hired. But first he would have to unhinge his hand from the phone he still gripped with a sneer on his face.
            Eric sat down in Bill’s office scared to death. This man looked like a mad dog gone wild. Eric waited until Bill spoke. He was nothing like Eric remembered the first time he met him. Before he was happy, showed him around the place, told him to come back for the second interview which just involved some paper work and then he would have the job. Eric started second guessing his resignation from the Chevy house.
            Bill looked down at the desk, unclasped the phone, then shuffled some papers around, got upset because he didn’t see Eric’s paperwork, picked up a different phone to call Margaret, then set it back down after she said it was sitting on the desk to the right, pretty much in front of him.
            Bill took a deep breath in while Eric thought back to his days at the dealership. Mr. McCain owned it, ran it, ruled over it and he had hoped Bill would be different. He was creative with engines, with cars in general and had always taken pride in his work. He could look at pretty much any moving mechanical part, talk to it, think about it, be with it for a while, and then have it figured out. He wasn’t afraid of foreign machines, old machines, or screwed up machines, he was up for the challenge. His grades had never been that good in school, but he had never really cared too much about that because Eric had just always wanted the hell out of there. He wanted to be in a garage with engines and he wanted to fix them.
            He used to take everything apart his family gave him. Be it a remote controlled car, a go kart when he really scored, his hair dryer, his sister’s hair dryer which didn’t go over well. He just loved to know and understand the way everything worked. And he was quick. He was smart. He was a natural.
            And Bill saw that the first time he talked to him and had big plans for Eric. He would hopefully be the main mechanic under Richard’s supervision while Bill ran the State Inspections in the future, so that Cristy could stay at home. And so that asshole Frank would stop calling him at work.
            Eric looked around the office and saw that it looked legit, hell it looked better than the Chevy house, but Bill was sweating like somebody who’d just been visited by the IRS.
            “Hey, Bill, if this isn’t a good time, I can come back later.”
            “No, no, I’m sorry Eric, this is a great time. And all I really need to do is show you the paper work and then you’re hired. That damn phone, it will be the death of me. I shouldn’t have answered it but I did and now I’m pissed off. Damn father-in-law, asshole, nothing that’s your fault.”
            Bill heard himself be unprofessional and stopped.
            “God, Eric, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Here, just fill these forms out and then Margaret will process the details. But he’s just such an ass, you know?”
            Eric looked down at the forms while Bill turned away to take a look at the mechanics in the garage. Richard was working on a transmission, Gary was doing a break job and Joe was looking at a van up on the lift. They were all into their own projects which Eric liked to see. It seemed as if Bill was real hands off, not bugging them like his old boss did, but Bill being in the frenzy the way he was, could be a red flag. Eric had heard things about Bill’s father-in-law, Freaky Frankie, and could understand why a call from him could be disruptive to a business and a person.
            While he filled out the forms asking for his Social Security number, Driver’s license number, home address, phones numbers and such, he looked up at Bill and asked, “Why did you answer the phone if you knew it was him?”
            Bill had gone back to moving things around on the desk. He had the stapler to the right, the three hole punch to the left and all the parts invoices in the middle. The tickets for the day were settled to the side by the computer and the next day’s work was in the plastic holder nailed up next to the window that opened up from the office window to the garage. Bill looked a little more settled because at least the papers were in the right spot.
            “I don’t have the damn caller ID, but believe me, after today I’m getting it.”
            Bill scooted a few more invoices around and put them to the left of the desk into a neat pile to deal with later, after he had calmed down.
            “Hey, I’ve heard all about Frank and I feel for you Bill. If you want, I can get all the phones in here on caller ID and then you won’t have to mess with him anymore. You can pick up or not. It’s really pretty easy.”
            Bill stopped shuffling papers.
            “Can you get it on my home phone too?”
            Eric said that yes, he could, easy.
            “You know you’re hired.”
            “And I’m good to go with other projects too. Just let me know. We can work out an hourly charge or a project charge whatever, but I can do more than cars, man. I’m good with electrical and technology.”
            Bill shook his head over and over and over, “Yes, just let me know. I can use you. And I want it to be fair. So whether it is cars or phones or door alarms, you tell me your cost and we’ll make it so, okay?”
            Eric said no problem, walked around the garage again, then said he would unload his tool chest into the stall that would now be known as ‘Eric’s’ space. The other guys greeted him, said good luck, and welcomed him aboard. Eric shook their hands, let them get back to work, then felt good in his spot. His tools looked nice backed up against the wall and Bill already had a job for him. Hell, he was so busy he had 5 jobs lined up for anybody who wanted them. They ranged from Ford Envoys to Chevy Tahoe’s but the main thing was that there was a stream of business unlike Eric had ever seen.
As he opened up the first hood, he felt like he had died and gone to heaven.
            And if his new God needed a little help with the electronics, then he could make good money doing that too. No problem.

            Bill couldn’t believe what an asshole Frank could be. He had called him, yet again, at his place of business, just to harass him about absolutely nothing at all! Absolutely nothing! He was just being a jackass! Bill was back in his office when the phone rang. That damn Margaret was now on smoke break so he had to answer it. If it was Frank he was going to come completely unglued by God, come unfucking glued.
            “Bill’s garage. Bill speaking.”
            Don’t let it be him, don’t let it be him, please don’t let it be.
            “Bill, Hi! It’s me. I thought you would want to know the number this week and I’ve just now gotten a break to call you.”
            His love. Her voice washed over him, clearing away some of the bad.
            “Cristy, oh Cristy, Love, I’m so glad you called. I know you did good this morning just by hearing your voice.”
            “I lost 2 and a half pounds. Yes!”
            She was jumping up and down at her desk. God Bless.
            “That’s great my angel! And I’m so happy you feel good!”
            “Oh, I do Bill, I feel so good, and these meetings are great for me. I feel like I belong somewhere with people who have the same struggles that I do, and listen to this, today I got a recipe for the Weight Watcher’s Cheese Soup – this thing, Bill, this thing is incredible! It tastes like a real cheese soup but I can still eat it, so the whole family can enjoy! It has cabbage in it so we can never tell the kids but the taste will keep them coming back for more, I’m telling you! Oh, I can’t wait to make it!”
            “That’s great honey.”
            Bill shuffled Eric’s new hire papers around on the office desk.
            “Are you okay Bill?”
            Cristy seemed worried.
            “Oh yeah, I’m fine darling, we’re just busy. I’m hiring another guy and I’ve got some maintenance to do up here and a bunch of jobs on the list, that’s all. How is it where you are?”
            “Oh, I’m good. I’ve got a line waiting, but I don’t care right now, because I’ve lost a hell a lot of weight and I’m on the way to losing more and I’ve got a kick ass husband. Life is good!”
            Cristy had to wipe a tear away as she looked around the corner at the people gathered in front of her desk. Yes they needed help and looked a bit annoyed but she would get to them just as soon as she could stop crying her tears of joy.

            Frankie was furious. Who in the holy hell did he think he was? Bill just hung up on him! And was that right?  Hell no, that wasn’t right! No God loving American would think that was okay for a retired Father-in-law to be treated that way. Bill was way, way out of line. And where had Dorothy gone off to? It was lunch time and he had nothing but left over gravy from breakfast. Sure, he could heat up some frozen dinner, but she said she would be back, so he didn’t want to do that just yet.
            She was probably out with those gossipy old biddies she sometimes had lunch with, or maybe even taking lunch over to Bill’s garage which he hated the thought of. Let the damn sons of bitches starve to death, that’s what he always said.
            Or maybe she was with Cristy. She sometimes brought Cristy lunch and they ate together in the break room. When she was down there in that basement her phone wouldn’t work. Of course not, under all that concrete and structure. Frankie hated the fact both of their phones wouldn’t work real good under there in that hole in the earth Cristy had to go to everyday because Bill couldn’t support her with his big time Garage salary.
Way to go big shot.
            Way to go.
            Frankie got himself another beer since he couldn’t talk to nobody on the phone. The soldiers lined up neatly in the fridge gladly gave way to the next one going down, and Frankie thanked them for being so ready, so strong, so much better than his own damn son in law named Bill.
            If Bill had been in charge of the refrigerator, Frankie was sure the outcome would have been much different in there. There would be oil, grease, mayhem, people who didn’t even show up, and a boss who didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. The beer soldiers would say, “Kiss my Ass.” The bologna troupe would say, “Bill you’re, a freakin’ freak!” And the casserole group would push themselves out and over into the disposal just to get away from him. Frankie was sure that if Bill was in charge of his fridge, the cool air would shut down immediately.
            Frankie took a big drink of beer all the while thinking Bill was just an embarrassment to the whole family. And with all his stuff, they just didn’t need any more shit hanging over their heads. People in town talked enough as it was. “Frankie Walker ain’t no count.” “Frankie Walker’s just a crazy drunk!” “Frankie Walker don’t take care of his wife.” People don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. They think they know sure, but they don’t. Those blabber mouths don’t know how hard he’s worked and how much he puts up with from Dorothy, all her nagging and such. Nothing’s ever good enough for her.
            Frankie turned on the TV then turned it back off again. Nothing but game shows and people talking about their personal business to a studio full of folks they didn’t even know. It was a crying shame, people airing their dirty laundry out in public like that. And Frankie was sure most of it was made up anyway. People couldn’t possibly be that screwed up.
            Damn, he was hungry. Where was Dorothy again? The beers he had were sneaking up on him so he would need to be careful lest he do something to piss her off again. Then she would nag him, and then he would tell her the what for, then the po-po would come again and then his ass would be in jail for the evening.
 Got to watch his back because there sure as hell wasn’t anybody else around here doing it.
 He’d learned that lesson the hard way.
            Frankie decided to go out to the shed he kept full of his lawn equipment, fertilizer, old stuff he’d saved. He opened the door to see the only form of transportation that hadn’t been taken away from him, his riding lawn mower. It sure was nice. He had splurged when he bought it. He really didn’t need one that big but he figured since he was doing 2 yards every week, he deserved it. He could get on that thing and just cut the grass. Nobody could sass him, bother him, and it was relaxing to go back and forth, back and forth, seeing the cut grass behind him looking so good. He took pride in his yard work, by God, there wasn’t another trailer in the whole neighborhood had a yard like him and Dorothy. It was September so the grass had stopped growing as fast as it did during the summer months but really, it could use a cutting before it got real cold, so Frankie decided to get his mower out and get it done. Plus if he was busy he wouldn’t think about how hungry he was and maybe by the time he was finished, Dorothy would be back to get him a sandwich or something. Maybe even warm up that left over greasy fried chicken she tried to kill him with the night before.
            The mower fired right up but Frankie didn’t want to mow alone so he ran inside the house to get a glass of Jack Daniels and ice. That sounded like just the ticket. Since it was noon, he was getting kind of tired of the beer he’d had since breakfast. It was time to step it up a notch and get a new taste sensation going on, plus he was feeling a little bloated.
            Frankie sat down on the seat of the mower and put his plastic cup between his legs. He roared out of the shed ready to make the world a prettier place. He did Dorothy’s first just so maybe if she came home pretty soon she wouldn’t bug him about the red plastic cup. Then he did his own yard, refilled his cup, and decided to spread the love even further. He did the entrance to the trailer park but that didn’t take very long, so then he decided he had enough gas to keep going. Plus it felt good to be driving again. Jack thought they needed a refill so he obliged then ventured out onto the easement between the road and the fence. Jack told him he was doing a good thing by mowing the common areas like he was. The city ought to commend him for taking care of business the way he was doing. Jack thought the city probably paid at least $10 an hour for the workers to mow it and here Frankie was doing it for free. Hell, it was costing him money, using his own gas and all, not to mention the wear and tear on his mower, and he would never be repaid but that’s what aide workers did for the community. It was a noble act.
That Bill, he would never do anything like this, give to the community. Hell no, he would probably charge double and not even do the damn work! Probably just turn in his invoice and go back to that damn garage of his.
            The honking truck that barely missed hitting Frankie halted his thoughts for a minute. Jack told him apparently they had ventured out on to the road a bit too much and just about got flattened like a pancake by that truck. Frankie agreed that yeah, they almost met their maker just then. So, they decided to take it back closer to home. If he hadn’t been so upset with Bill the near miss never would have happened. Frankie stopped by the shed but left the mower running. He needed some kind of weapon in case Bill decided to drag his lazy ass over for some kind of confrontation. A man could never be too careful when it came to the likes of his daughter’s husband. Jack suggested Frankie grab the old whip his daddy had passed down to him. His Daddy ran a few cows and didn’t mind showing them the what for every now and then. And Frankie would be glad to show Bill the what for as well. He refreshed Jack, got back on the mower and set the whip down crossways at his feet. Now, what else could he mow?
            The lady that lived down the way with all those kids could probably use a good mowing. He would just head down there and take care of her yard. Her husband would probably want to come down later after he got off from work to thank Frankie for helping them out. Frankie knocked that one out quick but then, when he was headed to his next destination, he nicked the old car parked in the driveway just a little.
            He saw the lady look out her window and she didn’t look all that happy with Frankie’s work. Hell, he’d just nicked the damn thing, it wasn’t like he’d hit it head on. People just weren’t appreciative of help anymore. Plus it was older than dirt. Her husband should have her driving something nicer anyway. With all those kids they had, she needed something more dependable. And so did Cristy.
            Bill had her driving the old mini-van and why? If he was such a big shot mechanic why didn’t he have her in something nicer like a Cadillac or a Mercedes Benz? His angel deserved an upgrade and Jack agreed with him whole heartedly.

            Dorothy was driving back to her house with a bag of Sonic Burgers and 2 cokes when she got the call from Nolan. She had met Nolan years ago when she worked at the hospital. He was starting out as a policeman and sometimes had to escort people in, make arrests and such, and they hit it off early on but Dorothy was newly married to Frankie and newly pregnant with Cristy so she never let it go very far although Nolan would have let it go as far as he could. He adored Dorothy and to this day, even though he had a family of his own, and loved them, he wanted to look out for her. She was just one of those people he couldn’t get out of his heart no matter how many others resided there.
            And plus, he knew all about Frankie and his shenanigans and wanted to protect her. That was his job as a public servant, to protect. And he kept her cell number in his book, just in case.
            “Dorothy, hey, this Nolan, and I just wanted to give you a heads up. Frankie’s in trouble.”
            “Oh my God, what’s happened?”
            Dorothy pulled into the parking lot of the HEB grocery and braced herself for the worst. He was in such a mood lately and it was just getting worse and worse. She put the gear shift in park not caring she was taking up two spaces.
            “I’m in route to his trailer and I didn’t want you to be blindsided with this. I’m guessing you’re not there.”
            “No, I’m not! I’m at the HEB. What has happened?”
            “Well, it seems Frankie has managed to become completely intoxicated and it’s only 1:00 p.m. I don’t know all the details yet, but he’s been doing a little mowing and hit a parked car belonging to one of your neighbors. She’s pissed and wants to press charges against him. One of her kids barely missed being taken down and then another lady called in saying he took out half of her flower bed.”
            “Oh Lord.”
            “That’s not all. He’s also got a whip he’s popping around yelling something about Bill. He’s riding his mower chasing an imaginary Bill telling him what a worthless piece of shit he is. He even went out onto the road, nearly got hit by a big truck, gave him the finger before he went back into the neighborhood. We’ve gotten quite a few calls but the latest one said right now he’s back in his yard going in circles around the tree, yelling something about his best friend Jack. I’m sorry Dorothy but I knew you’d want to know.”
            “I’m so sorry Nolan.”
            “Don’t be sorry to me, Honey, it’s not your fault. But we’re going to have to take him in for this one. We’ve got too many witnesses, several wanting to press charges, and I can’t make this one go away. Plus, I’m starting to worry about him at this point, and of course you.”
            “I’m on my way Nolan. I need to be there.”
            “I’m pulling in right now, and yep there he is. I think I’ll let him keep going for a bit. I don’t even think he sees us. He’s pretty looped. Surely he’ll run out of gas pretty soon. A mower can only go so far.”
            “Oh, Nolan, thank you for calling. I’ll see you there. Nolan?”
            “Yeah, Dorothy?”
            “Please, please don’t shoot him.”
            “Don’t worry. We’ll let him live this time.”
            The officers behind Nolan lined up their cars by the yard so that Frankie was contained and even the flashing lights didn’t distract him.
            “Come back here Bill, take your medicine pardner! Get on over here and take it like a man instead of the sissy boy you are! Jack, Jack, we’re gaining on him I know it! Yeah, run away you little punk but we’ll catch you sure enough as shootin’!”       
            Frankie looked down to take another swig with Jack so he just didn’t see the tree in time. The one he’d been circling around for about half an hour had somehow jumped out in front of him. He hit it head on making a nasty bruise on his forehead when it hit the steering wheel. For a while there things got real dark then all these guys were on him saying stuff like, “you’re under arrest sir for public intoxication, reckless endangerment, and property damage.”
            They cuffed him right there in the yard by the tree. Dorothy pulled up just as he was being put into the police car. She looked around the houses to see the trail he’d left behind. He had mowed their yards but the rest of the grass looked like the mower had just gone off by itself. And the flower bed 3 doors down was just cut down to the dirt. Dorothy could see the smashed in corner of the Bernard’s Ford Taurus. Mrs. Bernard was already giving her statement to another policeman.
            Nolan walked over to her.
            “I’m sorry Dorothy. I hate this.”
            She looked around not believing what she was seeing. She had just taken a drive to clear her head and look what happened while she was gone. He had completely gone nuts. She shook her head, put her hands up to her face, trying to stop the tears, but they were coming anyway.
            Nolan put his arm around her shoulders.
            “Hey, the good news is he did all this with a mower and not a truck and really, it’s just a flower bed and the bumper of that old Taurus. I think she’s just trying to get some insurance money with this police report so she can buy food for those dirty kids she’s got in there so don’t beat yourself up about that. We’ll take him in today, I’ll talk to the judge. Frankie will spend the night sobering up then we’ll see what the day brings tomorrow, okay?”
            “Okay, okay Nolan, but what about Cristy? What do I tell her and Bill?”
            “I’d tell them the truth. Bill needs to know so he can be aware how much Frankie really hates him and Cristy needs to know her Daddy is someone she needs to be on guard around. I know he’s just drunk right now, but he was nothing short of enraged when we got here. And I’m worried about you too.”
            “Oh, don’t worry about me, I can handle him.”
            Dorothy watched him throw his tantrum in the back seat of the locked car. He flailed around then started hitting his head on the window of the cruiser. The officer close by told him to stop it before he hurt himself even more so Frankie stuck his tongue out at him then spit on the glass. The cop looked over at Nolan who shook his head no, just leave him be. He’ll wear himself out after a while. No point in trying to reason with him.
            “He seems to be getting worse Dorothy. His drinking and this thing he’s got with Bill is out of control. I’m afraid he’s going to cross the line one day and actually hurt someone.”
            “No, Frankie wouldn’t go after Bill. He just, I don’t know. He’s just got so much going on in his head. And when I try to get him to stop drinking, that just makes it worse so I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut, but today, look at us. He’s been arrested. Oh, my God!”
            The tears fell down her face in sheets, solid sheets of pain.
            “I need to call Cristy.”
            “I think that’s a good idea. Maybe she can take off early and come over. The kids get off the bus here, right?”
            Dorothy shook her head yes. And then cried some more because that was just two hours away.
            “Hey, I’m going to send everybody back to the station and I’ll wait with you until Cristy can get here, okay? I don’t want you being here by yourself.”
            “And could you walk with me to the neighbors and let me tell them I’m so sorry for the damage he caused them?”
            “I can do that Dorothy. While you call Cristy, I’ll tell them to take him on over.”
            Frankie had calmed down by the time the cruiser pulled out onto the main road and by the time they parked at the station, he was passed out. It took 3 men to haul him in. He briefly woke up when they finger printed him and took his picture but then as soon as he got to the cell, it was lights out again. They didn’t bother changing his clothes just yet. He had messed the ones up he had on and none of them really wanted to change him out of them. When he was sober, they’d have him do it himself.
            Frankie dreamed the rest of the afternoon and evening away. He was in his truck, driving fast down the two lane road outside of town headed to the lake. He was pulling his old deck boat and planned on doing some fishing. He had the cooler in the cab beside him full of ice and beers, the sun was shining and life was good. He had a picture of Cristy on his dashboard but when he reached out to touch it with his finger, some asshole reached in and took it right off the dash! When Frankie looked over to see who was in the cab with him, he saw Bill just sitting there on the passenger side of the truck grinning at him. Bill looked at the picture then stuck it inside his shirt pocket. He smiled as he said, “She’s mine Frankie. All mine.” And he laughed. He laughed his ass off right there in Frankie’s truck. He was drinking one of Frankie’s beers too. Laughing and drinking, rubbing his hand over the shirt pocket that held Cristy’s precious picture. “She’s a sweet one, Frankie.”
            That’s when Frankie woke himself up screaming.
This time Frankie’s eyes were really shocked to see they weren’t in bed at home. The bedside table was not there. There was no place for the cigarettes or the empty glass. And his eyes saw he had on the same clothes, but they were really dirty, then his eyes hurt a bit. The bump just above them throbbed. No, this wasn’t what his eyes wanted to see at all, so he closed them up quick.
            “Oh man, what’s Bill done to us now?”