Sunday, July 31, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
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!”
“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.”
“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?”
“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?”
Friday, July 15, 2011
Dorothy drove down the road with shaking hands. Her doctor’s appointment wasn’t until next week, so she would probably have to tell another lie for that one, but that was okay. She would have one ready to go, anything to get out of there. He was mad at Bill, mad at her, and already drinking again despite the fact he drank himself silly the night before. Dorothy decided to drive down by the park she used to take Cristy to when she was little. She was so cute with her little piggy tails and Mary Jane’s. She would clap the whole way there and then talk to every child she could find. If there was a stray dog on the playground, Cristy would pet it, name it, and love it. If there was a child no one else would play with, Cristy made friends. If someone fell, Cristy helped them find their mommy. She had always been, and still was, a jewel. She had the biggest heart a human body could hold and she freely shared the love she felt.
Dorothy had always been so proud of her. Her conception had not been under the best of circumstances so it amazed her that Cristy had turned out so well.
Dorothy had been working at the western wear store in Maypearle then going to nursing school up in Fort Worth at night. She drove a lot, stood a lot, and studied a lot. She mainly stayed in the Ladies department but every now and then if it got real busy she’d be moved over to the boot section. On this particularly fateful day, she was working the boots when young Frankie walked in.
He strutted in wearing tight Wrangler blue jeans and a pearl snap button blue western shirt. The old boots he had on looked worn out and he looked like he was in a hurry. He had dark curly hair that hung past his collar, a mustache and beard, and an old felt hat. He paced around, looking uncomfortable.
“Can I help you sir?”
“Yeah, yeah, hey, I’m needing a pair of cowboy boots for my company’s annual picnic and I just hate to shop. I think I want brown ropers but, hell, I don’t know.”
Dorothy laughed at the way he was so stressed out about a pair of Justin ropers.
“I can help you. What size do you wear?”
“I think a ten but I’m not sure in the Justin brand.”
Dorothy measured his foot, found out he needed a 10 and a ½ then brought out a box of brown leather ropers. She told him she thought he would like these quite a bit, he tried them on, walked around, looked in the mirror, then agreed with her that yes, these were mighty fine boots. He would take them. They walked to the cash register, she rang him up, then as she handed him the bag, he asked her if she would be interested in going to his picnic with him. He told her he worked for Deck Boat and would love to have such a fine woman as her accompany him to the party which was the following weekend.
“It’s Saturday? Well, I’m scheduled to work from 10 to 2 but then I’m off. What time does it start?”
He told her the details, it started at 3 so that worked out fine and that he would pick her up at 2:45 since it was just at the park south of down town. He told her not to worry with bringing anything, the company was springing for the food this year, all she had to do was bring that beautiful smile of hers. Dorothy thought that sounded great. She knew several people that worked there so she thought if nothing else, she could talk to them. That night as she drove to her nursing class she envisioned meeting the President of Deck Boat and his wife and hob knobbing with the best of them. She already knew what she was going to wear, grant it the September weather held out, and looked forward to doing something other than working or studying.
The big day rolled around, Frankie arrived at 3:15 instead of 2:45 and had a big cooler of beer sitting in the middle of the front seat taking up all the space between them.
“You can help yourself to one of those Dorothy. They are nice and cold, I’ll tell ya, I’ve done tested a couple of ‘em.” He looked over the cooler and smiled at her.
His old truck ran remarkably well despite the faded blue exterior and torn up seats. The radio played Johnny Cash “I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere …” and she sensed that might be true with Frankie. He sang a little, talked some more and drank another 2 beers on the way over to the picnic.
“Well, we’re here honey! I’ll get the cooler, you get the blanket – these cheapskates wouldn’t shell out the money for beer so it’s BYOB, hope that doesn’t bother you – but let me tell you, I’ve got plenty in this here cooler for the day.” He winked at her as he hoisted the cooler full of beer and ice out of the cab of the truck. Dorothy followed him as he lugged the heavy cooler toward the party. He set it down hard on the ground then Dorothy spread out their blanket in front of it so that it would never be too far away.
“Come on Honey, grab yourself a beer then I’ll show you around.”
Dorothy did as she was told and they walked around talking to people Frankie knew. She spotted a few people she knew from shopping at the store and then said hi to a few guys she knew because they had married her girl friends. The owner she knew she had seen in the store buying Ostrich skin boots but really didn’t know him. He did remember her and her help though.
“Hello there, Dorothy! How are you?”
“Oh, hey there, Mr. Hunt! I’m very good! How are those boots holding up?”
“They’re the best damn boots I’ve ever bought and I owe it all to you. You told me to get a half size bigger and I swear, my feet have never been so happy. So many of those boot guys tell you go to smaller since the leather will stretch, but that never worked for me. The tighter the boot, the more my feet would swell until it was just a miserable mess! Now these here, these are perfect. I’m going to call that store and make sure you’re there before I ever go boot shopping again! Who are you here with today?”
Frankie was not happy Mr. Hunt didn’t recognize him. He was the best fiberglass man on the line and should be known by the higher ups.
“Oh, I’m here with Frankie, Frankie Walker. I sold him a pair of boots and got invited to this picnic, so how’s that for luck Mr. Hunt?”
“Lucky for him, I know that. You have a good time now Dorothy. And you too Frank.”
Mr. Hunt walked away to greet other employees and their families while Frankie stood there disappointed he didn’t get a more personal reception from the owner of the company.
The birds in the oak trees up above them squawked, the squirrels running up and down the branches above them laughed, and Frankie felt like the biggest loser on board.
“Oh, that Mr. Hunt, he’s a busy guy. He never has time to talk very much, you know.”
“Oh, sure, he’s got to make the rounds around here, that’s for sure!”
Dorothy and Frankie sat on the blanket drinking some more beers while they chatted about their families, favorite music, hobbies. Frankie said he loved tinkering around with his truck, taking care of his yard, drinking beer of course. Dorothy said she looked so forward to becoming a nurse but hated leaving the store. She met so many nice people every day and enjoyed the employee discount she got for clothing. Frankie told her she wouldn’t need that discount after she was working in the medical field. He lit a cigarette and offered her one too. She said since she was almost a nurse, she couldn’t possibly smoke knowing what it does to the body. He said he understood and made smoke rings all around her. She giggled a little while trying to hold her breath.
Frankie took her home at the end of the day. He stood on the porch of her trailer and gave her a long, smoky kiss. She returned it feeling a little happy herself.
“Well, bye now. I’ll be calling you later, okay?”
“Yes, okay. That would be fine Frankie. You’ve got my number.”
Dorothy went inside impressed he didn’t try to come in on the first date. Frankie drove away impressed Dorothy had known so many people at Deck Boat that didn’t work on the assembly line. She knew the owner, his secretary, the production manager and the warranty guy, and seemed genuinely interested in their extremely boring stories. At the bottom of the cooler, Frankie had a fifth hidden under the ice. He stuck his hand in way down deep under the ice that was so cold it almost burned his skin, opened it and took a big swig right out of the bottle while he drove down the two lane road. Her trailer was certainly off the beaten path but was twice as nice as his. He would call her tomorrow and see if she could maybe do a lunch or something. Maybe she could make him up something special and he could get to know her even better.
Dorothy took off her makeup, grabbed a diet coke, and picked up her backpack. In 1 month she would have her nursing diploma. The hospital in town had already told her she had a job and the sooner she could start the better. They were understaffed and needed more help ASAP. She had to fill out the required paperwork, but as long as she wasn’t an ax murderer, she was hired as soon as she was official. No more interviews were necessary. And they even quoted her the starting salary which was three times what she made selling boots and jeans. That’s why she needed to study like crazy this last month. She was right there.
After about an hour of reading, there was a knock on her door.
“Dorothy?” It was Frankie, slurring out her name.
“Frankie? Is that you?” She opened the door.
“I think I got lost, hell fire I can’t believe this, but somehow I got back on your road. I don’t know what I did, and it’s dark, and I’ve been driving around this whole time trying to get back into town.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“I know. I don’t know what I did, but is there any way I can park my ass on your couch tonight? I swear I will be good, I swear, I swear, I won’t bother you.”
He put his prayer hands out underneath his chin.
Dorothy didn’t want to say what she heard herself say, but there it was anyway.
“Okay Frankie. But I’ve got a lot of studying to do, so I’ll need to keep going.”
“You won’t even know I’m here, I promise.”
Dorothy got him some blankets, turned the TV on for him, let him borrow an extra toothbrush then went back to her room. She pushed the door to, but didn’t lock it. She didn’t want to be rude.
The next morning came and sure enough, he was still on the couch, still sleeping and she had finished all her studying plus gotten some sleep. Dorothy decided to make this gentleman a big breakfast. Sausage, eggs, gravy and toast woke him up from his deep sleep.
“Oh, lady, am I in heaven or what?”
“No, Frankie, you’re in my trailer but I am making breakfast. Grant it it’s not heaven, but hopefully it’s edible.”
“Honey, if that’s not edible then I’m in hell. It smells like a taste sensation in there.”
They ate, talked some more, then decided to go see a matinee at the theatre downtown. Frankie made up a “to go” cup while Dorothy picked the show. He held her hand during the movie.
Afterwards they got a burger then headed back to her trailer where his truck was parked.
“Thank you Frankie. I had fun today.”
“Hey, do you mind if I run in and get my cap? I think I left it by the couch.”
“Oh sure, no problem.”
After Frankie picked up his cap he asked if he could go to the bathroom. After that, he asked if he could maybe have a beer for the road, then when that one was gone, he asked if he could have another one.
“I’m sorry Frankie, but I’ve got to go to bed. It’s been fun, but I’ve got to go to work in the morning and then after that I have class. If I don’t sleep right now, I don’t sleep. But I want to thank you for a great day.”
“Well, yeah, it was good. But you had me out all day at the movie and such but when I want a beer, it’s a no. I’ll catch you later Dorothy.”
“Frankie, I didn’t mean anything by that, it’s just that it’s so hard with school and all right now.”
“I know. Or at least I think I know. See you later Dorothy. Call when you have some time for me.”
And then he left. He hopped in his old truck, slammed the door shut, squealed his tires on the driveway, pulled out onto the road, put the pedal to the metal, then he was gone with the radio blaring. And she felt bad. But she held her own. She had worked for that degree, for the job, and she wouldn’t let a man she had just met stand between her and success.
So Dorothy finished school, got her job, left the Western Wear World with a big send off and cake, and enjoyed paying the bills every month with extra to spare. She cared for her patients, enjoyed watching them get better, clapped when they left her care, and even started a savings account. She bought furniture, nicer clothes for when she had time to wear them, and became a medical professional. She was a nurse. She had met her goal and loved it. At first she didn’t have any time to think about dating but as the weeks went on, and the messages from Frankie accumulated, she started to feel lonely.
“Hey Dorothy, I guess the new job is good. Give me a call when you can. BEEP. Dorothy hi, it’s me again. I just wanted to see how the new nurse was doing. Call me if you’re doing house calls, just kidding, but call me. BEEP. Nurse! Nurse! I need some TLC! Give me a call! BEEP. Dorothy, this is Frankie, I was just checking in. I’d like to take you to dinner. Let me know when you’ve got a day off. BEEP. Dorothy, could you call me back, please?”
Dorothy picked up the phone.
Frankie answered. They decided to go eat chicken fried steak at the BYOB joint on the same road she parked her trailer. Frankie was already there when she arrived with a cooler full of beer and wine. Dorothy pulled out her chair and sat down.
“So, how’s the nursing profession? I guess you’ve been pretty busy?”
“Yes, I have been, and yes, it’s great. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. The patients come in broken and they leave well. It’s beautiful. I had this little girl last week who,”
Frankie couldn’t care less about her latest patient. He only cared about why she hadn’t been crawling over to his place.
“I guess that’s why you don’t return phone calls? You know, my feelings were really hurt over that. I didn’t know what was going on. Here I had taken you to my company’s party, slept on your couch, spent the next day with you, and you can’t even pick up the phone to say, ‘hi Frankie, I’m alive and not dead!’ See where I’m coming from here? I didn’t know what the hell and then after 2 months you call and want me to take you out to eat? I mean, I’m glad to do it, but hey, you can’t leave me hanging like that in the future, okay? Are we square with that?”
“I’m sorry Frankie, I thought you understood how important that time was for me to finish my studies and start my new job, and it was crazy, I, oh my gosh,”
He cut her off again.
“I know. It was crazy for me too. With wondering and worrying and hoping you were okay. But now that’s over. When I call you, you need to call me right back or else I’ll worry some crazy mental case has kidnapped you or worse yet, some crazy ass doctor has got you in his care. You are on your own right now Dorothy! You need somebody to check in with so that the world knows you’re still alive.”
Frankie reached out and touched her hand. Dorothy let him, and while he touched her, she felt loved.
“So you were worried about me?”
“I could hardly sleep at night. My productivity fell at work. Mr. Hunt even came down to ask me about it. I told him I was worried about you and he said he was too. He said he might even fake a sickness to see you up at the hospital. We laughed about you, but I could tell, he missed seeing you too.”
“I sold him one pair of boots. Why would he miss me?”
“I don’t know. I asked myself that same question. Are you being honest with me about him? Because if you’re not I would definitely need to know that right now, like if you’re screwing around with my boss and everything, especially with the status I hold there.”
“Oh my gosh. NO Frankie! Are you crazy? You know, I think I should just go because I’m not even believing what you are suggesting to me! I’m taking care of sick people and you’re accusing me of sleeping with your boss?”
“Okay, okay, I may have misjudged you on that one, but you have been a little aloof since you became a nurse. I’m feeling like you don’t respect me for what I do every day at the plant. If I wasn’t there, that shit wouldn’t happen. No fiberglass, no boat. Period. No people floating around in luxury on the water, fishing, water skiing, enjoying life. And I’m going to tell Mr. Hunt that at my next evaluation. He can put his money where his mouth is that’s for sure.”
Dorothy saw his eyes. They were hurt, they were searching for some love, and they didn’t know what to do.
“I’m sorry. I think this conversation went all wrong. I should have called you back and I didn’t. Forgive me?”
Frankie forgave her later that night while they made love in her room. Being a nurse, Dorothy knew the risks, but being the dreamer she was, she prayed for forgiveness.
She found out she was pregnant two months later. She was still hoping it was stress that had changed her body. Frankie was delighted, offered to marry her, and decided to move in, just to help with things. But he didn’t want to sell his trailer so he moved it in front of hers in the trailer park just outside of town. They decided to take up residence in his and keep hers around for a guest house or sell it since it was so nice. It was good to have options.
Dorothy kept working, they got married at the Justice of the Peace’s house, then went out for Sonic Chili Cheese Dogs later, because that’s what the little momma wanted, and they were pretty happy. Frankie told everyone at work his new good fortune and Dorothy held on to her little baby. She held her patients, held her baby, held Frankie, and smiled. Life, she thought, God had always kept her close and this too would be good.
Dorothy often got called into surgeries because some of the other nurses were just unqualified goofs that had somehow stumbled across the proper paperwork to get them certified, but Dorothy was studious, respectful, quick, conscientious, and steady. When the going got rough, the surgeons would call for Dorothy. Her fame at the hospital quickly spread as well as the number of hours she put in. When she was on call, she was there, when she was scheduled she stayed longer, when she was off, she answered the phone. And the baby grew. And Frankie was good with cashing the checks.
“Frankie, I want to get the baby a few things this weekend. She’ll be here in less than 6 weeks and we don’t have the nursery set up.”
“What do you think it needs?” Frankie was watching the Dallas game and they were kicking ass.
“A crib, for one thing, diapers, a changing table, clothes, toys, a swing, stroller, car seat so we can bring her home,”
“Stop, stop it right there. We’ll get the baby what it needs, but not during this game, okay? Come on STALBALK! COME ON! RUN IT HOME BABY!”
Dorothy felt the baby swishing, floating, then bumping around inside her and she loved her. She was so happy to have a little love close by. Her patients all wanted to feel the baby move, the other nurses covered for her when she just needed to sit down for a minute, and the doctors still believed in her ability to care for people.
Then Cristy was born. Dorothy was in the ER when her water broke. She just strolled over to the elevator, punched the button for Labor and Delivery and asked another nurse to please call Frankie. She dripped as she rode up the one level, marched to the nurse’s station and said, this is it, it’s time, then walked toward the first available room. They accommodated her selection, got Frankie there, and celebrated the birth of Miss Cristy Lynn Walker. It happened very fast, very easy and with minimal complications.
“I have a daughter.”
“Yes we do.”
“But, she’s here, and she’s ours and I can’t believe it. Are you okay? Did it go well?”
“Yes, I’m fine, I have tearing, but it went okay.”
Frankie held Cristy, 9 pounds, 1 ounce, and he cried and he cried and he cried.
He already loved his baby girl more than life itself and he couldn’t stand the thought of being away from her for even one minute. When the nurses asked if Dorothy would like the baby in her room or if she would rather her go to the nursery, Dorothy told them the nursery while Frankie said the room, with us. He walked over to the corner, held her, cuddled her and told her she was the most beautiful thing in the world.
Dorothy didn’t sleep a lot that night with the baby crying, but Frankie did. He never woke up from his recliner there in the room. Dorothy pushed the nurse’s call button so they could hand Cristy over for feedings while Frankie snored nearby. After the nurses left the room they rolled their eyes at what an asshole he was with poor Dorothy in there nursing at 2 o’clock in the morning all because he demanded it. There was a special place in hell for sure for guys like him, and it didn’t have recliners anywhere around.
Dorothy and Frankie became parents and were both totally in love with Cristy. She was a good baby and her laughter was a welcome sound. When she was 6 weeks old it was time for Dorothy to go back to work but Frankie wanted no part of it. He wouldn’t stand for someone other than Dorothy to take care of her but then again, Dorothy had the paycheck. Sure he was a badass fiberglass guy, but that didn’t pay like nursing did.
So, they had their first business meeting.
“If you go back to work, we will have $1750 left over for savings each month. But, Cristy will be held by a daycare person who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about her. If I quit my job and stay home, we’ll still have $250 left over, and she’ll be with her Daddy and you’ll be doing what you love. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. This seems so sudden.”
“Honey, we need to know what we’re doing.”
And so Dorothy left her angel baby with Ms. Helen who worked at the in-house day care at the hospital. That was a variable Frankie hadn’t factored in. Cristy was still close to mommy, and could be fed every few hours, and Frankie could still work. Problem solved.
Frankie was feeling small even though he now had this beautiful angel as his child. Dorothy had quickly stepped up to the plate and he was, once again, just a big pile of shit sitting close by, stinking up the whole place, while mother and daughter smiled and cooed, still trying to breathe in clean air.