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.