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.
“FUCK! NOW WHAT AM I GOING TO DO? HUH?”
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.
“OH FRANKIE! MY GOD THIS IS FRANKIE!”
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.