The Garden, Chapter XIX

Charlie began his work the next day in a very good mood.  He expected to get a lot done on the three houses that were being remodeled for Carolyn and now he could tackle his side job with Lester and Chuck helping him.  Charlie had decided that these two men could very possibly be the nucleus of a crew of his own, once he decided that the time was right to create one.  They seemed to be skilled in multiple areas of construction, and he knew that if he had a team that could do carpentry, plumbing and electrical, he would be money ahead in the game.

Today Frank and Larry, the apprentice, would be at another house and Charlie intended to put in some time with them too.  If their skills were equal, or even close to, those of Lester and Chuck, he could potentially have a four-man crew that was ready made.  How Gerald Jackson had cobbled this team together Charlie had no idea, and what Mr. Jackson would do when, eventually, all or part of this team defected and went to work for Charlie he didn’t care in the least.

Mr. Jackson’s unwelcome presence was felt at the job sites for much of the first part of the day.  “Haven’t seen this much of him in the entire time before you showed up” Lester told Charlie.  “Maybe he likes you.”

“Yeah, and maybe pigs fly, too” Charlie replied.  “My guess is that he’s starting to get a little nervous.  Good.  It’ll help build a strong character in him.”

“More like build up a good head of steam that he’ll blow out his ass sometime soon.”

“Well, Lester, you may be right.  And that may happen sooner rather than later, so I’d recommend that you don’t stand behind him any more than you absolutely have to.”

“He’s so full of shit that I’ve been observing that precaution anyway” Lester replied.  They both laughed at their little jokes and then fell to on their work with gusto.

Near noon Jackson was at the main site and Charlie hated to leave to check on Frank and Larry.  He knew that he should however, so he spoke with Lester before he left.  “You know he’s going to try to play the boss when I leave” Charlie said.

“Sure as the Pope’s a Catholic” Lester replied.

“You feel OK dealing with him while I’m gone?”

“I’ve been wiping snotty noses on punk contractors longer than he’s been out of diapers” Lester said.  Work’s just a bit hard to get in the county right now’s the only reason I’ve stayed on with him.  It’s pretty much the same for the others, too.  I get the feeling you plan on gettin’ back into the game, and figure to hitch my wagon to you.  So the answer is ‘No.’  I ain’t the least bit worried about him.  You don’t seem to want to run him off just yet, so I’ll bow and scrape and make him feel important.  But I’ll stick with your schedule here, no matter what.”

“You do that Lester, and tell him to call Mrs. Preston or me if he leans on you too hard.  It won’t be long and he’ll be down the road somewhere, probably selling shoes at a Fred Meyer store.”

“Maybe I’ll go and buy some, just so’s he has to put ‘em on my feet.”

They both laughed again and Charlie left to check on the men at the other job site.  He called Carolyn before he left in order to let her know where to meet him if she should want a belated update on yesterday’s activities.  She replied by saying that she would be bringing sandwiches and other items for him and the crew.  Charlie guessed that she had been expecting his call.

As he drove to the second house Charlie thought about the evening before, and about Carolyn.  He had enjoyed himself more than he had in a very long while, and he was sure that she had enjoyed herself too.  He felt awkward, not having been in this situation for a good many years, but the hours since he stood in the parking lot had given him time to think about the issue more clearly.

Charlie knew that he was attracted to Carolyn, but didn’t have any plans to pursue it at this time.  His progress out of the state of depression that he had been mired in when he first began her bathroom remodel led hem now to dealing with a flurry of issues on all fronts, and the luxury of thinking seriously about a romantic relationship was something that he did not feel like he could pay proper attention to.

He knew that the interest was there though, on his part at least, and he believed that he had seen evidence that it might exist on Carolyn’s part too.  At least, he was sure that the potential was there.  Nevertheless, he believed that his balancing act with Jackson his return to form as a contractor, and the project of reconnecting with his son would require all of his attention, and that is where he intended to put it.

Charlie arrived at the Sieverson St. address before Carolyn did, and he found Frank changing the location of some electoral boxes in the ceiling while Larry was standing idly by, passing up tools that Frank could have carried with him in the first place.

“Hi Larry” he said.  “Whatcha doing?”

“Mostly standing here with my hands in my pockets, sir” Larry replied.

“Well, uh, why would that be, son?  I gave you and Frank a list of things that we need done over here, and it doesn’t look like you have made much progress towards doing them.”  Charlie looked up at the ceiling where the drywall was being cut to provide an opening for the new electrical box.  “And I don’t believe that this was on the list.”

“No sir” Larry replied timidly.  “It most certainly wasn’t there.  Mr. Jackson was here and told us to ignore that list and do what he wanted if we wanted to still be working next week.  I don’t know what else we could do, sir.  Frank didn’t either.”

Charlie felt his blood approach the boiling point but didn’t say a word until he got his anger under control.  “It’s OK, Larry.  You did the only thing that you could do.  It’s my fault, really.  Look, I want you to go into the bathroom and finish sanding the tape joints and mask off the windows.  You didn’t get to that yet, did you?”

“No sir.  Mr. Jackson was here early.”

“Uh huh.  OK.  Mrs. Preston will be here soon and I think she’s bringing some lunch for all of us, so you go get done what you can.”

Larry disappeared into the back of the house and Charlie called up to Frank.  “You can quit cutting that opening Frank.  Come on down and let’s put some tape over the cuts and get it ready to paint.”

“But Mr. Hamer” Frank began.  “Mr. Jackson said – – -.”

“Yes, I know.  You’ve been put into a very hard position and it’s my fault.  I’ll deal with Mr. Jackson; you just come on down and put some tape on these cuts.”

“Yes sir.  Right away,” and soon Frank was swinging down through the access hole into the attic that was located in the garage ceiling.  He looked perplexed, and Charlie walked over and clapped hand onto his shoulder.

“It’s OK, Frank.  You shouldn’t have been put into that position.  I’m going to spend the rest of the day here with you and larry, and we’ll get some work done, OK?”

“Yes sir.  Thank you” Frank said.

“Now why don’t you take a break.  I have Larry sanding in the bathroom and Mrs. Preston will be here soon.

“All right by me” Frank said, and went out to his truck to get his thermos of coffee.  He was closing the door to his truck when Carolyn pulled into the space in front of the house.  Charlie went out to greet her and help her bring in the two large baskets of things to eat.

Carolyn was all smiles, and Charlie noticed once again that she was a very attractive woman, even more so that he had thought before.  He smiled back, but with a reserve that she couldn’t help but noticing.

“Hi!” he said as he came up to where she was standing.

“Hi back” she replied, looking directly into his face.  “Why do I get the feeling that all’s not well?”

“Ah well, it looks like there’s no keeping secrets from you.  I hate to spoil a good meal, but we have a real problem with Jackson.  He’s confusing the younger guys, and I should point out that I didn’t help much in that matter.  This guy just may be more trouble than he’s worth.”

Carolyn picked up the lighter of the two baskets and pointed at the one she wanted Charlie to carry.  “Then let’s fire him” she said.

Charlie just looked at Carolyn for a moment and then reached for the basket.  “Just that easy?” he asked.

“Just that easy” Carolyn answered with the sweetest smile that she could produce.  “I hope you like chicken salad sandwiches.”

Charlie walked back toward the house carrying his load along side Carolyn.  “Uh, how are you going to meet payroll?”

“Remember that loan that you spoke of that could be used to cover until these units sold?”

“Uh huh”

“Well, it won’t be needed, because the units have sold.”

“Before completion?”

“Before completion.  The buyer insists on certain small changes in design – nothing very big, really – and wants the houses finished and ready to move into by the end of September, so there’s money in the bank.  Not all of it, of course, but enough.”

Charlie was stunned by the news.  “How in the world did you pull that off?”

“Charlie Hamer!  You know a magician never explains her tricks.”

Charlie walked with Carolyn into the garage, where a card table was set up as a place for the workers to put the plans for the job during the day.  Carolyn picked those drawings up and placed her basket there.  She indicated for Charlie to put his next to hers.

“Why don’t you get the men and let them get their fill?  Then we can talk.”

Charlie called Frank and Larry and they came, the latter being covered with a fine powdery layer of dust from his sanding.  Carolyn invited them to dig in.  She and Charlie took sandwiches and chips and bottles of water, then left to go sit in the children’s swing set that sat in the shade of a large maple tree in the backyard.

“OK, be mysterious” Charlie said as they began to eat their lunch.  “All I really care about is that we can cut ourselves loose from Jackson.  He’s become impossible to allow on the job.”

“Well, that’ll be no problem.  I have an escape clause in our contract that gives me the incontestable right to terminate the deal whenever I see fit.  I’m a careful girl, especially when I am on ground that I don’t fully understand, such as the construction end.”

Charlie took a bite of his sandwich and washed it down with a sip of water.  “I can’t tell you how glad I am for your caution.  So, let me bring you up to date on things as they stand now.”

Charlie explained in detail what needed to be done and how long it would take to do it.  He told her that Lester was a good and experienced worker and that he and Chuck were ready to jump ship right away.  “Frank and larry are young, but they work hard with proper guidance.  And this evening Lester and Chuck are going to team with me and knock out my side job.  Then, all of my attention can be focused on your work.”

“I like the sound of that very much, Charlie.  I will pay the workers this evening at four, and by next payday they will be your responsibility and the money will be in your account.  For convenience I recommend the same cost and terms of the contract that I’m canceling with Jackson.  If you see something in it that doesn’t seem right to you though, we can talk about that later.”

Charlie munched reflectively on his sandwich, looking off toward the city water tower that loomed into the sky several blocks to the south of where they were sitting.  Once again he took a sip of water and cleared his mouth.  He turned to her and said “I’m sure that the terms of that contract are more than fair.  Carolyn, you are an amazing person.  Has anyone ever told you that?”

“Not lately” she said with a chuckle.  “And not nearly often enough.”

“Well, you are.  This is going to change everything by 180 degrees.  It is my tradition to shake hands on a deal.”

“Oh, is this a macho thing?” she said with a laugh.  “Am I one of the guys now?”

“Nope.  I’m just a dumb carpenter, but I’m smart enough to see that you are definitely not just one of the guys!”

Carolyn smiled and extended her hand.  “Then let’s shake on it, Charlie.”

Charlie took her hand and held it for a moment, feeling a softness that he had not felt for a very long time.  Carolyn made no move to withdraw her hand.  After a moment that seemed much longer than a moment, Charlie gave her hand a shake and let go.  Carolyn permitted herself another smile while Charlie feared that a flush might have crept into his face.

He recovered quickly though and asked “So, will you give me the honor of giving Mr. Jackson the bum’s rush?”

“No way Charlie.  It’s one of the privileges of ownership.”

“Whatever you say.  You’re the boss” Charlie said with a slight bow.  “Now, I need another one of those sandwiches and one of those donuts, too, and then I have to get these kids back to work.  My new boss is a taskmaster!  Oh, and since Lester and Chuck will be with me tonight I can make the announcement formally to them if you would like.  And is it a good time for me to talk to Frank and Larry now?”

“Go ahead and do your deal with Lester and Chuck.  It’s your business now as far as I can see, but I would hold off with these two here.  They’re young, and Mr. Big Shot may try to make a stink.   I think he’ll go quietly enough when I make a few facts of life clear to him, but you can’t be too careful.  I’ll be back here at four and explain things to them.  Does that sound OK to you?”

“Sounds fine.  Now I’d better get these goldbricks back to work.”

They began to walk together back to the house.  Mid way Carolyn turned to Charlie and said “Oh, I forgot.  How did it go with the email last night?  If you don’t mind my asking, that is.”

“No, I don’t mind at all.  Maureen – that’s my wife’s name, if I haven’t told you that before – will allow me to visit with her and my son.  He’s quite a piano player.  I don’t really know why that wasn’t important to me before, but now I’m proud of how he used to be able to play.  Anyway, he’ll be in a piano recital in three weeks over in Gresham.  I’ll go and watch him play and then we’ll go to some place called the Iguana Feliz.  She says that Jack likes it there.  Maybe it’s where the kids hang out.”

“That’s nice.  So things are good with you two?”

“Me and Maureen, or me and Jack?”

“Well, both, I guess.”

“Charlie thought about an answer to that question until they got to the back door into the garage.  “Let me get the men back to work.  You hold that thought.”

Charlie and Carolyn found Frank and Larry finishing the last few bites of their lunch.  “Thank you very much Mrs. Preston” Frank said.  “I don’t usually eat this good.  My own cooking isn’t much to shout about.”

“Well you’re very welcome Frank.  You’re working hard for me and I like to show that I appreciate it.”

Frank was surprised that Carolyn knew his name, and pleased that she had complimented his work.  “We’ll get back to it now” he said.  “Thank you again.  Larry!  Let’s saddle up and get some work done.”

The two workers disappeared and Charlie asked Carolyn how she knew who was Frank and who was Larry.  “You told me that Larry was an apprentice and Frank spoke to me when I walked in.  I figured that the apprentice wouldn’t talk.  I guessed.”

“Remind me to never play cards with you” Charlie said.  Anyway, I don’t think you could call things ‘good’ between us.  Maureen made it abundantly clear that she has no interest in seeing me.  ‘I never expected to see you again’ she said, or something a lot like that.  She also said that jack was indifferent about the whole thing, that he didn’t care whether he saw me or didn’t see me.  She topped it all off by saying that if she becomes unhappy with the whole deal at any time, she would call it off right there.  No questions asked.”

“My goodness, Charlie.  That’s awful.  Was she always like that?”

“No.  Nothing like that.  Our last year was hard.  Well, it was awful.  But when we separated we were never nasty with each other.”

“I wonder what changed?” Carolyn mused.

“I don’t know.  I don’t know if anything changed, really.  The troubles and the separation and the divorce; they were all new to us.  We never dreamed that any such thing would ever happen.  Now it has happened.  Maybe those feelings were there underneath all along and now they’ve had time to simmer.  Or maybe the pressures and the pain have twisted her.  Heck, I couldn’t hold that against her if that’s the case.  Up to a few months ago I was convinced that she and Jack hated me and wanted me dead, and only my counselor and a few friends brought me to believe that maybe they don’t want that at all, although I still sometimes default to that when it’s quiet and I’m alone with my thoughts.  Maybe that’s one reason why I’m not alone with my thoughts all that much.”

They picked up the baskets and carried them back to her car.  There were still some sandwiches and other items in them, and Carolyn said that she would take them over to Lester and Chuck.  “I’d better take care of your crew” she said.  “All in the interests of good business.”

They put the baskets in the rear of her car and Carolyn got into the driver’s seat.  She lowered the window before starting it up and looked up at Charlie with obvious sympathy on her face.  “Charlie, you’re right.  Your wife and son have been through a meat grinder, just like you did.  All you can do is the best you can do.  I’m no counselor.  I’ve never had children either.  How many times have I said that to you?

So, there’s nothing I can say that will help you to untangle this situation.  I don’t know Maureen and I don’t know Jack.  But I think I know you, and you’re a good person.  Do your best.  Be honest.  Be yourself.  If that’s not good enough for them because of all the other stuff, then there’s nothing that you can do to change that.  But you’re good enough for the men here.  You’re good enough for your friends at your garden, and also for that waitress you told me about.  And you’re good enough for that disabled vet you live with.  And you’re good enough for me, Charlie.  You’re good enough for me.”

Charlie was speechless.  He waved at Carolyn as she raised the window and their eyes never strayed from each other.  She started the car and waved back, and then rolled away toward her other job where she would hand out some sandwiches and probably deliver a sweet and royal ass-kicking to a certain Mr. Gerald Jackson.

Charlie didn’t move for – well, he wasn’t keeping track of the time.  Finally Frank came up to him and asked what he wanted him to do next.  One more time Charlie thought “Well I’ll be go straight to hell!” and then walked away with Frank.  For the next three and half hours the three of them got a hurricane of work done in Carolyn’s remodel.

At four twenty in the afternoon Charlie, Lester and Chuck met at the job in Parker’s Landing.  The homeowner stared doubtfully at yellow-skinned, wiry Lester, but when he saw the three men begin to churn through the remodel he disappeared so that he would not get into their way.

“So, how did the afternoon go?” Charlie asked as he and Lester stuffed insulation into the spaces between the ceiling joists.

“Well, nothing much out of the ordinary” Lester replied.  “Mrs. Preston brought over some mighty good eats, but she said you guys got the best of them.”

“Yeah” Charlie quipped.  “She told us that she had to take special care of her good workers.  So, was Jackson there?”

“Yep.”

“Uh, was Jackson there when Mrs. Preston was there?”

“Yep.”

“Shit, Lester.  You aren’t exactly a library full of information!”

“Oh, so you want to hear about the part where she took him over to her car and waved some papers in his face?”

“Yeah, that’s the part I want to hear about.”

“And maybe the part where he got to yelling something about lawyers?”

“Yeah.  I’d like to hear that part too.”

“And I’ll bet you’d like to hear about the part where she started saying all kinds of stuff that sounded like Latin; you know, jurisprudence and rigor mortis and shit that sounded like that.  And maybe how he looked like he’d just been whacked in the balls with a number 36 Louisville Slugger; you know, the one that used to have Willy Mays’ signature on it?

Charlie burst out laughing and said “If it’s all right with you, you old goat, I would especially like to hear about that part.”

“Well, I don’t know nothin’ about that stuff.  I ain’t no eavesdropper.  I guess you’ll just have to ask Mrs. Preston herself.”

“Fair enough Lester.  Fair enough.  Now, we haven’t discussed this formally, but it looks like I’m going to need a foreman, and it looks like your old boss just may have ran out of work.”

“Yeah, if all of that happened just like I suppose it did, then I’m pretty sure need that I need some new source of work.  Me and Chuck would consider it an honor and a pleasure to work for you, Mr. Hamer.  Especially if you continue to work for Mrs. Preston.”

“Well, that’s my plan, Lester.  I’m just now getting back on my own two feet, as you know.  Once we get things under control for Mrs. Preston I’ll get all of the I’s dotted and T’s crossed on a new company, and I’ll review wages and so forth, and even see what I can do about some sort of benefits.”

“That would be a refreshing turn of events.  Did you talk to Frank and Larry?  They’re good people if you give them some direction.  They’re still a little green, but they’ll get there.”

“Yeah, I saw a little of that today.  Mrs. Preston was going to speak to them when she took their checks to them this afternoon.  I suppose they’ll stick with us,  but we’ll be OK even if they don’t.”

“Oh, I think they’ll stay, and you won’t regret keeping them Mr. Hamer.  The boys’ll work for you, and I will too.”

“I appreciate that, Lester.  But if you want to get on my good side I would like it if you could drop the ‘Sir’ and ‘Mr. Hamer’ stuff.  My friends call me Charlie.  My mother calls me Charlie.  Hell, my ex wife’s divorce attorney called me Charlie once or twice.  I’m sorta getting to where I like it.”

“Whatever you like, Mr. – – -, uh, Charlie.”

The three men worked most of the rest of the evening in silence, absorbed by their work and the desire to be finished with this job as quickly as possible.  Insulation was stuffed into walls as drywall was being screwed onto the ceiling, and then while the ceiling seams were being taped and the screw heads covered with mud drywall was being hung on the walls.  He homeowner marveled at their production and promised to have coffee and some hot pastries ready for them by eight the next morning.

Charlie said good bye to Lester and Chuck and drove home after stopping once again at the nearby Burgerville.   “I have got to get my diet under control” he thought.  “As soon as things settle down, I’m going to have to get a routine.” Both of the burgers and most of the fries were gone when Charlie arrived home.  Carrying the bag with his trash he entered the door and went inside.  Billy was sitting on the sofa reading when he stepped into the room.

“Some people live the life of Riley, while others have to work” he joked as he threw his trash into the can under the sink.”

“Yeah” Billy responded.  “Work is the plague of the leisured class.  I guess somebody’s got to do though.  Somebody’s got to pay my disability.  Uh, could you bring me a beer?”

“Can’t even get up to get his own beer!”  Charlie pulled two beers out of the refrigerator.  He sat in a chair next to the sofa and handed one of the beers to Billy.  “You want me to twist the cap for you and plump your pillow?”

“Would you?” Billy asked.  “And I got an itch right back here.”  Billy pointed toward his back.  Charlie unscrewed the cap of his own beer and threw it at Billy.

“What are you reading?”

“It’s a history of Poland.”

“Sure.  Uh huh.  And I’m the King of Poland.  Seriously, what you got there?”  Billy showed him the cover of the book and, indeed, it was a history of Poland.  “Well, I’ll be – – -.  Why a history of Poland?”

“Why not?  Well, it’s a long story.  I used to read a lot; loved history, too.  When I got to Iraq I found that it was mostly boring there.  There were times of pretty intense excitement, but mostly it was boring.  Guys would play cards or sit around and bullshit each other about what studs they were back home where the girls didn’t look like a bunch of walking potato sacks, but I wasn’t into that.  We could download books, or have them delivered to us if we like to feel the paper.  That’s what I liked.  Anyway, so i knew that I would be there for a while so I ordered ‘War and Peace.’”

“That’s a pretty big book, isn’t it?”

“It’s a little bit bigger than the Hardy Boys and a little bit smaller than Mount Everest.  Not much smaller though.  Anyway, one of the main characters is that Frenchy, Napoleon.  You know, the guy who liked to get his picture painted with his hand inside his jacket?  I always wondered if he was scratching fleas or something.”

“Yeah, I know about Napoleon.  Don’t know about any fleas though.”

“Well, I didn’t know much about him so when I finished War and Peace I got a biography of Napoleon.  You know, him and me both being soldiers and all.  Damned book was almost as long as War and Peace!  So, he kicked some royal butt, like, all of Europe.  And in the book it said that the Poles were his really big allies because they hoped that he’d make them a country again, and I thought ‘Wow, they weren’t a country?’  Then I got my ass half blown off and I didn’t do much reading after that until now.  The VA’s helping me get it together, and I’m reading again.  Did you know that Chopin was Polish?”

“Uh, no.  I guess I’ve never thought about Chopin at all.  Who the heck is he, anyway?”

“Who was he is the right question.  He was a composer.  You don’t know about Chopin?  Jeez, I live with a cretin!”

“Yeah, whatever.  So what about Chopin?”

“Well, he wrote about a million pieces of piano music when Napoleon was doing his thing and everybody in Europe liked to listen to them.  It was big here in the U.S. too.  And it was like whenever Polish people heard the music, it made them feel good about being Polish, and kept alive their hope that they would be a country again some day.”

“Looks like it worked” Charlie observed.

“Yeah, it does.  So I decided to find out how it all worked out.  The Russians were real shits and didn’t want it to happen.  The Germans didn’t want it either, or at least the Prussians didn’t.  There really wasn’t a country called Germany back then.”

“So, did Napoleon make Poland?”

“Nope.  He got tangled up with Russia and got his butt kicked.  You know, another composer you probably never heard of liked Napoleon at first but changed his mind.  You know about Beethoven?  He was writing a symphony in Napoleons honor, but when the Frenchy made himself Emperor of France and a bunch of other places, Beethoven said ‘screw you’ and dedicated the music to some other rich guy who supported him.”

“Yeah, I know Beethoven.  He’s the guy who wrote that ‘Dah Dah Dah DAH’ thing, right?

“Uh huh.  That was his Ninth Symphony.”

“Wow, I didn’t know that you were so much into music.  You always like it that much?”

“Yeah, pretty much.  I started listening to the classical stuff on Pop’s turntable.  He still had one of those and a bunch of old vinyl that he got from his father.  Shoot, I got no idea how old that stuff is.  I listen to that sort of music at night when I go to bed.  I have a timer set up and play some Chopin or Mozart, or Shubert, well, all kinds of stuff.  It helps me to settle down and cork off when I’m a little uptight, which has been most of the time since Iraq.  It’s good stuff.  You should try it.”

“Maybe I will.  I’m going to a piano recital soon, so maybe I should listen to some of the stuff that my son might play, just to get into the mood.”

“You know what your boy’s going to be playing?”

“Naw.  Maureen didn’t say.  Heck, you heard me read the email last night.  It was mostly like ‘screw you.  You can listen to your son play if you’d like but neither of us really care.’

Billy became more serious when Charlie said that.  “No man.  That’s not really what I heard at all.  I heard a woman who’s still hurting like hell and who’s worried for her son.”

“I know.  I know”  Charlie said.  “That wasn’t fair.  Damn!  I don’t know why I keep doing that!  There’s just something about whenever I hear anything about Maureen I go into this defensive mode.  I did it when her parents told me her answer to my message and now I’m doing it again.  I don’t get it.”

“Look man, you got chewed up and spit out by something easily as bad as I went through.  Hell, worse!  I can’t even imagine losing my daughter, if I had one.  Shit, I can’t imagine that one little bit.  You two went through hell together for, what, a year?  Yeah, a year together, and then you spent two years grinding yourself to a pulp.  You should probably cut her some slack, but you really only just started cutting some to yourself, so it could take a while.”

Charlie sat in his chair, nursing his beer and digesting what Billy had just said.  He was right, of course.  Somehow this young guy who nearly got blown to smithereens, lived alone in a dank cottage behind his parent’s house and was only just beginning to get his life back on track with the help of counseling and the right pharmaceuticals, always showed a wisdom that surprised Charlie.  He was right.  Again.  Charlie decided that he had to struggle to keep Maureen’s last three years in mind whenever he had dealings with her, and show a little grace.

“Well, I’d better get a shower and get into bed” he said.  I’ve got a side job that I may finish this weekend.  Oh, and I’m the general contractor in charge of Carolyn’s work now.  I’ve got a four man crew and a lot of work out in front of us.  Oh, and I think she likes me, man,”

“Just another day at the office, was it?”  Billy laughed.  “Shit, man.  How did all of that come about?  No, don’t tell me.  You have to get to bed and I do too.  Tell me about all of this tomorrow, if you get back before midnight.”

Billy got up from the sofa and put his empty bottle in the recycle bin outside the front door.  Charlie made a mental note to ask Billy to move that bin.  If Maureen did drive by to check the place out, which Charlie doubted she would do, he didn’t think a bin full of empty beer bottles was going to contribute much to the impression that he was hoping to make.

Charlie took his shower and got into bed.  He set his phone on the table next to his bed and typed in ‘Chopin.’  One of the options was ‘Best of Chopin’ and it would play for one hour, forty two minutes and 17 seconds.  Charlie started the music and dialed it down low.

As he lay there in the dark, listening to the piano music, he thought of a man long dead who dreamed of having his own country back.  Charlie thought of how his own travels  had brought him to where he now lay.  He thought of Lester and the crew, the old apartment, LuAnn, Gerald Jackson being handed his lunch by Carolyn, and about Carolyn.  And finally, just before sleep came and took him, about maybe getting his own son back the way Chopin wanted back his country.

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