Lainie and Bert (Chapter Five)

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cabin-2

 

When Bert picked me up at the house – for I never, ever thought of it as “home”, he chatted with my Dad for a while until I was ready to go. Bert had a way about him, which made me calm. With Dad, I was always on edge, and never sure if I was doing or saying the right thing. Bert, though, seemed to accept me for who I was and he never, ever belittled me when he came to see my Dad.
Now, as he gathered my bags and led me to his old truck, he said, “The house is warm and welcoming for you Lainie, even though it’s modest and homemade.”
He grinned then, and I smiled back.
I hadn’t had much reason to smile these last few months. Dad was hard to get along with, between his drinking and then his impatience with me. I probably deserved it though. I know that when he told me Mom had spoiled me, he was right.
***
I entered the rustic cabin and looked around. The walls were boards and there was a wood stove in the corner. An area with a wood counter, some rough wood cupboards and a hand pump marked out the kitchen. There was an old cook stove front and center.
When Bert showed me the bedroom that was to be mine, he let me walk in first. The room was small and contained a single bed with a plaid coverlet and a window that looked out on the forest behind the cabin.
“I’ll leave you to put away your things. Then come out and we’ll have coffee. You do drink coffee?”
I nodded. Bert left the room and I unpacked my things. I set my Moby Dick book on the nightstand, which was an old wood crate upended.
I put on my pink sweater and walked out into the main part of the cabin. Bert had coffee ready as he’d promised. I sat down at the small table and Bert joined me. He buttered a scone and I did the same.
“These are good,” I said as I munched.
“Thanks. Scones are one of the few things I do well. I hope your cooking is better than mine,” he said.
I nodded. I took a sip of coffee and said, “Mom taught me how to cook before she got sick. I was glad when that happened that I could take care of her.”
“Your dad’s lucky to have a daughter like you.”
Tears flooded my eyes, unannounced. The issues between me and my dad ran deep like a riverbed.
“I’m sorry about your Mom, Lainie.”
“Thanks, Bert. It’s been over a month, and I still feel lost sometimes.”
“Give it more time. It’s hard to lose someone you care for.” Bert sat back and looked at me.
“I lost my parents in a car accident years ago. Maybe you know the story?”
I shook my head. I’d heard rumors that Bert’s dad deliberately drove his car head on into a semi out on Route 1 but that was all it was – a rumor.
Bert said, “My dad and mom fought a lot when I was a kid. I got used to it, although I never liked it. When they went out that night – going to the bar for drinks – I was left home alone. It was okay with me. Heck, I was fifteen. All grown up, in my way of thinking. Chief Atkins knocked on the door about three hours later. Told me they’d died in an accident.” Bert hesitated, and then he went on.
“Turns out Dad and Mom got to the bar, had a few drinks and then started arguing. The bouncer threw them out. Chief Atkins told me that Dad was driving, and he lost control of the car on that twisty stretch of road just north of town, and went over the center line. Ended up in the direct path of a semi truck.”
“I’m sorry, Bert. It must have been hard.”
“Oh, I had my aunt and uncle from Culvert City out to tend to me, for a couple of weeks. They wanted me to go and live with them, since I was a minor, but I refused. Got emancipated in court and then later I moved out here. I’ve been here ever since.”
“I heard you quit school.”
“Yeah, I never did good anyway in school. I got a job at the mill for a few years, and used my paychecks to build my cabin. I like the peace and quiet.”
I looked at Bert.
“Then why hire me to housekeep?”
“Well, I need someone to keep things up and for a bit of company. Besides, I think you need to be away from your Dad for a while. Just to give him some space.”
I felt my face flush. Did Bert know how bad my relationship with Dad really was?
“I guess I’d better go and feed the cows. You make yourself at home here, now.”
Bert took his jacket from beside the door, and left the cabin.
I looked around and wondered if I would learn to feel at home here. At least I was away from Dad. But it was so quiet! I was used to town with the busy streets and noise. I wasn’t sure that I’d fit in here. What else was there for me to do, though? Jobs were scarce. I walked into my room and sat down in the old rocking chair beside the bed. I picked up my Moby Dick book and started to read. There would be time to think later. For now, I wanted to lose myself in story.

***

I am rather liking Bert. And Martin.  I wonder about Lainie, though. Her character seems to me, to be rather slow to develop. Maybe that is a good thing….

Spring and Saving Bees

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spring

No additions yet to the story I’ve been posting here. It is a long weekend, and I am busy with other things for a bit.

Does this photo above make it seem like springtime? That’s what it does for me. There are flowering trees around my apartment building and I just love to look at them.

We are told now to refrain from mowing the dandelions as the bees need them for their food in this earlier part of the season. So don’t mind your neighbors if they appear to be neglecting their lawn. Perhaps they, too, are trying to help our dwindling bee population!

 

Martin (Chapter Four)

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I went home and tore up the job application. What else could I have done? I wanted a job; Lainie needed it.
Mom and Dad were having coffee in the kitchen when I came in.
“Hi son. Did you have a good time tonight?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, I did. Lainie and I went out to Mayer’s.”
“I’m glad you and Lainie are friends. I hear she hasn’t got an easy time of it at home,” Mom observed.
“Poor kid,” this from Dad.
I sat down at the table and pulled the application over.
“Is that something I need to help you with?” asked Mom.
I tore the paper in half and then into quarters.
“Nope. I was going to apply for a job at the hardware store, but I changed my mind.”
“Why, son?”
“Dad, Lainie wants the job. Guess I’ll have to keep looking.”
I excused myself and went up to my room. I tossed my jacket on a chair and had a shower.
I checked my phone for messages when I came out of the bathroom. Nothing. I’d been hoping to hear from a friend, Jordan. His parents owned a resort several miles out of town. They had need of someone to help out with snow clearing and janitorial work inside the lodge. A lot of people booked in to ski and while I didn’t ski, Jordan did. He was a real athlete and I envied him the collection of girls that always hung around him.
I messaged him and then fell asleep while I waited for an answer.

***
In the morning, Mom was cooking breakfast when I came downstairs. I still hadn’t heard anything from Jordan. I guessed I’d have to look for work in town after all.
I gobbled up some eggs and bacon and toast before I headed out.
I walked past Meyer’s and down to Main, then I entered shop after shop with no luck. At Harley’s Meats, old Mr. Harrison finally offered me a job.
“Won’t be fancy and I can’t afford to pay much,” he said. “But I’ll treat you fair and I’ll give you a chance to learn to be a butcher, if you’re interested.”
I had no interest in becoming a butcher. I was destined for better things. I had college to look forward to next year.
I said, “I’ll work hard if you hire me, Mr. Harrison.”
The old man grinned, his dimples showing in the chubby face. His bald head gleamed under the ceiling lights in the meat shop.
“Okay, son. Here’s an apron. Let’s get you started.”
He handed me a green apron, so large that I could tie it around my waist three times. It looked clean enough. Mr. Harrison had a reputation in town for being reliable and good to his customers and staff. I felt lucky to be part of his “team” as he called his employees. He led me into the back and introduced me to Paul, who had been ahead of me two years in high school. He was a big guy. He’d played football and was a member of the winning state team. They’d gone all the way to the semi finals the last year he played.
“Hey, Martin,” said Paul, “I remember you. Got honors every year, eh?”
I nodded, somewhat embarrassed. Honors didn’t compare to being a full fledged football hero.
“I’ll show you around and then I gotta get back to cutting up meat. That skill can wait for another day, but I’ll teach you. No worries.”
Paul turned out to be a good and patient teacher and while it didn’t take a lot of skill or training to clean up a bloody floor, I did my best to complete the work. I didn’t notice the smell of the place after a while so that helped.
Paul and I removed our aprons and went for lunch next door at Maxine’s. She had a small lunch counter and made good coffee. I had a ham and cheese sandwich with fries, and Paul had a steak sandwich. We chatted a bit, and Paul asked me about Lainie.
“How’s she doing now, Martin? You see her a lot don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I told him about her dad and how she’d come back from Bert’s and needed work.
“Don’t we all? I woulda gone to college on scholarship if it wasn’t for my dad gettin’ sick you know.”
I hadn’t known, and I told him so.
“Yeah, he had to leave his job and then the bills started to pile up. I had a choice and I made it. I’m not sorry. Shawna and I are gonna get married next June.”
“Congratulations.”
“Thanks. Well, back to the old grindstone.”
We went back to work. The rest of the day flew by. I had a lot of cleaning and scrubbing to do but nothing I couldn’t handle. At the end of the day, I walked home, pleased that I’d be able to tell Mom and Dad I was now a member of the workforce.

***
Mom greeted me when I got home. Dad, she told me, was out at Mayer’s having coffee with an old army buddy who’d dropped in when he arrived in town.
“So how was your day, Martin?”
I told her about my new job, and she patted my shoulder as she got up to make dinner.
“Good for you,” she said. “Your dad said you were going to come home with good news. That man sure does dote on you, Martin.”
“I just want to make him proud, Mom.”
“I know. After – “she hesitated a moment, before she went on, “after your brother running away, I think he’s put all his hopes on you. Sometimes I think it’s too big a burden for you to have to bear.”
“Oh, no Mom! I don’t mind. I’m glad that he’s proud of me!”
Mom smiled. Dad came home then and our little talk was done.
When Jordan finally called me, that evening, I told him I already had work.
He tried to convince me to come out to the resort on the weekend anyway.
“You might as well have a look around and talk to my parents. No harm in that.”
I agreed. I knew that, should I be hired at the resort, Mr. Harrison would be disappointed, but still, there were all those pretty ladies…I fell asleep that night and dreamed  giant snow rabbits dressed in bright colors hopped up and down the hills.

***

Where, oh where is this story going I wonder? The ski hill and Jordan just popped in there this week. Let’s see if Bert gets cleaned up and whether or not poor Lainie can get some much needed self confidence…

Bert and Lainie (Chapter Three)

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I dropped Lainie off at her dad’s but I sure was sorry to have to do it. I had my suspicions all along that she might not last out at my place, working for me, but I hoped she would settle in. At least then she’d be away from her dad. I knew the man wasn’t all there in some ways. He hadn’t been right since he came back off active duty. PTSD or something I think. It didn’t take him long to start in on the booze. After his wife died, there was only Lainie to take care of him. I think he resented it. That he needed to be taken care of. It can be hard for a proud man to need help from anyone. And his daughter – what made it worse was that Harry told me a long time ago that he didn’t believe Lainie was his.
“She’s brunette, for god’s sake. And grey eyes? Where’d that come from?”
I looked at the red haired man in front of me and shook my head.
“All kinds of genes in a person’s family, Harry.”
“Wish I’d asked Jenna before she died about it. Too worried about her dyin’ to ask though.”
I nodded and we finished our beers. Harry called for more, and we spent the rest of that night in the bar drinking and commiserating with each other. I was a good twenty years younger than Harry. I’d met him when I started to go into the bar when I turned twenty one. He was sort of a father figure I suppose. My own dad walked out one night when I was eight years old, to get cigarettes. He never came back. Mom refused to talk about him when he was gone. I grew up thinking I’d done something to make my dad leave me and Mom.
It wasn’t until I talked to Harry on one of the first nights we drank together that Harry suggested maybe I’d had nothing to do with the desertion.
“Some men just can’t take responsibility, Bert. Some men have to walk away. Me, I never did, even when I thought my kid wasn’t mine. I stayed. Watched Jenna die. Hated that.”
I went home that night, glad that I didn’t have any personal encumbrances, neither child nor spouse. Who needed that heartache?
Harry stopped going to the bars soon after that. He’d got mugged walking home one night and that sort of scared him, I think. Me, I wasn’t much of a drinker anyways, and one DWI was enough. I got off with a fine that I really couldn’t afford, and a tow fee for my old truck. Learned my lesson.

***
When Lainie stopped me on the street outside Mayer’s one day, and asked if I had need of a housekeeper, I said, “Sure do.” It was more because I felt sorry for the kid, than requiring help. She was all ready three days later, when I pulled up at their house, and Harry opened the door. He nodded to me and said, “She won’t last. Too incompetent. Too childish.”
I ignored what he said, and turned to Lainie who stood with her head down, and her face hidden. I wondered if she were trying not to cry. Poor kid.
“Let’s get the truck loaded with your things, Lainie,” I said, picking up her backpack and her old brown suitcase. She had a big paper bag too, which she carried out to the truck. Harry followed us, and he said a gruff, “Good bye. I bet I see you within days, girl.”
Lainie’s shoulders drooped. I said to her, “Lainie, hop in. We’ll stop at the food store for some supplies before I take you home.”
I drove down the street and turned onto Main. The Red and White foodstore was crowded with shoppers. They were offering a big sale for the fourth of July celebrations that were coming in a couple of days. I let Lainie shop mostly. She seemed to know what foods we’d need. She chattered away to me, and I noticed how she was different when her dad wasn’t around.
We headed back to my place, then, and hauled the stuff into the cabin. She carried her fair share, and I was surprised to see how strong the kid was. She was so thin and waif like.

***

It took three tries to write this chapter. Everything I wrote before was too predictable and not in the least interesting. I decided to go back and explore the other characters a little – Bert and Lainie’s father, Harry.

I do not know what the next chapter will bring.

Not yet.

***