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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.

***

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