If you are planning an audio book, I highly recommend
He is doing my short story collection and I am happy with his work.
Again, I am not receiving any remuneration for this suggestion. Just happy to help other writers out.
If you are planning an audio book, I highly recommend
He is doing my short story collection and I am happy with his work.
Again, I am not receiving any remuneration for this suggestion. Just happy to help other writers out.
I have been working on making my published book of short stories into an audio book.
Now that Amazon supports audio books for countries besides the USA, I jumped at the opportunity!
One can audition potential readers. I’ve chosen someone and the audio book should be out in early July.
But….I also needed an audio book cover. The specifics of this cover are very detailed, and I needed someone who could fulfill the requirements.
For those of you who have no knowledge of Fiverr
I highly recommend it.
I received several offers to create the cover.
I chose maru_vdv
and I am very pleased with her work.
Should you need a cover or some other graphic design done, she can do it!
I am not receiving any remuneration for this recommendation.
I just want to help anyone who is looking for a good designer.
I’ll be posting another chapter in the story soon.
When I learned that Lainie had got the job at Jensen’s Hardware, part of me was happy and part of me was sad. I’d really wanted that job. I left my house that day, and ran into Kate. Well, I didn’t run into to her literally, of course. I knew that she’d be at Mayer’s after lunch. Her shift usually ran either eight o’clock in the morning to four in the afternoon or noon to eight at night. She was there and she siddled up to me and winked. I winked back. We had a good friendship I thought. And she was one of the few kids in school who had never made fun of me. God knows, there were enough of them that did.
“Hey, Martin. What can I get you?”
“How about a cheeseburger and an orange soda?”
“Sure, right away.” She walked towards the back and I watched her. I was half torn between my love for Lainie and a strong attraction to Kate. The girls were so different, I decided I was just weird to find them both attractive. It didn’t occur to me that maybe my thoughts were normal for a guy my age. I was used to finding fault with myself, mostly because of the dyslexia and the teasing I’d got all through school.
Kate brought me my food. I told her that Lainie had got a job at Jensen’s.
“Well, good for her! Give her something for herself, instead of looking after her old man all the time.” As she spoke, Kate lowered her voice and tossed her head towards the back of the restaurant. I saw why as soon as I checked out the room. Lainie’s dad was at a booth with three of his cronies.
The place got busy for a while, and Kate and Mrs. Mayer rushed around, serving customers and cleaning tables.
Then, Mrs. Mayer approached my table. She sat down across from me.
“How are your folks, Martin?”
“They’re doing good, Mrs. Mayer. Mom won at whist the other night.”
Mrs. Mayer smiled at me. She said, “I’m glad to hear that. Her and I have had some bad luck at that game. Too bad I missed that. I was working that night.”
She hesitated, and then spoke again.
“Martin, have you given any thought to what you want to do until college? Are you interested in working?”
“I sure am, Mrs. Mayer. Do you know of some job?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. I need someone to work here, cleaning tables and dishwashing. Would you be interested in that?”
“I sure would! When can I start?”
Mrs. Mayer laughed.
“I’m glad to see that you’re enthusiastic. How about tomorrow, from noon to eight?”
“Sure. I’ll be here. Thank you, Mrs. Mayer.”
She took her leave then, and I finished my meal. I was happy. This was just what I needed. Now both Lainie and I had jobs, and maybe the three of us would make it to that party on Friday night.
I sauntered home, and my mom and dad were delighted when I told them my news.
I worked, then for a couple of days and then it was Friday. Kate picked up Lainie and I in her new car. It was an older model, but nice to look at. It was red, and as she drove us to the party, Kate said she’d mostly chosen the car because of the color, although her dad had also given her the go ahead when he checked out the mechanics.
Now, we arrived in the parking lot of Stevenson Park, named after the town’s first mayor.
There were a lot of other vehicles there already. Lainie picked up the case of beer we’d brought and I took it from her.
“I’ll be gentlemanly and carry this,” I said.
“Thanks, Martin, but we all know you just want to drink more than us,” said Kate. She grinned so I didn’t feel bad about what she said. Besides, to tell the truth she was right. We were all old enough to drink in our state, and I didn’t mind knocking back a few. I knew that Lainie would have one can at most, while Kate could drink me under the table if she was encouraged.
Joking and chatting, we made our way down the path to the lake. There were about thirty people there already. There were quite a few people gathered around a campfire and some of them were toasting marshmallows or roasting wieners.
Kate excused herself and went off to talk to some of the other girls, while Lainie and I found a seat on a fallen log just out of the way of the fire and its smoke. I opened the case of beer and handed her one, taking one for myself. We each took a sip and smiled at each other. She congratulated me on the new job and I asked her how the work at Jensen’s was going.
Her eyes sparkled, as she said, “Oh, Martin! It’s the best thing to happen to me ever. I love working there. I just wish my dad was pleased. Seems like nothing I do ever makes him proud of me though.”
Kate returned and I had time to hand her a can of beer, before I was grabbed from behind and pulled off the log.
I landed on my butt, and there was laughter. I turned to look as I got up, and saw Jordan, Jeff and Mark. All three were laughing.
As I attempted to stand up, Mark pushed me back down. I spilled my beer.
Jeff said, “Ha, look, Martin can’t hold his beer.” The three of them laughed uproariously at that.
I got to my feet, minus the beer and swung at Jeff. Jeff dodged me, stepping back, and I swung at air. Jordan said, “C’mon guys, let’s go find somebody else to pick on. He’s already lost the beer.”
“No way. I think Martin wants to fight. Do you wanna fight, Martin?” This from Jeff. He loomed over me, a good six inches taller than me.
I swung at his chin. I missed. Jeff swung his arm and it connected with my shoulder. Then he pummeled my chest and then my stomach. I dropped to one knee.
“C’mon guys. Enough.” That was Jordan again. This time the other two listened and they made off towards the fire.
Lainie was crying as she grasped my arm and Kate, taking the other arm helped me stand. “Oh, Martin, I am so sorry,” said Lainie.
“Not your fault,” I said, from behind a fat lip. I wiped at my mouth and my hand came away, bloody.
Kate opened her pocket book and took out a tissue. She handed it to me, and I pressed it against my mouth.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said. “We’ll go back to my place.”
That’s what we did. Lainie and Kate were both shaken up by what had happened, but not me. This was something that had happened to me before, always those three guys, although sometimes there were others. School had been miserable for me because of it.
We had a good time playing video games and finishing the beer.
Kate and Lainie told me that Lainie was going to move in with Kate.
“Say, that’s great. I can see both of you in one shot,” I said somberly.
I don’t know why, but both girls burst into giggles at that. Then I saw the time and I told them I better get going. We said our good byes, and I walked Lainie home and went home myself.
I was depressed for part of the walk, after I saw Lainie to her door. I mulled over the beating I’d got and wondered for the thousandth time just why it was I seemed so likely to attract the bullies in life. Then I started to think about my job at Mayer’s. That was a good thought. It made me smile, and by the time I reached my house I was grinning. Mom and dad were still up, watching a horror movie. I joined them for a while, and then went to bed.
As I fell asleep, I wondered if Lainie’s dad had given her any trouble when she got home. Maybe I should have stayed around for a bit. Little did I know what was brewing at her place.
Well, Martin was the main speaker this week. I wonder what’s going on at Lainie’s? I don’t trust that dad of hers at all.
It is a very good thing I read this chapter over before I posted. I had some names all confused and that would have been even more confusing to you, the Reader. All fixed, though – I think.
I didn’t last at Bert’s and like you’ve read, I had him bring me back to my dad’s place.
The day after Martin and I went out to Mayer’s, I braided my hair into a neat plait, and looked through my small closet. I found the black dress I’d worn for Mom’s funeral. That would do. I’d wear it and put on the little gold and pearl chain she’d given me for that last birthday before she died.
I slipped on a pair of flats and I was ready to go. The day was sunny and nearly warm. The walk took a while, as I met up with some of the other neighbors, as they did their yard work, and everyone wanted to chat. I didn’t mind. I thought that my second choice for a job would be at the Golden Age Home. I liked my elderly neighbors.
I got to the hardware store just after nine o’clock. I stepped in and the bell above the door announced my arrival.
Mrs. Jensen, in a bright red shirt that was emblazoned with “Jensen’s Hardware” across the pocket, greeted me.
“Well, Lainie, I see that you took my advice. You look very professional. Now, how about filling out an application?”
“Yes, please,” I said.
Mrs. Jensen walked up to the counter and reached behind, bringing out a sheet of paper.
“You can go into the staff room in back and fill this out. Bring it up to me when you’re done.”
I nodded and took the paper from her hand. I walked to the back of the store and peeked around the corner. There was a small room with a table and chairs, coffee pot and a small fridge.
I sat down at the table and looked over the application form. It was simple enough, asking for my name and address. I stopped when I got to the next line, though.
Experience? What could I fill in there, I wondered. I’d done housework for my parents and for Bert. That was about it.
I wrote it in and then jotted down my reasons for applying. I left out the part about my dad telling me I was useless, though.
I stood up, gathered my pocketbook and the paper, and went back up to where Mrs. Jensen stood. She took the sheet and looked it over. She glanced at me and then she smiled.
“Good work, Lainie. You’re hired. Can you start this afternoon? I’ll give you some company shirts and you can wear your jeans.”
“I’d love to. Oh, thank you so much!”
“Now, don’t get too excited. It’s not a job that pays a lot, you know. And you’re on probation for the first ninety days.”
“That’s not a problem. I amjust so happy that you’ve given me this chance!”
Mrs. Jensen smiled and I left the shop. I felt like I was walking on air all the way back to the house. I changed into one of the shirts that she’d given me, and a pair of jeans.
Dad arrived home just as I was about to leave for work.
“What’re you wearing that shirt for? Where’d you get it?”
“I just got a job at the hardware store, dad.”
“We’ll see how long that lasts before you make some mistake and they fire you.”
Tears filled my eyes, but I refused to let him see. I grabbed my backpack and left the house. I would be early for work, but that was better than late, and I didn’t want to stick around and have dad berate me any more.
I spent that afternoon learning what was stocked and where. Mrs. Jensen showed me how to ring up sales on the cash register. She patted my shoulder after I served my first customer.
“Good for you, Lainie. You were polite and helpful.”
I beamed at her words. Maybe this job would work out for me.
When I got back to the house after work, Dad told me to get him a beer as usual and I made supper. It was a good meal and I was proud of my cooking abilities, but Dad said, as he sat down at the table, “What kind of crap is this? Salad? Are you tryin’ to put me on some kinda diet now?”
“Dad, it’s the first course. I’ve got steak and potato pie next.”
He harrumphed and ate. He ate it all up and still complained at me between bites.
“Real men don’t eat salad. That’s some kind of city stuff. Don’t bother making that again, eh?”
I agreed with him just to keep the peace. I trembled as I washed the dishes after the meal. I tried not to cry. I told myself that I was a big girl, and didn’t need his approval. Besides, I was never going to get it, no matter what I did or what I tried.
He left for Mayer’s after that.
I went upstairs and into my room. I read a few pages in Moby Dick. My phone rang. It was Kate. We chatted a bit and I told her about my new job.
“Good for you, Lainie! Say, are you interested in sharing my apartment? I could use a room mate to help with the bills. And I know how things are between you and your dad.”
I was overcome with excitement.
“Kate, do you mean it? I’d love that.”
“Great! Let’s meet for coffee tomorrow at Mayer’s. I’m off that day. What hours do you work tomorrow?”
I told her and we agreed to meet up for a discussion of our plans around six o’clock. I was so happy I had trouble sleeping that night. This was going to be my successful move out of the house. I’d get away from my dad, and start a new chapter in my life. One where I was in control and not under my dad’s thumb all the time.
When I fell asleep at last, I dreamed of a huge mansion, and Kate and I were living there, serving coffee to customers who wore red shirts and carried fishing poles and power drills.
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….
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!
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.”
“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.”
“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…
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.
I walked across the street and stared at the sign in the window at Jensen’s Hardware.
I have dyslexia, so it’s a challenge to read most of the time. I got the message, though. They wanted to hire somebody. Maybe that somebody could be me. I straightened my leather jacket and entered the store.
“Why, if it isn’t Martin. How are you, son?”
Mrs. Jensen knows me from church. I go there with my parents, even though I resent it. I figure I’m too old to be seen with them. I’m nearly eighteen.
“I’m fine, Mrs. Jensen. I wondered if you’d consider me for the job you’re advertising?”
“Why, of course. I’ll need you to fill out an application, though. Can you do that?”
“I could. Would it be okay if I take it home and bring it back later?” I asked because my mom would help me fill out the form. Like I said, I’ve got dyslexia.
“Sure, Martin.” Mrs. Jensen reached in below the cash register and brought out a sheet of paper. I took it from her and promised I’d bring it back soon.
I folded it up and stuck it in my jacket pocket. I left the shop and walked down the street, in the general direction of home.
Then I got waylaid by Kate. She was carrying a bag from WalMart. She grinned and asked me what I was doing.
“Nothing much. Wanna hang out?”
“Sorry, Martin. I’ve got to get to work. C’mon with me. We can talk while you walk me over there.”
It was about two blocks to Mayer’s. I joined Kate and we talked about the party on Friday night.
“You are coming, aren’t you, Martin?”
“I might. Then again, I might have to work.”
“Really? Did you get a job then?”
“Not yet. But I have a lead.”
“Good. Mom says you’re lazy and we got into a fight about it.”
Kate laughed. “No need to apologize. My mom and I fight over all kinds of things.”
By this time, we had got to the coffee shop, and I said goodbye to Kate. She went into the building and I walked home. The leaves were crunchy beneath my feet. I liked the noise.
When I arrived at our house, a big ranch style that was built in the fifties, I went in and called for my mom. She wasn’t home.
Probably off to play whist, I thought. She and dad retired a couple of years ago. Did I mention that I am a late baby? My mom and dad were both over forty when I was born. They’ve always seemed old to me.
I knew mom would help me fill out the application. I needed a job. Not because I needed money. Dad made sure I received a generous allowance every week. I wanted to work because I wanted to feel normal. Other kids I knew had jobs, why not me? I was going off to college next year, and I wanted some work experience of some sort to add to my college applications. I already volunteered to help special needs kids through our church. If this job panned out, I’d be all set, I thought.
Just in case I couldn’t get into college. My dyslexia was a problem.
I went into the kitchen and made a peanut butter sandwich with extra jelly. I put it on a plate and headed to my room, leaving the application form on the kitchen table.
My room was my sanctuary. Mom and dad trusted me to clean it when required, and neither of my parents ever went in there. It was my place.
I switched on my radio and listened to the news and then some music. I was really too excited over the possibility of getting this job. I wasn’t sure why. I must be an idiot to be this worked up. Anyone my age already had worked a couple of different places. I was the only one I knew who hadn’t. Maybe I had a right to be excited then.
I finished my sandwich and put the plate on my night table. Then I called Lainie.
Most of the kids at school thought we had something going on, but we didn’t. I wouldn’t mind though. I had hopes that something would bring us closer together.
We met in third grade, when I moved here, and we’d bonded over a stray kitten we found walking home from school. Lainie had taken it in, and I knew she’d taken some comfort in doing that. After her mom died, she had only the cat. Her dad did nothing but yell at her, it seemed to me. I avoided going over there unless there was no choice. Most times I’d come to the door, and we’d leave right away. We’d go out to Mayer’s and have coffee or a soda and talk for hours. We were lucky that the owners didn’t mind us staying so long. They were an older couple, who loved their work.
“Hello,” Lainie said when I called.
“Hi there, Lain. Wanna go for coffee?”
Lainie said, “Can’t Martin. I’m in the middle of making dinner right now.”
“I’m in the middle of thinking you’re the cutest girl I’ve ever known.”
“Oh, Martin! You are funny!” Lainie laughed and I thought it was the nicest sound I’d heard all day.
“I got big news,” I told her.
“What’s that Martin?”
“I’m going to apply for a job tomorrow.”
“At the hardware store.”
“Oh, Martin, not there!”
Lainie sounded less than happy.
I asked her why not, and she told me. She was after that job.
I knew she needed the money.
I asked her if she wanted to get together after she was done dinner.
“Sure, Martin. Wanna come over?”
We settled on a time to meet up at her house.
I put down my phone and sighed. No way was I going to try and take that job now. I supposed I’d have to go out tomorrow and start at one end of Main Street to the other, asking at every shop if they needed help. Might come up with something.
I took a shower and changed. Mom was home by the time I went downstairs. She greeted me and told me she’d won at whist. She was beaming. I knew she wasn’t that good a player and she usually lost, so I gave her a hug and congratulated her.
“Mom, I need your help to fill out an application for a job at the hardware store. Can you help me with it? Not tonight, though. I gotta meet Lainie.”
Mom told me that was fine and then Dad came home. Before I left, he offered to help Mom make dinner. He was a bit miffed that I wasn’t going to be there for dinner. He likes our “family time”, he calls it. I left the house.
I got to Lainie’s and rang the bell. Her Dad answered the door, and glared at me. He’d once accused me of laziness and being “spoilt”, which in some ways I knew was justified. Still, there was no need to be rude about it. I didn’t tell him so, though. I wanted to stay friends with Lainie.
Lainie came out of the house and we walked along the street. She stooped and picked up some dried leaves and tossed them at me. The rest of the way to Main Street, we took turns throwing leaves at each other. Then we got to Mayer’s.
There was only one table left, off in a corner near the kitchen door. We didn’t mind. We sat down and Kate took our order. She grinned at the two of us, but kept her distance. The Mayer’s don’t allow their staff to gab with the customers.
Lainie and I drank coffee and shared a cinnamon roll. We talked about the job opening and I managed to convince her to apply the next day.
“As long as you don’t mind, Martin.”
“Nope, not at all. Next job opening’s mine to apply for though.”
We laughed together.
Lainie’s dad walked in. He strode over to our little table and pulled a chair around from the next table. He sat down and glared at me.
“Hello, sir,” I said.
“Sir? Are you trying to be smart with me?”
“N-no, I’m not.”
“Well, don’t keep my girl out to late, eh? She’s got housework to do tomorrow. Hasn’t done the laundry all week. Lazy.”
Without waiting for either of us to speak, he got up, turned away and joined some of the other old guys at a table in the back.
Lainie was quiet. She stared at her coffee mug. I reached over and put my hand under her chin, so that she was forced to look at me.
There were tears in her eyes.
“It’s okay, Lainie. I’ll take care of you.”
“Don’t need that. I just need a good friend and you are that, Martin.”
Small comfort. I felt like I loved her, and she thought I was a good friend. Still, I would settle for that, for now.
I have no idea yet where this story is going to go. Be patient. We will figure it out as time goes by….
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