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|23rd Feb 2010, 03:08 PM||The Legacy of Gervasio Zygmunt (2 short chapters) #1|
“Your uncle,” said the shyster, “left two million simoleons to you, which you get on two conditions.”
I sighed. Of course, there would be conditions. The old skinflint. If he could have found a way to take his money with him, he’d have done it, bony fingers wrapped tightly around the coin, a big grin on his skeleton face. But he hadn’t managed to do that, and I almost smiled at the thought of his last and final frustration.
“What are they?” I said. I wondered just how far I’d be willing to go for two million simoleons. Pretty far, actually.
“First, get married and raise at least one daughter and one son on your uncle’s Ibolya property.”
“That’s four conditions.”
“Second, keep a log.”
“A log? You mean, chop down a tree and keep what’s left?”
The shyster’s evil grin got even bigger and more evil, if that’s possible. “No, Mr. Zygmunt. A journal. A diary. A daily record of your life from this moment forward. Here’s a piece of paper and a pencil. Start writing.”
“Yes. My name is Vencel Lorant Domokos, and it’s not spelled S…H…Y…S…T…E…R. Got that?”
“Who’s going to read this besides you?”
“The Boldizsar Orphan’s Court.”
“Who gets the money if I throw this pencil at you and walk out the door?”
“He’s in jail.”
“You’re his lawyer.”
The beady eyes brightened. Clearly, he was counting heavily on my failure to complete the conditions of the inheritance. Two million simoleons would cover a lot of legal fees. I knew my brother would not see a single simoleon. Not that I cared. He was a murderous wretch and deserved to be in jail. I’d have thrown away the key. But the court system would probably turn him loose in 5 to 10.
I stared at the shyster. Either I performed according to the terms of the will or Mr. Vencel Shyster Domokos got the money. What choice did I have?
To walk away, that’s what. A week later, after a plane ride, a boat ride, and a precarious jeep ride up the side of a cliff to a rocky wasteland, I looked out across my Uncle Fredek’s Ibolya property.
Ibolya sounds like a disease, and with good reason. The property is a few acres of absolutely nothing except rock and rain. At the moment, it was both.
I would not be here long before I learned that it also snowed a lot.
I could almost hear the old geezer’s laughter rolling out of the deep, dark pit that contained his bitter soul.
Rats to you, Uncle. All I need is a wife and a couple of kids. How hard can that be?
|23rd Feb 2010, 11:48 PM||02: A rainy plain that ain't in Spain #2|
Meanwhile, there’s the journal condition, so I'd better document a couple of things.
Day one: Pack a suitcase and buy a plane ticket. Yes, it took the whole day because I had to wash my clothes first, and to do that I had to go to the Laundromat. The airport also had long ticket lines.
Day two: Plane ride. I sat in a small chair between a woman with an energetic baby and a guy with sharp elbows. My knees were against the seat in front of me, and I spent the entire trip studying the bumps on a bald head. The head blocked my view of the tiniest movie screen I’ve ever not seen.
Day three: Buy a ticket on a freighter going down the coast to Strangers’ Moon, a narrow peninsula of barren land that most people know enough to avoid. I prefer boats to planes. They’re great, as long as you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere. There’s a lot more space to move around. You just have to watch your step on a deck slippery with oil and seawater. Watch where you sit, too, because of the seagulls. Sometimes the air smells good, fresh off the sea. Sometimes it smells like diesel engines and rotting fish.
Day four, five and six: Walk around the decks, avoid seagulls, eat lots of rice and beans, and watch the crew work. The crew spends a lot of time scrubbing something or painting something, while out at sea, and when in port, the men are either breaking out, repairing, or stowing the gear used for moving cargo. Hard work, no doubt about it. Lucky for all of us, the weather remained calm, and the deck underfoot remained reasonably level.
Day seven: After one more night of rolling around on a paper-thin mattress thrown over the rusty springs of a narrow bunk, I awoke to the noise of the boat grinding into harbor. It was a grey and rainy day, a perfect match for the grimy little port of warehouses, stacks of containers, and the overhanging cranes used to hoist them between ship and shore.
I followed the freighter’s crew down the ladder to solid land and to the nearest pub, where I asked the barkeeper about transportation. Taxi? Buses? He shrugged and nodded toward an old man at the far end of the bar. I introduced myself to Mr. Fritjof, showed him the map I’d gotten from Mr. V. Shyster Domokos, and asked if he could get me to the Ibolya property.
“No problem,” he grinned. “Easy as my old lady.”
I should have been suspicious of that remark. The jeep ride up the cliff was hair-raising, and took years off my life. When we got to the top, I got out of the jeep on shaking legs and reached for my wallet to pay him. He stopped me.
“Save it for the supply wagon,” he said. “I expect they’ll want to be paid a lot to make that trip.”
“You still living with that old lady?”
He laughed, slapping his leg at the same time. Then, still grinning, he shook my hand, climbed back into the jeep, and said, “See you around town.”
He pointed at something I hadn’t noticed before, the top of a radio tower rising above the ridge. “Over there,” he said, “on the other side of the hogback. You can walk it in a couple of hours. Takes longer in the snow.”
“Great,” I said. “Thanks for the ride.”
He winked, “Anytime.” Then he made another suicide run, going back down the cliff road, singing at the top of his lungs, “My boat’s by the tower, and my bark’s on the bay, and both must be gone at the dawn of the day…”
I listened to his voice floating up over the cliff, growing steadily fainter, as I turned and looked out over my new home, a rainy plain that ain’t in Spain.
First challenge: build a shelter.
|23rd Feb 2010, 11:55 PM||03: And that meant rain in my barrel #3|
I had already arranged for delivery of a few things to Ibolya, like a mattress, a stool, kitchen stuff, food, a barrel for catching the infernal rain, tools, a few planks of wood, a small refrigerator, and a generator. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? That’s because I was broke, as in no job and no money.
The supplies might be another day in arriving. I had managed to get hold of the truck driver by using my cell phone, which surprised me. But if the neighborhood had a radio tower, then I guess it had a cell site as well. In the meantime, I was anxious to build a shelter, so I piled up the rock as fast as possible. There was plenty of rock to choose from and, naturally, I picked the small pieces that I was fit to carry.
I know nothing about building a house, so I built the walls thick enough to support their own weight, fitting the rocks together like a jigsaw puzzle designed by a madman, worrying the entire time about being buried alive inside my own shelter. By the end of the first day, I had three walls, but no door and no roof.
I got wet when it rained.
The next day, the supplies arrived. The driver was white-faced and furious about the cliff road. I gave him everything left in my wallet.
“That’s not enough,” he said, eyes narrow. “Maybe I should just take that generator back down and sell it in port. You didn’t warn me about that road.”
“You look like you’ve been in worse places.”
He stuck out his hard jaw and squinted belligerently, “Think so, Mister? I’ll just take your money for my troubles, and not bother to unload any of it. I’ll sell it all down there.”
“Go right ahead. But I’d recommend you tie it up real good so that none of it rolls around inside your truck. If it breaks loose, your truck might tip off the road and fall down the cliff. Want me to help?”
I waited patiently for him to figure it out. If he decided to take all my stuff, I’d have to walk to the radio tower town and find a job before the sun set.
Finally, mumbling angrily to himself, he got into the back of the truck and roughly tossed my supplies out to me. I barely managed to grab the refrigerator before it hit the ground. And, fortunately, he needed help moving the generator. Then, showing me his teeth in a nasty smile, he gunned the motor of his truck, put it in gear, and headed slowly for the cliff road.
I sorted through everything he’d left behind, ate two bowls of unheated soup, and went back to work. By nightfall, I had finished the fourth wall, hung a door and put a flat roof on the hut. OK, so the walls and roof leaked. No biggy. At least I had shelter.
I was so worn out that I didn’t care that I was going to bed on a damp mattress on a damp floor, inside a cold, damp hut. I happily dreamed of the fancy furniture I’d buy with Uncle Fredek’s money. Also, a fancy house. And a fancy car with a very loud engine. Really loud, like the thunder that was splitting the sky wide open. The rain rattled on the cheap wood I’d used for the roof. It ran down through cracks and formed puddles all around the mattress. The dirt beneath the stone floor sucked the water down through the joints between the slabs. I smiled, and fell asleep, grateful for the rain now, because I had a barrel to catch it in.
|24th Feb 2010, 12:04 AM||04: One Fried Egg #4|
Make no mistake; I knew my situation was desperate. Conditions were primitive. No plumbing, for instance. I was taking sponge baths out of the rain barrel, and answering nature’s call a few yards from my front door.
The generator worked in the rain, but just barely. Would it work when covered with snow? Maybe not. I was having trouble with it. Every once in a while it would stop dead. Then I’d punch and pound on it until it roared into life, sparks flying everywhere.
So a couple of nights later, as I sat eating cold oatmeal and drying off after a frigid rinse with a sponge, I decided it was time to go to town and find a job.
I also needed to find a wife. I didn’t care who she was or what she looked like. She just had to be willing and able to do the job. I expected plenty of applicants, since the pay was good: me and my uncle’s 2 million.
The following morning I dressed carefully for a long hike over the ridge, taking some pieces of dried meat and a flask of water. On the first trip into town, it took me all day to get there. The ridge was a complicated pile of rock, with a number of dead end gullies. On the second trip, I got over the ridge and into town in about three hours. By the third trip, I knew about the road that Fritjof had failed to mention. I’ll always wonder how the pub’s bartender managed to keep a straight face as he delivered yet another tourist into the hands of that old prankster.
But all that’s for later.
It was after sunset when I first saw the town.
Town, actually, is not an accurate description of the buildings at the foot of the radio tower. There were only three of them. One was the general store, with groceries, clothes and magazines. A second building housed the local watering hole.
It had a pool table.
More interesting to me was the snooty young hostess who was willing to show me a seat at the bar, but who refused to talk to me at all.
I like a challenge, though, and decided that I’d have to wiggle into her good graces one way or another. The third and smallest building held the public bathrooms and the mayor’s office.
The mayor was also, as I learned later, the town sheriff, there being little crime and even less money in the town budget for two government employees.
Significantly missing from this town was a motel or inn of any kind. But I had no money, anyway.
I introduced myself to a woman who had just left the bar, and told her I was looking for work.
“Ask Roberta Clayton. That’s her office, and she’ll be there early in the morning. I heard that the electric plant is looking for guards, times being what they are, and all.”
“You got it. She’s the mayor.”
“One Fried Egg.”
“One Fried Egg,” she grinned.
“It’s been a long day, if you don‘t mind.”
“No joke. Officially, on the maps, we’re Hazelton, since that tower belongs to Hazel, Inc. But quite a few years back, the now retired Mayor Volney bragged to a national newspaper reporter that our town got so hot in the summer that you could fry eggs on the street. The reporter wrote that, however hot it might be, and it was surely hot, the town was so small you could only fry one egg at a time. Mayor Volney never lived it down. He lost the next election, and we‘ve been One Fried Egg ever since.”
“It‘s a more interesting name than Hazelton.”
“Sure is. What kind of work are you looking for? Where are you from?”
“Almost anything. And I’m from Pleasantview. It’s one long boat ride to the north. I inherited some land nearby. And some money. But I need a wife and a couple of kids before I can get full title to both. How about it? Are you interested?”
She laughed hard, slapping her knee. Seems to be a popular local gesture. Then she walked away, still giggling. It occurred to me that I might need to be a little more circumspect in my offer of marriage.
|24th Feb 2010, 12:14 AM||05: Her face is fair, her eyes are bright #5|
Not one single simoleon in my pocket. Not one.
I was starving. Furthermore, it was too dark to risk going back over the ridge to my hovel sweet hovel.
So, instead, I returned to the pub and checked out the women again. The hostess still refused to talk to me. I gave her a friendly grin and went over to flirt with the bartender. Her name was Tamara Bachman, and she laughed at my jokes. Good start. I asked who her friends were, nodding towards the hostess and the waitress.
“Tina Scott and Brandi Ying. And before you ask,” she smirked, “they are single. But they don’t date tourists, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“You think I’m looking for a date?”
“Since you didn’t ask me for the name of that man at the end of the bar…”
“OK, what’s his name?”
“I’ve no idea.”
“I figured as much, which is why I didn’t want to embarrass you by asking for it.”
“I don’t believe you, Gerry. You’re checking out the women, not the men. I can tell. It’s in your eyes, you know, the way you look at a woman.”
“My eyes? Tell me,” I leaned further over the counter, staring into her brown eyes, “what you see in mine. Then, maybe, I’ll tell you what I see in yours.”
“I see…” She giggled, and her voice lowered to almost a whisper, “I see hunger for the company of a woman. You look like a cat watching a mouse, eyes big and glassy, pupils dilated.”
“Wrong, my dear Tamara, because you are no mouse. What you see is a reflection of your spectacular beauty. So how do you feel about lonely strangers? Will you--unlike your timid friends--go out with me?”
“How many times have you practiced these lines, Mister? They roll so easy off your tongue. Besides, you haven’t said what you see in my eyes.” She opened them wider and leaned so close I might have risked a kiss. I didn’t try. Too soon.
“I see a thousand suitors who tried and failed to win your heart. Tamara, please, let one more poor fool try. Go out with me next Saturday.”
“I don’t know you at all.” She chewed on her lower lip, hesitating.
“I’m charming. I’m witty. And I adore you. How can you lose?”
“Maybe. Call me in a couple of days. If I agree, we’ll eat here. And I want lobster.”
“What’s your number?”
“Just call here. Everybody knows me.”
My stomach growled before I could say anything else. Tamara laughed. “Here,” she said, picking up a plate of food from behind the counter and handing it to me. “Have my supper. I’m not hungry. Big lunch.”
“You,” I smiled gratefully, “are an angel. Lobster it will be. Right here. Next Saturday. And I’ll call every day.” I carried the plate of pork chops to a table, sat down, and savored every bite.
Looking good, I thought. Lots of women around here. One of them should be willing to marry me. Maybe it would be Tamara.
|24th Feb 2010, 11:31 PM||06: Long night in a small town #6|
With a wink and a smile, I handed the empty dinner plate to Tamara and headed for the door, thinking I’d look around the grocery store before it closed.
I was only half way across the room, however, when the lady in the purple exercise suit came into the pub.
Wow! Nice. I glanced toward Tamara, but she was busy over a pile of dishes, her back to the room, so I wandered over and said howdy to the lady in purple.
“Sorry, Charlie,” she said. “I’m not looking for company. Keep on walking.”
“Just wanted to ask a question about the grocery store. How long will it be open tonight? And does it stock tofu?” Out of the corner of my eye I saw that Tamara was watching us. “And my name’s not Charlie. It’s Gerry.”
“George is the clerk there. Anything you want to know, ask him.” She turned away and walked over to the hostess, whose name, I now knew, was Tina Scott.
The real question for George was, “Who’s the lady in purple?” If she knew his name, I bet he knew hers. As I left the pub I waved at Tamara. She was leaning on the counter, frowning at me. No problem. A lobster dinner later this week would make her smile again.
Outside, the temperature had dropped considerably. And it smelled like winter, not fall. If necessary, I’d sleep in the public bathroom on the sticky floor. No way was I going back over that ridge tonight. In the meantime, I walked over to the grocery store to meet George. Grocery or General, whichever you called it, it was without doubt the One Fried Egg equivalent of Wal-Mart. It stocked a lot of stuff.
George turned out to be a friendly teenager with a big nose, big teeth and shaggy hair, and he was perfectly happy to gossip about all the women in town.
I’ll admit the conversation got a wee bit vulgar on occasion, as we sorted through who we’d like to…er…date, and why. His own experience with women, since he was a teenager in a very small town, was severely limited, but he certainly had a fine imagination, probably because of how he spent his afternoons, standing around for hours behind a counter, alone in the store. He told me the purple lady’s name, Christy Stratton.
Eventually, after we had chatted for a while, I explained my desperate condition -- a very long walk from my house on a freezing night. Would he mind if I hung out here until daybreak, when I planned to visit Mayor Clayton about a job.
“Wanna work here mornings? When I’m in school?”
“I suspect, George, that the manager does not pay you what you’re worth, and would pay me even less.”
“You sure got that right.”
“So thanks anyway.”
“Well, the store’s not going anywhere, if you ever change your mind. But I’ve got some things in the ‘lost and found’ box in the back that you can have. Take your pick of the hats and scarves. Hey! Look! I’ve actually got another customer in here. It’s a red-letter day for One Fried Egg.” George walked over to chat with the other man who’d come in while we were talking and was now examining a big, stuffed toy.
He didn’t succeed in selling the man anything, however, because the guy wandered back empty-handed to where I was sitting on a worn couch in front of an old color TV, watching the sports news for the day.
“The counter kid,” he said as he sat down next to me, “mentioned that you were new in town, too. I’m with Simax Electric. We’re upgrading the controllers in the plant. You part of that job, by any chance?”
“Not yet. Need help?”
“Hiring’s not in my job description. The foreman might be interviewing. My name’s Neville Machk.” He offered me his hand.
“Gerry Zygmunt. Oooh! Did you see that kick? How could he miss? 30 yards! He should have made it easy. Too bad. I thought the game was headed for overtime.”
“So where’re you staying? Is there a motel around here that I missed? Rooming with the Mayor’s cousin isn‘t working out for me.”
“That’s tough, but you probably have a decent shower and a warm, dry bed. I’m camping out in a stone box on the other side of the ridge.”
“Kind of cold for camping out, don’t you think.”
“Builds character.” I was getting a little annoyed with this guy. For one thing, he never took off his sunglasses. People who never take off there sunglasses indoors are hiding something. Bruises, at least. Or shifty eyes. And he was a little too nosy.
“Well,” he said, standing up, “I’ll see you around. Maybe down at the plant.” He left the store. The football game was over, too.
I yawned, put my feet up on the couch and watched a messy boxing match for the few minutes it took for one guy to beat the other guy down to a lump on the mat.
Eventually, the TV put me to sleep.
|26th Feb 2010, 01:47 AM||07: A job for Gerry #7|
Sleeping on a short couch is uncomfortable, so I was awake even before George ran into the store the following morning to rouse me.
“Hey, Gerry! Better be out before the manager gets here. Grab a hat and scarf out of the box. I found a jacket, too. Looks like it might fit you. I’ve got to get to school. Think I’m late already. Atta boy. There’s the door.” He hustled me out of there fast, locking the front door behind us. Then he vaulted the porch railing, landed running, and 3 seconds later was in the driver’s seat of a beat-up little car. He made a quick U-turn and rattled off down the road, his exhaust drifting lazy over the town square long after he was gone.
The other buildings looked deserted, but I knocked on the Mayor’s door anyway. No answer, so I wandered back to the store and played with the chessboard on the porch.
A few minutes later I saw a lady with short grey hair come walking around the corner of the store and over to the small building. She dug a key out of her pocket as she neared the door, and had slipped inside even as I was putting the chess pieces away.
She hadn’t come in a car. She must have walked from somewhere nearby, and I wondered about that. I hadn’t seen a single house anywhere. But the land was craggy, and there were probably small buildings hidden all over the place behind the rocks and hills.
I knocked on her door and heard her yell out, “Door’s open, Carmen. Get your equipment in here pronto.”
I pushed on the door and stepped inside a very small office. The mayor was facing away from me as she stamped her foot angrily on the floor behind her desk.
“Not Carmen, Your Honor,” I said. “My name is Gervasio Zygmunt, and I understand that you’re the one I need to see about a job.”
She straightened up and turned around. “Mr. Zygmunt, eh? Help me out with these rascals. Bring your big feet over here and kill as many as you can. I can’t think straight with them crawling all over the place.” She backed away to let me take her place, and I did as she asked, stamping my ‘big feet’ with gusto, enjoying it. Too many bugs in this world, in my humble opinion. Maybe they have their purpose, but I cannot imagine what it might be.
“OK, Mr. Zygmunt. That’s enough. I think you’ve taken care of the first battalion. The rest are in retreat, and Carmen will have to deal with those. She was supposed to meet me here this morning and must have gotten an emergency call.”
I surveyed the battlefield and nodded. “I think I met her, if you’re talking about the exterminator. She’s the one who told me I should see you about a job.”
“As an exterminator?”
I tried not to look dismayed, “If that’s all that’s open, Your Honor…”
“Don’t be so formal. We don’t need the pride, pomp and circumstance around here. Call me Roberta. And your name’s quite a mouthful. Got a nickname, Mr. Zygmunt? One that you won’t mind my using?”
“Gerry,” I smiled. “I just moved in about a week ago, up on the Ibolya property that my uncle owned.”
“Owned? Has he passed?”
“Yes,” I said solemnly. They might have been close friends, for all I knew.
She snorted in disgust. “Hope you’re not like him, Gerry. He was a nasty old fart; I’ll be honest with you. If you’re anything like him, I may ask you to leave town, too.”
I laughed. Couldn’t stop myself.
“Good omen, your laughing, Gerry. Now, this job business. For someone who appeared to enjoy killing these critters, you don’t seem keen on doing it every day for a living.”
“I need work. If killing bugs is the job, I’ll do it.”
“Technically, they’re insects, not bugs, but no matter. Carmen’s doing just fine all by herself. Nice lady. Very sweet. Anyway, we need a night guard for the electric plant. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been no trouble there at all, but I’d feel better if someone was keeping an eye on the place.”
“I’ll take the job, if you’re offering it to me.”
“I have a good feeling about you, Gerry. Guarding the plant is a position of trust, and I want to trust you. However, fill out some papers for me so I can check your background before I give you the keys to the plant.”
She pulled open a desk drawer, grabbed some papers that were stapled together, and handed them to me.
“Answer as many of the questions as you can. Be honest, but I do not need to know about every traffic ticket, unless you were arrested. You can sit at my desk. I’m going over to the saloon for coffee.”
“That’s what I call it. What would you call it? Never mind. Hurry up with that stuff. Then get yourself home and rested up, because you start tonight.”
|26th Feb 2010, 01:52 AM||08: One Frozen Egg #8|
I considered whether I really wanted to risk returning to my stone house. Suppose I had trouble getting back to town, and turned up late for my first night on the job? That would be bad. And yet, I needed the rest that Mayor Roberta had recommended. Just get moving, Zygmunt, I told myself. You’re going to earn money tonight. Maybe when your shift ends tomorrow morning, Roberta will give you an advance on your paycheck. You’ll need it, anyway, to buy dinner for Tamara.
So I pulled my hat down lower on my ears, secured my scarf, zipped up my coat, and went back over the ridge. It took a lot less time than before, even though I stopped frequently to make sure I’d recognize the route on my return to town in the evening. Back at my hovel I ate a bowl of cold cereal and went to bed.
I was almost too nervous to sleep, fearing I’d not wake up in time to get to work. But I did sleep, and what woke me up was the sound of the wind. It was hissing in around my loose plank roof. I rolled out of bed and opened the door.
Well…Rats! I glanced at my watch. 4 PM. If I hurried, I should be in town before dark. No time to wash up. Besides, the water in the barrel had a thick crust of ice on top. Fortunately, the wind and snowfall stopped temporarily as I started on my walk, or I might never have been seen again.
Even so, I tripped over rocks hidden by the snow, and almost slid into a ravine. I did manage, at last, to arrive at the Mayor’s office by 7 PM and in plenty of time for my job. My face and hands burned from the cold. My jeans were caked in snow and stiff with ice.
Roberta tilted her head as she stared at me. “What’s this? You’re half frozen. Did you walk here? Don‘t you own a car?”
“How would a car get over the ridge?”
“Oh, don’t tell me! You got off the boat, asked for a ride, and met Fritjof.”
“He offered me a lift.”
“Up the cliff road…”
I nodded suspiciously, “And he told me the way to your town was over the hogback.”
“One of these days,” she brought her fist down sharply on her desk, “that old fool is going to get someone killed. Maybe himself. No, Gerry, the main road out of Chesterport, Route 37, runs around through a gap in the cliffs, and continues down the peninsula to the resort. It’s longer, but it’s flatter and a great deal safer than that old road up the side of the cliff. Tower Avenue, the famous little street where eggs get fried here in Hazelton, comes off Route 37 just a stone’s throw down the hill from the General Store. Your street, Ibolya Street, connects with Route 37 a short walk from here.”
“My street?” I said, and rubbed cold fingers across my angry, aching brow. “I haven’t seen any street near me.”
“It’s there. Take my word for it. What kind of house did your uncle leave on the property? Is the roof good? This blizzard promises to be serious.”
“No, the roof’s not good. There’s no house at all. I built a hut out of whatever was handy, mostly rock. But if the roof collapses, it doesn’t much matter. There’s nothing of value inside anyway.”
“It matters as to what you’re going to do for shelter. OK, Gerry, this is how we’ll work it. I have my truck here. I’ll drop you off at the plant so you can start earning your keep. Meanwhile, I’ll call out a couple of the guys and send them up to your place with some lumber to secure your roof against the storm. I’m going to advance you your first paycheck to pay for this. Understand? Are we agreed?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I only ask that a little be set aside so that I can buy Tamara a lobster dinner on Saturday.”
Roberta blinked. “My, oh my,” she murmured. “That girl works fast, doesn’t she?”
|26th Feb 2010, 03:08 PM||09: A roof, a window and dreams #9|
Roberta was right. There was a road to my property. I saw it when the factory foreman who’d arrived early for his shift drove me home and then pointed out the narrow path through the rocks.
I had built my house close to a steep rise in the land, thinking it offered some shelter from the winds, and had never thought to climb over that particular rise to see what lay behind it. More rock, I had assumed. It was certainly everywhere else that I looked. And, well, yes, there was more rock. But there was also the path through it, and the road.
I followed the meandering path, trudging through the snow, and came to my house within a few minutes. I didn’t recognize it at first, but then saw the generator shooting sparks off into the snowy night, and that convinced me the place was mine.
Whoever they were, the guys that Roberta had called to work on my hut, they were good. Must have been a truckload of them, and in the few hours I had walked aimlessly around an empty electric plant, they had done more than add a real roof. They had also added another room. Yes, it was small, and it was built of the same rock I’d used with the first room, but they hadn’t had much time to get it all done before the snowstorm made any more construction work impossible. I wasn’t going to complain. It was a much better job than I would have done, and I was grateful to Roberta for arranging it.
I was especially grateful for the new pine door, and the window, both of them caulked against the cold wind.
They had kindly moved my water barrel inside, too, and it was no longer frozen solid. It didn’t matter to me that an indoor rain barrel can’t catch any rain. I could restock it with snow.
I lit a candle and sat down on my stool with a book that Roberta had given me. She had told me to study the manual if I was interested in pursuing a career in police work. I smiled to myself. Why work so hard for that kind of career when 2 million simoleons waited for me as soon as I produced a couple of kids?
Still, the future is never certain, so I opened the book and tried to read it. I hardly saw the words. Instead my mind wandered back to One Fried Egg…to Tamara, and Christy, and the snooty, but cute little hostess named Tina Scott.
|26th Feb 2010, 03:11 PM||10: The gatekeeper #10|
I didn’t have to show up for work until 8 PM so I slept late, until lunch time. Then I called Tamara, or tried to call Tamara, which means, I called the saloon where she works.
“Arlo's Grill tonight’s special is barbecued ribs how can I help you?”
“Is this Tina? Hello, Tina. This is Gerry. Can I talk to Tamara?”
“I’m sorry, Sir, but she’s busy and cannot take any calls now. Please call back later.”
I heard a click and a dial tone. Hmm. I patiently dialed again. When she picked up the phone again, I said quickly, “It’s very important that I talk to Tamara. I…”
Click! Dial tone! I stared at the phone in my hand. I waited about 5 minutes, pacing around in bare feet on the ice cold and clammy stone floor. Then I took a deep breath and dialed the number again.
“Arlo's Grill tonight’s special is barbecued ribs how can I help you?”
“With a reservation, Miss, for Saturday night for two at 6:00 PM.”
“Yes, Sir. And the name, Sir?”
“Zygmunt. That‘s Z…Y…G…M…U…N…T.”
“Yes, Sir. Thank you for calling. We’ll see you then.”
“Wait wait! Don’t hang up. I want to talk to Tamara Ba…” Click!
I dialed again immediately and when she answered, and before she could tell me about the rib special, I said grimly, “Keep hanging up and I’ll keep calling. You gotta answer the phone because if you don’t the public will think you’ve closed.”
“Mr. Zygmunt, you can be arrested for harassment if you do that. I have your reservation. Employees can’t take calls on this phone. Goodbye.” Click!
I dialed yet again. I don’t give up easy. I let her get through the entire rib dance, and then said with as much sadness in my tone as I could muster, “Tina, you’re standing in the way of love. Without Tamara my life is empty.”
“And probably meaningless.”
“Exactly, so you underst...”
“I really need to talk…”
“Aimless and irrelevant.”
“Pointless is good, too.”
“Dinky. It suits you, Dinky.”
“Tina, will you get Ta…”
“Puny! Even better, Mr. Puny.”
“NOT true!” I said, annoyed.
“Her shift is over and she’s gone, Mr. Dinky. Call her at home.” Click!
I set the phone down carefully on my bed. OK, Tina Scott, you asked for it. I’m going to marry you. I grinned and went off to wash up in my barrel of rain water.
|26th Feb 2010, 03:13 PM||11: Don't touch the knobs #11|
The factory foreman who brought me home from work the night before had insisted on giving me a lift back and forth every night until I could afford to get my own car.
“Every now and then,” he said, “we lose someone in the snowstorms and have to get the whole town out to search. Let me tell you, that’s a miserable job, hunting for what usually turns out to be a dead body, and I’d rather just spend the time in my car giving you a lift.”
“Well, thanks, Leo. I’d rather be in your car, too.”
He laughed, and said, “Now, I’m reminded of the big, ugly biker who had been drinking in Arlo’s Grill for a while and decided that it was time to leave. He walked outside and immediately noticed that his Simota Tesi had disappeared. ‘OK’ he says, re-entering the crowded bar ‘I’m gonna have one more drink, and if my bike ain't back by then, the same thing will happen here that happened in Veronaville.’ With that, several of the guys ran out of the Grill and within minutes one had returned to tell him that they'd found his bike for him. As he turned to leave, the bartender stopped him. ‘Excuse me stranger,’ he said, ‘but what happened in Veronaville?’ The biker dude shrugged, ‘I had to walk home!’”
I smiled, “Good one! Got any jokes that would amuse a woman?”
“You gotta be kidding me. Why waste time on jokes? Especially around here, as there‘s a real shortage of single guys. All you have to do is smile and ask one on a date.”
“Yeah, that worked fine with Tamara. But it’s not working with the Grill’s hostess, Tina Scott? Know anything about her?”
“No family. Keeps to herself. Left town for a couple of years but came back, and my wife says it was because she got her heart broken by some idiot. So she’s probably sworn off men for a while. Too bad, because she’s a looker. Don’t tell my wife I said that, by the way. But Tamara’s a nice girl. So’s Ivy, and Christy, too. And Sandy.”
“OK, OK,” I laughed. “No worries, then. If I’m lonely on a Saturday night, then it’ll be my own stupid fault. Is there someplace to eat besides the Grill? Did I see a roadhouse near the plant?”
“The Windmill Tavern. It’s a bar with a jukebox. They don’t serve food, but it’s OK for just hanging out. There’s nothing else for miles. Except ice skating, which is a good way to break a bone, in my opinion.”
Leo pulled his car onto the deserted parking lot of the electric plant. I thanked him for the lift and he swore he’d be back to pick me up at 2 AM. I went through the gate and up the stairs to the little office where I would be spending most of my time, watching computer images from surveillance cameras. When the boredom got to me, I’d get up and walk around the plant.
Last night, when the Mayor brought me over, the place had been cold, dark and deserted. The only noise was a humming drone that I felt through the floor, and an occasional grind and clanking of metal from deep behind the plant’s concrete block walls.
“Mostly runs itself,” Roberta had said. “Spooky, if you ask me. Just machines, Leo tells me, built by people. That’s Leo Varvarinski, by the way, the plant foreman. And he insists that the machines won’t run for long without people around.” She squinted at me. “Well then, Gerry, what these machines need from you is a watchful eye. That’s all. No need to experiment with knobs and levers to see what happens. There’s a phone on the desk over there with Leo’s number, in case you have any problems. Are we good, then?”
“Should be simple.”
“Don’t fall asleep.”
“It’s too cold.”
“The machines like it that way, and what they want, they get. So I’m headed home, and when I get there I’m going to turn on the electric lights and think of you standing guard over the power. Don‘t let me down.” She left.
That was my first night.
Tonight, my second night, I used the key Roberta had given me, let myself into the office, and found a woman sitting at the desk, playing Space Invaders on the computer.
|26th Feb 2010, 03:18 PM||12: What does Clarabelle really want? #12|
Sometimes you don’t recognize the devil when you meet her face to face.
She seemed innocuous, a black-haired little stick of a woman, having a good time with the computer.
“Hi,” I said and glanced around the room. It looked the same as it had last night…very bare of any comforts. I’d have played with the computer, too, if I were sitting around waiting for something or someone, although I hadn’t known the thing had Space Invaders loaded on it.
“Hello there, Gerry,” she smiled. “Gracious me, but aren’t you cute. My brother didn’t tell me that, although I suppose he wouldn’t notice anything like that.”
“Somehow, Lady, I missed getting your name, even though you know mine. Who are you? What are you doing here? And who’s your brother?”
She got up and came around the desk. “I’m Clarabelle. Clarabelle Machk. My brother’s Neville. He’s in charge of something around here. He’ll be down in a minute, just had to look around the plant, he says.”
“Look for what? Frankly, I don’t think you’re supposed to be here, you or your brother. Let’s go find him right now.”
“Now, Honey, there’s nothing to worry about…”
“It’s a big plant, Sweetheart. Don’t you have cameras all over the place?”
She was right. Stupid of me. I sat down at the computer and was about to log on to Hazel Surveillance when the guy I’d met at the general store came strutting through the door.
“Well, well,” he said, grinning at me. “It’s Gervasio Zygmunt. You found a job, I see. But it must be unpleasant, being up all night in this place. How’s the pay? Can’t be too good.”
“It suits me just fine. Why are you here?”
“I work here same as you. Check it out, if you like. But we’d better be going. I have a nice hot shower and a nice warm bed waiting for me in a nice warm house.”
The woman said, “I want to stay with Gerry. He’s the most interesting thing I’ve seen in this nasty little town.”
I shook my head, “Both of you--Out! Now!”
The woman rolled her eyes, then smiled, “Fine. We’re leaving. But I’d like to buy you a drink at the Windmill tomorrow. Meet me there at noon.” She and her brother left.
I locked the door behind them and went to the phone. I called Leo.
“Leo? This is Gerry.”
“Something wrong at the plant?”
“Maybe nothing. I found a man and woman hanging around here. Neville and Clarabelle Machk. Neville says he works here. Do you know these two?”
I heard Leo sigh wearily, “Simax Electric sent him to oversee the installation of the controllers. He’s a complete idiot. And a jerk. I don’t know anything about the woman, although he said his sister had come with him. He has no reason to be there at this time of night, but idiot that he is, he probably doesn’t realize that. I’ll check it out later when I come to take you home. Goodnight, Gerry. Glad you called.”
“Sure thing.” I hung up the phone carefully.
What really puzzled me about Neville Machk was that he had called me Gervasio. I had introduced myself to him--and to almost everyone else here--as Gerry. Who had told him my name? Mayor Roberta? That didn’t make sense.
I logged onto Hazel Surveillance, shifted through the images, and then took a walk around the plant. It all looked the same as it had the night before. I didn’t know it then, but it looked the same for a good reason. Neville and Clarabelle Machk had no interest in the Hazel Electric Plant. Turns out, it was Gervasio Zygmunt they were after.
|28th Feb 2010, 02:06 AM||#13|
Why has no one else commented on this yet? Love this story, it's fantastic! Slightly odd but oh-so-interesting. I'm looking forward to the next update.
|28th Feb 2010, 02:59 AM||#14|
Thank you so much, Em90. I guess the story is a little odd. I tend to write stories like that. But there is definitely a plot and a plan for Gerry. I'll post some more tomorrow.
|28th Feb 2010, 01:04 PM||13: If you learn the rules, your heart is safe #15|
It was Thursday, and she answered the telephone with the usual high-speed recitation, only this time the special was pork chops.
I said, “Good morning, Tina!”
“Would you like to make a reservation, Sir?” She knew who I was. I could almost hear her grinding her teeth, forcing politeness into her tone.
I smiled, “Um…no…I just wanted to apologize for being such a jerk yesterday. See y’ around.” I closed my cell phone, ending the call. I was still smiling. Apologizing is easy, and it would give her something to think about.
All night long at the electric plant, as I had paced around the empty corridors, or watched images of dozing machinery flicker across the computer screen, I had thought a lot about Tina. I wondered if Leo’s wife was right about her, about some guy breaking her heart. Well, I was dumped once, too, and I was angry about it for a long time, but I got over it, and I sure didn’t stop dating women. It’s all a game, anyway, and once you learn the rules, your heart is safe.
All I wanted of Tina was for her to give me a chance. A couple of dates. No big deal. It would take a while, though, to get her to agree to that. In the meantime, there was Tamara. That was for Saturday.
Today? Hmm. I was curious about the woman, Clarabelle Machk. She was a little too pushy for my tastes, but what the heck? It might be an interesting diversion. Noon, she‘d said. Might as well meet her at the roadhouse and go up to work from there.
|28th Feb 2010, 01:20 PM||14: One of us is one too many #16|
I trudged clumsily through the drifts, thinking that, since the road to the electric plant and the Windmill Tavern was almost entirely downhill, I could have skied, if I knew how to ski, which I don’t. Maybe it was a sport I should learn if I planned to live around here. I put the thought away. I had other things to take care of before I broke a leg. For instance, getting a car! Whenever and whatever I was paid, I should probably save some of it for a car. I also needed a refrigerator, and a bed frame, and a shower stall, and last, or probably first, a real toilet. An indoor toilet…with all the appropriate plumbing and a good septic system. I was more than tired of the outhouse built over a hole in the ground. It smelled bad, and was painfully cold. No matter how much I tried to avoid contact between bare skin and icy wood, it was unavoidable.
Eventually, preoccupied with these thoughts, I arrived at the tavern.
I trudged up the steps, opened the door, and considered turning right around and leaving again.
I would have done it, except it was such a long, cold walk home. So I decided to just deal with the situation I found there. Tamara was tending bar, and Clarabelle was playing darts. The only other person who had braved the weather was me. Three of us…and that was one of us too many.
I took a deep breath and walked over to Tamara, ignoring Clarabelle.
She rolled her eyes and continued wiping the counter with a wet rag.
I sat down and leaned on it, getting in her way, “Tried to call you. You might want to talk to Miss Scott about that.”
“She told me you called.”
“Then why are you mad at me?”
“Yes, you are.”
“You schmuck! Do you want a drink, or not?”
“You’re having dinner with me Saturday, aren’t you? Lobster, as promised?”
“Aw, Tamara,” I put my hand down on top of hers, stopping the scrubbing. Her hand was warm, the skin soft and smooth. She peered cautiously at me. I did not smile at her because it was not a good time for smiling. Maybe she was just playing hard to get. Or, maybe not. Whatever she was angry about, I did not want to pursue it here, not in front of Clarabelle. I said, “I made the reservation at Arlo’s, and I’ve been looking forward to our date all week.”
“It’s just dinner.”
“A nice dinner. And maybe we’ll come here afterwards and dance a little.”
Somewhere behind me, someone said, “Can I get a drink in this place? Pour a glass for me, Honey. I want that stuff with the lovely amber sparkle to it. Neat.” Clarabelle swung smoothly into the seat beside me. “Hello, Gerry. You look thirsty. Whatever you like, I’m buying.”
I said, “I’ll have a soda. Sprite.”
Clarabelle shook her head, “Spike the Sprite for him, Dear. It‘s a mighty long walk from that shack of his, and he needs warming up.”
I sipped at the glass Tamara handed me. It burned the whole way down. Can’t blame the bartender for wanting to sell the product.
Clarabelle watched me with approval in her smile, then picked up the glass Tamara gave her, raised it and said, “To temperance--in moderation.” She drank that powerful stuff without flinching. It didn’t even make her eyes water. No question about it, she was used to drinking like that, which explained her husky voice. She lowered the glass, saw me watching her, and winked, saying, “I challenge you, Sweetheart, to a game of darts.”
I do not know how she managed with that simple phrase to suggest a great deal more than darts, but somehow, she did.
“OK,” I agreed slowly. “301?”
She leaned forward, “I win, I drive you to work.”
That red dress, I thought, is definitely too skimpy for cold weather. I said, “And if I win, you buy me dinner.”
“You won’t win.”
She was right. And I lost more than a dart game.
|28th Feb 2010, 07:21 PM||15: Double Trouble #17|
Clarabelle thoroughly enjoyed the game, right from my first throw, since it went wild. I, on the other hand, teased her mildly about her horrible stance, as she lunged toward the board, back foot off the floor. In spite of that, she managed to throw with remarkable accuracy, beating me quickly. No matter. I had come with no plans for the afternoon, and didn’t make much of an effort to win. After all, I either got a ride to work, or dinner. Maybe both if I talked nice to her.
She wanted to play another game, just for fun, with nothing more at stake.
I said, “I need a drink first.”
She bought another round of the same as before, and I thought it was a very good thing that the electric plant was close by, and that we’d probably be the only car on the road. She had no trouble talking, however, even with two strong drinks inside her, and asked me all sorts of questions.
In answer to one about where I grew up I mentioned my brother by name. Cavell.
“A brother?” she said. “How interesting. Older? Younger? Does he look like you?”
“He’s not interesting, believe me. Younger, dumber, and in jail forever, I sincerely hope. And no, we don’t look alike. Different mothers.”
“Half-brother, then. Same with me and Neville, except with us it’s different fathers, and our fathers were cousins. Mother was a romantic, always looking for the perfect lover. Me? I like romance, too, but with variety.” She grinned and set her empty glass down on a nearby table. “One more game, Gerry! How about Round the Clock? Then I’ll drop you off at work. The plant has a cafeteria so you can get something to eat from the vending machines there.”
I did a lot worse with this game, but that was all right with me because it made her laugh and I enjoyed watching her laugh. I liked her cheerful company. I liked the whole afternoon. Two mixed drinks and I was plastered. I didn’t puzzle over how two drinks could be so strong and wreck such havoc with my judgment. I forgot about Tamara and Tina entirely, and gave no thought at all to the future. Instead, I suggested a third game of darts, but Clarabelle grabbed my arm and told me it was time to go.
I let her lead me out to her car, a blue van I’d seen parked in front when I first arrived.
A cold gust of wind came off the flat plains to the south, uninterrupted by anything except a string of telephone poles, and it hit me hard in the face. I grunted in surprise and tried to pull back into the Tavern.
“Nothin’ doing, Honey,” she said. “You gotta go to work. The van’s right here, just a few steps.” She was insistent, her eyes bright and her grip strong.
I stopped at the door of the van and refused to move another inch. “What did she mix in my soda? I feel lousy.”
“Whiskey. Don’t tell me you didn‘t know that, because I wouldn‘t believe you. Get inside the van before we both freeze to death.”
I hesitated, then climbed unsteadily up into the seat. She closed the door and went around to the driver’s side and got in.
She had no coat, and no scarf or hat. She was shivering as she started the engine and turned on the heat full blast. Then she leaned closer to me and said softly, “Come here, Gerry. Help me get warm.”
I was more than agreeable to the idea, and pulled her into my arms. It felt nice, really nice. Her hair was soft, and smelled of flowers. She turned her face up to mine and kissed me. It’s what I’d wanted from the moment she sat next to me at the bar, so I kissed her back hungrily. The van heated up, the windows fogged and snow fell hissing on the roof. An occasional gust of wind rocked our private world, but we were oblivious to all but the fever of our passion.
I don’t know if I would have reacted differently without the alcohol in my system. Probably not, since Clarabelle Machk is a beautiful woman, and I was too flattered by her attentions to be suspicious of her motives. And certainly, even to this day, I tell myself that she wanted both me and my money, not just my money, and that it was only Neville Machk who wanted me dead.
|2nd Mar 2010, 01:41 AM||16: What the fish said #18|
“You’re a mess,” said Leo when he picked me up at 2 AM to drive me home.
“Ow…Leo, you don’t have to shout. I can hear your.”
“I’m not shouting, Zygmunt. You’re hung over, aren’t you.”
“Er…I was at the Windmill yesterday and went to work from there, but it won’t happen again. You have my word. I want to keep the job. I need it.”
Leo eased his car off the parking lot onto the road. The road had been ploughed free of snow but was now slick with ice. He kept the car in second gear, moving carefully. Even so, the old tires seemed to take turns with their grip on the road. “You’re too smart for this job,” he said after a moment. “I’d be doing you a favor by firing you. But I won’t, not this time.”
“Thanks.” I leaned back against the seat and closed my eyes. Staying awake through my shift had been difficult. I’d had at least six cups of coffee from the vending machine, and one hotdog that I’d forgotten to take the plastic off before microwaving it. Buying the thing had used up the last of my change, so I’d cut the melted plastic off the bun and eaten the foul thing anyway. It was no wonder my stomach was threatening to unload. I only hoped it would wait until I was out of Leo’s truck.
“We’re here. Can you make it to your house by yourself?”
I opened my eyes. “Sure. Thanks again.”
“Oh, by the way, Roberta is expecting you for dinner tonight at her house. She told me to tell you. I’ll pick you up if you like.”
“No need,” I said, thinking of his worn tires. “The walk will be good for me.” I climbed out of his car and started to close the door.
He said, “Don’t you want your paycheck?” He held an envelope toward me and added, “Roberta’s going to want most of that, for the work done on your place.”
I nodded, thanked him again, and walked carefully through the snow to my house. Inside it was cold and damp. Fortunately, the generator outside and the space heater inside worked when I turned them on. I hovered around the space heater for a few minutes, warming myself, and then got into bed, under the covers, fully clothed. In spite of the coffee and my unsettled stomach, I was instantly sound asleep.
I slept for twelve hours, solid, and woke feeling better, but not by much. I picked up my watch and peered at the tiny numbers. 2:30 PM. I sponged down with the icy water in my rain barrel. It was getting low. I’d have to refill it from the snow outside.
Then I dialed Arlo’s. The special today was ribs, again.
“Good morning, Tina,” I said.
“Good afternoon, Sir,” she said wearily. “Please hold thank you.”
Oh, right. Afternoon. I waited patiently and for a long time. I suspect she was hoping I’d hang up. I didn’t, and eventually she picked up again and chirped, “What can I do for you, Sir?”
“Let me buy you a cup of coffee.”
“No, thank you. Goodbye.”
I dialed again.
“Just one cup,” I said, as soon as she picked up. “In Arlo’s when your shift is over.”
“No.” She hung up.
I closed the phone and put it down on the bed. No question about it, I would have a tough time getting any kind of date with her. Couldn’t really blame her, I suppose, for not trusting the stranger in town. Maybe when Tamara returned safely to work the next day after a date with me, she’d be more open minded about Gerry Zygmunt.
Thinking of Tamara, I remembered the strong drinks. I’ve had mixed drinks before, and none had ever hit me as hard as those two from yesterday.
And then…Wow! Had Clarabelle and I really done it? I rubbed my aching forehead. What was it the fish said when it ran into a wall? Damn!!
|2nd Mar 2010, 01:48 AM||17: Dinner with the Mayor #19|
She didn’t hear my first knock so I knocked harder.
Her response was muffled, “It’s not locked, Gerry! I‘m in the kitchen.”
I turned the knob, pushed the door open, and smelled spaghetti sauce. I hoped there was a lot of it, because I was seriously hungry. I paused to kick at the sill, an almost useless effort to shake the sticky snow off my boots, then stepped inside and stood carefully on the rug just inside the door.
Nice house, I thought. Flowers on the wallpaper. Pictures of flowers hanging on the walls. Fancy curtains.
Roberta appeared suddenly, standing in the door to her kitchen as she dried her hands on a paper towel. She looked puzzled, “What are you doing there? Throw your stuff on the couch by the fire and come get your plate.”
“The stuff’s wet, Ma’am.”
“What? Your sweater? Water won’t hurt the couch and it won’t hurt the sweater. Hurry up. I’m starving.”
Under her impatient gaze I spread my soggy sweater and scarf over the arm of the couch as close to the fire as I dared, and then followed her into the kitchen. “Here,” she said. “Take your plate and sit down.”
I obeyed gratefully, hoping she didn‘t hear my stomach rumbling. She set the platter on the sideboard and sat down with her own plate. For a couple of minutes, the only sound was of forks on plates.
Then she straightened up and said, “How do you like that job over at the plant?”
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
“Answer the question, Gerry.”
I started to get worried. “I need the job, Ma’am.”
“Roberta’s my name. I’ve always hated being called Ma’am.”
“Sorry, Roberta. Hard to stop a bad habit.”
“Make the effort,” she sniffed, and then said, “You’ve not yet answered my question, and I’ve a reason for asking. Did you read that book I gave you? What do you think? Does police work interest you?”
I looked up in surprise. “Yes, as a matter of fact, it does.”
Her eyes narrowed a little as she answered me, “I can get you into the police academy if you want. That is, I’m willing to recommend you, if you answer me straight on a couple of other matters.”
“Sure. What do you want to know?”
“Start with your brother. Tell me about him.”
I sighed, annoyed, and realized something which hadn’t occurred to me before now--that I’d be answering questions about my brother for the rest of my life. I put my fork down. “He’s in jail, but I guess you found that out already. He’s an idiot who got involved with a gang of car thieves. Someone was killed, and now he’s paying for it.”
“Did he do it?”
“Are you asking if he pulled the trigger? I don’t know. Could have. He was born without a conscience. Whatever Cavell wants, Cavell takes.”
“Don’t like him much, do you?”
I shrugged, “Nope.” The spaghetti was too good to ignore. I finished eating, thinking that I was probably stuck with the job as a security guard, at least until I fulfilled the conditions of my uncle‘s will. Too bad. Finding a wife was turning out to be more difficult than I expected, and police work might have proved interesting in the meantime. There was also the uniform. I’d heard that women were attracted to men wearing a uniform. Can’t imagine why, but there it is.
Roberta sat quiet, fiddling with her fork. When I sat back from my empty plate, she said, “Now tell me about your wife.”
|2nd Mar 2010, 01:56 AM||18: A woman named Ramona #20|
“Wife? What wife?” I looked around the room as if I expected this mystery woman to leap out of the woodwork. Then I cleared my throat, and said firmly, “I don’t have a wife!”
“The one you used to have, then. Ramona Cesaro Zygmunt. Remember her now?”
“I’ve never had a wife and I’ve never heard of Ramona. Where did this come from?”
“I sent your application for the security job to my lawyer. Hazelton is not the sort of town that outsiders will move into unless they’ve got a good reason. Hiding from someone, for instance.”
“I’m here because of my uncle’s property. Didn’t I explain that?”
“Not completely. It’s an ugly piece of land. You should sell it.”
“I can’t. There are conditions to the inheritance. And besides, I kind of like it here. I‘m not hiding from anything, especially from an imaginary wife, since having a wife is one of the conditions to inheriting the property.”
“Well, well. That explains a few things. Your single-minded pursuit of our young women had me a little worried.”
“I‘m just trying to make friends.”
“You asked Carmen to marry you.”
“Er…I guess I did.” I’d forgotten about that.
“And you went after Christy as soon as she walked into Arlo’s.”
“Your first night in town, so I hear, right after you asked Tamara for a date.”
“Oh, right.” The lady in purple. The grocery store clerk had volunteered her name. Christy Stratton.
“And you’ve been making a real pest of yourself with Tina.”
I grinned, “She’s a challenge, for sure.”
“Which leads me back to the question of your wife.”
“I don’t HAVE a wife! Never did! Your lawyer screwed up!”
“Does your brother have a wife?”
“No one would ever marry that creep. He’s violent.”
Roberta seemed a little dismayed by my answer and looked away, staring thoughtfully across the table. I waited, letting her sort it out. Finally, she turned to me and said, “I’m going to send in your application to the Academy, along with my letter recommending you. I suspect police work will hold some unpleasant surprises for you, Gerry, but I think you can handle it. In the meantime, I will have my lawyer get back with his investigator. If there really is a Mrs. Ramona Zygmunt, then she is most likely your brother’s wife, and she may be in the area somewhere, probably at the resort down the highway. Someone has started spreading nasty rumors about you. Who else would have a reason?”
“Rumors? About me? What kind of rumors?”
“They’re not good. However, I don’t believe them, especially now that I know you like my spaghetti sauce. No one else around here does.”
She got up from the table, picked up our plates and carried them to the kitchen. I followed her.
“Roberta, I’ve got a question, too.”
She turned around and patted me on the arm. “You’re a good sort, Gerry, and I’d like to see you settle here and raise a family. Our young people usually move away as soon as they have some money saved. I worry about it. I worry about Hazelton and I worry about those who have left us. I ask myself, are they happy? Will they come back if they’re not?” She waved a hand in the air. “But never mind my worries. What’s your question?”
“Is Tina Scott dating anyone?”
Roberta laughed and shook her head, “Ask her yourself. Time for you to go home. Hold on, though. Do you have your paycheck with you? Yes? Good. Turn it over, make it payable to me and sign it. You owe me the whole thing and then some, but I’ll give you a 100 back in advance of your next paycheck. That’ll leave you enough for one of Arlo‘s fancy dinners tomorrow night.”
As I scrawled my signature on the back of the check she said, “How’s the roof holding up?”
“It’s good. Everything’s good. I like the window. If I had a toilet it would be quite cozy up there.”
“Blast! I forgot about that. Tomorrow, then, we‘ll get you a toilet and a shower.”
“I guess I won’t be seeing much of my next paycheck, either.”
“The Academy pays a little better and the hours are nicer. Expect to report there on Tuesday morning. It’s just up the highway. Someone will pick you up promptly at 8 AM. Do you need a lift home tonight?”
“It’s not that far to walk. Thanks for everything.”
“Stay in Hazelton and I’ll help you with your career, Gerry. Keep that in mind, and don’t let me down.”
My sweater and scarf were still wet, but they were warm. I pulled them on and left. As I walked away from her house I puzzled over the question of Ramona Zygmunt. I couldn’t believe that Cavell had married. Who would have him? The lawyer and his investigator had made a big mistake. And the rumors? That made absolutely no sense at all. I wish Roberta had told me what they were about.
|2nd Mar 2010, 04:41 AM||#21|
Ah, but it's odd in a good way though. It's refreshing to read something that doesn't start with "Hey! My name is x and this is my new home in town y. I met a hot guy today at my new school!," etc.
Anyway, I've never been so hooked on a Sim story before. For a minute there I thought Gerry was going to have an insane wife locked away in an attic somewhere, but no, it's even more mysterious. Loved the updates!
|2nd Mar 2010, 12:10 PM||#22|
Thanks Em90. I read your story. The characters are developing very well. I look forward to more of it.
I think you commented somewhere in your story that you'd written the whole thing but didn't want to post it all too fast. Same here. I've gotten as far as where Gerry's story gets more exciting, so maybe I can slow down a little.
|4th Mar 2010, 01:43 AM||19: Snow Trek #23|
I got lost walking home, and I‘m not sure why. I suppose I was just too cold and not paying attention to what I was doing, or not thinking clearly. At some point I looked up and realized that I didn’t know where I was. The falling snow had turned the entire world into a blur of freezing white.
I started talking to myself, “Keep moving in a straight line, you idiot. And when you get to the highway, turn left and follow it until you get to Ibolya Street. Whatever you do, Zygmunt, do NOT stop to rest. Keep moving to stay warm.”
But I was losing the battle to stay warm. Everything hurt, my face and hands worst of all.
Then I saw a light. I paused and squinted at the flickering glow. “Do you suppose,” I babbled stupidly, teeth chattering, “that it’s attached to a house? It must be a house. Maybe they’ll let a cold man come in and get warm. Just for a few minutes. Coffee? Would you like some coffee, Sir? Sure, coffee would be great. Mind if I sit here in the kitchen for a minute, while I drink the coffee and warm my hands? Thank you, Ma’am. Thank you. I really appreciate this.”
I started walking again, although my feet now hurt worse from the cold than even my hands and face. The light stopped flickering and burned more solidly and a lot brighter as I got nearer. It was a porch light.
I bent my stiff knees to get up the few steps, and when I reached the door I banged on it with both fists.
After a few moments worrying that they couldn’t hear me or would never come, the door swung open and a blond woman stood there. She laughed, “Will you look at this, now? It’s Mystery Man. Come in, come in. There’s plenty of pizza left.”
I moved forward into the warmth and heard the door shut behind me.
Someone said, “Sandy, he can hardly walk. Get him over by the fire.”
I looked in the direction of the second voice and recognized Christy Stratton. I smiled.
“You‘re right,” said the blond, still grinning. “Pretty dumb idea, Gerry, to go out for a stroll in this weather. Wearing only a sweater, no less! Let me help you with it.”
Both of them pulled at my scarf and sweater, and then at my arms as they pushed me through the kitchen into the next room, and a roaring fire. Great invention, fire. I leaned close, shivering, and when the front of me had thawed enough, I turned to roast my back, and got a look at who else was in the room. Besides Christy and the blond called Sandy, I saw Tina. There was also a man trying to watch a football game on TV. I heard Tina call him Joe.
Christy said, “I’ll get you some hot chocolate. Sit down there, next to Sandy.”
I sat down and stared at Tina. She looked different with her hair loose around her face, and more beautiful than ever. The sight of her did more to warm me up than the hot mug Christy handed me.
I sipped at the chocolate, not trusting myself to speak until I was sure my teeth wouldn‘t rattle in the effort. The others talked around me, mostly about the game on TV.
Finally, Tina looked over at me and said, “Feeling better?”
Sandy put a hand on my arm, “Yup, you’re much warmer. So what were you doing out there?”
“Walking home. Roberta offered me a ride but I said no. The next time someone offers me a ride in a snowstorm, I’ll accept.”
“Oh no! You had dinner with Roberta? Spaghetti, I bet.”
“I liked it.”
Sandy laughed. She laughed easily and frequently. “If you liked it then you’ve never had the good stuff, as it should be done, simmered slowly and stirred frequently until it’s nice and thick.”
“Sandy’s a chef,” said Joe, “but you’d never guess that tonight. She invites us over and serves pizza!”
“Where do you work?” I asked her. “Arlo’s?”
“Absolutely not!” She made a face, wrinkling her nose. “No, I’m the chef at Rachelle’s, in the resort. It’s a nice restaurant, and very expensive.”
“Beyond me, then,” I said.
“Not what I heard,” said Joe.
I stared at him. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re rolling in it, Dude. Admit it. What I don’t get is why you‘re fooling around with that job at the plant. Just for kicks?”
“Where’d you get the idea I was rich?”
“From your wife. She‘s looking for you.”
Tina interrupted, “Joe, it’s late. We should leave.”
I stood up when Tina did. Joe was on his feet in a flash. He stepped forward and poked me in the chest, “And stop pestering Tina. She has no use for creeps who run out on…”
I shoved him. His eyes got hard as he raised his fists. Then Tina walked between us, headed for the kitchen, and said, “I’m going home.” Joe lowered his arms, sneered at me and chased after her.
I watched them leave. Joe was all over her, helping with her coat, opening the door, taking her arm on the icy porch. Then Christy shut the door, blocking my view of Joe and Tina walking off into the storm.
Sandy was standing next to me. “Hungry? I’ll warm up some of that pizza.”
“Sure,” I said absently. What, I thought, is Tina doing with that man, Joe? I thought Leo had said she wasn’t dating anyone. Persuading her to marry me might be a little trickier than I first thought, particularly now that everyone seemed to think I was already married.
Did I smell my brother, Cavell, behind this? Maybe, but it wasn’t how he normally handled obstacles. If he wanted Uncle Fredek’s money he’d use the gorilla method--push Gerry under the wheels of a truck.
His lawyer, on the other hand…
|4th Mar 2010, 01:47 AM||20: Poor Tamara #24|
Sandy called me into the kitchen, “Come and get it, Gerry.”
I picked up a slice out of the box she’d heated in the oven and sat down at the table. Christy was already sitting there, and studied me thoughtfully. She said, “Do you have to go to work tonight?”
I shook my head and bit into the pizza. Friday was my day off.
“I’ll give you a lift home, then.”
I finished chewing, swallowed and said, “Thanks, really! I’d be grateful.”
“Grateful enough to explain what you’re doing in Hazelton? We’re all a little puzzled now that your wife has shown up looking for you.”
“Yeah,” said Sandy, “now that you’ve got Tamara all upset. She was looking forward to your date until she found out about your wife.”
I frowned. “Have either of you met this woman claiming to be my wife? …which she’s NOT, since I’ve never been married!”
Christy nodded, “Tamara met her while tending bar at the Windmill. This woman came in--someone we’ve never seen around here before--and said she was looking for you. Then you showed up, played darts, and left with her. A little strange, don’t you think, that you don‘t seem to know who she is?”
Sandy looked amused, “Need help getting your jaw off the floor there, Gerry? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man look so horrified. Have you ever seen a face like that before, Christy?”
“Nope. So, Gerry, if she’s not your wife, who is she?”
I thought back to the encounter in the blue van outside of the Windmill. Messy, I thought. This is real messy. I said, “I thought her name was Clarabelle Machk. That’s what she and her brother told me, and it’s what they’ve told everyone else, so far as I know.”
“That’s also the name she gave Tamara, hinting that she didn’t want to give out her real name because she hated the name, Zygmunt, and with reason. Tamara, I’m afraid, is remarkably gullible for a bartender. Too kind hearted and eager to please. When Tamara confessed her dismay, because you two had a date, little Miss Clarabelle persuaded her to go ahead and keep the date, since you’re legally separated. It wouldn’t matter at all, she said, except for the child you refuse to support.”
I jumped to my feet, dropping the pizza on the floor. “That woman is not and has never been my wife, and if there’s a kid, it isn’t mine!”
“Calm down, Gerry, we believe you, don’t we Christy?”
“Easy. I found that woman’s story suspicious as soon as Tamara told me she agreed to add something to your drink at the bar. I yelled at her for that, I hope you know. Pretty dangerous. It could have been poison. We might have been burying you today, instead of eating pizza with you. Tamara’s still mad, though. I don‘t think your date will go all that well, so don‘t leave her alone with your drink.”
Sandy got up to answer the phone while I cleaned the remains of my pizza slice off the floor. I’d lost my appetite anyway.
Sandy spoke a few words like “Hi” and “Sure thing” and hung up. Then she turned to me, “That was Roberta. Tina called her about you and Roberta just wanted to make sure one of us drove you home. She wants you to know she’s very sorry she didn’t insist on taking you home herself. And stop trying to clean the floor. I‘ll take care of it.”
I straightened up, “I’ll get my sweater.”
Christy said, “I’ll go warm up the car. See you outside in a second.”
Sandy followed me into the living room, and as I pulled the wet sweater over my head, she said, “What was it that Tamara mixed in your drink?”
I shrugged the sweater straight on my shoulders, and did not answer the question. She started to repeat it, but the sound of a car horn outside interrupted, and I left quickly, listening to her giggles.
|4th Mar 2010, 12:07 PM||#25|
Thanks for the rating, guys. I appreciate it a lot.