The Big Surprise chapter 1

Cover image courtesy of Kody:

http://www.fiverr.com/kodysteps2

The scenery was pleasant and allowed me to forget the purpose of the trip. My brother, Charles, drove faster than what I would have preferred but we were in an area where the road continued being the only thing around for miles. I asked, “How many hours does Teddy want us to spend helping him?”

Charles smiled. “You shouldn’t worry about that. It’s not really about the work. It’s about getting out of the house and being around positive people.”

“I had planned to do some writing in the café. You ruined my afternoon.”

“Ha ha. Are you a flower that will die if you don’t have your watering of cafés?”

“There’s reasons why I wanted to go there.”

” I’m sure there are but you’ll have a different experience that you can write about.”

Finally, I could see houses in the distance. I assumed we were not far from Teddy’s place. I remembered him from when he used to live next-door to us. I was not a teenager yet but Charles and Teddy were teens. Back then, I thought they were cool because they seemed to have more independence even though they still lived in their respective parents’ houses and were subject to the same rules. Now, years later, I realized that I was cooler because I was younger. The older I got, years just went by almost interchangeably. Nothing major happened to me yet. I focused more on little goals I could accomplish. Writing in the café a block from where I lived was not just about that. The ambiance took me out of my funk and the female cashier was pretty. Charles had a girlfriend so he could not understand my reasoning. To him, doing chores for a friend all afternoon was excitement. I agreed to help mostly because I wanted to remind him later of the pointlessness of doing so if he decided to plan another afternoon like this one would be.

On the surface, Waterville was quaint in a way Buchanan, where I lived, was not. I lived in a residential hotel in a part of town that had a few convenient stores and gas stations as the only places where people could hang out and talk. Vacation Café was the cultural oddity. Technically, the building was a house. Its owner, Wayne Simpson, was a retired businessman who converted much of the building into an establishment where people could escape the humdrum aspects of the town. They would go on a vacation, so to speak. Emma, who worked there on Thursdays, like today, was probably the only single good-looking woman in the neighborhood. She wore plaid shirts hanging long over her pants as if she was planning to go camping. That was my imagination at work. She could have spent her leisure time watching television all day. But at least she did not go around in sweat-stained and ill-fitting maternity clothes which most of the other women, including members of my family, wore whether they were pregnant or not.

I lived in Buchanan because I could afford to do so. My father died from cancer but he had worked as a carpenter and was part of a union that paid surviving family members a certain amount of money each month. I did not need to work because my rent was cheap and I got by fine enough. Waterville, where I was now, was perhaps a bit too remote but the houses were the type where I would be content if I lived in one of them. The trees provided the type of shade I could not get at home. I had no idea if the area had any cafés but, if it did, I was completely certain the female cashiers would wear plaid shirts and really spend time camping.

“Do they have cafés in Waterville, Charles?”

“Why would you need to go to a café? Teddy has coffee.”

“It’s not just because of the coffee.”

“You like to watch Wayne grind the coffee beans.”

“No.”

He sighed. “We’ll be at Teddy’s place in a few minutes.” He turned left on a street on a hill. I would not have wanted to walk up a street so steep but the view of the houses put me in a better mood. Going up the hill was like going up in elevation to a level of living that was above the problems of down below.

The road levelled at the top. Charles parked the car two houses past the beginning of the hill part. The neighborhood had a certain vibe to it like an area where artists lived. Teddy was outside. He waved to us.

We got out of the car. The breeze was nice. 

Teddy smiled. “I gather you’re here to have some fun, right?” He winked. 

Charles pointed to me. “Steven is dead set on cafés. He was planning on writing a masterpiece.”

Teddy nodded. “I know the feeling. I want to write the next greatest concerto to come along since Charles Ives.”

I said, “I didn’t know you were a musician.”

“I can’t play worth a damn but I can write a mean score.”

“You mentioned Ives. Are you into avant-garde classical?”

He laughed. “That’s my bag. Well, I like conventional stuff too but I’m into the hip stuff. Edgard Varèse is another favorite.”

I was less annoyed at the prospect of doing whatever I came here to do. Maybe after we finished everything, I could ask Teddy if he could write music to my poems. Charles said Teddy planned to pay us money for our time and that was Charles’ incentive for coming over but I would not be against artistic collaboration as payment. I asked, “What do you need us to do?”

He said, “There’s tons to do. It’ll take days to do everything. But if we concentrate on just one thing today, that’ll be a step in the right direction. I’m thinking of focusing on getting the lumber put in the backyard and getting the pile of rocks put at the side of the house where I’m going to make a walkway.”

I noticed there were a lot of pieces of lumber. A massive amount it appeared to be. The rocks were in a large mountain of a pile. I chose not to be nervous because I knew that, if I concentrated not on the end result but just got into the doing of it, I could accomplish the goal. I knew that from writing novels. One page and then another and then finally reaching completion. I had done very little manual labor but I would pretend my putting each piece of lumber in the backyard would be my finishing one page of a book.

Teddy asked, “Would either of you like a cup of coffee before we start? We can take a moment and relax. It’s stressful work but I’d like to make it as stress-free as possible.”

Charles said, “We’d love coffee.”

Teddy said, “I’ll be right back.” He walked in the house.

I said, “I’m sorry I got on your case for bringing me here.”

Charles shrugged. “I asked if you wanted to come and you said okay. I didn’t force you to come and you weren’t getting on my case. I thought it was funny when you were tripping out on not going to the café.”

“I go there because of Emma.”

“I know that. She’ll be there next week. Plus, her brother is a good friend of mine. We go fishing together. The next time we go, I’ll also invite her and you. If you’d like that.”

“Sounds good.”

We stood there looking around us. If the neighborhood was caught in a photograph, a person would not know it was up a hill away from the downtown area. The houses did not look like any place on Buchanan but I could assume there were other neighborhoods, not on hills, that resembled it. After a few minutes, Charles said, “Teddy has the good coffee, the kind that drips into a cup. We’re waiting for the gourmet stuff.”

“Really?”

“I don’t know. I’d like to think it.”

“So, Teddy’s going to do some work today?” The voice was from a woman. I turned my head and saw a good looking female dressed in a plaid shirt like what Emma would wear but the woman’s shirt was tucked in and her tab sleeves were rolled up. She put more effort into her outfit and look sexier by doing so. I did not know who she was but I was suddenly anxious with anticipation. Was she a neighbor of Teddy’s? Was she going to help us?

Charles said, “Well, you know Teddy. He likes to put things off until he absolutely has to do them. Were the neighbors complaining?”

She shook her head. “Most of these neighbors don’t notice anything. I was just asking because he told me he was going to ask someone to help him.”

“Well, yeah. We’re the guys.”

She nodded. “Mmmm.” She looked at me with an intense gaze like she was upset, but not because she disliked me. I never encountered anyone who gave that kind of vibe before so I could not give an accurate description of what I felt from her except to say she looked upset because she liked me. I turned my head away, not because I did not like her. I did like her. I turned my head to avoid that piercing gaze.

Charles said, “This is my brother Stephen.”

She said, “Hello, I’m Connie.” Her tone of voice sounded like I was going to know her name whether I wanted to know it or not.

I looked at her and smiled so she would know I saw her in a positive way. My plan worked because she looked at me as if pleading but I did not know for what. There was a strange energy manifesting. I felt like she and I were fitted together in a latex glove. I looked away again because I felt like she would run up and hug me if I did not avert my gaze.

Teddy came outside with two cups. He handed one to Charles and one to me. He said, “Some progress is going to be made today.”

Connie said, “It’s going to be a great day. I can tell.”

“You won’t be having to look at this eyesore of a pile of lumber and rocks anymore.”

“It doesn’t bother me. I can’t even see it from my place. But I’m happy for you because you’ll be doing something you want to do. I have something I need to do and I’m going to do it.”

I glanced at her again, assuming her gaze had ended because Teddy was there. I was wrong. She looked at me with a playful smile that I could not interpret. The closest I could come to discerning it was she knew I would return.

Teddy said, “I’m sure what you have planned is not as elaborate as what I want to do. The lumber and rocks are just the outside things. There’s still carpeting inside and rearranging the furniture to accommodate some new pieces coming. I also have to paint and replace some of the lights. There’s also some shingles to be repaired and re-doing the roof but I can hold off on those for a bit.”

She nodded “What time will you guys be done?”

Charles said, “I could work through the whole night but Steven can’t go that long. He wants to do some writing. I figured this would be a way to experience a different environment than the one he’s used to and he could write about it.”

She asked, “So, what time do you imagine you’ll be done?”

“It’s eleven o’clock now. I’d say five.”

“Okay. At five, if you could do me a favor, I’d appreciate it. I have a box of books I’m through with and I’d like to give them to Stephen. Would you like that?”

I said, “That sounds great.”

“Awesome. Instead of me donating them to a thrift store where someone might buy them but maybe not, I’ll give them to a person who I know could make use of them. Can you be at my place at five?” 

“I’ll be there.”

“Okay. I’ll let you guys get to work. See you then, Stephen.” 

“Okay, Connie. Thank you.”

Charles said, “I had an idea Connie would like you. I think she’s prettier than Emma. Would you agree?”

“I wouldn’t disagree.”

Teddy got a wheelbarrow. “Stephen, I’ll just have you take care of the rocks. Charles and I can handle the lumber. It’s easier for you with the wheelbarrow. Just shovel in the rocks and take them to the side of the house and get the next load and do the same thing. Just try to spread them out somewhat so the whole side area is covered. You’ll see the shovel right here.” He pointed to it.

Shoveling the rocks was not extremely easy but I could do it. I did not think about the time or if I did not finish. I worked as long as I was able to do so. I managed to complete the job. I finished a half hour earlier than Charles and Teddy because they were carrying heavy pieces of lumber by hand without the aid of a contraption. Teddy smiled and winked at me. Charles said, “I told you it was easy as pie.”

I was not sure how many hours we worked. We had taken a few breaks in between so we would not get too tired. But, after we were finished, Teddy looked at his watch and said, “There’s still time.” I assumed he was referring to when I saw Connie at five o’clock. He handed Charles and me some money.

I said, “Thanks, but I was thinking that if you could put some of my poetry to music that would be payment enough.”

He said, “I owe you for the work. Now, what are you asking about your poetry being put to music?”

“I thought of the idea when you said you were a composer. I don’t know how to write music and I think it would be interesting if you could find music that worked with it.”

“That’s a possibility. Sort of like you’re Oscar Hammerstein and I’m Richard Rodgers.”

“Would you be willing to look at some of my poems at least?”

“I’ll take a look. I’ve written some poems but I haven’t even put my own poems to music let alone anybody else’s. But bring them next time I see you and I’ll look at them.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Sure thing. It’s not five o’clock yet but if you want to knock on Connie’s door and get those books, I’m sure she wouldn’t care that you came early.”

“Well, what time is it now?”

“Four thirty.”

“I think I’ll wait until five.”

He smiled. “Are you nervous?” 

“I don’t really know her that well and I don’t want her to get annoyed.”

“She won’t get annoyed. I saw how she was looking at you. It’s your call but I think it would be best if you went there now.” 

“Okay. Where’s her place?”

“Just the next house up. She’s my next-door neighbor.”

“Okay. Can I have some whiskey and water before I go, though?” 

“It’s better that you didn’t.”

I got up. “Okay. I’m on my way now.”

He nodded and did thumbs up. 

Her house had a large front door with see-through glass, reminding me of her gaze. I would not be able to hide my awkwardness while waiting for her to respond. Luckily, that problem did not occur. As I walked up to her place, she had opened the door and went out. She had that upset look on her face again. She said, “I didn’t think you would show up.”

I smiled. “Of course I was going to show up.”

She extended her hand. I could not tell whether her expression was angry or apologetic but the gesture indicated all was well. We shook hands. Her grip was firm and continuous. She kept looking at me, not saying anything.

I asked, “Did you have some books?”

Her expression changed. She smiled. “I have books but I’m so glad you’re here.”

“That’s good. I thought you might be upset at me.”

“I would have been if you didn’t recognize the signs but I can tell you know what’s going on.”

“What’s going on?” 

“You and me.” 

No one ever talked like that to me before so her comments were like clues to a puzzle I did not understand. She kept gripping my hand but her gesture seemed less like an offering and more like a territorial imperative. I tried letting go but she held tighter. I asked, “Am I here to get the books?”

“You’re here for me.”

I was extremely nervous. I wanted to know what her plans were but I did not want to ask about them in case her answer was creepier than my assumption. But I had to say something. I asked, “What do we do now?”

“I’d like us to go inside so we can talk about everything.”

Since Charles and Teddy were right next-door and would probably look for me if I was gone too long, I figured I was safe. I said, “Okay, let’s do that.”

The Big Surprise chapter one


Photo courtesy of Kody:

http://www.fiverr.com/kodysteps2

The scenery was pleasant and allowed me to forget the purpose of the trip. My brother, Charles, drove faster than what I would have preferred but we were in an area where the road continued being the only thing around for miles. I asked, “How many hours does Teddy want us to spend helping him?”Charles smiled. “You shouldn’t worry about that. It’s not really about the work. It’s about getting out of the house and being around positive people.”

“I had planned to do some writing in the café. You ruined my afternoon.”

“Ha ha. Are you a flower that will die if you don’t have your watering of cafés?”

“There’s reasons why I wanted to go there.”

” I’m sure there are but you’ll have a different experience that you can write about.”

Finally, I could see houses in the distance. I assumed we were not far from Teddy’s place. I remembered him from when he used to live next-door to us. I was not a teenager yet but Charles and Teddy were teens. Back then, I thought they were cool because they seemed to have more independence even though they still lived in their respective parents’ houses and were subject to the same rules. Now, years later, I realized that I was cooler because I was younger. The older I got, years just went by almost interchangeably. Nothing major happened to me yet. I focused more on little goals I could accomplish. Writing in the café a block from where I lived was not just about that. The ambiance took me out of my funk and the female cashier was pretty. Charles had a girlfriend so he could not understand my reasoning. To him, doing chores for a friend all afternoon was excitement. I agreed to help mostly because I wanted to remind him later of the pointlessness of doing so if he decided to plan another afternoon like this one would be.

On the surface, Waterville was quaint in a way Buchanan, where I lived, was not. I lived in a residential hotel in a part of town that had a few convenient stores and gas stations as the only places were people could hang out and talk. Vacation Café was the cultural oddity. Technically, the building was a house. Its owner, Wayne Simpson, was a retired businessman who converted much of the building into an establishment where people could escape the humdrum aspects of the town. They would go on a vacation, so to speak. Emma, who worked there on Thursdays, like today, was probably the only single good-looking woman in the neighborhood. She wore plaid shirts hanging long over her pants as if she was planning to go camping. That was my imagination at work. She could have spent her leisure time watching television all day. But at least she did not go around in sweat-stained and ill-fitting maternity clothes which most of the other women, including members of my family, wore whether they were pregnant or not.

I lived in Buchanan because I could afford to do so. My father died from cancer but he had worked as a carpenter and was part of a union that paid surviving family members a certain amount of money each month. I did not need to work because my rent was cheap and I got by fine enough. Waterville, where I was now, was perhaps a bit to remote but the houses were the type where I would be content if I lived in one of them. The trees provided the type of shade I could not get at home. I had no idea if the area had any cafés but, if it did, I was completely certain the female cashiers would wear plaid shirts and really spend time camping.

“Do they have cafés in Waterville, Charles?”

“Why would you need to go to a café? Teddy has coffee.”

“It’s not just because of the coffee”

“You like to watch Wayne grind the coffee beans.”

“No.”

He sighed. “We’ll be at Teddy’s place in a few minutes.” He turned left on a street on a hill. I would not have wanted to walk up a street so steep but the view of the houses put me in a better mood. Going up the hill was like going up in elevator to a level of living that was above the problems of down below.

The road levelled at the top. Charles parked the car two houses past the beginning of the hill part. The neighborhood had a certain vibe to it like an area where artists lived. Teddy was outside. He waved to us.

We got out of the car. The breeze was nice. 

Teddy smiled. “I gather you’re here to have some fun, right?” He winked. 

Charles pointed to me. “Steven is dead set on café. He was planning on writing a masterpiece.”

Teddy nodded. “I know the feeling. I want to write the next greatest concerto to come along since Charles Ives.”

I said, “I didn’t know you were a musician.”

“I can’t play worth a damn but I can write a mean score.”

“You mentioned Ives. Are you into avant-garde classical?”

He laughed. “That’s my bag. Well, I like conventional stuff too but I’m into the hip stuff. Edgard Varèse is another favorite.”

I was less annoyed at the prospect of doing whatever I came here to do. Maybe after we finished everything, I could ask Teddy if he could write music to my poems. Charles said Teddy planned to pay us money for our time and that was Charles’ incentive for coming over but I would not be against artistic collaboration as payment. I asked, “What do you need us to do?”

He said, “There’s tons to do. It’ll take days to do everything. But if we concentrate on just one thing today, that’ll be a step in the right direction. I’m thinking of focusing on getting the lumber put in the backyard and getting the pile of rocks put at the side of the house where I’m going to make a walkway.”

I noticed there were a lot of pieces of lumber. A massive amount it appeared to be. The rocks were in a large mountain of a pile. I chose not to be nervous because I knew that, if I concentrated not on the end result but just got into the doing of it, I could accomplish the goal. I knew that from writing novels. One page and then another and then finally reaching completion. I had done very little manual labor but I would pretend my putting each piece of lumber in the backyard would be my finishing one page of a book.

Teddy asked, “Would either of you like a cup of coffee before we start? We can take a moment and relax. It’s stressful work but I’d like to make it as stress-free as possible.”

Charles said, “We’d love coffee.”

Teddy said, “I’ll be right back.” He walked in the house.

I said, “I’m sorry I got on your case for bringing me here.”

Charles shrugged. “I asked if you wanted to come and you said okay, I didn’t force you to come and you weren’t getting on my case. I thought it was funny when you were tripping out on not going to the café.”

“I go there because of Emma.”

“I know that. She’ll be there next week. Plus, her brother is a good friend of mine. We go fishing together. The next time we go, I’ll also invite her and you. If you’d like that.”

“Sounds good.”

We stood there looking around us. If the neighborhood was caught in a photograph, a person would not know it was up a hill away from the downtown area. The houses did not look like any place on Buchanan but I could assume there were other neighborhoods, not on hills, that resembled it. After a few minutes, Charles said, “Teddy has the good coffee, the kind that drips into a cup. We’re waiting for the gourmet stuff.”

“Really?”

“I don’t know. I’d like to think it.”

“So, Teddy’s going to do some work today?” The voice was from a woman. I turned my head and saw a good looking female dressed in a plaid shirt like what Emma would wear but the woman’s shirt was tucked in and her tab sleeves were rolled up. She put more effort into her outfit and look sexier by doing so. I did not know who she was but I was suddenly anxious with anticipation. Was she a neighbor of Teddy’s? Was she going to help us?

Charles said “Well, you know Teddy. He likes to put things off until he absolutely has to do them. Were the neighbors complaining?”

She shook her head. “Most of these neighbors don’t notice anything. I was just asking because he told me he was going to ask someone to help him.”

“Well, yeah. We’re the guys.”

She nodded. “Mmmm.” She looked at me with an intense gaze like she was upset, but not because she disliked me. I never encountered anyone who gave that kind of vibe before so I could not give an accurate description of what I felt from her except to say she looked upset because she liked me. I turned my head away, not because I did not like her. I did like her. I turned my head to avoid that piercing gaze.

Charles said, “This my brother Stephen.”

She said, “Hello, I’m Connie.” Her tone of voice sounded like I was going to know her name whether I wanted to know it or not.

I looked at her and smiled so she would know I saw her in a positive way. My plan worked because she looked at me as if pleading but I did not know for what. There was a strange energy manifesting. I felt like she and I were fitted together in a latex glove. I looked away again because I felt like she would run up and hug me if I did not convert my gaze.

Teddy came outside with two cups. He handed one to Charles and one to me. He said, “Some progress is going to be made today.”

Connie said, “It’s going to be a great day. I can tell.”

“You won’t be having to look at this eyesore of a pile of lumber and rocks anymore.”

“It doesn’t bother me. I can’t even see it from my place. But I’m happy for you because you’ll be doing something you want to do. I have something I need to do and I’m going to do it.”

I glanced at her again, assuming her gaze had ended because Teddy was there. I was wrong. She looked at me with a playful smile that I could not interpret. The closest I could come to discerning it was she knew I would return.

Teddy said, “I’m sure what you have planned is not as elaborate as what I want to do. The lumber and rocks are just the outside things. There’s still carpeting inside and rearranging the furniture to accommodate some new pieces coming. I also have to paint and replace some of the lights. There’s also some shingles to be repaired and re-doing the roof but I can hold off on those for a bit.”

She nodded “What time will you guys be done?”

Charles said, “I could work through the whole night but Steven can’t go that long. He wants to do some writing. I figured this would be a way to experience a different environment than the one he’s used to and he could write about it.”

She asked, “So, what time do you imagine you’ll be done?”

“It’s eleven o’clock now. I’d say five.”

“Okay. At five, if you could do me a favor, I’d appreciate it. I have a box of books I’m through with and I’d like to give them to Stephen. Would you like that?”

I said, “That sounds great.”

“Awesome. Instead of me donating them to a thrift store where someone might buy them but maybe not, I’ll give them to a person who I know could make use of them. Can you be at my place at five?” 

“I’ll be there.”

“Okay. I’ll let you guys get to work. See you then, Stephen.” 

“Okay, Connie. Thank you.”

Charles said “I had an idea Connie would like you. I think she’s prettier than Emma. Would you agree?”

“I wouldn’t disagree.”

Teddy got a wheelbarrow. “Stephen, I’ll just have you take care of the rocks. Charles and I can handle the lumber. It’s easier for you with the wheelbarrow. Just shovel in the rocks and take them to the side of the house and get the next load and do the same thing. Just try to spread them out somewhat so the whole side area is covered. You’ll see the shovel right here.” He pointed to it.

Shoveling the rocks was not extremely easy but I could do it. I did not think about the time or if I did not finish. I worked as long as I was able to do so. I managed to complete the job. I finished a half hour earlier than Charles and Teddy because they were carrying heavy pieces of lumber by hand without the aid of a contraption. Teddy smiled and winked at me. Charles said, “I told you it was easy as pie.”

I was not sure how many hours we worked. We had taken a few breaks in between so we would not get too tired. But, after we were finished, Teddy looked at his watch and said, “There’s still time.” I assumed he was referring to when I saw Connie at five o’clock. He handed Charles and me some money.

I said, “Thanks, but I was thinking that if you could put some of my poetry to music that would be payment enough.”

He said, “I owe you for the work. Now, what are you asking about your poetry being put to music?”

“I thought of the idea when you said you were a composer. I don’t know how to write music and I think it would be interesting if you could find music that worked with it.”

“That’s a possibility. Sort of like you’re Oscar Hammerstein and I’m Richard Rodgers.”

“Would you be willing to look at some of my poems at least?”

“I’ll take a look. I’ve written some poems but I haven’t even put my own poems to music let alone anybody else’s. But bring them next time I see you and I’ll look at them.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Sure thing. It’s not five o’clock yet but if you want to knock on Connie’s door and get those books, I’m sure she wouldn’t care that you came early.”

“Well, what time is it now?”

“Four thirty.”

“I think I’ll wait until five.”

He smiled. “Are you nervous?” 

“I don’t really know her that well and I don’t want her to get annoyed.”

“She won’t get annoyed. I saw how she was looking at you. It’s your call but I think it would be best if you went there now.” 

“Okay. Where’s her place?”

“Just the next house up. She’s my next-door neighbor.”

“Okay. Can I have some whiskey and water before I go, though?” 

“It’s better that you didn’t.”

I got up. “Okay. I’m on my way now.”

He nodded and did thumbs up. 

Her house had a large front door with see-through glass, reminding me of her gaze. I will not be able to hide my awkwardness while waiting for her to respond. Luckily, that problem did not occur. As I walked up to her place, she had opened the door and went out. She had that upset look on her face again. She said, “I didn’t think you would show up.”

I smiled. “Of course I was going to show up.”

She extended her hand. I could not tell whether her expression was angry or apologetic but the gesture indicated all was well. We shook hands. Her grip was firm and continuous. She kept looking at me, not saying anything.” 

I asked, “Did you have some books?”

Her expression changed. She smiled. “I have books but I’m so glad you’re here.”

“That’s good. I thought you might be upset at me.”

“I would have been if you didn’t recognize the signs but I can tell you know what’s going on.”

“What’s going on?” 

“You and me.” 

No one ever talked like that to me before so her comments were like clues to a puzzle I did not understand. She kept gripping my hand but her gesture seemed less like an offering and more like a territorial imperative. I tried letting go but she held tighter. I asked, “Am I here to get the books?”

“You’re here for me.”

I was extremely nervous. I wanted to know what her plans were but I did not want to ask about them in case her answer was creepier than my assumption. But I had to say something. I asked, “What do we do now?”

“I’d like us to go inside so we can talk about everything.”

Since Charles and Teddy were right next-door and would probably look for me if I was gone too long, I figured I was safe. I said, “Okay, let’s do that.”

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New story

The Stevens family had never rode uphill before. Everywhere they had to go, in the past, was on level ground, with few trees and lots of sun shining ferociously as if an invisible lighting man wanted to burn their stamina away so they could do little damage. Phil was glad his uncle Nick hired a limousine for the ride up McAvoy Avenue. There was still not too much room in the large area in the back due to everyone except Phil weighing over three hundred pounds. Aside from that, Nick tended to waver the car when he drove. His concentration focused mostly on finding cheap restaurants.

Nick’s old high school friend, Albert Taylor, invited him and any family members for a visit at Albert’s place. As the limousine continued up the steep road, Nick said, “This is strange. Are we riding up to another planet?”

 Albert’s mother and Nick’s sister, Sophie, said, “You’re just not used to this. Neither am I. Driver, can you take us down!”

Phil shook his head, signaling the driver to ignore any unexpected outbursts, and said, “You’re not going to fall off this hill. It turns level soon. You want that money Albert is giving you. Isn’t that right, uncle Nick!”

Nick shrugged. “It’s not going to do us any good if the money’s from another planet.”

Phil remembered the last time Nick assumed a situation as being from another planet. The family attended a party hosted by their next-door neighbor, Jim, who celebrated a job promotion and hired a fancy caterer to provide the food. Since there was no canned raviolis, imitation cheese or cheap soda in sight, Nick was afraid of touching what he thought was alien food. He thought the cheese sticks and celery pieces were lizard fingers. He figured that if it did not come from the dollar store, it was not for human consumption.

El apretón de manos vecino parte dos


Durante el resto de esa noche, Matthew sintió la energía del toque de Kathy en su mano. Más precisamente, lo sentía en su mente. Mientras su padre tenía que soportar la compañía de los Richards que finalmente aparecieron, Matthew estaba en su habitación, sonriendo. Volvió a tocar el apretón de manos en sus pensamientos. Ni sus padres ni los Richards hubieran pensado en tocar la forma en que lo hacía. Ahora, a la mañana siguiente, se despertó con la actitud de que él era una persona de mayor calidad. La mujer podría haber sido Peggy Hathaway pero no lo era. Peggy tocaba a veces la mano de Norman Peters, su vecino de setenta años, cuando hablaban entre sí sobre jardinería y billetes de agua. Sin embargo, Matthew pensó que Norman, incluso a los setenta años de edad, habría preferido un toque de alguien mejor que Peggy Hathaway. Matthew tuvo el tacto de alguien mejor parecido. Nadie necesitaba saberlo. El incidente fue muy inocente en su intención, pero, todavía … Matthew estaba feliz.

Sus padres todavía estaban entreteniendo a los Richards, ya que Paul y Georgia estaban bebiendo y Ronald no quería que ellos condujeran. Pasaron toda la noche hablando pero Mateo había podido dormir. Sin embargo, ahora se levantó y se vistió. Su plan era ir a la biblioteca y escribir. Probablemente podría haber escrito algo en casa, pero no quería arriesgarse a una distracción repentina en el caso de que Paul Richards decidiera hacer su imitación de Dean Martin.

Salió fuera. Después de pasar una cuadra, notó que Kathy Baker se acercaba desde la otra dirección. Se sentía nervioso porque se veía tan bien como lo hizo ayer, pero ella era una mujer casada que sólo necesitaba ayuda con una bolsa de tierra de macetas y él era simplemente el vecino que era incidentalmente capaz de ayudarla. Pensó que lo pasaría sin decir nada más que un saludo rápido, si eso. Ella se detuvo y dijo: “Hola, Matthew. ¿Cómo estás?”

Se detuvo también, porque lo hizo. Dijo: “Estoy bien. ¿Cómo estás? La conversación ya había durado más de lo que él habría pensado.

Ella suspiró. “Supongo que las cosas están bien. El amigo de Gary, Thomas, el idiota que trajo el suelo de la maceta, trajo seis sacos de café y los dejó en la entrada de la casa y, cuando Gary los ve, va a decir que debería haber sido responsable de conseguir que alguien Ponerlos en la casa. No veo por qué Thomas no esperó a que yo regresara a casa antes de traerlos. Podría haberlos traído consigo mismo. Fui al restaurante italiano para ver si los querían, si vinieron a conseguirlos, y dijeron que no podían venir. Oh hermano.”

Matthew dijo, “Tal vez un vecino podría ayudar.” Él no estaba seguro de si o no se refería a sí mismo. Sólo quería responder a lo que dijo.

Ella rió. ¿Te refieres a alguien como tú? No quiero sacarte ni nada, pero, si pudieras, realmente lo apreciaría. Debes pensar que soy alguien que anda por ahí pidiendo favores a la gente. Créeme, es muy inusual que estos dos incidentes hayan ocurrido. ”

Matthew se encogió de hombros. “Necesitan mudarse y estoy aquí para que yo también pueda ayudarte”.

Kathy suspiró aliviada. “Eso es genial. Estoy avergonzado porque no tengo mucho que ofrecer en el camino de agradecimiento, pero, créanme, estoy agradecido “.

“Bueno, me alegro de que alguien esté agradecido conmigo por un cambio.” Se rió.

Kathy sacudió la cabeza. “No te desanimes. Eres un buen chico.”

Fueron a su casa. Las bolsas estaban apiladas una encima de la otra. Desde la observación, juzgó que pesaban aproximadamente la misma cantidad de libras que el suelo de macetas.

Kathy abrió la puerta de su casa. Mateo cogió un saco y era más pesado que el suelo, pero podía manejarlo. Cuando entró en la casa con el primer saco, Kathy dijo: “Al lado del sofá estará bien. Les hice espacio para ellos.

Dejó la primera bolsa, cogió la segunda bolsa, la bajó y la repitió hasta que todas las bolsas estaban dentro. Hoy no esperaba un apretón de manos. Estaba contento con el apretón de manos de ayer. Estaba feliz de que ella lo reconociera.

Mientras caminaban fuera, extendió la mano. “Gracias.”

Tal vez estaba buscando un apretón de manos. De cualquier manera, él le dio su mano alegremente. El apretón de manos fue tan firme y duró unos siete segundos, unos segundos más que el primero. Cuando ella se soltó, dijo: “Genial”.

Ella pareció perpleja. “¿Guay?”

Se dio cuenta de su error. “No importa.”

Ella sacudió su cabeza. “No. ¿Qué quieres decir?”

Se sentía atrapado. “Sólo quería decir que era genial que … Quiero decir … Cuando …”

“Uh … No lo sé. No entiendo. ¿Estás diciendo que es genial cuando me estrechaste la mano? ”

“Sí. Lo siento.”

Ella pensó por un momento y luego se rió. No lo lamentes. Gracias por tu ayuda. “Ella extendió su mano otra vez.

Se dieron la mano de nuevo. Diez segundos.

Ella saludó con la mano. “Cuídate.”

También hizo un gesto con la mano. “Tú también.” Empezó a alejarse.

-Oh, olvidé decirte algo. Una cosa más…”

Retrocedió. “¿Sí?”

Volvió a extender la mano. “Gracias.”

Volvieron a temblar. Después de unos veinte segundos, casi se soltó, pero, cuando él estaba tirando su mano, ella apretó su agarre.

Una vez más, dijo, “Gracias”.

Ahora, su agarre seguía firme y ella seguía estrechándole la mano. No podía creer lo que estaba sucediendo. Kathy Baker, que hoy llevaba otra camisa metida en la camisa, un bonito azul muy bonito, estaba sacudiendo su mano durante varios minutos.

De repente, sonó el teléfono de su casa. Ella dijo, “Tengo que responder eso.” Ella caminó en la casa, todavía agarrando la mano de Matthew, tirando de él dentro. Ella contestó el teléfono. Después de un minuto diciendo cosas como “Sí”, “Bien” y “Estaré allí”, colgó y soltó su mano. -Esa es mi tía Victoria. Mi tío Harold está en el Hospital Central. Él necesita su medicación y tía Victoria no puede hacerlo porque ella está en el trabajo. Lo siento.”

Matthew dijo: “Espero que tu tío esté bien”.

Ella dijo: “No lo sabemos. De todos modos, gracias de nuevo por ayudarme con los sacos. Saldré con usted.

Mientras caminaban fuera, ella saludó y caminó en una dirección mientras Matthew caminaba a su casa. Ninguna palabra podía describir lo que estaba pensando.

El apretón de manos vecino parte uno

Matthew Llewellyn estaba molesto. Sus padres, Ronald y Stephanie, estaban escuchando Fred Waring y los Pennsylvanians, no exactamente el tipo de música que le ayudaría a escribir una historia. Si hubieran tocado el CD a volumen medio, tal vez no le importara tanto. Cada jueves era su noche de nostalgia, cuando reenactaron momentos desde su juventud. Cada padre de la década de 1950 escuchó a Fred Waring, especialmente si vivían en el noreste, pero Matthew pensó que sus padres, habiendo sido niños durante ese tiempo, hubieran querido poner esas cosas detrás.

No sólo la música, sino también sus amigos lo irritaban. Paul y Georgia Richards, un banquero calvo y con su obesa esposa amante de Shakespeare, podrían haber tenido cosas interesantes que decir a Ronald ya Stephanie, pero Matthew se quedó en su habitación cuando los Richards visitaron. Todo lo que hizo la familia de Matthew se basaba en un disparate no excitante.

La única vez que Matthew se sintió emocionado fue cuando miró a mujeres atractivas, ya sea en la tienda de comestibles, en la televisión o en la biblioteca pública. Si una buena mujer cajera tocaba su mano al dar su cambio en la tienda de comestibles, pensó en la experiencia como belleza conmovedora, por muy fugaz o superficial que la experiencia pudo haber sido a largo plazo. Él entendió que esos incidentes significaban poco en el gran esquema de las cosas, pero que trabajaban como placebos para su estado de ánimo.

Quería escribir una nueva historia, pero tenía problemas para concentrarse al oír, procedentes de la sala de estar, sus padres riendo y hablando de cualquier recuerdo que tuvieran en ese momento. A su madre le gustaba charlar sobre los fabulosos zapatos que su abuela le regaló en 1964. Su padre se reía y hablaba de cómo eso le recordaba a su abuelo que le regaló un equipo de pesca en 1970. Para Matthew, Un primer beso o quizás el encuentro de una celebridad. Los abuelos y las baratijas estaban lejos de ser emocionantes.

Como no podía pensar en nada que escribir, pensó que iría al comedor por unos minutos y escucharía la conversación de sus padres. Su historia podría consistir en una parodia acerca de una situación del pasado que significaba mucho menos de lo que el narrador le daba crédito. Cuando entró, vio a sus padres vestidos con lo que ellos consideraban ropa elegante. Su padre llevaba un traje de tres piezas y su madre llevaba un vestido. ¿Y qué? Si Matthew tuviera una noche especial con una mujer, las camisetas y los jeans serían el estilo apropiado.

 Se escuchó un golpe en la puerta principal. Ronald se levantó y apagó la música. Dijo, “Ése debe ser el Richards. Paul dijo que tenía que cancelar pero podrían haberlo hecho de todos modos.

Stephanie también se levantó. “Eso es bueno. Hice ensalada de patatas y cangrejos, los favoritos de Georgia.

Matthew empezó a regresar a su habitación, pero Ronald dijo: “Espera un momento. No seas grosero. Conoces a Paul. Te dio esa gorra de béisbol fresca de los Dodgers para Navidad el año pasado. Dile hola antes de que vengas.

Mateo dijo: “Lo que sea.” También podría atender la petición de su padre porque, si decidía no hacerlo, Ronald podría ir a la habitación de Matthew más tarde y hablar y hablar sobre cómo estaba decepcionado de su hijo. El padre de Matthew le dijo muchas veces que debía conseguir un trabajo y hacer cosas productivas. Ronald quería que Matthew fuera contador. Matthew quería un trabajo en la industria de la publicidad. Mientras tanto, ya que no había puestos de escritor disponibles, se sentía bien pasar sus momentos de ocio en casa.

Ronald abrió la puerta. Matthew no miró para ver quién era la persona. Sin embargo, oyó una voz desconocida para él. Una mujer dijo: “Hola. Soy tu vecina, Kathy Baker. Vivo a pocas puertas de ti. Pensé que alguien estaría en casa porque escuché música. Me preguntaba si usted, o cualquiera que usted conoce, pudiera hacerme un favor.

Ronald se echó a reír. -Bueno, depende de lo que sea.

Kathy dijo: “Sólo necesito a alguien para levantar una gran bolsa de tierra de macetas y ponerla en un estante en mi patio trasero. Mi marido, Gary, se olvidó de hacerlo ayer y sigo olvidando que está allí y voy de viaje. Mi esposo estará cansado cuando llegue a casa del trabajo esta noche y no quiero preguntarle. De hecho, cuando lo vea en el estante, podría sentirse mejor.

Ronald dijo, “Claro. Déjame cambiarme de esta ropa y lo haré.

Matthew pensó que también podría ver cómo era la mujer, en caso de que pudiera escribir una parte en la parodia sobre el tipo de personas que el narrador hacía favores. Volvió la cabeza y su actitud cambió por completo.

Aparte de Peggy Hathaway, la solterona de sesenta años de edad, a pocas cuadras de distancia, ninguna de las mujeres que Matthew vio en el vecindario llevaba pantalones vaqueros y Ciertamente ninguno de ellos llevaba puesto su camisa, especialmente Peggy Hathaway que podía competir con Georgia Richards en un concurso de comidas. La camisa de Kathy Baker no sólo estaba escondida, sino que estaba apretada y sus mangas largas fueron empujadas hasta el codo. La camisa sí mismo, rojo con un diseño blanco de la mariposa, era muy bonita. Todo acerca de cómo Kathy Baker se movía, la manera en que ponía las manos a los lados, esperando ansiosamente que Ronald la ayudara, era sexy como el infierno. ¡Maldita sea! Matthew debería haberla notado antes de que su padre decidiera ayudar. Si Matthew ayudó a Kathy y ella le estrechó la mano para agradecerle, él sentiría que su día era especial. No habría nada más que eso, pero un apretón de manos de un tucker camisa como Kathy Baker le permitiría manejar la noche de nostalgia de sus padres estúpido que mucho mejor.

Ronald volvió, todavía con el traje de tres piezas. “Lo siento, Kathy, por tomar tanto tiempo, pero mi ropa de trabajo se está secando y todas mis otras ropas son buenos trajes como este. Supongo que tendré que usar esto para ayudarte. Quiero decir, si Matthew, el señor Lazy, está demasiado ocupado.

Matthew estaba feliz de que su papá lo dijera. Ronald pudo haber significado esto como un insulto, pensando que Matthew nunca ayudaría a nadie, pero Matthew vio el comentario como una oportunidad. Se encogió de hombros y dijo: -Puedo hacerlo por ti, si quieres.

Ronald abrió mucho los ojos. “¿De Verdad?”

Mateo dijo: “Claro”.

Kathy asintió con la cabeza. “Estupendo. Venga.”

Mientras caminaba hacia su casa, pensó en cómo decirle que se acercara podría sonar grosero de otra persona, pero tenía un extraño coqueteo de ella, como si insistiera en que la siguiera diciendo que ella lo quería. Sabía que aquello no era más que su imaginación, y no era así, pero se contentaba con su ensueño.

Fueron en el patio trasero y ella señaló el suelo de macetas. Ella dijo: “Es algo pesado. No sé si tendrás problemas o algo. Mi marido es perezoso y dice que es demasiado pesado para él. Estaba demasiado avergonzado de mencionar eso a tu papá pero, como tu padre te llamó perezoso, lo que debió haberte avergonzado, pensé que podría hacerte saber.

Matthew se echó a reír. “Te mostraré lo perezoso que soy.” Se agachó y recogió la bolsa. No era luz, pero podía manejarlo, sobre todo porque el estante estaba justo al lado de él. Puso la bolsa en el estante. Ahí tienes.

Kathy aplaudió. “¡Hurra! Muchas gracias. Es embarazoso pedir ayuda, pero estoy seguro que me alegro de haberlo hecho. ”

Matthew dijo: “En realidad, soy perezoso y no me avergüenzo un poco por lo que dijo mi papá. Pero levantar una bolsa no es el fin del mundo “.

Kathy sonrió y asintió con la cabeza. “Supongo que no.”

Matthew saludó con la mano. “Bueno. Cuídate.”

“Realmente lo aprecio. Gracias. -Le tendió la mano-.

Matthew le dio su mano. El apretón de manos fue firme y duró unos segundos, tal vez un poco más firme y duró una fracción de segundo más de lo que podría haber sido, pero a Matthew le pareció que la misión estaba cumplida.