Buckets Of Blessings
Queen of Gay Romance"
If your laws do not allow you to read this story, then don't. All the rest of you people who read it, if you think it's true, boy, have I investment opportunities for you!
Notes From Retta:
As an author, it's surprised me with all the acceptance I've gotten over this story. It means a lot to me and I'd like to thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart.
Read and enjoy.
When we got back upstairs, both Gregg and Ty were grinning like Cheshire cats.
“What have you two been up to?”
“Oh, we went out and took a little ride. That Escalade is beautiful.” Gregg said smiling. “And, it's got way more power than Ty's little Flintstone car.”
I looked at him and said, “Did you go where I think you went?”
“Yeah, you ready to go to Aunt Joan's?” he whispered.
Heather smiled, “What are we going to Aunt Joan's for? I thought we were going to stay in tonight?”
“No, we need to go over there to see what Uncle Mark found out.”
“Well, just call and let Ty and Lance go home so we can be together.”
Gregg looked at me with a panicked look and said, “Um.....”
“Hon, let's go over there as a group. It might help for my own mind to see Mitch settled in. Then, we can go out for ice cream afterwards.”
“You're just wanting to make sure I'm not alone with Gregg” she pouted.
“Well, I'm not liking I'm not going to be alone with Ty either, but I promise you we'll have that chance tomorrow night, and you will have your time alone with him later.”
“Well, ok, but I want to go to Baskin Robbins. Their very berry Boysenberry is to die for.”
Gregg looked at her and said, “You like that?”
“Yeah, have you tried it?”
“No, but I'll get you five gallons of it when we get the money.”
She smiled at him and said, “What's your favorite?”
“No, I promise.”
“I like bubblegum.”
“Oh, that's sweet.”
“Guys, you two are getting sickening again.” I said
Ty laughed and said, “Come on, let's go.”
“Well, let me get ready and you guys meet us downstairs” said Heather.”
“OK, you guys just don't take too long up here. Make it a quickie.”
She looked at me with a shocked look and threw the pillow at me.”Unlike what's going on in your mind Mister! I'll have you know I wasn't planning on doing any such thing! I'm getting dressed!”
“Ok, but Gregg's going to see you get undressed to get dressed, so I know how he is when you show a little flesh.”
She laughed and said, “Well, we might make it a quickie.”
Ty laughed and said, “Well, why didn't you say so in the first place!”
He had the other pillow thrown at him.
“Come on Ty, let's let them get started so they'll hurry up and be finished.”
We left and as soon as I shut the door, Ty had me against it kissing me. “Oh man, thank you!”
“What did I do?”
“I've never had a time like that with Gregg before. Usually, we're at each other's throats, but tonight, we were actually like brothers. Now, I do have a little something I need to tell you.”
“Well, the carpet in the back of the Escalade got snagged a little. Not much, but it was a big crate. It barely fit.”
“How much did you buy?”
“We bought their biggest finale round they had. The whole sky's going to be full of fireworks”
“Where'd you put it and what did everyone out there say?”
“Well, what we did was I drove and Gregg called them. They agreed and then, we called the fireworks place and told them we wanted the biggest grand finale assortment they had. They said they'd have it ready, so when we got there, they had it on the tow motor and all I had to do was back it up and get it in the truck while Gregg went in and paid.”
“Where'd he get the money?”
“Well, if you want to know, I gave it to him. I used some of my money I have saved from work.”
“Ok, well did you guys get a receipt?”
“Yeah, but Uncle Mark said he'd pay for it as long as he got to light the fuse.”
“Your Uncle Mark's a big kid.”
“Yeah, he's always been fun. He's really excited.”
“Well, Heather's going to really be surprised.”
“Let's hope she says yes.”
“She will. I kind of asked her what she thought. She said they'd talked about it and Gregg said he wasn't going to propose for a long time even though she thought it didn't matter.”
“You didn't give it away did you?”
“No, but I've got a question.”
“What necklace was your mom wearing?”
“Mom doesn't wear necklaces. I got her one once and she had me take it back and get her something else. She wore earrings and she wore rings, but she didn't even like a wrist watch. Why?”
“There's a mark on her neck like a necklace got ripped off her in the wreck.”
He looked at me strangely and said, “No, mom never wore them. I'll ask dad, but I'm almost sure on this. Besides, the way she wore her clothes, she wanted people to think she was taller. She said a lot of chest showing and a lot of neck made people think she was taller. That's why she wore them high heeled shoes. She was only five four, but when she was in those shoes, she looked tall.”
“Oh, I never thought about that, do you think it was the seat belt?”
“What sort of mark was it?”
“It looked like a small chain got ripped off her neck. It's not a scratch, but a long break in the skin towards the back of her neck and coming over her left shoulder.”
“Hmmm...too high for a seat belt. And it doesn't look like she scratched herself.......ummm, Lance, does it look like anyone else scratched her? Like during sex?”
“No, she didn't have sex with women did she?”
“Oh hell no! Mom wasn't a lesbian, but Gregg said he thought she was having an affair with a guy out there. He doesn't know the guy, but he did say it's been going on a while.”
“Where she worked. I can't tell you anything, because the last time I was out there was seven or eight years ago. She acted like she didn't even want me around the place.”
“Well, that guy has to be fired and I want someone to tell me he's here as soon as he walks through the door. If he goes up and starts something with your dad, this could be a big problem.”
“Gregg wants to fire him.”
“I understand. Having him around would be a big problem. One slip up and your dad would really be a basket case.”
“Yeah, why would she do that?”
“Hon, why do people do stupid things? Because they think it's going to be better for them and they do it. There's lots of reasons for having an affair, but not one of them are as good as being honest with the person you're with.”
He looked at me and said, “So showing your dick to Gregg was honest!”
“Hon, he thinks it's going to be a simple act of making love. He had no clue what we're facing.
With him and Heather, it's as simple as sticking tab A into slot B. For us, it's going to be painful for you and mentally stressing for me because I don't want to cause you pain.
He made a joke and I whipped it out. Now, he's wondering if you can take the thing.”
Ty smiled and said, “Give me that chance, but from now on, keep it in your pants. I think my brother's a little hot for your bod. I hope that scared him off.”
“Not a chance of anything happening with him. I'd have to be stupid and not with you and he'd have to not be with Heather. Neither of those are happening, so let him have that fantasy and you'll get the real thing. Not that I'm much in the first place.”
Ty laughed and said, “You are fine with a capital F and INE, so shush.”
“Well, look in the mirror model boy, because you're better than all that.”
He looked at me and said, “Lance, my feelings were hurt when he told me.”
“Well, we'll work on making love, but I'm going to have a plex about it.”
“Well, maybe until you get over it, I'll take the top role. Have you ever thought about that?”
“Oh man, I'm liking the sound of this more and more!”
“Let's get downstairs, I'm getting turned on thinking about it. I don't want them coming out and catching us in our own quickie.” He giggled.
When we got to the elevator, he looked down and then looked up, “You're not upset about the carpet in the truck, are you?”
“Hon, carpeting can be replaced. You can't.
If the truck was totaled tomorrow, I'd ask if you were ok and not care about it. Now what we'll do is we'll check it to see how big of snag it is. If it's not really big, I'll sew it so it doesn't snag more. If it does, we'll have to order another carpet and install it. It's no biggie either way we go.”
“Ok, I was worried.”
I took his chin in my hand, “Babe, it's nothing. It's a truck and it might take a point off in a show and shine competition, but what we'll do is enter yours and then mine will come in second. So what, we'll have a first and second place finish. It's still good.”
I smiled at him and he said, “That's going to be so cool.”
“The meeting is on Tuesday night.”
“Well....Oh, mom's visitation.”
“Yeah, well, we'll have to miss it and then catch the next one. I'll call Rodney and tell him.”
“How late do the meetings run?”
“About nine thirty, but there's no chance of that. This visitation is going to be huge. We'll be lucky if we get out at ten or ten thirty.”
“Does mom look nice?”
“She looks beautiful. I can see where you and your brother got your looks.”
“She was beautiful, wasn't she. Dad used to call her his pretty princess, then one day, he stopped. I haven't heard that phrase in a long time.”
“Hon, tomorrow morning, I've got a bit of business to do here. I've got to make some calls. What I would like for you to do is go get your dad and Uncle and then stop back by here. We'd have to stop by here to get Gregg anyway, so I'll make the calls.”
“What do you have to do?”
“Well, legally, I have to call the bank and get her accounts shut off. Any credit card companies have to be notified and any other accounts she'll have in her name. I'll use her credit report; it will tell me where all her accounts are such as cell phone, utilities, and so on and so forth. Each of those have to be notified.”
“Ummm, I just thought of what that mark is on her neck.”
“Mom had a cell phone in her car and she always had the headset on her left ear. The cord would run around her neck like that.”
“I never saw the cord, I'm sorry for asking.”
“No, you had a suspicion, and I'm glad you asked. It tells me what to look for when I'll be doing my job with you. That had me worried because I knew she didn't wear necklaces.”
“Well, it says the impact in that car was rather violent for it to be pulled out of her ear that hard and to break the skin.”
“Was it bad?”
“Just think of a necklace being little and me snatching it off you.”
“Oh man. That would have hurt.”
“Hon, I'm sorry for mentioning it.”
“No, I'm glad you did. If she had lived, I'm sure when you visited her in the hospital, the damage from that would have been the least of her worries.”
“She wouldn't have let me visit. She said she didn't want to see me anymore.”
We were out in the garage and he opened the back door of the truck. He pointed at a tiny scratch in the carpet maybe a quarter of an inch long.
I hugged him and said, “Hon, that's hardly anything. It doesn't even require a repair.”
“Well, I didn't want you to think I did it on purpose.”
“Don't worry. Putting a gurney in and out would have done more damage, so don't worry.”
He smiled and said, “I was worried you'd never let me drive it again.”
“Nope, wreck it and we'll get another. You'll still get to drive the next one.
It's a vehicle, it's meant to be driven and it's going to wear out. Now, you get a scratch on you from the truck, you tell me because then, I'll worry. You're priceless.”
He giggled and said, “And you're full of it.”
I snapped the door shut and said, “Let's get in the truck and be making out when then come out. They'll freak out.”
He laughed and said, “You're hilarious. Let's do it.”
We got in the truck and he said, “Come here hot stuff.”
I leaned over him and we were kissing away and soon, we were lost in our own little world. I was really getting into it when the door opened and Gregg started laughing. I came up with a start and Ty said, “Gregg!” in a whiny voice. “You ruined my fun. We didn't ruin yours.”
Heather said, “We didn't make out. Gosh guys!”
I looked at her and said, “We weren't making out.”
Ty laughed and said, “That's our story and we're sticking to it.”
She laughed and Gregg said, “Man, you two were going at it. We stood out there for at least five minutes.”
“Nah, it wasn't that long guys. We only did a few quick kisses.”
Heather smiled and said, “Oh yeah, it looked like you two were feeding baby birds with all the mouth action I was seeing!”
“Oh, it t'wern't nothin'” Ty giggled.
She said, “Why were you two in the back seat anyways?”
“My truck, I wanted to see what it was like.”
She laughed and said, “Well, you two ride back there and I'll drive.”
“Ok” said Ty smiling really big.
Heather got in and adjusted the seat and Gregg got in and said, “Go ahead, resume what you were doing.”
“No, it's not the same now that we've been interrupted.” Ty pouted.
We sat together hugging and Gregg sat with his back against the door. “Gregg, lock the door please.”
He locked it and said, “I wasn't worried.”
Then it hit me. What I didn't see with their mom's body was all the bruising I thought would be associated with the impact of the wreck. AIRBAG!”
“Heather, when we get to the house, I need to speak to you.”
Gregg looked at me and I said, “Guys, I'd tell you but I can't tell you...if you know what I mean. Heather saw it, but I'm not able to tell you what I'm thinking. I'm sorry.”
“You meaning the headset thing?” Ty asked
“No, something else.”
Heather looked in the mirror and I said, “The thing on her neck was from her telephone headset. Ty said she wore one for her cell phone.
Heather nodded and then looked at me strangely.
Gregg said, “What you talking about?”
“Your mom's neck looked like it had a break in the skin where a necklace would have been. I was worried the car would still have a necklace in it if she had one on.”
“Oh, she never wore necklaces, but it would make sense about the headset. She insisted it go on her left ear. She said she wanted people to see it on her ear so it didn't look like she was talking to herself in the car. She'd forget occasionally and get out of the car with it on and it'd pop off. She'd end up cussing and saying how she needed a bluetooth. I thought about getting her one for Christmas, but then that jerkwad out there said he thought he'd get her one. He didn't though and now, I wish I had.”
“Gregg, Ty told me about the guy and as soon as that guy is seen in the funeral home, I want to be told.
The line's going to be long, so you'll have plenty of time to tell me who it is, but I want plenty of cameras going so if he says anything stupid up there, I've got it all on tape.”
Gregg nodded and said, “I'm going to fire the guy personally. He'd better not say anything to Dad up there, because I'll be the one to throw him out myself. You can get pissed all you want, but I've not told Dad because I knew it'd hurt his feelings and Mom would see my life was hell if I did.”
“Your mom used her anger to keep you all in line quite a bit, didn't she?”
“Yeah, we learned when we were real young that if we messed up it took mom a long time to forget. She'd bring things up months after it happened.”
I shook my head and Heather said, “Guys, let's make a pact that when someone makes a mistake from now on, when the day's over, we're done with it. I know I don't like to be constantly reminded of things and I know you don't either, so from now on, let's do that.”
Gregg smiled and said, “That'll be nice to be able to know when something's over, it's over.”
Ty nodded and said, “It'll be like living in a whole new world, won't it, Gregg?”
“Yeah it will.”
Heather looked into the rear view mirror and shook her head. I knew she was thinking the same thing I was. Normal things in this family didn't even seem normal to them.”
When we got to Joan and Mark's, Heather told the guys, “Go on in and Lance and I'll talk out here.”
They went in and I said, “The lack of bruising. Usually, there's bruising to a corpse from a car wreck.
The first thing I thought was it wasn't there. Then I though of the air bag. If the car crumples like that car did, all the air bags will go off at once; in a Mercedes. It's called panic mode.
A Mercedes has knee bags and side curtains too. I bet that's what wedged her foot in, the way it was, on the accelerator. So, maybe she was unconscious and it did it. The lack of bleeding might be a fluke. She might've either been dead or unconscious. If she was dead, there'd be no bleeding. The body goes into shock.”
“Oh, What'd you tell Ty for?”
“The reason I said to everyone. I had to ask if there was a necklace and it's in the car, wouldn't you want it if it was your moms?”
“Yeah, so it's getting clearer now.”
“Yeah, I'm getting a picture of what went on in that car. Any impact that would take a head set off with that force had to be a lot. I keep forgetting about the car going off the cliff. It's amazing that thing kept going forward.”
Joan came out and said, “Everything ok?”
“Yeah, Heather and I dressed Wendy tonight and there were some irregularities we found. Now, they're cleared up.”
“Well, along her neck, like here, there was a break in the skin like a necklace had been ripped off her. The boys said she never wore necklaces, but Ty said she had a telephone head set that would have done it.
Then, there wasn't any bruising with the body you'd associate with a car wreck. What I missed was it's a Mercedes and they have a panic mode in the system that if it's a hard enough impact, all the air bags deploy. So that'd be the reason for no bruising.
But, what was perplexing was the wound and no bleeding. The only thing I could think was it was because it was a puncture wound and the limb was still in her, but that wouldn't have explained it when I embalmed her because the blood would have been washed from the wound.
There was none. The only thing I could think was she didn't die there. But, what I never thought about was her already being dead. She might have died up here, or she might have died from the impact, but in my mind, I still remembered her foot on that accelerator. Then, I remembered a Mercedes has knee bags and that's probably what wedged her foot on the gas pedal and floored it.
We were going to ask you some of the questions tonight, but then it occurred to me on the way over, so I was clearing it up with Heather.”
“Well, I'm glad you were thorough. It'd look suspicious to me too. I'm glad you guys thought enough of me to come ask me questions, but I'm also glad you figured them out for yourself. Now, come on inside as Mark's got good news and he's not telling the boys until you two are in there.”
She put her arms around us and we walked into the house together. Mitch was there smiling hugely and came over and gave us each big hugs. He whispered, “It's good news!”
Mark said, “Guys, earlier today we discovered an account your mom was putting money in. She'd opened the account with me and I thought Mitch knew about it as his signature was on it.
It turns out that signature was done at a completely different time than all the paperwork, so I'd say your mom had him sign it when he wasn't aware what he was signing.
I should have asked him, but to be honest, sometimes, things like that slip my mind. So, I looked into the accounts and I found a lot of money. But, that's not all we found.”
He paused and then looked up, “These here are life insurance policies that were made out for each of you boys to be beneficiary in case either of your parents died. Your mom set it up so the payments for the policies came out of her account automatically each month. What it has in it is a double indemnity clause which means if she's driving a company vehicle she's covered for twice that amount.”
I held my breath because I knew the way I'd present it if it were me.
He said, “Here's the amount of money in the account. It's twelve million six hundred and thirty eight thousand and four hundred dollars.”
I held Heather's hand and she looked at me.
“I saved the best for last. The life insurance policies are for ten million each. She bought one for herself to be protected if Mitch died and if she would die made out for each of you boys as well as Mitch if she would die and herself if he would die. Gregg stood up and said, “Ten million!”
Mark smiled and said, “Gregg, you're not hearing what I said. It's double indemnity. That means it's double that.”
Gregg sat down and the tears began rolling. Heather was already moving to his seat and I went to Ty's. Mitch patted me on the back and I turned around and hugged him. He said, “She took care of my boys.”
“She took care of you too.”
He looked down and said, “I really think she thought I'd go first.”
“Well, that's why you buy insurance. You never know.”
Ty patted my leg and said, “Babe, I'm not waiting for you to even ask me. Get over here in front of the fireplace.”
I looked at him and Joan had out the camera. Tears stung my eyes and he led me to the living room. When we got there, he said, “Lance, with all the good news in the world, it doesn't compare to the way I felt when you answered when I called.
You said you wanted to go out and I was happier than now. Now, we got this good news and I know it's got us set for life. No one can take it away and no one can make me feel bad anymore. So, with that said, I'm going to get down on my knee and ask you, Will you be mine forever?”
It might sound romantic, but I'll be honest with you. My knees gave out. And I went down on mine too. “If you will”
He turned and smiled and I leaned forward and kissed him.
That's when the photo got taken.
“He said YES!”
Heather was crying and Gregg said, “Babe, ours is going to be that beautiful. Uncle Mark, go do the honors.”
She looked at him and Uncle Mark took out for the front of the house. Gregg led her outside and he said, “Babe, I told everyone I'd propose on the 4th of July. Somehow it seemed romantic to me to have the fireworks as a back drop so when I got on my knee, you'd know the independence I felt and the battles were over.”
Just about then, the first volleys all started to fly and she said, “OH no!”
He smiled and got down on his knee and said, “Heather, my darling, A man knows it's time and he knows when he's done looking when he's found what he's been looking for. Tonight, I've got mine. Will you make me the happiest guy in the world and be my wife?”
Joan was back there popping camera flashes like you wouldn't believe. She said she wanted the moment when the words left Heather's mouth.
“I will” Heather sighed
From somewhere in the shadows by the bushes came Heather's parents. Heather turned and smiled and said, “Dad! Mom! I want you to meet Gregg. We're going to be married!”
I went over and hugged Heather's Dad and just about the time I wondered how I was going to approach her mom, I got spun around and hugged, “Even though it's not you, I'm happy. He called and asked us to be up here so he could ask for her hand to her dad. Then, he came over and introduced himself to me and said you approved and introduced them. I'm happy you loved her enough to see she was happy.”
“I couldn't ruin her life.”
“I know. For a long time, I thought you had, but now I know.”
Joan said, “Everyone, let's go in the house and have some cake and ice cream!”
About the time we turned, the final volley hit and Ty took my hand and said, “Babe, that part's ours. See all the hearts!”
We stood in the yard and kissed as the hearts faded out.
When we got inside, I saw Heather's Aunt Mary. I loved the woman and to be honest, she was the first person I think who told me I was gay before I even knew myself. She came over and I said, “Aunt Mary, how are you? Did you see the beautiful proposal?”
“Which one, yours or hers?”
“You saw mine?”
“Yeah, from in there in the solarium where they had us sitting. You didn't see me?”
“I was already crying.”
“I saw that. You're lucky, he's a doll.”
“So's hers. They're brothers!”
“Yeah, and who's the guy over there?”
“That's their dad, he just lost his wife.”
“Oh, I'm sorry.”
“No, you want to meet him?”
“Now's not the time.”
“Yes, it's the time. He told me when I found someone, he'd be ready. To fill you in, his wife and he were married but they weren't married...if you know what I mean.”
“Oh dear. That poor man.”
“Yeah, Mitch, come here fella!”
Mitch came over and I hugged him again.
He looked at Mary and I said, “Mitch, I know it's lousy timing, but you told me when I had someone, you'd meet them.
Well, I'd like for you to meet Heather's Aunt Mary. She's an absolute sweetheart and I think you two would be perfect together. So, you trade numbers and I'll go in here to be with my beau.”
Mitch smiled at me and I left.
Ty said, “Where you been?”
“Introducing your dad to someone.”
“Yeah, Heather's Aunt Mary.”
He looked out towards the living room and said, “Is she nice?”
“You'll love her. She's a wonderful woman.”
“She'll be nice to us?”
“She's the one that told me she understood about me being gay before I even knew.”
“Good. I hope he asks her out.”
“I think Aunt Mary won't let him. She thinks it's not the time.”
Before I knew what had happened, Ty went to the living room.
I stayed there and Gregg and Heather came over. Gregg looked concerned and said, “What's going on in there?”
“Well, I introduced your dad to Heather's Aunt Mary and he found out your Aunt Mary is planning on not accepting your dad's offer to date. So, he took off in there.”
I was speaking to an empty set of arms because Gregg was already moving.
Heather looked at me shocked and said, “Aunt Mary?”
“She's great and you know it.”
“She's a fruit loop!”
“No, she's what he needs. She's opinionated, and she's her own woman, but what love she has in her heart everyone knows where they stand. Can you think of anything Mitch needs more?”
“She'll never get married. She's said that time and time again.”
“Who's talking marriage. I'm talking about them dating. I think as Aunt Mary sees Mitch for being a great guy, she'll realize she needs him just as much as he needs her.”
“Well, I wish them luck, but do you think Mitch will like all those dogs?”
“Their house will never be lonely.”
“Nor quiet. It sounds like a dog pound there!”
“Oh shush, How did it feel?”
“Overwhelming I didn't expect the fireworks.”
“Me neither. I thought I'd pick a hot air balloon ride, but this was wonderfully romantic. I'm happy.”
“I can tell.”
After about five minutes, Joan handed me two dishes of cake and ice cream and said, “Go in there and give this to Ty and see what's going on! And then come back and tell me.”
I went in and Mitch was sitting next to Mary on the sofa and on the right was Gregg and by her legs was Ty. The picture was wonderful. Gregg had out a photo album and said, “See, that's us when we were on the Matterhorn.”
He took it and said, “I want her.”
Mitch smiled and I winked at him, “I'll go get you guys'. Would you all like coffee, milk, or whatever?”
Aunt Mary waved her hand and said, “Whatever, I'm having a good time.”
Heather came in with their dishes and Gregg took his. He patted the seat next to him and said, “Heather, meet Aunt Mary.”
“She's my aunt, I think I've met her.”
Gregg said, “Well, I like her.”
Heather rolled her eyes and said, “Well, I kinda do too. After all she was mine first.”
Gregg wasn't fooling anyone his head flipped backwards toward Mitch and Mary and I could hear him whisper loud enough. “Let's hook them up!”
Mitch giggled and I went into the dining room to go to the kitchen.
Heather's parents were in the dining room and Heather's dad asked, “Everyone in the living room?”
“Yeah, the guys have Aunt Mary corralled in there.”
“No, she's perfect for Mitch.”
“I thought I'd never hear it said Mary was perfect for anyone.”
“Well, she's what he needs.”
He smiled and said, “If you say so. Thanks, by the way. He's a nice kid.”
“He is. Well, I've got to go get Aunt Mary and Mitch's cake and ice cream. You all go on in there and I'll be back in a minute.”
When I got to the kitchen, Joan smiled and said, “Ok, fill me in.”
“Well, Mary and Mitch are sitting on the sofa and Gregg's by her side showing her photo albums and Ty's sitting at her feet. Ty says he wants her and Gregg's whispering loud enough to Heather he's trying to hook them up that I could hear clear on the other side of Mitch.”
Joan smiled and said, “They a good match?”
“Joan, let me say this. Aunt Mary is an independent spirit. She's got probably thirty dogs in her house and she's like an old hippy. Everywhere you look, you see macramé and tie die art. She wears these caftans that make you wonder where she found them in Africa and when she talks with you, you really feel like she loves you clear through.
If they get together, Mitch will know he's loved and you guys will find a treasure in her. There's not going to be a moment where you ever feel like he's been abused and those boys aren't loved. “
Joan nodded and said, “I've got to go meet her. Sounds like you did your magic again.”
“Nah, she happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
Mark came over and said, “Lance, Ty's told me he wants you to have the money put in for the construction of the addition of the funeral home and to give you another million for the videos. He says you and he talked about covering each other and making sure the other was taken care of. He also says you two want to know how to get into some hotels.”
“Yeah, but did he also tell you I told him it was his money?”
“No, he said you two are together and it's you as a couple's money and I'm to put everything into your name jointly.”
I nodded and said, “Mark, I love him.”
“Yeah and he loves you, too. He asked me to get your bank account number so everything could be sent there.”
“He says as soon as he can go close out his bank account, you two are going to have a joint account. He said there's no I in our, we, and us.”
“Well, wait on that.”
“No, he's already said you'd say that and he said I'm not to listen to you and however brilliant everyone of us thinks you are, there are times when you're bullheaded and make mistakes. Until now, I thought he was wrong, but I'm glad he's already told me what to expect.”
He smiled and I said, “Mark, I love that kid.”
“That kid loves you. And, that kid is only a couple of years younger than you, so you need to stop that.”
I looked at him and he said, “I used to do the same thing to Joan. Throughout our early marriage, I looked at her as the younger one and therefore I needed to protect her.
She won't tell you, but it bugged the daylights out of her and then, one day, I got the flu so bad I broke ribs coughing. My bullheadedness kept me from going to the hospital and when she finally dragged me there, they found out I had triple pneumonia in both lungs.
It was so bad, they thought I was a goner. Each time I woke up, that kid had ahold of my hand and she wouldn't let go. Then, one time I woke up and she was there and I saw her for the woman I loved.
Something inside me changed and from that day forward, I knew she was stronger than the two of us. She's not proven me wrong. So take some advice and love him without thinking you're superman.”
“Yeah, everything else is perfect about you. So, I thought I'd give you that tidbit of info. Either use it, or lose it, but whatever, know I'm going to care enough to try to help.”
“It'll be used.”
“Good, now, that ice cream is about to melt all over that plate, so we need to get you some more.”
“This is Mary and Mitch's.”
“Oh, well, let's get them some more. How's it going in there?”
“Everyone likes her.”
“Good. Joan will be back out in a second and I'll have the official verdict. I imagine she's going to be going non-stop thinking of how we need to put them two together.
You might want to think about getting a different vehicle tomorrow, because Joanie's probably going to be riding with us along with Mary.
I can't say that, but believe me, after twenty four years of marriage, I can almost bet you that will be the second thing she says.”
“What's the first.”
“The official verdict.”
“What's the third thing?”
“Asking why you haven't gotten back in there and left her to scout for herself.” He giggled.
He said, “Don't look now, but here comes my scout.”
I turned and Joan smiled. “The boys love her. Mitch looks like a school kid with a crush, and I think she's a hoot. You couldn't do better.”
She came in and hugged Mark and turned to me and said, “Lance, can we take the limo tomorrow for you guys to get fitted? I'm thinking about going and inviting Mary. That way, she can give a woman's viewpoint in on Mitch's suit selection.”
“Ok, we'll take the old limo since the new one's being detailed. That will be good since I want Ty to get a chance to drive both. I don't take it out all the time and it will be good to blow the cobwebs out of it.”
“Yeah, like you let that happen! I saw you take that cleaning stuff to it as soon as we got out. Mark thinks I have competition for being someone who does things their own way, but I humbly bow because not even I clean my car after every trip.” She laughed.
She then said, “Lance, Mitch and Mary are sitting in there licking their chops. What kept you in here? You left me all alone to go do my spying!”
Mark started snickering and I said “Sorry, Mark had a lesson he needed to give me and I've learned. I'm going in, now.”
“Well, take a bigger piece of cake than those, they've built up an appetite now!”
I started laughing and said, “Well, the ice cream melted on the first one.”
Joan scolded,. “Mark, you knew I was in there by myself, why'd you keep him in here!”
She shook her head and said, “I love him, but when it comes to spying, he's not got a clue.”
Mark chuckled and said, “That was four, Lance.”
“For he's a jolly good fellow hon, it's guy talk”
She rolled her eyes and said, “I love him, but sometimes I have to remember I'm blessed.”
“Yeah, I know I am and Mitch will be too with her. She's already looking at him like she's going around the bend and all he can do is sit there and smile.”
“Good. I'm hoping. Maybe we can take them out sometime and go on a huge date together.”
“All five couples?
“Yeah, Heather's parents too. They're sweethearts. Her mom told me the story about you two and said she really was down on you about not going out with her, but she's forgiven you now.”
“Well, I knew I couldn't make her happy and give her what she wanted.”
“Oh Heather knows that.”
“No, Heather's mom. Heck, Heather knew that, when we were in the first grade.”
Joan laughed and said, “You knew that long?”
“No, but it seems everyone else did. I was a slow learner. It took me until the second grade.”
She looked at me strangely and said, “We'll talk tomorrow. I'd like to ask some questions.”
“Ok. Now, is this personal curiosity, or is there a reason?”
“There's a reason.”
“Ok, then I'll answer in more general terms.”
“No, you answer them for me so I might know my son better.”
“But, you don't know if he's gay, or not.”
“No, little Mark, he called and said he's bringing a friend home with him and said he wants me to meet him.”
“Ok, I thought little Mark was....”
“Well, when I asked him about Jake, he said he thought it was because he thought Jake was keeping his secret for him.”
“Yeah, Oh. That's what I said.” she grinned.
“How do you feel about it?”
She looked at me strangely and said, “Lance, I'm not a hypocrite. If little Mark is gay, then he's gay. I love him just the same and as much as I am a mother, I've got to trust his decision in a mate. That doesn't mean I won't be giving an opinion, but I'll be wise about that.”
“No, what I meant was, are you disappointed?”
“Not really. I know he'll have a harder time finding acceptance in the legal community for it, but if he goes into corporate law like he wants, he'll have it easier. Take that in there and come back and we'll talk.”
I looked down at the cake and ice cream in my hands and thought, “Man, that's two that's melted.”
I took them into Mitch and Mary. She smiled and said, “Child, I thought you got lost!”
“No, just got to talking with people. You having a good time?”
“Sure, Mitch here is a sweetheart.”
I winked, “Be careful, that's how I started and look who got proposed to tonight!”
She laughed and said, “Oh, you never know!”
Heather could have gotten whiplash from how fast she turned her head. I do know Heather's dad was sitting across the room and started choking.”
I chuckled and left the room, Ty followed me and said, “Hon, that woman is great. She's got a huge heart and both Gregg and I already like her. She's treating us wonderfully and has slipped up a few times and has called us her boys.”
“Good, now all we got to do is get your dad signed on.”
“Oh, I don't think that's going to be a problem. He's had his hand behind her back on the sofa and he'd never do that with mom. Also, the look in his eyes says he's happy.
Call it a guess, but I think Dad's infatuated with her. Did you know she's got over twenty dogs!”
“Yeah, Heather calls it the dog pound.”
“She rescues them. She says the dog pound kills theirs and charges like fifty dollars to get one. She doesn't charge a thing for hers and says people come by all the time.”
“Yeah, I put an ad in the paper yearly for her to give them away. Also, I've written more than my share of dog food companies asking for donations. She doesn't have a non-profit, so she can't ask for cash donations.”
“Well, get the lawyer on it.”
“Ok, but what if she wants to get out of the dog rescuing business? And, what if she and your dad get together and they want to do something different with their time?”
“You think she'd run the flower shop?”
“I don't know. I hadn't thought of it to be honest. That'd be cool if we could have a double store front where she'd have the flower shop on one side and the dog place on the other with a big yard in the back for the dogs to go potty.”
“Do you want to do it?”
“Hon, I'll match you dollar for dollar on the flower shop, but those dogs eat tons of dog food.”
“Oh, so, what kind do they like?”
“They like whatever's the cheapest because that's what they get.”
“Oh man, some doggy daddy you'd make!”
“No, if I had a dog at home, that'd be different, but I'm not trying to feed over twenty of them. That's insane. Do you know what the vet bills have to be like for a place like that?”
“Well, I'll ask her. I think Gregg will go in with me.”
“Hon, don't commit more than what you can afford.”
“Lance, I was given twenty six million tonight. From the interest alone, I'll be making more than I can spend. So how about I help her?”
“Ok, that's fine, but I don't have that sort of money.”
He looked at me and said, “Go stand in the corner and come out when you can think like you're in a relationship young man.
All I hear is you don't have that sort of money. I believe Uncle Mark was supposed to be putting all of our money into your account so it could be made ours.
So tell me how much money is in it and I'll tell you it's ours. Now trot along and I don't want no peaking until you can act right.”
I went over and said, “Hon, I'm sorry. It's an adjustment. I'll try harder, but it's strange.”
“You telling me! Heck, I'm in there wondering how much change I have in my pocket to give to her to feed a dog for a day a can of dog food! Then it hit me I can afford a lot of dog food!
So, I need to ask her how much one eats and then multiply by twenty and then again by three sixty five and get her a year's worth.”
“Figure four pounds per week per dog. So that's eighty pounds per week. Then do that times fifty two and you've got a little over two ton of dog food.”
“So a hundred bags of fifty pound dog food would cover it?”
“Yeah, easily I'd say.”
“And one of those costs fifteen dollars at Wal-Mart, so that's fifteen hundred dollars.”
“Ok That's not as much as I thought.”
“Let's call Wal-Mart and order it so they'll have it in stock. I'd hate to go out and they not have it.”
“How about if we call the manager tomorrow and get them to have it brought up on the next shipment and then get enough flea and ear mite stuff for a year. That should do good. It cost me more than that for the advertisement in the paper. I didn't realize it was so cheap.”
“Ok, so you're in with me. I'm glad. I imagine the dog's are going to love us for it. Can we get a puppy?”
“We'll pick one out when we go give her the food.”
“What kind do you want?”
“A cocker spaniel or a smaller dog. I don't want a Great Dane or anything like that. Heck, if I wanted a horse, I'd get one.”
“Man, I can afford a horse now!”
“Oh man, yeah you can afford a horse, but we don't have space for a horse.”
“No, I mean a horse like they have on a Merry Go Round with a brass pole. I've always wanted one.”
“Do you realize how fast your office is going to fill up?”
“Yeah, it'll be cool.”
“I've got to go talk to your aunt. She wants to speak with me before little Mark gets home. He's bringing someone home for her to meet.”
“Yeah, but it wasn't my place to say.”
“So, do you know what's up with Jake?”
“Yeah, Jake's not wanting to be at Dartmouth. He wanted to stay closer to home. He thinks it's going to be a disappointment if he tells them what he wants.”
“So, he's not gay?”
“No, he's a writer. He writes movies and plays and all sorts of stuff.”
“Why didn't you say something?”
“It wasn't my place. If they want to know what's going on with their kids, let them ask them!”
“Ty, she's worried about them and they've not been telling them.”
“Maybe they never asked.”
“Do you mind if I tell your aunt what is going on?”
“I don't care, but when they won't talk to you, don't be surprised. Would you if someone you'd never met went out and told all your secrets?”
“Oh man. Joan's got to know. She's worried.”
“Tell her to sit down and ask. They'll tell her.”
He looked at me and said, “I know you'll tell her everything. Just tell her and then, tell her not to let them know anyone told her.”
I went back in and sat down at the table with Joan. She was sitting making out a menu for the next week for the kids.”
“You ready to talk and really talk?”
She looked up and said, “Ok, this sounds serious.”
“Well, it's not, but it is.”
“Ok, so what's going on?”
She looked at me and said, “What do you mean?”
“Joan, I'll not cut anything with you here, Ok?”
“Your kids haven't told you guys what's going on because no one asked.”
“Yeah, It seems Mark goes into Jake's room and tells Jake he's going to enjoy Dartmouth and thinks that's where he wants to go because he got a scholarship there. Jake wanted to go to school closer so he could be nearer to you.”
“I never knew.”
“From what I was told, no one asked.”
“Yeah. The secrets are known, but Ty's afraid you are going to go to them and tell them Ty told you everything.”
She had tears in her eyes and said, “So what does Jake want to do?”
“He's apparently a playwright and does a real good job of it. He also writes stories.”
“He doesn't want to go to school to be a Doctor?”
“Ok, so I'll sit down with him and see what else I've been missing.”
“He's straight, so there's a chance of having a grandchild in your future!”
She smiled and said, “If he's happy, I'm happy. He's been miserable, and I've been thinking I've been doing him a service by working and getting him into the college I wanted to go to but couldn't.”
“Well, we all have hopes for our kids. Heck, Ty's talking about getting a dog and I'm thinking of all the tricks I want to teach it, but what if the dog doesn't want to do tricks?”
She laughed and said, “Your dog's going to do tricks. The way you are, I know you'll be the best dog parent there is.”
“Maybe, but the secrets finally came out about Mark Jr, and that's been known for quite a while by everyone.”
“I wish someone had told me.”
“Well, they're afraid of disappointing you.”
“Well, we're going to have a talk as a family while they're home. We've got to learn how to communicate better.”
“Hon, look at me.”
She looked at me.
“Communication is listening too. As much as that hurts, I'm finding it out myself. Ty just put me in the corner for not thinking his money is my money when I've been complaining about that from him.”
She laughed and said, “Well, now I've got to do it so the boys don't feel their trust has been violated. One thing I'm not going to do is have Jake in his room lying on his bed by himself. If need be, I'll be in there laying down with him.”
“Maybe that's where he is thinking the dialog for his stories and plays. You might find the great play he's writing has his mom coming in to lay down with him.”
“That'd be creepy.”
“Well....” I waggled my eyebrows at her.
“You're so damned cute.”
“No, thank you. Now I know the problem, I've got to find a treatment.”
“Love, and treating others as you'd want to be treated.
It's pretty simple. You've been doing a lot of the golden rule, but you forgot to listen to what wasn't being said. It's pretty easy to do that. I think I've been doing that with Mitch.”
“What do you mean?”
“I've been waiting for him to fall and dreading when that moment comes. I'm now thinking he's a lot stronger than I thought.”
“No, he fell years ago. He just didn't let anyone see it because he had to be strong for his kids.
Where she made a huge mistake is she didn't see him fall. Everyone thinks she didn't care, I'll tell you now she did. But, I'll also tell you that woman treated as she got treated.
She thought that's what the game was, so that's how she played it. You'd be amazed at things she put up with, there.”
“Well, we're going to be putting in a whole new set of rules and either they'll play by them, or they won't play on our field.”
“That's going to be the trick. For the life of me, I don't see why they just don't sell out.”
“I'll tell you.”
She looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“The same reason you're not giving up on your kids. You think there's still value left in the relationship, so you continue to try. I don't think the mules dead there myself, but I do think it's been too close to the bull.”
She laughed and said, “Some of the things you come up with!”
“Yeah, now, I'm going to ask you a question and I want to know if you knew your sister in law.”
“What's the man's name, she was having the affair with at work, so I can tell that man not to enter my funeral home?”
She gave me an alarmed look. “She didn't!”
“Yeah, and doing it in front of Gregg. He's not dumb and she wasn't smart.”
“Yeah, we fired one and the other is the current one. So, I've got to keep the match away from the powder keg.”
“She never let on a thing. I knew she was hateful, but that's terrible. Mitch was holding on and hoping all this time and he could have let go.”
“Between you and me. The first time Ty ever came home and laid a hand on me would have been the last time. Relationships are bad, but when they go that far, in my opinion, they can't be saved. No one proposes and asks to be made a punching bag and no one gets proposed to and submits to it. If they do, they're a fool.”
“She hit him!”
“Yeah, and again, I'd say which time? The boys watched that stuff and he said he stayed with her because it was for the good of the boys.
That's hogwash, but I also know he stayed with her because he didn't want her reputation tarnished. When the police need to be called in, that reputation is beyond polishing if you ask me.”
“They kept so many secrets.”
“Yeah, and now we're doing what we can to keep them from happening again. Everyone's got a fresh start here and I think they realize it.”
She had been looking at her hands and said, “I'm sorry you had to get into all this mess.”
“I'm not, because he's worth it. Each one of them is worth it in their own ways. But, the one I don't think I could have been civil to is laying down at my funeral home.
Everyone keeps saying I would have liked her, I'm sorry, but that wouldn't have happened. She would have seen me as a threat and she would have played her games and the final straw would have been when she attempted to lay a hand upon me.
The police in this town say she's an untouchable, but I'll tell you myself that if they hadn't touched her, I sure would have.”
She looked up at me and said, “Lance, I pray it's all ended. I don't want you to think our family is like this.”
“Joan, you know what I think?
There was a point in this that Heather and I talked and wondered if we had gotten too far into a mess. We decided to stay because we weighed the pros and the cons and found the good outweighed the bad. Now, we've got to work to keep the bad away.
A huge part of doing that is exposing the secrets and letting everyone know they're gone and won't be returning.”
She smiled and said, “The boys have a future and if that woman in there is Mitch's future, I'm happy for it.
I knew they went through a lot, but I had no clue what all it had been. What was strange is Mark once asked me what all she was doing to them because he saw her doing something to Gregg.
He stepped on into the room and told her if what he thought she was doing was happening, she would be asked to leave our home. I believe that's the angriest I've ever seen him.
After they left, he told me our kids were never to go over there, because if she touched one of ours that way, he'd not let up until we had those kids in our home.
I thought about telling Mitch then to get out, but then thought I should mind my own business. Now, I wish I had stepped in.”
“Joan, the difference between someone who acts and one who doesn't act is the decision.
Personally, I'll tell you now, I'll take a lot off an adult, but when an adult is doing anything to a child, I'll not hold back one inch.
For the life of me, I'm looking forward to being an uncle, but if I ever see either one of them touching those kids inappropriately, I'll tell you now we'll be wishing we had another funeral.
Heather won't, because she knows what I went through as a child, but Gregg's been raised in a house where mom got by with it.
For that, I'll be constantly on guard. I love him, but there's a line and we'll have a talk when the kids come along. BUT, I'll tell you now, he knows Heather can whip the tar out of him and I think he'll stay on the course his dad taught him. I pray.”
She smiled and said, “You know Lance, the anger is boiling in you from this one. I can feel it. I also feel you trust me enough to use me as a sounding board.
If the day comes you ever have to have the conversation, you come to me and we'll have the whole family sit down and give parenting lessons.
It's a shame we didn't do this sooner, but now I'm going to put my foot down and tell the family it takes a family to raise a child. My own family has secrets and I'm not happy about it. I didn't raise my boys to feel they couldn't come to me with their problems. Somewhere along the line, it happened and I can't figure out where that happened. When we sit down for our own conversation, I'll be asking that question.”
“Joan, let me say this and I'll give you a bit of my own viewpoint. When a child's raised, the level a parent has as far as expectation is here. The child is here. It's always supposed to be a little bit above the child's skill level.
When parents have an unrealistic expectation the child knows it can't obtain, the job as a parent is to take stock and go back and pick the child up. I think where you went ahead of your kids is assuming they were where you thought they were.
When a child's gay, everything that child has been raised knowing as an expectation suddenly comes into question. I'm surprised Mark has done as well as he has.
That's a viewpoint. However, where Jake is here and the carrot for him is way out there. That mule just isn't going to chase it. You're at a point where you've got to reevaluate goals and set them back to his needs. What their whole generation has learned is not to tell parents things.
I don't know if it's influence from Ty and Gregg, or if it's their own decisions, but what I think would be awesome is rather than you having a sit down family discussion, you treat them as adults and make it a next step where you're accepting them as adults, but guiding them as children.”
“I'm not sure what you're meaning.”
“I know I didn't make that clear, so I'll say it differently. Rather than having you, Mark, little Mark and Jake sitting around a table, have them in the living room without distractions and sit down and say, “So, how's life going? Is it giving you what you expected? If it's not, then tell us and we'll help you.”
She smiled and said, “I think adults even need those conversations sometimes.”
“Yeah, and it's healthy. What's awesome is I think Gregg, Ty, and Mitch would be good for a conversation in that realm too. I know I'd even be telling some things I have doubts about in my own life.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, let's see and then you'll understand.
In my funeral home, I've got Ty coming in and that's great. What is happening there is I'm looking at things and rather than saying I have to do it all, I'm now ready to step back and hire people to work for me. I really could use some people who could work in the home to drive vehicles, to do maintenance that I've been fastidious about doing, and to just make it so I can spend time not being there.
You don't know it, but I've not had a day off since I started. I may have not had a funeral every week, but the doors have been open and I've been scrubbing a car, or doing something there. One thing I absolutely hate doing is getting up on the roof to clean gutters. Yes, I don't have a tree on the place that tall, but where the leaves come from, I don't know.”
She smiled and said, “So, as a family, we're just to listen?”
“Yeah, and to help me as a person analyze goals and tell me if they're unrealistic or realistic. Then, we have set another date for another meeting. When a family runs in that manner, it's healthy and it's productive.”
“How have you been doing everything thus far?”
“Well, what I do is I go to the employment office and I tell them I need someone for the day. They send someone because there's always someone that wants to earn fifty dollars just to drive a vehicle. So, I hire out the flower car driver and the pall bearer car driver for the day. Now, I'm seeing those positions can be filled with guys who can also serve as door greeters and as back up people.”
“What's a back up person?”
“When Ty and I first started talking about him coming into the home, I thought about having him as a back up person.
It's a person that goes and gets Kleenex's for people, chairs, and makes sure the flowers get put onto the stands before visitation. They make sure toilet paper gets put in restrooms and the home is serving the community better.”
“You do a great job, what would you do better?”
“Oh, where do I even begin? The soccer fields in this town don't have concessions. I'd buy a concession stand and have it with Gator Ade and sports bars complimentary. I'd sponsor ball teams and I'd put the name out there. Ty has a pet project where he wants to give dog food for Mary's dog shelter. I want to do things where other people don't have their names right now. One thing I want to do is get a car wash in this town that will be handicapped friendly.”
“No, go to any car wash in this town and try paying money in the machine from a wheel chair and you'll see how unfriendly they are. The only ones a handicapped person can use is the automatic ones. Try putting a limo through one of those and you'll wish you hadn't.”
She laughed and said, “So you wash them all by hand?”
“Yeah, but I'm now getting ahead some where I can have it detailed. What I didn't design in was a car wash bay in my garage, so I wash them outside which isn't so nice on a car's finish.”
“Wow, I never thought about that. Maybe the hospital could help sponsor the car wash. I bet no one's thought of it because they all aren't handicapped.”
“Yeah, but I bet the one that builds one and advertises it that way will find they have the business. The thing there is finding a way for someone in a wheelchair to wash those vans they drive. There's got to be a way.”
“You think of things I've not thought but just as soon as you say them, my mind is in total agreement.”
“Yeah, one way I've thought about having the limo pay for their keep is by hiring them out for women to shop together. It's kind of classy and it doesn't require gas. The car sits after it picks them up. For twenty five dollars, they rent it for half a day, then that driver I've hired is being paid by them and not by me.”
She smiled and said, “That could become lucrative if you'd rent them for proms.”
“I've been asked. The reason I haven't is I ask for a waiver.”
“What do you mean?”
“A parent thinks they can rent a limo for the evening and when the night's done, they're done. All the while, that child has torn up a limo.
If I asked for a damage deposit of what the interior of a limo would cost, they'd run from renting it. You're looking at fifteen hundred dollar hides for seats. The wood in that bar back there is eight grand. The carpet is cheap at five hundred but the headliner with the lights in it is like twelve grand.
So, knowing the parent won't pay the damage deposit, I've asked for a waiver that asks the child be held responsible to work off the damages.
The parent balks and I tell them thanks but no thanks. An adult renting the limo for a day of shopping isn't going to damage it, but even for a wedding party where I'm basically donating the cars time because the bottle of Cristal costs what they've rented it for, comes with a price to clean it up when it's spewed all over the headliner and the carpet.”
“Oh man, I'd not rent it out.”
I smiled and said, “Yeah, but little old ladies shopping aren't going to turn into punk rockers who have mosh pits in the back of a limo.”
She laughed and said, “Then do that. Let's go in and see what everyone's up to.”
“Ok, I can tell you now they'll all be around Mary showing her more photo albums.”
We went into the living room and sure enough, everyone was sitting around Mary showing her photo albums. What was really nice was seeing Mitch holding the album and telling her the descriptions. I went over to Ty and he said, “You've forgotten to scan the photos, do you want me to go get your laptop to do it?”
“Oh man! Yeah, I need to. Let's do that now.”
He stood up and said, “You stay here, and I'll go get it. I'll be right back.”
Gregg leaned over and said, “He's been dying to go tell you for the last twenty minutes.”
“Why didn't he?”
“He saw you were talking with Aunt Joan and didn't want to interrupt.”
“I wish he had. I feel bad I forgot.”
“Well, be glad dad has them here.”
“Yeah, I feel bad.”
Gregg smiled and said, “That's why he'll be good for you. He'll remember things and work with you.”
“Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it, too.”
“Well, it won't take long with this computer.”
When Ty brought in the scanner and the computer, he set it up and we began taking photos and scanning them. Mark saw what we were doing and said, “Lance, let me go get my scanner and you'll get that done a lot faster than that dinosaur you've got there.”
He left the room and came in with a disc and a wand scanner. I disconnected the flatbed from it and then loaded in the software for the wand.
He showed me how to scan photos without having to take them out of photo albums and his scanner took about a quarter of the time to load a photo in.
Ty manned the computer checking to see a photo was downloaded and I scanned photos. Together, we went through an album in about twenty minutes. I looked at the stack of albums and thought we'd be there for the next several hours.
Mark came back over and said, “Lance, you want some help?”
“Sure, but I don't know how I'll get them done faster.”
He held out a cd and said, “Here they are already done, just put that in and download it.”
In less than three minutes, we had it downloaded.
He smiled and I said, “I don't know how to thank you. I've really fallen down on this one, and you've saved my bacon on it.”
He laughed and said, “No, we're easy to please. If you had your computer on a phone line and knew your password, you could get into it and put it right on into your program from your computer here.”
I said, “I know my password, but I don't know how to do the other.”
He came in and said, “Watch this. I bet yours isn't set up that way, but we'll check, what's the phone number it's on?”
“One moment, I'll go check. I brought the laptop in and pulled up the number. He punched it in and said, “Well, look there! Your computer's asking for the password.”
I gave him my password and my computer allowed him in. He said, “Now, let's set that laptop up so you can get in with it.”
He punched in some things into the run program and was in areas of my computer I never knew existed. He changed some dots and suddenly my laptop was being seen by my computer. He said, “Now, when you answer a question in this one, the main one is filling out the same form on it.
Just put that file of photos where you need it and it'll do the job from this one.”
I did and then he went to his computer and looked up the website I had. He punched up Wendy's obituary and then clicked on the slideshow of her photos. It was up and running.
I gave him a hug, I was so happy. He said, “Well, there's that done, now you don't have to worry.”
Ty was looking over his shoulder and said, “So, all we have to do for the presentation in the chapel is to have it hooked up to this and it'll run the same on a plasma?”
“Yeah, that's how it works.”
He said, “While we're in Quincy, tomorrow, let's go by Circuit City and see how much the plasmas are there.”
I looked at him and said, “Ty, I don't have that sort of money. It'll cost a lot.”
“Let's just check it out and see. With me having our banker called and notification the money is in our account, I bet we'll get it.”
I nodded and said, “The money's going to be there that soon?”
Mark turned to me and said, “The money from her account was put into yours as soon as I put in your account number. If it's not there after midnight tonight, I'll definitely be calling to see why not.”
Ty smiled and said, “Babe, one other thing. You owe money on your loan for the funeral home. Get it paid off so that's not hanging over our head.”
I said, “Ty, that's over six hundred grand.”
Mark chuckled and said, “Lance, I'm not getting in this, but he has a point. The interest on that sum has to be quite a bit. You could probably pay off his Escalade with it.”
Ty smiled and said, “Now, about that pallbearer limo and flower van, can you order that online?”
“I can send the email to get it ordered, but they'll have to mail me back with the total.”
“Ok, so let's get that begun so they'll be ordered.”
We went on the company's website and he said, “Can we make white vehicles our company's color? I like them matching.”
“Yeah, the only reason the pall bearer car is beige and the other limo is gray is because I got those used.”
“Ok, so we can repaint the other limo and run the pall bearer car as it is until it's replaced. Then, we can get one that matches this new one.”
“Ok, but let's check and see if there's a used one someplace?”
“On ebay. They have everything there.”
Mark looked over our shoulders and I got onto the site. We then looked and found one that wasn't as many seats. It was reasonably priced and Mark said, “That's nice. It's the color you want and everything.”
“Yeah, wait until you see the prices they have on limos!”
We went over there and Ty said, “Oh man, that one there's cheaper than what I thought it'd be to repaint the other one!”
“Yeah, they're not expensive when you buy used. Now, let's go look at flower trucks.”
We went over and looked at them and Ty said, “That place has a limo, pallbearer car, and a flower truck! Bid on those.”
“Hon, let's look some more.”
“Why? We can fly there and get them and drive them back.”
“It's in New Jersey, that'd be a long drive.”
“And, we'd save a bunch of money. Do they have an Escalade like yours?”
“I doubt it, but we can look.”
We went over and looked and bingo, there was one and it was down in St. Louis.
Ty smiled and said, “How much is that new one going to run?”
“Let me say we could buy three of those for the price on the new one.”
“Ty, I've already ordered the new one!”
“But, you've not paid for it. They'll cancel it if we tell them. Besides, we'll be in St. Louis on Thursday anyway. We can drive down as a family and fly out to New Jersey. Then, we'll be back by Saturday.”
“Are you sure?”
“What's not to be sure about?”
“Okay, but that's a lot of money.”
“No, we're saving a lot of money. Now, all we have to do is get a construction company going on getting the addition put on?”
“No, now all we have to do is have that other building torn down. While that's going on, I'll have to be shut down because the sound of all those jackhammers and pieces of machinery are going to be terrible.”
“Then let's plan a vacation at that time and go someplace.”
Mark began chuckling and said, “Lance, you're not going to win this one. He's making sense even to me.”
Ty hugged me and Mark started to get up and leave the room.
Ty said, “Uncle Mark, how much would a copy of the blue prints you have cost for a hotel?”
“Probably about three thousand, why?”
“How much will it cost to build one?”
“We were thinking about eight million your dad's fifty percent in ours and they invested a little over two which with ours got us financing.”
“Where's a good place to build one?”
“To be honest, our next stop putting one up is going to be up at Kirksville. The motels up there are really old and we think a nice all suite hotel would be an instant draw for all the family members of students.”
“Have you looked at land up there?”
“Not yet, but I know a piece of property that is for sale that no one knows. It's really well located and is a great price.”
“Can you get us an appointment to look at it?”
Mark gave Ty a pained expression and said, “Yeah, but I was hoping it'd be our location.”
Ty smiled and said, “Who's to say it isn't? Dad's got money now and I've got money and if you and Aunt Joan need financing, then we'll lend it to you for just the payback.”
“No, we can't do that. If you left it in the bank you'd draw interest on it.”
Ty said, “And, we'd draw interest yes. But if you paid prime, then you'd pay five percent, right?”
“So, let us lend it to you for that and then you won't have the headache of being approved.”
“Ty, What are you saying?”
“Let's talk to dad and let's get him to go in with us and then we do it in thirds. I'll cover your share and then that will get our foot in the door. But, if you don't want to, then Lance and I'll look at another location...maybe Branson.”
“No. Branson's too over populated as it is with hotel rooms. Look at Columbia or think about another here in town with a larger convention center. We're going to have the banquet hall and it'll seat up to twelve hundred, but those in the Midwest aren't many and stay booked.”
Ty smiled and said, “Well, think about redesigning the one here in town and we'll carry one in Kirksville and then look at a larger convention center in Columbia. I don't want to be in competition against you guys.”
Mark smiled and said, “Ok, but talk to your aunt about her connecting you with various organizations and the nursing and doctors so you can get on their convention calendar for the year after next. They book two years ahead. and your hotel wouldn't be up until late next Summer anyway.”
“What's another return we could put money into that would give it back to us?”
Mark smiled and said, “I'll get you the name of a guy I went to college with, who is in the main office of White Castle restaurants. The return there in those is amazing and the investment isn't so bad.”
Ty hugged me and said, “Babe, we're going to go places, now!”
“Well, you'll spend it all that's for sure!”
“No, I just spent half our money. Gregg's told me to use his like ours and have us go in with him on things. He's afraid he'll invest it wrong and wants me to do it.”
“Why doesn't he come in here and get in on this with us?”
“Do you want the truth?”
Mark came over and said, “I'm wanting to hear too.”
“Gregg wants to run the distributorship. Mom told him he was too dumb for so long, he wants to do it to prove to himself he can do it.
He said if he invests it with me, he knows I'll get him his money back and he'll get income in. He thinks if he spreads himself too thin, he'll not be doing himself a service with what he wants to do.”
Mark smiled and said, “He's got a plan and I'm happy for him.”
“Well, if he runs it the way we've all discussed, he'll have it easy. If he keeps that same crew, he'll have a hard time. I think he'll do good because he's already wanting to go in and clean out the old.”
“You don't even know his best plan yet. He's wanting to use the office out there and where the taps are, leaving them and turning them all on and running colored water through them instead of beer and having them going continuously.”
I smiled, “That'll be a good idea because It'll let everyone know things aren't being run the same way.”
I had reservations about Gregg going into the distributorship, but I had to trust he'd keep his word.
Mark came over and said, “The look on your face isn't telling the whole story. What's going on?”
“There are so many reasons why I'm worried about him running it, I don't know where to begin.
We have pacts on a lot of it and I know Heather will enforce those, however other than the use of bodily harm, I have no way of enforcing them.
Heather won't put up with him coming home drunk. She's sure not going to tolerate him abusing her because what she doesn't take care of there, I sure will. But, he's only seen his mom's attitude coming out of the place and not much productive. We've agreed Mitch would run it with him alongside and after that, we're going to be up on a high wire with hopes everything will go ok. The family's banded together to run it, but I'm spread thin as is Ty. I care too much for Gregg to let him turn out like his mom.”
Mark smiled and said, “Lance, first of all, you've got to trust. Second of all, you've got checks and balances which has him on a leash. However, you've got a stranglehold on that leash so tight his eyes are bulging out. Let up a little and let the boy breathe.”
“Ok, it's just hard.”
know. I'm finding that out as a parent. Joan just told me some of
what you and she spoke about and I'm just as upset as she is.
However, I think your plan of family meeting is one we're going to go
with. What we'd like to do is have everyone sitting in. It's not only
good management, it's productive for the health of our family.”
“Name the night and we'll be there.”
“Well, we're going to have to wing it on the first one, because the boys will be in, but there's another point we need to think about, that says our kids are away at school.
It looks like Jake's going to be coming closer to home which I'm really excited about, but Mark's at Harvard and I'm not sure where life will take him. He's got a boyfriend and I can only trust they're serious enough they'll be together. If not, I'm hoping he'll find someone.
It's hard when you're young, but it's also harder to just pick up when you've settled and to go someplace else. I do think we'll need to discuss those options with him.”
“He's going to be a corporate attorney. Which kind?”
“I don't know if he's gotten to the point he's thought about specializing yet. He told Joan he's wanting corporate because he can shut it off when the day's done. I do know he's interning now with the public defender's office there and he's not liking it at all.”
I nodded and said, “I'm excited about meeting the both of them. Each sounds different and each is lucky enough to have you both for parents.”
He smiled and said, “If you'd ask me right now, I'd say they weren't so lucky. We've been neglecting their needs and that's got me upset with myself right now to the point I've got big boots on kicking myself.”
“Don't be so hard on yourself. You did it out of love, and the communication wasn't so great. At least you've got a plan now, so look on the bright side.”
He smiled and said, “It'll be brighter when they're home and I know things are going to be ok.”
“Mark, you've given me advice and you've helped me out greatly. From what I see, you've been doing a great job. All we've got to do is just polish it back up for the boys.”
He smiled and said, “Thanks. What I've done for you isn't the same as the way I've done it for the boys. Now, I've got to switch. With them, I've been assuming the end result and not been guiding.”
“Well, it's a hard path because it takes a lot of communication. Just imagine if you were going down the path with a blindfold on and going off what they've told you.
However, where they are is behind you with the same blindfold on. You don't know where they are and that's not helping them, but you can't get input either. It's time to sit down and let them catch you up on things. That knowledge will take those blindfolds off.”
“That's a nice analogy. You pretty much hit it on the head.”
“Yeah, it's that way in a relationship, too. Where I'm fortunate is Ty and I are staying together. Isn't it strange that I just thought of that and then thought of Mitch and Wendy. She lashed out with anger when she should have said, “Hey, I can't feel you anymore.” She was lashing out at anything and everything because she was scared. Oh man, I've been judging and not thinking!”
I sat down and ran my fingers through my hair.
“We've all been doing that. I feel really rotten now.”
I was looking down at the floor and Ty came up and asked Mark, “What's wrong with him??”
“He just figured out where your mom was as a human being. It's hitting him hard.”
“Well, tell me and then I'll know.”
“Ty, go get your brother and we'll explain it. You might want to get your dad too.”
“It's that bad?”
“It's not fun.”
I looked up at Mark and said, “This is hard.”
“Yeah, but you know what? If it saves those boys relationships, then it's worth every ounce of pain. That's why I want them to hear it together.
It's not going to be fun for Mitch because he's partly responsible, but if he does it again in his next relationship, then he's not learned. I think I'm guilty too in my own. Let me go get Joanie.”
Ty brought in Gregg and Mitch and it seemed everyone in the house came.
“Guys, what Mark and I were doing was discussing roles in relationships.
In every relationship, it takes communication, but it also takes a foundation of trust and respect. If you don't have that, then you're not on good footing.
What we were discussing is trust along the road of life and his situation with his kids. The way I said it was imagine if you're on the road of life and you've got a blindfold on.
Without your partner's input, it's going to be tough. But, now imagine if your partner has a blindfold on and you've gotten separated. You don't know where they are and they don't know where you are. You're flailing away in the dark and neither one's really communicating. It's lonely and it's dark. Now, imagine if you perceive threats out there, what's your solution?”
Mitch said, “I'd strike out at everything that.....Oh my God.......you're meaning Wendy!”
He put his face in his hands and his shoulder began to quake. “I let her down!”
Ty looked at me and said, “Dad, we all did!”
Gregg looked at me and said, “Why'd you say that! He was fine.”
“He needed to hear it just like we all do. What are you going to do if some day you're out of touch with Heather and you want to do one thing and she wants to do another? Are you going to take that step, knowing it puts on the blindfolds? Or, are you going to sit down and respect your relationship enough to work through it. Your mom was telling him in the best way she could, “Hey, you're letting me down here and she said it over and over. What are you going to do if it's you in that position?”:
“Oh man. I feel bad.”
“Yeah, but by then, your mom was seeing everything as a threat and no communication was taking place. Even a drowning person will strike out at the one that's helping them, so it takes communication.”
Heather's mom said, “That's powerful. I'm looking at our relationship and I'm seeing places where I've not been good. “
Joan smiled with flat lips and said, “I think we all have. One can be crying out and we don't hear them. Now, we know more so we have to stay in touch. You were talking about the family sessions, right?”
She said, “Let me tell everyone while we've got them here.”
“The way things are going to be in the future is we as a family are going to be getting together and we're going to be working on us as a group to keep each other in touch with what our needs are and help each other gain stronger footholds.
What we've decided is we're going to sit in a room without distractions and it's a time of laying out our goals, needs, and desires. Our disappointments are going to be brought out too...just like now. Mitch isn't alone for feeling bad about his relationship with Wendy. We all let her down.
Just imagine if we'd been having the meetings and she said, “My needs aren't getting met. I need for Mitch to be in and run the distributorship. Mitch could say his reasons for not wanting to do it alone and she with the help of everyone would learn together, they'd be stronger as a couple running it than with her going it alone.
Then, if Mitch still didn't want to do it, one of us others could have stepped in and offered support. At the time, if I'd known, I was in a position to go in with her. I just didn't know. I feel bad as does Mark.”
Mark smiled up at Joan and said, “In our lives, we're having this problem with our boys. We're learning we didn't listen when they had needs. We're not sure if they outlined them to us clearly, but they did to Ty and everyone else who apparently listened. Now, we've got to bring it to the room and get help.”
Gregg looked across the table and said, “So, we're going to take what we're doing as a family and we're branching it out so it's a collective effort instead of a small group helping each other?”
“Yes, it's not age biased and it's not anything other than a bunch of people sitting down and saying, “Hey, because we care, we're going to help.”
Mitch looked up and said, “Man, this is hard because I can't even ask her for forgiveness. I see it so clearly now and it's ripping my heart out. She was in pain and I failed her.”
Ty said, “Dad, we all did. I've been on a pity pot because of the car. Now I see it as her giving her something that made her feel better. If we'd used all those times she beat you up and brought them to the room, we would have found out the problem wasn't the abuse, but the loneliness she was feeling.”
Gregg turned to Heather and said, “Babe, we're going to be at every meeting.”
She patted his shoulder and said, “I think we all are.”
Heather's dad said, “Do you guys mind if my wife and I join in on these. I know we aren't family, but I think it'd be good for when our grand children come along.”
Mark was standing next to them and said, “Sure. You're people and you care. There are going to be viewpoints you two will have which will help everyone and I'm sure we'll have times where we're helping you just as much.
As we get older, our needs change every day. Our health deteriorates and rather than running companies, we're going to be needing to help each other build walkways, ramps, or even finding other homes to live in. You're in the real estate business right?”
“Then I'm seeing there being ways everyone's going to be able to help everyone. Am I right everyone?”
I agreed and Ty patted my shoulder rather excitedly. I knew he could hardly wait to speak with Heather's dad.
Mary came over and stood behind Mitch. “I know this is probably not the right time, but Mitch, I'll be there for you and I'll be an ear when you need someone to listen. My place always has a pot of coffee on and I know things are going to be rough for a while.”
He looked up at her and said, “I'm sure I'll be dropping by often.”
She nodded and said, “I know I'll be looking forward to it.”
Ty couldn't contain himself anymore and said, “You know you're welcome into these sessions too.”
She nodded and said, “I'd like that. Being a woman alone, there are times I have needs and fears. People think because I'm so independent, I just want to be alone.
It's not that. One gets to the point they just stop looking. It still doesn't make you feel sure of yourself when you see things slipping away.”
Joan said, “Well, you've got a big family now and where you need us, we'll be there.”
She smiled and nodded. Her hand went on Mitch's shoulder and I don't think I'm the only one who noticed. I saw Heather's hand slip onto Gregg's shoulder, too.
When the conversation lulled, Ty said to me, “Babe, we need to be going. We need to get up early as tomorrow's a big day.”
Joan spoke over the table to Mary, “We're going to Quincy tomorrow and we'll be doing some errands. The guys are getting measured for suits and I thought it'd be nice if you were there to give a woman's opinion about Mitch's selections.”
Mary smiled and said, “Is there time so we could go out to Farm & Home so I could get some vet supplies?”
Ty said, “What do you need?”
“Oh some Heart worm medicine. I like to see the dogs are treated before I send them to homes where the person might not be able to afford such care.”
Ty said, “Hon, we need to wait a moment so I can find out what Mary needs with the dogs, I'd like to help.”
Gregg smiled and said, “Split the cost with me...whatever you do.”
Ty smiled and said, “It's not that expensive. Our interest from one day will be more than enough.”
Gregg smiled and said, “Man, we go from sharing hamburgers and salad to feeding dogs for a year in one day, it's incredible.”
Heather laughed and said, “Hon, we're still going to share salads and hamburgers. You can count on that.”
Mark chuckled and said, “Joanie still feeds me mine, when we share.”
“Oh you! Don't be telling all our secrets!” Joan giggled.
Mark blushed and said, “Guys, don't take the romance out of your relationships. It's what keeps us feeling alive in them When we know one cares enough to do something extra albeit silly, it makes us feel like the other is still the one we wanted in the first place.”
Joan said, “If everyone's ready to go, stop by the kitchen and take some cake home with you. I made enough to be sure everyone had a lot.”
Ty went over to Mary and spoke quietly with her. I was still sitting at the table and Gregg said, “Lance, we need to talk.”
“Ok, I knew you'd want to talk, so let's go sit in the solarium.”
“Let me get a glass of tea first, because it's going to be a long conversation I think.”
“Ok, would you bring me one?”
I went over to Ty and said, “Gregg and I are going to be in the solarium talking, come in when you've got a chance.”
Heather said, “Lance, he wanted it to be alone.”
She smiled and said, “Just go easy on him. He's wanting to catch you up on what he wants to do.”
“I've got an idea what it is. He'll find I'm going to be easier than he thinks. We've got support systems in place where I can now step back.”
“I had a feeling that's one of the reasons we were doing this. I'm glad.”
“Hon, I love you and I care. You'll still be my little sis, but I've got to be a brother to him too. Walking that line is going to be different, but I've got to learn to do it.”
She nodded and said, “I think he's going to appreciate it.”
Gregg came walking back and handed me my tea. I followed him into the solarium.
“I've got to get one of these built onto our house. This is really peaceful in here.”
“Yeah, it's one of my favorite rooms of their house. You should have seen their other house, it was awesome.”
“Oh! Where was it located?”
“Out in your neighborhood. The big one with the wrap around front porch.”
“Aunt Joan had that house so nice you wouldn't believe. This one's nice, but that one....man!”
He paused and then said, “Lance, I'm dropping out of college.”
“Ok, give me three reason and I'll support you.”
He looked at me with surprise and said, “You want them fast or slow?”
“Slow, we've got time. I'll make it for you.”
He smiled and said, “Frst of all, the money's liberating me but to be honest, Mom is gone and I want to be there to help dad with the distributorship.
Now, I know you're against that, but Heather's agreed and she's going to take as many classes as she can locally. The ones she can't, we're going to see if she can get them online, or go over to John Wood to see if they're available there.”
“Mom told me I couldn't do it out there and she nearly had me thinking I couldn't. Now, we've got a different game plan and I know if I stick to the plan, we'll make it.”
'You're not fighting me on this. I've got a whole list of points for what I expected.”
“Ok, give them and I'll listen.”
“What I want to do is leave the offices where they are for now and keep the customers knowing things haven't changed from the outside.
If we fire everyone and move, it's just going to be strange for them. They'll be dealing with a whole new set of people and that's going to be rough on them. A lot of individual treatment got done and we're sending that out the door when we clean house. Having the same offices will keep customers, I think.”
“Don't underestimate yourself. You're in a market other's can't infringe and your customer can't go buy from someone else without transporting it across state lines which is illegal. So, can I give you a tip?”
“When you go in and I mean you, not someone else. Go in and ask the customer what the arrangement was they had with the person they dealt with. Do what you can and what you can't, explain it to the customer with sound points...even if it cuts into the profit line a bit. Now, can I say something else?”
“Sure because that one was excellent.”
“You thought about dressing it up and using the taps as fountains. Redecorate the offices and take them out. It bugs me they're still there.
Instead, put a fountain in as you go in the door which has the Falcon E and the logo in bronze or aluminum...something which won't rust.
We thought about the sports bar theme, but I think that's going to suck. What I think is, go with a lot of solid wood desks and lots of brass. Make the place seem solid...like it's an old bank. There's psychology there because a lot of the old banks used marble and a lot of solid feel to keep customer's sense of security.
There's carpet on the floor out there now, isn't there?”
“Tear it up and put down huge beige marble tiles with brass seams. Go with heavy paneling on the walls and I'm not talking cheap looking stuff. Make it look like it's a place you'd view as a respectable place of business you'd go in and wear a suit.
I told your dad my viewpoint of the polo shirts and it'll stay the same. Dress casual on Friday's but suits the rest of the time even when you're out greeting customers.
Now, here's going to be a hard sell and there's a reason behind it. Get uniforms for the drivers which are gray pants and gray shirts with a hat that implies they just got off that beer wagon from driving the draft wagon.
What it will do is give your guys a sense of being special and customers instant recognition of who they are as soon as they walk in the door. It'll be similar to the brown uniforms UPS has. Everyone knows who they are and there's urgency when they walk in to get them on their way sooner. Those guys wearing what they want makes the place look like it's ran sloppy.”
He smiled and said, “Wow! Are you sure you're not wanting to run it with me?”
“No, I'm trusting you, Gregg, but here's the one thing I'm going to insist. IF you have something overwhelming you, you get on that phone and you call me. If I've got to take a funeral procession over there to help you, they'll wait in the parking lot until I know you're back on solid ground.”
“Yeah, you mean that fucking much to me. I just had a talk with Heather and I told her she's my sis, but I've got to back off a bit so you can be my brother. I'm going to trust you, and all I ask is you don't let me down, because if you do, we'll be having the talk about when you're selling it.”
He nodded and said, “You know, you're more firm than my dad and yet, I know you're doing it with love. It's funny because I love Ty and I know he's my brother, but you're more than a brother to me than him.”
“No, right now I am. Ty's building up his place with you and so am I. What we're doing is letting you be you.
What we're going to do right now is we're going to play shell game with that place out there. You'll most likely be running it, because your dad's going to be going into hotels with you and Ty's money.”
“Your money too.”
“Yeah, but you know what I mean.........With you being under age, your dad's name is on the line. Where his isn't, yours is. You're going to be the face of that company and I think if you go in showing the customers the style I've laid out, you'll instantly have them seeing a quality operation. They won't be saying you're a chip off the old block, they'll be saying you're a helluva tree which grew from it.”
“Yeah. Now, one other thing and then I'm done with it, o.k.?”
“This one is going to cost you some money, but as soon as I say it, you'll understand.”
“Get rid of the beer trucks and go with the ones which are trailers pulled behind a short wheel based semi. What this does in the long run is it will be cheaper because those trucks can be sold off easier.
What it does in the short term is it makes every customer and every customer of that customer think, “Man, they pulled a big truck up just for me!”
And it tells the consumer, “Hey, that place must do a heckuva business because they have a big truck delivering to them!” Also, the police tend to let those bigger trucks double park in front of taverns.”
He smiled and said, “Oh man, anything else?”
“Yeah, get rid of the older pickups. If the front office can write off trucks every four years, make the guys out back think they're special by getting new trucks too.
There's a leasing company in St. Louis that will lease whole fleets of trucks to you. That way, you're not writing off depreciation but writing of the whole fee. It'll lower your insurance and it'll lower your maintenance because they'll be responsible for that.”
“Yeah, for what you could buy three or four vehicles a year for, you could get sixteen or seventeen trucks for over a three year lease. You'll have more trucks on the road and you'll have newer trucks where your customer thinks you must be making money because you've always got new trucks. They don't know you're spending less on them, so more goes in your pocket.”
“Ok, what I'm going to ask is you help decorate the office. You know how to do that better than me. I'd really like it if when a customer walks through the door, they instantly think “Man! This place is nice!”
“Ok, it's not hard. Basically, it's all show.
Get a construction trailer or trailers because you'll be working out of those for a couple of months. Then, get someone in to strip it all out to the walls. We'll measure it up and we'll get it looking nice. Be ready to roll up your sleeves because we'll be working side by side in there.
There's not going to be a construction company doing the remodel. It's sweat equity. If you did the work, you take pride in it and I'll tell you now, you'll be fast on having a secretary taking a post it down off that paneling when you know how hard that piece was to measure, cut, and put up.”
“I've never done that sort of work.”
“And, your point is that you're too stupid to learn? Because I'll tell you now you're not. I learned and believe me, I'm all thumbs when it comes to a hammer.”
He laughed and said, “Ok bro, it'll be nice to work with you.”
“Good, let's go take our loves home so we can sleep. Tomorrow night, we're going to be here again I have a feeling.”
“You're going to like Jake. He's quiet, but when he opens his mouth, he's really funny. I might've been a horses butt to everyone else, but most of the time, I hid in Jake's room with him. He's funny and he'll tell jokes non-stop.”
“Man, no one knows!”
“Not many. I never told anyone because I knew if I did, they'd all be in his room and then, I'd not have anyplace to hide.”
“What do you know about little Mark?”
“Besides he's good looking enough to be a model? He's energetic and when he's not jumping on the bandwagon to do something someone else has thought up, he's the one out there thinking of things to do.
Everyone knew he was gay from when we were really little, but it's hard to call someone a fag when he's challenging you to climb that cliff out front and then shows you how it's done.”
“Oh man! That'd scare me to death.”
“Yeah, and he does it without a rope now.”
“His mom doesn't know, does she?!”
“No, because she'd kill him if he didn't kill himself. He's good though, I really like him because he'll listen to you and then tear your points apart like you won't even imagine. He's smart and that's why we knew he'd be a lawyer. I pity anyone who runs against him for anything.”
“I can hardly wait to meet him.”
“You will because where Ty looks at you like a love sick puppy, he looks at Mark like superman. They're really close and someplace in Ty's closet is a whole lot of photos of just hin and Mark. Mark's going to be on you to see if you're good enough for Ty, so be prepared.”
“Ok, I'm liking him more and more, now.”
“Do you know who his boyfriend is?”
“No, not this one. In high school, his boyfriend was the quarterback of the football team. Mark's not good at sports, but both of them were awesomely in love.
Why they split up, I don't know, but they went to Spring break the first year they were in college and when Mark got home, he sent the guy packing. Mark was sad, but he wouldn't say a word of what happened. I suspect Mark caught the guy in bed with someone else.”
“Oh man, that had to have hurt.”
“Yeah, but he wouldn't talk about it.”
“Ok, well, he's got someone now, so at least he's recovered.”
“Yeah, I'll tell you one thing though which is going to put a rift in the family.”
“Mark's ex is someone I'm thinking about hiring.”
“He's a damned nice guy and I think he's a good guy to put on as a public face for the company.”
“Give me more reasons than that, Gregg.”
“I don't know. I like the guy, so that's about it.”
“You're going to be pissed at me, but I can't support that. I'll tell you why. First of all, anything that could cause a rift in the family isn't something which is going to make me just stand up and support without good sound reasoning. You saying he's a pretty face doesn't sound like a good business decision at all.
From a customer's stand point, people may or may not know that little Mark and he were lovers. If they did, then whispers are out there, just like you did about the guy possibly being unfaithful to Mark.
To me, unfaithfulness is a character flaw. If he'll sneak behind Mark's back to fuck around, he'll sneak behind your back to screw you out of money.
Having him as a pretty face is only good if you're interested in him as something other than business. You know that's inviting trouble, and in more ways than one. I'm not going to support it.”
Gregg looked at me and said, “I'm not going to screw around on Heather with him, if that's what you're implying.”
“No, and you know why? Because you want kids and I'll tell you now that in order to fuck around on her, you'll have to have the equipment bud and you'll have to have the other person. You step out on her, and I'll be stepping in. Got me!”
“No, dude, you get that through your head. You either make that commitment to her and stay faithful, or end it. I'm not going to have you playing both sides of the track getting her knocked up and then go sleep with a guy cause she's not what you want, tonight.
That's self centered, and it's selfish as hell. It fucks with people's lives and if that's what you want, then tell her or I will.”
Gregg looked at me with anger in his eyes and said, “Fuck up my relationship dude and your martial arts won't stop the fucking bullet I'll put through your head. I said I wasn't thinking that, so get over it.”
“Gregg, I'll back off, because you deserve trust, but you think this...ears have mouths and when my ears hear anything, I'll cut you down while paying for someone to be in to catch it on film, tape, and whatever.
When that day comes, you better already have the bullet flying through the air, because just as soon as I can throw the death blow, you'll be gone. Now, it's your trust to fuck up and it's mine to get over. Don't hire the dude.”
“No, it's not really ok. I need to sit back and think.”
“Gregg, I love you. It's not right for me to be suspicious. It hurts me and I know it hurts you. That's not fair and I'm sorry. Come up with other reasons for hiring the guy and I'll support you. That's all I ask.”
He said, “Stand up.”
“Because as my brother, I love you and I want a hug.”
I stood up and hugged him. He didn't let go. “Lance, to be honest, I'm bi-sexual. I've known it and I've hid it. I'll not act on those feelings, because I love her more.
I probably was thinking about hiring the guy for that purpose, so you need to know. You loved me enough to call me on it and I'm sorry.”
“No, I'm sorry. But, Gregg, talk to Heather about it. She'll listen. Shit, she tried getting me to be bi. I couldn't do that, even for her love.
I'll tell you now, it will kill her inside, but my advice is to be open with her. You've got too bright of a future to mess it up by doing something behind her back. I'll back off the day you two come to me and say I need to turn my head and look the other way.
Until then, I'm going to stay focused on making everyone be the most they can be in this family. But, do me a favor when you do that....don't have kids.”
“Look at me, how did you feel when you thought your mom was screwing around on your dad?”
“Yeah, if you have kids and your playmate is in that office, it's nothing different than your mom did to you. My advice is to tell her and bring things into your love life that will keep it with her. Either that, or make the decision to let her go so she can have someone that will give her the loyalty she deserves.
I'm not going to think you're a traitor and I'm not going to think ill of you. Hell, I'll probably be out there looking for someone for you, who will be just as open. But, you've got to decide.”
He looked down and I lifted his chin, “Gregg, I love you, dude, and I love her. Help me and I'll help you.”
“I know. I love you too. It's just I have feelings inside and I don't know what to do.”
“Then give yourself time to decide before the wedding.”
“I love her more than that. You don't know what she means to me.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“She means safety and security from what everyone else thinks. She means stability for when you come home at night. She means a partner to share the good times and the bad. I could have had that, and I chose to be me. Believe me, I thought about it.”
“You know, for a long time, I acted out at guys I was attracted to. My way of making them go away was making them afraid of me. By them hating me, it kept them from being attracted back.
Then, one day, I stopped doing all that after little Mark jumped into my ass. I think he saw through things but what he didn't see was how much I liked his boyfriend. I knew I couldn't have him, but I liked him. That's the one guy when I think about being with a guy that I immediately think of.”
“Gregg, inviting him into your business isn't what you should do. I'll tell you that now. What happens if things don't work out with him and all you have is a pretty face in the office that knows he'll be fired at any moment?
Then, you'll have a loose cannon on board that's going to stab you in the back just as soon as he can.
When you go into anything in your business life, think about the possibility of failure. Right now, Ty and I are thinking about a florist shop for Mary with her dog rescue shelter next door. Believe me when I say I want to help her with them, but I'm deathly afraid of a kid going in and getting bitten.”
“Oh man, that'd suck.”
“Yeah, but if she's a non-profit, it gives her a bit more room to be safe but the insurance liabilities there are going to be huge.”
“Does Ty know?”
“No, we haven't talked about it, yet. He wants to help the dogs and so do I, but the way it is now, she has them running all over her house. Those dogs are at home there until they're taken to homes. In a shop, they'll have to be in cages. It's not fair to the dogs, really.”
“Isn't there another way?”
“Yeah, keeping them where they are, but I think Mary would be perfect for the flower shop.”
“Well, give her the option, then.”
“Ok. You going to be ok?”
“No, I've got a lot of thinking to do. Promise me we can talk about this?”
“Sure. I'll do what I can to help.”
“It's going to be rough when little Mark gets home.”
“Lance, he's hot. I just know Heather's going to see me staring at him, because my eyes are drawn to him like a moth to a flame.”
“Oh, well, stick close to me and we'll keep you occupied. Tomorrow's going to be a packed day and then, Tuesday is going to be a day where you'll think you fell into a void.”
“I can't schedule anything because you have to be mentally prepared for the visitation.
It's going to be long, and it's going to be emotional and it's going to be draining. Then, follow that up with the funeral on Wednesday and I'll tell you now, by the time we're all done with it, you'll be wondering if a day can be made longer than those.
My advice is to go straight home from the funeral and sleep. On Thursday, we'll have a day in the city with a lot of sight stimulus which is exactly what I tell people to go do after a funeral. It gets us back into the living and it gets us off what we've just been through. I usually tell people to go to an amusement park, because there are so many sights, people, and smells in one compact location, they can't help forgetting what they were just through.”
“But we don't have one around here.”
“No, but Minneapolis has the Mall of America and I tell people it's worth the trip. A huge part of me would like to insist on people going there after a funeral, but I can't.”
“Tomorrow, will you help me pick out a few suits for work?”
“Yeah, it's not hard, really. The colors are nice, but my advice is to stay away from maroon and lemon yellow.”
He started laughing and said, “Oh shit! Dad in a lemon yellow suit, that'd be hilarious!”
“Yeah, Aunt Mary picking out the colors are going to have me cringing. I'll be willing to bet you money she has him try on an off white suit.”
“That will make him look shorter.”
“Oh yeah. Just think of one of those Hydrox cookies and I dare you not to laugh.”
“Oh man, you're no help!”
“You got all the hug you need bud?”
“Yeah, why? You getting wood?”
“No, if I was you'd be standing back three feet.”
He laughed and said, “Lance, don't think of that when you get romantic with Ty. He loves you and if he's not afraid of it, then don't you be.
I thought of that and part of me thought about a girl I once was with who had really really huge tits. She had a complex by having them and I really found them hot. Call me a boob man, but if Heather showed me a lot of cleavage, I'd never think about a guy.”
“Be subtle and tell her you think she's hot when she shows them, and I think she'll do it. Just don't ask her to dress like that at the hospital. Babies would probably give up their mamas for her.”
“She is a knockout, isn't she?”
“Yeah, she is that. What's funny is you know girls that are geeky when they're young and then suddenly become knock outs? Well, let me tell you she wasn't ever that girl. She's been hot since first grade.”
“You never felt anything for her at all?”
“No. To be honest, the first person I felt anything for in any manner was John Clark and that was in second grade. Believe me, that was a guy that if you saw him, you'd be like .....yuck....but to me, that kid was awesome”
“I can't put my finger on it, but I'll tell you this. There are the guys that are hot and then there are the guys that are really sports gifted and then there's the average guys.
He wasn't hot and he wasn't athletically talented, and he wasn't the best dressed, but he tried so fucking hard at everything he did, he made me attracted to him.
Maybe it's because the word “No” wasn't in his vocabulary, or maybe it's because he always seemed to have a smile when it was a time when smiles weren't on my face, but I was like that moth to a flame.”
“What happened to him?”
“He moved away in the third grade and I never saw him again.”
“You ever try to look him up?”
“No, and I'll tell you why. He's also a little boy that from the first moment I saw him, I just knew he was hopelessly straight. That's just not even in my realm now to think attractive.
Lord knows I have enough obstacles without adding more to them. Besides, one lucky thing happened to me at a Chili's restaurant and I met this guy who is so fucking hot that when he's facing me, I just get all light headed and then when he turns around that butt is so bubbled it's going **pop**pop** and I'm raising the table up.”
He laughed and said, “Oh man, you've got it bad.”
“Yeah, and that, sir, is what I thought when I first saw your brother. It's rare I immediately fly all the way out of the closet for someone, but for him, man.....”
He laughed and said, “Well, I'll tell you now, he feels the same. Personally, in a lot of ways I find you attractive. Your personality and your eyes, man....but on the whole, you're a bean pole dude! That's why I just couldn't go all out for you.
BUT, Ty, he sees you go by and his eyes follow you. It's funny, because I can tell you what he's doing now. He's sitting out there watching that door and he's waiting. Heather's there too, and she'll try to take his mind off that door, but she'll give up.”
“Well, then let me go, so I can go back to him.”
“Dude, you might be a bean pole, but you give the best hugs.”
“Yeah, and so do you.”
“Well, when I hug you, I can stand here and talk with you and feel secure. I do it too with Heather. Maybe you two taught that to each other, I don't know. But, both of you really make me feel secure.”
“Gregg, she'll tell you I taught it to her, but let me tell you she taught it to me. That's what I mean is there's not often that I talk about my home life and my parents, but things weren't really good at my house.
We were poor poor....I mean, 'white trash looked down on us' poor. Think about pancakes every night for supper poor, and then you'll see me as a kid.”
“Yeah, but you know what?”
“That girl in there invited me over for supper once because I sat down and cried because someone spilled my lunch at school.
I knew we were going to be eating low on the hog that night and I was looking forward to what we had for lunch and it got spilled. So, she held me while I cried and then I told her how it was.
That night, she invited me to their house and they had something awesome like beef roast.
From then on, she tried to get me to come over to eat as much as she could. What was funny was somewhere in the second or third grade, we began standing and hugging like this and just talking. I think her dad was alarmed when he saw us, but she told him she wasn't going to stop. He didn't make her and that's how I got the best friend I have in the world.”
“Yeah, so I'll tell you now, when your actions threaten to hurt her, it's threatening me with all that she did for me.
That's why I get how I do. I can't give her the one thing she wants and I know it. So, I do what I can to give her everything else. All I'm asking is for you to give her the other part I can't.”
“Now I understand.”
“You do some, but there's a lot I'm not telling you there. A whole lot more. Stuff that would cause you to wake up screaming bad.”
“Yeah, Ty doesn't know this stuff and he's got to be told. I don't have nightmares often, but when I do, they involve my uncle.”
“Care to tell me?”
“Not now, but let me just say that he's dead and I didn't have a thing to do with it. And I know where he went. An elevator couldn't have took him down there faster.”
“Stuff that makes your mom look like she was an imitation compared to him. This man had shit oozing from him, Stephen King couldn't even portray.”
“Yeah. Heather knows most of it, but after a while, it was causing her nightmares, so I had to stop telling her things.”
“Why'd he do it?”
“Which part? The sexual abuse or the intimidation or the killing of small animals?”
“Man, I can't hear anything else.”
“Yeah, it was that bad.”
“When did it stop?”
“When I was eleven years old. He died.”
“Oh man, you knew karate and didn't stop him?”
“By then, I was so afraid of him, it didn't matter.”
“Didn't you tell anyone?”
“I tried to tell my mom once when I was four years old, and she believed him. Then, I got spanked by her for not minding him when he babysat us. Do you think I tried telling her after that?”
“Whenever you want to talk, I'll be here. I don't even begin to know how to say I could help you with that. All I can say is I'll listen.”
“I've worked through most of it. It's just that occasionally, I'll have a nightmare and he'll have gotten into my sleep.”
“You gotta tell Ty.”
“I will sometime, but not until we're out of this.”
“It might help him by him thinking there was someone else out there worse than mom.”
“No, it'd fuck him up mentally. What I've got inside me is memories that if I just sat down and told you everything, you'd wonder how the hell I'm not writing movies like Hellraiser.”
“Yeah, but you know what it was.”
“Sometime, I want you to tell me about your parents.”
“That sounds like a line a shrink I went to once used.”
“Did it work?”
“No, after I told him stuff, he physically got sick and said he had to discontinue our sessions.”
“Man, what a pussy.”
“No, after everything I went through, I blamed myself for hurting him. Now, I'd turn around and sue him to get the money back.”
“Is that why you try to make everything Win-Win?”
“Yeah, a part of it. I figure if it's good for me and it's good for you when we leave a situation, I can't say I hurt you and I know you've not hurt me.”
“Is that why you told us what you did about the money?”
“What do you mean?”
“Lance, a banker working on Sunday? Get real.”
“Hon, I promised, so I'm not breaking my word. Let me just say there were things done between them which are better left unsaid.”
“Mom and Dad?”
“I knew. Somehow I knew, and dad's afraid we'll hate him.”
“Let's just say there was a deal made between him and her and she resented him for it and he resented her. Neither one would back off the deal.”
you're telling me they put us through hell over a deal?”
“No, they put you through hell because he didn't go in and run the distributorship and she wanted him to be the strong one.
Think about it. If you and I were together, and you wanted me to go fight a fire and I told you I couldn't do it alone and needed your help and then you told me, “Well, I'll go fight the fucker myself then,” and I told you, “Fine, go do it”. You'd resent me when you found out you did it on your own. She did....but, for the life of me, I don't know why she didn't want to go in and do it together.”
“You want my opinion?”
“Yeah, give it a shot.”
“They argued once and I caught some of it. Mom had screwed around on dad in the old neighborhood, so dad moved us to the new house.
Mom wanted to go back to be with the guy and I think she thought if she sent dad to work at the distributorship, she's have the chance to drive over and be with whomever it was. When dad said he wanted them together, I think she knew he was calling the bluff. So, she figured if she had to do without whoever it was, she'd go in and run the place herself to show dad he could have done it.”
“Why'd they stay married, then?”
“He loved her. He kept thinking things would get better.”
“Man, some people can be so blind.”
“Yeah, that's why when you said what you did tonight with the blindfolds, I think he was thinking about when she told him her needs before the distributorship and not that.”
“Yeah, but look at it. No judge in the world would have given us kids to dad. She made more money, and she had more prestige, and he could throw it out all he wanted that she was an alcoholic and she'd casually say, “Why yes, there's alcohol in my system. I work at a beer distributorship and I have to sample to see quality is up.” all fucking Mary Poppins like.
She was too smart to get sloshed and drive and he knew it that's why when I got the first phone call from Ty telling me mom had left and he didn't know where she'd gone, I was panicked.”
“Hold up, sit your ass down, we're going to talk! What do you mean Ty called you?”
“He called me to tell me mom had left.”
“Did he tell you the reason?”
“Yeah, he said he'd met you and although you'd not gone out yet, he knew you were the one and he told mom. He said they'd argued and then she left.”
“Was this from his cell phone or the house phone?”
“His cell phone, the house phone he wasn't allowed to use, because mom went through that bill with a fine toothed comb.”
“Gregg, I've got one more question, but I want Heather in here when I ask it.”
I got up and went to the door and said, “Heather, could you come in for a moment?”
Ty was sitting there and I said, “Not yet Ty, in a minute we'll have you in, I promise.”
Heather came in and I said, “Hon, sit down, I'm learning something and I'm down to one question and I want to ask it with you in here.
But, before I ask it, Gregg, I'm going to tell you that whatever you say, I'm not going to do anything. Heather's not going to do anything. We already suspected, but now it's coming clearer.
Heather looked at me strangely and I asked, “Who killed your mom, Gregg?”
Notes From RettaMichaels:
This story has been edited by Darryl the Radio Rancher after many hours of effort. I'd like to Thank him for his friendship afforded, his motivation, and his inspiration. It means a lot to me.
“From My Keyboard To Your Heart”,
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Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons, locations, or incidents is purely coincidental.