A little more of APoS

I had a hard time concentrating, today. Off to Albany in the morning and it's been snowing out, but seems to be turning to rain. It'll be fun getting my car out from under that. So I did more sales work on BNR and it's helping a little. I also joined a Facebook group that is geared to helping you figure out how to market you book...and I've already run afoul of the rules by just posting I was happy to be there, so I dunno about that.

Still...I got a little more done...added in...and here's some of it. Brendan's moved into the pool house behind his aunt's residence and has some independence, now.

------

I found I liked working at The Colonel’s. The night hours and the dark silence of Houston as I walked home brought to mind my walk to Claudy and around Derry before The Troubles took hold, even though the air was warm and thick well into October. Sometimes the rain would pour, but I always had a poncho with me so never worried about it, despite how harsh it could be from tropical storms. And no matter what day of the week it was, I’d find something to pick up, fix and sell. I built up a list of second-hand shops for my repaired items and there was a steady business with them.

I set up the space behind the bar as a workstation, and neither Aunt Mari nor Uncle Sean minded, for I kept it clean and quiet. The B-girls, however, thought it uncouth. They’d let themselves in and help themselves to a Dr. Pepper and sit on stools to watch me, over the bar counter.

“You’re supposed to have a workshop,” Brandi sniped at me, once, when I was rewiring a lamp for Aunt Mari. At least, I think it was Brandi; they were still too much alike for me to really tell, yet, and I know they played with me more often than not, despite their mother’s warning. She continued on with, “Something like Mr. Holloman has, in his garage. He does all his hobbies in there.”

“This isn’t a hobby,” I’d replied.

“You’re right; it’s a job and you need a store,” Bernadette all but cried.

“It’s a hobby if you’re not doing it all the time,” Brandi shot back at her.

“But he makes money at it, idiot. That makes it a job.”

Then they fell into their back and forth. I just focused on the wiring and let them argue, until they realized I’d slipped into my not-listening mode. Then they ganged up on me, once more. It was almost amusing.

Maybe it was because Mairead was so many years older than Maeve that they never had this sort of argument, for I never heard a truly cross word between them. With each letter from Mai, I could see she was filled with naught but hope and support for us all, much like Aunt Mari. Mai had used herself as a buffer between those arguing, while Maeve...well, I’d seen her go after a lad who was troubling her, more than once. Ma used to all but wail at how unladylike she was being. I had a feeling she and these two girls would get along famous.

But there's something else that made The Colonel’s so nice -- how well we got along, Rocky, Lorraine, Todd and myself. The crowd was never overwhelming, just steady and casual. There were plenty of spaces where Lorraine could lean back at the bar and chat with Todd, the bangles on her wrists clicking as she waved her hands to emphasize whatever she was saying, which never was much. I did get the idea she was interested in him, but he was having none of it. He caught me glancing between him and her, one night, and smiling to myself, so he made a point of driving me home, that night, and between drags on the joint and sips of this new beer we’d started carrying called Anchor Steam he told me, “Y’know somethin’ I learned a long time ago? You don’t shit where you eat.”

I think I know what he meant.

He was nothing but business behind the bar. Open and aware of the customers as they came in, listening to their troubles and nodding when needed, much like I did with Ma, Aunt Mari and the girls. He could pull pints...well, glasses of beer without a thought and fix a wine cooler that sparkled while holding a three-way conversation, all without working up even the hint of a sweat. He was never dressed in more than a t-shirt and flared jeans, with dingo boots, and his hair whipped around as perfectly as some model for shiny shampoo.

Raquel, in comparison, kept to herself. She always had a book with her, and during slow times would read it under Todd’s station light, at the end of the bar. I liked how solitary she was, completely unto herself but not hard with it. She was deep into science fiction and fantasy written by Ursula LeGuin, Andre Norton, Octavia Butler, Madeline L'Engle, and the like. She even lent me one of her books when she caught me looking at it.

“I’ve already read it, once,” she said. “I was just rereading it for fun. You’ll like it.”

I thanked her, read the book, A Wrinkle in Time it was called. I told her I did like it, and we were mates, from then.

Scott left me his library card, but I made no use of it. Two newspapers were delivered to the house and what little they carried about the latest disaster in Derry was more than enough for me. I wanted to forget about the whole of it.

But it’s hard to ignore the atrocities of men when they keep happening. In the North and throughout Ireland and the UK. Sky-jackings. Murders over religion all around the world. Then came the Yom Kippur war and oil embargo.

Jeremy was in Israel and his mother was near panicked over him being taken into the Israeli Defense Forces. She’d come over to Aunt Mari’s to talk, and she was not a quiet woman. From the pool house, I could hear her in the kitchen talking of her fears for her youngest son.

“He’s too happy a child to be on the front,” she’d snarled at no one in particular, “scaring off the Egyptians.”

“So he’s in the South of Israel, is he?” Aunt Mari said, just above a whisper.

“Not far from Haifa. They're sending him to The Sinai and I know he'll be killed.”

"Oh, don't get yourself ready to bury him, yet. He's a smart boy who knows to keep his head low, and he's a fine shot, so he'll be all right."

I'd never have thought of Jeremy as one to hold a rifle, but as I was rewiring a tall revolving fan, I learned from the B-girls he was a champion.

"Won awards," said Bernadette, claiming she was Brandi.

"He's been at it for years," said Brandi, and by now I knew it was her, but I felt no need to end their little games.

"He started when he was ten," Bernadette continued.

"No, eleven. That's when his father took him to the shooting range, the first time."

"He was ten and his dad got him that rifle for their Christmas, and that's why they went."

"They're Jewish; they don't have Christmas."

"They got something just like it, so why not call it that?"

"Because Christmas is for Christians."

"No, Christmas is for everybody!"

I just let them carry on, which they did till I tested the fan, and they were quite amazed at its silence.

"I've never seen one that doesn't sound like it's on," said Brandi.

"Me neither. Why don't we swap it for the one in our room?"

"You think mom would let us?"

"The fan you got's on a cabinet, right?" I asked, wary.

"Yeah, but it's newer than this," said Bernadette.

"So it's worth more."

"But it's got a rattle."

"Why don't ya bring it down and I'll look into it?"

Both squeaked "Cool," and bolted into the house, and two seconds later it was in my hands. I garnered even more amazement by making it stop rattling with only five minutes of tinkering. That shut up their nattering about my hobby. In fact, they left me fair well alone after that.

Until Everett dropped by, one afternoon in November.

It was just starting to chill down, in the weather, when he knocked on the main door, asking after me. Aunt Mari was wary of him but I happened to be walking up the street from selling that fan, saw the two of them talking and called him by name.

He turned and smiled, as low-key as you can imagine, and said, "Hi, Brendan. I wonder if you're up for fixin' somethin'."

"Won't know till I see it."

"Is that how you know him?" Aunt Mari asked.

"I'm friends with Henry Loudermilk," Everett said, without a hint of hesitation, "and was there when Brendan brought in a Tiffany lamp he'd rewired."

I remembered the lamp; it'd been sitting on my counter the night we brought Scott home, but it wasn't for some man named Loudermilk I'd fixed it. Still, I caught Everett's careful tone so just said, "I've done work for him. Pays well enough."

"Well, he says he can work miracles, and I got a typewriter that's givin' me trouble."

"Bring it in," I said, heading for the gate by the drive.

Aunt Mari stayed at the door, watching as he slipped back to this new Chrysler that looked like it should be a barge on the Foyle and pulled an old manual beast from its trunk. She kept watching as he lugged it after me.

In the pool house, I had him set it on the counter and looked it over. It reminded me of Jeremiah's as I asked, "What's the problem?"

"Keys stick." I could feel his eyes on me as he continued, "It's my grandmother's. My aunt inherited it after she died and she don't want it, no-more, but it's too old to make use of. Thought I might sell it, but Henry won't take it 'less it's workin'."

"Probably just needs cleanin'," I said, ignoring his gaze. "Maybe a new ribbon. I can get her done, quick."

"What's it gonna cost?"

"Nothin'. You helped me and Scott; I'll help you."

"Thanks, Pug. Is it okay if I call you that?"

"Isn't that a dog?"

He gave a slight shrug. "My daddy used it for Irishmen. Something about the little noses they got."

"You never met me older brother."

"Scott didn't have that much of a nose."

"He's a cousin and -- "

"Why're you asking about Scott?" jolted us both.

It was Bernadette standing at the door, Brandi right behind her, both with their Who the hell are you? expression on.

Without a blink, Everett smiled at them and said, "They had some car trouble and I helped them out. Just wanted to make sure everything was all right."

"He's fine," I said then scowled at the B-girls. "And you both know to knock."

"Door was open," said Brandi.

"No, it wasn't," I said. "And from now on it'll be locked."

Everett chuckled and squatted before the girls. "I've never met such pretty twins, before."

"Yeah, I'm Bernadette -- "

"No, She's Brandi," I shot out. "The other is Bernadette, and they're ten months apart, though you'd never know it from the way they act."

"My brother has twin boys, though they're a bit older than you."

"How old do you think we are?" asked Bernadette.

"Twelve?"

"I'm eleven," said Brandi. "She won't be for another month."

"Then for two months we'll be the same age."

"So for two months you are twins," Everett said.

"That's right," said Bernadette, bright and happy, "we are."

"That's not how it works," Brandi shot back. "You have to be born at the same time."

"But we'll be the same age!"

"It doesn't matter."

And off they went back to the house, nattering on.

Everett rose, chuckling. "Oh, my God, those two'll be terrors in junior high school."

"As if they aren't now."

"How're you survivin' them?"

"Just let 'em go as they will. Life's too short."

He looked at me, long and quiet as I tested the keys of the typewriter. It finally made me uncomfortable so I snapped, "What is it?"

"Sorry, Pug, it's just..." His voice trailed off then he took in a deep breath and asked, "You mind if I take some pictures of you?"

"Pictures?"

"Yes. Head and shoulders, that's all."

"Why?"

"When do you become legal?"

"What do you mean, legal?"

"Turn eighteen."

"Again -- why?"

"Because you're a boy, but there's an old man in your eyes. I noticed it that night. It's intrigued me, and I'd like to see if I can capture it."

"In pictures?"

"A painting. My whole life I've been telling myself I'm an artist, but now I want to see if I've just been lying to myself about it. Capturing you would be a test, of a sort. See if I am what I say I am. You mind if I try?"

It sounded odd, but he'd been fine with me and Scott and I didn't sense misuse from him like I had Father Jack, so I shrugged and said, "What do I do?"

"Just focus on the typewriter. Do your thing. I'll probably take a hundred photos, so pretend I'm not here."

He ran back to his car to get an older Canon SLR, and as I broke the typewriter down he took well over two-hundred photos, I'd say. Probably changed film at least five times. I doubt the latter ones were of much use, because by that point I was dirty and lost in my work, but he left happy.

Not before the B-girls burst from the house to catch him and pester him with questions as he led them to his barge.

"How well to do know Scott?"

"I don't. I know Brendan."

"For how long?"

"Just a few months."

"You sure Scott's car had trouble?"

"He really fusses over it."

"Gas. He was out of it. Happens to us all, now and then."

"Yeah, he's always complaining about how much it drinks."

"Do cars drink gas?"

"It's just a saying."

"I know but it sounds silly. Cars drink like we do."

And then they were out of earshot. I'd have apologized to Everett when next I saw him, but his voice was filled with the greatest of pleasure of listening to them.

A moment later, Aunt Mari came to the door to ask what I wanted for dinner, something she'd never done before.

"Are you planning something odd?" I asked.

"No, just wondering if you had a preference."

I shrugged and said, "Whatever you're on for. Just give me half an hour to wash." I held my hands up to show her the ink slathered on my fingers.

She seemed much relieved at seeing me dirty and the typewriter actually being worked upon and said, "I think I'll do burgers, homemade fries."

"Sounds cool. Thanks."

"No big deal," she said and left with a smile.

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