A Second Chance -- Chapter 45

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A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

Fans of Rachael are going to be a bit disappointed in this chapter. She only appears for the concluding prayer: Dawn.

TUESDAY, June 7, 2016

Ruby was at her new store before 8, and shortly after she saw Gary’s pickup truck pull up outside. She exited the new store, and slid into the truck between Gary and Mike. Apparently there is a law that if there are two men and a woman in a pickup, the woman must ride in the middle.

It is a little over a half hour drive from Ingersoll to London, but the restaurant supply place was on the western part of the larger city, so they made it in 25 minutes. The place reminded Ruby of an auto wrecker’s yard, except with restaurant equipment strewn around the place instead of cars and trucks. In the middle of the acres-huge lot were three large barn-like warehouses. The foremost of these had a storefront, and inside they could see good quality equipment, gleaming and ready for sale. Ruby wanted to go in there first, but the men drove on out into the junkyard.

When you got into it, you saw that the place was not the complete chaos that it appeared to be from the road. There were little streets up and down the place, and equipment of a similar type was grouped together. Ruby’s dire need was for coolers and refrigerated display cases. She also needed a commercial air conditioner unit. The store came with a heating system, but not cooling. Gary had scouted out the building after the pizza party, and knew what was needed. He hoped to get a unit that would cool the store at least, but hopefully the apartment above as well.

There was a generator in the bed of the pickup, and when Gary parked near a series of display cases, Mike jumped out and turned it on. Gary started working his way through the displays. Ruby felt sick to her stomach. This was garbage. Many of the units had broken glass, and in all cases the dirty cases that had sat in the rain for months, if not years, were no longer white, but yellow. How could her customers feel that they were getting top quality meat out of cases like this?

Chipper had pulled a long extension cord out to Gary, and they began plugging the units in, and testing them. Some no longer even had refrigeration units, and those who did often didn’t work when plugged in. Finally Gary came to Ruby.

“Your new store is 25 feet wide. Ideally you want a 10-foot and a 12-foot unit, which will leave a gap of three feet to allow access from the front to the back,” Gary said. “What do you think of that one, and that one? They look pretty similar, although the shorter one is older and in kind rough shape.”

“Kinda rough shape?” Ruby said. “They look like garbage. There is no glass in that one, and the corner of the other one is all smashed up.”

“We can get a piece of glass easily enough,” Gary said. “And we have some body shop guys in the Hobo Army that will make it so that you won’t even be able to tell which end was smashed. They will repaint the entire thing white again, inside and out. There is no refrigeration unit in that one, and the other has one that just needs a real good tune up. We’ll pick up another good refrig. unit from another case. And we also need that.” He pointed to a compressor-looking device.

“What is that?” Ruby asked, hoping that the rusty old unit was not going to be inside her store.

“That is an air-conditioning unit. We need to find two more.”

“Three? Why?”

“That one will air-condition both the store and the apartment above. It is made by the same company that makes your heating unit, so it will fit in together. The other two? One will be for a walk-in cooler, and another for a walk-in freezer. The boys in the army will build the units for you.”

“Okay,” Ruby said, uncertain. Meanwhile Mike had found additional compressors, and Gary tested them and picked two more out of the five. Then they loaded all the items onto the truck, with Ruby’s farm-girl muscles helping out with the big display cases. They then drove around the property, and found a collection of rusty pizza ovens in one area.

“Excellent,” Gary said. “We will be able to piece something together cheap from that mess. What next?”

“Bakery mixers and ovens. Proofers too, if they have any that will go cheap,” Mike said.

Mike was not pleased by the mixers in the outside yard, but did find several ovens of the type he was looking for. There were also many old proofer units, and he was happy with those.

Nothing more would fit on the truck, but that was okay, since the pizza oven would have to wait for a decision by the Dasilvas. And Geoff and Maria would have to agree with Mike’s ideas for the bakery.

Back at the main store a short, obese man with scraggly long hair and pock-marked skin waddled out. He was chewing on the stub of a cigar that looked like it had last been lit in the last century. “Find anything out there?” he said, looking into the back of the truck. “Pretty good stuff you’ve got there.”

“Bullshit,” Gary said. “It’s all crap. You should pay us to cart it away for you. But we will dicker later. We need a good mixer. You got any inside?”

“Sure do. What size are you looking for?”

“A 300-quart, although I’d take a 240,” Mike said.

“Hobart?”

“Of course.” Hobart mixers are the industry standard, and it was crucial to Mike that they deal with those, because parts are always available, even for the earliest models.

“I’ve got a nice 300 for $25,000, and a 240 for $30,000. It’s a lot newer,” the cigar man said, leading Mike into the store. Ruby and Gary followed, with Ruby carefully avoiding the spot where the man had spat around his cigar without even taking it from his mouth.

While Mike and the man looked at the machines, which were both in good shape, Ruby and Gary explored the display room, which was much more inviting than its owner. Ruby fell in love with some refrigerated display cases that looked as good as new. The prices on them were not so good, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. Gary wandered about, and fixated on a POS (Point of Sale) system in several cardboard boxes. It had several cash registers, and a jumble of cables, along with a computer that seemed to be from the 1990s.

“We might buy one of the mixers,” Mike was saying to the man as they walked back to the others. “Depends on whether we can get a good price for that load of crap in the back of the truck. We are also looking for a pizza oven, and will probably get that out of your scrap heap as well. And there was a proofer and a rack bakery oven out there we like. In other words, this isn’t a one and done deal, so give us your best price on what we have, and we will become regular customers.”

“I’ve kinda been toting up what you have in the truck,” cigar man said. “It is worth at least 10 grand, but I could give it to you for five.”

“Five thousand?” Gary snorted. “Are you high on something? That is a load of scrap metal, and you know it. It’s closer to $500 than $5000.”

The man spat again, and Ruby skipped away, moving to the other side of Mike. “Tell ya what,” cigar man said. “Give me three and you can drive it away.”

“Come on guys,” Gary said. “Let’s take this crap back to where we found it. This man doesn’t want to sell today.” He headed to the driver’s seat, and Ruby gladly got to her seat in the middle.”

Mike was at the door, about to get in, and he said. “Look, our limit today is $1000. But if you throw in that POS system in the store and we’ll go to $1200.”

“What?” the man gasped. “There are six registers in that lot, worth a grand each if you can get them to run.”

“If you can get them to run,” Mike noted. “I’m betting you can’t. Am I right?”

The man deflated a bit, and then nodded. “I’ll do $1250 if you have cash. If it is on a card I have to do $1300.”

“We can do cash,” Gary said, getting out of the truck. “That’s a fair price, and remember, we will gladly do more business with you.” He and the man went into the store to do paperwork while Ruby and Mike went for the POS stuff.”

“We can put two registers from this into your store, and one in the pizza place,” Mike told her. “The other three will go in the bakery: two in the store and one in the back where Maria does the phone orders. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a guy who can make it all work.”

The back was so full that only the box of cables would fit there. Ruby and Mike climbed into the cab, each with a box sitting on their lap. Gary was back minutes later with a receipt, and they headed back to Ingersoll. It took a full hour to make the return trip, because they took the back roads instead of the expressway. The last thing they wanted was to get caught up in the vacuum between two speeding semi trailers. Slow and sure got them back to the shed just after noon, and unloading was easy, with Ruby watching as a crew from the Army did the heavy lifting.

“When do you need the displays?” Gary asked.

“We are putting a floor down this week,” Ruby said. “Anytime after that.”

“There are at least two weeks of work on the cases,” he said. “It looks like the fire escape will be into finishing work after tomorrow. How many men do you want for the flooring?”

“What? You are going to help? I thought it would just be Darla, Chuck and I,” Ruby said. “Four?”

“Let us know when you get your wood in, and we’ll be there. I also will have three men, and myself, to build the cooler and freezer. And you will need a counter and a block for cutting meat, I bet. We can do that too.”

“Why are you doing all of this for me?” Ruby said, tears in her eyes.

“Because you need it,” Gary said. “Because we can. We have men who want nothing more that to pay society back for what they have been. We care and we want to help. It makes us feel good. It makes us feel we are worthy again.”

“Look,” Ruby said around her tears. “I have to go talk to Pastor Helen. I will have to talk to Chuck, but I think we will be donating several hundred dollars of meat for the supper tomorrow.”

---- - ---- -- -

Gary woke from a nap in the early evening. The men were all down in the church kitchen, getting their dinner. Chuck had delivered a huge order of meats from the farm less than an hour after Ruby called him, and all three fridges were packed. A small package of beef was left out, and the chef had made into a delicious stew. The chef had just joined the Hobo Army the day before. He had been chef in a top-flight restaurant in Toronto, but got hooked on cocaine, and then harder drugs, and finally had to return to Ingersoll, his hometown, to take advantage of the cost of living. He had prayed to the painting, and now was the cook for the Army, making delicious food that had the Pastors starting to eat with the men.

---- - ---- - -

Hans Vandereynd drove in a rage. His damned wife was drinking again, and had just finished a major shouting match with their daughter, leaving the girl in tears. Hans just had to leave. He would go out to check on the job sites. Of course, it was after midnight, and he wouldn’t be able to see inside any of the homes his men were working on, but he just had to get out of that house.

He was driving past the little church and felt a strong urge to stop and go inside. The sign said ‘always open,’ and he had seen someone go in as he drove past. He shook off the urge. Then his pickup died. The electrical systems just went dead and he had to wrestle the power steering to get the truck off the street.

He slammed the steering wheel. “This piece of crap is only four months old, and it does this to me,” he swore. He took out his cell phone, and discovered that it too was dead. He swore again.

The church will have a phone, he thought, and got out of his truck, locking it by hand when the push-button lock wouldn’t work. He stormed over to the church and entered.

There were three men standing nearby, and he walked up to them. As he did, he caught sight of the painting, and walked past them to it, entirely forgetting his need for a phone.

He dropped to his knees, but unlike most prayers, he sprung to his feet within a minute. He looked up in a panic, and saw Gary walking towards him. Gary had been unable to sleep, so had gotten up to check on the men in the lobby. He was now headed to the back door to go to the shed again.

“Help me. I need help,” Hans cried out in panic. “It is my daughter. I have to get home. My truck died.”

“Quick, through here,” Gary said, recognizing the man’s need. “My truck is right out here.”

The two got into the truck, and Hans gave Gary an address in one of the nicest subdivisions in Ingersoll. As they drove, Hans said that the painting had given him a picture of his daughter hanging from a rafter in his three-car garage. There was only a short explanation. “Hurry” was all the painting told him.

Gary was speeding, and running stop signs as they headed towards the subdivision, and eventually there was a police cruiser behind them, siren wailing and lights flashing. Gary ignored it, and continued towards the house.

“Do you have a garage door opener,” Gary asked as they neared the house.”

“Yes,” Hans said. As they neared the house he started to repeatedly click it, and as they pulled into the drive, the garage door started up. They could see a ladder fall, and then as the door was up completely they saw the body hanging from the rafter, just as Hans had described.

Hans ran to his daughter, and grabbed her legs, holding her up. Gary ran to the ladder, righted it, and was up in seconds, with his always-sharp knife slicing through the thin rope that held the girl. In a second he was through it, and the girl slumped over her father’s back.

The police officer was Steve, and he had planned to arrest the truck driver for not stopping, but as soon as he exited his vehicle and saw what was happening in the garage he called his dispatch to have an ambulance sent to the home. He then ran in to help.

Hans was sobbing over his unconscious daughter and Gary was doing CPR. “Call 911,” he said between compressions.

“Already done,” Steve said, and sure enough a siren could be heard approaching.

When the EMTs arrived, they took over from Steve and got the girl into the ambulance. Hans tried to get in too, but was refused.

“Sorry sir,” the female EMT said. “But protocol in attempted suicides is that the parents are not allowed to see the patient until after a doctor has seen her. If you come to the hospital in about an hour, you should be okay.”

Hans turned away, and watched the ambulance drive away. Then he turned and stormed into the house, shouting his wife’s name. Gary and Steve followed through the open door. They found Hans in the living room, shaking his wife roughly, and yelling “Lisa, Lisa. Look what you have done. Autumn is in the hospital and it is all your fault.”

Steve pulled the man back. His shaking was verging on abuse, and the officer was worried that blows might follow. Gary went and stood in front of Hans and said: “The painting. Remember the painting. We need to go back. You. Your wife. Your daughter when she is able.”

Hans slumped in Steve’s arms, no longer in a rage. He nodded to Gary. They went and roused Lisa, who was completely intoxicated.

“Should I take her?” Steve asked.

“No, they need to do this together,” Gary said. “I’ll take them in the truck.”

They drove back to the church at a much safer pace, but just before they got there Lisa threw up, with most of it landing on Gary. He didn’t get upset, just noted to Hans “the more of that she gets out of her system, the better.”

The two men led Lisa up the ramp, feeling that the steps would be a problem in her condition, and took her into the lobby. There were two or three other prayers there but Gary helped Lisa and Hans kneel down at a rail near the painting. He turned and saw that Helen had come in.

“Can you look after them,” he said. “I need a change of clothes.”

Helen nodded, and Gary darted off to his room. He was back within five minutes, carrying three bottles of water. He knew Lisa would need fluids when she finished praying.

He returned to see Helen kneeling next to the praying woman, who had vomited again. Helen was wiping the mess from the woman’s face, hair, and clothes. She wordlessly took a bottle of water from Gary and wet her own cloak to wash the woman. Gary stood back, and thought he saw a halo around Helen’s head. His mind flashed back to the Bible reading of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples before the last supper.

But it was Steve who was most affected by the event. He too saw a halo, and as he watched his girlfriend tenderly and lovingly wash the drunken woman he felt unworthy of her love. But his love for her seemed to double, and then triple as he watched. Finally he saw them rise. Gary handed the woman, now sober, the other bottle of water, and she drained it.

“Oh my, did I do that?” she said, looking at the mess around the rail.

“Don’t worry,” Gary said. “We will clean it up. I’m just glad you are feeling better. Now you have a daughter to see to.”

“Autumn?” Lisa said. “Why? What happened? It is like I was in a fog before, but now I can see clearly.”

“It has all been my fault,” Hans confessed. “I spent too much time on the business. I thought that making money, being able to buy things for you and Autumn was the right way to be a parent. But he told me otherwise. I need to give you and Autumn my time. You two are the most important things in my life. I have been a horrible husband and father.”

“We have been given a second chance,” Lisa said, taking her husband’s arm and feeling more love for him than she had felt in years. “Now let’s go get Autumn. Where is she?”

That left Steve and Helen in the lobby. Steve wrapped his arms around the young pastor, holding her tight. She took them to a clean rail, and eased the both of them down. They spent several minutes before the painting and when they stood Helen gasped. “We are married!”

“Yes. I felt it too,” Steve said. “I saw him standing before us. He put a hand on each of our shoulder’s and said: ‘You are now one.’ We have been married by Jesus himself.

----- - - - -- - -

Rachael enjoyed her family that evening. As usual, she was the last one to bed, and read for a while until she felt sleepy.

Dear Lord

Thank you for such a lazy, uneventful day. I needed that. Other than Paul and Pastor McNaughton coming by to ask for my help tomorrow nothing much happened. I’m sure we can all convince Paul’s mother and sister that they should come to Paul and John’s wedding on Saturday.

Amen



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