A Second Chance -- Chapter 40

SecondChance.jpg

A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

In this episode we go shopping. But don’t get excited. It is man shopping. In the store and out as soon as possible. One good retail experience and one not so good Not such a long wait between chapters: Dawn.

THURSDAY, June 2, 2016

The sky was just starting to lighten as Maria walked to the bakery. She couldn’t imagine how much darker 4 a.m. would seem in the winter. She came to the back door of the bakery and slipped inside, where she saw Geoff at the mixer. She waited until he finished dumping in the flour: you don’t disturb someone emptying a 40 kg bag, even to give him a morning kiss.

He stood, and turned, and Maria made a quick “Eeeep.” It was not Geoff, but another man. She looked about in panic, and then saw Geoff standing at the other side of the bakery, chuckling.

“Were you planning on giving Mike a welcome to the bakery?” Geoff said, realizing what Maria had been thinking. She always greeted him with a kiss at work: it was one of the things that made the long hours worthwhile.

“I’m sorry,” Maria told the new man, who was Geoff’s height, but much thinner. His face was also covered in small, dark red spots. “I didn’t know that Geoff had hired someone.” She turned to Geoff: “When exactly were you planning to tell your partner about the new baker,” she said sharply.”

“Just about now,” Geoff said with a smile, walking over to his fiancé. “It happened all of a sudden last night. Rachael found Mike, and brought him in. He’s been doing a bang up job for the past five hours. He really knows his stuff.”

“Your daughter said it was my second chance,” Mike said. “If it wasn’t for her, and that nice lady pastor, I’d be sleeping in a jail cell right now. I like this much better. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed baking. I hope I can make this work.”

Geoff accepted his belated kiss, and then explained what had happened at the church the night before as the three worked. The spots on Mike’s face were from trying to shave with an old blade upstairs. Geoff had taken all his shaving gear to the new house. Mike still had scraggly long hair, but this was contained in a hairnet similar to the ones that Maria and the other girls wore when working in the back. Mike was also wearing some of Geoff’s old clothes, having taken a shower upstairs while the first bread was rising. None of Geoff’s belts would fit the skinny man, so a piece of cord held the too-large trousers up.

Maria realized that the two were hours ahead of normal in production for the day, and after only an hour she moved over to do prep work for the store: work that Carol had been doing lately. Perhaps they were going to finally catch up and have the store still containing some stock at the end of the day.

Rachael was four-and-a-half hours behind her mother in walking to the bakery. She was a bit unsure what she would find when she walked in, and was pleasantly surprised when she slipped in the door, and saw Mike and Geoff working together to take a fourth batch of Love Bread out of the oven.

“Hi sweetie,” Geoff said.

“Hello, Miss,” Mike said, continuing to work as he spoke. “I want to thank you again for making all this possible. I love working here with your parents. You don’t know how much this means to me. I would have gone to jail, and then back into the hell I was in before. I thank the Lord that he sent you to me.”

“Well, you are thanking the right person,” Rachael said. “The Lord has been working through that painting, and it is Him you need to pray to.”

“I will, Miss,” Mike said. “And I will pray for you as well.”

“You will need to, if you keep calling me ‘Miss.’ It is Rachael, please.”

“Thank you … Rachael,” Mike said. “With parents like yours it is clear how you turned out to be such a nice girl.”

Rachael headed off to school after a few more minutes. She was eager to see how Angela’s session had turned out at Xcuts yesterday.

As she waited for Angela’s bus to come in, she saw Byron also waiting, and went over to talk to him. They were chatting about the Bakery web page when she saw the boy freeze up, looking over her shoulder.

Rachael turned, and shouted out a joyful “Yeep,” as she saw Angela coming down the bus steps. She was Goth no more, and wore a blue floral top and a while skirt. Her hair was a glorious mass of crimson. Ariel was known for her shorter, designer cuts, but Angela’s style was almost as long as before, with all the black dye removed. She had bangs swept over her eyes, and longer bangs along her jawline. But the bulk of her red hair still went to her lower back. She also had much less makeup on, and her freckles shone through. They were less intense than Rachael’s old memories remembered. In fact they were quite cute.

Rachael ran up to her old friend, hugging her tightly, then stepping back while holding both her hands.

“Do you like it?” Angela asked.

“I love it. I’m surprised you have so many nice things. That outfit is perfect. When I stopped being Goth, I had trouble finding colors to wear,” Rachael babbled.

“Oh, my Mom kept buying me stuff with color, hoping I will give up Goth. She almost fell over when I came down the stairs looking like this at breakfast,” Angela said, gaining confidence as she talked to Rachael.

“Come on,” Rachael said. “I want to introduce you to someone.” She turned around and saw Byron standing with his mouth wide open. As the two girls started to approach, the boy hesitated for a minute, then bolted into the school.

“Oh, I guess he isn’t ready to meet you yet,” Rachael said.

“He hates me,” Angela said. “I must look ugly. It’s the freckles, isn’t it? I knew I should have put more makeup on.”

“Don’t be crazy,” Rachael answered. “Those freckles look perfect. If Byron doesn’t like them, there will be 20 … no 40 other boys in the class who will want to date you.”

“There are only about 40 boys in our grade,” Angela pointed out.

“Exactly. And just you remember that Robert is mine.”

Just then Rachael’s former bus arrived, and the girls got off and came up to the other girls, squealing just as much as Rachael had at her first sight of Angela. Soon their compliments and congratulations made Angela more and more confident in her new look.

Rachael caught up to Byron before first period. “What is wrong with you?” she said, lightly slapping him across the head. “Angela thought you didn’t like her new look.”

“I can’t date someone like that,” Byron confessed. “Even if it is just a $2 movie night. She is too beautiful. Someone on the cool kids table will pick her up. I’m just a nerd. Dating a Goth girl sounded okay, but when she comes in looking like that … ”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Rachael said. “She is gorgeous, I agree. But you already have a date lined up. Don’t blow it. Even if she does move on to another boy, you will have had a date with her. Other girls will see you as more dateable. And she just might like you. You are smart and good looking, for a shorter guy. And you are still taller than her. You better show up at our table at lunch, and be ready to make plans.”

“I guess,” Byron said as they sat down to class.

At lunch Byron did sit with the group, as did Angela, who reveled in being with a group that accepted her as a friend. She wondered a bit about the quiet computer-geek that she was dating tonight, who seemed to only be able to stare at her.

“Why are you staring at me?” she finally asked. “Don’t you like what you see?”

“No. I mean yes,” Byron stuttered. “It is just that you are so beautiful. You are the most beautiful girl in the school. Maybe the world.”

Angela blushed, and then said: “Okay, good answer. I guess you can stare then. Do you still want to go to movie night with me?”

“Yes please,” Byron said. The ice was broken and the two then started making plans to meet at the library.

---------

While Rachael was eating lunch, two of Gary’s old drinking buddies found him at the church shed. One was a stout fellow named Chipper, and he was with a taller man who went by Skid. Both were suffering from DTs, and begged Gary for some money to buy booze. It was three days until the welfare checks came in, and Gary remembered how bad those times were.

“I can lend you something,” Gary said, “but only if you come into the church and pray with me for a few minutes.”

“Okay,” Skid said. “Is it true that this church is going to do meals on Wednesdays?”

“Starting next Wednesday,” Gary said. He could hardly understand the slur of the men. Had he been this bad? Both men had long beards, and long scraggly hair. Chipper was wearing shoes that were duct-taped together. Skid wore better work boots, but both men were dressed in what were essentially rags. And that was giving ‘rags’ a broad definition.

The two-minute prayers turned into 15 minutes, and while the men knelt before the painting, Gary went to the kitchen, returning with a pitcher of cold water and three glasses.

When the men finally stood up, they gratefully took a glass of water from Gary, and drank deeply. They each had three or four glasses to the one Gary sipped at.

“What just happened?” Chipper said. “I feel good, and I haven’t felt good for nine years.”

“Me too,” Skid said. “I feel great.” Both men were speaking clearly now, and no longer had the shakes. Just then Pastor Helen came into the lobby to give Gary a break to go to lunch. Gary introduced her to the men, and she shook their hands sincerely, not worrying about the dirt or the way they dressed. The church motto was “All are welcome” and she lived up to those words.

“Can you take over for a little longer, today?” Gary asked. Usually he only took 15 minutes to eat lunch. “A couple hours, at least? I need to feed these guys, and get them cleaned up.”

“No problem Gary,” she said. “Take what time you need. I was going to bake this afternoon, but I will start when you get back.”

Gary led the two men back into the shed, and showed them the shower. Each of them took a turn washing and shampooing their filthy hair using Gary’s supplies. As they came out, he gave each of them a navy t-shirt from the ones he had recently bought for himself at the Goodwill store. The painting had told him to stop donating all his pay back to the church, and to build up a reserve.

The shirt was embarrassingly tight on Chipper, but much better than what he had been wearing for the past five months. Skid’s shirt fit better. Both men had to wear their old pants, but Gary found an old pair of sneakers for Chipper that were a size too big, but workable.

The men followed their lengthy showers with a spell at the sink, where Gary loaned each a razor blade to let them shave their matted beards away. Meanwhile, Gary was cooking up a meal. It was only a pair of cans of tinned stew, but the aromas had the men salivating.

Skid finished shaving first, and was setting the small table as Gary manned the hotplate. Chipper finished shaving, and sighed in relief at having a smooth face. His eyes caught sight of two boxes of barber clippers. These were from Xcuts. Gary had taken the broken clippers Ariel had given him and cobbled together three good sets, leaving only spare parts in the one box. When he presented the fixed tools to Ariel, she had squealed with joy, and then gave him the ones she had been using, asking that he sharpen and tune them. It was this box that Chipper had noticed.

“This takes me back,” the chubby man said. “I was a barber for 10 years. I had to give it up when I got the shakes. Look.” He picked up a set of clippers, and held it out. His eyes went wide.

“You don’t seem to be shaking at all,” Gary noted, stirring the stew.

“I don’t,” Chipper gasped. “I mean, I bet I could cut hair again.” He looked at Skid. “Are you up for a trim.”

“God yes, it would be great to get rid of this mop. It isn’t as bad now that it is clean, but I’d love to have you cut it.”

“And maybe I can teach one of you guys how to cut mine,” Chipper said.

“After lunch,” Gary said. “I’ll bet you guys are hungry.”

They were. With no soup kitchen in town on Wednesdays the men hadn’t eaten for nearly two days, and the Tuesday meal had been at the Catholic Church hall, and they tended to have smaller portions. Far less than a man Chipper’s size desired.

The shed was quiet as the three men ate their meal of stew and Love Bread.

“Good bread,” Chipper said as he took a break from filling his face.

“Good food,” Skid agreed, as he shoveled in another spoon of stew.

Gary ate lightly, with a small bowl of stew and several slices of bread, leaving most of the food to the men. When the stewpot was scrapped clean, Chipper took it and a slice of bread. “This is probably pretty rude, but I’m doing it anyway,” he said, as he wiped the edges and bottom of the pot with the bread, getting the last possible bits of gravy out. The pot looked nearly clean when he was done.

“That was great,” he said when he finished the last bit of gravy and bread. “Now to work. Pull your chair up to the door, so I have good light,” he told Skid.

“Wait,” Gary said. “Come with me.” He led the men back to the unorganized part of the shed. He moved a few things, and suddenly uncovered an old 1950s barber chair. “Will this help?”

“That is perfect,” Chipper said. “It looks in great shape.” The three men hauled the heavy chair out near the door, and found that while the pump to raise the seat didn’t work, it was otherwise in good, if not great, condition.

Skid sat in it, and Chipper took the scissors and tools that were waiting to be sharpened. He started clipping and snipping, all the while explaining what he was doing to Gary, in hopes that the caretaker could cut his hair after.

It took a half hour, but at the end Skid looked nothing like the hobo who had come into the shed several hours earlier. Chipper sat down and, watching carefully in the mirror Skid held, led Gary through the process of cutting the barber’s hair.

“Not bad for a first attempt,” Chipper said, as he looked at his hair in the mirror. “I feel like a new man. I could give cuts to all the guys … if I could borrow the chair and the tools. In fact, I think at least one more clipper could be built out of those spare parts.”

Gary suddenly had an idea. He had several things ready for the bake sale on Saturday, which was going to include a sale of refurbished items from the shed. But looking after the lobby had taken a lot of his time, and he hadn’t nearly enough work done.

“Guys, I have a deal for you. If you want, you can stay here tonight, and until Sunday at least. I’ll feed you, and get you some better fitting clothes. Then one of you can look after the lobby while the other helps me in here fixing up things for our sale on Saturday.”

“I’m pretty good at tinkering and fixing stuff,” Chipper said.

“Great. What about you, Skid? What did you do before … ?”

“I was a carpenter. A pretty good one, too. I mostly did decks and additions, the odd bathroom or kitchen, but I did do a few complete houses.”

“Roofs? Shingling?” Gary asked.

“Piece of cake,” Skid said.

“Well we have a few projects around here you could work on. The church needs a new roof badly, and also there is a balcony that we can’t use. The fire marshal closed it down years ago because there is only the one exit. If we could get a fire escape built at the other end, we could get another 150 seats to the services. And that side of the church is hidden from the road, so it doesn’t have to look pretty.”

“If I build anything on His church, then it will look pretty,” Skid vowed. “I’ll take a look and maybe I can draw something up while I am looking after the lobby.”

Just then the van from the Bread Baron pulled into the lane to the shed. Mike hopped out and approached the men. “Hi Gary,” he said. “I’m just off work, and Geoff gave me the van and a few dollars advance. I was going to Goodwill or somewhere to buy clothes and shaving stuff. Get a haircut too. I was wondering if you needed anything.”

“Well we can handle the haircut right here,” Chipper said cheerfully. “Step into my barber shop.” He led Mike in, and half an hour later the baker had a cut shorter than Geoff’s.

“I will take you up on your offer to head out,” Gary said. “While you were getting beautiful, I checked in the Pastor Helen, and she is happy looking after the lobby. We can take an hour or two to get you guys all accommodated.”

They drove first to Goodwill, and were astounded to find a rack of beige trousers in all sizes for only $5 each. It turned out that there was a defect in the sewing, with a darker shade of material on one panel. The manager came out to make sure the men knew the pants were seconds, and explained.

“They were made in China,” she said. “Lately they have been turning out pretty good product, but they work a pretty tight operation there, and I guess someone decided to ship defective product to Canada rather than miss deadlines. I managed to get them from the importer for fifty cents a pair. I thought it would be a no-brainer to move them, but no one wants defective trousers, I guess. The 16 pair you fellows have are the first ones we have sold. And I have about 100 more in the back.”

“Really,” Gary said. “What would you sell the lot for?”

“If you guys pay $5 each for the pairs you have, I’d sell the rest at cost. That would be 16 pairs at $5 each, and the other 132 for $66 total.”

“Sold,” Gary said. “Now we need t-shirts, socks and men’s underwear. I got some nice navy t-shirts for $4 each a week or so ago.”

“Yes, I thought I recognized my shirts on three of you. We still have a lot of them left.”

“How much by the dozen: like two dozen?” Gary asked.

“I can do $3 each. No, $2.50.”

“Socks?”

“I have these packages of 10 pairs for $5 a package.”

“I’ll take five. Underpants?”

“I have three brands. The Stanfield’s are cheapest with packs of five for $8.”

“10 packs,” Gary said.

“$60 then,” the manager said.

“Finally, sneakers. What size are you, Chipper?”

“Nine wide,” the barber said.

“I have some used ones,” she said. “Pick anything from the middle shelf and I’ll throw it in free. You are buying a lot.”

It was a lot, about $220 for the entire bill, although it was split up with Mike paying $40 for his share. The back of the van was loaded with clothes, with Gary promising to return the hangers the next week.

From there Mike drove them to a Shopper’s Drug Mart, where all the men wanted to buy toiletries. They entered the store and headed straight for the shaving section. Each man picked up a packet of blades, and all but Gary also got a can of shaving cream. He got a large package of soap bars, and some cleaning supplies. That was when he noticed one of the pharmacists had approached.

The druggist had seen the men the minute they walked in. The shaven faces and new haircuts had cleaned them up a bit, but they still had their old pants on, and ill-fitting (Chipper) tops. The druggist immediately decided that they were street people, and liable to steal anything they could from the stores.

“Can I help you gentlemen with anything?” the man asked, sneering slightly on the word ‘gentlemen.’

“Yes, in fact you can,” Mike said. “I need to buy a gift for a girl of about 13 or 14. What would you suggest?”

“Well, we do have a jewelry selection, but it can be quite expensive.” Another sneer.

“I can spend $25, I think,” Mike said.

“If that is for Rachael, then I will double it,” Gary said. “What do you have for around $50?”

Just then a police cruiser pulled up at the store, and the pharmacist breathed a sign of relief. When the officer walked in, he waved him over to the group.

“Hi Gary. And Mike, isn’t it?” Constable Steve said cheerily.

Mike winced at seeing the purple and black welts on the side of Steve’s head. “I’m going to have to buy you a gift too,” he said sorrowfully.

“No need,” Steve said. He turned to the pharmacist: “What can I do for you?”

“You know these men?”

“I do. Two of them at least. I don’t think you need to fear what you were afraid of.”

“Oh. Good. It’s just that we got a shipment of Oxy in this morning, and I was worried.”

Steve looked at Mike, and saw a flicker of desire in his eyes, replaced immediately be a stoic look, and a smile. At that instant the former drug addict knew that he was really cured.

“That isn’t something you should mention in public,” Steve warned the pharmacist. “Especially in front of men who you had thought so poorly of. Don’t worry, I will stay with these guys until they leave.”

The pharmacist paled at the realization of what he had said. He called over a girl from the jewelry counter and then fled back to the prescriptions area.

The men explained to the girl what they wanted and their budget, and she made several suggestions.

“I know young girls sometimes like charm bracelets. We have a nice silver one for $45.95 and a silver-plate one at $25.95 if you wanted to buy a few charms for it.”

She pulled up a large assortment of charms, with nearly 200 on the tray. “Unfortunately we only have charms in pure silver or gold.”

The men looked over the charms for a moment, and then Gary saw what he was looking for. There were small charms shaped like men, women, and children of each sex. “How much are those?” he asked.

“Those are quite small,” she said. “The silver ones are $5 each.”

“I need five,” Gary said. He turned to Mike. “If you buy the silver-plate bracelet, I’ll get the charms. They will represent the men that she had saved. The pastor and the four of us.”

“No,” Const. Steve said. “Get the pure silver bracelet. I’ll pay half. And I need a woman charm as well. It will represent Helen. Rachael is the reason my fiancé came to town. I owe her as much as you guys do.”

“Not nearly as much,” Mike said softly, and Gary nodded. “But we’ll gladly go in with you. When will we give it to her?”

“I was thinking of after school,” Mike said. “I’m heading back to the bakery after we finish here. I can call you when she gets in.”

The girl at the counter had attached the charms and the men took the small box, along with all their other purchases, over to the checkout to pay, to the surprise of the pharmacist still watching them from the back.

Outside, Mike asked Const. Steve if he wanted a call to come to the bakery when they presented the gift. He declined, just asking that they tell her that he shared in the sentiment.

Mike drove the men back to the shed, where he and Gary unloaded their purchases. Gary had to find a spot to hold the other 130 pairs of pants, while the other two put on their pairs, watching their old ones practically disintegrate as they did. Before Mike drove home, Gary made an announcement.

“These pants are pretty distinctive. Almost like a uniform. I want to suggest that we form a new group, dedicated to helping those in need. We’ll call it the Hobo Army, since we were all on the streets. Chipper can give haircuts. Skid can help people who need carpentry work, or new roofs. Don’t worry. I think we will have a lot of help for you soon. That’s why I bought all the pants and more shirts than just the few of us need. Are you in?”

They all agreed, although Mike said he could only be an associate member, or an auxiliary because his first duty would be to the bakery. He would join in on his days off. Gary agreed, and Mike left.

Gary took Skid up to the lobby and after relieving Pastor Helen, explained what his duties would be as greeter.

Gary then went back to the shed with Chipper to start working on products for Saturday’s sale.

---------

After school Rachael rushed home. She was going to meet Robert at Movie Night, and wanted to get a dinner made for the family. As usual, she stopped into the bakery to say ‘Hi’ to everyone.

When she got to the back, she found her Mom sitting on the workbench, massaging Geoff’s shoulders. Mike was doing something over the stove, but moved it off the heat and darted into the office, coming back less than a minute later.

“Wow, what a bunch of lazybones,” Rachael quipped at her relaxed parents.

“I’ll have you know that we made more product today than we have on most Saturdays. And sold it too. Not only that, but I’ve got dinner ready for the family tonight. You get the night off. Look in the proofer,” Maria said. Rachael did so, and found two large flat pieces of dough.

“We’re having pizza made with Love Bread dough,” Maria explained. Mrs. Dasilva sold me a jar of her sauce, and we also got pepperoni, salami, baby tomatoes, olives, and mushrooms for toppings at her store.”

“Along with a lot of mozzarella cheese. We’ll take it home at six, and you will be able to eat at least one slice before you come back for Movie Night,” Geoff said.

“Or you could keep two slices here, and eat it in the bakery, and then go to movie night,” Maria suggested.

“The last sounds best,” Rachael said. “I like to get to the library first to get things set up.”

“Is your farmer friend coming?” Geoff asked.

“Robert? Yes. He does extra chores during the week to be able to get Thursday’s off.”

“Tell him that I’m going to be able to join the rest of the family on Friday night,” Geoff said.

“You know that we won’t finish up till around 10,” Rachael warned. “Don’t you have to start baking at 11?”

“Not anymore. Mike can handle opening. I’ll start at 11 with him tonight, but on Saturday he can prep the early doughs, and I’ll come in at 4 with your Mom. We are finally going to get to a decent work schedule around here. I’ll work next Monday, but after that Mike will work alone. He will get Sunday and Tuesday off. The girls in the front will get Wednesday and Thursdays off, and your Mom will be off on Monday with me.”

“What is Mike doing working?” Rachael asked. “I mean he started at 11. That’s 17 hours ago.”

“I sent him home at noon. He got a haircut, some new clothes and shaving stuff for the room upstairs. But the man is a maniac, and he came back a couple hours later with a bag of lemons from Dasilvas. He even tried to pay for them with his advance money.”

“Whatcha making, Mike?” Rachael asked.

“Lemon pie filling,” Mike replied. “It’s done now, and should be cool enough for a taste, if you blow on the spoon first.”

Rachael, then Geoff, and finally Maria each had a spoonful of the filling and all three of them had the same reaction with eyes going wide at the taste of the warm sauce.

“That’s great, Mike,” Geoff said. “But isn’t it a lot of work? I mean; my supplier sells me a 10 kilogram box of lemon filling for only $50.”

“Take a taste of that,” Mike suggested, and all three of them did. This time the reaction was more of ‘yuck’.

“Throw that box away,” Geoff ordered. “I’m not going to give that stuff to my customers a minute longer. We’ll make fresh pies in the morning and use your stuff.”

“Great, boss,” Mike said. “But we can do a lot more with that filling. Tarts for one. And the Nanaimo bars you sell would be tasty with just a small bead of the lemon piped along the tops. And I know a dynamite recipe for a lemon squares from my old bakery. Recipes have been coming back to me all day long. I’ll write a few out tonight.”

“What about powdered donuts with lemon filling,” Rachael said. “The better donut places have them, but with only that normal filling. We could do other flavors too. Raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, vanilla, butterscotch, banana.”

“I’m seeing another Love Bread thing coming on,” Maria said. “Donuts with homemade fillings. You’ll have to come up with a name for them, Rachael.”

Just then, Gary’s pickup pulled up in front of the shop, and the church caretaker came into the back. He walked over to Mike, who nodded his head, and then they walked over to Rachael.

“Miss Baron,” Gary said. “My Angel. On behalf of Mike and Constable Steve, who couldn’t be here, we would like to present your with this small token of our love and thanks to you, for all you have done.” He handed Rachael a jewelry box, as Maria gasped.

Rachael opened the box, and found the charm bracelet. She looked at the collection of tiny men and the woman. Mike took over. “These characters all represent people you have saved, or done good for. The first man is Pastor McNaughton, who you saved with your CPR skills. At the other end in Pastor Helen, who Constable Steve claims wouldn’t have come to town if not for you. This one is me, and this one is Gary. We wouldn’t have gotten a second chance, if not for you. And these last two are for men you haven’t met yet, but have been saved as sure as anything. They prayed at the painting this morning, and are now working for Gary at the church.”

Gary then explained the concept of the Hobo Army. The main idea was that as the painting cures street-people in town, they will need something to do. The Hobo Army will go through the neighborhood and help those in need. Cutting lawns, weeding gardens, doing carpentry repairs. The Army will provide those services on a volunteer basis.

Rachael had tears in her eyes at the sweet gift the men gave her. She rewarded each of them with a kiss on the cheek after putting the bracelet on. It was so nice to be recognized for what was happening, but it really wasn’t her. It was the Lord’s work.

Gary left soon after, but the others all chatted until six, with Rachael and Maria making the pizzas, which went into the still-hot oven and came out just as the store was closed. Carol came in from the front, and told them that the last few customers had smelled the pizza, and wanted to make orders.”

“No, no, no,” Maria said, taking the pizza from the oven with the thick Love Bread crust risen nearly an inch thick on the edges. “We are not opening this place for longer hours.” Carol and Jennifer came to the back and got a small slice each, while Mike and Rachael got two full slices each. Maria then put another slice on Mike’s plate. “You need to put some weight on those bones. Eat. Enjoy. And then get some sleep. I’ll be putting Geoff to bed shortly.”

“Remember to undo Grandpa’s buttons before you go to bed,” Rachael reminded her Mom as she and Geoff left out of the back door with the rest of the pizza. Rachael and Mike then sat down and ate their slices.

It was 6:30 when Rachael walked the few steps to the library, and Byron was already there, waiting for Angela. Heather was librarian this evening, and Rachael went in to see her. “No need to clean up quite so well tonight,” Heather said. “The Grade Sevens from your school came in yesterday and asked for permission to have movie nights for these last two weeks. Agnes said we have a few hours available this month, so we will open tomorrow for them.”

Just then Carly, Mikki, and Larissa came in. “Carly,” Rachael said. “The Grade Sevens are having a movie night tomorrow. Do you have plans?”

“Nothing special, Leon is taking me out for a drive on Saturday, but Friday I was just going to watch TV.”

“You should come down and help the Grade Sevens. After all, it was you talking to them that got them to set up the night. If you help, it will cinch your position as Top Girl.”

“Yeah, it could. I should talk to them at lunch tomorrow again. Do you think Tony will be able to supply them pop and popcorn at the normal prices?”

“There he is. Go ask. But I think he was saying there was going to be popcorn left over that would go stale over the summer,” Carly headed after the young boy carrying two cases of soda. Mikki, naturally, followed to join her boyfriend.

“Mme. Heather,” Larissa said. “I wonder what the process is to make a new program at the library. My mother, she is new to town, and doesn’t speak English well. I think she is lonely. My father has his job, and Marc and I have made friends, but she has nothing but her house, and the television, which only carries two French channels. I was thinking that she could volunteer and run a “French for Tots and Toddlers” program. Reading them books from the library and maybe teaching them their numbers in French. It would put them a bit ahead when they get to school.”

“You said the magic word … ‘volunteer,’ Heather giggled. “Tell her to come down sometime next week during the afternoon. Agnes speaks a bit of French. More than me, at any rate, and they can work something out. We have some French children’s books in the library, but can get more on transfer from the other branches.”

With Carly upstairs, Larissa and Rachael went out to the street. They wanted the other students to see Carly as organizer of the popular event. They got out just as Angela got out of a car. The man driving remained there, and Angela went up to Byron, saying: “Dad wants to talk to you.” The young boy gulped, and then went and got into the front of the car, which drove up a half block so that other cars could drop off students.

“This is so embarrassing,” Angela said. “Making Byron go through all that, when this is barely a date.” The girls chatted, complimenting Angela again on the cute and colorful outfit she had chosen.

“Mom is in love with Byron, even before meeting him. She thinks I stopped being Goth because of him, “ Angela said. “She actually told Dad that he was not to do that, and look what happens. She will go ballistic at him when we get home.”

“Don’t be upset,” Rachael said. “He is doing it because he loves you, and he wants to make sure that the boys that date you are good guys. Byron is, so there should be no problem.”

A few minutes later Byron got out of the car, which drove off. He walked back to the girls and seemed to be relieved that it was not just the two of them.”

“Come on,” Rachael said. “Let’s go upstairs. It is nearly 7. And Byron: take Angela’s hand. It is a date, you know.”

This resulted in both of them going red, but obeying, and the four got up just a few minutes before show time. Byron showed Angela to one of the pairs of seats, and then went to get sodas and popcorn for them. He sat down just as the movie started, but Rachael didn’t see that, because her attentions were on Robert.

There was less kissy-kissy at this show, although Larissa and Mark certainly kept their end up. The first half hour of the show had several Charlie Chaplin silent shorts from YouTube, most with musical accompaniment. These had the students laughing in their chairs at the antics of the Little Tramp. The film of The General also had sound, but just music, as it was also a silent film as well. It was only 75 minutes long, just long enough for the attention spans of 21st century kids.

The result was that the movie night was over before 9 instead of 10 like when longer shows were presented. Before Carly led the clean up, she announced that next week would be the last of the series (groans) until September when they would all be high school students (cheers). She said that Heather in the library had contacted a library in Toronto to get a special show in for the finale in the series, Rocky Horror Picture Show (huge cheers).

Then it was cleanup and students out on the streets, which were still light in the evening dusk. Angela and Byron were both waiting for rides. Rachael stood next to Bryon and whispered. “Did you kiss her yet?” And heard “No. Should I? What if she doesn’t want to kiss?” whispered back.

“You can always ask,” Rachael said. “But you will want to do it before her Dad shows up, won’t you?” She was amused by the shocked and scared look on the boy’s face. He quickly moved over to Angela, and while she couldn’t hear it, she imagined that he was asking her if she wanted to kiss. She nodded her head, and the two had a fairly short, but tender kiss on the lips. And to make the timing perfect, Angela’s mother appeared just then, and beeped her horn. Angela hugged Byron, and said bye before running off to tattle on her father.

Byron’s ride, a brother, was also waiting in line to pickup his brother, and was astonished to see his nerdy little brother kiss such a hot redhead.

Most of the kids were gone, but Robert was still there. “I messed up,” he admitted. “I told the guys that it was over at 10, not 9, so I’ll just have to wait.”

“You certainly will not,” Rachael said. “Text them and tell them to pick us up at the new house. We can wait there.”

He did, and they did, finding the house quiet when they got there. After she checked on Bobby and Grandpa, both well asleep, she opened the fridge to find two slices of pizza left. She microwaved them, and shared them with Robert, who was astounded at the flavor in the reheated slices.

Right at 10 sharp Peter pulled into the drive, and Robert got one last pizza-flavored kiss before running out to the car.

“Who is the hot blonde?” Peter said. “I thought you were dating Rachael.”

“That was Rachael,” Robert said. “She got all the black hair cut off earlier in the week.”

“Damn. Now my little brother has a hotter girlfriend that I do,” Peter said.

“Oh, should I tell that to Maddy?” Robert said with a smile.

“Don’t you dare, or you’ll be walking everywhere,” Peter said. “Damn. A blonde.”

Inside, Rachael was ready for bed, and knelt down.

Dear Lord

Thank you for a wonderful day. I got a beautiful charm bracelet from the guys. They think it is me that has done all these wonderful things, and we both know it has all been you. I hope that Larissa’s mom can get something going at the library to make her feel needed. I should have gotten out to visit her more often, since so few other people in town speak French. I think I will invite them over for Sunday dinner. She will love talking with Grandpa. I know Larissa did. And finally, thanks for making the Hobo Army. I see them doing wonderful things for you. For us.

Amen



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
225 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 7102 words long.