A Second Chance -- Chapter 44

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A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

This makes six chapters in two weeks. I am going to slow down a bit, and aim for two more next week: Dawn.

MONDAY, June 6, 2016

One of the things the family had talked about at Sunday night was having a pizza party at the bakery Monday for the staff when they all came in to pick up their pays. Rachael suggested inviting Ruby and Darla to introduce them to everyone. On the way in to school Rachael popped in to the bakery with the additional idea that they should invite the employees to bring their families, as a kind of staff benefit.

She decided to stop in at Dasilva’s for a moment to ask Mamma if she had any of her tomato sauce for the pizzas. Inside there was a new face, a young woman of about 20 with a very thick Italian accent. It took Rachael a minute to explain that she needed to talk to Mamma, who finally came out. Rachael said they would be getting pizza fixings after school, and reserved three jars of the sauce. She hoped to take one and whatever was left of the second jar home.

At school, she found Byron and Angela waiting for her outside, holding hands. Rachael smiled, and then the others asked her to come into the library to see something. When they got there Byron opened his laptop, and showed Rachael a beautiful web page for The Bread Baron.

“That is gorgeous,” Rachael said, as he flipped from one page to another. The ordering page looked exactly like what they needed.

“It isn’t coded yet,” Byron said, “I need to get prices and product names from your parents before I do that.”

“We have been talking about weekly specials, where something is only available on one day of the week, or maybe two. Can you do that?”

“I wasn’t planning it, but we could do it in two ways. When people start an order we can have them select the pickup day, and only show the products that are available on that day. Or we could show everything, but have the products that are not available greyed out and unselectable.”

Rachael pondered. “If people can see something, and are not be able to pick it, it could confuse them. But if they wanted something not available that day, they would wonder why it doesn’t show up. Could we use the first option, but have a list at the bottom showing all the items not available that day. Then they might see their product down there and know why they can’t get it.”

“Yep. Can do. After I talk to your parents and get the okay, I’ll link the pages, write a SQL database, and write the php programs to make it all work,” Byron said.

“I know what some of those words mean,” Rachael said, looking at Angela. “Do you?”

“No. All I learned this weekend was that By is a genius, and a great teacher. He taught me a lot of HTML,” Angela said.

“And I discovered that Angela is a great designer,” Byron said. “In the past my pages have always looked boring and derivative. But Angela is really good with colors, and can make pages that pop.”

“Well those two really do pop,” Rachael agreed. “They look like a professional did them.”

“They were done by professionals. A and B Web Developers,” Byron said. “That is what we are going to call ourselves.”

Just then the warning bell rang, so the students had to hustle to get to their French class. PE followed, and then lunch.

“Who was the new girl in your store?” Rachael asked Tony at lunch. “I stopped in this morning. She sounded Italian.”

“Oh, that is Sophia, a cousin of mine, or Mammas, I’m not sure which,” he said. “Last week she got laid off from the grocery store she was working at in Toronto. She is not a citizen yet, and if she has no job she has to go back to Italy. So she came here. I have a lot of cousins in Toronto, and they think that because we own a store we are rich, and can give them jobs. Mamma is always telling them no, and they get upset.”

“The store is doing better, especially with all the people who see your signs in the bakery telling them to check us out,” Tony said. “But it is only so busy, and having one more mouth to feed will be hard on us. Two other cousins are doing drywall in Toronto and hate it, and want to come too. Italians are big on family, and it is so hard on Mamma to say no.”

“I have an idea,” Rachael said. “Can you and your parents come to the bakery right at 6, when the store closes? Come to the back door and just pop in. We are having a pizza night and I think I can help. Plus you will get to meet our new neighbors at the meat market.”

“Okay, I will ask them,” Tony said. “They are very interested in the meat market. They wonder if it will duplicate the things we sell.”

“I don’t think so,” Rachael said. “They are going to be selling fresh meat, chicken, and maybe fish. No cold cuts or prepared meats. Sausage would be the closest thing, but theirs will be uncooked, while yours are pre-cooked.”

After lunch, the girls started working on the credits to the movie, and to their surprise they finished a half hour before the end of class. Mikki proudly burned the video to a DVD and handed it to Mr. Churchill. He allowed the students to leave early, and Mikki and Rachael went to the new store to collect Ruby and Darla, who were hard at work sweeping and painting. Ruby wanted to have the store open by the end of the month.

They wrapped things up, and the four headed over to the bakery. On the way, Darla asked Rachael if she could wash up and have Rachael redo her makeup.

“And they thought you were a boy,” Mikki teased, but hugged her at the same time so she would not get upset.

“Sure. You are a bit dusty. Did Darrel go to school today?” Rachael asked.

“Just for the morning. Ruby got me out of afternoon classes. PE and Math, which I am really good at,” she said. “I went home and changed into this, and was helping Ruby. We mostly were going in to just decide where things would go, but it was so dusty after sitting empty after a year, we just had to sweep up and clean the window. And then the back wall really needed a coat of paint. I must look a mess now.”

“Not really,” Rachael said. “Although you forgot your other earring. This thing today is just casual for you to meet our staff and their families.” Darla took out the one earring that she had put in when in boy mode.

At the bakery, Rachael first introduced Ruby to Mike, who wanted to invite her to the restaurant supply yard tomorrow. Rachael and Mikki crammed into the small downstairs toilet to help Darla apply another coat of makeup, knowing that it would improve her confidence.

Then the three girls headed off to Dasilva’s to get fixings for the pizzas. Mamma Dasilva refused to charge for the sauce, since it was not a store product, and her family was going to eat the pizzas too. But Rachael did get her to charge for the meats, vegetables, mushrooms, and cheese that were to be toppings. Mamma promised that they would be there as soon as they could clear the store after six.

“Pappa, he wants to do his closing things first,” she said, “but I say ‘party first’ then we come back and clean up. We come as soon as we able.”

The girls went back to the bakery and took over the bread bench, preparing toppings. Mike had several pizza-sized Love bread doughs in the proofer rising, and was also working on one crust with a block of cheddar cheese. He was trying to make a stuffed crust pizza with the cheese in the crust. Ruby had finished talking to him, and moved over to help the girls, greatly easing Darla’s anxiety.

At 5:45 the pizzas were ready and went into the oven. The girls had made five, and Mike’s attempt was a sixth one. A bread oven is not as hot as a pizza oven, so it would take a half hour to cook the pies.

When Rachael had texted Maria at lunch, asking that the Dasilva’s come in, Maria had contacted the other shop owners in the plaza, and everyone else was coming, although only one of the librarians (Heather) was free. There would be 29 people there in total, counting two babies.

Geoff took off at 5:30, and went to Swiss Chalet to get two quarter-chicken dinners, then picked his mother up. She would keep Grandpa company for dinner. Bobby had been walking and feeding the dogs, and got a ride back to the bakery with his new Dad, although he looked hungrily at the chicken dinners. In the end pizza won out, and he was happy to go to the bakery.

The Stoner’s arrived at 5:30, with Danni making a bee-line to hug Rachael, and then Darla, to her surprise. Soon after Doug arrived with his mother and younger sister. Ariel came at 5:50, having no evening appointments. The men from the art gallery arrived right on time. They normally closed the gallery on Mondays and Tuesdays, but had driven in from their home in the country. Carol was still working but her husband and infant daughter (who Rachael immediately took from her dad) were next in. Jennifer and her daughter rode in with them, so Maria also wound up with a baby in her arms. A few minutes after six Heather arrived from the library, and at 6:10 the Dasilvas came in the back door. Everyone was introduced just before the pizza’s came out of the oven.

There were no chairs for so many, but Mike pulled out plastic buckets that lard and shortening came in. The 20 kg. pails made perfect seats. Kyle pulled some out for his family, and Doug made sure that seats were available in a corner for Ruby and Darla. Geoff unloaded the pizza from the oven, and it was perfectly done. Mike’s attempt at stuffed crust was a failure though, with cheese running out onto the pan.

“You’re cleaning that pan,” Geoff ordered with a smile, and Mike agreed, looking at the mess and saying: “I know what I did wrong. It will work next time.”

“Mmmmm, smells like home,” Mamma Dasilva said. Tony was sitting next to Sophia, translating for her, with Mikki sitting on his other side, holding his hand in a proprietary manner: at least until they each wound up holding slices of pizza on napkins.

After everyone had a first slice, and some had gone back for seconds, Geoff stood and welcomed everyone. “We decided last night to have a staff party to celebrate the recent success of the bakery, and to welcome the newest and final addition to our little plaza. Ruby and her sister Darla will be opening a meat market in the vacant unit, along with their brother Chuck, who you won’t see much of, since he will be doing the heavy butchering at the farm location of the current store. What is the store called?”

“It will be Chuck and Sisters Meat Market,” Ruby said. “A recent change from Chuck and Sister, due to Darla joining us.”

“I’m sure you will be selling Chuck, but will you be selling Sisters as well?” Doug quipped, and everyone laughed except Sophia, who chuckled after Tony translated and explained the humor.

“Now I want to turn it over to Rachael,” Geoff said. “She has another idea.”

“I’m happy everyone came,” Rachael said. “It is nice to get together like this, and I hope we can do it again. I’m sure there are a lot of ways that we can help each other in the plaza.”

“Well, I made my first sale for the new store,” Ruby said. “Mike has ordered sausages and the fixings for meat pies.”

“Exactly. And that is something else I had in mind,” Rachael said. “We had a smaller pizza party in the store a last week, and Carol noted that some late customers in the bakery wanted to order the pizza’s that we were making. Mom immediately kiboshed that idea, since we would be working around the clock. But Tony told me today that the Dasilva’s have cousins in Toronto who would like to work here in Ingersoll, and I thought that a pizza place at Dasilva’s would complement their existing business, if the cousins were to run it in the evenings, when the store was closed.”

Papa Dasilva looked pensive. “Thisa pizza is very good. Very Italian with Mamma’s sauce. But there isa no room in store for pizza oven and tables.”

“But it could work,” Tony said jumping on the idea. “You don’t need tables. In Canada people buy pizza to take home, or have delivered. We would have to make some of the vegetable bins smaller. Divide one bin for two products. Some things don’t sell fast enough to merit their own bin.”

“You would need an oven, a workspace, and storage. And a counter with a till up front,” Mike said. “If you used half the width of the store, and about 1/3 of the way back, there should be enough space for a takeout place. If there are no tables, you won’t need public washrooms.”

“We bring cousins in, where they live?” Pappa asked. “Tony sleeps on da couch already, Sofia is in his old room. Three, four more cousins: we have to put them on the floor?”

“Maybe not,” Rachael said. “Ruby: have you decided what to do with the apartment over your store?”

“No I haven’t,” Ruby said. “I was thinking about Darla using it, but it seems like she is going to be happy living at home. I know I will soon be living with JJ at Archie’s place. I could rent it out.”

“Perfect,” Mamma said. “One bedroom for da boys, one for Sophia and da girls. Tony getsa his bedroom back.”

“Pizza oven costa lotta money,” Pappa argued. “Where money come from?”

“Well, first of all, you buy used equipment at first,” Rachael said. “Mike and Chipper and perhaps Gary will be going to a used equipment place tomorrow. At least have them look at what is available, and what it will cost. Then you can make a budget and a business plan, and let the bank finance it.”

“Not the bank,” Geoff noted. “The credit union. When I was starting up I applied to three banks. One wouldn’t even give me a meeting. Bill Strong, the man who I think all of us dealt with to rent our places suggested I try the credit union. It turns out that he is on the loans committee there, and we got a loan there at a much better rate than the banks.”

“Signore Strong, help us with a loan, too,” Pappa said. “Maybe he give another one for pizza place.”

“When you meet with the loan committee, you need to take in pizzas for them,” Rachael said. “They will know it is a good product and you will get your money for sure.”

The group talked about the pizza place for a while, and general things as well. Ruby left her seat and came over to Rachael.

“Is that Doug character safe?” Ruby asked. “He has been chatting up Darla pretty hard over there. I don’t want her to get her heart broken so soon.”

“Doug is a great guy,” Rachael said. “He is practically supporting his mother and sister. Does Darla seem interested?”

“She does. That is what is worrying me.”

Rachael walked over and sat on the pail that Ruby had left. “Ruby says you guys are chatting. Are you interested in taking it further?”

Doug nodded first, and then Darla agreed. “You know Darla is only 14, Doug?” He nodded. “Doug is 16.”

“Oh,” Darla said. “He seems so nice.”

“He is. And in September we will all be in high school together. But we will be in Grade 9, and he will be in Grade 11.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Darla said.

“Look, our school has a movie night every Thursday, and we are closing the term with Rocky Horror Picture Show this week. I can get you tickets if the two of you want to come. Just remember it is all middle schoolers, Doug.”

“How much does it cost?” Doug said.

“I think the rich baker’s boy can afford it,” Rachael quipped. “We only charge $2 for a pop and popcorn. It is in the library at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Do you want to come?”

“Do you?” Doug asked gently. Darla finally nodded yes.

“Well I sure do,” Doug said. “Darla is prettier than any of the girls I know in high school, and talking to her she seems great. I’d love to get to know her better before September when all the high school guys will be asking her out. She might not like me: I’m just a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks, but I’d like a chance.”

“You may be poor,” Rachael said. “And I know about being poor. But you are what my mom and I call ‘one of the good ones’.”

Doug had to leave soon after, and Rachael walked Ruby and Darla out of the bakery and back to their own store.

“Is it a good idea?” Darla said. “Going on a date with a boy, when I am still a boy at school?”

“You dress as a boy at school,” Rachael said. “You are totes a girl. Yeah, it is pretty soon to be dating, but Doug is a good guy. You just have to remember that if it starts to so somewhere, then you will need to tell him the truth.”

Darla looked horrified, and glanced at her sister, who nodded agreement.

“But that will only be if starts going somewhere,” Rachael said. “It might only be one date that means nothing.”

“But he would hate me,” Darla said. “A guy like that deserves a real girl.”

“Yes he does. And you are a real girl. And if he hates you for what you are, then he is not a good enough guy for you. But I know Doug, and I think he will accept you.”

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

Earlier in the day, at the church Gary was at the back of the building where the entire Hobo Army was working. On Saturday footing forms had been built after the sale, and after church on Sunday the forms had been filled with concrete, and were now set. A truck had been dispatched to the lumber store, and Skid was expected back soon with a load of supplies.

Just then Deacon Jefferson arrived, quite irate. In his day job as an insurance agent he had time to deal with church affairs, and now he was just returned from four days in Las Vegas where his company convention was.

“What is going on here?” he yelled at the workers.

Gary stepped forward. “We are building a fire escape for the balcony.”

“We can’t afford that,” the deacon said. “And we need a new roof before we spend any other money. You know that. I said you could spend up to $250 without authorization. And this is going to cost a lot more than that.”

“Actually it will only cost $250 of church money,” Gary said calmly. “Donations will cover the other $5000 Skid says it will cost. The men here are donating their labor. Materials are the main cost, although I had to get a building permit on Friday for $50.”

“A building permit? They usually take a month to get,” the deacon said.

“Not when the work is to remedy a fire marshal order. The work was approved immediately. It took them a half hour to find the order, but on May 22, 1997 the fire marshal closed our balcony because there was only one exit. It has been empty since then.”

“No one ever uses it,” Deacon Jefferson said.

“We had to put 300 people in there during the services yesterday,” Gary said. “We were taking a risk, but if the marshal comes by and sees we are working on a fire escape, he will be lenient.” Gary then pulled out his big guns. “We had 1078 attend the two services yesterday. The collection pulled in $4500. If the 300 or so people upstairs were paying the same rate as the others, then having the balcony open means we gained about $1200 more. In four weeks we will have paid for the escape.”

“Another thing I have done without your authorization is to keep the lobby open 24/7 for the past few days.”

“What? You left the church open and unattended at night?” the deacon said.

“Not unattended. And the extra eight hours brings in about $900. We take in about $2500 total during most days, although on Sunday it was over $4000. I have members of the Hobo Army taking shifts in the late hours to watch over things. There have been no problems since that fellow tried to rip off the collection box,” Gary said.

“Yes, that was just before I left. What happened to him?”

“He is working in a bakery and doing quite well, I understand. He plans to supply goods for the church dinner on Wednesday night.”

“He wasn’t charged? On whose authority?”

“Pastor Helen made the decision, and Rev. McNaughton backed her. The man prayed at the painting with Pastor Helen, and she was confident he could be saved. It seems he has been,” Gary said.

“I go away for four days, and all this happens,” the deacon said wearily. “Do you think we will have enough to do the roof soon? I got a quote of $35,000 two years ago, and I think our savings account for it is at nearly $10,000 now. But with all this new income, maybe we can finish it this year?”

“I plan to have it done next week,” Gary said. “We’d start it this week, but the weather channel predicts rain later in the week. We should have the fire escape closed in by then, but doing the roof would be a problem if it were started. There is usually a sunny week after a rainy one, so we will start on Monday, after next weekend.”

“The man I was dealing with said it would take two weeks,” the deacon said.

“Yes but he probably has a crew of four or six. I hope to have a crew of 12 or more, working both sides at the same time. And it will only cost $10,000 for supplies. The men will be donating their time. If you want, then we can get top quality shingles for $13,000.”

The deacon slumped down on a railing. “This is all incredible. For years I have scrambled to find money to keep this place going, and in a month you come in and we are awash with the stuff.”

“It’s not me, sir,” Gary said. “It’s the painting. It’s bringing people in to pray and some are coming back to services.”

“None-the-less, you are no longer just the church caretaker. I intend to have the board rename your title Facilities Manager, and we will come up with a suitable salary. You will be able to move out of that shed.”

“With respect sir,” Gary replied. “If it means leaving the shed I would decline the position. You see we are using that building for a headquarters for the Hobo Army. I have 15 of them sleeping in there now, and I feed them too, in the church kitchens. In return they work for the church. Most of them are out here now, but a couple are in bed now after working the night shift in the lobby. Paying for their meals is a lot cheaper than hiring attendants.”

“You have mentioned this Hobo Army before. Please explain.”

“Well, we have had a lot of street people, alcoholics and drug addicts, come to the painting. They wind up cured of their afflictions, and are so grateful that they want to help. Once the construction is done, they are going to go out into the community and help people. I have already started a list of odd jobs, and as soon as Skid comes back with the lumber, I’ll find out how many men I can have to go to homes and do the work. It is things like fixing a stuck door, a leaky faucet, a toilet that keeps running, a garden needing weeding, things like that. Simple for me or you, but for a senior they are a big problem.”

“And we are housing them here? And feeding them?”

“Well, I have set up eight triple decker bunks in the shed. Right now we have 15 staying, plus myself. And the cost of food for them is coming from the profits of the garage sale on Saturday. We are using the church kitchen. In return for that we get staff to man the lobby 24-7 as well as traffic wardens during services on Sundays,” Gary said. “I think we come out well ahead.”

“Was traffic bad on Sunday?” the deacon asked.

“Well, we had over 1000 to services instead of the normal 100 to 150. And that doesn’t count the people who just came in to pray at the painting. We definitely need to look at the parking situation. I have already heard that the lady in the big old house next door is upset.”

Just then Skid arrived in Gary’s old pickup with a load of supplies, and a truck from the lumber company was close behind. Members of the Hobo Army swarmed over the two trucks like ants on a honey crust, and in a few minutes all the materials were removed and neatly stacked in the gap between the church and the shed. Skid immediately started organizing the men and directing workers. There were five carpenters in the army, along with an electrician and a plumber, who had experience in construction. The men who had other professions, like Chipper the barber, assisted them.

“Well, I guess I will let you get to work,” the deacon said. “I always say ‘never let authority get in the way of progress’.”

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

After the pizza party was cleared up, it was nearly 7. The family went back to the new house, and there was a pleasant evening with Grandma staying until 9, when Geoff drove her home. By then both Grandpa and Bobby were ready for bed, and Rachael handled that. After Geoff returned, the girl ushered her parents up to their room. Mike might look after the crazy early hours (he had left the pizza party just before 7) but Geoff still needed to go in at 4.

Rachael spent the next hour working on the script for the movie, finishing it up. She would hand it in to Mrs. Cathcart tomorrow. She had heard more ‘fighting’ from her parent’s room, which made her smile, but it was quiet now.

Dear Lord

Thanks for the idea of the pizza place. I know where my ideas come from. And it was so great to get together with all the folks from the plaza. I wish Agnes could have been there from the library. I thought about saving a slice of pizza for her, but it was all cleaned up by that horde. I mean even Mike’s disaster was gobbled up. Bobby started it, and when he declared that it was tasty, in spite of looking horrible, others joined in and it vanished too.

It looks like Darla might have a boyfriend already. Let’s hope they take it slow and everything works out.

Bless all of them, all of my friends, and everyone from the plaza. And my family, and … well bless everyone please.

Amen



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