Charlie’s Last Stand pt.9

In total Steve McQueen fashion, Zane blasted the horn repeatedly and gunned the engine as the Truck bounced its way through the rough driveway that led to the Trailer House! The shock to the rigid suspension nearly jolted Zane from the bench seat! Like a crazed mad man, he pulled up parallel to the Trailer House and jammed on his brakes! The Truck skidded to a halt as the tires gripped into the loose soil that made up the sprawling front yard. By this time, Quentin heard all of the ruckus and stepped outside to witness the commotion. The brothers met as Zane exited the Truck. Quentin never felt a need to pump up his ego by engaging in meaningless acts of self-bravado. He was a quiet man with the soul of a poet. In addition to being a bachelor, he was also a gifted musician. It was never a priority for Quentin to prove his manhood. For instance, Zane joined the Marines to prove he was tougher than the old man, while Quentin opted for a non-descript enlistment in the Navy. Quentin spent the lion’s share of his military career on the isolated island of Guam where he took up guitar to escape from the crippling loneliness. On one occasion, Quentin recorded a live classical performance on VHS as a gift. It was an impressive ensemble of intricate songs that he had mastered during his free time. Quentin didn’t have any qualms with the Navy barring the fact that he never once set foot upon a ship! He scored phenomenally high on the Armed Services Aptitude Battery. Because of this he had the luxury of picking any job he wanted. Perhaps he was entertaining the idea of a medical career because he ended up serving as a dermatologist’s mate?

The two brothers stood in silence as Zane absent mindedly kicked at some random pebbles on the ground. With his head facing into the dirt, Zane’s eyes looked upwards to meet Quentin’s gaze. To break the ice, Zane asked, “how’s Dad doing?” There was a faint glimmer of optimism in Quentin’s eyes as he gave a brief summary of Charlie’s condition. “He slept really good last night, which is rare,” he said. The brothers looked deep into each other’s eyes without saying a word knowing it was nearly time to consider the final arrangements. Zane didn’t know what to say, and the pair stood silently for another moment. Eventually Quentin added, “He’s finally taking his pain pills, but his mind is still sharp as a tack!” When it came to his mortality, Charlie was in just about as much denial as Zane was. Charlie abhorred narcotics, and he was initially resistant to the idea of morphine. Be that as it may, his nurse informed him in no uncertain terms that, “There are no points for pain!”

The two siblings entered the trailer house via the front door. They stepped through the threshold and were immediately greeted by an ambient odor of stale decay that intensified Zane’s apprehension. The home was in desperate need of a woman’s touch, and the stagnant aroma reminded Zane of a poorly maintained locker room. Having said that, the living quarters were neatly kept and tidy. By now the carpeting was as old as the Trailer House and smelled of lingering greasy dirt! The disheveled curtains were drawn shut in an attempt to keep the harsh morning sunlight at bay. Charlie, who was seated at the dining room table, acknowledged the arrival of his eldest son by belting out the words, “Ya-Te-Hey Hostine!” This was native dialogue which translated into, “Hey Zane, How’ve you been?” With that Zane cautiously made his way towards the kitchen where his ailing father was seated. “I’ve been real good Dad,” Zane informed him with an authentic smile! Charlie never taught his number-one-son to be affectionate, and because of this they always greeted each other with a robust handshake! Today was no exception. Zane was silently relieved when he noticed the familiar twinkle in Dad’s eyes. He surmised that Charlie looked relatively fit, meaning the eyes had not yet fallen into the recesses of his skull. “It’s good to see you again Pop!” The words fell from Zane’s lips almost by instinct. “It’s good to see you too My Son, My Son,” Dad responded with a jovial flair! It was telling because Zane never referred to his father as Pop. “I wonder why I called him that,” Zane thought?  The number-one-son nervously glanced over to his brother hoping to find an answer! Quentin didn’t offer up a reason, so Zane continued to analyze the state of Charlie’s dwindling being. His father had lost some more weight since the last visit and loose trousers were supported by red suspenders. He was wearing a western styled cowboy shirt with snaps instead of buttons. By now some more of his impressive musculature had atrophied. His clean-shaven face was alarmingly pale. Nevertheless, Charlie was in good spirits, and he was smiling!

“Have you eaten yet Son,” Charlie asked in a nurturing tone? “Yeah Dad,” Zane said. As it turns out, Charlie and Quentin had just finished up with their usual breakfast which consisted of potatoes, sunny side up eggs with bacon, and buttered wheat toast. Quentin was still drinking milk from a glass tumbler as Charlie nursed at a luke-warm cup of black coffee. Suddenly Charlie said, “Quent, could you get your brother a cup of coffee?” Charlie nudged his head towards the countertop where an antique percolator awaited. He went on to say, “I’d get it myself, but I’m old and tired.” Quentin glanced over at Zane as if to ask, “could you use a cup?”  Zane nodded in the affirmative and added, “Don’t put yourself out, I can get it.” With that the eldest son began rummaging through the familiar cabinets of his boy-hood home. He retrieved a cup and grabbed the faithful percolator by its rustic black handle. “You boys come and sit down at the table with your old dad now,” Charlie instructed. Zane and Quentin obliged their father’s wishes and joined Charlie at the kitchen table. With his mug in hand, Zane settled in to join the conversation. He sat down in the wooden chair as he treated himself to a hearty gulp of black coffee. He nearly choked! By now Renee had introduced Zane to Starbucks, and as a result he had acquired the taste of a double latte. In stark contrast, this coffee tasted like what you would expect from a seedy truck-stop, or a cowboy’s chuck-wagon! “How’s the coffee Son,” Charlie casually asked in an attempt to keep the conversation rolling? “Real good Dad, it reminds me of home!” Again strange words were falling out from Zane’s mouth without his proper authorization! “Well I have to drink it now, or else they’ll think I’m turning weak,” Zane thought as he gingerly took an additional swig of the steaming black potion!  

Quentin was thinking how nice it was to be together and it prompted him to ask, “How long have we lived in this trailer house, Dad?” It was a good question and it jogged something loose in Charlie’s memory. Images of the beautiful pre-owned Marlette Mobile Home flashed before his eyes. The question toggled a switch in Charlie’s mind that opened up a portal to his youth. For an instant the dying man traveled to a time when the wooden paneling was freshly hewn, and the synthetic smell of brand-new carpeting lingered throughout!  The Shimeks were the second owners, but the house was still in brand new condition! Betty was on top of the world and Charlie was elated! The industrious Shimeks could swing the mortgage payments because they were only buying the trailer, not the land. “We were still selling at the Sweet-Meat, do you remember that Son,” Charlie asked?  Before Zane could answer, Charlie turned his attention towards Zane’s brother and asked, “How old were you by then Quent?” Quentin couldn’t rightly remember but he did recall the warmth and safety that he experienced as a child. The question tickled Quentin’s memory, so he added, “That reminds me of Brenda and Everette!”  Judging by the look on Quentin’s face, the boyhood friends triggered fond memories. Brenda and Everette Pine, along with the Shimek boys, made up a merry band of school bus chums! To their delight it turned out they had also become neighbors!  “That’s right,” Zane said! “I remember that I had to tell the bus driver we moved, and to let us off at their bus stop!” The eldest son remembered the pride he felt as the school-bus driver complimented the brothers on their new home! The Marlette was adorned in an invitingly vivid avocado and white color scheme.  The Trailer House was seventy feet long, and fourteen feet wide! The gorgeous Marlette glistened in the sun as it settled into the hard-packed dirt that served as its new foundation! The unfenced property lay adjacent to a two-lane blacktop that made up LaPlata Highway. The trio of men were basking in memories of their glorious past, when Quentin reiterated how happy they were!  He said, “On the first night You and Mom stayed up late drinking coffee and dancing!” Charlie loved to polka! Charlie was making money hand over fist in those years, and they were some of the best times of his life! He was living free and independently, while taking good care of his family in the process! Because of this, Charlie stood tall, and walked with confidence! It was the late seventies and the Shimeks were on a roll!

Charlie was an industrious man to say the least. When he wasn’t off on buying trips and flea-marketing, he supplemented his income by peddling Advertising Specialties. As it turned out, Charlie became affiliated with a firm who could embroider custom logos and slogans onto such items as baseball caps or T-shirts. Additionally the organization had the capacity to print out custom messages and company slogans onto items such as ink pens and Bic-lighters. Charlie was a naturally born gifted salesman! He would go on cold calls to local businesses throughout the region, and one day he stumbled upon a character by the name of Douglass Drake. Mr. Drake, or ‘Dutch,’ was a very wealthy man who had earned a living by retailing assorted drilling equipment and supplies to local oil-well drillers. He scratched his company together from the ground up. It was a highly lucrative undertaking fueled by a corresponding oil boom that was sweeping its way across the land! Dutch had become a self-made millionaire!

One day Charlie came sauntering into the office of Wire Rope Rigging and Supply Company in order to peddle his wares. Dutch sat proudly behind a sprawling desk, as Charlie made another flawless sales pitch. With the typical flair of a modern-day Gypsy, the gifted salesman provided samples of his items that were smartly configured into a customized faux leather briefcase. Charlie was jovially touting the value of his products when he was abruptly cut off mid-sentence! “How much money do you make from selling this junk,” asked Dutch? Naturally Charlie’s rhythm was thrown off! Before Charlie could come up with an answer Dutch said, “I’m really impressed with your style!” Dutch pondered for a minute as he leaned back into his overpriced leather chair and said, “How would you like to come work for me?” Charlie’s phenomenal acumen for salesmanship had landed him a job offer right on the spot! Dutch offered Charlie an irresistible flat salary, and a lucrative commission to boot! The two men talked and pondered the spontaneous proposition. “I’d have to talk it over with the wife before I could make any commitments,” Charlie said. “Besides, I don’t like working for other people because I like being my own Boss!” Without much of a pause, Dutch informed Charlie to take all the time he needed to think it over. Dutch did not purchase any of Charlie’s office supplies; instead he offered up a Company Car to sweeten the deal! Over dinner that same evening, Charlie revealed the news to his wife. Betty eagerly encouraged him to take the offer, and he did! The proud new homeowners had suddenly plunged headlong into the mainstream! Eventually, the sprawling business became so lucrative, that Dutch was inclined to open up a second location in which Charlie was offered the position of lead salesman and office manager. To persuade Charlie, Dutch offered to pay for the moving costs, meaning he would cover the expense of transporting the Mobile Home.  “That’s how we ended up in Albuquerque boys,” he said with a heartwarming smile! Charlie wrapped up the anecdote with a nostalgic sigh, as the pleasant memory slowly faded into dust.

…to be continued

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