Charlie’s Last Stand pt10

The melancholy band of Gypsies sat around the kitchen table soaking in the memory as Zane came to the uncomfortable realization that it was time to ‘drop the bomb!’ “I should just come right out and say it,” he reasoned as the men grappled with the uncomfortable silence. Zane was wondering how he would slip the bad news into a conversation when Quentin asked, “What’s the plan for today?” Zane squirmed in his chair. The number one son took a deep breath and calmly said, “I’m going down to ACME Steel to pick up a load of raw stock.” Zane didn’t have the courage to look his father in the eyes, so he focused his attention onto his piping hot coffee. He cradled the mug with two hands as if it were a wounded sparrow and stared directly into the muddy liquid. “You’re not talking about ACME Steel on Candelaria I hope?” Charlie asked the question in a cold and calculating tone. It was glaringly obvious that Charlie was borderline confrontational! “Well, here goes nothing,” Zane thought. In the moment he became aware of his accelerated heartrate, as he summoned dormant courage from the deep recesses of his apprehensive mind! It was the same sort of anxiety that Zane encountered just prior to standing before the Judge at his court-martial hearing! Charlie was just about as intimidating as a Brahma Bull! Especially when he got his dander up!  Finally Zane found his footing and innocently chimed in, “Yeah Dad. You know the place. It’s right at the corner of San Pedro and Candelaria!”  Charlie was becoming agitated because they always took their business to the Koenig’s and the boys knew it!  It was practically a time-honored tradition. “You need to go to see Gene, Son. He always treats us right!” Charlie mouthed the words with a mysteriously timeless authority.  “I have to go to ACME because that’s who Curtis Recommended,” Zane calmly stated. Despite the illness, Charlie’s pale face turned pink with silent contempt! Zane knew it was “go-time,” so he planted his feet firmly into the linoleum and braced his back against the chair while gripping the table’s edge with his manly fingers. “Who the hell is Curtis?” asked Charlie as he took a robust swig of the belligerent coffee!  Zane knew better than to get snippy, so he chose his words very carefully. “Well…Curtis is my welder,” he said in a calm and respectful manner. “Don’t you think Ted knows how to weld, Son?” This was good argument, and he wasn’t expecting it. Zane imagined beads of sweat leaking from his brow, as Charlie sat across the table staring him down! By now Zane was foundering, so Quentin chimed in by adding, “How much is he charging for the labor?”  The eldest son took a deep breath. “Hundred and Fifty,” he said meekly. With that Charlie pushed away from the table with his meaty hands, and belted out the words, “A Hundred and Fifty! You’ve gotta be shittin’ me SON!”  The eldest boy wasn’t surprised by his father’s reaction, or else he wouldn’t have been so apprehensive in the first place. “I don’t know,” Zane said. “I think it’s a fair price. Curtis says he can have it all stitched together in an afternoon. That comes out to about Fifty Dollars an hour.” Zane glanced over at Quentin to gauge his reaction. Immediately Zane realized he would have to stand his ground without the aid of his brother. Charlie took a deep breath and leaned back into his chair. “I thought I taught you boys how to be frugal,” he said in a concerned parental manner. “You did Dad, it’s just that Curtis is still in welding school, and he needs the business.” Zane studied Dad’s reaction and he knew he was making some headway. Surely Charlie wouldn’t want to stand in the way of a man’s education! “I don’t care if he’s in Astronaut school,” Dad said, “Gene and Ted need the business too!” Zane felt somewhat defeated, but he had one more ace left in the hole! Zane knew that Renee was the apple of Charlie’s eye, so he decided to play his wild card. Zane calmly stated, “Renee deserves to have something nice, Dad. She’s always been given the shitty end of the stick, and I want to treat her to something good for a change.” Sure enough, Charlie began to calm down. Quentin was impressed by the way his brother turned the tables so eloquently! “Renee is a good woman all right,” Charlie thought.  Now that he had Charlie on the ropes, he finished his argument by calmly stating that Gene and Ted only have scraps, and Curtis had requested full twenty-foot lengths. With a calculated grin Zane said, “Besides, you always taught us that it’s better to be our own man, and to think for ourselves.” Once again Zane motioned towards his brother with a quick nod of the head. “Yeah but I didn’t teach you kids to just throw your money away,” Charlie said with a frown. After a silent second Zane added, “Besides it’ll be good for us. It will help stimulate the sluggish economy.” Charlie looked at Zane and resisted the urge to say, “nobody likes a smart-ass!” Instead, he begrudgingly nodded his head in the affirmative and conceded to Zane’s argument.

Charlie stayed indoors as the boys went outside to hitch up the trailer. Upon doing so they checked the trailer brake lights and discovered they were inoperable! Zane tried to curb his frustration, when he realized frayed wiring had caused the Truck to blow a fuse! He was struggling to perform a field-expedient repair with black electrical tape when Charlie came hobbling down the stairs! He waddled up to the trailer hitch where the boys were working and said, “I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m coming with you!” Quentin was both alarmed and surprised! “Are you sure you’re up to it Dad, Quentin asked with legitimate concern? “Yep. I wouldn’t miss it for the world Quent. After we get loaded up I’ll treat you boys to some lunch!”  Zane paused his repair long enough to glance up at Quentin who was looking quite apprehensive. In a neutral tone, Zane told Charlie that the Truck rides pretty rough. The boys were concerned that a bumpy ride may aggravate his symptoms. It was no use because Charlie had already made up his mind!  By this time, Zane had lost any capacity for argument, and he said, “Sure Dad, you can come along.” Quentin knew resistance was futile, so he stepped back into the trailer-house to retrieve a dosage of Charlie’s painkillers just in case things got rough.

It was just past ten in the morning when the three men situated themselves into the cab of the Truck. Charlie scooched into the middle of the bench seat, while Quentin rode shotgun. Being respectful of his father’s pain, Zane gingerly eased the rig out of the long dusty driveway. He slowly made the left turn that led to the gravel road. Once the Truck and trailer made it to the asphalt Zane came upon the gradual bend in the highway that was meant to be entered at 35 mph. Zane slowed down to thirty because he didn’t want to create any unnecessary stress.

Once they made the right turn onto the main highway, Zane proceeded towards the Tijeras Post Office upon which time it would be a straight shot all the way into Albuquerque! The trio motored down the frontage road which ran parallel to the interstate as they continued with their visit. Charlie, who was silently contemplating Zane’s argument, had Renee on his mind. With an inquisitive look, Charlie decided to kick off a conversation. He asked, “What does Renee think about your new Truck Son?”  “Well, I don’t really know,” Zane said. “I think she likes it just fine, I guess?” After a short pause Quentin chimed in and said, “I remember the first time I met Renee. We were having a party and watching movies.” This prompted Charlie to forget about his question, and he asked, “What Party? I don’t remember no parties?” Quentin had the passenger side window rolled down, and he was gripping at the steel frame that separated the side vent from the window glass. He gazed upon the passing scenery as he leisurely stated, “Yeah Dad. Renee brought over her saxophone, and Zane brought beer. You were in Minnesota visiting Aunt Mary at the time.” This triggered happy memories for Zane, and he said, “Oh Yeah, I remember that just like it was yesterday! That’s the time I wrecked your motorcycle!” “Whaaaat,” Charlie asked in disbelief? “Yeah Dad,” Quentin said. “He was about three sheets to the wind and started showing off!” Sure enough Zane had been drinking. In all fairness, they had all been drinking. As a result, Zane couldn’t resist tooling around in the vast front yard, so he went about the task of climbing onto a tall dirt bike! Quentin, and his future sister-in-law witnessed the carnage from the safety of the front stoop as Zane struggled to locate the kick-starter in a drunken haze. Upon firing the engine, Zane proceeded to bounce and bop along through the sage brush and cacti. Sure enough Zane tipped over as he tried to perform a U-Turn. As Quentin continued, Zane remembered how enjoyable it was to hear Renee and Quentin Jam out. Quentin picked out some jazzy riffs as Renee followed along with her tenor saxophone. It was a great time, but they ran out of snacks at around midnight! In an act of drunkenness, they passed around a bag of garlic flavored croutons as they watched Little Nicky, starring Adam Sandler.

After twenty minutes of traveling the rig made its way into the city. Zane made a hard right turn onto Tramway Boulevard, with their trusty trailer in tow. They traveled northbound for three miles and hooked a hard left onto Candelaria Boulevard. It was at this time that Zane’s secret anxiety began to flair up! “I should have scoped out the place yesterday while I had a chance,” he silently reasoned.  Suddenly a flurry of irrational fears went swarming through his mind! “I don’t know the layout,” he thought! I hope I don’t get myself into a jackpot,” he said to himself. “What if I drive into a space that I can’t back out of,” he wondered?

As it turns out, Zane didn’t have anything to worry about.  All he had to do was follow clearly marked signs which instructed patrons where to go. It couldn’t have been easier. As instructed, Zane maneuvered the rig into the clearly marked staging area.  From this point, the builders would typically exit their trucks and walk into the front office at which time an order would be processed. Just to be sure, Zane instructed Charlie and Quentin to stay with the vehicle. “I want to go in there and check it out really quick,” Zane said. Upon entering the office he was greeted by a friendly receptionist who helped to assuage his nervous energy. “I’ve never been here before,” Zane said in a questioning manner. “I’m here to place an order,” he continued. “Did you call it in,” she asked? “Nope, all I’ve got is this shopping list,” he said as he handed over the hand-written note that Curtis had given him. “Oh I see,” said the young woman. “It’s really simple,” she said. “All you have to do is go down through that corridor and ask for LeRoy. He’ll be behind the counter, and he will get you all set up!” Now that Zane knew what he was up against he thanked the lady and said, “Sounds good, I just have to go out to the truck and get the rest of the crew.” The receptionist smiled and proceeded to answer a ringing telephone. With that, Zane briskly walked back outside to the Truck where the two men sat patiently waiting. “It’s all set up!” Zane said with a positive attitude. “All we have to do is go inside and talk to LeRoy!” Charlie was beginning to ramp up again, so he muttered, “Who the hell is LeRoy?” With an eager smile the number one son said, “I don’t know, but were about to find out!”

…to be continued

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