I have just taken off for the last time out of Los Angeles International Airport, I hope. I was very much thinking of my future, and those that I have affected in the last few months. I had spent the last two years getting ready to take this new direction in life. I just completed the sale of my small but profitable airline to some really big idiots in Phoenix. I only hoped that my employees would be happy with their new owners. I wouldn't admit I was rich to too many folks, but I now had enough zeros in my account to last many lifetimes. Just another new thought to have to adjust to. As I leveled off at 18,000 feet in my new G-5 Learjet, I got lost in my thoughts. Good thing for autopilot these days!
I had just built a log cabin on a lake in a really small town called Baysville. I had enough land to build a mansion and its own small neighborhood, but I only needed enough room for me, and the few houseguests that I ever anticipated having. It wasn't a large log cabin, with just one large loft style bedroom that looked over the living room with a view out the huge bay windows with a pretty terrific view of my piece of the lake. There was a nice sized bathroom upstairs with a walk-in shower big enough for three adults. There’s a kitchen and half bath downstairs. The kitchen has a breakfast bar, since a bachelor doesn’t need a dining room. Behind the house was a hangar built just for my newest toy. It’s bigger than the cabin, which shows my priorities, I guess! I had bought a narrow strip of land that went from the lake straight back for almost a mile into the pine woods, and had it all cleared so that it was like a lawn. I had to keep the grass mowed, but it made for a nice smooth landing strip. Which reminded me that I needed to take a trip in a few days to pick up my runway lights and a few other supplies for friends around town.
Popping back to reality, I answered the controller on the radio and began my descent to my home. I took the time to fly over the town and out over the lake, turning right into the airstrip. I landed softly and quietly. Pulling up to my hangar, I thought about how useful a garage door opener was going to be as soon as I installed it. As soon I had everything put away and the hangar doors closed, I went inside to check my e-mails and phone messages. No one had called but I had gotten over 300 e-mails wishing me well in my early retirement. Heck, I wasn't even thirty yet. I left the computer on and headed out the door. I was so happy to be home that I forgot to change clothes. I went to my favorite hangout called The Bottle Bank, owned by a good friend of mine. I guess it was around 6pm. I was shooting some pool and drinking a beer when I noticed the town police and Judge walk in. Rich, the police chief, was another good friend of mine. We always teased each other about our uniforms! That was when I noticed I was still wearing mine. Richard Bondi was the Judge, the only judge with a heart of gold that I knew. They chatted a while with Luis - the bar owner - and I continued to shoot some pool. A few moments later they both left and Luis came over to me and offered to play. This was an offer I couldn't refuse. Luis had a really cute butt, and I couldn't keep my hands off of it! We chatted a while and groped each other occasionally, but it never went any further than that. We discussed the next trip north of the border and what supplies he needed for his place and the restaurant. What seemed like only minutes later his next customer walked through the door. It was Craigers, he was hootin' and hollerin' about some cute waiter next door. I was hungry, so I made an excuse to go get a bite to eat, and headed next door with cap and coat in hand.
I asked for my usual table, and although I was later than usual for dinner it was still available. I ordered the night's special and a glass of sweet tea. The waiter stumbled a bit, and I knew immediately that I had the new one. He took my order and came back a moment later with a glass of tea and some sugar packets.
"Sir, we don't have sweet tea, but I brought you some sugar." he said.
Boy, Craigers was right, he was a cutie! "Thank you, but you could kiss my glass and it would be sweet enough," I said.
TJ turned five shades of red as he turned and fled back to the kitchen. Chris, the Manager, overheard me from the cash register and came over.
"What are you up to, Bubba?" Chris asked.
"Oh, not much, how are you doing these days, Chris?"
"Well, I’d be doing better if you wouldn't chase my waiters off!" he said, laughing.
"Ha ha…but listen, I was just talking to Luis. He needs a few supplies and I was gonna head out in a couple of days, do you want to join me?"
"Well, I don't know. He and I aren't doing so well, and if I run off with you, well, it wouldn't look so good," he said as the smile disappeared from his face. I knew immediately this was going to be a long conversation.
My dinner came out and TJ was still blushing, but a bit more relaxed to see Chris and I sitting together talking. But he still disappeared as quickly as he came out. "He is a good waiter Chris, where did he come from?"
"No idea. He showed up about 4pm today and Luis hired him on the spot. I think the town is gonna grow this summer like never before because of that article in Peeps Magazine." Chris had a look of concern on his face, and I knew his problems went deeper than this.
"Sounds like we could use that shelter that everyone keeps talking about. Are there any plans for it yet?" I asked.
"No, nothing firmed up yet. I think it's going to be a funding and staffing issue with the mayor."
"Well, if we take away the funding problems, who would you like to see operating it?" I knew where I was going with this question; I just wanted him to confirm what I was thinking.
"I would love to do it myself. But what would Luis do if I weren't here by his side? I still love him, but I want to do more for these kids." And the frown was back on his face.
"Roger that!. Have you two talked about this at all?"
"Yeah, a little bit, but it's just talk. We haven't made any effort to do anything about it. Heck, there’s very little effort between us right now. We only talk about this place and the bar. Housekeeping stuff. But we never talk about us, or our feelings." Chris was beginning to tear up, and excused himself for a minute and headed out the back door.
I continued to eat and ponder about what I could do to help my friends as well as help this shelter along. When I was done eating I noticed Chris had come back and was talking to TJ. TJ then disappeared out the back door and return a few moments later in clean clothes. They began talking again and TJ was almost in tears. I overheard something about tricks. A few moments later Chris walked TJ out the door. Chris came back in and made a phone call that lasted about 2 seconds and then came back to my table.
"What was that all about?" I asked.
"Well, Rich is gonna pick him up tonight and take him to a foster home. I think Luis and the Judge have something to do with it," he said.
"That's good; no need for a boy to be camping out in this town. Too many people to care for him around here. That's what I love about this place; no one here ever turns their back on anyone. That's why I have decided to help you with this shelter, Chris. I see it's something you really want to do, and I know it's something that needs to be done."
"You really would help me out with this, Bubba?" Chris now had a twinkle in his eye, or was it a tear?
"Of course I would. I didn't retire here to watch the grass grow. Now let's clean this place up and go have a cup of coffee." I said.
We quickly bussed my table and locked the front door. I grabbed my hat and coat and headed out the back to their place next door. I put my coat on the couch and my hat on the coffee table. Chris had grown quiet over the past few minutes.
"So, how big is this shelter you plan on running?" I asked, just to get the conversation started again.
"Why do you want to help?" Chris asked.
"Well, we all need a place to go when the going gets rough. And like you said earlier, we need to get ready now for the influx of kids that we think will be coming here this summer."
"Yeah, I know all that, but why all of a sudden do you want to help?"
"Oh, well, I just sold my airline, and I have loads of extra time on my hands, so why not do something good with it? Besides, how often do I take trips for Luis, not that often, right? Heck, I need something to spend this money on before Uncle Sam gets a hold of it or I die of boredom," I replied. I took a deep breath and continued, "I know people will think what they want about me, but I would like to give this community something good to associate me with for a change. Heck, let's face it, I’ve lived a short but busy life so far. Why can't I spread the happiness to my friends and family here in Baysville?"
Chris turned around and hugged me tight. I thanked him by returning the hug. We held the embrace for a few moments. He was hugging me so tight I was almost out of breath when he finally let go.
"Hey look, buddy, why don't you think about this tonight. I'll come by the restaurant for breakfast in the morning and we can get some more details out of the way. Besides, I think you could use some rest." I grabbed my coat and headed for the front door and out to my SUV. By the time I got home, I had all kinds of ideas to share with Chris about the shelter, but I knew it could wait until the morning.
I walked into the cabin and noticed that I had left the computer on, so I sat back down and started to reply to all my e-mails. By the time I got through most of them, it was 3 am, and I was more than ready for bed. I staggered upstairs and laid down, not even shedding the uniform, and fell asleep.
Chris awoke the next morning at 5:30am with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. It was if the sun was finally rising on his dreams, he felt like a new man. He arrived at the restaurant by six, meeting the morning cook and the two waiters as he walked in. They all noticed his smile and started giggling!
"What's so funny guys?" Chris asked.
All three chimed in like a chorus, "Somebody got lucky last night!"
Chris smiled and added, "And if you only knew how lucky I was!"
They all went inside and started prepping for the rush of customers. It was the usual crowd today, and everyone noticed how happy Chris was, and made some comment one way or the other. Unfortunately it all came to an end abruptly when Luis walked in through the kitchen with a hat in his hand. He went straight for the coat rack by the door, placed the hat on it, and looked directly at Chris. What was but a few seconds seemed like a lifetime. They stared at each other, never saying a word, but thinking them. Luis then walked back to the house through the kitchen without saying good morning to anyone. Chris's smile turned into a frown, then the tears started falling. Chris quickly collected himself, walked through the adjoining door to the bar, closed and locked it behind him, sat down on a stool, and cried his eyes out.
Officer Rich Restless was working the morning shift, which started at 6am today. He didn't mind the early start. In fact, it was Friday, and the sooner he started, the sooner he finished and could have a long weekend. He had gotten most of his paperwork done the day before; he always saved Thursdays for that purpose. It was about 9am on this wonderful sunshiny day, when he decided to stop for a cup of coffee at his favorite restaurant.
As he walked in, he noticed an unusually gloomy cloud hanging over the wait staff.
"Hey Brian, I'll have a cup of the good stuff, thanks. Is Chris around?" Rich asked.
"Yeah, but he's unavailable at the moment." Brian said as he delivered the cup of coffee he started to pour when Rich walked in. Brian had been taking care of business since Chris disappeared this morning into the bar.
"Oh, really? Did he and Luis run off for the weekend a little early?" exclaimed Rich. "It would be great to see those two happy together again."
"I wouldn't hold your breath on that sir, they aren't actually speaking to each other at this moment." Brian pointed over to the coat rack but the door.
Rich gasped when he saw that the only thing on the rack was Bubba's hat.
"Luis walked in this morning, put the hat up there, looked straight at Chris and walked out. We haven't seen either of them since. Chris went into the bar and hasn't come out. Luis went back home and hasn't shown up to work yet. It's getting kinda tense around here if you know what I mean."
"Well, the fly-boy strikes again!" Rich said with a wry grin on his face. "Is Chris still next door?"
"Yeah, I suppose, unless he walked out the front." Brian peered over to the locked door adjoining to the bar. "He sure hasn't come out of that one."
Rich picked up his cup of coffee and walked over to the door and knocked on it lightly. "Chris," he said in a soft voice. "Chris, you in there?" The door started to unlatch and opened slightly. Rich push the door gently and entered the bar. Before closing the door, he went back to the restaurant and got another cup of coffee for his friend.
"Chris, what's going on?" Rich asked.
"I think Luis is throwing me out. I got the dirtiest look from him this morning, and it's all my fault."
"I think you need to start at the beginning Chris - maybe I can help smooth things over a bit."
"Really? You want to listen to this? Come on, you have more important things to do than this. I am not worth your time."
"Dammit, every citizen in this town is worth my time, and right now, my time is for you." Rich said affirmatively. "Now spill it!"
Chris went through the previous evening's events, not leaving out any details.
"Chris, do me a favor and tell Luis the same thing you told me. I know he will understand, but he has to hear it from you. I’ll go and return Bubba's hat to him." Rich said as he stood up.
Chris stood as well and made himself presentable with the mirrors behind the bar. They walked back through the door together, except Chris went out the back door to the house, and Rich walked to the coat rack, grabbed the hat and left out the front door. The wait staff watched every move they both made, and gasped relief after they both had left.
Rich arrived at Bubba's place a little after 10 am. The front door was unlocked as it always was, so he went right in. He heard the shower running upstairs, and knew that he had caught his friend red handed! He quietly walked up the stairs and into the bathroom, and low and behold, a smile spread across his face immediately.
"AAAAHHHHHHH!" I yelped. "Oh shit Rich, you trying to give me a heart attack?"
"Mr. Bancroft, I am sorry to disturb you, but I will need you to put your hands against the wall and spread 'em wide!" Rich could barely keep a serious look on his face!
"Why yes Officer, but what did I do wrong?" I knew how to play this game.
"I think the crime is onanism, and we’ll have to take care of that, won’t we!" Rich was now smiling from ear to ear.
Chris walked in the house and into the living room. Luis wasn’t there, so he checked the entire house. Luis was nowhere to be found. He sat down on the couch and pondered where he might have gone. Five minutes later, Luis walked through the front door with a bag in his hand, surprised to see Chris sitting there waiting for him.
"Luis, can we talk?"
"Yeah, sure." Luis said as he put down a bag of groceries in the kitchen. "So, this is awkward. What happened last night?"
"Wow, you cut right to the chase. I guess you want all the details." Chris said with a sigh. "Let me start from the beginning then."
Chris began helping Luis with the groceries and talking at the same time going over all the details of the previous night. It didn't take very long to tell the story, and there weren't a lot of groceries, both tasks were done at the same time. Chris closed the refrigerator door, turned around and hugged Luis from behind. "I would never do anything to jeopardize us. You have done so much for me."
"I hear something else in your voice, something you're not telling me Chris. What is it?"
"I want to do something else with my life. Something I have been thinking about for a long time, and we have even talked about it. In fact, the whole town has been talking about it. It's what Bubba and I were talking about last night. Yah know that TJ's arrival is just a drop in the bucket. School is about to let out for the summer all over the country, and we need that shelter now. I want to open it. I guess what I am saying is that I don't want to work in the restaurant for the rest of my life."
Luis sighed, turned around to face his young lover. "I didn't know you were so unhappy. Why didn't you say something? We could have done something months ago."
Their embrace lasted for a while, and seemed to heal much of the wounded space between them.
TJ showed up for work 15 minutes early for the second day in a row. He was happy to be at work, he really needed the money, he thought.
"Hey TJ, how are you doing today?" Brian said, seeing him yawning.
"Not too bad. Who are you?"
"Oh, excuse me, I'm Brian, I usually work in the morning. It's been a long day for me."
"I can tell. Where’s Chris?"
"Boy, aren't you just full of questions. He'll be back in a few minutes, he went over to the courthouse to do some paperwork. I'm just holding down the place 'till he returns."
"Cool, I am gonna go ahead and get started then." TJ went to the back and returned to the empty dining area and began cleaning the tables and chairs for his customers.
Brian took a good look at TJ, admiring his motivation, among other things. He then returned to his task of logging all the days' receipts into the unpaid tabs' column.
"Hey TJ, so what made you want to come here, to our little town?" Brian asked out of the blue.
"I read an article in a magazine about this town, and I wanted to come and see it for myself." TJ replied.
"Are you gonna stay here, or are you just passing through?"
"Gee, I guess you are full of questions now!" TJ laughed. "I think I am going to stay for a while at least."
Brian was now getting the picture. Chris didn't tell him anything about this new employee that was showing up for work, just a general description. "So, why did you really run away?"
"I’d rather not talk about it yet, if you don't mind."
"No problem, I can wait. I did the same thing a year ago, before the article was written. I guess I was lucky to stumble on this place." Brian now had TJ's attention.
"So, what made you run away from home?"
"I don't know if you would call it a home, I was orphaned by a drunk driver. Both of my parents died at the same time. The only family I had were my two grandparents, and they are both in a retirement home now."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
"It's okay, it's good to talk about it sometimes. I know in my heart that my parents love me still, and are watching over me. I think somehow they brought me here."
Chris walked through the front door. "Hey Brian, thanks for hanging around, why don't you go on home and get some rest."
"I will in a few boss, I am going to finish this up, then get a quick bite to eat."
Chris looked at TJ. "WELL, take the man's order!" All three laughed together.
TJ took Brian's order into the kitchen and brought back a glass of tea for his new friend. "Wow, I’ve been here 2 days, and I already have more friends than I ever had," TJ thought. Brian moved to a booth by the wall. TJ sat down with him and they continued to talk. Brian filled him in on the day's events as well as the past year here in this town.
Chris went home to change clothes since he would be working in the kitchen tonight. The cook had called in sick.
Luis was next door getting the Bottle Bank ready for happy hour. The usual crowd was going to be there soon, and he had a lot of inventory to catch up on. He knew I was taking a trip in the morning, and he needed to place his order. I walked in just as he picked up the phone.
"Hey Luis, got a list for me?"
"Hey Bubba, sure do! Oh, and thank you."
"No, thank you for returning my hat!" Bubba said and winked at Luis. "Don't worry man, we're all friends here."
I sat at the bar and pulled a computer and small phone out of his briefcase, "So, what are you in need of today?" I said as the computer booted up. Luis pulled a beer from the tap and set it in front of me.
Luis handed me a long list of stuff. "Its gonna be a big run this time, I kinda want to put some stuff in storage."
"No problem, I am sure my friend can handle it. I'll send him the order tonight, and it should be ready by the time I get there tomorrow." I finished up the e-mail and hit send when the Judge walked in. "Perfect timing Richard. I am going up north tomorrow, do you need anything?"
A bottle and glass appeared before him. "No, I can't think of anything I particularly need at this point," he said with a smile. "As long I have my bottle, I am a happy camper."
I shut the laptop down and returned it to the case. The order was in, and my work was done for the day. Now it was time to play. "You two up for a game of cut throat?" I said as I picked up my beer and walked over to the pool table.
"I still have some work to do, so I’ll have to pass this time." Luis said.
Grabbing his bottle, Richard walked over, "As long as you don't beat me like that flamin' mongrel did last night!" he smiled and picked up a cue. "How about some 8 ball since it's just us?"
"Sounds like a deal." I said as I racked the balls. "Go ahead and break."
"Wow, you rack some tight balls Bubba! I haven't broken a rack that good in years!"
I busted out laughing.
"What's so funny over there?" Luis said, peeking his head out from under the bar.
The night was anything but slow for TJ and Chris. They were the only two working that night, and it was a Friday night. Luis stuck his head in the door once, and said, "Ugh, I am staying out of here tonight!" Chris laughed and offered to trade places, but Luis was gone before he could finish.
It was now 10pm, one hour left until closing time. The dining room was empty, and a disaster. The kitchen was even in worse shape. TJ had gotten a crash course on the register since Chris was cooking. They both had done dishes all night long just to keep up with the orders. Now they both sat there at a table, too tired to speak, when the doors opened again.
I walked in with Richard hanging on. "Got any food left for a couple of drunks?" I belted out as we took a seat at the same table. (It was the only clean one around). I looked around and said, "What the heck happened here, y'all get a little busy tonight?"
TJ chimed in "Busy ain't the word dude!"
"It was friggin' packed in here, the busiest Friday night ever,” Chris added.
"Well, Richard and I will clean the dining room in exchange for some dinner, deal?"
TJ's eyes lit up with the thought of someone else cleaning up this mess and quickly responded, "You got it mister!"
Chris laughed, "Good, then you can start on the dishes while I cook something for these guys."
The twinkle in TJ's eyes quickly disappeared. "Damn".
We all laughed and got up at the same time to take care of the task at hand. When we were done, all four of us sat down to a good meal. Chris had locked the door and put the closed sign out so we were not to be disturbed by more drunks from next door.
"Oh, TJ, you can call me Bubba." I said introducing myself. "Since these guys haven't introduced us yet."
"Nice to meet you, sir."
"Ditch the sir, just Bubba will do!"
We finished up our meal and cleaned our little mess up and all went our separate ways. Chris gave TJ a ride home. Richard and I returned to the bar for a nightcap.
The next morning came early, Rich was shaking me awake. "Hey Bubba, were gonna be late, come on, get up."
I crawled out of bed noticing it was 6am on the clock. How could anyone be late for anything at six in the morning? I flipped on my computer before I went in the shower, when I came out I checked my e-mail and noticed I had a message from my supplier. He said he would meet me at 11 at the prearranged airstrip. We couldn't use a regular airport since we were trying to cut costs, not increase them. I dressed and went downstairs to find Rich drinking a cup of coffee on the porch, watching the sun come up.
"Glad you decided to join me today, I hate flying alone."
"Thanks for inviting me." He said with a smile. We chatted about this and that, warm in our friendship despite the cool morning air.
"Let's put some coffee in a thermos and get moving, then."
It was now 8:15 am and I was ready for take off. I had filed a flight plan to an airport just south of the border in the mountains, knowing I could fly low enough over the border to the other airstrip. The engines roared to life, and as I released the breaks we began our takeoff roll towards the lake. I could see Rich getting a little nervous next to me, so I used up the entire length of the grass strip just to see if he would pee in his pants. I pulled up hard and climbed out faster than normal. I knew I would get a few noise complaints about that one! I looked over at Rich and he was extremely pale. I eased off on the climb and some blood returned north of his shirt collar.
"See, it's not so bad!"
"Yeah, you prick, you did that intentionally!"
"Just want you to enjoy the ride bud." I turned on the autopilot and started to make the necessary radio calls. Our flight plan was activated and we were now on the way.
"Oh, before we get there, let me tell you about the guy meeting us. He is a bit older, about 50ish, ex-military supply sergeant. He's pretty reliable and cheap, but has a short temper. When we land, he and I will take care of some business, and his boys will be loading the plane with the supplies. He can be a nasty S.O.B. when he wants to be. So be careful of what you say to him and how you say it. His English isn't too good, so he might misinterpret what you say to him."
"No prob, I'll just sit back and watch you do your magic!"
"Okay then. On the way back, we have to make a pit stop for fuel and lights."
"Yeah, I am gonna put in some runway lights at the house, so I can land after sunset."
"Cool, more noise complaints!"
We both laughed and commented on the takeoff this morning, each placing bets on the number of complaints there would actually be.
Two hours later I began my descent into the airport of destination, canceled the flight plan, and disappeared from the controller's radar. I had done this many times before, and it's not like the Canadian border is heavily patrolled by the air forces of either country. After a few minutes of dodging mountains, we landed at a small but paved piece of road in the middle of nowhere. I came to a stop at one end and a truck pulled up. After shutting everything down, Rich and I disembarked. Rich looked back and noticed the two boys loading the cargo bin already and went to offer a hand. I took care of business with my ex-sergeant. By the time I was done, the cargo had been loaded and Rich was waiting for me in his co-pilot’s seat. I walked around the aircraft checking everything, and closed the cargo door, wondering why the kids didn't do it, since they both knew how. I checked to make sure everything was secure and proceeded to close the door when I thought I heard something like a sneeze. “Hmmm, couldn’t be,” I thought as I closed the door. I turned to see my supplier standing by his truck looking into the woods, calling out for his boys. Apparently they had run off to play somewhere. I waved bye to him, then got in and closed the door behind me. As I crawled into the left seat I asked, "So, what do you think of this little operation?"
"Not bad, is this how people run drugs, too?"
"Probably - I wouldn't know! I guess you can count this as a training day for you!"
"Whatever. I was gonna help the boys load the supplies, but they turned me away saying they had it under control."
"Really? That's strange."
As we took off again and headed south thought the mountains, we crossed over the same airport that we were over earlier and I climbed to a higher altitude, calling the controller to activate the next flight plan. We only went to ten thousand feet, since it was a short flight to the next airport. It only took about 35 minutes in all and we were on the ground again.
"Okay, potty break!" Rich exclaimed.
"Geez, the toilet’s right behind you in the cabin!"
"Oh, right. Such service in this heap! You want anything while I’m back there?"
"Yeah, get me a couple of candy bars."
The fuel truck pulled up in front of us and began topping off the tanks. Rich returned with the candy bars and joined me at the cargo door.
"Whatcha doing back here?"
"I gotta hunch about something," I said as I opened the door. To Rich's surprise, we found two boys curled up in the cargo bin.
"Good thing we were stopping today, or you two could have frozen to death in here. Come on, you can ride in the cabin the rest of the way."
"Bubba, we gotta take them back."
"What’s the rush? Maybe tomorrow, but I want to know what they are running from, or who. I think I just lost my supply sergeant."
"Good point," Rich added.
I paid for the fuel and added my lights to the cargo bin, and we were on our way home. Rich sat in the cabin this time, leaving me all alone in the cockpit. It took about an hour and we were back in Baysville with two more residents.