by Larry Brody
Our Ford pickup spent a few days at Steve’s Body Shop recently, and when Gwen the Beautiful and I retrieved it, lo and behold! I found myself very happy about a couple of things.
The first thing that brought a smile to my face was the sight of the truck in all its renewed glory. Steve had done a great job of getting rid of all the dents, dings, and scratches caused when a tree fell down onto our camper shell during the ice storm. And there was even an added bonus: The paint matches perfectly.
The second joyful moment came with the realization that Gwen and I didn’t have to drive around in the stripped down mini-vehicle that the insurance company had rented for the 4 days the truck was gone. I don’t like kicking anyone while he’s down, but, come on, Dodge…do you really expect humans to ride in a Caliber?
As Gwen and I were deciding who would drive which vehicle while we headed over to the car rental agency, a couple of Good Ole Boys we didn’t know drove up. I don’t intentionally listen to other people’s conversations, but that doesn’t mean I don’t overhear them. Maybe it’s a survival thing—or, more likely, a writer one—but I’m usually pretty well attuned to what’s being said around me.
The topic of conversation between these Ole Boys wasn’t the car one of them was picking up. Instead it was his wife.
“Whew,” one of them said. “We’re picking up this baby just in time. I’ve got to go to Jonesboro tomorrow, and Edie’ll need the ride.”
“How long you gonna be gone this time?” I heard his friend say.
“Three weeks. Not long enough.”
“You two having trouble?” the friend said.
“What? No, no, I don’t mean it that way. I mean that I can’t make enough money in three weeks. Last time I made the Jonesboro run I had six weeks of ten-hour days. Made out pretty well.”
“Hey, this’ll be better’n nothing, won’t it?”
The friend’s voice sounded a little troubled, almost sad. The first man spoke up quickly. “There’s a job for you somewhere, Matt, you’ll see.”
They went into the office, so I didn’t hear Matt’s reply, if there was one. Didn’t see his face. But I understood his situation. And that of Edie’s husband as well.
The economy had struck again.
Gwen has the gift of being able to stick to a subject. Of being in one conversation at a time. Her conversation. She looked at me closely.
“Larry? Sweetie, what happened to your smile? Do you know you just went blank?”
I answered her question with one of my own. “Have you talked to Rachel lately? Her husband still out of town?”
“As far as I know. Working construction in Springfield. He’s been gone a couple of months.”
“How does she feel about that? About him having to be away in order to earn a living?” I said.
“The way I would,” Gwen said. “Or so I imagine. She’s never said anything except that there’s nothing here and they’ve got a mortgage to pay.”
“Dwayne the Earth Mover’s been working out of town for years. He and Elizabeth only see each other every other weekend. I’ve never heard him complain either.”
“We’re not in Hollywood anymore, honey,” Gwen said. “Nobody’s giving out golden statuettes and big paychecks for farming or driving a bulldozer. Diva behavior gets a person nothing but a kick in the pants.
“Our neighbors do what they’ve got to do” she went on. “They learned long ago to do it without complaining”
“And you know this because…?”
“Because I’m from Oklahoma, where it’s the same life.”
“Hey, I met you in Santa Monica, you know.”
“Where I was miserable. But you didn’t hear me complaining.”
Gwen pulled herself up into the truck. “Meet you at the car place,” she said and started the engine.
Couldn’t let her get too far ahead. I hurried back to the little Caliber, fumbled for the key. The time might come when, like too many other couples, we had to be apart in order to survive, but the thought of that ever happening made me want to do everything I could to stay as close as I could for now.
I’m not complaining, not now. But if life ever takes us that way, then, by all I believe in, I swear I’m going to make one hell of a stink!