DW, an Army vet, has published 9 novels. His day job is teaching elementary school. In his spare time, he camps with his wife of 30+ years.
Call Me if You Need Me
Jack stopped the foreman of the moving crew. At least Jack thought of the tall, dark-skinned, bald man as the foreman; he seemed to be in charge.
“Excuse me, uhm, do you need me to hang around while you pack everything up?” he asked.
The foreman, whose Dickie’s work shirt bore a name tag identifying him as Jah-El, twisted his lip and said, “No, sir. Not unless you want to. Everything left in the house gotta be packed up and put in storage, right? You got out everything you want for right now, right?”
“It all goes into storage. That’s right,” Jack said. “You’ve got my cell number, don’t you?”
Jah-El nodded and said, “Yes, sir. It’ll be with the paperwork in the truck cab.”
“Okay,” Jack said. “I’m gonna head out and get some lunch. Just give me a call if you need me.”
His Usual for Lunch
Jack went up to Debbie’s Grill for lunch. The hostess was a new hire and didn’t recognize Jack when she seated him. He was just as glad. His server had started working at Debbie’s sometime during the months since Cheryl’s accident and only knew Jack as a regular customer who usually ate alone.
Jack ordered his usual bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, a side of fries, and a sweet iced tea. The meal came out quickly, and Jack didn’t linger over it. He left his server - a pleasant enough lady in her forties – a generous tip, paid his bill at the register and left the Grill for what he imagined would be the last time.
A Macchiato Before Jack Goes
He stopped at the mini-mart to top of the Mustang’s gas tank before heading back to the house. When Jack reached the turn into his neighborhood, he changed his mind and drove down to Sprinkles, the combination ice cream and coffee shop next to the Corner Diner. During the school year, he’d often sit in Sprinkles after school sipping on a hazelnut macchiato and grading papers.
There was an older lady buying ice cream cones for three little kids-two boys and a girl-ahead of Jack in line. Jack waited patiently. They were the only other customers in the shop. The girl working the counter had been in Jack’s Intro to Accounting class the previous spring semester.
“Hi, Mr. Callaghan,” Sunny greeted him when it was his turn. “How have you been?”
Sunny’s asked her question with care and concern. Most of the students at the high school knew about Cheryl’s accident. Jack was a favorite teacher, and his students had been devastated by the news.
“As well as can be expected, I guess,” Jack replied. “Let me get a hazelnut…”
“…macchiato,” Sunny finished for him. She’d made one for him often enough. “Hot or iced?”
The day had grown quite warm. Hot, in fact. “Iced,” Jack replied. “Thanks.”
“No problem, Mr. Callaghan,” Sunny said. “It’ll be right up.”
Jack sat down and opened his Samsung Tablet. His choice of a tablet over an iPad like Cheryl’s had irked her, but he’d had no complaints about the Android tablet. Accessing the free Wi-Fi Sprinkles offered, Jack opened up The Weather Channel website and pointed it at Buzby Beach.
“It figures,” he said aloud when the forecast for the beach showed a chance of thunderstorms late in the evening.
“What figures, Mr. Callaghan?” Sunny asked.
Jack hadn’t noticed Sunny come around the counter and over to his table. The very tall, very trim, very blond young lady towered over him as she stood next to his chair.
“Oh,” she added, “here’s your drink.”
“Thank you,” Jack said. “Are you going to run cross-country again this fall?”
“You know it,” Sunny replied. “I’m going to State’s this year.”
“I believe you will,” Jack said, managing to work up a smile. Sunny had finished the season one place out of going to the state finals the fall before.
Sunny beamed a smile at Jack. “Thanks.” She trotted back behind the counter to take care of a pair of middle school age customers who’d come in, and she forgot all about wondering what figured.
A Call from a Dear Friend
Jack had just pointed the tablet’s browser at CNN.com when his cell phone vibrated. Thinking it was the movers, he pulled it from his pocket and slid his finger across the screen to answer the call. It wasn’t the movers.
Caller ID showed he was receiving a call from Wanda Weston, a colleague from the school. They both taught business classes and often collaborated on lessons. Wanda had divorced her husband of twelve years two years earlier. Jack and Cheryl had been an essential part of her moral support network during those dark days. After Cheryl’s accident, Wanda had called Jack every day to see how he was doing and if he needed anything.
Jack pressed the phone to his ear and said, “Hey, Wanda.”
“Hey, Jack,” Wanda replied. “Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. Have the movers gotten there yet?”
“There at the house,” Jack said. “They showed up right on time.”
“Are you at the house?” Wanda asked.
“I’m at Sprinkles sipping a macchiato and surfing the web,” Jack told her. “They didn’t need me at the house.”
“Do you still plan to head for the beach when they finish?” Wanda wanted to know.
“That’s the plan,” Jack said. “No reason to stick around.”
“I reckon not,” Wanda said with a pang of guilt. How selfish can I be, wishing he’d stick around for me? Cheryl hasn’t even been gone for four months.
Wanda’s feeling for Jack predated not just Cheryl’s accident, but her own divorce. She and her husband, Ted, had been drifting apart for some time over the whole child thing and Wanda had started, unconsciously, transferring some of the feelings she’d once had for Ted to Jack.
“You will stay in touch though, won’t you?” Wanda asked. “Because if you don’t, I’ll head down to Buzby Beach and kick your butt.”
“You know I will, Wanda,” Jack replied. “Who else is gonna listen to me wallow in self-pity and pretend she cares like you do?”
“I’m not pretending, Jack,” Wanda said. “I do care. You know that. I love you, ya big dope.”
“I know,” Jack said, believing she meant only that she loved him as a friend. “I’ll let you know when I get there.”
“You better,” Wanda said. “I gotta get going. You gonna be okay?”
“I guess so,” Jack said with a sigh. “I’ve made it this far. I think I’ll manage.”
“And you’ll call me when you get there?” Wanda insisted.
“I said I would. I will,” Jack promised.
“All right,” Wanda said. “Talk to you later.”
Meagan Checks in with Her Dad
Jack was about to tell her the same thing when he realized she’d broken the connection. He was still looking at the phone’s screen when it vibrated in his hand. The caller ID showed Meagan was calling.
“Hey, Baby Girl,” Jack said after hitting the talk icon.
“Hi, Daddy,” Meagan said. She’d long ago given up trying to get Jack to stop calling her Baby Girl. “I just wanted to see how you’re doing. Have the movers come yet?”
“They’re at the house now,” Jack told her. “I’m holding it together okay. I’m sitting at Sprinkles right now. Watching the movers pack up everything didn’t seem like such a good thing to do.”
“You’re drinking a hazelnut macchiato, aren’t you?” Meagan said. “Did you remember to ask for low-fat and sugar-free?”
“If I’m gonna have it like that, I might as well have water,” Jack protested. “Besides, I need to fatten up a little. My jeans barely stay up.”
“Then buy smaller jeans,” Meagan said. “You don’t need to go putting weight back on.”
They went through the whole call-me-when-you-get-there routine before Meagan was satisfied and ended the call. Jack held onto his phone for a moment half-expecting it to ring again with Brayden calling. When it didn’t, he set it down on the table and turned his attention back to his tablet.
Continue Jack's Story
- Starting Over at 55 Part 5
Everything Jack wasn't taking in his car was packed in the moving van. Everything in the van was headed for storage. Jack's old life was packed in a truck and ready to be left behind him.
© 2018 DW Davis
DW Davis (author) from Eastern NC on December 31, 2018:
Wanda plays an interesting role later in the story.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 30, 2018:
The introduction of a new character in the form of Wanda is interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing whether she appears again.