I have an interesting job, to me anyway.
I work in peoples homes, adding stuff or renovating stuff or fixing stuff and sometimes I get to spend some quality time with the folks that own the homes and listen to their stories, their fears, hopes and anxieties, and, if I’m lucky, a real tale.
I was lucky today.
One of my regular customers is on older retired couple (not that that’s strange- I’ve many and many single mothers wondering dispiritedly what the hell happened to their perfect life) whom I’ve always felt a little sad for.
She’s been fighting cancer for a long time and he’s been embracing alcohol for a longer time. Which is fine. Not the cancer part, but the alcohol part- we live at the beach and I’ve often thought that between the constant partying and the salt air drying us out I’m surprised we’re not ALL alcoholics. Or maybe we are. Whatever. Throw the first stone, dude.
I was back working at their house today and she was back in the hospital (but doing well) and he was shakily, jerkily, trying to help me install a new propane gas line from their leaky old tank.
Finally he stopped helping (something I normally charge customers double for) and sat watching me as I dug the ten foot trench to bury the gas line, swinging his big leg back and forth and kinda grinning.
I didn’t pay it much mind until he said- if you find something it’s mine. I shrugged mentally thinking well, hell yes, it’s your house, and kept digging. Whatever dude.
And then he said- if you find a PVC tube it’s full of cocaine and money and pictures of lawyers and judges snorting coke and it’s mine. I buried it years ago when they were chasing me and I forgot where it is and it pisses me off.
And I stopped my digging and I looked up at him and, ya know what?- I don’t know if it was the light glinting off the water or what, but, for a second, for maybe a minute, the years, the decades, washed down off of him and for the briefest of seconds I saw him as he’d been.
His normally bloodshot hooded eyes crackled blue and his smile was one of those engaging, don’t fuck with me just ’cause I’m havin’ fun right this second smiles. His eyes glittered briefly and then he settled, sighing, back into his beat-up old life.
For a second there, though, he was what he’d been.
And honestly? I like him more because of it.
And I wish I’d found the tube.