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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

A Stray’s Life – Roady Episode 27

Losing a day of pay causes the pain in my head to magnify. Losing Jerry’s respect makes me want to crawl under a rock. I use the excuse of my car but he knows and he’s not the only one, Mom is onto me too. She asks why I’m hanging around on a Tuesday, a typical work day. I tell her the car story. She peers at me with those eyes that know things about me that I don’t want to know. I hand her a plate of pancakes hoping to distract her. She takes a bite. I sigh in relief and turn to go back into the kitchen.
“What were you drinking last night?” She says mouth full of pancake. “Whiskey, wasn’t it?”
“Does it matter?” I say continuing to the kitchen. I take the bowl scraped clean of batter. I made breakfast for all the kids, Stan and finally mom. I couldn’t take a bite. Though now, I’m suddenly ravenous, but there’s nothing left. I look up from the empty bowl and there’s mom in the doorway. She hobbled her way to me. Progress. Good.
“Where’d you sleep if you don’t have your car?”
“Does it matter?” I say again.
“I don’t know why you’re sleeping in that car anyway, like you’re some kind of homeless person with no family. You should be sleeping in the house. We’ve got a couch, or we could put up a cot.”
I start to wash the bowl turning my back toward her.
“What is my house not good enough for you?” I hear her behind me but I don’t face her.
“It’s fine.”
“Then why don’t you act like you’re part of this household?”
“Don’t you get it?” I say whirling around, my head blaring, my stomach churning. “I don’t want to be part of this household. Ever!” I yell for emphasis.
There’s a loud thud. A back pack thrown to the floor. “Maybe we don’t want you anyway,” a voice as angry as mine yells back.
“Liam!” Mom says. “Why aren’t you at school?”
“I missed the damn bus because damn Junior told me to get something in the shed right when it came.”
“Don’t you cuss like that. Where have you been for the last hour?”
“Been sittin on Tyler’s bed, in the shed. There wasn’t no chocolate bar there like Junior said.”
Mom turns to me. “The shed? Really? What are you some kind of stray dog?”
On cue Roady trots into the room. If only I could be him.

Read this series from episode 1 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog. ———————————————————————————————

This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See ClareGraith.com for more info about the author.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

The Snake Bite – Roady Series Episode 26

Mistakes happen in the blink of an eye, same as car accidents. If only the tapes could roll back, I would pay my future earnings to do it the afternoon I once more crossed paths with Linda. I should have known that when it took me five times to finally start my car that morning, it was a sign. Something was wrong and to not open the hood and take a look was pure stupidity. I give myself the award for having the most. I didn’t want to miss a day of work. The pay was starting to add up. It made my words to Anne about not leaving truthful.

So of course on my way home, sweaty, beat and ready to crash from starvation, my car breaks down. I’m standing there on the dusty shoulder of route thirty seven contemplating how far I need to walk to get to town, when a black Jeep pulls over in front of my dead Corolla.
Linda jumps out. “Hey, Ty. Thought that was you. Where have you been?”
“Been around.”
“Everyone says they’ve seen you. Everyone except me. Did you forget to stop over?”
“I’m working out at the new development. Not around town much.”
“Looks like you’re not going anywhere tonight.” She pulls out her phone and starts making a call.
“What are you doing?”
“Calling Parker to send a tow.”
“What? No!” The last thing I need is her brother doing me a favor.
“Don’t be an ass. You need help. He’ll send one of his guys. Take it to the garage. He’ll take care of it and don’t worry, I’ll make sure he gives you the family rate.”
“I can fix it myself. Just need an alternator. Give me a jump would you?”
She stares at me then breaks out in laughter. When I don’t smile back, she shakes her head. “You won’t make it home.” She gets on the phone again.
Fifteen minutes later, my car is rolling away, hooked up to a truck emblazoned with “Wheelers Wheels” on top of graphic of four wheels on fire.
“You look hungry,” Linda says. “I’ll fix you some dinner.” We get in her Jeep.
“Where are your kids?” I ask as I slide into the passenger seat and don’t hear any crying.
“They’re with their daddy at Jake’s parents. We don’t get along you know. Best I stay here.”
“Take me to the garage,” I tell her.
“There’s no rush to go there. Parker’s not going to look at it until tomorrow morning anyways.”
“Then take me home. Please,” I add.
“I’m taking you to my place and making dinner. It won’t kill you to come talk to me for a little while. You could show a little appreciation for my rescuing you.”
I’m too tired and too hungry to object.

She makes greasy cheese burgers and French fries. I eat three.
“Forgot what a hog you are,” she says head resting on her hand, watching me eat like I’m a freak show. Then she gives me this far away look.
“Whatever you’re thinking, you better forget it.”
“I’m not thinking anything,” she says snapping free of it. She takes two beers out of the fridge and puts one down in front of me.
I push it back. “No thanks.”
“What? Since when have you gone dry?”
I don’t answer. I finish the last bite of a burger and ask for a glass of water. Linda hangs the bottle of beer in front of my face. “Really you don’t want a nice cold one to wash down all those burgers?”
No one told me to stop drinking. No one said if you drink again your life is over. Why am I being such a Teetotaler? What would one cold beer do to me? I take the beer from her hand and twist off the top and take a long deep guzzle. Had to be the best beer of my life, the best. Linda sits across from me with big snakey smile. She takes the cover off a wood box in the middle of the table.
“Play some cards with me.” She starts dealing out the cards. They slide over the slippery laminate surface like water skimmers in a pond.
“I’ve got to get home.”
She laughs. “I hardly think Stan’s house is home to you.”
“Home is bed, sleep. I’ve got another early day. Need to deal with the car.”
“There’s a bed here for you. No need to go rushing home.”
I get up from the table. “I’m leaving now. Thanks for dinner.”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Linda says. “Play a round of Rummy with me. Come on you’ve eaten a week’s worth of hamburger the least you could do is keep me from dying of boredom tonight.”
I don’t want to feel like I owe her but my belly is full and that beer has dulled the edge of senses. I sit back down and we start a game. I don’t even notice that my first beer is replaced for another. I realize at the third that I’ve gone beyond the one innocent, refreshing drink. But I don’t blink an eye when she sets a shot glass in front of me and pours whiskey from a fresh bottle of Jack Daniels. When the cards start to blur and I’m not sure if six goes before or after seven, my eyes look to the bottle on the table and it registers that it’s almost gone.
“I’m done,” I say. I get up almost knocking over my chair.
“You can sleep on the couch.”
“I’m going home.” I head for the door.
“How’re you going to get there?” She says breaking out into a fit of giggles. “You can’t even walk a straight line.”
“Need the fresh air.” I get myself outside. Linda stands in the doorway watching me going up the sidewalk.
“You’re not going the right way.”
It’s gotta be after midnight and she’s yelling at me.
“You’re such a jerk leaving me.”
I keep going. The sticky warm air fills my lungs and gets stuck there like I’m swimming under water. I wretch into some bushes. Must be too much too fast.
Somehow, I find my way home and crash in the only place I can find, on a blue tarp in the old metal shed. The last thought I have before I’m out cold is, I hope the snake doesn’t get me. When I wake the next morning, it’s clear the snake found me.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

A Dove of Peace or Trouble? – Roady Series Episode 25

What is it about women that they know what to do, what to say when someone is falling apart?
“You lost your father?”
“I didn’t know him.”
I go on to tell her about the accident with the swing and how it drove him to drown in alcohol and then leave us. Anne squeezes my hand even tighter. Just now I notice her thigh is pressed against mine.
Then it happens, like it should. My arm slips around her waist and I pull her close. She looks into my eyes before she closes them and we kiss, soft and sweet. Her breath is moist against my face as our lips hover in the limbo of what’s next. It’s a momentary pause, that slips easily into full searching kisses, desperate, like we waited too long, years even, to know the warmth of each other’s mouths, the heat radiating up our necks, the peachy fragrance of her lip gloss mixing with salty sweat of me. Without meaning to I press her down until we are prone on the bench and still we kiss. When I know I want more than just her kisses, I pull away. As I shift, the bench swings back and we are both dumped onto the plank wood floor of the gazebo. The swing comes from behind and clunks me in the head.
Anne breaks out in laughter. “I guess Dad had something to say about that!”
We lay there flat, under the swing. I touch the softness of her face and her smile fades. Her eyes hold a soulful dilemma. I don’t perceive it right away. I think maybe she has just thought of Bobby, but then she speaks. She lifts up the bird pendant and I know in that instant, it’s a dove. I never saw it before.
“Do you believe in God?” she asks.
“I do.” I’m not lying. I believe there is a God, but I’m fairly certain I’m not in his club.
“Do you believe in Jesus?”
“I don’t know what that means.” When I was a kid, mom dropped me off every summer to Vacation Bible school. I learned about Christmas and Easter but it never felt real to me any more than Noah and his ark. I brush a stray hair from her face. She sits up and I follow her lead. We don’t get back on the swing but move to the edge of the stairs. We are shoulder to shoulder and she grasps my hand like she doesn’t dare let it go.
“If you die would you go to heaven or hell?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I was kind of hoping I could do some extra credit along the way to pass the grade, make it to heaven or at least get to that place, what is it purgatory? Pay up for awhile, not end up burning forever.”
“That’s quite a plan,” she says with an amused smile. She rubs the pendant again.
“A dove, not a cross?” I ask her.
She looks down at the silver bird. “I can’t forget the cross or how Jesus gave himself to pay for my sins. I don’t need to wear a cross. But sometimes I forget that he has given me peace, all I need to live in this contentious world.”
“Peace?” To me that is as elusive as happiness. Just getting by everyday with a little love from my dog and once in awhile the comfort of another human being, that’s as close as I get to either.
“Peace with God. Peace from God,” Anne says with not a flicker of doubt.
In all my life I have never thought of God as a source of peace. Judgement, yes. Punishment, yes. And why not? I’ve done some bad things. Hurt people. Stolen stuff when I was really desperate. I’m trying not to be that way, trying not to make the same mistakes but really, I’m pretty good at finding new ones.
Anne is staring at me and I realize I am staring at her looking for the path she’s convinced she has. Then she does it, she unclamps her necklace and puts it around my neck.
“No,” I say trying to open the small clasp. “You just said you need this.”
She pulls my hands away. “Borrow it, until you know what it means.”
“Anne,” I say measuring my words carefully. I did not kiss her for the thrill of it. I kissed her because I want to be in that space with her, that closeness not reserved for just anyone. The connection that says, you mean more to me than just a girl I came across. The thought of losing that ground with her, is splitting me in half, but more than anything, I can’t lead her on. I can’t be dishonest. Even in my ignorance of all things Christian, I know that is a sin I will not commit.
“It won’t mean the same thing to me. I’ll think of you only, not God.”
She lifts the pendant from my throat, only a moment ago it was resting on hers, safe, holy, charged with faith. Now it is on mine where it does not belong except for the sweet sentiment in her heart.
“That’s fine. Precept on precept, faith comes.”
I laugh. To hear her even suggest I would have her kind of faith sounds ridiculous. Then I realize what a callous ass I am. Her hand freezes on the dove. I think she will rip it off and storm away from me. But, she doesn’t. She smiles, warmly.
“No worries, Tyler, I’ll pray for you.”
That is no laughing matter. I’m terrified.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Seated in Love- Roady Series Episode #24

It’s nine thirty. I’m in my car again. All I can do is stare at my phone. Is it too late to call? Then it hits me. Text her. I can do that. I can.
Hey.
In a second, a text comes back.
Hi.
What now?
It was good to see you today.
Yes.
What else can I say? I’m stuck, really stuck. I can’t tell her how as soon I saw her, my heart started pounding and I felt light headed. I can’t tell her that until that moment I had been telling myself I didn’t miss her, didn’t think about her, didn’t feel like I lost the best treasure I ever found. She can’t know that I wait at the stop sign by Steak and Shake every morning sometimes for a few minutes fighting with myself to have the courage to go in.
Rejection digs so deep in me, risking it when I’ve been on the edge of the void of depression, requires courage I’m clean out of.
Call me. She texts finally.
I press the phone icon.
“Hi,” I say.
“Hi.”
“Are you busy?”
“As busy as you are.”
I laugh. She giggles.
“Meet me at the park?”
“Veterans?”
“Yes.”

It takes me fifteen minutes to get to town to Veteran’s Memorial park. She’s standing under the archway over the entrance. There’s a spotlight shining down on her black glossy hair. Her lips are shining too. She’s dressed in neat khaki capris with a pale pink loose T-shirt. On her feet white canvas sneakers. Everything about her is modesty and understatement. I’m consumed with the desire to wrap my arms around her. But as I approach the desire is tempered by how she looks at me, like I’m a friend, a brother. I suddenly realize I’m wearing the same beat up T-shirt I had on shopping today. Damn I could have at least put on a clean shirt.

She gives me a smile. Maybe I’m not just her friend. I don’t want to be just friends. Really. Can she tell? Am I dripping with desire, puddling all my feelings at her feet?
“That was weird.”
“What?” I wonder for a moment if I said my thoughts out loud.
“How you left that night and never came around again.”
“I’ve been working, a lot.”
She nods dismissively. “That call. It was my pastor. I have the chance to go to Costa Rica as a youth leader.”Her face is lit up. We start down the path. It’s not dark. There are fairy lights on the bushes that line the walkway.
“That’s something.”
“Over fall break,” she says. “I guess you’ll be gone by then.”
“I guess.”
We’re walking side by side, close. I want to take her hand. I want to but I don’t. “I might stay,” I say. She stops, looks at me. “Would you?”
Why do I feel like this conversation has a lot more weight to it than just the words? What am I doing? It feels like a commitment. I should tell her I need to go, that I’m sick or something, anything to stop this. Instead I take her hand and she doesn’t pull away.
We reach the middle, where the gazebo is. I freeze a blanket of recognition drops over me.
“What’s wrong?”
I look at the lights outlining the octagon shape. There’s a glowing yellow light shining down on a swing. The back is carved with a scene centered on two swans with necks intertwined.
“I think my father made that swing,” I say. All these years and I never knew. We step up into the gazebo. Anne sits on the swing. “I’ve always loved it.” She runs her hand over the carved wood. “So beautiful. If your dad made this, he was quite an artist.” She holds her hand out, ushering me to the seat.
I sit down and I’m surrounded by my father as though I’m a child sitting in his lap. I feel the intensity of his mind, focused on carving it just so, planning the grace of the birds, the detail that shows the devotion of the two. The waters of a lake rippling across the solid surface. The patience of hours to smooth the surface, to join the pieces, to hang the cables. Then like a violent flash of lightening, the vision of a man throwing himself onto the swing, the jingle of falling chains, the sick sound of breaking bones. I’m there. The beauty of his creation becoming the beast of his anguish. An echo of regret wells up in me. How can I let these emotions overtake me? But I do, and I’m broken down next to Anne who squeezes my hand and says nothing, asks nothing, just sits there with me.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

She Found Me – Roady Series Episode 23

I hate grocery shopping. Hate it. How did my Friday nights become a junior episode of supermarket sweep? It’s better than having all the boys hanging on the cart begging me to buy pop and chips though. I send the two oldest off together with a small list. I know they’ll probably horse around and be a pain in the ass for a store employee but I’m okay with that. The store person is getting paid and I’m getting the shopping done faster. Home base is the cereal aisle. I finish my list and keep Clinton and JJ busy looking at all the cereal boxes. Great plan!
Great until Junior comes back without Liam.
“I don’t know where he is. He was supposed to get his half of the list.” He dumps two cans of tomato sauce and two boxes of spaghetti along with a bag of Twizzlers. I take the candy out and put it on the shelf next to oatmeal.
“Which aisle did you leave him in?”
“Don’t remember.” His voice cracks with challenge.
“Go and find him.”
“Not gonna.”
“You will or you’re walking home.”
“What? I can’t walk home. It’s miles.”
JJ and Clinton are looking between us, eyes wide open. Clinton does not look worried. There’s a little curl of his lip like he’s about to laugh. I’m not sure I like that he is relishing his brother’s impending punishment.
I point. “Go!”
“I’m telling dad you were going to leave me at the store.”
I’m just about to say I don’t give a damn when at the end of the aisle, there’s Liam red faced but not crying. Anne is right behind him.
“Look who I found,” Anne says.
I can’t think of a single word to say.
“Liam,” I manage to sputter out. Liam comes over to the cart and places each of his items inside one by one.
Anne comes closer and says to me, “I was talking about you.”
Again I am tongue tied.
“Where have you been?”
“Working.”
“You don’t eat breakfast anymore? No one gets seated at your table you know.”
“I thought we stopped that.”
“I can’t take break every morning but that doesn’t mean you can’t come!”
“Well I thought you didn’t…” I’m not even sure where I’m going with this. Why am I such an idiot around her?
“Didn’t what?”
My mouth hangs open. “I mean….it’s just that…you have things going on…”
“Tyler Rowen, What is that matter with you? Give me your phone.”
I hand over my phone like my arm is programmed to her voice command. She types away. I hear a bell go off. She hands back my phone and takes out hers. “You have my number now. Call me some time, okay?”
She gives me the brightest smile in the universe.
“Okay.” Then she’s gone and I’m left with Liam and Junior yanking the cart in all directions until it crashes into a display of Minion fruit chews. JJ and Clinton start picking up the fallen boxes and putting them in the cart. I don’t care. I stare at my phone that now has Anne Mason as a contact. I think I might change my mind about what I think about grocery shopping.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

The Dog Wins the Helper Award – Roady Episode 21

I’ve got two pairs of eyes watching me. One of them has a mouth that doesn’t shut up. The other cocks his head and wags his tail every time I say, ‘yes’ and gives a huff every time I curse. I’m crouched in front of the beat up rusted mower in a dirt patch in front of the aluminum shed.
“Why are you draining all the gas?” Junior asks.
“It’s no good. That’s why the mower is smoking.”
“Why do you have to cut the grass anyway? I like it long. Roady likes it long.” The dog barks in agreement. I ignore the question and start funneling in fresh gas.
“We found a snake yesterday. I put it in Liam’s backpack and he screamed like a girl. Would have brought it to school if Roady hadn’t sniffed it out. Roady was gonna eat it but Liam screamed and the snake got away.”
I take off the cover to get to the air filter. It’s green and nasty. Never changed I’m sure. I toss it to the side . Roady goes after but then rejects the find. Liam comes down the driveway, sees us and starts coming our way.
“Can I help?”
“We don’t need your help,” Junior says.
I don’t need anyone’s help. “Yes,” I say to Liam. “Can you go in my car and get the bag from the front seat?”
Liam nods and dashes off like he’s on a mission to save the world.
“I’ll get it,” Junior says taking off but though Liam is smaller, he’s an agile runner. Junior with all his height and bulk, can’t catch up to him. They fight over who will carry the bag to me until it’s split open and the packaged filter drops out. Roady is right there to retrieve it and bring it to me. All I need is the dog. I see Junior kick Liam out of the corner of my eye. Liam runs off crying. Junior comes back over to me.
“He’s such a baby.”
“Why’d you kick your brother?”
“Cause he made me mad.”
I stand up in front of Junior, who is just about five feet.
“You make me mad when you kicked Liam. Should I kick you then?”
“Hell no,” he says backing up.
“Think about that Junior.”
He kicks the lawn mower then walks away.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Red, White, Blue and Green Summer – Roady Series #20

It’s time to stop trying to make sense of things and just deal with what’s right in front of me. Today that’s a busted lawn mower, something I know a little bit about. Not that I ever lived anywhere that had a lawn worth mowing, but I used to mow lawns. If the mower didn’t work, I didn’t get paid so I learned how to fix them and even had a spring tune up gig going for awhile. That ended when one afternoon I saw something I wasn’t supposed to see.
The Aberlys had a huge lawn and they paid me fifty dollars every week in the height of spring. It was good money but not easy. That’s why after the first week, I stopped cutting the lower lawn. It was a small section out back that dropped down the side of a hill and then blended into woods. The only way to even know it was there was to walk to the edge and then see the rock retaining wall and then the grass below. What was the point? I’d have to pull out the push mower and lug it down there. Not worth the sweat and time when no one would know. Mr. Aberly owned five General Motors car dealerships across three counties. His ad campaigns were cheesy with a woman named Daisy marching across the parking lots carrying a flag and waving her hand at the huge inventory of American made cars. Each dealership had a giant American flag flying but the biggest one was at the house. Had to be larger than fifty by eighty feet. The sound of it whipping back and forth in a good wind was fierce. Funny thing was, the lawn mower was a Honda. You’d think he would have a John Deere. He said it’s because he didn’t like the color green. But he sure liked a green lawn, especially a thick one, hidden away and begging to be rolled around in. I found that out the hard way. After a few weeks of skipping that lower lawn, I started to feel bad. What was I saving, ten minutes maybe? I was already sweating bullets, with the July sun beating down my neck. The good thing was that section was half shaded. The idea of laying down on the cool, long green carpet suddenly appealed to me as much as a tall glass of iced lemonade. I pulled the mower to the edge and started lowering it until sounds came to my ears that made me freeze. I looked over the mower and there was Mr. Aberly and a woman who definitely was not the Mrs and looked strikingly like Daisy from the car commercials. I choked back a startled cry. They were too hot and steamy to notice the red metal monster with its blades exposed, hanging in the air or my arms shaking as I held it midway down the wall. I summoned all my He-man strength. I was not going to loose this battle against gravity. I started to pull it back up but then, my sneakers slid as the rock beneath them knocked loose. I and the mower tumbled down. I managed to throw the mower away from the bodies but there were still screams, wild curses and hands touching things my seventeen year old self had not planned to feel at just that moment. I broke my wrist. Daisy had a big scratch going down the side of her face and she couldn’t stop screaming which of course got the dog barking and you can imagine, it went downhill from there. The outcome? I never went back to lawn mowing, there was a divorce, the Mrs. got the house and Mr. Aberly got the flag. I’m sure he had many a patriotic night sleeping under that flag.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

The Cost of Lost – Roady Series 18

Roadie still sleeps with me in the car and it’s a good thing. I lay awake trying not to think how that brief moment of closeness with Anne unlocked a longing I’d rather keep dormant. Roady’s doggy snoring makes me smile. When his legs start twitching in his sleep I think he is dreaming about running through woods and fields with not a care in the world.
“I’m right there with you,” I say. He gives a doggy response and I take it as “let’s do it.”
But I’m working tomorrow. Roady will go with me and he likes to wander around the build sites so he’ll be happy at least.

Next morning, I’m cutting rafters and hauling wood; the softness of Anne washed from my mind. Jerry keeps me busy. I don’t know why but he stops and shows me how to do even simple tasks better. Actually not better, I know I’m doing well. I mean any builder worth his salt has to make clean cuts, exact angles. But he says, “Not there yet.” Then shows me what I did that made it less than perfect. Does perfect really matter? Slight imperfections won’t show. He hovers near me so I have to concentrate.
“Gary didn’t do you any favors with how he trained you,” he says.
I don’t remember ever mentioning who I apprenticed under.
“You’re surprised I knew it was Gary?”
“Well, Yeah.”
“You think I’d hire you on to work with my crew if I didn’t check into your history?”
I wonder what he means by ‘history’. Did he contact Gary and find out about the accident? Why am I still working if he knew that?
“It’s a small world, especially around here. I knew who you were the moment I came upon you. You look just like your dad. Hard worker, just like you, but he got lost. We were friends though.”
“Friends?”
Jerry nods. “High school. We all had dreams. Really felt bad that he couldn’t see them through.”
I can’t think now. I measure over and over without starting a cut. “What was his dream?”
“You were young when he passed on?”
“Ten, but he wasn’t around since I was five.”
“Damn shame to lose a father at that age.”
He’s not answering my question and now I’m consumed by wanting to know. I put down my square and turn to him. He adjusts his hat, wiping sweat off his brow.
“John always wanted to build a house, a solid little house in a clearing in the woods. He thought he would have a workshop and make enough money to raise his kids. Maybe have a small farm.”
That’s my dream. Well at least the house part.
“He was always making something with his hands back then, custom mailboxes, signs, furniture.”
“What happened?” I don’t think much about my dad. All I remember was the yelling and my sister Emily reading me stories saying, “It’s not really daddy. It’s the drunk man who looks like him.” She told me just to stay under the bed and tomorrow real daddy would be back. Then one day, he wasn’t back and neither was the drunk one. Emily stopped reading me stories, so I started reading alone. When I found her drinking my dad’s whiskey, I asked her if drunk Emily was going to go away too. Drunk and high Emily did, when social services caught up to Mom. Neither of us were enrolled in school and it was clear we were half starved and mostly on our own. That was the year I lost. I don’t remember one moment of it except a blur of anxiety. Emily told me years later that I was in a foster home, a different one than her. I was returned to Mom but Emily stayed with her new family.
“I don’t know that it’s my place to tell you,” Jerry says.
I stare at him, not moving. He’s going to tell me because I’m not doing another thing until he does.
“It was in the news, you could find out all you want to know son, just do some digging.”
“Should I? Or should a friend of his tell me?”
Jerry sighs. He picks up the square and starts marking out a cut. “Should’ve never started talking this way.”
“Well you have.”
He gives another deep sigh. Roady comes up to us and sits as though he should be a witness. “As I was saying. John was handy, a craftsman. He would be proud of you.”
I don’t even know how to take that. Can a man feel pride in a son he never took an interest in?
“He had a good business going on. We’d all work at job sites but he would go home and make stuff. He ended up getting a deal with a builder to make a fancy carved bench swing for inside a gazebo. He did well of course, so they started ordering more. Too much for him to keep up. He didn’t know how to say no. So Gary and I helped him.”
Something inside me shifts, a premonition of what is to come makes my breathing falter. I hear inside my mind, “No!” Before there is a reason to speak it.
“Carving and being artistic is not my thing so I worked on sanding and staining,” Jerry goes on. “John did the designs and he and Gary assembled and installed them. We were all making money on it but driving ourselves into the ground, especially John. He wouldn’t quit till everything was right. He would double check every installation except one night, he came down with the flu and couldn’t inspect all those that Gary did.”
There was that catch in my lungs again.
“Your mama had to drive him home he was so taken with fever. Probably sick the whole time. Story has it that next day, one of the contractors was showing off, he was a heavy man and he jumped on the swing like it was a horse. The swing separated from the chains and dropped. The man broke his neck, died instantly. It was a freak accident.”
He pauses. A million thoughts go through my mind.
“That was the end of the business but worse yet your dad could never get passed the man dying. Blamed himself. He told me that he should have finished checking all the benches. There was another bench before that one that he had to tighten the bolts, seemed like it wasn’t finished. God forgive me but I wanted to kill Gary that day. They checked the rest and found them all loose. Officially John was the installer. He took the blame. There were no charges but he never got over it. That’s when the drinking became a thing. That’s when we lost him.” He looks at me with deep sorrow that must have been dwelling in his heart for a long time. For a split second, I want to give him a hug or him to give me a hug but it passes in a flash. “So you wanted to know and now you do.” He gives Roady a good scratch on the neck and walks off.


DON’T miss another episode in this series, subscribe now! Binge READ Episodes 1- 17 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog.
This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See ClareGraith.com for more info about the author.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Pizza Party? Roady Series Episode 17

We’re not doing anything wrong. We were going to grab a pizza at Luigi’s but when we walked into the place, a whole cheerleading squad had three tables full of high schoolers. I saw someone point at Anne and then two others turned around.
“You know them?”
She nodded. “Bobbie’s cousin and friends. Let’s go.”
We turned around and walked out. Anne said she had a Mac and cheese at home that she could reheat. No way was I going to suggest take-out from Chili’s if homemade Mac and cheese was on the menu.
That’s how I ended up at her apartment, but we’re not alone. Her roommate Danielle sits on the couch talking on her phone. I’m torn. Part of me wants to say something to Danielle when Anne disappears in her room to get an old yearbook. I want to hint that maybe she could go to her room and let Anne and I sit on the couch together instead of at the kitchen table. But then, I think maybe I should go to the kitchen sink and splash some cold water on my face. What am I thinking? We’re just talking. We’re just friends. She’s in mourning. Don’t mess it up Tyler. She’s like the only person I’ve talked to in a while that makes me feel like a real person, not a stranger. We’ve got history, good history and I welcome it after years of shallow, meaningless half friends.
She comes back and we sit side by side as she points out pictures of me which to my surprise are sprinkled throughout. I never got the yearbook. Linda did, but she was only concerned about filling it with signatures. A month after graduation it was off radar and I never even saw more than my picture which I wrote some corny poem on. Anne turns a page fast but I put my hand on it.
“Wait. Is that you?”
She’s sitting at a desk in a classic Anne posture with her hands folded and there’s my minimalist “TR” , right at the top of her hands. But what makes me stare is that the letters are enclosed in a pencil drawn heart.
“I never…” my words trail off.
“It was a long time ago. I was a teenager.” She laughs nervously then turns the page. It’s a collage of photos of the marching band. There’s Bobbie in uniform with his trombone at his side like the rifle of a soldier. Anne stares at it a moment then closed the book with a snap. “This was a bad idea, I’m sorry.”
Whatever we intended for the evening, fails. It’s like we walk this tight rope over a pool of snapping alligators. There’s no forgetting the danger just inches away.
“Thanks for dinner,” I tell her just outside her door. It’s a small landing at the top of stairs, dimly lit.
“It was one of Bobbie’s favorites.” She looks up at me and tears are forming. I pull her into a hug without thinking but she doesn’t resist. It feels good to hold her as she cries softly. “I’m sorry,” I say.
She lifts her head. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be so depressing.”
“No, you’re fine.” I tell her. I take her face in my hands and wipe the tears from under eyes. “I’m here for you.”
She studies me for a moment. “Answer me a question.”
My heart leaps in my throat. Is there anything scarier than those words from a woman? “Yes.”
“Why are you here?”
I take in a deep breath.“Does there have to be a why?”
She squints her eyes. “Yes.”
I feel the alligators nipping at my feet and choose my words carefully but before I can open my mouth, the door cracks open and Danielle’s face appears in the stream of light from the apartment.
“Sorry to bother,” she says. She looks at Anne. “Pastor Jim called twice. He texted me and said if I knew where you were. He was expecting a call from you.”
Anne puts her hand over her mouth. “Oh my gosh! I forgot!” She turns back to me and then as though we were never on the brink of the danger zone she says, “So sorry Tyler. I’ve got to go. Talk to you later? Tomorrow?” I hear the the indefinite, ‘nice knowing you’, ‘I’ve got a life without you’ in her words.
“Sure, I’m gone.” I start walking down the stairs.
She gives me a little wave, like that makes a difference. I get it. As I go down the steps, I can’t help but feel like I’m going down into the depths of everything going wrong.
She asked me why I was here because she never really invited me. I’m not filling a gap in her life. I pulled her into the gap in my life. Well, no more. Our break time chats are over and clearly meeting on a more personal basis is not going to work. It was a flash in the pan and now it’s over.

BINGE read Episodes 1- 16 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog.


This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See ClareGraith.com for more info about the author.

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A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Knitting a Web Of Trouble- Roady Series Episode 16

It’s not what I expected, Mom being home. She spends all day in the recliner. All night too because she can prop the leg up that way. I expected her to be zoned out on pain killers. But all she pops is Ibuprofen and antacids and she knits. Yes, my mom has become a knitting fiend. That explains all the random afghans all over the house. I don’t tell her I half melted one at the laundromat. She’s not up and about so she won’t find it for awhile.
“What’re you looking at?” she says.
I’ve been staring at her, not realizing it. “Just didn’t know you were the crafty type.”
“I’m not. You know that. Not crafty at all. Haven’t you noticed all I can make is blankets and I’m the last one to know what size and shape. Sit and talk with me,” she says pointing to the couch.
I was going to take Roady for a walk and maybe figure out what we’ve got around to make dinner. She’s sitting there, immobile, the folding snack table next to her chair loaded with a huge plastic insulated cup of coffee, a bag of Doritos, and Hershey’s kisses. The air in the small living room is stifling. She doesn’t want the windows open because she gets cold and then can’t close them. It’s over sixty outside in the morning, summer time in my book. I sit down.
“Knitting?” The needles clink together. There’s a strand of yarn coming up out of basket on the floor.
“It all started when I bought a big bag of yarn at a garage sale. They told me to keep busy, especially my hands so it occurred to me that I could learn to knit.”
“Who told you?”
“Rehab,” she says. “You know I went through a whole program when I got pregnant with Junior.”
“You were knitting then? I don’t remember that.”
“I didn’t and I didn’t quit pills either.” She gives me a straight on look. “I’m sorry. I know I promised but I didn’t count on having babies and a husband.”
I’m stunned. Where was I when she was using? Out with Linda, being a teenager, oblivious?

“But,” Mom says. “By the time I was pregnant with Liam, my doctor was on to me and she scared me half to death saying at my age with my blood pressure I could miscarry at any moment if I kept doing what I was doing. So I started rehab again and I started knitting.”
“What about now?”
“You see me knitting.”
“But the accident. You were high.”
She puts her knitting down in her lap. “It wasn’t pills,” she says. She won’t meet eyes now and anyway I won’t look at her. “It was just a joint, okay?”
“Okay?” I raise my voice. “You’re kidding right?”
She lowers her head and starts to cry. “It’s not addictive you know.”
“Really? Cause I’m pretty sure you would be smoking right now if you had any.”
“Dammit Tyler if there were ever a time I should be smoking, eating, drinking hash it would be now. I’m in pain.”
I get up from the couch. “Keep telling yourself it’s okay. Just don’t ask Bobby’s fiancé if she’s okay with one of the drivers in the accident just being high on marijuana.” I walk to the door then look back. “And don’t ask me either.”

Binge READ Episodes 1- 15 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog.
————————————————————————————————-This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See ClareGraith.com for more info about the author.