RIVERSIDE: Part 2
by Mary K. Grant
Daniel took a moment to creep up to the den, pick up the phone and dial Howard Schneider.
“Hey, Howie. How’re things?” he crooned into the receiver.
Howie was a card. Never asked for anything but a smile. He could picture the sour face as they chatted about their boats, wives and lawn troubles. Howie had a pimply, scarred and rugged face dominated by a pair of heavy black horn-rimmed glasses just like Dan’s own. They were both active in the War Veterans locally.
“Howie–how are my stocks doing?” Daniel asked now, without real concern. Sneider was a trusted friend and a capable attorney as well, in his opinion. The best sort of friend to have, he had proven his worth in the past. He had bailed Dan out during the last recession by finding a quick buyer for his stocks before he lost too much.
“Don’t remind me. Fine. They’re about the same. Lucille’s millions–another story! Gobbled up.”
“Tease me. How big a gain?” Daniel asked, anxiously pursing his lips and clamping the handset closer to his ear.
“Nothing happening. And it isn’t now, nor ever was, millions, my friend.” Howie said, laughing.
“Hell, you know how it is. Lucille should have given my Helen a thumbs up.” Daniel said. This was old familiar talk, and Howie bantered back.
“It’s for Shirley, actually.” Howie said. “When you going to tell her?”
“Now, now. All in good time. Someday.” Daniel said, his forehead creasing slightly.
“It’s your future. Hell’s fire to you if you keep silent.” Howie snorted. He was religious.
“Alright. No sermon. Pull out another two grand for the coming season and mail me a check. I want to get away to Virginia.” Daniel said.
“Liquidate those IBM stocks, I think–but I’ll save a few. I’ll take my usual fee, Ole Man. Alright?”
“Sure.” Dan said. Howie continued chatting with him about this and that for a few minutes more and seemed very pleased with himself.
“Right. See you at the next Veteran meeting Wednesday night, Ole Bud.” Daniel said, ending it.
Before he returned to the living room and the Wescotts, he glanced out the den window at Donny and Joyce playing on the lawn with the dog, tossing a stick to go fetch. Sitting down in his soft “Lazy boy” recliner, he brought back the memory of his favorite benefactor: Lucille. Seemed like only yesterday they had laid her to rest.
She had always impressed him. It was clear from the start that she was a real aristocrat. Like an impoverished Bourbon queen from New Orleans, her bearing and manners demanded homage. Lucille had some antiquated notions and wanted a showy heiress. Angelic Joyce became the Apple of her eye almost upon birth.
Daniel could relive that scene now.
Barely pausing by the hospital bed where her Helen dozed, all wrung out from an all-day labor, Lucille had phoned Howard Sneider.
“Set me up a Living Will, Howie.” she crooned. “I have a new cherub in the family.”
“Right,” Howie had said without fuss. She had made him the Executor, placing all her assets into a Trust making Joyce the sole beneficiary, while Lucille lived off the interest from her portfolio. Howie kept her comfortable for the short remainder of her life. Shirley enjoyed parenthood in blissful ignorance while the “Grand Dragon Dame” as Howie referred to his client, languished in regal comfort at The Heritage Assisted Living Center in town.
“Daniel, my friend, I’m going to make your Helen feel less neglected.” Howie said to him a year later, when Dan mentioned the trust.
“Lucille wasn’t very fair to her daughter! I’m not one to judge, but there’s no sense in wasting what this Trust can do now that she’s placed it into my hands. Helen will be just fine.” Sneider said.
“We need a new car, old friend.” Daniel said softly.
“Oh, absolutely. Allow me to play God and make Justice for only a twenty percent kickback.” Howie said, staring at him like a wise old owl.
Daniel demurred. Funds were diverted to Gables, without Shirley’s knowledge.
“It might be awkward. My “Wifey-Poo” occasionally develops a guilty conscience.” Daniel told Sneider.
When Joyce reached the ripe age of 12, Lucille passed away. There was a big funeral.
After that, and perhaps because of Joyce’s demand for her attention, Shirley was distracted from noticing the ample wallet Daniel toted month in, month out. Engrossed with Beautiful Child contests and talent shows, mother and daughter passed many enjoyable years. Meanwhile, Dan bought a new model sedan each year, attributing it to his growing business.. He installed a sprinkler system for the lawn. His friend Peter installed the best aluminum siding in town. The improvements went on and on, the property rising steeply in value. A Jacuzzi., an enclosed rear porch Florida Room with motorized awnings–the local realtors inquired whether or not Gable would sell, as they had had offers.
Shirley grew up without so much as a cloud to rain on her parade. Her radiant beauty made Helen jealous at times. She would gaze in the mirror after returning from the beauty parlor dissatisfied.
“No, you cannot have acting lessons. No, you cannot stay overnight at Rodger’s house.”
There was an endless cycle of denial which was not unnoticed by Daniel.
When Donny was born to the Wescotts, Daniel thrilled at the prospect of future moments fishing with a grandson.
Life went on with an augmented lifestyle carefully concealed by his loyal accountant. Daniel chortled in glee. Howie got a regular slap on the back each time they met at the Lodge.
Meanwhile, despite everything, Helen fumed at her bored little matron society life she was forced to lead.
“Here, darling. A mink.” he’d say at her birthday party.
“Here, darling. Membership at the Malibu Cabana Club this summer?” Daniel whispered, sweeping Helen into his arms.
Shirley at age 24 was a sight to behold. She had no inkling that she had been meant to be an heiress. At Brandel’s side, she put in 50-hour work weeks to maintain their desirable lifestyle.
Now, after yet another pleasant evening, the Wescotts returned home.
Dan, trying to phone a friend, heard nothing but gurgles and burps on the receiver all night. Furious at the phone company, he angrily used his cell phone to call Chris Chris, a member of the Lodge whom he knew was a first class phone technician.
“Hey, Chris. Can you come over and fix my phone?” he asked.
“Sure, Man. Where are you at again?” Chris asked. Dan told himself that making progress was simple as that when you knew the right people. Sure enough, later that evening, the repairs had been made.
“I appreciate it. You know, I own shares in this phone company! Horrible service! I think I’m going to sell them.” Dan said. He waved goodbye to Chris from the porch and watched his repair truck head down the road.
Very late that same night, Dan phoned Brandel Wescott. “How ’bout breakfast on me at C&S tomorrow morning–say, 10-ish?” he asked.
“Why sure, Dad. Great time today. We were just going to bed.” Brandel said, pleasantly surprised.
It was a nice Monday, the Fourth of July weekend, and C&S was extremely crowded when both Wescott and Gable arrived almost simultaneously.
“Minds on the same wave length.” Dan said, reserving a table with a shove here and a smile there.
Brandel smiled painfully as he took the seat saved for him. Soon they were both happily munching buttered toast dipped in sunny side ups and heaped mounds of crisp bacon.
“Mrs. S, some more decaf’ please.” Brandel said, looking at the clock near the pay phone.
“There’s no work today!” Dan said, “I asked you here because I’ve got something to tell you.”
“Okay, Dad,” Brandel said, rolling up his sleeves. “Let me have it!”
“It hurts me to see how hard you and Joyce have been struggling to make ends meet.” Dan said, his face a little flushed from the steamy luncheonette atmosphere.
“I’m up for a raise in October.” Brandel said proudly.
“No need to wait ‘till October.” Dan began.
Just then, waltzing in through the front plate glass door appeared Chris Chris, his favorite technician, with partner Iggy in tow. Spotting Mr. Gable, he winked and waved. They both waved back. “Hey, why don’t you join us!” Dan yelled over the hubbub.
“Why not?” Chris yelled back. They were soon a table of four, with two more plates of Moe’s breakfast special appearing quickly, crowding the tiny table top.
“We’ll talk a little later.” Dan said to Brandel, a bit crossly.
“Well, Mr. G., how’s that family of yours? How’s the grandchildren?” Chris Chris asked between swigs of coffee and bites of sausage.
”It‘s my treat, Chris. Why not ask him–” Dan said and pointed at Brandel.
He quickly opened his wallet, removing a beautiful portrait of Joyce and showed it to everyone.
“Oh. Ahh. What a beautiful girl you have.” Chris said, his light blue eyes lighting up with appreciation.
“Not only that, she’s a fantastic waitress.” Brandel told him.
“Where does she work? Here?” Chris asked him quickly.
“No, they don’t tip enough here.” Brandel said, laughing. “She’s in Freeport at Francie’s.”
“There’s nothing like having hard-working children. I have a couple of my own already.” Chris said, “Yes, we really must get better acquainted, Brandel.”
“Why not?” Brandel said.
“Do you and your wife play bridge or poker?” Chris asked.
This led to a fruitful exchange, with promises made by Wescott to come over to Chris’s house some evening soon for a night of pizza and poker, “with the kids”. They exchanged phone numbers.
Rising to his feet, removing his checkered napkin and decisively pushing away from the table, Brandel made apologies to the technicians as well as his father in law, then quickly paid at the register, waving good-bye as he left the building.
For the next hour, Gable held court while Chris and Iggy politely listened to his hard-won insight into the best way to become a millionaire edited for the young and hardy. They felt obligated, as he was the one paying for breakfast.
But before too long, as they were both being bored to tears, Chris and Iggy found a plausible reason to head back out. Dan spent a contented hour or two afterward with the Daily Express, as was his custom.
Occasionally, Emily came over with the pot of decaf’ to fill his cup, but did not offer to bring the check. A couple of years back, their manager had gotten into debt. Dan had quietly bailed Moe out to the tune of $25,0000, and now silently owned one-fifth of the business. That’s why he sat, acting like he owned the place. The C&S Deli wait staff gave him a wide berth.
*Any resemblance to persons living or dead, places or personal accounts is purely coincidental.
Mary Khazak Grant, 65 (B.A. Psych., M.S. Educ.-Deaf Studies) has been an artist, poet and hobby crafter from an early age. She now works as a teacher for the Rochester Public Schools. Before coming to Rochester in 2009, she spent most of her life on Long Island, New York. Before becoming a teacher, Mary spent over twenty years in the fields of print and publishing, working as a skilled typist, typesetter, commercial paste-up artist, assistant art director and production person. As an independent entrepreneur, she owned and managed Satellite Text Design, a desktop publishing business for over 12 years. After returning to college in middle age, she completed several degrees, and became a special educator of children. These include a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from S.U.N.Y. at Stony Brook in 1998, and a Master of Science degree in Communication Disorders awarded in 2003 from Adelphi University, where she graduated summa cum laude. She is a member of the Honorary Education Society Kappa Delta Pi as well as a permanently certified teacher of the deaf from the Council for Education of the Deaf. Mary is an accredited teacher of Yoga Sciences. Her professional career is coupled with hobbies in crochet, marquetry and book illustration. She is the self-published author of over 15 books.