Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Mason Tender V

Part 5 of a short story set in a small town in the late fifties.

It took me a week before I realized what was happening. Ed stopped talking to Dickie completely. He'd come around and make himself busy in the front some mornings, or else he'd stand at the back and tell me where he’d been bidding another job. He never told me things like that otherwise, because I was only summer help; but I started to understand why he was doing it. He counted on my telling Dickie what was happening, where we’d be going when the job downtown was over. So I told Dickie. And that’s the way it went. Dickie never changed, never said much to me at all, but it wasn’t like any Vreeman to talk all that much.

Coffee time they’d sit there at right angles, not ten feet from each other, and they wouldn’t say thing, wouldn’t even look at each other. If I’d ask about the car wash, Ed would tell me straight out, like a newspaper account meant for Dickie to read, but he’d only look at me when he’d say it, round-faced, in that soft and gentle way of his. Ed never swore once while I worked for him, and rarely did he raise his voice. It was just work for him; in that way he and Dickie were like brothers.

I was old enough to understand what was going on. Ed didn’t like excommunication, but he was a church man, and he lived by principle. One night I sat down to read through that form again, the one the old preacher read in church for Dickie Vreeman, who didn’t show up anyway. “Beloved Christians,” it said, “keep no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed; yet count him not as an enemy, but at times admonish him as you would a brother.” Maybe I hadn’t heard it that day in church because I was thinking about what Dickie might be doing at the very time the church was throwing him out.

Ed took it all very seriously. It was an awkward silence he kept with his own nephew, signing his checks but otherwise staying out of Dickie’s life as if it were charmed with sin itself. All through the end of the July heat, Ed stayed cold as a lakeshore spring. And Dickie never—not once—showed the slightest emotion. He just worked all the harder.

Tomorrow: Penny's ex shows up.

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