Tough Love Story
This Tough Love Story shares the mixed-bag reality of telling the honest truth and dealing with the consequences. Even the best friendships have their limits.
In a cherry picker bucket twenty feet from the ground, Charles Gilmore, heavyset with a small bald spot, wiped his sweaty brow with the back of his arm. He squinted at the intricate arrangement of wires.
Saunders, tall, lean, and dressed in jeans and a blue shirt, stood on the other side of the bucket. He concentrated on the connections before him.
Charles twisted a wire into place and glanced at Saunders. “At least it isn’t raining, eh?”
Saunders nodded; his attention focused on the wires. “I just want to tie this—”
Charles gasped. A spark caught the corner of his eyes, and he scowled. “Hey, you sure everything’s dead?”
Saunders froze. “I turned off the main—”
“Stop, look here. It’s sparking! How the—?”
Saunders lifted his hands away and glanced around. “They all go to that main terminal, see, right there. I turned it off securely, or we’d be toast already.”
Pressing a lever, Charles lowered the bucket to the ground. “Something caused that spark. I sure as hell didn’t imagine it.” He labored over the uneven ground toward the main box and surveyed the vacant field. He grunted. “There was a house here once.”
Saunders’ eyes roved right and left. “How can you tell?”
Charles pointed to his feet. “Look down.” He kicked through the thin grass, exposing a segment of a cement cover. “It’s an old well covering. Probably buried when the house was taken down. They must’ve had a line here.”
“And it’s not cut off? Don’t be crazy. Besides, the main—”
“Look at that old house over there. It’s a distance, but it’s fed by a different system. Perhaps this one is too. Come on.” Charles started to pace away.
Saunders trotted alongside as they crossed the tussocks of grass.
Charles glanced at his watch. “Dang.”
Saunders’ eyebrow rose. “What?”
“I told Jill I’d be home early. Won’t happen now. And she’s already miffed.”
Saunders marched evenly at Charles’ side, staring at the ground. “Wives. Glad I don’t have to mess with one.”
“It’s not all bad, but she’s all bent out of shape lately—it’s stupid really.” He frowned. “Well, sort of. You see, her mom’s getting old, and she forgets when things happened— talks like twenty years ago was yesterday.”
“Yeah, but unfortunately, she let it slip to our oldest daughter that Jill gave up her first baby—it was a long time ago. Her mom never wanted her to give it up, and now she’s asking questions, demanding to see it. So Jill had to explain—”
“Skeletons creeping out of the closet, eh?”
Charles scratched his jaw as he appraised the farmhouse and a lanky dog ambled in their direction. “Yeah, but Jill is letting the past have too much power over her—”
A wiry, old man shuffled toward them, waving. “Anything I can do for you folks?” He called to his dog, and the hound changed course and scuttled under the porch.
Charles explained their work with the electric company.
The old man nodded and hunched his shoulders. “Fine, go ahead. We don’t use much electricity during the day, anyhow.”
After cutting the power to the old farmhouse, the two men once again rose in the bucket. Saunders peered at the sky and chuckled. “You think you’ve got skeletons. Everyone has something to hide.” He halted the bucket at wire level.
Charles leaned back and tucked his fingers into his belt. “It shouldn’t make any difference. Jill’s a great mom; her past is ancient history. Just like I’m not the guy I was twenty years ago—no one should care if I did a few stupid things back then.”
“Oh, but people do care. Your sins follow you—” Saunders gave a wire an angry twist and faced Charles. “Even if they aren’t even sins at all.”
Charles shrugged. “I don’t let things bother me. Jill is just overreacting. Chrissie will understand that she gave up the baby for a good reason. It’s not like it matters anymore—”
“Give me that cutter, will you?”
Charles passed the tool over. “I never judge people. I couldn’t care less if you had a dozen affairs and a couple of kids on the side.”
Saunders turned and pointed at Charles with the cutter. “How about if I was a killer? Would you still feel the same?”
Charles froze. “Huh?” A smile crept over his face. “You’re joking, but really—”
“No seriously. It was manslaughter—ran a red light and killed a woman and her little boy. I hardly did any time—a little over a year and probation. Total accident.”
Charles’ gaze dropped. “Sorry, I had no idea. I wouldn’t have brought it up if I—”
Saunders shook his head. “I’ve made you uncomfortable, I get it. But just remember, your wife is right. Our past haunts us.”
Charles pursed his lips, focused his gaze on the box, and nodded to the wire assembly. “You finished?”
“Okay, let’s get the cover on and go home.” Charles screwed everything in place and lowered the bucket. He unhooked his belt and tossed his tools into the truck.
Saunders did the same and slipped into the passenger side of the vehicle. He glanced at Charles. “So what time do want to meet up on Saturday?”
Charles started the truck and glanced at Saunders quizzically.
“Remember—our fishing trip?”
Pulling into the right lane, Charles’ eyes darted from side to side. “Oh, yeah, forgot. But, hey, I think Jill’s got something planned…hate to make her any more upset.”
Saunders let his head fall back against the headrest, his gaze staring through the truck roof.
Charles glanced over. “Maybe some other time. You understand?”
Saunders exhaled and nodded slowly. “Sure do.”
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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