Billy and I had just finished having our final business meeting and discussion with my father. It hadn't gone well for any of us. It ended up with him paying us a dollar for the Mustang and telling us to stick the rest of his share of the business up our asses. We had all known that it wasn't going to turn out that well when he had shown up drunk, for an eleven o'clock morning meeting with us.
In a nutshell, he had taken to treating all of his friends and acquaintances to drinks and lunches and charging it to the business. Billy and I had finally had all of that we could take and had deducted $1,404.45 from his third of the profits for the past month, and presented him with a bill for the remaining $644.03 in disallowed expenses. We told him that we wouldn't pay anymore for his boozing it up with his buddies. Mostly, it was the money, but part of it was our fear that he was going to kill himself or someone else with his drinking and driving in a company car. My mother had been after me for months telling me that the drinking would kill him if he kept it up.
"Jesus, Jackie, that was rough. I hope your dad understands we didn't want it to end like that."
"Billy it wouldn't matter how we did it, it was always going to end up like this sooner or later. If we'd continued letting him stick all his boozing costs on us, he'd just have kept increasing it until there wasn't any money left for anybody. That's just how he works. He won't stay inside reasonable limits and restrictions. Those are for 'normal' people, not for someone like him. Nobody can tell him what to do or how to do it. I don't know how he managed to get his 20 years in in the Navy, but he did. His buddies always protected him is all I can figure, because he was like this in the Navy too."
"If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have made the kind of dough where he could drink up that kind of money every month. I hate to just kiss off the money he was making for all of us. Maybe we should let him sober up and cool off and try to work something out with him."
"You can do that if you want to Billy, but I want no more part of him running around in a company car drunk on his ass. He gets in an accident, we lose everything. I'm talking this farm, my house, both our businesses, any money we might have saved. Every time he gets in a car in the shape he's in now, that's a real possibility. Maybe you're willing to risk having to start over from scratch, but I'm not."
"You going to just walk completely away from the business? There's still good money to be made there."
"No, I'm not saying that we walk away from anything. He already had every wood maker in a hundred miles knowing about us and what we could do. We can see to it that they are kept up on what we charge for the wood that they need. Most of our business is just repeat business anyway. I bet he hasn't talked to anybody new in three months, and hasn't seen any of his customers, unless they ran into him in a bar by accident, in just as long. As long as they keep calling in their orders, we keep the business going. Dad gets his third just like usual, but we'll give the money to my mother, not to him. She won't let him piss it all away on his friends, and she won't let him get so out of control with his own drinking. She's used to keeping him on a short leash where drinking money's concerned."
"That's good, Jackie. This way he gets some money plus we keep getting ours too. Without his expense account money to worry about, we'll be doing better than ever. That's why I like keeping you around. You can always find a way around the problems."
So that's exactly what we did, and Billy was right, we were doing better than ever before without all the expenses of going out and getting new business. Business fell off some as people had businesses go under or they found other suppliers, but it was good for a long time. We even got new customers from time to time, when our regular customers gave good recommendations to new businesses that needed wood. We had a quarter page ad in the yellow pages that brought in some business too.
My father was yakked at Billy and I for a couple months until he saw that we were bringing his share over and giving it to my mother. He never acknowledged that we were doing it, but we all knew that he knew about it. He didn't have the business to use as an excuse to be out 'ramming the roads' as my mother referred to it, and so he spent more time at home and settled back to a slower, but still steady, drinking style. At home, my mother mixed his drinks, and she would water them down quite a lot when she felt he had indulged enough. Her system must have been pretty good, as he lived to be eighty one. If she hadn't died eight years before him, he might have made it to one hundred.
It was about three months after that meeting where dad quit the business that Ellen got a phone call from a crying and distraught Theresa. She claimed that Billy was seeing another woman and she asked Ellen to speak with me, and to try to get me to have a talk with Billy and straighten him out. Billy and Theresa had three kids at that time and the youngest was still in her diapers. Ellen spoke with me, but I told her that I knew nothing about Billy seeing anyone else and told her that I didn't see how he could have either the time or the energy with everything he had going on. Of course, Ellen figured I was just covering up for Billy and began suspecting I might have something going on the side myself. I asked her how Theresa knew about this other woman if there was one. Ellen said that Theresa had a strong feeling and that women knew about things like that. Sounded like bullshit to me, but I told her I'd check into it anyway.
We were out in the front at the farm, Billy was loading up my truck for a firewood delivery over to Stonington. I asked Billy if he was up to something, like seeing another woman or something. He just looked at me and then told me no. I dropped it without another word and we talked about a new job he'd bid on and felt like he'd probably get it.
"Why'd you ask me something like that anyway, Cuz? Have you got a guilty conscience yourself or something?"
"Billy you just looked sneakier than usual, that's all. I figured you were up to something and I was hoping it wasn't anything that could really get your ass in a sling. Because, if you were fooling around, well Theresa would know it, and probably right away too. I'd hate to see you fuck up everything just for some strange piece of ass."
"You hear anything like that Cuz? Rumors or something?"
"Maybe I heard Ellen on the phone yesterday talking about somebody screwing around on their wife, but I didn't get a name. It couldn't be you though, because you already said it wasn't." Billy walked around to the back of my truck where he couldn't be seen from his house. I followed him back there. He had his bandanna out and was wiping the sweat from his face and neck.
"Jackie, please don't play with me. Tell me what you heard, please?" Not all that sweat was from working, I guessed. He looked worried.
"Billy, Theresa called Ellen. She's suspicious I think. She has a feeling or something. I don't know what you might really be up to, but I'd quit it if I was you."
"I can't quit it, she's having my baby. It's driving me crazy, Jackie, I don't know what the fuck to do. You're good at figuring shit out, what can I do?"
"Goddamn it! Don't you have enough shit on your plate already? Why in the name of Christ would you do anything so stupid? Did you think Theresa wasn't going to notice you pushing some other woman's baby stroller? Who the hell is this other woman anyway?"
"You don't know her. I met her down at the hall of records when I was pulling some permits to do the Pearson farm last year. She works there and was helpful to me. After I had everything filed and the permit in my hands, I asked her out to lunch, to let her know that I appreciated her help and all. We didn't do anything right away, just talked and went to lunch a few times that's all."
"If she's having your baby, then I guess you must have fed her your salami at one of those lunches. You don't get pregnant from eating lunches, fat maybe, but not pregnant."
"Yeah, after awhile we had our lunches in her apartment. She didn't want people to get the wrong idea about us having so many lunches in public together. I told her I was married and everything. We were having one of those lunches when afterwards we started kissing and fooling around. It kind of got a little out of hand that's all. Now she's pregnant and I don't know what to do."
"Are you saying this only happened the one time and she got pregnant from that time?"
"No, we've been seeing each other a couple times a week for the past seven or eight months now. She's three months pregnant now."
"Billy, tell me her name and give me her address. What would you like to have happen here?"
"I really like her a lot Jackie, but I love Theresa and the kids. I wish she wasn't pregnant, but I like her and I was happy going off to see her once in awhile. I don't want to lose Theresa. I don't want her to ever know for sure. It's killing me now that you told me she suspects something."
.... There is more of this story ...