Some person in the past who was a great thinker had this to say, "Man is always hoping that tomorrow will be better than today and much better than yesterday." That may be, but I don't think that philosopher had me in mind when he uttered this observation.
I was sitting in the almost dark eating my supper which consisted of a cold piece of steak and a bowl of crackers and milk. I needed the protein to keep me from getting hungry and to give me that full feeling. The crackers and milk was just something I had always liked. I planned to have some meat left over from my noontime meal just for this purpose. This was not what a nutritionist would recommend, but my cholesterol numbers and my sugar levels stayed fine so I ate what I enjoyed.
There was no one to tell me different and there had been no one for the last four years. When my cheating wife left while I was in jail, I just withdrew from society. I did have a decent job, going every day to the shop where I operate a milling machine.
The place where I'm living belonged to my dad and his dad before him and now it is mine. Oh yes, the name came down from them as well. I was entitled to put "The Third" after Ezra Johnson, but I didn't bother very often.
Dad and Mom bought a condominium down in South Carolina and came up north to visit for a month in the summertime. This was about the only time I let anyone come through the front door since Samantha had taken off. She was still in town, but we certainly didn't travel in the same circles.
I had ninety-two acres of land, half of it being in woodland. To entertain myself I was out there most days when I had free time in the woods working or just walking. There was nothing like a gentle wind sighing through the pines to calm and blunt the bitterness I felt about how life had dumped on me.
There was no hesitation going out into the woods when it was blowing a gale either. That rather matched some dark, depressing thoughts that visited me now and then. The open fields and pastureland I let out to a farmer to use. In return for keeping it up and keeping the brush pushed back to the fence lines, he could use it as his own.
There was a line of sugar maples down the west side of the fields with a lane through them. At the edge of the field before the woodlot began there was a sugarhouse constructed and there was about ten acres of maple trees on land sloping toward it. Over the decades, this became a fine sugar bush and I kept it clear of brush.
When the older trees were damaged or died, I nurtured small, new maples to replace them. The trees needed to be tapped out to catch the sap in the early springtime. The sap ran to the sugar shack through a pipeline and into a tank. The sap was boiled down in the sugar pan, much water leaving as sweet smelling steam, and leaving a golden maple syrup.
I heard a car engine sputter and die. I got up from the table and looked out the back door. An old car was just coasting to a stop in the lane, about three car lengths in from the dirt road that passed by my house. The wood road was often used as a lover's lane for kids parking, but they usually drove farther in.
I could just barely see a small woman get out and go around to the other side of the car. Five minutes later, she came back around with a child boosted up into her arms. She came out onto the road and started toward the house. She spotting me watching her and came across the yard to the door.
This girl was cute! She had on jeans and a short sleeved top of yellow. It was conservative, but it was just a little small which accented her bust. Her hair was short and curly brown. The kid was dressed nice in the same type of jeans and top. You just knew they were mother and daughter.
The woman smiled and asked, "May I leave my car on your land for a little while? Something is wrong with it. You can get by it if you have to go down your wood road."
I was tongue tied for a minute because the two made an attractive picture standing before me. "How long?"
"I don't know. Until I get it fixed anyway. I'll work at it. How far is it to town?"
"Three miles, give or take a bit."
I could see the child was a little girl about three. She was fussing and crying. She was hungry. "Shush, Abby, we'll get something to eat when we get to town." The woman looked at me. "Are there many cars on the road? I need to hitch a ride and three miles is a long walk."
"Not many this time of night. They would all be coming this way, not toward town."
"Okay, I guess I had better get moving."
"Don't you think you had better feed your kid something before you start?"
"I didn't want to bother you, but maybe a piece of bread and peanut butter."
"Come in and I'll see what I can scare up. I wasn't expecting company."
"I wasn't expecting to be company, but I'm glad I am."
"How would you like an egg and a piece of toast?"
"That sounds wonderful. My name is Lanie Cosgood."
"Mine's Ezra, Ezra Johnson. Sit there at the table." There was a half stack of crackers laying there and the little girl reached for one.
"No, you wait. The nice man is getting you an egg."
"Let her have some if she is that hungry. Milk is in the fridge behind you."
"Your wife not home?"
She was prying and that upset me. "Does this place look like a wife lives here? Look at the dust and the dirt. I keep the dishes done and once a week I shovel out some of what piles up." Actually, I kept a decent looking house.
"Sorry, I wasn't looking around."
I got out two frying pans and put two sausage patties in one, along with two strips of bacon. The other one, I buttered three slices of bread both sides and heated the pan up hot. I browned the bread right in the pan. I dropped an egg in the pan, just breaking the yolk and pressed the toast down onto it.
"Let me do that for you. My Mom used to make these and I haven't had one forever. Abby, you are going to love this. Don't eat any more crackers or you will be too full to enjoy a real treat."
I tended the bacon and sausage and when she had the second egg cooked, I told Lanie to eat it while it was hot. I made up the last one and slid this one onto her plate. It was full dark by now. There was no way this woman and child could make it to town tonight and arrange for a place to stay.
"I don't know your situation, but you had better stay here tonight. There are bedrooms upstairs. Pick one. The blankets might be a little stale. Can't help that. I will be going to work in another hour so you will be alone. You can lock the door after I leave. I'll be home a little after seven in the morning."
"You'd leave me in your house, not even knowing anything about me?"
"Why not? Your car is here and it doesn't run. You have told me your name and you have a baby with you. You both are clean, so I know you respect yourself. That tells me you would respect my things and not take them." Why I continued, I couldn't say. "What's here is just stuff anyway and I don't ever expect to get to know you well enough to have you trifle with my heart. You wouldn't want it anyway. It has turned cold as stone."
I turned and went into the backroom I used for a bedroom without waiting for a comment. I shut the door. I heard her take the dishes to the sink and I heard her running water to wash them.
I changed into my work clothes. I started cussing to myself. Why in hell had I let her and her kid into the house? She was younger and smaller than my ex-wife, and not even as pretty. She appeared friendlier though. You know what I mean--it was the smile. She had a nice shape and why did I notice that. She looked more like a girl you would find next door. The kid was damned cute too. Her mother probably had been cute when she was that age.
I heard her climbing the stairs and looked at the clock. I had spent too much time sitting on the edge of the bed thinking back. I would be late if I did not leave now. I walked to the foot of the stairwell. "Lanie, I'm leaving. I'll see you in the morning. Good night."
She came to the top of the stairs. "Thank you Ezra Johnson and I don't believe your heart is all stone. I think there is some warm gold hidden in it somewhere. Good night. Abby is asleep or she would say good night too." I turned and went to work.
I was a good machine operator. Something I had learned in prison. Four years ago I was sentenced to prison for three to five years. I was released in two years and two months. The prison sentence had come from beating the man who had stolen my wife. While I lay in my bunk in prison, I wondered why I didn't beat her instead of the man. I guess she must have worried some about it, for she immediately asked and received a restraining order and she got it.
Before prison, I drove a local bus. Another driver who came down sick drove another route. I was asked to cover for him. I was stopped while letting a passenger off when I saw Samantha going into a motel. On my return trip an hour later, her car was still there. I pulled the bus I was driving in behind her car. The thirteen passengers I had on board questioned me, but I growled for them to be quiet. That shut them up. Ten minutes later the door to the motel started to open.
I was out of the bus and as a man stepped out, I grabbed him around the neck and threw his surprised ass to the ground. He was bigger than I was, but there was no stopping the beating. I gave him all he deserved, and I hoped a little for interest. I just never quit and he didn't have a chance to retaliate.
.... There is more of this story ...