Jim Reed said a final 'goodnight' and went out the side door of the pub to find his car in the parking lot. The first thing that he did was to pull up his trench coat collar a bit against the cool late October night. It had been a lovely get together, with friends and partners from the bank. They were people that he'd known for donkey's years, or so it seemed.
In fact, he started working in the bank, Simpson's National, right out of college. It was kind of his quirky interest and he had been there ever since, climbing the bank's ladder, until he was one of the very senior managers.
He and his friends did get together periodically for a pleasant drink, after work to have a chance to talk shop with each other and just tell stories. They were, as was tonight, grand evenings for all of those involved.
But now it was home for him, and maybe a quick bite on the way. He had a few things to read tonight and thought that he'd have time, once he got home, to do that. He'd see what Boris, his beagle, was up to. He made sure that he stopped in, after work and before coming out to the Pub to see that Boris was fed and settled.
But the dog was good that way. He took care of himself and was a great companion to Jim.
Jim had lost a fiancé when he was much younger, in an auto accident. He'd dated off and on after that but hadn't settled down to anyone really. Now he was 36 and set in his ways. He was doing well and enjoyed the large home that he and Boris called their own.
He was softly whistling to himself, as he approached his car.
His attention, however, was taken by a kid walking toward him. By his own judging, the kid seemed to be about 10. He was actually 8. He had on jeans that needed a washing machine and a tee shirt that wasn't far behind that need either, and what looked like a too thin jacket. His hair was kind of tussled and his face needed washing.
It was obvious that the kid wanted to talk to Jim. It was also really obvious that the kid was nervous about what he was doing.
It served to put Jim on his guard just a little. He stared around the parking lot, which was fairly well lighted and didn't see anyone who looked threatening or nefarious.
The kid stopped in front of Jim and seemed to screw up his courage for an instant. Then he spoke, and Jim Reed's astonishment was complete.
"Mr," the kid began, speaking softly and not really looking Jim straight in the eye. "Five dollars for a blow job?"
Jim was dumbfounded.
"What?" he asked, as though he didn't hear the offer correctly.
"I said, Mr five dollars for a blow job?"
"That's what I thought you said," Jim replied.
Then he asked, pleasantly: "Who in heck set you up here to make those kinds of offers?"
The situation then got even more bizarre for Jim; the kid began to cry.
"What?" Jim said. "What's wrong?"
"They told me, Tony and Mark told me that I could make some money here by approaching men and asking them to pay me five dollars for giving a blow job," the kid said, the tears still streaming.
Jim guessed that it must have been a combination of the failure of his offer and the strangeness of it, demanding all of the kid's courage, that was causing the tears.
The kid didn't leave, or run away. He didn't seem to know what to do at all, now that his offer had failed with Jim.
"Now, why are you out here making that kind of offer?" Jim asked. "Besides Tony and Mark telling you that it would work."
The kid stopped crying and said, fairly miserably: "I just wanted to make some money."
Jim was leaning against his car talking to the kid. "But why? What for?"
The kid got a kind of stubborn look on his face and said: "To help my Mom."
"What?" Jim asked, still trying to discover if this were a set up of some kind. "I don't understand."
Then the kid was crying again. "It's just us on our own and I thought that I could make some money to help her with things, and Tony and Mark told me that this was a way to do that."
"Make some money?" Jim asked.
"Yes," the kid said.
"Ever done that?" Jim asked next.
"No, but I could to make some money," the kid declared.
Jim made a decision then. "Well, look," he began. "I'm off now to get something to eat. Want to join me? I don't need your kind offer of services but thought that maybe something from McDonald's would be just the thing."
Jim was trying to keep an eye on what was happening but he thought that either the kid was one of the best actors in the world or he was really a hard luck kind of case. He decided to see which it was.
He noticed a change in the kid's face as soon as he made the offer about going to McDonald's.
"Ummm," the kid hesitated.
One thing that seemed clear to Jim was that the kid looked hungry.
"Okay, Mr," the kid said.
"I'll bring you right back here," Jim said, "But I suggest that maybe you should go out of the business of trying to make money this way."
"I bet that Tony and Mark are laughing at me," the kid said miserably.
"Maybe," Jim said, "But how about McDonald's?"
"Yes, please," the kid said.
Then Jim stuck out his hand and said; "I'm Jim Reed, by the way."
The kid took Jim's hand and said: "Colin Walsh."
"Good," Jim replied, "Pleased to meet you, Colin Walsh."
Jim looked at the kid for a minute or so and said: "Colin, this is on the up and up; all we're going to do is go to the McDonald's down the street and get some dinner. You okay with that?"
"Yeah," Colin said but then added: "My Mom told me to watch out for strangers."
"I know that's the best," Jim said, "But watching out for strangers probably includes not asking for five dollars for giving blow jobs."
Colin got red in the face and said: "Yeah, I'm sorry about that."
"No, problem," Jim said, "We're going to be friends."
"Yeah," Colin said, "Friends."
There was in fact a McDonalds which was only about a block away. Jim said to Colin that they could walk there together. Colin shook his head 'yeah' and that's what they did.
Jim knew that it was a better idea to walk than to suggest that Colin get into the car with him. He knew that the kid was scared and probably hungry to boot and didn't want to increase Colin's apparent timidity.
They got to the McDonalds and Jim said to Colin: "First, pal, let's go and wash our hands."
"Okay," Colin, who was feeling better about being with this man all the time, said.
They went into the men's and Jim did in fact wash his hands. Colin stood at the next sink, at the same time, and also washed his.
"Feels good, eh?" Jim asked. "Nothing like clean hands."
"Yeah," Colin said, giving Jim a first time smile.
They consulted then. Colin had a really hungry look about him and decided, with consultation with Jim, on a hamburger, large fries, and a milk shake.
"Same as I'm getting," Jim said.
They got their food and sat and ate it. Jim refrained from asking questions because Colin tucked into his meal with such ferocity.
At one point Jim simply told Colin to slow down a bit, so that he didn't get sick. Colin nodded his head and did, in fact, eat more slowly. When he was half way through with his meal, Colin looked up and smiled at Jim.
"Good?" Jim asked.
"Yes, sir!" Colin said. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Colin, my friend," Jim said, and got another smile from Colin.
It looked to Jim then as though Colin were making up his mind about something. He knew that something was brewing in Colin's mind. He just waited.
Toward the end of the meal, Colin finally came out with a: "Mr Jim, can I have another please?"
"Still hungry?" Jim asked with a smile on his face.
Colin thought for a few seconds. Jim realized that Colin would make the world's worst liar. He smiled and Colin explained: "No, it's for my Mom."
"Oh," Jim said. "Well, why don't we just buy her a dinner as well and we'll take it to her. Anyone else at home?"
"No, it's just her and me these days," Colin explained.
"Dad?" Jim asked softly.
"Naw," Colin said, "He left with friends for, I guess, California or someplace like that. Gone a while."
"Okay," Jim said, "Dinner for your Mom coming up."
They went, by now fairly companionably, to the counter and ordered a meal for Colin's Mom, complete with hamburgers, two of them, fries and a shake. It seemed to make Colin very pleased.
They walked back to where Jim was parked.
"How about, pal, if I drive you home?" Jim asked.
"Yes, please," Colin said, smiling at Jim.
"You'll be fine with me," Jim assured the kid.
The house was small on a side street. As soon as Colin opened the door and went in, Jim noticed the coolness of the place. It almost made him shiver.
He heard a voice, answering to Colin's call of "Mom?"
The woman who emerged from the room off to the side was short, dark haired and, Jim thought, really pretty. She was also bundled up against the coolness of the house.
"Mom," Colin said, this time with some pride in his voice, "This is my friend Jim. We brought you some dinner."
"Dinner?" the woman said in a suspicious voice.
Jim held up his hand and said: "I'm Jim Reed, I work at Simpson's Bank. Was out with friends for a drink and ran into my pal Colin. He and I had dinner at the McDonalds and he suggested that you might like a McDonald's dinner too."
"I don't understand," she said.
"Sorry," Jim went on, "That's the story, and we have this for you." He held out the McDonald's bag to her.
She opened the bag and peered into it; then she looked up and said a soft 'Thank you'.
Jim put up a hand and said: "I assure you, Ma'am, there's nothing nefarious going on here. I met Colin and we simply became friends."
"Yes," she said softly, "I believe that what you're saying is true. And thank you for this."
When she took the bag from McDonalds and sat, after washing her hands in the sink, Colin stood by with a look of pure pride on his face.
"Colin, honey," she said, "Will you go and let me talk with your friend a minute?"
"Yes, Mom," he said.
"Put a sweater on, sweetie," she said, "It's cold in here."
When Colin had gone, she said to Jim: "I'm Marney Walsh, Colin's Mom."
"Pleased to meet you, Marney," Jim said, "Jim Reed."
"At first I was afraid that you were a policeman," she said, "And that he'd gotten into trouble."
"No," Jim said with a smile. "I'm a banker."
She smiled at that. "This is good," she said then, "Thank you."
"Mind if I ask what's the story here?" Jim said.
"No, not really," Marney said with a rueful smile.
She stopped eating for a moment and said: "We came here with Colin's dad. He promised marriage as soon as we got here. We rented this house."
She looked around then and said: "It isn't much but it's home."
"I got a job at a kind of place that has gone out of business. I wasn't there long. Jobs are so hard to come by these days; especially with no real job skills!"
He nodded his head.
"Well, it just kept getting worse. Some unemployment and then that stopped. That's the way its been," she explained.
"The cold in here?" he asked.
"Didn't have money for the gas bill," she said, tears beginning to come now.
She noticed Colin now in the doorway.
"Mom, are you okay?" he asked.
"Yes, honey," she said, wiping the tears, "Just talking to Jim. Give us a few minutes."
He nodded his head and went back into the other room.
"I know it sounds like a scenario out of a kind of novel," she said. "But it feels so different, when you're living it."
"Other family?" he asked.
"No," she said, "Daddy died, when I was a toddler. Momma's gone too," she said. "Only my step father was left and I refused to live with him. Jerry seemed to be the brightest answer possible, and I went away with him. We had an off and on relationship for almost 10 years, and then he just left, looking for 'his freedom', is what he called it. Left me and Colin alone."
"Sorry to be unloading all this on you," she said.
He held up a hand and said: "No, no 'sorries'; we're just going to be friends."
He smiled then and said: "You do have quite a protector in Colin."
"Yes," she said, shaking her head, "He's determined to be the man of the house. This has been so hard on him."
She began to sob again. He gave her his handkerchief for the tears.
"Thank you," she said.
Jim Reed was what might be called 'an action' person. It's the characteristic that helped him get along so well in both life and business. When he saw a clear need and an obvious way to take care of it, he simply did so.
"Marney," he said, then he paused and remarked: "I love that name!"
"Yes," she said with a smile, "It was my Momma's favorite name."
"I'm going to take care of this," he said.
She got a bit wide eyed at that. He held up a hand and said: "Please don't get me wrong in any of this. It's not meant as an act of seduction on my part at all."
She gave a kind of derisive laugh and said: "With a sorry lot like me!"
"Now stop that!" he said, getting her attention, "You are beauty itself!"
She smiled at that and said a quiet 'thank you'. He found himself really liking the genuineness of this young woman.
"As I was saying," he went on, "We're going to take care of this. First of all, I want you to get together a bag for you and Colin. I'm going to take you home with me. I live alone with my beagle Boris and I have heat."
She looked undecided only for a few seconds.
"Come on now," he said, "This is a decision that I've made."
"Yes," she said, shaking her head, and obviously making a decision to do things as James wanted. She'd even, in those seconds, assessed the potential danger of this offer and found that she trusted this lovely man, and had made her decision.
"That's okay?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, smiling at him. "Colin and I will be pleased."
"Colin, honey," she called and the boy appeared right away.
"Yes, Mom," he said, standing in the doorway.
"We're going to go home with Jim, Mr Reed," she said.
"Jim," he said to her and she nodded.
"Really?" Colin asked, getting a grin on his face.
"Really!" Marney said.
"Great!" Colin said then, the possible adventure of this idea sinking in, causing a smile.
Jim sat while Marney and Colin got their bags for the night ready. He noticed, all over again, the coldness of this place. He thought that getting the heat turned on would be a next and necessary step. He figured that they'd deal with that tomorrow. He'd also see about the rent for the place.
In a little bit, both Marney and Colin were ready.
"This is very nice of you!" she said.
"It's my pleasure," he answered.
"Yes," Colin said then, "Thank you, Jim."
"It's okay, pal!" he said, "I'll introduce you to my Boris at home."
"Boris?" Colin asked.
"My beagle!" Jim said.
"Car?" Jim asked then, the thought occurring to him.
"Jerry took it, when he left," she said. "Wasn't much of a car though."
"I see," Jim said. "Well here we are," he announced, as they got to his car at the curb. It was a white Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Colin settled himself into the back seat, and Marney sat in the front with Jim.
"Pretty car," she said. He smiled and nodded.
Jim Reed had made a decision for him and Boris about five years previously. He bought a rather large victorian, that needed some rehabbing and they moved in. Over those five years, he'd employed a contractor friend of his and got 85% of the victorian rehabbed. He still had some basement rooms to re-do but was intent on doing them himself.
It was a grand old house.
"Here?" Marney asked, with a kind of sigh.
"Home," Jim said.
"Marvelous," Marney said and her comment was echoed by Colin: "This is cool."
"Thanks," Jim said, "Welcome to my and Boris' home."
They were met at the door by a very active Boris. Jim took time to give the wiggly dog some scratches behind the ear and then Boris was demanding attention from both Marney and Colin, who complied with joy.
When Marney got finally a chance to look around, she simply said: "Oh my."
Jim smiled, and said: "I've been having it rehabbed for about five years now. Have even done some of the rehabbing myself."
"It's such a gorgeous home!" she said.
"Yes, thank you, but welcome!" he said.
"Now I need to say 'thank you'," she said. "This is so nice of you."
"Let's get you settled," he said, "I'll show you where your rooms will be. We'll give you and Colin each a separate room, if that's okay?"
"Fine," she said, and Colin nodded his head.
Jim took them upstairs, and indicated that his master suite was the one on the left of the upstairs hall. On the right were two guest rooms that shared the bathroom on the left. Jim had an ensuite bathroom with his room.
The upstairs rooms were large and very well lighted with large windows. He showed the rooms to them and Marney, noting the time, said to Colin: "Sweetie, it's time for your bath."
"Aw, Mom," Colin protested, "Can't a guy take a bath by himself?"
Jim was standing behind Colin, when he said this and was simply grinning broadly.
"Well, I guess that maybe he can," Marney said.
"Hey," Jim put in, "You know, I have a super shower stall in my master bathroom. Want to try it out?"
"Cool," Colin said, really liking the idea.
"We have only a bathtub at home," Marney explained.
"Okay, let me show you," Jim said, and took them to the master suite to show them the shower room. It was a room off by itself, with the jacuzzi tub in another room and the commode off in a small room by itself.
"This is certainly impressive," Marney said.
"I'm afraid that I really indulged myself in the design of this suite," Jim explained.
"It's so well done," Marney said.
"How about if I get a tee shirt for my pal for his bed time?" Jim asked, and Colin grinned and shook his head 'yes'.
"I'm going to leave you now," Jim said, after showing them, especially Colin, how to regulate the heat for the shower. It was easy and Colin was able to take care of it.
"Enjoy, honey," Marney said, and left also.
It was a little bit later that Marney found Jim in his study. There was a knock on the door.
"Yes?" Jim said.
"It's me," Marney said, "He's in bed and ready for a 'good night'. He asked for you."
"Fine," Jimi said, "I'll just go and say my 'good night' to him."
She hesitated and, as he approached the door, she pulled him into a hug.
"Thank you for being the greatest angel on earth!" she said, laying her head against his upper chest. "It's the most wonderful thing imaginable."
"You're welcome," Jim said, kissing her on the head, and getting an appreciative sound from her, when he did.
He found Colin already tucked in under the covers.
"Hey, pal," Jim said.
"Hi," Colin said, and it was obvious to Jim that something was on Colin's mind.
"You gonna tell my Mom?" he asked.
"Hey," Jim said, "Do very best pals tell those kinds of things on very best pals?"
"No," Colin said, "They don't."
"Well, then that's your answer," Jim replied.
"It was stupid!" Colin said, shaking his head as though to confirm what he'd said. "What Tony and Mark told me to do to make money was stupid!"
"Well, let's make a pact, you and me," Jim explained. "The next time that they tell you to do something that you consider to be stupid, come to me first and we'll talk about it. How about that?"
"Yes," Colin said, "A pact for the two of us."
They shook on it then and it was settled. "Thank you for the tee shirt," Colin said, "And for taking care of my Mom and me."
"We're best friends," Jim said. "It's what best friends do."
"I'm glad," Colin said then, "Glad that you're my best friend."
Just then Boris came into the room.
"Okay, Boris," Jim said, with the dog, wagging his tail, after hearing his name. "Up here with our friend."
Jim patted the bed and Boris jumped up on the bed, with a grinning Colin and settled down next to Colin on the bed. Jim left the two of them that way.
As Jim went downstairs, he ran into Marney in the kitchen.
"Making a cup of tea," she said, "You don't mind?"
"Please make yourself at home," he said.
That had her shaking her head.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Your Momma and Daddy must have been really, really proud of you!" she said. "You are so nice to us."
"What a lovely, lovely thing to say!" he said with enthusiasm, going to her and leaning down, kissing her on the cheek. It made her smile.
"I'm for a bath," she said.
"Fine," was his remark. "Have everything that you need? There are soaps and shampoos etc in that bathroom."
"Yes, thank you," she said.
"By the way," he said next, "I'll run a load of laundry tonight, if you have anything to add to the load."
"Yes, I will," she said. "Maybe in the future, I should do that."
"If you want," he replied, realizing that she was exploring ways to say an active 'thank you'.
She came back later. Now she was wearing a long flannel pink nightgown and a robe over it.
"Don't you look cosy?" he said with a grin. She smiled in reply, looking a little shy but, he realized, now with a kind of glow about her. He simply realized that having her situation settled had made a world of difference to her, and, now, to the way that she looked. Her beauty shone. He told her that.
"Would you like a glass of wine before bed?" he asked her then.
"I think that would be nice," she said.
He went to fetch them each a glass of white wine, and returned soon with the glasses, giving her one.
'This has been so helpful for us," she led off their conversation. "Just don't know what to do next."
"Well," he answered,"I've been thinking about that and have a few questions."
"Yes?" she continued.
"Your rent, when is it good 'til?" he enquired.
"We have a month yet," she said."I couldn't bring myself to worry about that yet, with the gas off and all." She was shaking her head then. "It was all so frightening!"
"Yes, I realize that," he answered softly. "But it just means that we have time then to make decisions."
"Time, yes," she said. "And it's so nice that you said 'we'."
"But that's the way it is now," he told her, putting his hand on hers momentarily.
"Yes," she said.
"Here's what I think," he went on. "We'll get your gas turned back on, merely as an option. In the meantime, though, why not just stay here, until we get this worked out?"
'That's a beautiful idea, but then you area beautiful man," she said softly.
She had tears on her cheeks, as she said that. "I guess," she said next, as though it were the thing that she needed to say, "You can maybe read about situations like this but I never thought that they really existed. I mean, meeting an angel on earth like you. Any sensible thinking might have indicated that this was a bad idea, I mean to go off with you. But it never felt that way to me. It's all just so nice: beautiful home, lovely dog, cozy here and beautiful man. It's just not been our kind of luck to run into anyone like you."
"Until now," he said.
"Until now," she agreed.
He used his handkerchief to wipe away her tears then.
They were quiet for a bit, as Marney composed herself again.
She changed the subject then to try to be less emotional about all of it.
"Have you always lived alone here?" she asked.
"No, actually," he answered. "I had a live-in house keeper, until she moved away to be nearer to family, as she grew older. Since then it's been me and Boris, batching."
She simply smiled at that.
Jim, however, was beginning to form a plan in his mind.
It was pretty much bedtime then. As they stood to say 'goodnight', they, fairly automatically went to each other for a hug. During the hug, she simply clung to him, saying her soft 'thank you for all this.'
"It's really been my pleasure," he almost whispered back to her.
Jim, for his part found himself intoxicated by her smell. The thought never left his mind for a minute, as he went then to lockup the house, and she went to bed.
He was the first one down in the morning but was soon joined by both Colin and Boris.
"Hi, guys!" he said. Colin gave him a happy answer and Boris simple barked a bit.
He let Boris out and asked Colin about breakfast.
"What'll it be, pal?" he asked. "Eggs, pancakes? Cereal? What do you think?"
"I like pancakes," Colin said.
"Got em!" Jim answered and proceeded to make the pancakes, getting the batter ready, getting a griddle pan out, and putting some sausage patties in the microwave.
"How was your night?" Jim asked.
"Really great," Colin said, "It was cool that Boris slept with me."
"He seems to like you!" Jim said.
"I really like it here, Mr Jim," Colin said softly. "It's so great."
"Thank you, pal," Jim answered. "We'll work on that one. You'll see."
The pancakes were just getting ready. Jim already had a pile of them on a plate, when they heard a noise and Marney entered the kitchen.
"Hi, love," she said to Colin.
"Mom," Colin said enthusiastically, "Boris slept with me!"
"Good for you!" she said, and kissed him on the head.
"And good morning to you, man of the house!" she said, "And apparently the cook."
"Yep," Jim said, "Pancakes, ordered by the young'un are about ready. You want some?"
"Yes, please," she said. "But this first."
She went to him then. He put down the spatula and greeted her with a hug.
"You smell as nice this morning, as you did last night!" Jim said softly. She giggled at that.
Jim then gave pancakes to each of them and sat to have some of his own.
After he had his pancakes, Colin asked to be excused. Jim said to him: "My computer is on my desk in the library, if you're interested. It's turned on and gets wi-fi from our in house network."
"Cool!" Colin said, going in that direction, with Boris following him.
"He loves computers and is already a whiz," Marney said. "We haven't gotten one though."
"I realize that," Jim said to her.
Then he sat down with another cup of coffee and said: "Marney, we have to make some arrangements for us here."
"Yes?" she asked, wondering what it was that he had in mind.
"Well, first there are the grocery items. I normally try to get some time from my schedule to do that shopping but is sit possible for you to do it?"
She smiled. "I'd love to. Always liked grocery shopping."
"Great," he said. Then he pushed an envelope toward her. "Here's the grocery money. I keep a list of needs on the side of the 'fridge. Feel free to add to it, and keep me aware of when we need more grocery money, though I put in a regular amount each month. I just don't know how much more we might need now that there are three of us and Boris."
She looked in the envelope and there was $600 in it.
"It's for the month. But let me know if it's going to be enough," he said.
She nodded her head, unable to speak just then from the sheer implication of what he was saying.
"Also," he went on, "I almost always drive the Grand Cherokee for work and all. But I do have a cadillac sedan. It's in the garage next to the Cherokee. Why don't you just take the keys to the caddie and use it as your car?"
She really was affected by this. The food money issue had been a kind of revelation to her but this new item threatened to do her in.
She put her hand up to her mouth and barely suppressed her crying.
"Hey, hey," he said. "We're only making arrangements for us, who are living here."
"Yes," she said, "But it seems like such an ultra wonderful gesture. It does to me."
He smiled at her. "It's how we'll work on things."
"Yes," she said. "But 'thank you' doesn't seem to be enough at all."
"Look at it from my perspective," he said. "You two have brightened this house in a way that it never has been, ever, since Boris and I have lived here. You're making it that marvelous a place. There is a ton of 'thank yous' in that alone."
Then she went to him. She refused, at that point, not to. She went to him and began to cry, as he held her.
"I'm not trying to make you cry, pretty Marney," he said.