There was no band playing on that cold December day. At that moment it was just me and an Air Force Chief Master Sergeant in the squadron office. The office was located inside a much larger windowless concrete block building near the flight line. That building held my squadron's complete operation. We were a small squadron almost completely independent of the larger base.
"This is your last chore Robbie, sign the official secrets act waiver and you are finished here. You still have to go by the personnel office, but when you sign off here, you are out the squadron door. The rest is just bullshit.
"Sarge, getting paid is never bullshit," I said.
"The last ten years you lived in one barracks or another, so I bet you have a chunk or money saved?" he asked. "You shouldn't need that last partial payment."
"Not nearly enough," I said.
"You still headed for the North woods?" he asked.
"Sergeant Major, I'm keeping my next home a secret. I've had all the visitors I ever want. My big plan is to be a hermit."
"Remember Robbie, everything in this life comes with a price tag," The first sergeant said it as if it some great insightful advice.
"I'll keep that in mind Sergeant Major. Now if you would sign my clearance, I'll be moving on."
"Well Robbie over all it's been a pleasure," the First Sergeant said.
"Likewise," I said. "All things considered." The chief master sergeant out ranked me by two pay grades, but he had always treated me an equal. Probably because I had been the highest ranking non commissioned officer living in the barracks.
I ran a few more places on base, but in the end I finished up back at my room in the barracks. I went there simply to pick up my two duffel bags. I had already given away the travel bags I used over the years. Nobody carried their clothes in the clumsy duffel bags anymore. I wouldn't have either, except they easier to manage than five or six back packs.
At looked at the two of them stacked in the back of the small SUV and thought, in the last twenty two years, I managed to double the size of my belonging and to purchase a cheap Ford SUV to carry them inside. I shook my head in disappointment. Well I was about to change all that, I thought.
I stayed the two extra years in order to walk away from the USAF with the two duffel bag and the SUV, which was paid off. I had no other debt at all, so life should be easy, I also thought.
My big plan was to purchase everything with my savings, then live simply on my small retirement income. If that wasn't enough I might find something else to do as well. But I never planned to be part of another organization like the Air Force.
I had burned my accumulated leave the year before searching for the right place. I found it in Mississippi, ten miles north of the town of Mossy Point. The piece of property was located off a picturesque dirt farm road. The place's only advantage was that my land butted up to the small Pascagoula River.
It was my plan to set up house keeping in an eight by thirty six metal shipping container, which I had purchased on line from pictures. It would be my home at least for a while. Yes it was small, but I could add more area as I needed it.
The drive from New Jersey to my land took two days. The drive was mostly on one of the interstate highways systems. The roads were crowded as hell at that time of year. The Christmas travel season was about to begin.
On the evening of the second day, I made it into Mississippi. I was only twenty five miles from my place when I pulled of the less traveled state highway and into the older mom and pop motel. It was the same motel where I stayed, while I search for the new pieces of my life. That was almost exactly a year ago. The motel was conveniently located between my land and the town of Moss Point Mississippi. That made absolutely no difference it was just a passing thought.
The first thing on my mental list was to find someone to scrap the existing road into my land. It was an old abandoned farm road even when I contacted him the year before. I caught him at his office, which was on seat of the grader. Since it was an existing farm road, I had been assured that the grading contractor could level it. It needed that in order to make it passable for the trucks I needed to enter the building site. He looked at the digital picture and the GPS coordinates of the beginning and end of the road. Then we came to an agreement. There was no way to shake hands over the internet so we would we were both working on trust.
Before I left for dinner at a fast food restaurant, I left word on his cell phone for Tommy to call me back. After leaving the message, I went to dinner at a burger joint a few blocks from the mom and pop Paki motel. Of course Tommy called while I was eating.
"Tommy remember we talk a few months ago about you leveling out that dirt road from Smith Farm Road to the river. It hasn't been used in sometime." I said.
"You that soldier right?" he asked.
"Yeah that's me," There was no since trying to make the distinction now, I thought.
"Yeah I remember that road. When do you want it done," he asked.
"Tomorrow would be nice," I said.
"So you remember how long it was?" Tommy asked.
"You said it was less than a mile and a half of clay surface," I reminded him.
"Yeah that sounds about right. We can adjust if it is any different. You know I got to truck the scraper out there and get it nice and flat." he said.
"I get it Tommy. How much you want to do it?" I asked.
"About eight hundred ought to do it," he said.
"Well I got a six hundred dollar estimate, in writing, from last winter," I said.
"I was thinking since it was winter again it should be less not more," I said.
"Were you thinking five hundred," he said.
"I was," I replied then shut up. There was a lot of silence.
"If the job is like you say, we can do that. That is, if you are willing to help me." he suggested.
"Sounds fair to me. When do you want to start?" I asked.
"Not tomorrow for sure," he said. "The next day maybe. Call me tomorrow night and we will set the meet," Tommy suggested.
"Fair enough," I agreed. I couldn't make anymore calls so late in the day, so instead I drove into Mossy Point. I looked around for ten minutes, then drove to Pascagoula Mississippi. Looking around there took and hour. Even so I returned to the motel without leaving the car. It would have been a bust to anyone else, but to me it was simply recon.
Thursday morning I went to a diner in Mossy Point which I had spotted the night before. There had a large grill and a couple of burners behind a counter. That counter which seated ten patrons. There were also four tables with four chairs each inside. So the max capacity was less than thirty people.
When I got there at nine, there was less than five people. I didn't really pay that much attention, it just registered in my subconscious. There was a woman of about thirty something, with slightly wide hips who took my order. I order the bacon, and eggs with toast. The old black man at the grill was a classically trained chef at the state prison, I expected. I had no idea which of them was in charge. It didn't seem to matter it worked.
"That was very good." I said it to the young woman wearing Deloris's name tag. "Deloris could you tell me where is the nearest public Wifi hotspot?"
"I think there is one at the McDonald's in Pascagoula, oh yeah and the public library there," she informed me.
I thanked her, also I left her a 25% tip, then headed out the door. I drove my small SUV to Pascagoula's McDonald's parking lot. Their drive threw menu had coffee in a small cup for a buck, which I ordered. I found a space to park behind the building.
From that location I could see the cars come and go through the drive threw. Best of all I could piggy back the McDonald's WIFI connection while I drank my coffee.
Since the connection was public access. there was no password. My access to it was via a small tablet. I used it just to do pure research, so I didn't have any need for a real keyboard. Most of the sites I accessed had a drop down menu, so I used the thick wooden stylus. I had made those myself from a wooden dowel purchased from a New Jersey hardware store. I actually made several of them.
I found the site I wanted after only a short search. It was a business in Gulf Port Mississippi. A town of just a few hundred more souls than Pascagoula. It was also less than a hundred miles away. So rather than call, I just drove down the coastal highway.
I had this great view of the Gulf of Mexico out the driver's side window. I had been told that if I continued along the highway in that same direction that in a couple of hours I would make it all the way to New Orleans. I would have passed Keesler Air Force Base a couple of hours before I arrived in New Orleans. I did neither I stopped in Gulf Port. I stopped at the Sea/Land shipping hub.
I went inside and spoke to the yard manager. Sea/Land picked up containers at the docks in New Orleans then cracked the containers and repacked the contents into several different loads, sorted by destination.
"Weaton Evans," the long shore man, who hadn't loaded or unloaded anything in years, said. I was confident in that assumption since he was at leave fifty pounds overweight.
"Mr Evans I hear you are the man to see about having the storage container I bought last month delivered," I said that as I handed him the paper work for the metal box.
"How you planning to haul it off?" he asked.
"I hadn't really decided," I admitted.
"Best way for what you want is a flat bed truck. I can have my crane put it on the bed, then it is yours to do what you want." he said.
"Got any idea who around here can, or will do it?" I asked. I knew he did. The yard manager would know all kinds of drivers who had access to the trailers.
"Yeah I do know somebody. It will cost you five hundred to get it off loaded on the site," he informed me. "That's cash when you show up to take delivery from me. He don't take it off the trailer.
"I understand, so I can get it Monday at 8AM?" I asked.
"It will be on the trailer waiting for you and your driver to arrive. I will see that it is ready to go."
"Fair enough," I said.
I left the Sea/Land yard to drive back to the Pascagoula McDonald's. I actually went inside to eat. I loved fast food since I had eaten the majority of my meals in the Air Force mess halls over the last twenty two years.
After lunch I drove to Smith Farm rood, which ran from the River Road to the actual river. When I found it, I pulled over and ran the digital album of my house site pictures. I got familiar with the land marks around the private farm road which ran down to the river.
When I found the gate to the farm road, I pulled in. There was a cattle crossing made of tough steel and set deeply in concrete. The farmer who had sold me the land assured me the truck would have no trouble whatsoever. The road needed scraping because it had been over grown and had deep ruts carved in it by years of neglect.
The road had been good enough for four wheel drive pickup trucks to navigate. There had even been a couple of cars drive over it. The crew of Willis construction company had built a platform for me. It was roughly the height of the bed on the truck and trailer delivering the container.
It was the thing I was looking for that afternoon. I found the platform right were it was supposed to be. I checked the height to be sure it was within tolerances, then I stopped by the old man, who sold me the place's house. I did it just as a courtesy. He wasn't home, so I moved on.
I went back to the motel where I waited for the road grader operator to call. He didn't, so I got him on his cell phone. He agreed to meet me at 10AM, with his grading machine, on Smith Farm road.
I tried to have dinner at the Mossy Point diner, but it was closed. I moved on to a fancier diner in Pascagoula. There were a half dozen customers inside the restaurant at 6PM. After dinner I returned to the motel which I called home at the moment. The TV occupied me until ten, then I turned it off and tried to sleep.
Unfortunately I awoke three hours later. I was soaked in a cold sweat and shaking. It was warm in the room, so I dried myself off and went back to bed. I also took an over the counter sleeping pill hoping it would help. I had a complete bag of over the counter medications, since visits to the doctor were going to be very expensive until I was old enough for Medicare.
The next day things worked out with only minor glitches. The grading of the old clay farm road took only three hours. One of those was cutting a drive into my place. It was more widening the path from the old farm rood to the site. The construction worker had beat the path through the brush so that they could build the foundation. They had just driven over the brush not cleared it.
The weekend was complete downtime. I chose to drive into Biloxi for a fancy dinner to celebrate. I chose a buffet special at one of the casinos. It was a loss leader to bring in gamblers. The food was good and plenty of it, but I found the pressure to enter the casino unpleasant at the least.
I was back at the motel by ten. I tried to make up for the bad night's sleep by going to bed early. I knew that it was impossible to make up for a bad nights sleep, but I tried. Then of course I had another dream. I had to change my tee shirt and shorts in the middle of the night, yet again. I had hoped the change of scenery would help me to sleep. So far it hadn't worked.
The weekend I spent on my property pulling weeds and familiarizing myself with the plan for Monday. I had an idea where the truck should be parked, so the tow truck could drag the container off and onto the platform. Then the two man crew could tie it down. The platform was longer and wider than the container, so nothing had to be perfect.
On Monday after breakfast at the diner again things started to happen in rapid order. The wrecker and then the men from my construction crew arrived. They brought with him the timbers which would be needed to at least make skids for sliding the container around. After that they could be used to secure the container to the deck.
The truck with the container arrived and the driver bitched about everything from having to back it onto the site, to having to wait while the wrecker driver hooked his wench to it. He also cursed while he waited while the wrecker lifted and pulled the back end onto the platform.
I had no idea why the driver bitched, he was out of there before noon, which was my understanding with the facility manager. So he shouldn't have bitched so much.
By dark the container was secure. I walked around it making an inventory of things on hand, and a list of things I needed in order to make it livable. I knew the list was never going to be accurate, but it was a beginning.
The number one thing on my list was a bed followed closely by a toilet. They were both going to have to fit either inside my SUV or on top of it. I did have a luggage rack up there.
When I left the motel the next morning it was cooler than it had been the day before. I had to put on a third shirt two of which were sweat shirts. It certainly wasn't cold enough to wear my quilted Chinese thermal winter coat. Since being stationed in Jersey the last few years, I had worn Thermal clothing a lot. Mississippi was like a Florida vacation for me.
The outermost shirt was a hoodie. That was just in case a cold wind blew from the north. The day's high was predicted to be sixty eight degrees. I expected the high in New Jersey that day would be thirty five or something equally ridiculous.
My first stop was the diner. It had become a habit to have a bacon and egg biscuit with coffee from there. I had even managed to dig my two cup thermos from the duffel bag. In Jersey I had kept it filled with coffee and sitting on a desk across the room, it sat there all day everyday for many years. Well I had replaced it once, but even that had been many years before.
"Well good morning," the waitress said with a smile. It only took her a week to begin greeting me with a smile. The black man on the grill still ignored me.
"The usual please Deloris," I said. Yes I had over heard her name floating around the diner. I also returned her smile though mine was not nearly as bright, I feared.
The black man put the food on the grill while Deloris poured my coffee.
"So how is business?" I asked since she lingered in front of me.
"Oh I can't complain. So how is your house coming?" she asked.
"How did you know about that," I asked.
"You aren't the only one who eavesdrops," she informed me. She had obviously overheard the crew who set the house talking. They must have stopped in for coffee and burgers after the job.
"Well they got it set. Now I just have to finish it," I replied.
"I'm sure you will do fine," She said.
"I'm going to try to do it myself. I don't know shit about carpentry, so odds are not that good." I said.
"If you could use a hand, I've got a son in law without a job right now. He is young but his daddy was a carpenter," she said. "If you want to hire him for a day, just stop bye and I'll get word to him," she said. "Give him a try and if it don't work out no hard feelings."
"He isn't a delinquent is he. I don't need no troubled kids," I stated positively.
"No he might not be the best husband for my little girl, but he ain't been in no trouble," she said.
"I might need somebody in a few days. Right now I'm just working on a bed and counter tops. Things I can do alone.
I had spent the evening before in the motel drawing plans for the inside of the storage box. I also made a list of tools I needed to buy.
After I finished my breakfast, I had the thermos filled. I smiled brightly, then I left the diner. The next stop for me was Gulfport and the Home Depot. I had my debit card with five thousand dollar in my account designated for the interior work. So far I was in the red five hundred dollars in getting the container shell on site. It was why I had decided to build the counter top myself rather than buy cabinets.
I parked near the loading doors, then went inside the store. I bought ten 2x4x8' boards to use as supports for the 2x6x8' counter top boards. I purchased three of those. I saw a rolling tool box that I liked a lot. I decided to come back for it another day to make a kitchen Island from it.
The counter top material was all I dared to put inside the SUV. It was my plan to put two halves, of a ½ inch plywood sheet on top of the SUV. Those would make my bed frame. They needed some trimming, but when sandwiched together the one inch sheet should do as a platform for a foam mattress. I just needed a few concrete blocks to life the home made bed off the floor...
I moved on to the hardware section to buy all the odds and end I felt I might need. After I had them in the buggy, I purchased a circular saw, a reciprocal saw, a 3/8 inch drill kit, which included cheap drill bits. The drill and both saws were the same brand so they worked with the same batteries. Naturally I bought an extra one. I figured I could switch them around to keep a fresh battery at all times. Since I had a hammer and screw driver set in my duffel bag so I save a couple of bucks there.
After loading the SUV I had the urge to urinate, so I went back inside the store. I used their bathroom, but more importantly It had reminded me I needed a temporary toilet.
I had made a really simple plan for one of those. It involved a five gallon bucket with a lid, and a cheap toilet seat along with a supply of heavy waxed paper bags. The plan called for having a few ounces of gasoline on hand at all times. The temporary incinerator purchase, and many others I left for another day.
I delivered all the materials for the house conversion site, then carried the tools back to the motel to charge all the batteries. I ate a burger behind McDonald's in the car while I scanned the net for more things I needed to buy. From the net I got the name of a Gulfport Fabric store in a new strip mall which had opened just outside of town. From that store I bought I a three yard length of four inch thick and three fool wide sheet of foam. I knew the foam was wider than the bed frame would be, but I had a plan for that as well.
I dropped the large plastic bag from that store at the house. The bag contained the poly-foam for the mattress. It also held a piece of upholstery material, a couple of towels and wash cloths which I would need very soon. I left the end doors wide open even though it was December. That was something I never could have done in Jersey.
I did use a five year old lantern, which I had removed from a duffel bag to light the inside of the storage unit. The lantern was a hold over from when I used it in Jersey to work on my car from time to time. The battery needed to be replaced. I hadn't recharged it for over a year. I was surprised that it had held the charge for the half hour I used it. I returned to the motel because the lantern was fading and my other tools hadn't been fully charged yet.
I stopped for fast food on the way home. I hadn't lost my taste for cold pizza and warm beer. That night it was pizza from a convenience store's microwave. The store was located on the off ramp of the interstate highway, a few miles from the motel.
A warm pizza, a cold beer, and some bland TV was my night. I did find a message on my cellphone. The message was from a government recruiter. I quickly erased it. I had heard that they called some of the more experienced operators. I just wasn't interested in anything they had to say.
During the first half the next day's work, I managed to built the bed frame. I raised it on six concrete blocks, left over from the setting the house's platform. I ran some 2x4s along the edges to help support the two pieces of glued and nailed plywood. Then the foam lay directly on the plywood with the heavy weight upholstery fabric covering the top. The material was also carefully tucked under to keep it clean.
The thirty inch high, eight foot long, bookcase style cabinet was the afternoon project. It ran tight along the wall and would be used to hold several kitchen items. What those would be I wasn't quite sure. It was attached to the south wall in the center of the house. I put 1"x8"x8' boards on the new list. I planned to add two shelves under the cabinet. That was for another day though.
That day I just quit with the bookcase kitchen counter, and the bed. I placed the plastic can, with the lid, under the six foot high platform which was the house's foundation. I reminded myself that when I next had a minute, I planned to build a box to hold the can in place. That was a good ideas I thought, since it would hold my solid waste until I incinerated it once a week or so. I was so tired I put off the planned shopping until the next day.
I had to move from the Paki Palace, before noon the next day, so I didn't load the truck until after breakfast.
I recognized that I needed a little heat in the container first thing that morning. To get the house warm by the time I moved in, I bought a 20,000 BTU propane gas heater. It could be mounted against the wall without requiring a vent pipe. I would not needed to drill into the wall for which I was grateful. I wanted to keep as much integrity as possible in the structure of the can.
Fortunately the heater came with a set of hangers that I could bolt to the wall before I hung the heater. I got the job finished before noon, so it was fairly warm by five.
Since the house warmed nicely, even with no ventilation, worked on small things all afternoon. Even though I was a little concerned, about about the lack of vents for the stove, I went to bed and quickly feel asleep. The sleeping bag which I recovered from one of the duffel bags was too warm, but it better that, than too cool, I though.
Windows and power were the next items on my list. I arranged with Deloris for her son in law to help me that next day. When he drove up around noon, the first thing I noticed was that he was young. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt about being late.
We went to Pascagoula for windows and a door first thing. The three windows went into the rear of the SUV and the pre hung, house type door went on top. He was a big help with the three windows and with the framing of the door. We place the house door in the side across from the kitchen counter. Jarrett knew how to frame it in and still maintain the integrity of the can.
The windows made a good seal, so that and the door seal blocked most of the air infiltration around the new opening. The tube of heavy duty caulk did the final weather proofing. I completed all the weatherproofing I planned for the remainder of the winter.
I left the integrity of the corners. Even so we still reinforced each corner with a 4x4 posts. Those we bolted in place from both sides. It was Jarrett's idea to hang 2x4s on the tops of the walls and a few down the walls to create a fake timber frame look to the interior walls.
It took two and extra two days to do all that additional work and to cut and glue foam insulation inside the metal cavities we had created. It wasn't a perfect look, but it was better than corrugated steel. It looked as though, I could think of it as a work in progress. Then I decided to put off finishing it for a while.
Since I had slept in the box three days, It also looked as though I could avoid suffocation, which I considered a very good thing. There was no fan on the small wall heater and it didn't need one. Since there were no walls, even after the work Jarrett and I did during his two days, the air moved back and forth freely.
I knew that I need at least a small amount of light inside the house. So after Jarrett left, I began running the cheap extension cord cable I had purchased on a spool from Home Depot. I bought it at the same time as the windows. I had plenty of wire left from the fifty foot spool after I pre-wired the house.
The 12v DC running lights from and off road vehicle, seemed to be the best alternatives to regular house lights. Three lights attached to the walls did the trick. I used a car battery to power them. I knew that I would need some type recharger quick. But for the moment I just used the battery from the SUV sparingly then recharged it in the car.
My drinking water came for a couple of cases of bottled water. It came in 12 ounce plastic bottles. I didn't mind the water, but the empty plastic bottles built up quickly, since I drank a lot of water.
The answer seemed to be to buy a five gallon recyclable bottle of water from Walmart. I needed a small fish tank pump to get it up to a plastic outlet hanging on the wall above my counter. I flipped the switch and there was instant water.
Those kinds of things kept me busy for a couple of weeks. At the end of three weeks, the house was basically livable. At least enough for me.
At that time, I took a few days off to just relax. During that time I let other people do the work. I had the phone company come in and hook up a drop just for INTERNET service. It was powered by its own internal power system. I just had to keep my batteries charged for the devices I ran.
It turned out the easiest way was a small generator from Harbor Freight for a hundred bucks. I ran it for a couple of hours a day and charged everything. The house battery pack and at the same time the devices. Like the house it wasn't pretty but, it worked.
The container, land, and renovations, such as they were, cost me less than the twenty five grand I had allotted for it. I used the five hundred dollar surplus to buy a small plastic fishing boat and motor. The motor was gasoline, I wasn't crazy about gasoline, but I already used it for the generator so I had some laying around.
After I stopped bleeding money, I began to spend my days fishing, and my nights on the INTERNET. It was an interesting life for about three months, then it got boring as hell. I had the house not just livable but comfortable by spring.
The Mossy Point Diner closed at 3pm everyday. If I didn't cook fish outside, I had to scramble for dinner. The first month I was in Mossy Point I had seen the sign which stated they opened at 5AM and closed at 3PM. The diner was also closed on Sundays. They either made enough during the short schedule or they liked a slower pace of life.
As time wore on I realize that Deloris and the black grill man were almost always in the place. Since I Jarrett liked to talk while he worked, I learned that the diner was owned by Deloris. That surprised me since never made an issue of her place in the diner.
I also learned from Jarrett that Deloris had two Daughters. She had Lucy the nineteen year old, who along with Jarrett lived with Deloris. Then she had Laura who at age sixteen recently left Deloris's house in a huff. She proceeded to move in with her father, who had remarried two years earlier. His second wife was in her twenties and not a fit mother for Laura, according to Jarrett. I decided I would stay away from that.
"So the three of you still live together?" I asked Jarrett when I saw him in the spring.
"Nothing changes in Mossy Point," he replied. "Why you planning to ask Deloris out."
"I might, would she shoot me down?" I asked.
"It's been a long time since she went on a date. With her you never know." Jarrett said.
After I got the lay of the land, I was even more determined to ask Deloris out. The opportunity came when I 'accidentally' bump into her as she left the diner.
"Deloris, you have been serving me food for the six months. Most of that time, I have been thinking I should ask you out to dinner. You can pick the day, so you can't say you are busy that day." I rushed to explain.
"It would have to be Saturday night. It's the only night I'm not in bed by 9PM," she said rather shyly.
"Since I haven't dated anyone down here, you will have to pick the place." Then she went on to set the time and picked a steak house located across the street from a fishing peer on the gulf.
"So I will see you Saturday night at 7PM. Now you just need to tell me where you live," I suggested.
"I'm sure Jarrett would tell you, if I didn't any way." She proceeded to give me detailed directions to a house just outside Mossy Point.
I spent the two days until Saturday doing my usual things, which included eating at the diner on of those mornings. Saturday I heated some river water, then took a shower by pumping the water up to a shower head I had nailed to a tree.
I dressed in a nice pair of slacks and a new dress shirt. No one in Mississippi wore a tie so I gratefully skipped that. I even washed the SUV that morning. I used one of those 'you wash it' places, because they had an industrial vacuum to clean the inside. It had really needed it.
"Wow you are beautiful," I said upon seeing her. I meant it. She still had slight saddlebag hips, but she didn't show any belly in the tight black dress. Her hair was done differently and she wore tasteful make up.
"Thanks Robbie, you look very nice as well," she said. "Quite handsome as a matter of fact."
"I am trying to impress you," I said.
"It won't work. I don't give any discounts at the diner," she said with a big smile.
"Damn, well I'm here, and we are both dressed up, so I guess we might as well go for it," I said.
"I suppose so," she agreed.
Dinner was good, but when we went onto the pier with our coffee, it became a magical night.
"Jarrett told me you were in the service, so were you ever deployed?" she asked.
"Yes several times, but being in the Air Force isn't like the Army or Marines. It's much safer and even more comfortable. The equipment usually has to be air conditioned even." I said. "So was your husband in the service?"
"Yes he likes to say that is what went wrong between us, but it wasn't that. He just liked women," she said.
"According to Jarrett, it was young women," I said taking a chance.
"Jarrett talks too much," she said.
"I'm sorry, but it came up accidentally when I asked about your younger daughter."
"It's okay. If you stayed around long enough, you would have found out. It was the talk of the town when she moved in with him," Deloris said.
"Would you like more coffee. I'll get it," I said standing.
"Actually Robbie, I would like to see your tiny house," she said without any show of emotion.
"I assure you it isn't like the ones on TV," I said.
"Come on you saw my house," she said with a big smile.
"First I'm going to kiss you on this pier, since it is more romantic than my shack in the swamp," I said as I pulled gently against me and kissed her. She seemed to be up for it, so I ran hand from her shoulders to her waist stopping just north of her slightly wide hips.
"Wow that was nice," I said.
"Nice would not have been my word for it, but the wow is appropriate," she said.
Thirty minutes later Deloris got the tour of my little house. The first hour I spent touring her body. It had been a long time since I had been with a woman and I guessed it had been a while for her as well.
After the tour she stood up and dressed. Then she looked at me for a few seconds and her dress came off again. Of course we started all over.
An hour later I begged, but she wouldn't stay. She insisted on being home when her daughter woke up the next morning. So I had to drive her. That is why we ended the evening with a kiss on her front porch.
I slept very well that Sunday morning. I finally woke up to the sound of my cell phone playing some song. I never did the name of it but I knew what it meant. Since Jarrett had my number, I expected it to be her but it wasn't her.
"Are you Robert Martin?" the voice asked.
"Before I answer that, who the hell are you?" I asked.
"Stan Hubbard Department of Justice," the voice.
"I'm not interested," I said.
"Come on man, you can't be enjoying your retirement on that lousy pension," he added.
"Actually I'm doing fine," I said.
"I can offer you $25,000 for a couple of months work," he said.
"You are not DOJ. Who are you?" I asked.
"We need you to do your thing in South America," he said.
"Shit DEA, no thanks for sure. I have sat covered in sweat inside all the hot little trailers I ever intend to sit in."
"Come on man we are close to shutting down the guys who setup that drug war that went down in Texas," he said.
"Call the CIA," I suggested.
"We need our own drone program on this," he said. "One we alone can pull the plug on."
"The CIA and the military control all the hardware. The operators are no good without access to the hardware," I tried to explain.
"Why do you think we chose you?" he asked.
"Because I'm the poorest of the poor," I guessed.
"Yeah, but you are familiar with the Thompson Flyer," he said.
"Well you did some research. I tested those things for a month. The government passed on them," I said.
"Yes they weren't expensive enough. Thompson is willing to sell us the complete inventory right now. We can have our own drone program for next to nothing."
"The Flyer is too loud, can't go high enough, and has too short a flight time," I said.
"Not for us," the DEA man said.
"I could operate the Flyer all right but I can't work on them," I explained.
"We have the plant's technician, the man who built them going to work for us. We also have all the spare parts available from the plant as well," he said.
"And how many operators do you have?" I asked.
"If you sign up we will have one experienced Flier pilot, and two TV reality camera drone operators," he explained. "You would be in charge." He added as if that would matter.
"I just got settled into this place," I said. He knew that I was weakening.
"Come on Robbie you can pack everything in the container and it will be here when we finish the operation," he suggested.
"How long is it going to last?" I asked.
"Two months three tops. Ten grand a month when you return home. It's all time in the bush. There are no breaks to maintain the highest security," he said.
"When do you have to know?" I asked.
"End of the week we leave. I really need to know today. If you hadn't been avoiding me we could have given you more time," he said.
"I'll call you tomorrow," I said.
"No I'll call you at noon," he suggested.
"Sure why not," I said.
"I immediately drove to Deloris's house. Jarrett met me at the door. He told me Deloris was visiting her youngest daughter.
"Jarrett, I really need to talk to her. Give her my number and have her call," I said. I left quickly then went to the river and sat on the bank and thought through the whole thing. I could clean and prepare everything for storage, then put it inside the house.
By that time, I had three 'deep charge marine' batteries as the house battery bank. I still charged them with the harbor fright generator. I had meant to rig a wind turbine, but I had never gotten around to it. Closing up the house would be simple enough to do.
What I didn't know was whether I wanted to do it at all. I had literally just started an affair with Deloris the owner of the diner. What I didn't know was the depth of her feelings for me. Even more important, I didn't know how I felt about her.
Doris showed up a couple of hours later. I watched her weave through the already over grown ground cover.
"Is it really something we need to talk about or did you just want to see me again?" she asked.
"Both, I need to talk with you first. You might want to run away screaming after I do. I have been avoiding calls from the government recruiters since I got discharged. Today I answered the phone because I thought it might be you. It was an official from the Department of Justice. He offered me a temporary job out of the country. If I take it, I will have to pack up the house and drive over to the Airbase at Biloxi. I'm not sure I will take it," I tried to inform her.
"Do you want to. If you think you might, you should. I will still be here when you finish the job."
"I swear to you, this whole thing came as a shock to me. I kind of knew there was a job offer waiting, but the details of this one make it something I feel I need to do," I said.
"How long will you be gone?" she asked.
"It might be all summer," I explained.
"We should not waste any time then," she said.