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Date Posted: 11:45:11 11/28/09 Sat
Author: Debi
Subject: "I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see..."
In reply to: Debi 's message, "Weekly check in" on 11:03:48 11/28/09 Sat

As Molly walked Declan along the alley, the dog froze, his eyes fastened to the space along one wall, his considerable bulk between her and whatever he spied. A largish pile of newspapers moved; Declan boomed a huge startled bark. The pile erupted and disgorged an unkempt old man. Blinking in confusion, his wide eyes found the huge dog and he scrambled backward until he hit the wall.

Molly swatted the dog’s ear. “That’s enough now.” To the man against the wall, she called, “I’m sorry he scared you.”

“It’s okay.” He seemed to gather his composure and his belongings. “I’m sorry. I’ll get my stuff and go.”

“Wait a minute.” All she could think of was her dad, in a similar position. She had wondered, almost every day since he’d left where he was, if he was even alive. Searching for him never yielded any results, and with no word from him, ever, she had to assume he was dead. His mental state had never been good since Viet Nam; Molly was too young when all that was happening and had no memory of him ever being ‘normal.’ She could only hope that if he’d ended up down on his luck like this guy, someone gave him a chance.
This man looked like someone who was used to work. His eyes were clear and his expression and manner were not those of a person who was bad to drink or was doing drugs. There but for the grace of God… She made the dog sit and stepped forward. “I’ve got some things I could use some help with, if you’re willing.”

“Like what?” He was wary; of course, the manner of his awakening had been less than ideal.

“Cleaning out a big-ass freezer and cooler, changing out some lights up high, stuff like that.”

He stood; he was not a big man, but he stood straight, one hand smoothing the hair back off his forehead.

“Okay.”

“One condition though.”

He paused. “What’s that?”

Molly smiled. “You let me feed you and you clean up.”

The relief on his face was like sunlight lancing through a drawn shade into a dark room. “I’d like that.”

Jimmy had looked askance at her when she introduced him to her foundling. The man’s name was Walter. Jimmy had been even more put out when she told him to show Walter to the shower upstairs in her apartment, but he did as he was asked.

“There are some clothes at the back of the hall closet, see if anything fits.”

Some time later, when both men came back downstairs, Molly was pleased with the results. Walter was scrubbed and fresh, her dad’s old clothing a little big but a good enough fit.

“I really appreciate all this, ma’am. I don’t know how I can ever pay you back.”

“You’re very welcome. Don’t worry, you’ll earn it and then some.”

He nodded and headed toward the office where she directed him to put his things. Jimmy was much more complacent now.

“He’s Navy retired, used to be an aircraft mechanic. Worked the flight deck on the JFK.”

“You sound a lot more willing to believe him than you were a little earlier.”

Jimmy nodded. “Turns out we know some of the same people from way back. There’s no way he can be lying about that stuff.”

She patted him on the arm. “Good, I’m glad. You have that list of things that need doing?”

He produced a dog-eared piece of paper from his shirt pocket.

“Excellent. After we eat, you guys can get started on that stuff while I go get more ornaments and pick up those flyers.

Walter was worth his weight in gold. He fell into the routine of the bar as if he’d been there for years. He changed the big fluorescent tubes high above the bar, cleaned the drains in the kitchen, reorganized the cooler to make it easier to load and get to inventory and rewired the outside lights. Now the entire patio and sidewalk between the buildings were well and reliably lit. And when her truck died one evening, she found him under the hood the next morning and by lunchtime it was running again. He washed his hands at the faucet outside, smearing Go-Jo to his elbows. Molly stood by holding a towel for him.

“Walter, I can’t tell you how grateful I am you were here to fix that thing. Usually she’s a reliable old girl, but when she takes it in her mind to have a day off, it takes more than me swearing to convince her she needs to move. How much do I owe you?”

Walter shook his head, drying off. “Miss Molly, you’ve given me more than I deserve and it won’t cost you a thing for my work.” He paused, holding the door for her as they went back inside. “But there is one thing I might ask, if I may.”

“Absolutely.”

“That guitar in your office; would you mind if I played it sometimes?”

She had to think for a moment, then remembered the case in the corner, behind a file cabinet. Gil had left it behind a couple of years ago, saying he preferred the twelve string he kept with him. He’d left no instructions for its disposition and hadn’t mentioned it again in his various returns. Molly shook her head.

“You can have it.” When he began to protest she raised her hands to quiet him, walking ahead to the office to get the item in question. “No, I’m not hearing it. It’s yours and welcome to it. It’s been sitting there for years and Lord knows I won’t ever play it. I’m too damned old to start learning now.” She picked it up, blew the dust off the case and handed it over.

Walter accepted it, smiling his thanks. “I could teach you.”

“Nah. That’s what musicians and jukeboxes are for to me. Enjoy it.” As she left him in the office, she heard the catches pop open and his intake of breath.

“Wow…”

She stopped in the kitchen to make a sandwich. From the open office door, she heard a few minutes of tuning, then a rippling cascade of music. I know that tune… It was Spanish in flavor and a name floated to the surface of her memory. Malaguena. Shaking her head in amazement, she stood and listened, her lunch forgotten.

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Replies:

[> [> A great introduction to a compelling character! >>>> -- Page, 12:57:38 11/29/09 Sun

I liked Walter immediately! You brought him to life so well, not only with Molly's conscious observations -- clear eyes, no drinking or drugs -- but with little things like his standing up straight, holding open the door for her. It was clear he was no lazy, shiftless sponge, but a man of worth just down on his luck. The reaction of Jimmy (hm. Something about that name just mesmerizes me. Wonder what it could be? *G*) is good, too, with his initial wariness turning to trust. I really like this bit. Just a few nits to pick:

He seemed to gather his composure and his belongings. I know what you're saying here, but it reads funny to me, leaves me wondering how he could seem to gather his belongings. Maybe "He seemed to gather his composure as he gathered his belongings?"

That’s what musicians and jukeboxes are for to me. This sentence brought me up short, and stopped my reading. How about, "For me, that's what musicians and jukeboxes are for." Or something along those lines.

Otherwise, great work! I'm so enjoying Molly's world!

Hugs,
Page

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[> [> [> Thanks! -- Debi, 14:46:50 11/29/09 Sun

>I liked Walter immediately! You brought him to life
>so well, not only with Molly's conscious observations
>-- clear eyes, no drinking or drugs -- but with little
>things like his standing up straight, holding open the
>door for her. It was clear he was no lazy, shiftless
>sponge, but a man of worth just down on his luck. I was hoping that would come across well. Walter's had a rough time but he's still a good man, he hasn't given in to hopelessness. The
>reaction of Jimmy (hm. Something about that name just
>mesmerizes me. Wonder what it could be? *G*)
I wonder? is
>good, too, with his initial wariness turning to trust.
> I really like this bit. Just a few nits to pick:
>
>He seemed to gather his composure and his
>belongings.
I know what you're saying here, but
>it reads funny to me, leaves me wondering how he could
>seem to gather his belongings. Maybe "He seemed to
>gather his composure as he gathered his belongings?"
>
>That’s what musicians and jukeboxes are for to
>me.
This sentence brought me up short, and
>stopped my reading. How about, "For me, that's what
>musicians and jukeboxes are for." Or something along
>those lines.

Fixes on their way!
>
>Otherwise, great work! I'm so enjoying Molly's world!
>
>Hugs,
>Page

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