Small Dude, A fictional short story, Part 7
Lunch was quite an enjoyable experience for the whole group. Once it was over, everybody separated to do various activities. Vinnie went on a boat ride with the twin boys and the dogs. Ms. Jones retired to her room to take a nap. Jorge played Scrabble with his his daughters Vega and Juanita. Maria was watching her husband getting his butt kicked by his two daughters, while she was doing some needlework on a quilt she was making. As for Virgil and Maria-Helena, they decided to wash the Jeep truck and her own Mazda, now all covered with a fine coat of dust. They had fun doing that together.
Later in the day, after Vinnie had come back, both him and Virgil took a look at the Jeep truck's engine, and at Vinnie's 1976 Chevelle that he had restored himself too. Virgil asked his friend:
- " What do you think of the truck ?"
- "Well" Vinnie said, with a teasing look on his face "I have to admit you did a pretty decent job for a white boy" Both men started laughing, but Vinnie wasn't quick enough to escape Virgil's fist that landed on his biceps.
- Damn, that hurts !"
- "Good, that'll teach you to be critical of my work. How much horsepower did you get out of that piece of crap Chevelle of yours anyway !"
- " At least 350, as far as I know".
- " And who could possibly need that"
- "Well, me for starters, big boys like to have big toys !"
The evening was going to be the best part of the day. Women and girls concentrated on preparing dinner, grilled chicken on the barbecue with Spanish rice and beans. After another filling meal, Virgil carried out a chiminea from the shed, and lit up the fire right in the middle of the porch. Vinnie went to his car to pick up his guitar, sat on the swing and started playing some blues music while humming. By now, everybody was sitting in circle around the fire, and the singer started an awsome rendition of Ray Charles' "Worried Mind". As he just finished, normally super shy Vega walked up to him and asked if he could play Eric Clapton's song "Tears in Heaven". He said he could and Vega told him she wanted to sing it. As Vinnie started to play the intro, she dedicated the song to her big sister Carmen and she began to sing. A couple of measures into the song, Vinnie started to sing along. The contrast between the frail sixteen years old and the massive retired Marine was a thing of beauty. They did a wonderful, touching and meaningful interpretation of the song, both having beautiful voices. And Vinnie's self-taught playing of the guitar was absolutely out of this world. This was going to be an evening that would stay forever in everyone's memory. Virgil thought that if it hadn't been for Carmen, this gathering of good people would never had happened. And he felt proud, happy and rewarded for putting it together. Between all the participants, 483 pictures were taken that day !
On Sunday morning, Virgil woke up early, around six, and made a gigantic pot of coffee, along with a truckload of made from scratch biscuits. Maria-Helena joined in about half an hour later to set the table on the boat deck. She also prepared scrambled eggs and bacon. By the time everybody was up, a delicious smell had invaded the kitchen. After breakfast, the Conrero clan drove up to nearby Lake Wales to attend church, and took Mamma Jones along. Vinnie and Virgil were left alone, which gave them some bonding time. They asked each other about their respective wounds. It turned out Vinnie's ankle surgery had been botched and he would never walk properly again. Virgil mentioned occasional chest pains, especially around changes of weather, but nothing he couldn't live with. Maybe it would go away someday ?" They talked about cars and women, what else, but also about the future. Virgil shared his intention to start a non profit organisation, in order to help veterans coming back from Irak and Afghanistan reinsert themselves into civilian life, and also provide useful counseling, not just empty words and promises. Later, he asked Vinnie :
- "What are you doing with the rest of your week ?"
-"Nothing in particular, said Vinnie, I got nothing but time, my friend. The only thing Mamma would like to do is to go visit her sister in Jacksonville on the way back, that's all".
- "How about spending the whole week with me and the doggies then, we'll stay here until tomorrow evening, and then we'll go to the house in Vero Beach. We'll take your Mamma to the ocean, maybe you and I can go fishing. Either way, we'll have plenty of time to talk and have fun. How hard do I have to twist your arm, what do you say ?"
- Man, I don't really know what to say ! Mamma and I had such a great time with you all, we were just talking about it. I was getting depressed just thinking about leaving so quickly. As much as I love home, I didn't feel like driving back to Valdosta, Georgia so soon after meeting with you again. Thank you, my brother, I mean it !"
- "Well, don't thank me, you know I'm gonna give you a hellish time, you can count on it". Both men, who had looked at death right in the eye ,laughed together.
When the churchgoers came back, everybody took turn to drive the Jeep J 10 truck, as Virgil had promised, to the exception of Mamma Jones, who had never driven an automobile her entire life, as she said, so she rode as a passenger when her son's turn came up. Even little Juanita nervously took a shot at it, but she had to sit on her dad's lap, her legs being too short to reach the pedals !.
Then came five o'clock and the Conrero family got ready to leave, as children had school on Monday. They reluctantly packed their belongings in the minivan. After many more hugs and kisses, and the promises to meet again very soon, they got on the road. Virgil then asked Maria-Helena if she was leaving too :
- "I have to, I'm working tomorrow morning !"
- "What line of work are you in ?" Virgil asked.
- "I work in the medical lab at Miami General Hospital. Analysis!"
- "A lab rat, huh ?"
- "Something like that ". With a smile.
Mamma Jones was somewhere inside the cabin, and Vinnie had made himself invisible when Virgil carried Maria-Helena's bag to her car. He helped her to lower the convertible top, as she wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather :
- "What are you doing next week-end". Virgil asked, nervously, trying to look busy.
- "No definite plans yet, why ?" He took a deep breath :
- "Well, I was thinking of driving down to Miami, let's say Saturday evening, and pick you up. Then we could go and have a nice dinner right on the water, somewhere on Biscayne Bay, share an enormous steak of tuna and a bottle of Sancerre, or something like that. Then, maybe we could go dancing and...
Maria-Helena had put her hand over Virgil's mouth to shut him up. She looked up to him with a tender smile and said :
- "The answer is yes !"
They hugged for a long time. Virgil caressed her hair and kissed her on the cheek. She reciprocated. The next minute, she was gone, waving her hand as he watched the Mazda disappear behind the trees...
As Virgil started walking back slowly towards the cabin, his cell phone rang :
- "Hello ?"
- "Do you miss me ?"
- "I'm afraid I do, yes !"
- "Good, it'll keep you on your toes until Saturday !" And she hung up !
Titus and Samson were calmly sitting on the steps of the porch, looking somewhat tired and disoriented after having been through so much activity. They looked sad. Virgil sat with them, a dog on each side, and ran his hands through their coats :
- "You know what, Girls ?:" Both dogs looked up to him, a puzzled look in their eyes and their little heads tilting to one side :
- "Life is good".
The dogs licked his hands for a minute and as if they heard a signal, both suddenly ran away, barking with joy...
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns