Arising the next morning, Harland found Caleb at the breakfast table with Rebecca and Lance. He was getting them fed and ready for preschool and kindergarten.
“Shouldn’t Carissa be doing this?”
“Yeah, of course, but she’s still pretty banged up. I don’t mind helping out.”
Harland spun for the bedroom where Carissa was sleeping. Caleb cut him off at the hallway.
“Har, don’t you think we are wearing out our welcome enough as it is? Does Cynthia really need to hear you and Carissa going at it?”
Harland seemed to ponder the wisdom of Caleb’s words longer than he usually would, and then to Caleb’s utter amazement stated, “Suppose you’re right. And, we need to get back to our own home, if there’s one left. Have you heard anything from your mother?”
“Not a word, and that’s causing me to worry. I’ll drop off the kids and take a spin by our place to see what things look like. Do you think Cynthia would let you use her ride if you asked nice enough?”
“I’ll ask. She’ll probably need me to drop her off at work, and then I’ll go see Beasty.”
“I gotta’ get these kids off to school, Harland. I’ll call you on your cell after ten o’clock to see how things are going.”
“I’ll get Sal Hendridge started on fixing the well. With any luck at all, he’ll be finished before sundown tomorrow. Then we can give Cynthia her house back, and get on
with our own lives.”
“Such as they are?”
“Such as they are, Caleb.”
Harland had a ray of hope concerning the day. Cynthia was interested in him again, and perhaps this time she realized he wasn’t Donald Trump. Nothing had been heard from the bikers in two days. Sal Hendridge would get his well working, so he could take a hot shower in his own home. He hadn’t exactly won the lottery, but things were looking up. Then, Caleb called at ten, and life, once again, started to piss on his parade.
“Good news, first. I’m standing in the living room of Harlandville and am proud to report that it’s the same old shit hole it’s always been.”
“Yeah, yeah. Fuck you, Caleb. And what’s the bad news?”
“I don’t even know how to tell you this, Harland.”
“Just spit it the fuck out.”
“CPS was at the school. They took Lance. Wasn’t a thing I could do about it. Didn’t want to break it to you till after I saw the property.”
“Jesus fucking Christ, Caleb, what about Rebecca?”
“That’s where they’re headed next. Har, if you get in their faces, and try to stop them, they’ll just make it harder to get the kids back.”
“They tell you that?”
“In so many words. They said the only person that could do anything right now is Carissa.”
“Carissa! Jesus, what’s she gonna’ do?”
“Harland, she’s their mother. What the Christ do you think she’ll do?”
“Hate to say it, Caleb, but probably nothing unless I force her to.”
“Well, I guess you know what you gotta’ do. Can’t you wait until after you see Beastly? Without that money, we ain’t got shit. The kids ain’t going to come back to us for at least two weeks. CPS said that would be the best-case scenario.”
“Okay, Caleb, I’ll squeeze money out of old asswipe. But before I head over there, I’m gonna’ wake up our little princess and tell her to get her ass up and ready to go have it out with CPS. Where are they out of?”
“San Difuckingago! That’s just grand!”
“Harland, take that rage you’re feeling right now into your meeting with Beastly.”
Harland stomped down the hall to the guest room, rapped on the door, and hissed out, “Carissa, open the damn door. We’ve got things to talk about. Come on, Carissa, get your ass up.” It was all he could do to count to ten so as to extend the courtesy he would to anyone before flinging the door open. Carissa was gone. Her things were gone. Her children were gone, probably without her knowledge—everything gone, with no indication if they were ever coming back.
Curt Beasley’s secretary said he wasn’t in, even though his car was in the parking lot, and Harland could hear him talking on the phone.
“I don’t mean you no disrespect, Malinda, but he’s going to see me, or I’m gonna’ see him. Get my drift?”
“Mr. Waverly, I just work here. I don’t want to lose my job.”
“They give you a coffee break on this job?”
“Why yes, but it’s not for another hour.”
“I suggest you speed up your time frame, dear, and take it a little early, as in, right now.”
She grabbed up some paperwork and swerved out from behind her desk, brushing against Harland as she passed. Nice ass.
Curt Beasley’s door was locked. Not to be deterred, Harland kicked it in.
“Get the fuck out, Harland! I’m calling security!!”
“Call the fucking National Guard if you want to, you fucking prick. Nobody’s gonna’ get here in time to save your pathetic ass.”
“You can’t talk to me like that!”
Harland walked up to the front of his desk reached down and flipped it over, causing Beasley to retreat to the office back wall.
“Whoa yourself, Beastly.”
“What did you just call me?!”
“Beastly. Beastly. Little fucking prick, Beastly. Fucking bully, Beastly. Beastly, son-of-a-bitch. Beastly, fucking poor excuse for a human being. Curt fucking Beastly, the cock sucker who’s gonna’ get on his fucking knees, find his check book, and write me that advance for $4,000.00. Apply it to anything you want, hopefully severance, but you’re gonna’ write it, or I’m gonna’ kill you.”
Curt Beasley’s eyes darted about the office, looking for whatever they could locate to protect himself with. The most immediate solution appeared to be his golf clubs, which he reached for with great urgency. Harland pummeled the side of his face with a hard right, grabbed his head, and slammed it into the side of the upturned desk. Beasley dropped to his knees.
“Find your check book. Find it, fucker. Right now!” Melinda appeared at the doorway and gasped, “Oh, my God!” She rushed to the phone at her desk, and as she reached for it, Harland ripped it from its jack and hurled it out the front window.
“Take an extended fucking coffee break, darling.”
He could sense by the widening of her eyes that something was behind him. He ducked as the golf club whizzed over his head and past Melinda’s terrified face. Harland wrestled the club away from Beasley, turned the head inward, and beat him with the shaft.
“You despicable motherfucker! I’ll kill you, if you want me to, but first you’re gonna’ write that fucking check.”
“Mr. Beasley. Oh, my God. Is this what this is about? Money?”
“Money, honey. That’s fucking A right. Find his check book, and have dickhead here write me what he owes, and I’ll be on my way. Get it?”
Melinda scrambled amongst Curt Beasley’s disheveled office like a badger rooting up a ground squirrel’s nest. She popped up out of the wreckage with the check book in hand and ran with it to where her boss was bent over on one knee.
“Mr. Beasley, please sign one, please. You can always cancel it later.”
She gasped and put her hand over her mouth with an, “Oops!”
“You cancel it, either one of you, and I’ll come back here and kill you both. Do you understand me?”
Melinda furiously shook her head yes while Beasley glared up at Harland which earned him another whack across the back with the shaft of the golf club.
“Write it, Beasley, $4,000.00. Write that check right now.” He did as instructed. Harland verified the check and tossed the golf club in amongst the other rubble.
“Excuse me, miss.” Melinda stepped aside, and Harland sauntered outside as if he didn’t have a care in the world, got in his truck, and screeched away.
The tellers at Ocotillo Bank were used to Harland hammering Curt Beasley’s checks drawn on the local country club. The teller counted out forty one-hundred dollar bills into Harland’s waiting palm. Harland raced over to Sal Hendridge’s and relinquished the funds.
“Just get that well working, Sal.”
“I’ll do what I can, Harland. What’s up with you? You look more stressed-out than Obama when he saw the tapes of his preacher.”
“Little problems here and there, Sal. Bunch of little fucking molehills forming into a mountain. Doesn’t matter though. We’re in the fucking desert. Without water nothing can be solved. You can’t buy time to work things out. You die before you reach the point at which you can start to live.”
“Harland, think about taking some time off. You’re one stressed-out redneck.”
“Sure thing, Sal, but get that well working. We’re nothing without that.”
John C. Krieg is a retired landscape architect, landscape contractor, and certified arborist. He remains a social malcontent, bordering on loose cannon. John has always been a tree nut in general, much preferring them to people.