I had scheduled the Sandersons to come in early, around nine, for their interviews, so I wasn't surprised when my phone rang about five minutes before nine. It was Sharon Watson, our receptionist and Jim Wheeler's secretary. Marty and Steve were at her desk.
I went out to meet them. Steve is tall and lanky, but Marty is a petite little thing. They looked to be about Mike's and my age. I shook hands with them and led them back to my office. When we got there, I pulled up a couple of chairs close to my desk, so that we could talk in comfort. I offered to get them coffee from the machine, but both of them declined.
Steve spoke up first. "This seems to be a much smaller place than I imagined. And you make brake assemblies for big trucks?"
"Yes, this was the elder Mr. Dorczek's dream. It started small, but it has grown, just in the ten years I've been here."
"How many employees do you have?" Marty asked.
"Right now, there are 56 hourly employees, the office manager and his secretary, Sharon, whom you've met—and me."
She looked surprised. "Why do you need extra help?"
I had to grin. "Well, that number is going to double in about a month, and it may possibly triple. We have a huge order for brakes that we can't meet without more help."
Steve was curious now. "How are you going to increase the number of workers that much? It doesn't look as if you would have the space."
"We don't. We're starting a second shift, and we may possibly have to add a third shift. That's why we need help here in the office. I've been handling the business end by myself for the past ten years, but with this increase, I'm going to need help."
Marty reached into her purse and drew out a small stack of papers, folded in half. "I've brought our references. Steve's boss was glad to give him a good reference, just to get him out of the office, and I went to the office super-visor, who has known me ever since I went there to work."
I looked over the references. It appeared that I had two sterling candidates for the job. There were also personal references from ex-teachers and their pastor.
"You have some impressive references. I'd like to have you speak to our office manager, if you don't mind. He is the one who makes the final decision about hiring new employees."
They exchanged nervous smiles, but both nodded to me. I picked up the phone and called Jim Wheeler's office. When he answered, I told him that the candidates for the business office jobs were there and asked if he would have time to speak to them. He was free at the moment, so he asked me to bring them to his office.
I stood up and invited them to join me. We went across the hall to Jim's office. He invited them in and offered them seats. Then he turned to me.
"So, you think these people might work out in the jobs we have?"
"They seem interested, and they have excellent references. I figured you would be a better judge than I am. I've never done this sort of thing before."
He smiled at the Sandersons. "Well, we'll have a little chat." He turned to me. "I'll call you after we talk, OK?"
I felt dismissed, so I went back to my office and started my paperwork. It was Thursday, and I was going to have to push to get the payroll done. But I thought about these two; they seemed like really bright people, people it might be fun to work with. Then I sighed and pulled out the time sheets from last week. I remembered Tony Solano and pulled out his record for this week, as well.
I was deeply involved in my work when the phone rang. It was Jim Wheeler. He had been very impressed with the Sandersons. They would be giving two-week notice at their current jobs and would start here the following week. "I think you're going to be needing them, Dave. We've already got a good number of people for the second shift, and we have more interviews for today."
When I hung up from talking to him, I looked up and almost jumped out of my chair. Mike was standing there, with a big grin on his face.
"I take it you have help coming. Now, don't go getting uppity on me, Mr. Business Manager; I'll have to take you down a peg or two!" He chuckled. "Are you ready for a coffee break?"
I sighed. "I might just as well. At the rate I'm going, you're going to have to explain to the guys on the line why they're not getting paid this week!"
He grinned. "I'll just tell 'em I wore you out in bed last night, and you didn't have the strength to do the payroll."
"Oh, yeah! That would be the thing to tell them! NOT!"
"So, are we gonna get coffee, or what?"
We went out to the coffee machine to get our coffee. Then we brought it back to my office and sat down. Mike just looked at me for a couple of minutes.
"You know, I still can't believe my luck! You are just the most special guy in the world!" His voice was soft now. "And, Davie, I just love you so much it almost hurts sometimes!"
I could feel the tears rushing up and spilling over. "Oh, Mike, I can't get over it, either. Of all the people you could have had, all the people who would have given anything to get you, why me?"
He reached across the desk and wiped away the tears from my cheeks. "Just because. Because you're you. I've never met anyone in my life who compares in any way to you. Maybe some day you'll realize how special you are, but until then, just let me tell you, OK?"
Our coffee break was over, and Mike stood up to go back to work. Before he left, he whispered again, "I love you, Davie." Then he closed the door and strolled back down toward the line. I had a hard time getting back to the time sheets, but I forced myself to concentrate, and I was almost finished with them when he came back at lunch time.
I didn't see anything of Mike all afternoon. He was busy with Jim Wheeler, interviewing applicants for the line jobs. They had received several more applications, and it was so urgent to get the second shift up and running, that they spent most of the afternoon in Mr. Wheeler's—Jim's—office.
I got down to work and pushed hard. I managed to get all the checks ready by about 3:30. I bundled them up for Mike to pass out tomorrow, pulling out Tony Solano's check. I stuck that in my desk drawer and put the rest in the safe. Then I went to work on the payroll report for Jim Wheeler, and I was just finished with it when Mike walked into the office.
"Ready to go?" I just smiled and nodded. I locked my office and we left. When we got home, Annie called to us from the kitchen, "Get changed, guys! Coffee's ready, and I've got news for you!"
Mike looked at me. "What now?"
"I have no idea. Annie's always skipped from crisis to crisis like a flat stone across a pond! We'll just have to wait and see."
We changed our clothes and went out to the kitchen. Annie was sitting at the table. Our coffee was poured and sitting at our places. We joined her at the table and just waited.
"Well! You're never going to guess what happened today!" She paused, for dramatic effect, I thought. Annie was always something of a drama queen.
She had our full attention now, so she continued. "Mr. MacIntyre had the divorce papers delivered to Paul's office this morning. Of course, that got a lot of attention from his co-workers! He called me—he's just furious! How could I do such a thing? How could I ruin his good name and embarrass him in front of his whole office? What was my problem?
"I told him that we had always planned to have children, and I want them. He doesn't. I love my brother and I'm proud of him. I support him in his choice of a partner in his life, and if Paul doesn't, that's his problem!
"Oh, and he's upset, because he has to take time off to appear in court—it's next Thursday morning!—and he doesn't want to have to hire a lawyer. That doesn't surprise me, knowing how cheap he is!
"I told him that my lawyer said he didn't have to show up in court; he's going to lose anyway, because he's given me grounds for an annulment. If he doesn't appear, the judge will automatically grant the annulment. He'll get a copy of the final decree, and that will be the end of it!
"Then he started screaming about the alimony payments! Mr. MacIntyre set two hundred dollars a week; he can afford it, with his job. But you guys know how cheap he is! He doesn't think he should have to pay anything, since I left him. He feels that he's been wronged! A man should have some rights! And I left him, so it's all my fault! Ya know, I'm kind of looking forward to next Thursday morning!" She had a grim smile on her face now.
Mike and I just looked at each other. What could we say at this point? But I wanted Annie to know that we were on her side in this. I reached out and took her hand.
"Annie, I know this is a tough time for you, but I want you to know that Mike and I are right behind you, and we'll do anything we can to help. Of course, there's no question; you're going to be staying here with us, as long as you want to. Ya got that, Sis?"
She smiled at me, and the thin shell of anger cracked. She started to cry.
Mike and I both moved around simultaneously, so that we were hugging her from both sides. We held her until her crying stopped.
"You two guys are just too good to me! I can never thank you enough for taking me in."
We both leaned in and kissed her, Mike on one cheek, me on the other. Then Mike sat up with a look of panic on his face.
"Who's fixing supper tonight? You guys know I'm helpless in the kitchen, and I'm hungry!"
Annie burst out laughing. She reached over and cuffed him on the shoulder. "Davie's right! You're always hungry."
He had that little-boy look on his face now. "But I'm a growing boy. I need my nourishment."
Annie shook her head and looked over at me. "How do you put up with that?"
"Well, it's not easy. But he does have other virtues."
"That I don't want to hear about!" She got up from the table and went to the fridge. She started pulling out dishes at random.
"Just for that, you guys are going to get whatever I can lay my hands on, and I don't want to hear one word of complaint from either one of you!"
She started dumping the food into dishes and putting them in the microwave. I got up and started setting the table. Mike sat there with a smug grin on his face. When I looked up and saw it, I reached over and cuffed him on the back of the head. "You think you're pretty smart, don't you?"
"Yep." He settled back to watch, as we got dinner on the table.
After dinner, Mike refilled Annie's coffee cup and gently pushed her out of the kitchen. "You've done enough, Sis! Davie and I can take care of clean-up!" She just smiled, patted his cheek, and went into the living room to turn on the TV.
We had the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned up in record time. Without trying, we had developed a sort of teamwork that made the job a lot easier. When we finished, Mike filled our coffee cups, dumped what little was left in the pot, and started a fresh pot. We went in to join Annie in the living room. She had found a special on orchids on one of the public channels. I looked at Mike. He just shrugged, and we settled down on the couch to learn about orchids. When that was over, Annie flipped through the channels and settled on the Lawrence Welk show. She grinned at us.
"I just love Lawrence Welk, don't you?" We both gave her rather tentative smiles, which I guess she took as agreement. I heard Mike rumbling deep in his chest, but he didn't say anything.
About nine, Mike stood up. "I think I'm going to bed. We have to get up pretty early in the morning. See you in the morning." He headed for the bedroom.
Annie looked at me. "Is he upset? He didn't say anything."
"No, Annie, I don't think he's upset. We've been really busy at the shop, and he's having to interview people for the new shift. It's a lot of work for him, and I think he's just worn out."
"I really don't want to cause any problems for you and Mike, Davie. If I'm making trouble for you, please, please tell me. I don't have to stay here. You two are so perfect together, and I don't want to do anything to spoil that!"
"Annie, you're not making any problems. Mike's just tired. And don't even think about leaving. We've already discussed this. You own half of this house. It's been your home for a lot of years, and it's going to continue being your home, as long as you need it. You got that?"
She grinned now. "Yeah, I got that! Ya know, little brother, you were bossy when we were kids, and you're still bossy!" She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "But I love you, anyway! Good night, Davie!" She went up the stairs, and I heard her bedroom door close.
I went into the bedroom. The light was on, and Mike was lying on his side, propped up on his elbow. He grinned at me and reached out. "Come on, the bed doesn't feel right without you!"
"You said the same thing about the couch. Have you been testing all the furniture?"
"No. I just know what I like, and you're it! Please come to bed; I need you."
I undressed quickly, turned out the light and slipped into bed. I snuggled up against Mike, and he wrapped his arms around me.
"There! The bed feels better now!"
"Mike, Annie's a little upset. She thought you came to bed because you didn't like the programs she chose on TV."
"No, I really am tired out. Although I have to admit, I could live another fifty years or so without Lawrence Welk." He chuckled.
"Mike, that brings another question to my mind. I never really asked you if you minded Annie moving in here. I was just so upset about what was happening between her and Paul that I never gave a thought to what you might think of the idea. I'm really sorry, Babe. I should have asked you first."
"Davie, if you don't know it by now, I guess I'll have to tell you; I'm with you, whatever you do. As far as Annie is concerned, she's like the sister I never had, and I'm just happy as hell to have her here. But even if I weren't, she's still your sister, so she'd be welcome for that alone." He leaned over and kissed me gently. "Does that answer your question?" He wrapped his arms tighter around me, and I snuggled as close as I could to his warmth.
He held me, as I sank into the warm darkness.
The ringing of the phone jolted me out of a beautiful dream about Mike. I sat up and looked at the clock. 11:30. I staggered to my feet and stumbled out to the living room. I picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"This is Paul Huymans. I know that my wife is there, and I need to speak to her now. Please put her on the phone."
"Paul, Annie's asleep. Could this wait until tomorrow?"
"I need to speak to her now! Please get her to the phone!"
I dropped the receiver on the desk, getting a perverse pleasure from the noise it made when it hit. I went into our bedroom and pulled on my pants. Mike sat up in bed. "Who's that?"
"Paul. He insists on speaking to Annie, now!" I went upstairs and knocked on Annie's door. Her voice was muffled and sleepy.
"What do you want?"
"Paul's on the phone. He wants to talk to you, now!"
"Well, I don't want to talk to him. Tell him I'll call him in the morning."
"I tried to get him to wait until morning, but he said 'now!"
"Well, I don't want to talk to him now, so tell him I said to fuck off!"
"OK, I'll try." I went back down the stairs and picked up the receiver, banging it against the edge of the desk as I picked it up. (Oops!)
"Paul, I'm sorry, but Annie can't talk to you now. She said she will call you in the morning."
He got his revenge, as he slammed down the receiver. My ear really hurt from that!
I went back into the bedroom, dropped my pants and crawled back into bed with Mike. He wrapped his arms around me again. "Are you OK, baby?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I don't know what's got his tail in a knot, but I'm not happy about getting irate phone calls at this hour."
"He'll get over it—or not!—and it's not our business, anyway. It's between him and Annie."
"You're right. Now, maybe we can get some sleep." I snuggled down against him and relaxed. Everything was all right, as long as Mike was here.
I was just drifting off to sleep, when there was a squeal of brakes in front of our house, followed by a slamming car door and, seconds later, a loud pounding on our front door. I was jolted wide awake.
"Oh, God! He's going to wake the whole neighborhood!" I quickly sat up and pulled on my pants again. I hurried into the living room, turned on a light and went to unlock the door.
Paul burst into the house, red-faced and shouting. "Where is she? Where is my wife? What have you done with her?"
I stepped back. In his present mood, I expected him to start swinging at me. Paul is a small man. I mean, I'm not all that big, about five-nine, and medium build, but I don't think he's more than five-five, and skinny. Annie used to complain when they were dating that she could never wear heels when they went out, because she would be taller than he is. But Paul has always reminded me of a banty rooster, feisty and all attitude. He was really in full steam now.
Annie appeared at the top of the stairs in her housecoat. "Paul, I told Davie to tell you that I'd call you in the morning!" She started down the stairs.
"What do you think you're doing? Do you realize that you're costing me any chance of a promotion, and making me a laughing stock among my friends? Don't you have any regard at all for your husband?" He was so angry that he was spitting as he screamed.
I noticed that Mike had put on his pants and was standing in the bedroom door, watching and listening. He had a mildly amused expression on his face. His broad, muscular chest and his beefy arms and shoulders glistened in the light. Paul had his back to Mike, so he didn't see what this man looked like without a shirt. I noticed, though, that Annie took a long, appreciative look.
Paul was still screaming at the top of his lungs. He was so angry that he was incoherent. There were a lot of words, but they made no sense at all. Annie just stood there, looking at him. She had to take a step backward, so that he wouldn't spit all over her. When he finally stopped to take a breath, she stepped up and slapped him hard across the cheek.
His hand went back to strike her, but Mike stepped up and grabbed him by the back of his jacket. With no apparent effort, he picked Paul up, so that he dangled, like a kitten being carried by its mother, as Mike strode to the door, opened it, and set him on the porch. "Good night, Paul," he said quietly, as he shut and relocked the door.
Annie stood there with her mouth open, as Mike calmly returned to the living room. Then she burst into hysterical laughter. When she calmed down a little, she grabbed Mike in a big hug.
"Oh, Mike, that was beautiful! I've never seen him put down so fast or so effectively!" She started laughing again.
We heard the sound of a car door slamming, and the squeal of tires, as Paul left. Mike looked at me. "I'm not very sleepy at the moment. Could I interest anyone in a cup of coffee?" He looked from me to Annie, as we both nodded. Annie was still trying to control her laughter. I felt as if I had just come out of a Monty Python movie. Nothing made any sense at the moment.
Annie and I just stood there, looking at each other. Mike went to the kitchen, and I could hear him drawing water and putting the coffee pot on.
"Well, Sis, shall we go?" I held out my arm, and she took it, as if we were going into the Coronation. Side by side, we strolled into the kitchen.
That pompous ass of a Paul certainly got told which way the cow eats the cabbage didn't he? He certainly needed and probably still needs an attitude adjustment. I am somewhat afraid that he will try to do something nasty and cause trouble in some way. I am sure that Mike can take care of himself, and probably pick up the jerk and deposit him in the dumpster if necessary, but if for some reason he should show up when the guys aren't there, I am somewhat worried about Annie, I hope that Mike and Davie can convince Annie not to let that asshole in the house when they aren't there.
I like the new brother and sister act, coming to work at the plant. They seem really nice.
I am also a bit worried about the guy they fired, He seems a bit hot tempered as well, but I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.
I hope the next chapter comes along pretty soon.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher