Why Me?

Chapter Sixty-Six

The next two weeks passed quickly, it seemed. Milo was working with Steve, and was picking up the job easily. Occasionally he would come to me with a question about some specific procedure, but for the most part he was having no problems learning Steve's job. Thursday and Friday of the second week, Steve just sat back and watched Milo do the work. He had no problems. Friday afternoon Steve came to me, while Milo was checking out something with Will in the stockroom.

"He's got it, Dave. In fact, I think he's better at the job than I am. Maybe it's a good thing you're getting rid of me."

"Don't ever think that, Steve. You've done a great job, and you've taken a huge load off me. I couldn't have done it without you. Now, go and do the same job for your new boss." I couldn't help it, I had to give him a big hug. "And listen, Buddy, if you ever need a reference, don't hesitate to call me, ya hear?"

He had tears in his eyes, as he hugged me back. "Thanks, Dave. I'll remember that."

Things were getting a bit too emotional for both of us. "Steve, why don't you go have a cup of coffee with Marty, let her finish up whatever she's working on, and then the two of you take off. You can get an early start on your weekend. I'm sure you've got lots of things to do, if you're planning to move out of town and start a new job."

He gave me another quick squeeze and a big smile, although there were tears clinging to his eyelashes. "Thanks again, Dave. You're the greatest boss I ever worked for." He turned and headed out of the office toward the coffee machine. When he came back past my door, he gave me a nod and a smile, as he headed into Marty's office. I was involved in finishing a report for Jim Wheeler, and when I looked up again they were gone.

I finished the report and took it into Jim's office. He wasn't there at the moment, so I left it on his desk where he could find it easily. When I got back to my office, Milo was there.

"So, Davie, am I doing things right?"

"Milo, Steve gave you a glowing report. I don't foresee any problems, but if you have a question about anything, you can always come to me." He grinned, went to his desk and filed some papers in the drawer.

A thought crossed my mind. "Milo, have you or Trish told your Mom and Dad about your new job?"

"Actually, no. I wanted to be sure that I could do the job before I said anything to them."

"Then I think an announcement at Sunday dinner would be good. Annie and Mark will be coming home tomorrow evening, so the whole family will be together again. That's a good time to announce good news."

"OK, that will work for me. And I'll tell Trish not to say anything before we announce it on Sunday."

When we left work, Mike decided that we were going to have dinner with Mama Rosa. I didn't give him any argument; I'm slowly learning that we are really quite wealthy, and we can afford to go out for dinner, if we want to. As usual, the food was superb, and Mama Rosa stuffed us, until we could hardly walk out to the car. She was still on about me being too skinny. I don't think that will ever quit. I've always been on the thin side; Annie says it's genetic, so I'll just have to put up with Mama Rosa trying, unsuccessfully, to fatten me up.

When we got home, we were too full to do anything but collapse on the couch with a cup of coffee. It had seemed like months since our vacation, instead of a couple of weeks. We were both tired, so we went to bed early.

Saturday morning, we got up early, had a light breakfast and started cleaning house. The house wasn't really all that dirty; we weren't there enough to get it dirty, but it needed to be dusted and vacuumed. I scrubbed the kitchen and mopped the floor, while Mike went to work on the bathroom. Since this was a small house, we were finished by noon, and we decided to go back to our new favorite diner for lunch. Our perky little waitress greeted us, as we walked in.

"Hi, guys! Ready for lunch?"

Mike grinned at her. "Yep, and you're going to choose what we have."

She looked thoughtful for a few seconds, then grinned. "OK, I know just what you're going to have. Coffee, to start?"

Mike gave her a mock glare. "How dare you ask a question like that? You know that we always start with coffee!" Then he grinned at her, and she returned the grin, before turning to pour two mugs of coffee from the big urn. As we sat down, she set the mugs in front of us.

"Your lunch will be just a few minutes, gentlemen." She went to take the orders of a couple seated at one of the tables, then came back to lay out our silver. I noticed that she set salad forks with the other pieces. Then she grabbed her pad and disappeared into the kitchen. She was back in a couple of minutes, carrying two bowls of tossed salad. She set them at our places and hurried down to the end of the counter. When she returned, she set a small tray with several bottles of different salad dressings in front of us and went back into the kitchen.

When she came back out, she was carrying the platters for the couple at the table. She stopped to chat with them for a minute or so. I couldn't get over the amount of food they served here. It was like eating breakfast and lunch with Mama Rosa.

She came back, checked our coffee mugs and took them to top them off. She set them back in front of us and disappeared into the kitchen. When she returned she had two platters. We had finished our salads and shoved the bowls aside, so she picked up the salad bowls and took them to the kitchen.

I took a look at the platter in front of me. It was a half chicken, roasted, with French fries piled on one side and a small dish of peas on the other side. I looked over at Mike. He was staring at his food. Then he turned to me.

"Davie, do you think these people are related to Mama Rosa?" He grinned and shook his head in disbelief. Just then the waitress came by.

"Do you guys want ketchup for your fries?" I hadn't thought about it, but it sounded like a good idea.

"Yes, please. Oh, by the way, do we get thrown out, if we eat our chicken with our fingers?"

She laughed. "Is there another way to eat chicken?" Then she hurried back into the kitchen.

It took a while, but we managed to eat everything, pulling the chicken bones apart to suck the meat off them. When we finished, we sat back. The waitress returned.

"Oh, good, you're ready for dessert."

Mike groaned. "I don't think I could hold any dessert."

"Well, it comes with the meal, so you might as well have it." She hurried into the kitchen and returned with two pieces of banana cream pie, mounded high with whipped cream. (It was real whipped cream; I tasted it.) Mike looked at me and sighed, then dug into his pie. After the first bite, he was hooked.

I took a bite of mine. The pudding filling was rich and creamy, and the whipped cream added a light fluffy sweetness of it own. The crust was home-made and flaky—all in all, probably the best banana cream pie I had ever tasted.

When we finished, we just sat there, looking at each other. Mike finally spoke. "I don't think I'll need to eat again until about Tuesday!" I was too stuffed to answer him, so I just nodded in agreement. We finished our coffee, turning down an offer for refills, and got up to leave. Mike reached into his wallet and pulled out a bill. He dropped it on our check, which was lying on the counter, and headed for the door. I was right behind him.

Suddenly the waitress called out, "Sir! Sir! Please come back! You've made a mistake!" She was holding a hundred-dollar bill in her hand.

Mike gave her his warm and disarming smile. "No mistake, sweetheart. That was worth every penny of it. Thanks!" He turned and walked out the door. The waitress stood there in shock for a moment, then burst into tears and rushed into the kitchen.

I went out, zipping up my jacket. It was a sunny day, but very cold. Mike was waiting by the car. When I got there, he opened the door for me, and closed it once I was inside and settled. Then he went around the front and got into the driver's seat. He started the car, to give it a chance to warm up a little, and buckled his seat belt. I already had mine in place. I just looked at him and shook my head.

"Mike, you're just too good! But you're really going to give that poor girl a heart attack."

He chuckled, then turned serious as he looked at me. "Davie, you don't get it yet, do you? We're not just well off, we're 'filthy rich'! And I, for one, don't want to just hoard my money, or spend it on something for myself that I don't need, or want. Besides, she's so cute, when she...." He dropped his arm to block my elbow aimed for his ribs. "Missed!" He grinned and put the car in gear.

When we got home, he shut the car off and just sat there for a minute. "Hey, we worked hard this morning, and we'll probably be getting a call from Annie and Mark, when they get home. How about a nap this afternoon, to try to sleep off some of this food?"

"Mike, you were reading my mind!" We went in the house and headed for the bedroom.

We stripped off our clothes and dropped them on the floor. Mike pulled back the covers and slipped into bed. I joined him, and he pulled me into a warm hug. I can fall asleep so easily in his arms.

The phone woke me. When I sat up, I realized that it was dark. I peered over at the alarm clock. 8:30. I managed to stand up and staggered in to answer the phone. The cheery voice on the other end woke me up abruptly.

"Hi, Davie! Were you sleeping?" I didn't realize until I heard her voice just how much I had missed Annie while she was gone.

"Sort of, I guess. We had a big lunch at this diner we discovered, and we were trying to sleep it off."

"We just got home. The boys were telling us about dinner with Mom and Dad last Sunday. I guess Dad's got them trained about leftovers already." She chuckled.

Dad? When did she start calling Tom 'Dad'? Not that I could blame her. He was certainly a proud Dad, giving his daughter away at her wedding. I smiled to myself.

"Peter cooked dinner for us, and he's a really good cook. What is it about you guys? I'm getting a complex about my cooking, with first you, and now Peter, who's so much better than I am in the kitchen!"

"Well, Annie, when ya got it, ya got it!" Her disgusted snort came across the phone loud and clear.

"Well, anyway, smart alec, I just called to invite you guys over for coffee. We can show you some of the pictures we took on our honeymoon."

"You had time to take pictures?"

"One more smart ass remark from you, and I'm going to smack you silly!"

"OK, OK, I'll be good. I'll wake Mike up, and we should be there in about half an hour."

"See you then!" She hung up without saying good-bye.

I went into the bedroom and dodged Mike's swats, as I woke him. When he was awake and functioning, we got dressed and went over to Annie's and Mark's house. It still felt a little strange not calling it 'our' house; it was home for so many years.

Mike parked in the driveway behind Mark's car. We went up on the porch and rang the bell. When Annie opened the door, she gave a squeal, grabbed me in a big bear hug and kissed me on both cheeks. "Oh, Davie, I'm so glad to see you!" Mike was chuckling behind me.

"Hello? Another person here."

Annie turned to him and repeated the hug and kisses on the cheeks. Even in the dim light, I could see him blushing. Mike never got used to Annie's spontaneous demonstrations of emotion. She grabbed us both by the hand and practically dragged us into the house. "Mark, look who's here!"

Mark came out of the living room and grabbed us, one by one in big hugs. "It's great to see you guys again! Come on in the living room; I was just showing the boys some of our pictures of Florida."

We followed him into the living room. Annie disappeared in the direction of the kitchen. Jimmy and Peter were seated on the couch, and there were pictures spread out on the coffee table in front of them. Mike and I pulled up chairs opposite the boys, and Mark stood proudly, showing off his pictures. It was no surprise to me that Annie was featured prominently in most of them; Mark was in a few, and there was even one with both of them together. Mark told us that he had asked another tourist to take that one. I really wasn't surprised. These were pictures of their honeymoon; I wasn't expecting local scenery.

Annie popped into the room. "Coffee's ready, guys. We'll have it in the dining room. There really isn't room for all of us at the kitchen table."

We followed her into the dining room. There were six cups of coffee ranged around the table and a big plate of cookies in the center. I saw Mike's eyes light up, when he spotted the cookies.

Annie went back into the kitchen and returned with a tray with spoons, sugar, cream and a pile of paper napkins. She set the tray down and placed a spoon and a couple of napkins at each place and set the creamer and the sugar bowl in the center of the table. Then she set the tray on the sideboard and sat down next to Mark.

I looked at Jimmy, who was sitting across the table. "So, have you guys decided what you're going to do?"

He looked rather embarrassed and stared at his coffee cup. "Yeah," he said softly. "Mark and Annie convinced us to move in here, to save money." Peter chuckled, and Mark was grinning.

"Yep," he said, "Annie threatened to remove some important body parts unless they stayed here, so they agreed."

I looked over at Annie. She was wearing that smug smile that I remembered from so many times in our childhood. I decided not to comment.

Mark continued, "We thought we'd rent a small pickup, like the one we got when we all moved. Maybe next Saturday."

Mike gave me a long look. "That's great. We don't have anything planned for Saturday, do we, Davie?"

"Not that I know of. We can help, too, and get the job done quicker. Do you want Mike and me to pick up the truck Friday after work?"

"That would be great, since you know where to go and what you need to do."

With that issue settled for the moment, we sat back and listened to Annie and Mark, as they told us about their honeymoon in Florida and all the fun they had there. Of course, Mike made a big dent in the pile of cookies, but the rest of us managed to get a couple, too.

When we finally got home, it was almost two in the morning. Mike looked at me with a rather sheepish expression. "I don't think I'm going to make it to Mass this morning."

"Well, you've been really faithful about attending. It probably won't hurt if you miss one once in a while."

He pulled me into a hug. "I really love you, Davie."

We closed down the house, stripped off our clothes and slipped into bed. Mike was snoring softly in less than five minutes, and I wasn't far behind him.

I woke up, clutching the side of the bed to keep from rolling out. Mike was sprawled across the bed, still snoring softly. I sat up slowly and looked at the bedside clock. It was 7:30. I really wasn't ready to get up, until I realized that it was Sunday morning, and we were expected at breakfast with Mom and Tom in about an hour.

I dragged myself out of bed and into the bathroom. The shower helped me to wake up, and I shaved quickly, then went back to the bedroom. Mike was still sleeping soundly, so I readied myself for his attack when I tried to wake him. I was getting good at dodging his swats. I stationed myself behind his head and far enough from the bed, then reached over and shook him.

"Mike, you've got to get up." He swung and missed. Then he mumbled something and started to roll over away from me. "Mike!" One bleary eye opened a little, and he mumbled again.

"Mike, we have to be at your folks' house in less than an hour!" The other eye opened a little, and he mumbled, "OK, OK, I'm up!" I went out to the kitchen and put on coffee. I heard the shower start, so he was really up.

By the time the coffee was ready, he was out in the kitchen, wearing just his boxers, and seated at the table. I poured two cups of coffee and set one in front of him. He stared at it for a few seconds, then looked up.

"Is today Sunday?"

"Yep, all day."

"Oh, then why didn't I go to Mass?"

"We didn't get home until two this morning, and you decided to skip it today."

"Oh." He picked up his cup with a rather shaky hand and took a sip. I got my coffee and joined him at the table. We sat there for a while, sipping coffee, before he looked up again.

"It's Sunday. That means breakfast with Mom and Dad." I just nodded. He sighed and went back to his coffee.

After the second cup, he was pretty much awake, so he got up and went into the bedroom to get dressed. When I got there, he was sitting on the bed, muttering at his socks. I decided to just ignore it and pulled out my clothes to get dressed.

When we got to Mom's house, Mark's car was sitting there already. Mike looked a little displeased. "How can they get around so early? I know they didn't get to bed much before we did."

I couldn't stop the grin. "Well, maybe they get up a little earlier than some other people." He gave me a glare and a grunt.

When we got in the house, Mark was at the table, showing Tom some of their pictures from their honeymoon. Annie was at the stove, turning pancakes, while Mom fished around in the fridge, looking for something. They both turned to greet us with big hugs.

Mom grabbed Mike, as he was headed for the coffeepot. "Would you guys mind setting the table in the dining room? Jimmy and Peter will be here, but Trish called. Peter and Jody are having a go-round this morning, so they won't be here for breakfast."

Mike grinned. "Those two really need a referee. They just can't seem to get along."

Mom smiled. "Well, it's kind of a combination of things. Peter feels bad, being the only boy in the family, and Jody is sort of a classic 'middle child.' So it's really not surprising that they don't get along well." She paused for a moment. "Mike, maybe you should try to spend a little time with Peter. He just adores you."

"I know, Mom, and I think he's a great kid. I'll try to find the time to do things with him. If that will help, I'm glad to do it. I really enjoy his company. And he has some really interesting viewpoints on a lot of things."

"Yes, he's a bright little boy. They all are. But, of course, you can't tell that I'm proud of my grand children!" She chuckled.

Just then, Jimmy and Peter arrived. Mom met them at the door. "You don't have to knock here; you're family!" Jimmy blushed, and Peter giggled. "Oops, sorry!" They came in and joined Tom at the table. Mike got coffee for both of them. Then he started pulling dishes from the cupboard to set the dining room table. I got the silverware and helped him. In just a few minutes we were ready for breakfast.

It was a "light" breakfast for Mom, blueberry pancakes and sausage—LOTS of blueberry pancakes and sausage! As we sat with our coffee after breakfast, Annie and Mark were telling Mom and Tom about their trip, and Jimmy was excited, because they had a new business client, who was paying in advance.

When we finished our coffee, Mom and Annie got up to clear the table, and the rest of us were banished to the living room. Tom seemed very interested in what was happening with Jimmy and Peter. He didn't know any more about computers than I do, but they explained what they were doing in terms we could both understand. I have to say that I was really impressed by these two boys and what they were doing.

The thundering herd of feet on the back steps announced the arrival of Milo's family. The kids apparently stopped in the kitchen long enough to take off their shoes and jackets and to give Grandma and Aunt Annie hugs; then they hurried in and mobbed Grandpa. He was smothered in hugs. Then they turned their attention to the Uncles. We all got hugs and kisses on the cheek, and Terry slipped up on my lap. I noticed that Peter was already on Uncle Mike's lap. Jody paused a moment, then climbed up on her Daddy's lap. Milo pulled her close and gave her a big hug and a kiss. She snuggled in and relaxed with him.

The rest of the day was a typical Sunday at the Dorczeks. Trisha and Annie helped Mom get dinner ready, we all ate too much, and the guys sat in the living room, digesting their dinner and watching the kids playing cards on the floor. The one surprise came when Milo stood up during dinner and announced to the family that he was now employed at Allied, along with Mike and me. Of course, I had to explain that I had lost Steve to another employer, and I made sure to tell everyone that both Steve and I were more than pleased with the way Milo was taking hold of the job. Everyone was overjoyed that Milo was working again, and that he was working at Allied.

When it was time to leave, Mark and Annie went with Milo and Trisha to help them get the twins and their care package home. Mike sighed and looked at the box full of food waiting on the table for us, picked it up and headed for the door. Mom grabbed me in a big hug.

"Why don't you guys come back here for supper?"

Mike just looked at her. "You're going to eat again today? I'll be lucky if I can hold anything tomorrow!"

Tom grinned. "We'll see you then! Don't forget that I know where you live, and I do have a gun!" We all chuckled, but I saw a look of uncertainty on Mike's face. His father just might make good on his promise.

When we got home, Mike helped me load the food into the fridge. Then we went into the bedroom, stripped down and crawled into bed. I don't know when Mike went to sleep; I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Editor's Notes:

That was another very heartwarming chapter. It is nice to see that Milo is working out well at Allied. I was sure he would do fine, but you can never tell until you actually see what it is like in a particular place. I am also very happy for Steve, in his new position, as well.

Peter Too really needs to get more attention from Davey and Mike. He needs some time with the guys, to help him cope with being the only boy in the family.

I can hardly wait for the next chapter. Well the truth is that I already have the next chapter, Thank you Arli. I will have it finished pretty quickly. I just can't wait.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher