A short story by Eric Huber
The newly constructed shelf collapsed, sending boxes crashing down and scattering their collected contents spanning decades across the shed floor.
“Dammit!” Jake muttered.
The dog padded into view and tilted her head as if to ask, ‘Are you okay?’ Her tail wagged slowly.
Jake, more than a little irritated at yet another setback in organizing the years of accumulated
junk, scowled at the dog and said a little too angrily, “What?!”
The dog’s tail stopped wagging, drooping between her legs, and her head sunk a little as she plodded off across the carport.
Jake immediately felt guilty.
“Shaggy?” he called out. But Shaggy wasn’t up for more abuse and just laid down on the cement, letting out a little huff before turning away from him.
Jake sat down too and started putting the scattered contents back into his neatly organized boxes. He picked up the first item and turned it over in his hand. “Seriously, Shaggy, why am I keeping a cast iron bulldozer my grandfather gave me when I was ten?”
Shaggy moved her eyes towards him. Her tail wagged a few times, but she remained otherwise still, refusing to get up.
Of course, Jake knew that answer. The bulldozer was a replica of a huge Caterpiller used for excavating. He had spent his summers with his grandparents, and each day his grandfather would take him out to the IHOP for pancakes and blueberry syrup. Afterwards, they would head out to the quarry that his grandfather owned.
What fun for a little boy. Big “Diggers,” massive “loaders,” a fleet of dump trucks and gigantic ranges of mountains made of gravel from the mammoth rock crushers that filled the air with constant grinding and dust.
Such a flood of memories.
“I can’t throw this away, Shaggy,” Jake said as he rubbed his temples. He always got headaches when going through the junk. Maybe it was some allergy to mold or mildew.
Shaggy finally gave in and lifted her old bones off the pavement.
Jake finished packing up the “Grandpa” box and set it aside as Shaggy came over and laid her chin on his knee.
“That dog is pathetic,” Kenny said, walking into the carport. Shaggy spun around and rushed to him as Kenny bent down and smothered the dog with affection. “Pathetic. Yes, you are,” he repeated several times. It was always amazing to see such a big burly guy go all soft and talk baby talk to a dog. “Are you STILL sorting through all this junk?”
“Make your sisters take some of it to sort and store.”
“They don’t have the space and don’t know what some of it is anyway. I’ll give them the stuff once I sort it all out,” Jake told him.
“Dude, I told you when your ex just left everything for you to deal with, just burn it all and be done with it. Half this stuff has been boxed already for 5 years and hasn’t been opened once. Do you even know what’s in them?”
“Nag. Nag. Nag. My ex didn’t nag me as much as you do,” Jake complained. “I don’t know why I’m keeping it. I just – feel like I have to. It’s part of me. My history.”
“Yeah? Well, if you aren’t making little notes and attaching it to each piece of memorabilia, it’s not going to do anyone any good after you’re gone.”
“True. Maybe it’s just for me.”
Kenny’s cell phone rang at that moment. With a quick glance before answering, he said, “It’s Gwen.”
Kenny’s eyes darted around the shed and finally alighted on the object for which he was searching. He took a few steps and picked up Jake’s cell phone.
“Yeah. I’m over at his place now, and he had his phone off,” he said, scowling at Jake and showing him four missed phone calls. “What good is a phone if it’s not on?”
“The phone is for my convenience, not the convenience of others,” Jake replied in faux indignation.
“Blah. Blah. Blah. Here,” Kenny said, thrusting the phone at Jake, “She wants to talk to you.”
“Don’t make me smack you. Quit calling me boss,” Gwen spoke.
Even though Gwen actually was Jake’s boss, they had become best friends. She took care of him whenever he needed help but only let him help her with small things. There had never been any romantic involvement or tension except when things were busy on the job. In fact, he had rarely seen her with her long, flame-red hair let down. She always kept it pulled back tight and professional, even after hours.
While only 5’ 6”, she easily commanded any room she entered. She was clever, resourceful and could get a whole room laughing. Her beauty was the kind that could keep men off balance in business but that was not so striking that other women were intimidated.
Her friendly demeanor quickly calmed any jealousy women had, and her knowledge and insight easily dissuaded men from hitting on her.
Her friendship helped tremendously after his bitter divorce.
“You know I love ya. What’s up?”
“I’m introducing you to someone tonight, so put your game face on and get ready to play,” she informed him.
“Oh, no, you don’t. The last time you ‘introduced’ me to someone, I ended up holding some strange woman’s head up from falling in the toilet after she drank too much. That was fun…NOT!”
“No excuses. You’ll love her. She’ll love you. You can get married and have babies. Plus, she falls into one of your two stereotypes.”
“A tall brunette with blue eyes? You know those never work out. They’ve always been too clingy.” Jake said laughing.
“No, the other one. The masculine Hungarian type with three eyes. Now shut up and go get ready. See you as seven o’clock at Stephano’s. Now, gimme Kenny again.”
Jake handed over the phone.
“Yeah, I’ll make sure he’s there,” Kenny hung up and scowled at Jake.
“Step away from the shed, and no one will get hurt.”
Shaggy wagged her tail in agreement with Kenny.
To be continued….
© 2005-2012 Eric Huber. The Awakening is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.