Chapter 6 ~ Doing it Our Way

Chapter 6 ~ Don’t Worry About Me Mom

Grace parked her five-year-old Chevy next to the curb in front of Jane’s house. She pulled her visor down, opened the small mirror, and stared at herself. She looked at a tiny line near her eye. Next, she noticed a gray hair. She reached into the car console and picked up a brush, she moved her hair around until the gray hair disappeared. Grace took a deep breath when Matt interrupted her.
“Mom, you look great, I like your shirt. We’re going to a barbecue, you don’t have to look perfect,” said Matt.
Grace thought, perfect? I’m not wearing makeup, I have a gray hair. I have a line near my eye. And, I’m wearing the light blue Cowboys’ t-shirt Matt gave me for Christmas, year old jeans, and my Nike’s. Some fashion plate, she thought.
Grace said, “Best behavior, Matt. I don’t know if you’ll have anyone to play with. Just be polite. We’ll only stay an hour or so, then we’ll leave.”
“Don’t worry about me, Mom. I won’t cause a problem. Can I take my basketball in with me?”
“No. It’s a barbecue. Don’t overstuff your plate. You can always go back for more,” cautioned Grace.
“But everything tastes better with barbecue sauce, Mom.”
“Matthew, let’s go,” said Grace opening her door and sliding out.
Grace and Matt walked up the sidewalk to the front door. Grace heard country music coming from the rear of Jane’s house. When they reached the door. Grace saw a note posted on the door.
The Door’s Open
Bring Your Appetite and a Fun attitude
The Party is in the back.
Matt nudged Grace, “I brought my appetite. Let’s go.”
Grace took a deep breath, she wondered if Jane set her up with another guy who was as interesting as a rock. The last guy Jane set her up with was a piano player. He played in jazz clubs throughout the city. When Jane introduced them, the first words out of his mouth were, “If you’re into jazz, I’m into you, dig?”
“Great sense of humor, too,” added Jane. Jane hurried off to the kitchen to work on the dinner leaving Grace alone with the jazz guy who talked non stop about his last ten gigs. Grace vowed to never listen to jazz again after the evening was over.
Grace and Matt walked into the house, through the living room, and into the dining room. A sliding glass door was open and led to a large wooden deck overlooking Jane’s backyard.
Matt said, “It already smells good. I’m starving.”
Grace rolled her eyes, took a deep breath, and said silently, “Lord, help to get through this afternoon without making a scene, amen.” She followed Matt onto the deck.
Grace walked aside Matt. She went on high alert when saw Jane handing a beer to a man about her height, blond hair, cut neat and wearing clothes that made him look like he stepped off the cover of GQ. He was dressed in a white shirt, new jeans, and cowboy boots. Grace thought, give me a break, a want to be cowboy.
Jane turned and saw Grace, she hollered, “Grace. I’m so happy you came. Come over here, I want you to meet someone.”
Matt tugged on Grace’s arm, “Mom, can I go and check out the food?”
“Not until we’re introduced, then you’re on your own,” said Grace.
“I don’t like him,” said Matt.
“You haven’t met him,” said Grace.
“I can tell. I bet he doesn’t know the name of the starting quarterback for the Cowboys. Want to bet a dollar?” Said Matt.
“You’re on,” said Grace.
Jane met Grace and Matt halfway. “Hi Matt,” Jane said, then she took Grace by the arm. She added, “His name is James Donald. He’s perfect for you. Same age. He has a good job with a prestigious law firm. He’s never been married. I did my homework. This time, I know you struck gold.”]
“Mom, remember our bet,” said Matt from behind Jane and Grace.
“What bet?” Jane asked Grace.
“It’s nothing. Something about how much Matt said he could eat.”
A moment later, Jane gave a big smile and said, “James, this is Grace and her son Matt.”
Grace smiled, extended her hand and said, “Hi Jim, pleased to meet you, I’m Grace, but you already know that.”
“I prefer James, but it is a pleasure to meet you. Jane’s told me so many wonderful things about you. And, this is Matthew? Pleasure to meet you, Matthew,” said James extending his hand.
Matt shook his hand and said, “I prefer Matt. And, do you know who the starting quarterback is for the Dallas Cowboys?”

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Chapter 5 – Doing It Our Way

Chapter 5 – I Don’t Know What I’m Going To Do With You

Grace didn’t dare wait on the porch for the man of the house. That’s what Matt considered himself. The thought made her chuckle to herself. She stood by the living room window staring up the street, the opposite direction from Ellen’s house. She checked her iPhone, it was two oh five. Matt promised to be home by two. Then she remembered, Mike, he was never on time. He was even late for their wedding. He made some excuse to Father Pailo he was held up by a long train. It was a bitter sweet memory for her.
A quick movement at the end of the street interrupted Grace’s thought. There he comes, she thought. Matt was in the lead and three other skateboarders followed him. He signaled to his friends to catch up and parallel him on the street. The four boys skateboarded down the street in one line spanning the road’s width. Matt carried the basketball and tossed it to Tommy who tossed it to Jimmy who tossed it to Todd. And, so it went, the ball traveling back and forth between skateboarders until Matt peeled off into his driveway waving goodbye to his friends.
He jumped off the skateboard and watched it glide into the open garage stopping when it hit the rear garage wall. He bounded across the lawn and took the three steps onto the porch with a single bound. He opened the door, “Hi, Mom. You catch the way we came down the street passing the ball? Really cool, right?”
“Yes, it was really, cool, but I think it’s a bit dangerous. What if cars were coming?”said Grace.
“We were careful, Mom. Besides, there weren’t any cars. I had it all under control,” said Matt heading to the kitchen to grab a snack.
Grace followed Matt. She watched the way he walked, just like Mike. I’m watching a small version of Mike, a image of Mike came into her mind. Oh, I wish I didn’t have to go today.
Matt walked straight to the refrigerator, opened the door, and stared, “What’s good in here, Mom? I’m starving.”
“We’re going to Jane’s for the barbecue, remember. We leave in forty-five minutes. There are oranges and grapes on the table. Leave time to shower, and change your clothes.”
Matt took an orange and picked off four grapes, “Do I have to, Mom? I’m clean, look at me.”
“Yes, you have to and before you put the grapes in your mouth, wash your hands. You must have a billion germs on your hands,” said Grace.
“No, I don’t, Mom. I only have two thousand, three hundred, twenty-one. I counted them,” said Matt heading to the sink, turning the faucet on and placing his hands in the running water.
“Soap. Soap, Matt.”
“Got it,” Matt said and turned toward Grace and gave her the same impish smile his dad did so many times.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” said Grace.
“Do what Dad always said when you said the same thing to him,” said Matt.
“And, what was that, Matthew.”
“Remember, Mom. When you said, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you, Dad would always says, love me. It always made you smile,” said Matt wiping his hands on his t-shirt. He turned and headed toward his room, tossing the orange up close to the ceiling and catching it behind his back.
Grace stood across the kitchen area and followed Matt as he walked to his room, her eyes moistening, and she gently shook her head.

Chapter 4 – Doing It Our Way

Chapter 4 – Doing It Our Way

Jane called Grace later that night. Here’s how the conversations went:
“Grace, you’ll never believe what I’m about to tell you.”
“Then, why are you telling me, if you don’t think I’ll believe you?” said Grace.
Jane ignored Grace’s comment, “I called Ellen and invited her to the barbecue. Ellen asked me who else is going. I said, a few friends and there will be someone to play with Tommy. Then she said, if your friend Grace and her bully son are going, we’re not going.”
“What did you say?” Asked Grace.
“I said, “what happened?” That’s what I said. And, do you know what she said?”
“No,” answered Grace.
“Ellen said, “you’ll take her side. I’ve seen you two paling around with one another. Take this as a big, fat no.” And, she ended the call. What happened, Grace?” Asked Jane.
After Grace finished providing the details, she added, “It’s okay to cancel the barbecue, I understand.”
Jane said, “Not so fast, girlfriend. I have an iPhone and I know how to use it. The party is on 3:30 p.m. Saturday, at my house. Look your best, I’ve handpicked the one for you.”
“Who is he?” Asked Grace.
“Let’s say he’s a year older than you. He drives a BMW. He’s tired of playing the field and wants to settle down. And, his looks? If I wasn’t happily married to Fred, I’d tell you not to come and take my best shot at him. He’ll make you drool. Drop the gym clothes. A bit of makeup and take a trip to the Salon, please? It’s my last best shot for you,” pleaded Jane.
Grace chuckled, “I’ll drop the gym clothes, one out of three is pretty good, right?”
The friends had a good laugh. Grace went into the bathroom and began searching for gray hairs and seeing how noticeable the tiny lines were around her eyes. She walked out of the bathroom and into her bedroom, she stared at a photo of Mike and she on her bedside table and said, “Mike, what should I do? Can you help me? I’m so confused. I know Matt needs a good man in his life. I can’t imagine meeting another man like you. After all, you were the best. You always told me not to settle for second best. Please Mike, send me a sign. I’m running on a treadmill and going nowhere.”
Grace went back into the bathroom, played a bit with her hair, then went back to the dining area. Matt was sitting at the table texting on his phone. Grace said, “Who are texting, Matt?”
Matt turned at looked at Grace, “Tommy texted me and we’ve been going back and forth.”
“Tommy?”
“Yes, he apologized. He said he was out of line. I told him it was okay. Now, we’re trying to figure out where to play basketball since his mom is made at you and me. He said it’ll take her a week, but she’ll get over it.”
“What about his tooth?”
“The dentist saved it. Tommy wants to be on my team the next time we play two on two.”
“I don’t understand you boys at all,” said Grace.
“I told you, Mom, it was nothing. I can take care of myself. Dad always told me I was strong enough. Remember when he got deployed the last time, he told me, I was the man of the house. So, you don’t have to worry about me anymore.”
Grace took a deep breath, fought back the flood of tears that were threatening to overspill her emotional dam. She walk to Matt and gave him a hug and kiss on his forehead. She said, “Thanks, Matt.” Grace quickly turned away and went to her bedroom and cried.

The Dogs Been Grilling for 24 Hours

Farlo hobbled around the car, Tina followed him. He opened Joey’s door before Joey thought to lock it. Farlo bent over and leaned in going eyeball to eyeball with Joey. “We can do this hard way or we can do this really, really hard way. What way do you want it?”

“Can you accept the voluntary way?” said Joey hoping Farlo didn’t whack him.

“We got two minutes and counting. We won’t have this chance for a week. Are you coming voluntarily or am I going to drag your sorry butt across the parking lot?”

“I said I was volunteering. You make too many snap judgments,” said Joey. He unbuckled his seat belt. He slid out of his seat and stood up outside the car.

Joey said, “I’m going, but under protest. I intend to file a grievance with Filo whenever I meet him.”

“You’re not cleared to meet him. Let’s go. It’s go time,” snapped Farlo half hobbling with his cane, half jogging. Tina walked along side Farlo. Joey walked alongside Tina.

They reached the entrance door to the 7-Eleven. Farlo held up his hand for Joey to stop. He stared inside. The clerk nervously stood behind the counter. The taller of the two men was in the back of the 7-Eleven near the cold beer. The shorter of the two was surveying the candy and gum section.

Joey said, “You think they’re going to rob this place? Call 911 and let’s get out of here.”

Farlo looked at Joey, and said, “Turn around.”

Joey did as Farlo asked.

“Just as I thought, no backbone,” said Farlo then he checked his Apple 3 watch. “We’ve got 45 seconds. Then we’re going in. You follow me. I know you don’t have my back. Tina does.”

“Who has my back?” asked Joey.

At that moment, two pickups, a motorcycle, a beat-up Chevy Malibu, and a college kid on a skateboard came into the parking lot. Farlo turned and took it all in. He looked at Joey, “The numbers are against us. If we don’t move now, we don’t have a chance. Listen up kid, this is your first test, you pass it, I’ll make a note on your weekly evaluation I text to Filo.”

Before Joey could say, “Who’s Filo?” Farlo pushed open the door and headed toward the back. The clerk dived to the floor behind the counter. Tina was on Farlo’s heels. Joey was thinking about diving over the counter and joining the clerk. Farlo reached the back aisle when the 7-Eleven door opened for another customer. He turned to his right, he exclaimed, “I made it. We’re first in line. The dogs have been grilling for twenty-four hours.” Tina barked.

The tall guy fell in line behind Joey, the short guy fell in line behind the tall guy. The first pickup driver fell in line behind the short guy. The second pickup driver fell in line behind the first pickup driver. The skateboard college kid fell in the line behind the second pickup truck driver. As for the beat-up Chevy Malibu driver, he headed to the men’s room.

The tall guy said, “I didn’t know you were in town, Farlo. What are you doing here?”

Farlo turned around, three dogs in one hand, each one in a soft hot bun. Two of dogs with relish and mustard, The third with mustard only, Filo gave the other two to Tina, who finished them within seven point four seconds. A good time, not her personal best. She wanted to enjoy the taste.

Filo looked at the tall “Son of a gun, I didn’t recognize you, Flakes. You lost weight.How they hanging?”

“Thanks for noticing. I’m down ten pounds on my all dog diet.”

Joey stared at Farlo, then he stared at Flakes. Then he stared at the little guy. Farlo turned toward Joey, “Get three dogs for Tina, none for you. You haven’t earned them.”

“What? This is not fair. I love 7-Eleven grilled for 24-hours hotdogs. They got the perfect combination of wrinkles, nitrates, chemicals, and meat waste products. They’re always sold out when I try to get one.”

“Tough noogies,” said Farlo.

Flakes said, “The punk’s got a lot to learn, Farlo.”

The short guy came around with his Snicker’s candy bar, “Hey Farlo, waz happening?”

“Bones, what’s shakin?” said Farlo.

“A little bit of this, a lot of dat. Who’s da baby?”

Farlo said, “He’s my reclamation project, his name is Joey.”

“What a minute. I’m not a baby. I’m not a punk. I’m a dude.”

“Dat’s a baby’s name. You don’t got no street name? How you gonna have street cred? How you gonna run with the big dog here?” said Bones.

“I don’t need street cred. I already got it,” said Joey.

“The only thing you probably got is a GI Joe you hide under your pillow,” said Flakes. Flakes and Bones high fived.

“Do not,” said Joey.

Farlo said, “No, he doesn’t have a GI Joe. He has a stuffed bear on his pillow.”

A fist bump, a high five, and several minutes of laughter later, Farlo said, “You boys take care of the job Filo sent you on? It was a rough one.”

“Filo’s the man, Farlo. I don’t know what he doesn’t know. What I want to know is how does a guy his age have all the women chasing after him. You know da answer?”

“I do, Bones, but it’s classified. You and Flakes got a class five security clearance, you need a class twenty. There are only two people who got it,” said Farlo.

“Who? And, BTW, the name is Joe-mo,” said Joey.

“Dat da best you can do? They gonna eat you up when Farlo has you fly solo,” said Bones.

“I’m working on it,” said Joey.

Farlo said, “The two people with security clearance twenty? Filo and me.”

“Who’s Filo? When do I get to meet him? Can I see the company manual? I want to read the grievance process,” said Joey or Joe-mo.

Farlo shook his head, took a bite of hotdog, fed the rest to Tina. He fist bumped Bones and Flakes. Then he said, “Joey, take the hotdog out of your pocket and give it to Tina.”

Who’s Filo? Who does Farlo work for? Is it a secret government agency? What kind of job did Flakes and Bones do?

My Alarm Didn’t Go Off

It’s 5 a.m., Joey’s alarm is set to ring at 6:30. He doesn’t have to be at work until 8. Right now, Joey’s lying on a beach chair, tanned, clothed in a bathing suit. His beach chair sits on a white sandy beach in Jamaica. Joey takes one look at the bluest bit of ocean water you’ll ever see. Then he turns his head to the beach chair next to him to marvel at one of the world’s wonders, a scantily clad native beauty who’s smiling at him, her red lips and sultry look tell Joey all he wants to know. They’re drinking margaritas. Joey knows where the afternoon is headed, until . . .

“Wake up low life. Rise and shine. You’re snoozing you’re losing.” A series of angry barks followed. He felt the covers ripped off him.

He pulled his pillow over his head, kicked his legs and feet at an elusive enemy, and screamed, “Get out of here. My alarm didn’t go off. I don’t have to be to work until 8.”

“Five seconds, that’s all you got, you piece of work to get up. I’m feeling generous, you got fifteen minutes to shave, shower, do your business, make your bed and stand for inspection,” barked Farlo in a baritone voice mixed with the sound of a jackhammer and lawn mower.

“I’m not getting up. Get used to it,” uttered Joey’s muffled voice. Then he added, “What are you doing? Are you nuts?” said Joey jumping out of bed soaking wet. His sheets and mattress soaked. He rubbed his eyes with his fists. He opened his eyes, his arms by his sides, his fists clenched, and stared at Farlo.

Farlo stood rim rode straight in front of him. Farlo held on to his cane with his right hand and an empty two gallon water bucket in the other. Tina sat next to Farlo on her haunches. To Joey, it looked like Tina was laughing at him.

“You look like crap. You have fifteen minutes and counting. The clock is ticking. Make sure the bathroom is the way you found it or your ass is grass and I’m the lawn mower,” snarled Farlo sounding like an irritated pit bull.

Joey took a step toward Farlo, Tina let out a growl. Joey stepped back and said, “At least get out of my room.”

Farlo stared at Joey, “Don’t worry about work. I called in for you and told your supervisor you quit. You’ll get your check in next week’s mail.”

“I, I, I’ve been there for five years. I was building a career portfolio. I need that job,” Joey snapped.

“It’s a dead-end job kid. You’re working for me. You’re going to thank me for getting you out of a loser’s job. This is the first day of the rest of your life. Now, move out.”

“But, but, but . . .”

“Tina!” said Farlo.

Tina stood up. She set herself to attack Joey. Joey stepped back and walked a wide circle around Tina and Farlo and headed to the bathroom.

Sixteen minutes later Joey went into the kitchen. He saw Farlo sitting on one of his two chairs, actually empty kegs. On the table in front of Farlo sat a bowl of oatmeal, container of Greek yogurt, dish of fresh fruit, and coffee.

“Where’d you get that food?” asked Joey.

“Filo had it delivered at oh four hundred.”

“What time is that?” asked Joey.

Joey walked over to the table and sat down on the other keg. He looked at the empty space in front of him, “Where’s my food?”

“What do you think you’re doing, kid? You haven’t stood for inspection. Go back to your bedroom and call me when you’re standing as straight as a lamp pole,” said Farlo. He paused and took a sip of his coffee.

“This is not fair,” said Joey.

“I know,” said Farlo.

Joey turned and went back to his bedroom. A moment later, he called, “I’m ready.”

Tina walked in the bedroom first followed by Farlo. “Check it for drugs and weapons girl.”

Tina slowly walked around the bed sniffing the sheets and mattress. She stopped when she reached the other side of the bed. Her head stared directly at Joey’s pillow. Farlo walked past Joey and around the bed. Joey turned his head.

Farlo barked, “Eyes front.” Joey turned his head toward the door.

Joey heard a ripping sound. He heard the rustling of a pillow case and saw feathers floating over his head. He heard, “Aha, weed. Are you a pothead? Is this what I’m dealing with? You’re going cold turkey. No drugs, no alcohol. Forget coffee. You’re on a restricted, cleansing diet, water, fruit, spinach and kale and whole grains for two weeks. If it doesn’t work, you’ll get a juice enema.”

“Noooooo,” whimpered Joey.

“You don’t even know how to make a bed. You are a shipwreck. You’re standing in the middle of the tracks and a speeding train is about to reduce you to rubble. Burn the linen. It hasn’t been changed and washed in six months. Now let me look at you.”

Farlo paced around Joey until stood six inches from Joey’s face. “Listen up. No grunge, short haircut, use a brush on your fingernails and for God’s sake, trim them. I didn’t see any floss in your bathroom. I’ll make you a shopping list. You can sit and watch me eat.”

“What about me?” asked Joey.

Farlo ignored Joey’s comment. “Wait until I’m finished eating. You have to exercise before you eat.”

“What?”

“Filo told me you were a Cat 5 project. That’s as high as the numbers go. That’s the worst case of all the worst cases. Nothing to worry about. I never fail.”

“Who’s Filo?” asked Joey.

Who is Filo? I have the same question. What are Filo’s plans for Joey? Why was Joey chosen? Come back tomorrow to see how Joey’s doing.

Three Weeks of Unwashed Laundry

Farlo sat at the clean kitchen table. Not exactly a kitchen table, it was a card table Joey picked out of a dumpster. Joey sat across from him. Tina lied on the floor next to Farlo’s feet.

“What’d you think? My house looks awesome,” said Joey beaming with pride.

“If I told you what I think, I’d hurt your feelings. So, I’ll sugar coat it because you are a baby in the world of grownups,” said Farlo.

“You’re negative. Can’t you say anything nice?” asked Joey.

“You want positive, I’ll give you positive. You took the trash off the floor. The carried the trash out to the trash can. You washed the dishes, dried them and put them away. Now, reality. The floor has more stains than a Chinese restaurant with a D rating from the board of health. You have three weeks of unwashed clothes in your closet. Don’t think I didn’t find them hiding behind four crates filled with empty beer cans. When was the last time you bought a toothbrush? Need I go on?”

“So? It’s my house and I’m happy with it. You know where the door is,” said Joey.

“Gig, poor attitude. You’re up to four gigs. One more and you’re grounded. Right now, you’re on level four correction,” said Farlo.

“What’s level four?” said Joey.

“I’m holding your cell phone for two weeks,” said Farlo matter-of-factly.

“I am not a child. You don’t give it to me, I’ll call the police,” said Joey.

“With what? I have your cell phone,” said Farlo.

“Who are you? Why are you here? Who sent you? What can I do to make you leave me alone?” said Joey.

Farlo looked down at Tina, patted her on the head, then he looked back up at Joey, “You look disgusting. You smell disgusting. You’re fifteen pounds overweight. You’re soft. I’m giving you a pass on your appearance today. Tomorrow morning you’ll stand inspection. Who am I? I’m your best friend, only you don’t know it. Why am I here? The boss said you’d be a tough case, but he thinks you’re worth it. He’s got a job for you to do. Me? I’m your mentor, best friend, life line, or drill instructor, I’m getting you ready. Who sent me? Filo. And, there’s nothing you can do to make me leave.”

“Who’s Filo?”

“I’ll tell you if you agree to a lobotomy. No answer? Get cleaned up. That’s means shave, shower, and put on clean clothes. We’re going out to dinner.

“I want delivery pizza,” said Joey.

“Pizza’s off the menu until further notice,” said Farlo.

“Does that include elephant ears, fried dough, and hotdogs?”

Farlo gave Joey a what do you think look.

Noooooooooo,” screamed Joey.

Tina growled.

Will Farlo straighten out Joey? Who is Filo? Come back tomorrow and see where this is going.

Two More Gigs and You’re Grounded

Joey went into the bathroom. He kicked a towel out of the way. Took a step and kicked another towel out of the way. Took another step and crushed a beer can with his foot. He wasn’t wearing shoes. “Ouch, son of a …”

From outside the room, “You swear it’s a gig. Five gigs and you’re grounded.” Said Farlo. Then a bark, backing up Farlo.

“I’m not a kid. I can swear if I want to,” hollered Joey.

“Poor attitude. This will show up on your weekly evaluation,” said Farlo. Again a bark.

“Get out or I’ll call the cops,” stammered Joey.

“With what? I’m scrolling through your cell phone. I’m deleting your photos and videos. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“They’re all over 18,” said Joey.

“Poor self-esteem to go along with a poor attitude. You may be my toughest assignment,” the sandpapery voiced Farlo said. Then, the barked agreement.

Joey stared into a stained toilet. He closed the lid, sat down on it, and stared at the concentric circles of rings in the bathtub. He turned his head to the right and looked at the small window. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if he could squeeze through and escape.

Farlo interrupted his thoughts, “You’ve got five minutes to clean the bathroom or I’m busting down the door and coming in to kick your ass,” said Farlo.

Joey hollered back, “Hey, that’s a swear. How come you can swear and I can’t?”

“I’m a grown up,” said Farlo.

“How am I supposed to clean the bathroom when I don’t have any stuff to clean it?” said Joey.

“Use your brain, it’s the thing inside your skull. You’ve got four minutes,” Said Farlo, then he banged the door with his cane. Tina growled.

 

Joey got up off the toilet seat. Flushed the toilet and lifted the lid to see if it was clean. No luck. “Damn, damn, damn,” said Joey.

“Two gigs,” said Farlo.

“Not fair,” replied Joey.

“I know,” said Farlo. Tina barked in agreement.

Three minutes later, Joey opened the bathroom door and stood face to face with Farlo. Tina sitting beside him. “Get out of my way,” said Joey.

“It’s inspection time. Go stand by the toilet while I inspect your work,” ordered Farlo.

“No. No. No.” said Joey.

“That’s your third gig, two more and you’re grounded,” said Farlo.

“Who’s gonna make me?” demanded Joey.

Farlo tapped his cane two quick times on the floor. Tina Sprang up. Her front paws resting on Joey’s chest. Her teeth bared.

Joey hollered, “Don’t let her bite me. My face. My face. It’s my treasure. I’ll stand by the toilet.”

Farlo tapped once. Tina sat on her haunches. Her eyes on Joey. Joey turned and walked across the towel and beer can less floor and stood in front of the toilet. Farlo puffed up his chest and walked into the bathroom as if he were General Patton. He stopped at the sink, wiped a finger in the sink bowl, brought the finger up to his face and shook his head. He looked at the towel rack. Shook his head, “The towel is uneven.”

Farlo opened the medicine cabinet. He saw hemorrhoid cream, aspirin, Tums, a condom, and three outdated prescriptions. Farlo shook his head in disapproval. He walked to Joey and stood in front of him. “Step aside and lift the lid.”

Joey took a half step to his left and lifted the toilet lid.

“You call that clean? It’s disgusting.”

“It’s the best I could do.”

“No, it’s not the best you can do,” said Farlo matter-of-factly.

Joey almost swore, but he didn’t want to be grounded.

What is happening? Who sent Farlo? What does Farlo want with Joey? Come by tomorrow.

Designed for Relationship

We can do lots of things alone – we can do so much more when we connect with each other in meaningful ways. We were designed for relationship, whether personal, work, or communal. Each of us is a piece to the whole. And, when it works, amazing things happen. Teamwork is a relational way we collaborate to blend our talents for a great good. The following short YouTube video illustrates the power of teamwork through dance. Enjoy

You Can’t Keep Your Feelings Bottled

“Why are we here, La Flor? I’m only going along with this to keep you happy. A happy character is a contented character.”

“If our relationship is going to work, Ray. We need counseling.”

“What relationship?”

“Why are men afraid of relationship counseling? Don’t be afraid of letting it go, Ray.”

“Letting what go?”

“Your feelings. You can’t keep them bottled inside.”

“BTW, men are not afraid of relationship counseling. It’s just, just that it conflicts with ESPN, the Comedy Channel, fantasy football, and wondering what’s for dinner. Besides, I’m not afraid of counseling. I just don’t need it because there is no relationship between the two of us.”

“There is the problem.”

“What problem?”

“You’re in denial.”

“About what?”

“Our relationship.”

“What relationship?”

We’re going in circles, Ray. Can we change the subject?

“Okay, what is the name of the psychologist? Is it a male or female? Why didn’t I get a voice in the matter?”

“He is very famous. He comes highly recommended. I thought having a male psychologist would make you feel more comfortable.”

“Who recommended this psychologist?”

“My mystery writer girlfriend. She used him in one of her mysteries to break a cold case,” said La Flor paying more attention to her emery board than to me.

“La Flor, let me see if I have this straight. I’m going to counseling with a fictitious character I created because she thinks she and I have a relationship problem?”

“Right.”

“I’m not finished. Your good friend, who writes a mystery writers blog, whom I’m never met, recommended a psychologist she uses in her blog to solve cold cases.”

“Right.”

“I have more. I believe the mystery writer is the alt ego of a real person and is a created character like you.”

“You’re on fire, Ray.”

“What am I, a real person, doing going to counseling with a fictitious psychologist suggested by a fictitious blog writer and character I created over relationship problems?”

“He can help, Ray. He’s a very, very famous psychiatrist.”

“And, whom might he be?”

“Dr. Joe Brothers. He’s Joyce Brothers twin brother. He married Dr. Phil’s sister. Sounds strange, right.”

“I’m having a difficult time following you, La Flor. Are you sure about your facts?”

“You’re confusing Dr. Joe Brothers with Sigmund Fraud. Check that, Dr. Phil. That’s it, you’re confusing Dr. Brothers with Dr. Phil.”

“You did say Sigmund Fraud, not Freud? Does Joe have a mustache?”

“Yes, Sigmund Fraud was the famous one, the other one stole all his ideas. As for Dr. Joe, he did have a mustache, just like Dr. Phil, but he went to an alt ego dermatologist from Dr. Oz’s blog and had it lasered off. The dermatologist worked the laser like LeBron James works a basketball.”

“He must be good.”

“The best in the blogosphere. Be quiet, here he comes.”

Dr. Joe Brothers ignored me and walked over to La Flor. She rose to greet him. They hug. He said, “La Flor, how delicious to see you again.” Kiss, kiss on each cheek.

I said, “La Flor, is this the Dr. Joe Brothers you were telling me about?”

Brothers looked at me without turning his head, nice trick the way he moved his eyes so the one blue iris and one green iris rested in the corners of his eyes. From the way he kept his face toward La Flor, I was sure he had a crush on her. He mumbled something about my nose and ears I didn’t catch. He should talk, he’s got at least three-quarters of an inch on me if we’re measuring noses. He took La Flor by the hand and ushered her into his office, I trailed behind.

Brothers had an iPad he pretended to type notes on. I know he pretended because Siri kept saying “Please change your settings if you want to access this site.”

He turned the iPad over and said to me, “May I call you Way?”

He attempted to sound like he was from some European country. But you can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the boy.

“My name is Ray, not Way.”

“Are you making fun of my wisp?”

I turned to La Flor and said, “Why are we here? This isn’t real. He’s not real. He’s a character like you.”

“Way,” Dr. Brothers said, “Have you considered that we are weal and you are not weal?”

“What do you mean by weal?” I said, irritated.

“It’s this way, Way. What’s weal is weal.”

If I didn’t think he was real, what was I doing here? Had I lost my grip on reality? It’s all La Flor’s doing.

He turned to La Flor and said, “Ways denial is wery deep.

“I’m going to rewrite the whole thing,” I said.

He turned to La Flor, “Darling, I thought you said it was your blog?”

“Matter of time, but don’t call me darling, one man has my heart.”

“Is it Way?”

“No, it’s Jack Reacher.”

“I thought we left that two blogs ago,” I said

“A girl can dream can’t she right? Can’t she?”

Every now and then our relationships hit a bump in the road. Small bumps may seem like mountains. When both parties have the courage to step back and acknowledge their relationship is worth the effort to save it; it is the first step to smoothing out the bump, growing closer, and becoming stronger as a couple. It takes two, it always takes two to make it work. When both express their feelings in an open, honest and non-threatening way, breakthroughs happen.