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enterprising (Novel)


Chapter One

Crane watched from their bed as Beth moved around the room opening drawers and standing in front of her closet, getting ready for work. She asked hopefully, “What’re you doing today?”
Crane rolled over and propped himself up on an elbow, “I don’t know, I leave messages for your brother, but he never calls back. I don’t have anyone to play with anymore.”
“You should get a job, why don’t you sub?”
“Teach? I don’t think so. I’d have to take classes to renew my license and the kids treat subs like shit.”
“It isn’t like that anymore, they know they can’t get away with that kind of behavior. We need subs and I already asked if you could do it. They said you could get a provisional license. All you need is a degree and you have that.”
“I’ll call Gare again today, and if he won’t talk to me I’ll consider getting a job or something. I have some sculptures I want to make, I might do that.”
Gerhard didn’t like Ray, and since the shooting, hadn’t shown his face. There were still legal issues that could be stirred up.
“We don’t have room for any new sculptures, you should fix the one those kids bent.”
Beth put on a different pair of shoes and was ready to go downstairs for breakfast. She he stood at the head of the bed with elbows bent and palms towards the ceiling, “What do you think?”
Crane looked at her outfit, then smiled and nodded. “I’m pretty sure the wind bent it—I made that one before I started doubling the uprights.”
Beth said, “Could you come down and have breakfast with me? You aren’t going to stay in bed all day are you?”
“Oh sure, like I would stay in bed all day. I was about to get up. Come on, I’ll make you an omelet.” Crane leapt from bed and went down the stairs without dressing.”
The sun was just coming up and painted an orange background for the bare oaks. As he filled the teapot, Crane watched the show through the large window behind the sink. “Pink and orange is a difficult combination to get right don’t you think?” Beth leaned on the refrigerator. Screech clung to her outstretched arm raised his wings and pooped into the garbage.
The teapot was placed on the stove, while Crane continued to observe the changing sky. “What’s wrong babe?” Beth asked.
“Nothing, why”?
“I proffered my butt and you didn’t give me a spank.”
Crane replied in a narrator’s voice, “It was over, he didn’t love her anymore.” They laughed.
“I was watching the colors change.”
“We have the best view don’t we? When we sell the house we should show it at dawn.”
Crane broke two eggs into a bowl and whipped them with a fork, “What kind do you want? Cream cheese?”
“That sounds good. There’s a little hunk of cheddar left; use that too.”
Crane flipped the eggs, and added the cheese, and then folded it in half as it slid onto the plate. It was eaten standing at the counter. “That was delicious as usual, thanks. I gotta go, have fun all by yourself all day.” She emphasized both alls.
Crane watched his wife drive away before he arranged his coffee and smoothie at his oak desk. He opened the lid on his computer, clicked on Pandora, then listened to AC/DC with the volume on high. With Back In Black blaring, and head bobbing, a new window was opened to check his Twitter account. He had gained a couple of new followers overnight, teenage girls in panties. The follows weren’t reciprocated. No need to get mixed up in that.
He took a moment to sip the coffee while it was still hot. An evil-level Sudoku replaced Twitter. He typed a couple of numbers into the grid, then felt start to drift. It was hard to concentrate on one cup of coffee. Today was going to be the day he finished the second cup while it was still hot.
As he sipped, a flock of Cedar Waxwings landed in the Juniper bush next to the living room window. They ate the hard, pea-sized, dark blue berries. A short distance beyond them was a small clump of dead cattails poking out the ornamental pond. They weren’t hurting anything and actually looked nice with their fluffy seed heads and dried leaves. It would be boredom that brought their demise. Crane filed them in his mental to-do list. They may or may not be snipped off later. It would depend on if he wanted to get some air or not.
The second cup was empty and a new puzzle was brought up. This time there would be no distractions. The computer kept track of his times. His record was just over six minutes, the next fastest was eight something, followed by fourteen minutes even. There was no question that he could solve every puzzle, but if it was taking too long, he abandoned it. He didn’t want to ruin his average. He quit one after another. It was the personal record he was most interested in. Supposedly the average person could solve one in eight minutes. He found that hard to believe.
His strategy was always the same; Scan for nines, nothing obvious; scan for eights there’s one and there’s another; sevens; nope. If he noticed there were are quite a few threes, he would go out of sequence and check those first and then back to pick up the sixes. His thoughts easily left the game and when the umpteenth record time had come and gone, Crane went back to Twitter. This was going to be a long day of idle meanderings with the only meaningful goal being to survive until Beth came home.
Thinking he might do some metal work in the second garage he went upstairs and got dressed in his paint-spattered blue jeans and Harley t-shirt. Back down the steps and a pass at the refrigerator; maybe he would eat some cheese, or cold broccoli. Seeing nothing of interest, the door was closed a little harder than necessary rattling the glass inside.
Going out the kitchen door to the backyard he stood wondering what to do first.
“Jesus”, Crane muttered. He wished Ray were around. Ray could always think of projects they could do together and be productive. Looking around him, he admired the garden sculptures they had made together. Ray had acted as his apprentice and gladly did the operations that Crane didn’t like to do. Things like using the angle grinder to work the cut edges. Crane hated the grinding noise and didn’t want to go deaf. He didn’t like the plasma cutter either. The heavy black metal particles and sparks made while cutting out the shapes were surely not good to breathe, and they coated everything in the garage. Crane made the patterns and the designs, Ray followed directions and never complained, and when he wasn’t sidetracked with his predilection for self-gratification, he was a good worker. Ray was away at a residential treatment center. The date of his return was open-ended. It was boring without him around. Crane promised himself he would make sure Ray was swallowing his pills next time. That is, if Beth even allowed him back in the house. If anything was pushing the limits in their marriage, it was having a serial killer in the basement.
Anyway, there was no pressing need for more ornaments in the yard; it was already overdone. Not only were sculptures planted in every corner and mound around the house, but also there were three large dangly ones taking up space along the driveway. Twelve-foot tall mobiles with heavy metal elements suspended from steel cable that spun in a breeze, how many times had he been conked on the head trying to use the recycling bin?
He took a deep breath and held it before exhaling. He heard Beth’s voice telling him about a nice part-time job listed at such and such business. He had waited all those years to be retired, and there was no fucking way he was going to get another job.
He stood in the driveway trying to make himself open the door to his studio, a two-car garage he had built to make his sculptures. This was the time that it had been built for; retirement. Now he could be an artist, with no worries about putting food on the table. Sure he had found time to work before, and he thought he had done some nice things, and other people thought so too. Now that he had ideal working conditions, he wasn’t motivated.
He wondered what Ray was doing, and could picture him standing in the back corner of the garage playing pocket pool instead of helping.
The reverie broken, a new idea emerged. There were bananas at the Quick-Trip a half a mile down the hill. It could be a nice walk and with a purpose. His dad used to go for walks with his Golden Retriever and now Crane was at that same stage of life. Maybe he would start thinking about finally getting a dog. It would be good company and a reason to go for a long walk. That was it then. He would consider a dog, but one that didn’t shed everywhere, and one with smallish turds. Maybe a Basenji, because they don’t bark.
Crane went into the attached garage and found his pruners, “Better to get at those cattails when I’m still thinking about them, he thought to himself.” Beth would appreciate how he was doing yard work, and if she didn’t notice, he would point it out to her.
The pruners were worked back and forth to get a good purchase before closing the blades, and there was more inner dialog, “There aren’t enough paying jobs to go around if you don’t count substitute teaching. Why would I take a job away from someone that needed it more than I do? I wouldn’t. Beth had mentioned volunteering, but for what? And if showing up was an option, I know I wouldn’t go. I’ve joined enough clubs and groups to know that I’m not a joiner.”
There were a few small green sprouts emerging from a crack in the asphalt. Crane pulled them out. He ran his hand along the rough surface and knew it would soon need to be re-paved. That wouldn’t be cheap, and his pension was small. If Beth would consider taking on playground duty, it would help her retirement fund. He would make a subtle inquiry at dinner.

Fine art by Michael Kmiotek.
Kinetic sculptures suitable for gardens or other outdoor locations
(608) 234-2914, (608) 839-9557