Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Monday had been a much better day than he had expected. The entire day, he did not have one episode where his rage threatened to ruin his day. His house was now livable, although he had worked late into the night cleaning the bathroom. The air conditioner had cooled the house down nicely and the futon was a far more comfortable bed than expected.
The kids from next door had not visited him after work and he had thought that was strange. He had just finished dressing while eating a pop tart when there was a knock on his door. Going over to answer it, he opened it to find the smiling face of Martin. He grunted, “Morning.”
“I was wondering if I could get a ride with you.”
“Sure. Come in while I get ready for work. I’ve got to polish the old fangs before they rot and fall out. Hate to go through the rest of my life gumming my food.”
Laughing at the obvious joke, Martin looked around the room while Jerry went into the bathroom. The lack of furnishings took him by surprise. The bed, the air conditioner, and three bags of clothes were all that were in the room. He noticed that the windows had been repaired. When Jerry came back in the room, Martin said, “You really fixed this room up.”
“Is this all you got?”
“Yeah. I have to pick up a mini-frig, a microwave, a hot plate, and a coffee pot, yet,” replied Jerry. He planned to stop by one of the discount stores after work and pick them up. He asked, “Did you have breakfast?”
“Yes. I figured I’d have to walk if you didn’t give me a ride.”
“Okay. Let’s get to the store.”
The pair left the house, with Jerry locking the door behind him. When he started the truck, Martin said, “Wow. It’s quiet. What did you do?”
“I replaced the muffler and got an oil change.”
It seemed like the truck ran even smoother now that it had been repaired. He felt the same way about himself. He was running smoother than ever before. Taking care to avoid the potholes, he drove to the office.
“I can see why you would keep it. It runs pretty nice.”
Smiling at the assessment, Jerry answered, “It’s got a long way to go yet. I’ve got to fix the engine on my other car.”
“Your other car?”
“Yes. The Camaro parked behind the store,” answered Jerry. He was going to have to fix the Camaro before doing any more on the truck. The bodywork would prevent him from driving the truck for at least a month.
Martin had noticed the car, but hadn’t thought anything of it. To his eye, it was just another old car that didn’t run. Shrugging it off, he said, “Oh. I saw it, I didn’t think much of it.”
Jerry smiled and continued to drive. He asked, “So what did you think of your first day?”
“You work hard.”
“Yes, I do. I know it looks easy, but it is a lot of work. You’ll earn your money,” replied Jerry wondering if Martin was going to see this job through to an appropriate end.
“Yes, but it is a good living,” replied Martin. His brother and he had spent most of the night talking about their jobs. Somewhere during the course of the conversation, Martin realized that his childhood was over and that it was time to start acting like an adult.
Jerry glanced over at Martin and said, “You have to put the anger behind you to get ahead in this world. Mine has kept me back for years.”
Martin wondered what Jerry had to be angry about. As far as he could tell, this guy had it all. At least, he had more than Martin did. He didn’t know how to answer, so he kept his mouth shut. He took a moment to examine the Camaro while Jerry parked the truck next to it. It looked a lot like a car that was sitting on blocks a couple of streets from theirs. He asked, “Is the Camaro worth fixing up?”
“Yeah. It would be worth a bit of money if it were restored to mint condition,” replied Jerry. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the Camaro. He was half tempted to soup it up.
Entering the back door, the incessant ringing of the office telephone was the first thing that they heard. When Jerry walked past the office to the front of the store, Martin asked, “Aren’t you going to answer the phone?”
“Not until the store is ready to open,” answered Jerry. He went to the register and checked the money in it. Once that was done, he did the twenty other small tasks that were part of the process of opening the store. Only after he unlocked the front door and took the telephone off the answering machine was he ready to head back to the office.
Martin asked, “What am I supposed to be doing?”
“Wait for Mike. I’ll pick up the calls in the office until he comes in.”
Shutting the door behind him, Jerry looked at the telephone on his desk. It was still ringing and that meant that it could only be his wife. With that realization, the rage within started to boil, fighting to come out. He picked up the handset and answered, “This is Jerry Smith at Auto Parts House on Main Street.”
“You fucking bastard. How dare you serve me with separation papers?” The shrill voice and content of the greeting identified his wife better than her saying her name. He held the receiver away from his ear as she continued her rant. “I never should have married a fucking gorilla! You know that’s what you are! You’re a fucking gorilla. You’ve fucked me over for the last time. My lawyer says that I’m entitled to half of our assets, but you can bet your sweet ass that I’m going to get all of them.”
Jerry was gripping the phone so hard that the plastic started creaking. Realizing that he was about to lose his temper, he set the phone down on the desk. He could still hear the general tone of her rant, but he couldn’t make out the individual words. Looking down at the squawking handset, he smiled wondering why he had never thought of that solution before now. Opening a drawer, he got out the paperwork that needed filling out that day.
There was a knock on the door and he shouted, “Come in.”
It was Mike, who stuck his head in and said, “I’m here. We’ll take the calls up front.”
“Okay,” replied Jerry with a smile. He looked down at the handset on his desk he could hear his wife redouble the volume of her shouting.
Mike noticed and asked, “Who is it?”
“My wife,” replied Jerry with a smile. There was a small buzz from the desk that sounded like his wife shouting, “Who are you talking to?”
Shaking his head, Mike left the office; closing the door behind him as he went. Jerry picked up the handset, which had gone silent, and said, “Hello?”
“Who in the fuck were you talking to? How dare you ignore me, you fucking ass hole!”
Jerry set the handset down and started to work on the paperwork, pausing occasionally to make sure that she was still ranting. When she finally began to wind down, he picked up the phone and asked, “Did you call me for some reason other than to yell?”
There was a low growl from the other end of the phone. Finally, she said, “Are you going to see the kids?”
“Only if they actually want to see me,” replied Jerry with a frown. The kids didn’t give him the time of day when he was at home. Sitting up straight in his chair, he added, “I won’t waste my time or their time if they don’t want to be with me.”
“You heartless bastard! You miserable creep! Don’t you love them?”
Jerry was tempted to put the handset back on the desk, but the silence that followed her question forced him to reconsider. After a minute, he replied, “I don’t know them. The only time you let me talk to the kids was when you wanted me to yell at them.”
There was a long moment of silence on the other end. She asked, “Did you love me?”
“That doesn’t matter. I detest you, now,” replied Jerry as he hung up the phone. The rage inside seemed disappointed that it wasn’t given a chance to run free.
Sitting back in his chair, Jerry considered the conversation. It was a sad fact that he knew more about Abe and Martin than he did about his son, Bill, and his daughter, Melissa. He wondered if he should make an attempt to see his kids sometime soon. It would be hard to arrange without having to deal with the wife first, but there were provisions for visits with the children in the separation agreement.
Growling, he got up and went to the front of the store. On the way, he walked past the boxes of stock that Abe had not unpacked yet. Despite the large number of boxes, it was clear that Abe had made significant progress in restocking the store yesterday. Musing about it, Jerry decided that Sammy must have given him a hand with it.
Getting up to the front of the store, he grabbed the order that Mike was holding up and went to pull the order. Martin saw him filling a box with parts and asked, “What are you doing? That’s my job.”
Jerry laughed and said, “We all take turns answering the phone and pulling stock. It helps break up the day.”
“Oh. I thought it was something that the low guy did.”
Jerry shook his head at the misunderstanding and said, “No. We all do it. Sitting on that chair all day will give you a sore butt. Running around pulling orders all day will give you sore feet.”
“You can say that again. My feet hurt something awful last night,” replied Martin.
“Well, you’ll get used to it and it won’t be so bad in the future. Mike will show you how to look up parts in the book during some of the quiet times. Before long, you’ll be taking orders over the phone.”
The news that his job would be like what he saw Mike doing didn’t surprise Martin as much as he thought it would. Jerry had more or less told him that before he had hired him and he had watched Mike at work when applying for the job. The two of them returned to pulling parts.
It was in the middle of the afternoon when Jerry returned to his office. His wife had been calling almost hourly, but he had ignored the phone until he had learned that his boss had tried to call him. His rage, which had been hiding for the past few days, decided that this was the time to make itself known.
The next time the phone rang, he had gone back to his office and answered it knowing that it would be his wife. Left hand clenched in a fist, he picked up the handset. The first words that he heard were, “You shit. I just went over the money that you are giving me every month. I’m going to have to give up tennis lessons and the gym! You selfish son of a bitch. How dare you do that to me?”
The question struck Jerry funny and his rage was forced to retreat as he burst out laughing. He dropped the phone as he fell back into his seat as tears came to his eyes. Every time that he almost had himself under control, he would hear his wife scream, “How dare you laugh at me? Fucking Gorilla.”
When he finally got himself under control, he answered, “Did you think that I was working just so you could go to the gym and take tennis lessons? Do you realize that I only had twenty-five dollars a week spending money and that all of it went to lunch because you were too fucking lazy to make me a lunch?”
“You fucking jerk! You don’t care about me!”
Jerry laughed and answered, “You got that right. I don’t care about you at all.”
“You are the most selfish man I’ve ever met! You only think about yourself. My mother told me that I shouldn’t marry a fucking gorilla because they aren’t evolved enough to be civilized!”
The princess was riding high on her royal horse given to her by the queen mother. He despised his mother-in-law and so had his wife’s father. It was a fact that he wasn’t surprised when the man had committed suicide the day after he retired. She had filled her daughter with the idea that men were there to serve them. He replied, “Your mother knows best. She drove your dad to suicide. Well, you aren’t going to do that to me. From now on, all communications between us will have to go through our attorneys.”
His wife screamed in rage. Knowing that there would be nothing further except for harassment, he hung up the phone. Sitting at his desk, he wondered how he had managed to put up with her for all those years.
A very nervous Jenny came into the auto parts store and looked around spotting Mike at the counter. Looking over at the attractive woman, Mike asked, “What can I do for you?”
Unsure if Jerry had told her the truth about where he worked, she said, “I thought this was where Jerry worked.”
“Jerry who?” asked Mike, not sure if she meant his boss.
“He never told me his last name, only that he was the manager of the auto parts store down the street from my place,” replied Jenny thinking that this had been a major mistake.
Abe waltzed into the store and stopped to look at Jenny with an appreciating stare. He was about to say something, when he saw Mike shake his head and choose to get to work. As he slipped into the back of the store, Mike said, “Get Jerry. He has a visitor.”
With a grin, Abe turned to look back at Jenny and then headed towards the back of the store. Strolling down the isle, he was thinking that Jerry had real good taste in women. When he passed by his brother, the two of them gave each other high fives. At the office door, he knocked and then opened the door without waiting for an invitation. When he stuck his head in the office, Jerry glared at him, but he just said, “Boss, you’ve got a female visitor and she’s a real pretty one.”
Although less than ten minutes had passed since he had talked to his wife, he was sure that she was his visitor. Fists clenched, he rose out of his chair and stomped to the door ready to throw her bodily out of the store. Shocked at the red color of his boss’s face, the vein throbbing on his forehead, the tight lips, and his narrowed eyes, Abe backed out of the way. The rage had seen its chance and it took it. Martin, pulling an order, saw Jerry walking down the isle towards the front of the store. It was almost beyond his comprehension that anyone could look that angry. He stepped well out of the way of his boss.
Barely able to see beyond his rage, Jerry was ready to kill. The rage was unleashed and ready to do harm. When he reached the counter, the sight of Jenny took a moment to register. Mike and Jenny stared at Jerry for a full minute as the anger slowly drained from his face. It was as though all of the blood drained from his face as he realized that he could have hurt Jenny if he hadn’t recognized her.
Once the blood drained from his face, it just kept going. Jenny screamed at the sudden collapse of Jerry. The look of anger on his face was etched into her memory as well as the flash of relief that crossed his face when he saw her. Mike was not fast enough to catch Jerry before he crashed backwards onto the floor like a tree felled by an axe. It took Mike and Martin both to carry him to the couch at the back of the store. Nervous and unsure that she belonged there, Jenny followed them as they half-dragged Jerry to the couch.
It was several minutes before Jerry regained consciousness and the first face that he saw belonged to Jenny. He mumbled, “I’m sorry. I thought you were my wife come here to harass me some more.”
Jenny stared at the big man on the couch, unable to believe that a woman had affected him that strongly. Looking down at him, she put a hand on his and said, “She must have really been mean to you to invoke that much rage.”
A shiver went through his body at her touch and the realization of what he had done. Rather than deny the rage, he replied, “The rage has always been there. I’ve been fighting for years to keep it under control.”
Recalling the look of rage on his face and taking into account his size, she wondered how successful he had been. The last thing she needed was to get involved with a man that beat women. Terrified at what the answer might be, Jenny asked, “Did you ever hit her?”
“No. If I had hit her, she would be dead. I broke a lot of things in the house though,” replied Jerry figuring that he had just lost any chance with Jenny. Although she was acting concerned, he knew that his rage had cost him a possible future relationship.
“I’ll bet,” replied Jenny with relief. She understood that he was probably right about what would have happened if he had ever hit his wife. At least he had demonstrated some control in the past. Despite that, his rage made him a very dangerous man.
“I haven’t felt the rage to that degree since the night I left her.” That was the night that he bent the bumper that was still sitting in the back of the Camaro. The few days spent without feeling the rage had made today even worse. It had weakened his control over it.
Curious as to what could have provoked such a strong emotion, she asked, “What happened today?”