Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Jerry slowly eased the engine block back into the engine compartment of the Camaro. He was pleased with how easily the repairs had gone with Martin helping him. Crawling under the car, he tightened the motor mounts. The hard part of the repair was done. Next weekend, he would start working on putting the rest of the engine together. Crawling out from under the car, he looked up at Martin. With a grin, he said, “Since you and I both have tomorrow off, we’ll do your engine tomorrow if that’s okay with you.”
“Sounds great to me,” replied Martin amazed at what he had learned over the course of the day. All of the parts that they sold out of the store started making sense to him. He had heard people say that the rings on their car were shot, but now he knew what they were, where they were located, and what it meant when someone said they were shot.
“Good, I’ll pick up my son tomorrow and he can help us as well.”
“Getting along with him?” asked Martin.
Standing up from the ground, Jerry looked around for a rag. At the moment, he was angry with himself for throwing away all of the clothes that had been left in the house. They’d have made great rags for use when working on the car. Finding the scrap of cloth that he had used earlier, he started to wipe his hands off.
Looking over at Martin, he said, “Yeah. To tell the truth, I met him for the first time last week, too.”
“Huh? I know you lived with the kid. What do you mean that you’d never met your son before?” asked Martin. He had made the call to invite the son the meet Jerry at the mall.
“We lived in the same house for thirteen years, but had never really talked until last week,” answered Jerry clarifying his previous answer. He wondered if he was ever going to have a chance to actually sit down and talk to his daughter. It was actually doubtful since Bill had said that she was just like her mother. There was no reason for her to even want to know her father.
Martin shrugged and said, “I don’t know who my father is. Even though you didn’t talk, at least he knew who you were.”
There was some truth to that, but the question was the difference between who he was and how his wife presented him in the house. “I don’t know if he knew me when I lived there. My wife never said anything nice about me. As far as she was concerned, I was a loser and no better than white trash.”
“That’s harsh,” replied Martin. If Jerry was the manager of the store and that meant he was a loser, what did working for him make everyone else in the store? “What did she want that you didn’t give her?”
“A new car every year, membership in country clubs, a house in the Hampton’s, and God only knows what else,” snorted Jerry. The woman had never worked a day in her life and had a very twisted sense of reality. Looking up, he said, “She figures that an average working man makes half a million a year.”
“Shit, she should come here sometime,” Martin joked as he looked around the neighborhood. He added, “I think if you took all of the money everyone in this area makes and put it in a pot, you wouldn’t come anywhere near that f•©kin’ amount.”
There was probably a great deal of truth in that statement. A third of the neighborhood was on social security while half of them were working menial jobs. It was hard to say what the final sixth of the neighborhood did for money although prostitution and drugs were not that uncommon. “You might be right. I don’t know how much money the people around here earn. I do know that it is barely enough to cover the basics.”
Shaking his head, Martin said, “It’s not that bad. We have kids who wear shoes that cost a hundred and fifty dollars. I’m sure you’ve noticed all of the gold chains people wear around here.”
Jerry threw the rag over to Martin so that he could wipe his hands and get the majority of the grease off his hands. Martin started wiping his hands as Jerry said, “I guess a lot of people confuse their wants and needs. How come you aren’t wearing expensive shoes or gold chains?”
Laughing aloud, Jerry said, “She doesn’t look that tough to me.”
“You ain’t had her washin’ your mouth out with soap for swearing,” rebuked Martin.
“Hell, you and your brother swear more than I do,” replied Jerry surprised at the revelation.
“Bullshit. You’ve never heard either one of us take the Lord’s name in vain,” replied Martin as he looked at Jerry as though challenging him to say otherwise.
The comment made him realize that people had different ideas about what it meant to swear. The vulgar language used in this neighborhood was viewed as color, intended to make their statements more interesting and flamboyant. “That’s true.”
Martin looked down at the engine seeing it in a totally different way than he had the day before. The day before, it had been just a hunk of metal. Now, it was a machine that produced power according to principles that he understood. It was as though someone had cast a magic spell, changing him, the car, or both. Looking at the grease on his hands, he wondered if the spell couldn’t have been a little cleaner!
Announcing his presence with the little whir of the scooter, Abe rode into the yard, coming to a stop by the car. He looked at the two adults standing by the car and asked, “You two done for the day?”
“Yes, we are. What’s up, little brother?”
“Mom wanted to know if you two were interested in eating dinner anytime soon?”
Since Abe had gotten the scooter, it was if the guy had forgotten to walk. Jerry asked, “You drove from your house to here, just to ask that?”
“F•©k no, I’m on my way to the store to pick up some greens,” replied Abe with a grin at the suggestion.
“When will dinner be ready?” asked Martin.
“It’ll be ‘bout an hour after I get back from the store. She just wanted to know whether to cook for three or four,” answered Abe with a smile at Jerry.
Puzzled, Jerry asked, “What’s with the smile?”
“She said that you had nothin’ in your kitchen when she checked out your house. Figured you needed some real down home cookin’.”
Grinning, Martin teased, “Giving my Momma a tour of your house? You dog!”
“Oh, come on, guys. She came over looking for Abe.”
The two brothers shook their heads at the obvious discomfort being exhibited by Jerry. Martin said, “He’s got a whole string of women trying to feed him. There’s that pretty little lady that came into the store Wednesday. Now he’s got Momma trying to feed him.”
“It’s that skinny-assed body of his, all skin and bones. They all figure he’s so skinny they just have to feed him.”
Jerry looked at the two young Blacks with amusement. No one had ever called him skinny before and he doubted that anyone would ever again. Shaking his head, he said, “I’ll come. Let me clean up before I come over there.”
“Oh, no! He’s gonna get clean before comin’ over. Must want to impress Momma!” The teasing tone in Abe’s voice let everyone know that he wasn’t serious.
Despite having wiped his hands on the rag, his hands still retained a little of the grease and oil on them. Smiling, he held out his hands towards Abe as though he was going to wipe them off on his face.
Laughing, he said, “I’ll just clean my hands off on you!”
Abe backed up laughing and elbowed his brother. His brother held out his dirty hands and said, “I’m next!”
Running off, Abe returned to his scooter and drove off shouting over his shoulder, “You have to catch me first!”
Jerry laughed as his young neighbor drove off and waved him away as though he was too much trouble. Martin had watched Jerry interact with his brother and asked, “You really do like him, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” replied Jerry without hesitation. He looked down at his grotesque dirty hands and added, “He’s a good kid. I hope that we can keep him out of trouble.”
The idea that some white guy would actually care about his little brother really surprised Martin. He never thought that whites would even bother to learn anything about a Black, much less actually like one. Blacks had to learn about Whites and had to pretend to like them, as that was the only way that a Black could succeed around Whites. At least, that is what many of the kids he had grown up with had said.
It never occurred to him that there could be real feelings between the races. The weird thing was that he liked Jerry despite the fact that he was white and his boss. Jerry didn’t act like the proverbial ‘The Man’ who was trying to keep him down. As far as he could tell, Jerry was helping him learn the job and worked beside him the whole time.
His thoughts were interrupted when Jerry broke the silence. “I’d better start cleaning up.”
Martin looked down at his own hands and replied, “Yeah, same here. Better change my clothes too. These are pretty dirty.”
“I told you to wear old clothes that you wouldn’t mind having to throw them out when we are done.”
“Shit, I pulled these out of the trash can,” replied Martin with a laugh. The statement wasn’t far from the truth.
“Wear them tomorrow because looking at that motor, you’re going to get a lot dirtier working on that engine,” commented Jerry as he looked at the engine. The oil had been sitting in it for a long time and they were going to have to work hard to clean out the residue.
“Sure thing. I’ll see you in about an hour.”
“Right,” replied Jerry as he went into his house.
The cool air in the house was a shock to his system, after a long day working in the hot humid outdoors. His clothes were damp from sweat and the cool air chilled him. As he walked towards the empty bedroom, he unbuttoned his shirt removing it about the time that he reached the door. Tossing his shirt on the floor, he finished undressing in the empty bedroom leaving his clothes in a pile on the floor. They would be dry by the time he put them on again the next morning. Walking naked out of the bedroom, he headed into the bathroom to scrub the dirt off his hands and then wash the sweat off his body.
Intending to ask him to bring some drinks over to go with the dinner, Sharon stared through the window at his naked body. She had known that he had hairy arms, but his naked body was still a shock to her. His hair was so thick on his back that it looked like a rug rather than a human back. The hair continued on down his legs, thick like fur. Blushing in embarrassment, she returned to the house forgetting her errand.
Jerry scrubbed his hands with a stiff brush and lots of soap working the grease out from the cracks and crevices formed by the calluses. It seemed like he was wearing the bristles off the brush rather than removing the grease, but in time his hands became clean.
Satisfied with the result, he turned on the shower spinning both knobs wide open. There was only cold water since the hot water heater in the house didn’t work. He rushed under the water braced for the shock. It took a few moments for him to acclimate to the water temperature. Lathering up, he looked down at his cock seeing that it had shrunk under the assault of the frigid water. He knew that the situation would only get worse when winter came, the water and the house would be much colder.
The shower was as short as possible while allowing him to get clean. He turned off the water and stepped out onto the towel that he had used the day before, hair and body still wet. The towel absorbed the water that dripped off him as he reached for a clean towel. He scrubbed his body with the towel, leaving the hair on his body damp. It was impossible to dry off completely with that much hair on his body.
Letting his hair air dry, he wandered through the house. Stopping in the kitchen, he pulled a soft drink out of the kitchen to replace the fluids lost sweating. As he drank half of it in one large gulp, he realized that he should probably take something over with him when he went to dinner. Normally, one took wine over to give to the hostess, but he didn’t know if that would be appropriate with the two boys unable to drink it. He decided that he would go to the store and buy some soft drinks. At least he knew what the boys liked and assumed that their mother would like the same.
The trip to the store ate up the time from when he finished washing to when he was supposed to arrive next door. He had gone to the local convenience store and faced the normal long line of people. The fact that he couldn’t understand the man behind the counter didn’t bother him nearly as much as it once did. It was just another poor slob trying to do the best he could to get by in a tough world.
Jerry knocked on the door carrying a sack containing six-pack of Pepsi, a four-pack of wine coolers, and a cake. It seemed to him that this was a reasonable compromise between showing up with wine for dinner and soft drinks for the two boys. When Martin answered the door, he looked at the sack and said, “I thought Mom didn’t have a chance to tell you to bring drinks.”
“I just figured it would be bad manners to show up empty handed,” replied Jerry totally unaware that Sharon had even considered coming over. He decided that she must have come over while he was in the shower and he hadn’t heard her knock on the door.
“Come on in. We’ll be eating soon.”
Jerry came into the house. The house was very much like his, two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen with room for a table. The living room was filled with furniture; all of it well used but not in bad shape. Blankets covered any worn spots. There was a large television and a nice stereo system with a large number of CDs on a shelf next to it. If life is tough, it helps to have entertainment in the house to take the edge off the worst times.
He asked, “Do you have cable?”
“Nah, Mom can’t afford it,” replied Martin as he considered contributing to the bills now that he worked so that they could have cable.
“I can understand that. I can’t even afford a television yet,” remarked Jerry.
“Shit, you need a television? I can find one of those for you at way below retail prices.”
The television would be stolen merchandise. Jerry had no doubt about that. Still, the idea of getting something in the house that would give him something to do beside stare at the wall at night was attractive.
Shaking his head, Jerry replied, “I don’t think I could live with myself if I were to buy a stolen television.”
“F•©k,” swore Martin perturbed that Jerry would assume that it would be a stolen television. He asked, “Why in the hell not?”
“If it belonged to someone else, then I’d feel really bad for the previous owner, since their home would have been violated by some thief. If it were stolen out of a store, I’d feel bad for the storeowner who is just trying to earn a living to feed his family. I’d feel bad no matter what.”
Martin shook his head and said, “Maybe we can find one at a pawn shop. Would that let you watch it in peace?”
“Yeah, that I could watch in peace,” answered Jerry as he considered the idea of purchasing a television from a pawnshop. He would never have thought it of without the suggestion from Martin. Looking up at Martin, he smiled as he said, “I would never have thought of going to a pawnshop for a television.”
“Shit, if you’re gonna be poor then you had better start thinkin’ like a poor man,” replied Martin looking at Jerry as if the man were a fool.
Ignoring the look that Martin was giving him, Jerry replied, “If you want to stop being poor, you had better stop thinking poor.”
Sharon called them into the kitchen for dinner. Jerry carried his paper bag with him and set it on the table. Looking over at Sharon, he said, “I brought some drinks and a dessert. I hope that’s okay.”
The comment made Sharon blush, which if Jerry had not been looking at her he would have missed. As it was, her reaction confused him. She recovered enough to ask, “What did you get?”
“I brought soft drinks for Abe and Martin and wine coolers for you and I. While I was at the store, I picked up a chocolate cake.” He looked around at the two boys and said, “I hope that is okay. I know they are both under the legal drinking age.”
“That’s great. I haven’t had a wine cooler in ages,” replied Sharon surprised by his considerate behavior and realized that she hadn’t needed to go over to request that he bring something over. That thought reminded her of what she had seen through the window of his house.
The three men sat down around the table as Sharon brought out a wonderful pot roast with carrots and potatoes. It was a real home cooked meal with meat that fell apart under the fork. She had cooked up a pot of turnip greens complete with strips of bacon. Jerry couldn’t believe how good the meal tasted. He ate with an appetite that befitted a man his size.