Thunder and Lightening
Chapter 15

Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac

“So how did you get here?”

Martin smiled and pointed across the parking lot to the Caddy. The Caddy didn’t have license plates or an inspection sticker. He didn’t even have insurance on the car. He answered, “I drove the Caddy.”

“Damn, you’re going to get tickets galore trying to get that car home.”

Shrugging off the cost, Martin replied, “I’ll pay them if I get stopped.”

“No you won’t. We’ll take the Camaro and go get the truck and the tow bar. We’ll tow it to the muffler shop and then go back to the house.”

“Didn’t think of doing that,” replied Martin. He was amazed that Jerry thought about his problems, even though the white guy was the one with real problems.

“Aw, don’t worry about. It’s nothing. Let’s head home and get something to eat.” They’d make it back home in time to open the store. He’d work in the morning and take some time off in the afternoon to deal with child services. Hopefully, he would be returning home with his son.

The drive back to where they lived was quiet, as each considered what they had seen and heard in the hospital. Martin shook his head and said, “Man, a mother shouldn’t ever do that to her own kid.”

No one should ever do that to a kid,” replied Jerry. Even when his rage had burst loose of its bindings, he had managed enough control over it not to harm anyone. Sure he had broken things like fences, walls, chairs, and doors, but things didn’t feel pain like people.

“Damn right,” replied Martin. He knew that a lot of kids in his neighborhood had mothers that weren’t afraid to hit their kids, but they very seldom actually hurt their kids.

They stopped at a chain restaurant and had a quick breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns. As they ate, Jerry said, “I’m going to be busy most of the day. We really need to get another person to work in the store. Right now, if someone takes a day of vacation we’re left short handed.”

Surprised, Martin looked at Jerry unable to believe what he was saying. He asked, “You are actually going into the store today?”

“Sure, I’ve got responsibilities there. I’m opening the store this morning. Mike and Karen will be in a little later.”

Martin didn’t know what to say about that. If this had happened to him, he’d have taken off work to deal with everything. It wouldn’t have mattered to him if the store had to remain closed for half an hour. He shoveled some more of his breakfast into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. It was easy to wonder what differences it would have made to his beliefs if he had a man like Jerry in his life when growing up. Finally, he said, “I’ll open the store this morning.”

Jerry laughed and said, “You forget. You are supposed to open the store this morning with me. There’s a reason why we have two people scheduled to open the store.”

“Shit, I never really thought about it,” replied Martin.

Looking over at the young man sitting across from him, Jerry decided it was time to share some of his philosophy about running a business. There was no telling what was going to happen in the future and the young man should be prepared to accept more responsibility. He said, “The sign over the counter says that the customer comes first. I take that very seriously. The store opens on time. The store closes after closing time. Orders are pulled quickly. The phone only rings once before it is answered. Each of those things require that we do things in a certain way.”

Taking a sip of his coffee, Martin nodded and said, “I never really thought about that.”

Jerry said, “We went from the third largest auto parts dealer to the largest in this town over five years. I’m afraid that I was the weakest link in the growth of the store.”

“Why?”

“I took things too seriously and reacted to any limitations of the staff with anger. I realize now that that was bad. It made people more afraid of screwing up. They’d make more mistakes and then would try to cover them up.”

It was clear to Martin that the big guy was harsher on himself now, than on others. He said, “I like working for you. It seems to me that you are very fair.”

Smiling, Jerry said, “Oh, I always treated everyone equally. The problem was that it was equally horrible. I’ve worked hard to keep from getting angry and to treat everyone a little better.”

“You’ve done a pretty good job of that as far as I can tell.”

After a quick trip to the house where each man changed into their work clothes, they made it to the office to open the doors on time. Jerry said, “Why don’t you take the counter? I need to move around a bit this morning.”

Considering that Martin had slept in a chair and didn’t get that much sleep, he was more than willing to take the counter. It was a slow morning, probably a result of the storm the night before. It was likely that people were taking care of storm damage that couldn’t wait, over auto repairs that could be postponed.

Mike and Karen came in a half an hour after the store had been open. They noticed the tired expression on Martin’s face and the tension in Jerry. It was obvious that something had happened and they both assumed that it was because of the storm. Mike asked, “Did you guys get hit with that storm last night?”

“We had lots of wind and water, but no real damage. Jerry’s roof leaks, but ours actually stood up to the storm pretty well,” answered Martin with a yawn. He apologized, “Sorry, I didn’t get much sleep with all of the excitement last night.”

“Yeah, that was quite a storm.”

Martin gestured towards the back where Jerry was pulling parts. In a low voice, he said, “His ex-wife hit his son with a baseball bat last night. The kid showed up on the porch in the middle of the storm. We spent the night at the hospital.”

Carrying the box of parts, Jerry came out of the back. Seeing that Mike and Karen were here, he said, “Martin, why don’t you take a nap on the couch? You look beat and won’t be any good to us later when we’ll really need you.”

About to argue, Martin reconsidered and said, “Sure.”

Turning to Mike and Karen, Jerry said, “I have some personal issues to take care of today, so that means we are going to be running a little short handed. I have to leave before the lunch breaks, so that means short lunches for everyone.”

Mike nodded as Karen said, “Sorry about your son.”

Jerry shrugged his shoulders, uncomfortable with receiving sympathy. He grunted, “He’s a good kid and will get through this.”

Recognizing that Jerry felt uncomfortable about the topic, Mike asked, “So what are your plans for today?”

“I’ve got to get in touch with my lawyer to get custody of Bill and make sure that the bitch is charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon. Then I’ve got to get him out of the hospital and take him home.”

Karen asked, “What about your daughter?”

Shocked that he hadn’t even thought about his daughter, he knew that she would never live with him. All attempts to talk to her in the past had failed. Shaking his head, he said, “I’ll have to see if her Grandmother will take care of her.”

The comment caused Mike and Karen to exchange a glance, shocked that Jerry wouldn’t try to take care of the girl. Did he hate her that much? Unsure of himself, Mike asked, “Why don’t you take care of her?”

“She won’t even talk to me. It’s pretty clear to me that she hates me as much as her mother does,” answered Jerry saddened at having to admit that aloud. He noticed the look that crossed Karen’s face, unable to believe that a daughter could possibly hate her father that much.

Jerry said, “I always thought that little girls were supposed to love their fathers, but that never happened in our house. My wife grew up thinking of her father as a low life that brought home the money. My daughter is the same way.”

The couple didn’t know how to respond. Shaking his head, Jerry headed to the back office to make the necessary telephone calls. The first call was to the hospital to find out when they would be discharging his son. That would determine everything else that he did that day. The result of the call was that his son would be released around noon, but that he should show up a half an hour early to take care of all the details that hadn’t been handled the night before. They wanted him to talk to a counselor about the injuries to his son.

After hanging up from the hospital, he called his lawyer realizing that this call was going to cost him a fortune. He was racking up lawyer hours almost as fast as he racked up work hours for himself. When the lawyer answered, Jerry said, “Hello, Tony. This is Jerry Smith.”

As if anyone could mistake that deep gravely voice, Tony replied, “What can I do for you?”

“My ex-wife hit my son with a baseball bat last night after returning home from the hearing. He rode his scooter to my house through the storm and I took him to the hospital. He’s got two broken ribs and a broken arm.”

“My God! How did he manage to make it all the way to your house?” asked the lawyer incredulous at the feat.

“He’s incredibly strong for his age,” answered Jerry. There was a pregnant pause and then he said, “I want to make sure that my wife goes to jail over this. I need to protect my son from her. My daughter should go live with her grandmother.”

The lawyer took notes and then said, “I’ll make some calls and see what I can do. You can expect to be in court this afternoon. Is there a number where I can reach you?”

“I don’t have a telephone.”

“You had better pick up a cell phone and call me back,” replied the lawyer. If he could get a judge to listen to the case, then they would have to act fast.

Jerry added getting a cell phone to his mental checklist of things to do that day. He had no idea how long it would take to get one, but he knew that it would have to be after ten when the stores opened. He replied, “Okay. I’ll do that when the stores open.”

“Good. Call me when you get it. Until then, I’ve got some phone calls to make,” replied the lawyer.

Jerry sat back and considered his options. He picked up the phone and called his boss to make his weekly report. He was tempted to ask for a temporary replacement, but didn’t know if it would be a good idea. His boss answered, “Hello, this is Al Sinclair.”

“Hello, Mr. Sinclair. This is Jerry Smith,” replied Jerry.

“You’re calling early, today.”

“Well, some personal issues came up and I have to take care of them later today,” answered Jerry.

“Oh, what happened?” asked his boss wondering if Jerry had lost his temper. The reports he was getting were positive and he didn’t like the idea that Jerry would blow it.

“My ex-wife took a baseball bat to my son last night. I have to arrange things so that I can take custody of him today.”

The simple factual manner in which Jerry related his story was striking in that there was no anger or rage expressed by the man. Al said, “Well, you better take care of your problems.”

“I called to tell you that Karen is going to purchase a computer and install it here at the store. We’ll be seeing what we can do after we get some of the bugs worked out.” This whole process scared Jerry more than he would be willing to admit. Computers were a complete mystery to him, but he recognized the need for them in business.

“Sounds good,” replied Al, surprised at how together Jerry sounded considering the circumstances. He asked, “So what do you know about computers?”

“Nothing, and this whole thing scares me to death,” replied Jerry honest about his feelings about the entire process.

Al laughed at the honest appraisal as he jotted down a note to call the therapist to find out about the progress of Jerry’s treatment. So far Jerry had done everything that he said he would do and that had impressed Al. It made him wonder how much of the rage was due to the ex-wife. He said, “Stick with it and let me know how it works out.”

“Sure thing,” answered Jerry. He went to the next item on his list and said, “Sales are up five percent over the past month compared to the same time period last year.”

“Five percent?”

“Yes. I’m rather concerned with that figure,” replied Jerry as he went over his notes. He had done a little investigation into the sales figures now that he was spending more time at the store.

“Concerned? Why?” Al was surprised at the assessment.

Jerry leaned forward to read some figures off his sheet. He answered, “The population in this area has increased by about six percent and that accounts for most of our growth. However, we’ve seen a trend where people are leasing more cars in this area. That means that the dealers are performing the repairs and we don’t have distribution within the dealer network. I’m beginning to think that we may have reached a maximum in our business growth.”

The analysis stunned Al and he sat back to think about it. He jotted down another note and said, “I’m going to forward your observations to the headquarters. You’re the first one that has looked at the issue of leasing and the impact on our sales.”

“Well, it’s just an observation and I’m not sure how accurate it is. As I mentioned, the figures concern me.”

“You’re right to be concerned. I’ll investigate it,” replied Al. He asked, “Is there anything else?”

“I’m still looking for a full time person,” answered Jerry.

“We are having that problem in a couple of the stores. Quite frankly, we don’t understand why that is the case,” replied Al.

“Kids are looking at computers rather than cars,” commented Jerry. When he had been a kid, every boy was interested in cars. Today, they talked about computers with the same passions as people used to talk about cars.

“You could be right.”

The call ended and Jerry checked the clock. It was approaching ten and he needed to get to a phone store. There was one more call that he had to make before leaving the office, but he realized that once he got a cell phone that he could make the call then. After a minute of internal debate, he decided that it was time to get a phone.

Standing up, he headed out of the office to the front of the store. Reaching there, he said, “I’m leaving now. I’ll try to be back before closing time, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it.”

Mike nodded and said, “I’ll take care of things here.”

“Thanks,” replied Jerry as he headed towards the back. On the way, he stopped by Martin and said, “If you give me your car keys, I’ll tow your Caddy to a muffler shop.”

Martin said, “Leave it until Monday. You’ve got enough on your mind.”

“The parking fee will be staggering,” replied Jerry.

“Don’t worry. Go pick up your kid and get him settled at home.”

“Alright,” replied Jerry, relieved that he wouldn’t have to take care of that little item.

With a new cell phone in hand, Jerry arrived at the hospital while talking to his lawyer. His wife was already in jail and a quick hearing concerning the welfare of the children had been arranged for three in the afternoon. His mother-in-law had been contacted to attend the hearing and she was more than happy to take care of his daughter. It was interesting that she had no desire to take care of his son. Until then, he had temporary custody of the children and was going to have to swing by his daughter’s school to pick her up for the hearing.

At the hospital, he met with an individual from social services concerning the welfare of his son. This had led to another conference call with his attorney and a supervisor of the social worker. As a result of that discussion, social services had agreed to support his bid to get custody of the boy. Life had suddenly become very complicated for Jerry.

When Jerry entered the room, Bill was sitting up in his bed watching television looking bored. A smile came across his face when he saw his father come in the room. He said, “Hey, Dad!”

“Hi, Bill. How are you feeling?”

“It hurts to breathe, but other than that I’m okay.”

“Your arm?”

“The pain killers have stopped that pain. It is just that my ribs hurt every time I move, laugh, or talk.”

Jerry sat down in the visitor’s chair and said, “Well, I guess you might want to know what is going to happen today.”

Looking worried, Bill replied, “Yeah. I do.”

“Your mother has been arrested for assault and battery, and is currently in jail. According to the separation papers, she has custody of you and your sister. We are going to court today so that I can get custody of you and so that your grandmother can get custody of your sister.” Jerry watched his son for his reaction. When he heard that his mother had custody of him, the boy had paled. When he heard that his father was going to court to get custody of him, the look of relief was obvious. The news that his sister was going with his grandmother had lifted his spirits.

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