Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Seating himself in the futon, Jerry shook his head trying to clear it. The previous day his son was officially given into his custody and new support arrangements were made in light of that fact. After the hearing, he had returned home and gotten his son settled on the Futon before returning to work. After work, he had bought a new bed and mattress for his son. The evening had been spent with Henry, as they assembled the bed frame and got the mattress set up.
That morning had started early, as he had to make breakfast for his son and himself before going to the shop. Martin and Abe came over shortly after they ate. Abe was planning to spend the morning with Bill. That was a major relief for Jerry as he headed to work with Martin since it meant that his son would not be alone his first day at Jerry’s place.
Work had been total chaos ending with them setting a sales record for a single day of business. It had been so busy that he had Martin bring him tacos from across the street for lunch. The food had sat heavy in his stomach and his feet were sore by the end of the day. It was with a real relief that he had locked up the store to go home.
Jerry had gone into his desk and counted his cash. He still had two thousand dollars left from what he had taken from the savings account. He pulled out five hundred hoping that it was enough to get his son some clothes figuring they would go to the mall the next day. He left for home anticipating a nice evening at home.
His musings over the day were interrupted when Bill asked, “Don’t you have plans for tonight?”
“Oh, shit! I forgot about Jenny. I’m supposed to be over to pick her up in an hour,” replied Jerry.
Bill grinned at his father and asked, “So where are you going?”
“I’m going to have to cancel it,” answered Jerry. As much as he wanted to go out with Jenny, he didn’t think that he would be good company. In addition, he didn’t want to leave his son at home alone in the dark.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” replied Bill. Abe had told him about how his father had been seeing this woman once a week for lunch, but that this was going to be his first date with her. Abe and Martin had bets on how it would go.
Surprised at getting dating advice from his fourteen-year-old son, Jerry asked, “Why?”
“It’s your first date with her,” replied Bill as though that explained everything.
Jerry got out his wallet and looked through it for her telephone number. Once he had located it, he dialed her number. After four rings, she picked up and said, “Hello.”
“Hi. This is Jerry.”
“Oh, what’s up?”
There was an awkward pause while Jerry tried to decide what he wanted to do. On one hand, he wanted to go out with her and, on the other hand, he didn’t want to leave his son at home alone. Finally, he blurted, “Could I bring my son on our date?”
There was a long moment of silence on the other end of the phone. Finally, Jenny said, “Sure, I guess that would be fine.”
“Thanks a lot,” said Jerry. Looking over at his son, he said, “We’ll be there in an hour.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” replied Jenny although the tone of her voice didn’t support her statement. She wasn’t exactly looking forward to an evening with a kid.
After hanging up, Jerry looked at Bill and asked, “Have you ever been on a date?”
“Neither have I,” remarked the large man as he looked down at his massive hands. He wished there was something he could do about the calluses, but knew it was hopeless. He had forty minutes to get ready for the date. Looking up at the surprised expression on his son’s face, he said, “I didn’t date your mother. I went where she told me to go.”
“So if I start to blow it tonight, kick me under the table.”
Bill laughed and shook his head. Then he realized that he was coming with his father on the date. To clarify that, he asked, “I’m coming?”
“Yes, so you better get dressed,” replied Jerry.
“I don’t have anything to wear,” replied Bill. His blue jeans were filthy, but were all that he had to wear. His shirt had been ripped to work on his arm.
Hitting his forehead, Jerry exclaimed, “I was going to take you by the house tonight to get your stuff. I guess we’ll have to stop and get you some clothes on the way to her house.”
This dating business was much more complicated than he had thought it would be. Flustered, he said, “I’ll get washed and dressed and then we’ll go.”
Without waiting for an answer, Jerry ran into the bathroom leaving an amused Bill behind. After a very quick shower, he ran into the bedroom and changed into clean clothes. It only took him fifteen minutes before he was ready to go. Standing at the door, he asked, “Are you ready, Bill?”
“Sure, I guess so,” replied Bill. He had taken the opportunity to wash a little while his dad was getting into his clothes. He couldn’t shower, but he had taken a sponge bath earlier that day.
The pair went out into the yard and looked at the two vehicles parked there. Turning to Bill, Jerry asked, “Which car?”
“Is she a nice lady?”
“Yes, she is,” replied Jerry.
“The truck would be best,” replied Bill. He had thought it would be better for the three of them to ride in the truck rather than have to have her or him climb into the back of the Camaro. He didn’t think his ribs would enjoy trying to get into the backseat.
“Okay,” replied Jerry as he headed towards the truck. He held the door open for his son knowing that it was difficult for him to open the door with a broken arm and busted ribs.
They drove to the closest place that sold clothes and ran inside. It took them fifteen minutes to pick out three pairs of blue jeans and a couple of shirts with large enough sleeves to let him wear them over the cast. Socks and underwear took almost no time to select. Jerry checked his watch feeling that they could make it on time to Jenny’s place.
The biggest time loss occurred when they went to pay for them. Even though they were second in line, the woman ringing up the orders seemed to take a full minute per item. He could feel the rage rising as the time dragged by. It collapsed when Bill put a hand on his arm and, in a reasonable tone of voice, suggested, “If she’s nice, she’ll understand if we’re a little late.”
The reminder came just in time. Turning to his son, he said, “Remind me to write this down.”
“I’m going to an anger management specialist. We are keeping track of the things that trigger my anger so I know what to avoid,” answered Jerry.
“That’s a good idea. In a way, that’s what Sandy does for Larry and me. After we get done losing our temper, she asks us questions about why we got mad. I’ll tell you, I find that I’m losing my temper a lot less now.” Bill was silent for a minute as he considered his friends at school and the way they supported him even when he was down. Looking up at his father, he asked, “Will I have to change schools?”
“Worried about moving away from your friends?”
“We’ll do the best we can to keep you there.” Jerry knew that wasn’t much of a promise, but it was the best that he could do at the time.
By this time, the lady had finished with the person in front of them and went to work on their purchases. She didn’t speed up, but Jerry let it slide. Nodding as he thought about it, he said, “I’ll do what I can.”
The sound of his son thanking him was like music in his ears. He replied, “You’re welcome, Son.”
The pair turned to watch the woman ringing up the orders. Jerry started laughing as she took the time to fold each item of clothes before putting it into the bag. He knew that as soon as they picked it up and let Bill rummage through it to change his clothes, they would be a mangled mess. It took ten minutes for her to ring up the few items that they had purchased. Jerry was glad that he had cash, as he couldn’t imagine how long it would take to pay with a check.
The two went out to the truck and got into it. Jerry and Bill looked at each other when the flaw in their plan became obvious. Jerry gave voice to it when he said, “How do we get you into those new clothes?”
Frowning, Bill said, “Maybe I can change at her house.”
Deciding that was the best that he could do, Jerry started up the truck and headed to Jenny’s place. He glanced at his watch and realized that he would be ten minutes late. Frowning, he said, “I never thought this dating business was this tough.”
“So what are you doing on this date?”
“Dinner and a movie,” replied Jerry happy that Jenny and he had resolved that over lunch.
“Oh, where are we going to eat?” asked Bill as his stomach rumbled.
“I don’t know.”
“Uh, what movie are you going to take her to?” asked Bill. Even he knew that the man was supposed to do the planning for a date.
“No idea,” answered Jerry as he licked his lips nervously.
“Dad, you better make some plans real quick. The least you can do is pick out a restaurant and put off deciding on a movie until you arrive there. Use me as an excuse for having to change your plans at the last minute,” suggested Bill.
Palms sweating, Jerry’s mind worked furiously trying to come up with a place for dinner. He normally went to chain restaurants, fast food, and the Crimson Rose Bistro. If she didn’t own the Bistro, that’s where he would have wanted to take her. He asked, “How about Italian?”
Bill answered, “Sure, there’s a good Italian place by the mall.”
“How do you know?” asked Jerry surprised at his son’s knowledge of restaurants.
“Mom never cooked once you left,” answered Bill.
They arrived at the house and sat in the truck looking at the front door. Shaking his head, Jerry said, “Maybe this is a mistake.”
“Too late to back out now. She sees you sitting here,” remarked Bill as he looked at the house seeing the attractive woman standing at the window.
Jerry got out of the car and swore, “Damn, I should have gotten her flowers.”
“Dad, admit it. You aren’t ready for this date.”
The assessment was too true to deny. It only took a moment for him to open the door and help Bill out of the truck. He reached in and grabbed the bag of new clothes so that his son could change into them before they went to a public restaurant. There was no way he would dare predict what kind of impression he was making on Jenny. Turning, he saw that Bill was already halfway to the front door. He closed the door and rushed to catch up with his son.
The door opened before they reached it. Jenny stood at the door wearing a very nice red dress that showed off her figure in a very spectacular manner. The contrast between her attire and that of Bill’s filthy clothes was shocking. Her face fell as she looked at him and then at Jerry who was acting very nervous. He had just really looked at her and was tongue-tied at the thought that this beautiful woman was going on a date with him. Jerry said, “Jenny, this is my son Bill. Bill, this is Jenny.”
Jenny looked at the young man and only then realized that a fresh cast was on his arm. She said, “Hello, Bill.”
“Hi, Jenny. Sorry we are late. I’m afraid that we had to stop and get new clothes for me.” Bill could see that Jenny wasn’t very impressed.
Jerry asked, “Could he change in your bathroom? I’m afraid that I messed everything up today.”
Jenny, wondering what she had gotten into on this date, backed into the house and said, “Go ahead. I’ll show you where it is.”
Bill followed her into the house while Jerry stood outside holding the clothes. He couldn’t hear what was exchanged between Bill and Jenny, but he did hear her giggle when Bill called back, “Dad, I need the clothes.”
“Come in, Jerry. I don’t bite.”
Jerry stepped into the house and looked around finding no one there. Jenny came out of the hallway and grabbed the bag from his hand before disappearing again. It was a few minutes later when she reappeared. Frowning, she asked, “What happened to him?”
“Thursday night his mother beat him with a baseball bat. She broke his arm and two ribs. He showed up on my porch in the middle of that horrible storm after having ridden his scooter most of the way to the house,” answered Jerry. His voice conveyed his concern for his son and his anger at his ex-wife.
“All that happened Thursday night?”
“Yeah. It’s been a wild couple of days,” answered Jerry.
“So what happened to his mother?”
Frowning, Jerry replied, “I had her arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. Yesterday, we went to court and I got custody of him. We moved him in after the hearing.”
“Wow, it sounds like you had a busy day yesterday.”
“I guess,” replied Jerry. He looked at his hands as he said, “I’m sorry about our date. I had to work today and had left him alone in the house all day. I just couldn’t do that to him all evening, too.”
“You worked today?”
“Yes. I’ll admit that our date kind of slipped my mind, but we had to get him some clothes and ... well, let’s just say, I’m totally clueless about dating.” Jerry stared down at the floor feeling very uneasy.
Jenny looked at the big man realizing that although he was big and rough looking, inside was a vulnerable little boy that was only now learning how to make his way through adult relationships. She smiled at him and said, “Why don’t we have dinner and just relax? It sounds like you’ve had a rough day and can use an easy night.”
Unable to believe how nice she was being about everything, Jerry said, “That’s great. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
Bill came out of the hallway wearing his new clothes. The shirt was overlarge, but that was necessary for the cast. In this good hand, he held the bag. His old clothes were hung over his cast. Smiling he said, “This is the second new outfit that I’ve had this year.”
Jerry realized that he had bought two outfits for his son since he had left the house. The only way to interpret that statement was that his wife hadn’t bought the kid any new clothes yet this year. The time would come when Bill and he would have a long talk about the treatment they had suffered at the hands of his ex-wife.
“You have a tag. Let me get it for you,” said Jenny as looked over Bill’s new clothes. She bent down and removed a label from the shirt that was hanging under the cast. Bill watched her with wide eyes. Seeing the expression on his face, she asked, “What?”
“You’re nice to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re nice to me,” replied Bill. He’d never had an adult woman make any kind of fuss over him. His mother barely tolerated him and his grandmother totally ignored him.
Jenny looked at Bill in shock realizing that he was starved for attention. Her eyes flicked between Bill and Jerry. Both of them had suffered horribly from women in the past and she could see that they needed a giving woman in their lives. In a way, that realization took a tremendous pressure off of her. She ran a hand over his short cropped hair and said, “I’m surprised that a big strong guy like you doesn’t have a ton of girls at school that like you a lot.”
Bill stared at her, lip trembling at the praise that had come unsought. Slowly he turned to his father and said, “Maybe we should get to the restaurant.”