They slow danced around through the house, he being a very good dancer. Pat’s blood pressure and what hormones she had left were in high gear, she had not felt like this in years. She caught herself pressing her body against his, but he did not respond. Finally she said, “I better go home before I fall asleep in your arms.” He held her jacket and her hand as they went into the garage. “You drive it very often,” she asked as he opened the truck door for her and she looked at the car.
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She fell asleep as he backed out of the driveway, but when he stopped in her driveway, she was quickly awake. He walked her to the door, “Thank you Mrs. Skidmore for a very nice evening and again, Happy Birthday,” he said as he lightly kissed her and stepped back, closing the door. Pat floated to the bathroom and then flopped into her bed, asleep in short order.
Andy went home, sat down at the computer and read reports until two AM, then he went to bed. He was up at six, downloaded all of the files onto his laptop, showered, dressed in a black three-piece suit, got into his big black Mercedes and drove to the Municipal airport. He parked his car in the long term parking and walked to the terminal. He called the tower and found the plane would be arriving in one hour and fifteen minutes. He got a cup of coffee and sat down, again reading reports. When the Lear taxied in, he walked to it, boarded and they were off. The flight too short for he and his two cohorts discussed the meeting. Andy Dray was no more, Andrew Drayman, Chairman of the Board of Systems Engineering was back in harness.
Over the next three days Andy got a total of six hours of sleep. When the meeting was over, the business and the company were on track. The same Lear dropped him at the same airport where he got into his big black Mercedes, drove home, took two sleeping pills and went to bed.
Twelve hours later he was up, showered, put on his blue chambray shirt Dockers, clodhoppers and after a big breakfast, Andy Dray put on his old hat and went to work; he had lots of lawns to mow and trimming to do. The little blue Datsun purred like it should since he had the local Nissan Dealer pick it up, give it a full service and return it to his garage.
His first job was the one where he could begin at daylight, then he moved on to other areas where he would not begin until people went to work. At about noon he was at Pat’s, she was not home so he sat down under the shedding maple tree, had his lunch and wrote for about an hour. Then he was up, raking, cleaning and making the place ready for winter.
As he was ready to leave, he knocked on the back door, “Mrs. Skidmore, I raked and did some cleaning. He waited but there was no reply, he knocked and again called out, again no reply. He opened the door, “Gas,” he yelled and ran to his truck got a crescent wrench and turned off the gas at the regulator. He went inside, continuously yelling as he went. He opened the front door, then went to her bedroom, she was not there. Then he opened the windows then went to the basement, holding his breath and opening the two basement windows, she was slumped down beside the storage shelves. He grabbed her, threw her on his shoulders and rushed outside. He then went back in, called 911, went back and began CPR.
“Come on Pat, come on, breath, cough, cuss, do something, come on Pat, please,” he said over and over as he heard the sirens. Quickly the EMT’s took over and he told the Firemen what he had done.
“The gas company is responding,” the fireman told him. The police were there wanting to know what was going on and who he was.
“Which hospital sir, an EMT asked.
“I don’t know, which one is the best and the closest?” Andy said. “Just a minute,” and he ran into the house, got Pat’s purse and came back out. He and the Policeman opened it, found her wallet and driver’s license. He thought a second, re-opened it taking out her Medicare card and her Blue Cross card. “Here is the information, I will be at the hospital as soon as this is secured.”
“What is the problem,” an overweight man asked. “I am from the gas company.” Andy held on to Pat’s purse, as the EMT’s put her in the ambulance and were gone, the policeman and firemen left; leaving only Andy and the gas man. Andy told him what he found, what he had done. The gas man got his gas mask and gas monitor, went inside and checked it out.
He came out, “You opening the doors and windows averted any explosion. I turned off the furnace and hot water heater supplies, now I will turn the gas on and check them out, relighting the pilots. Give me about thirty minutes, I will let you know whether you can go back inside.” He was gone. Andy took Pat’s purse to his truck put it inside and locked the door after taking out the house keys. Finally the gas man came back, “The hot water heater pilot is defective. I unhooked it from the gas supply and red tagged it. Tomorrow get someone out to take care of it.” He was gone before Andy could thank him.
Andy locked up the house and drove to the hospital. He went to the Emergency room and knowing hospital rules he walked up to the desk, Mrs. Skidmore, brought in had passed out because of a gas leak, where is she? Also I need her cards back.”
“Oh sir, your wife came around and is in recovery, we want to keep her over night, you can see her in room 2A3W42, or up those stairs on your right. They have her cards.”
“Thank you,” Andy said as he went upstairs. Pat looked horrible, her hair was a mess she looked as if she had been on a big drunk. Andy leaned over and kissed her cheek, “Gosh was my chili and the good night kiss that bad?”
Her eyes opened, “Andy, Andy, what happened?” He told her the water heater pilot light assembly had failed. “Andy, oh I missed you, missed you a lot.” She must be in delirium, he thought.
Andy leaned over, “I lied to get in to see you, I am your husband Andy Skidmore if anyone asks.”
As he raised up, she laughed, “I could be so lucky.” The laugh and smile said she would be OK.
“I brought your purse, I took your driver’s license and insurance cards out, well a policeman and I did, here is your purse.” He lay it beside her. They tried to chat but she was too incoherent. He leaned back over, kissed her lips, “Honey, sweet Pat I will leave you for now and be back about nine in the morning.” Andy spoke with the duty nurse and gave them his number, telling them he would be back at nine to take Mrs. Skidmore home.
The next morning Andy got into the Mercedes and drove to the hospital, he stopped at the supermarket and bought one long stemmed red rose Bud. He took it to Pat. She was up and feeling OK when he arrived. “Lets go home, you have been laying around doing nothing all night,” he said as he kissed her good morning and walked beside the orderly who was wheeling her to the front door.
“Oh you brought out the heaven weapons, I get to ride in the big car,” she said with a laugh as he opened the door and she got in.” They chatted as he drove her home. On the way he called a local reputable plumber and told him to bring over a new water heater, giving him the model and size. Pat looked at him, “That is not the plumber I normally use, but he said he would deliver it by noon?” Then she looked at him, “A built in car cell phone for my yardman, some day you must tell me your secret to success.”
As he drove into the drive way and Pat got out, all the neighbors were out to find out what had happened. “Funny, something really funny going on, that fellow driving the Mercedes is the yardman; he is the guy who does most of the yards around this area. Something very strange going on here,” Lacey Putterin said to his wife Claudine. “Yardmen do not drive Executive sedans.”
The hot water heater was delivered and installed, Pat gave the plumber a check. Andy stayed, they talked, walked around outside and Pat could not forget that if Andy had not come to tell her he was finished working, she would have been dead and maybe blown to bit after the house filled with gas and the telephone rang or the door bell. “I need to take a shower, I feel so cruddy, my hair feels like it is a grease rag,” Pat said.
Before she could ask Andy to take a shower with her, he said, “I have two or three jobs I need to get done. How would you like to have some more of my chili for supper?”
“Oh sure, last night they try to gas me, tonight it is chili me,” she replied with a laugh. As Andy started to leave, Pat walked over, grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him, kissed his mouth had and deep. “Thanks, thanks a lot; I will be at your house at five thirty.” He smiled and left.
Pat took a long bath, soaking in the tub and reliving the event. She could have, should have died, but she did not, she was saved by him, her secret love, her knight on a white horse, well not a white horse but a little blue Datsun pickup truck. She stood in front of the mirror, looking at her body. Long ago gone were her full high pointed breasts, her flat stomach, her trim hips and her full head of brown near auburn hair. But, it was not all that bad, she was better off than most. She went to the closet looked at the string of nice dresses, got a dark blue party dress and put it on; then she thought a moment and took it off. Instead, she put on a pair of jeans, an old brown khaki shirt and a pair of moccasins with white socks. She tied her hair back with a rubber band and applied very little makeup. She drove by the supermarket and bought a jug of Almaden Mountain Rhine wine and a large jar of Rolaids. She went to his house. It was just before five and as she drove up, seeing an older car in the driveway. Pat parked on the street and started toward the house. She did not go to the front door but around to the side door next to the garage.
“Hello, Mister Drayman is not home, he is out, may I help you?”
Pat looked at the woman, about sixty or so, overweight but with that honest hard working face, “Mrs. O’Hara,” Pat said.
“Yes, I am Katie O’Hara and who might ye be?”
“I am Mrs. Skidmore, Pat, Andy . . . er Mister Dray, er Drayman, invited me to dinner and I am early, he is not back from work?”
“Oh you are Pat,” she said as she knew her or knew about her. “That crazy man, he spends his days going around mowing peoples lawns and doing odd jobs, the man is a rich man, a big wheel and he lives here and loves driving his little blue truck and playing gardener.” She extended her hand, “Glad to meet you, I will let you in,” she said as she put down her two large shopping bags. She opened the door,
“Pat, love, watch out for his chili, it will tear you up.”
Pat laughed and pulled out the large bottle of Rolaids, “I know, I had some before his trip to California.”
“Ah lass, it was you that I smelled, I knew he had a woman here, first time he has looked at a woman since his wife died way back.”
“May I ask how long you have worked for him,” Pat asked.
“Nearly thirty years now, right after he got married, I was brought over from the old country to take care of the house and his first child. He even gave me stock in the company, I do this now out of respect and love for the man.” Her eyes told Pat the woman held Andy in deep admiration. “Got to run, Sean will be home and want his supper,” she was off. Pat walked inside, feeling funny as she did. Just then, the garage door opened and she met Andy coming home.
“HI Mrs. Skidmore, sorry I am late, but I ran into a hornet’s nest, not literally but physically.” He climbed out of the truck all dirty and dishelved. They walked into the house.
“I met Mrs. O’Hara, she is a character, no wonder you live so well with her taking care of you,” Pat said, wanting to kiss him, but holding back.
“Let me grab a quick shower, make yourself home, and I see you bought some wine, just a wee dram,” Andy said as he headed toward the bathroom.
“Want me to wash your back,” Pat asked in a low voice. Either he did not hear or ignored it for he closed the door and soon she heard the shower. She turned the radio on and it was on the Jazz station, then she found two wine glasses, put a large ice cube in each one and poured two glasses, she went to his door, “May I come in,” she said as she opened the door. He was standing in his jockeys, she handed him a glass, went into the bathroom , got a towel and began to dry his back.
“Men, never saw a man who could dry his own back.”
He turned, “Thanks,” he said as he opened the closet door and took out his normal uniform. He dressed, putting on slippers instead of his clodhoppers. Then he walked over to Pat, kissed her cheek, “Some day, you will have to wash my back.”
She returned the kiss, “Anytime, I would love to, anytime,” then they went into the kitchen. The chili was sitting on the warming element as he again filled their glasses with wine. “I like this wine but I am sorrowed to see it is so expensive you can only afford such a wee dram of the liquid.” They both laughed.
Pat had placed the giant bottle of Rolaids on the table, Andy thought it quite funny and he commented about his lowly chili. “Yes Mrs. O’Hara warned me about your chili and your cooking; how long has she worked for you or your family?”
Andy stopped, looked at Pat, “Mrs. Skidmore, I told you my past life is mine, it is not sealed or sacred, but it was another life. If you must find out about me and my life, then hire a Private Eye.” Pat’s jaw dropped and a silence befell the room. “Either I am Andy Dray, your yardman who drives the blue Datsun, lives in this small bungalow and occasionally has to go West or our relationship will be strained and soon severed.”
Pat sat still, her ego slammed, wanting to burst out in anger but knowing she should not. Finally she spoke, “Point and points taken, shall I leave now for caring?”
“Suit yourself, the chili is about the right temperature, the milk glasses are cold and I do enjoy your company,” he replied as he walked to her, kissed her cheek and ran his fingers through her hair, “Hmmm, see you even adopted the poor bums style of dress, no pretentious acts this way.” He then got bowls, utensils and put a place mat and small dishtowel at both places. He sat the table so she was on the side and he was on the end, close to each other. Since she sat there sipping her wine, he figured she was staying, “Milk, wine, or Beer,” he asked.
“Milk please and I will refill my glass. Andy brought the jug over along with an ice cube, then he poured a crystal decanter full and set it in the freezer. “It will chill faster, then I will set it in the fridge.” He winked, “The decanter is a gift to you from me for eating my chili.”