I had just finished lunch, left-over stew and some corn pones, along with a cup of fresh black coffee, when I saw a shadow move alongside the house. And then a knock at the back door. I burped twice, wiped my mouth on my napkin, my napkin being a small kitchen towel, one of my foibles, and headed for the door.
I opened the door and saw a rag-tag man with watery eyes standing there. His clothes were not real clean but he did not look like he had been sleeping in a pig sty either. I started to reach up over the door and take down the old double-barrel, twelve-gauge hammer-gun, but for some reason I did not. Instead, I, in a pleasant voice, asked, “May I help you?”
“Do you have a few bites of food you could spare? I am hungry and I will work for what you give me.” As he spoke, he held and old holey Navy watch hat. “Sort of down on my luck and I hate begging. I detest those shelters.”
For some reason I remembered there was at least a bowl of stew that would be thrown out as well as two corn pones. I stepped back. “Got some leftover stew, two corn pones and a cold glass of sweet milk,” I said.
He wiped his feet, and holding his old watch cap in his hand, stepped inside. “Thank you sir, I will gladly work for it.”
I sent him down the hall to the bathroom to wash-up, and stood watching so I could see if he tried to go into any other room. In about five minutes he came back, his face and hands clean and his thinning salt-and-pepper hair combed.
My wife had gone to lunch with the girls. It was Monday and she, and three others went bowling and then had lunch out, followed by some shopping, so I was alone. “Take a seat,” I said as I took my bowl to the sink and started to refill it. I stopped and got a clean bowl, dumped my remains into the pot and stirred it a bit. I filled the bowl and got a fork and put it in front of him. “Milk OK,” I asked.
He nodded as he looked at the bowl of diced onions. "May I have some of those onions,” he asked as he looked up at me.
“Sure, help yourself.” I got him a glass and filled it with milk.
He dug in and as he ate I watched. This was no ordinary bum for he had table manners. “I will make us a cup of coffee if you care for one. Instant,” I said as he was ravished but ate slowly and with dignity.
He spotted the dishtowel by where I sat and turned to me. “That your napkin?” he asked.
I nodded yes and he grinned, “My wife always gave me a hard time for I hated paper napkins and I too used a dishtowel for a napkin. Everybody who knew us put one beside my plate when we went to someone else’s house to eat.”
“Ok, I know you do not want to hear it but what is your tale of woe? How did you end up like this?” I had three or four possible stories in my head and as interested in what he came up with.
He finished the corn pones, stew, and finished off the milk. Then he turned toward me. “I was a pharmacist, owned my own little place and was doing fine. Our children were through college when my wife of 25 years fell over with a massive stroke. Two years later I hired a young divorcee and we became close and were married. Oh I was a fool for she was the same age as our oldest daughter. But I was lonely and in love.
Within a year my business was near bust and then I was indicted for the illicit selling of drugs. It seems my young wife targeted me and married me and carried on good drug trade. I was sent to prison for five years and she took everything and poisoned my children against me, well all except Maria who told me to come live with her and her family until I could get back on my feet.”
I pushed a mug of coffee in front of him and sat down with my own mug. "So what does a convicted felon who lost his license do?” I asked.
“I found a few jobs at fast food joints but I could not make enough to rent a place and eat and the people in the town all held me in contempt and most owed me money, but that is kismet,” he said. He had bought a bus ticket to his daughter's but two guys had rolled him at a rest stop and left him with no identification, no money, no clothes and a split head. “I just started moving along trying to find a job and a place to live and it is hard to get ahead and back on a level playing field when you lose everything and then get rolled and robbed.”
We talked for about an hour and then he stood. “Now give me some work to repay you for the food and coffee, I don’t want to be a bum but to earn my way.” His face, although bearded and his hair long and dirty, said he was sincere.
I looked at the clock. It was one thirty and the wife did not get home until between four and six, depending on how the girls' day went. “Tell you what. I have some clothes that will fit you, so you go in there and take a bath and clean up and I will see what I can do, then I have some work for you,” I said. I have to cook supper, this is the wife and the girls' day out,” I added.
I went out into the garage and got down a box of clothes that were too little for me and picked out two pairs of cord trousers and two plaid shirts. I got a pair of my old drawers and a tee shirt along with some socks and a pair of hunting boots; along with a nearly new GI field jacket with a liner.
He cleaned up pretty good and I took him out in the yard and gave him a rake and a big plastic bag for the leaves. “Just take them up in the field and strew them about,” I told him and went into the house. I washed all of his clothes and then threw them into the dryer; all the time thinking he would just mess around a few minutes and then wander off.
I got busy making a meatloaf and forgot all about him until my wife and two other ladies came in, “Who is that raking leaves?” my wife asked.
“Yeah, who is he, is he eligible? I would let him keep me warm if he wishes,” Darhla said as the wife mixed a pitcher of martinis. Elaine went to the front window to look out.
I laughed. “He is still there, really?” I went to the window and looked and sure enough most of the front yard had been raked. Dang, I hate to rake leaves and this made me feel good. “I do not know his name, he is a bum who I gave the rest of my stew and a couple corn pones and then he wanted to work for his food so I gladly gave him a rake because I hate raking.”
My wife scowled and looked at me. “You two ladies want to stay for meatloaf, baked tater and cole slaw? I will be inviting him to stay for supper since he has been working for quite a while,” I said. “Oh, I gave him some of those clothes that shrunk,” I told my wife.
Both ladies helped my wife finish off the pitcher of martinis and then went home. I told the wife the story he had told me and she just laughed and told me what a dang fool I was. I said, “Yes maam.”
I went outside and he was working, “Feels good, really feels good to do this again,” he said with a smile.
“What is your name anyway, I did not bother to ask and did not bother to tell you my name either,” I said as I extended my hand, “Jake Buttram.” He said he was James Lodge. “Well James Lodge I made a meatloaf and baked a tater to go with some cole slaw if you are interested,” I said. He grinned.
As we sat eating supper, the wife asked all sorts of questions then she got up, got a phone and handed it to him, “You call your daughter now and tell her where you are and after supper you two can clean up. I have a couple phone calls to make,” she said. The twinkle in her eye said she was up to something.
James was put in the company bedroom and my wife lined him up a job starting tomorrow as the cashier at the Outback, which was owned by one of her friends. When we went to bed she said, “Jake, I told Dori that I would post the performance bond for James.”
I shrugged and said nothing for I knew she did what she wanted to, and if she felt James Lodge was a good risk, then so be it.
He lived in the spare bedroom and worked a double shift at the restaurant. The wife would take him to work and pick him up if her friend did not drop him off. After about a month I suggested he go to the housing authority and apply for one of their apartments. My wife said no. Then one day James came driving up in an old Honda. My wife had bought it for him. I told James he had to move out by the end of the week and that I had found him a room.
He took the information and shrugged. On Friday I had to run to Ft, Collins to Harbor Freight and my wife did not want to go, which was strange but when I got home, the house was locked and my keys would not fit. Nor would the garage door opener work.
I went out to the garage and got in the motor home. When I heard a vehicle I went to see what was going on. A deputy sheriff handed me some papers. I had been shut out of my own home and my wife had filed for divorce!
“Jake, you have one week to live in that motor home then I want it and you off of this property,” my wife told me.
The next morning I went to the credit union and discovered the accounts had been cleaned out. I went to the bank and my name had been removed from our checking account. My retirement pay and social security and other incomes all went into our checking account. I did remember one credit union where I had an account for my burial party. I did get the money from it.
I went to an attorney but he wanted more than I had to even look into it. I called her attorney and was told the accounts were frozen until the divorce hearing three months later.
Now, here I am near broke; no home, no income. I am now another homeless bum who befriended one, and now he wears my clothes and sleeps in my bed. Funny how a good deed bites you in the behind.
© By Tom (tomWYO@aol.com)