The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 24
Leaving the Jankowski's
At the Jankowki home Rich sat at a coffee table and played a spirited game of dominoes with the two Jankowski daughters. They were 10 and 12 years old with plump faces and rosy cheeks. They were fierce, but enjoyable competitors. Rich laughed as their dark eyes danced.
They knew they had a special life and it had nothing to do with the affluence they enjoyed. They would have been as happy in a shack playing in a cardboard box. The same was true with Mr. and Mrs. Jankowski.
Rich thought it might be easy to be envious, but he was not. Affluence was through hard work and joy was who they were. They were not condemning Rich, they were sharing that special quality of the human spirit called character. If only for a moment Rich wanted to lap it in as if a thirsty dog and have it last a life time. He closed his eyes in desperate meditation, hoping that it might absorb or grab hold of and never relinquish its grip.
The pizza was beyond description in texture and taste. All through the meal Frank studied
After the meal Frank and Rich went to the basement game room to play pool.
Frank racked the balls and said, “You break.”
Rich cued up and stroked straight and true. From the middle of the racked balls the eight ball rolled into the side pocket. “I hate that when that happens. Sink the eight ball on the break - I win.”
“How often can you do that?” Frank asked as he racked the balls again.
“I don’t know, but if I hit it in the right spot my chances are better,” Rich said.
“That’s your last win,” Frank said.
Rich broke without sinking the eight ball. That was the last time he broke. Frank was good. After three wins he grabbed Rich’s cue and placed it back in the holder. They sat in a couple of chairs.
“Ya still going to leave in the morning?” Frank asked as he dangled his leg over the arm of the chair.
Rich was not as ‘at home’ as Frank, although he slouched in the chair. “Yes sir, but I hate to.”
“Aren’t you wondering when yer going to get paid?” Frank said.
“It’s never crossed my mind sir,” Rich said. “I figured you’d get around to it before I left. If I left without pay, you’d probably go looking for me just as hard if I walked away with money that wasn’t mine. I think you hate bad and as much as you love good and with the same vigor.”
Frank smiled and dug a white envelope from his back pocket. He handed it to me. “There’s fourteen hours pay and a little something extra.”
Rich opened the envelope. There were two twenty dollar bills and two one dollar bills. His eyes widened as he counted ten one hundred dollar bills. “I can’t take this, sir.”
“If it weren’t for you being there last night we’d lost over a million dollars in freight and equipment. One hundred and twenty-five people would be out of work. There‘s something else,” Frank said with his lips curled down. “Today, quite a few guys from the terminal said to me if I didn’t make it right with you they would.”
“I’m going to cry,” Rich said. He sniffed and sobbed.
Frank leaned forward and gripped Rich’s shoulder. “What ever you are running from this can be the end of the run, but don’t forget where ever you run to, you can always come back here, Rich.”
He used his name. How did he know? Rich was shocked.
“I wasn’t snooping,” Frank said. “It was really my wife. She took some dirty clothes wrapped up in your gear and washed them. She wanted to do something for you. She saw your birth certificate.”
“You don’t know how hard it was for me to lie to you,” Rich said.
“A rose if by any other name smells none the sweeter,” Frank said. “I don’t care if your name was Snidely Whiplash. A name is what you call yourself a reputation is who you are.”
“I owe you some explanation,” Rich said.
“No, no ya don’t,” Frank said.
“My Dad has asked me to kill him twice and Mom tried to kill herself once. We have an idiot uncle who lives with us. I fear my Dad will kill us all and then himself. I seem to be the fault of everything.”
“Stay here,” Frank pleaded. “Stay with us.”
“If I stay here you will be a part of it. You could end up in trouble,” Rich said. “I’m taking responsibility for this whole thing, not Frank Jankowski.”
Frank stood and racked the balls. “It’s my brake,” he said.
They played until eleven. Mrs. Jankowski came downstairs and watched for a while.
Rich slept well and woke up before the Jankowskis. He scribbled a note.
“Good bye would be too painful. I promise to see you again. I will never forget the pool or the dominoes. Love, Rich.”
In the driveway before sunup Rich sat the bike up and secured his gear.
Someone cleared their throat. Rich jerked. It was Frank.
“Where ya going to keep the money?” he said.
I wrestled a handle bar grip off the handle bar, rolled the money tightly, and stuffed it in the handle bar. “Shhh,” I said. “Don’t tell anybody.” He twisted the grip back on.
“Take care, chief,” Frank said.
“I’ll take care,” Rich said and I pushed hard toward the street and down the driveway. When out on the street he turned to take one last look at the Jankowski house. From an upstairs window he saw two plump faces waving at me. Rich waved, stood on the peddles, and pushed hard.
That was painful; for everyone.