The first ones to start crying
January 5, 2013
I worked in a pastry as a part time job in my teens. The baker thought of himself as quite a tough guy. He had a honey on the side (which I learned about years later when he divorced his wife.) My dad warned me about tough guys, guys who boasted and bragged. They were the first ones to start crying when the shells began falling and your buddies began dieing.
This story is from a collection called The Graveyard Shift. It is the third of a series. The first two have already been e-released.
BOB’S CAKE AND PASTRY SUPPLIES
“Your heart sounds fine,” the doctor said. He wanted to say jolly. But jolly went out with black and white television. He put away his stethoscope. The doctor has a slight lisp. And limp. But only slight.
Mr. Chambers smiled. Well you wouldn’t call it a smile. He was almost laughing as he put on his shirt. A nice plaid shirt. That he wore with a nice plaid tie. Different clans. Mr. Chambers was a grey haired man. Grey hair on his head and his chest. Short tiny grey hairs in his nose. And ears. Heavy set with a quick pointed nose. He would have been described, even in his sixties, as a handsome man. A distant cry from the toad like appearance of his younger days. When he was compared to all sorts of low life. No, there had been a flattering evolution in Mr. Chambers’ appearance. Life liked Mr. Chambers. It always had. He was no cream puff. Granite. Truck tough. There were muscles in his face.
“The two little buggers thought I was a goner.”
Mr. Chambers shook his head. And smiled.
“Out there. Right now dividing up my garments. Their rosy cheeks filled with chipmunk ambition. Fighting like two old women. Who was going to replace me. Take my dough. Spend it on broads. Booze. At the track. Leave their wives at home. Oh my sweet little boys”
“Ironic. Peggy and Theresa, their wives, look a bit like horses. Should hear those two whinny. When they’re in the thralls of making love. As they like to describe their machinations. Their legs up in the stirrups. Ninnies.”
“Nothing I abhor more. A spouse complaining. About their men’s wild ways. Wives want me to put them in their place. I wasn’t the one that bed them. Don’t ask me to do your work. My sons are head strong. Not that I don’t understand. They’ve got their wild oats. To spread. Had my own. Still up to do a little spilling. Nothing wrong with that. Boys better watch themselves now. I’m back. They ain’t going to get their share. Not yet. Have to wait. I might outlive them both. Just for spite. No, they want to have a time. It won’t be on my sweat. Not on my time. Not with my hard earned cash. You can put that in the bank. And smoke it.”
Mr. Chambers did up each button like it was the period at the end of each one of his sentences in a stump speech by a politician who realizes that no one would dare run against him. His jaw set. His chest pumped. Shoulders expanding. Hands in his fists.
“I have only myself to blame. Boys are spoiled. By their mother. I was too busy working. Well, hey. You want kids. You take your chances. Like a lottery ticket. Maybe I should have had daughters. They might have had more balls. Gone for breeders instead of rodents. My poor boys. My sons. Weasels.”
“Shows they care,” the doctor said. He rolled up the blood pressure wrap. Nice and tidy. He liked things neat. It made him feel that all was well. His summary. The compendium of things previously stated.
Mr. Chambers shook his head.
“Well, some times even death can be an eye opener. I never thought that the threat of my demise would make things so clear. Mortality has awakened the lion. Clear to me now. Used to walk in the shade. How refreshing is the sunlight. Before I was clouded by sentimentality. I wanted my boys to be like the old man. Now I can leave all those thoughts behind me. Neither one of my sons is prepared to take over the reins. They don’t have the balls. They have the power of their kidneys. But not of the will. Taken me a lifetime to build up my business. You’d think that a man like me would have spun some sons with a backbone. Do you know what I did when my old man died, doc? I laughed. He had a full life and now he was dead. What a joke, eh? No tears for my old man. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It wasn’t avarice on my part. But drive. Now these two marshmallows are fighting over my empire. Like it was carrion.”
Mr. Chambers fell into his own thoughts. What if I started over again. With a new woman. Younger. New sons. I might get lucky. Mr. Chambers turned back to the doctor.
“What do you think it was that gave me the scare?”
“Indigestion,” the doctor offered.
Mr. Chambers laughed.
“I guess that’s why they call it heart burn, eh doc?”
The doctor nodded. “You might think about losing some weight though, Mr. Chambers.”
Mr. Chambers stood up and stepped toward the doctor.
“You think I’m fat?”
The doctor stepped back. He looked down at his clipboard.
“I think you could lose a little weight, Mr. Chambers. Hard on the heart carrying around extra pounds.”
Mr. Chambers laughed as he shook his head.
“You really think I’m fat. You don’t know a real man when you see one, doc.”
“I wasn’t trying to upset you, Mr. Chambers.”
“Is that right?” Mr. Chambers responded. “I’m not fat, doc. I can do the work of two men any day of the week.”
“I’m sure you can.”
“What the fuck is this all about then?” Mr. Chambers moved toward the doctor.
The doctor put out his hand to stop Mr. Chambers approach.
“Telling me I’m fat!” Mr. Chambers continued. “I think you’re stupid. Do you like that?”
“I think we’ve had enough of this conversation, Mr. Chambers.” The doctor holding his clipboard in one hand, crossed his arms in front of him. Waiting. For what he was not sure. Except that it was sure to be unpleasant.
“Can’t take it when it’s tossed your way, eh doc? I swallow guys like you every day, then spit them out.” Mr. Chambers chuckled.
The doctor sighed.
“You’re a bully, Mr. Chambers.”
Mr. Chambers leaned threateningly forward, clenching his chin like a fist.
“You’re calling me a what?” he cried.
“A bully, sir.” The doctor held his ground.
Mr. Chambers stared at the doctor for a moment. Then he stepped back. He laughed. He reached out and slapped the doctor affectionately on the arm.
“You’re alright, doc,” he said. “I was just having a little fun. You’ve got to lighten up.”
Mr. Chambers stepped past the doctor and out of the room.
Outside in the office his two grown sons waited. Terry, the youngest stood up when he saw his father.
“So what’s the verdict, dad?”
Mr. Chambers laughed. He put on his jacket.
“I’ll outlive both you bastards,” Mr. Chambers replied.
The doctor trailed Mr. Chambers. The boys looked at the doctor.
“Your father is as strong as an ox,” the doctor said.
Both boys looked dismayed. Mr. Chambers grabbed both of his boys by the necks and pushed them out the door. He followed behind. Bob’s Pastry and Cake Supplies. Written across his back.