“John? John LaRoque?”
LaRoque extended his hand but Mashpit was reluctant. His hands and body reeked of horse crap.
“Come on, shake it. I shovel the same stuff in my job with Jake Cotter.” LaRoque smiled and they shook hands.
“I want to talk to you Andy.” LaRoque looked around the wagon garage and motioned with his hands. “About this.”
“What? The road maintenance shed?”
“No. About you and what you’re doing with your life.”
“What do you care? You lucked out when we were mustered out of the Army. You got the blacksmith job and I got the only thing left.” Mashpit picked up some straw and threw it at a wagon.
“I care. Don’t you remember the times we had in the Army? I mean the good as well as the bad.”
“Those days are gone. Who needs a dynamiter or a map maker when there are dozens of civilians entrenched in those jobs?”
“We do. Jake Cotter, I mean. He bought the Clark vineyard and is going to make it operational. He needs the land re-documented with an up-to-date mapping and survey of the place. It’s over 100-acres according to the deed.” LaRoque motioned Mashpit to come outside and they walked slowly to the buckboard. He had just dropped off Mrs. Hamer.
“Say I do the job. I would have to quit this and when I’m finished with your work I’ll have nothing.”
“There’s more to the job than the mapping and survey. We need another hand–someone who has had experience managing men.” He paused. “Someone like you. It would be a permanent position.”
“What about my handicap? I can’t hear worth a shit.”
LaRoque laughed. “Look at us. Jake Cotter was right. You read lips. We’ll be your ears when your back is turned.”
“You’re serious?” Mashpit put his hand on LaRoque’s right arm.
“Jake Cotter wants to meet with you Tuesday at the Yale Medical Clinic at four o’clock. You’re also invited to dine with us on Thanksgiving.”
“Oh my god, I can’t believe it. But look at me, I’m a mess. My only other clothes are only slightly better than these and they still smell.”
“On Tuesday, if you accept Cotter’s offer, we go to the General Mercantile for a change of clothes. Consider it an advance on your pay.”
“What if I don’t measure up to his expectations?”
“You will. I told him all about you–when we were in the Army. He was in the Army too. Just answer his questions and be yourself–not the horseshit, road maintenance man.”
LaRoque shook his friend’s hand, mounted the buckboard and road off. Mashpit watched him go with glistening eyes.
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