Soft murmuring woke me up. Early morning light streamed through a broken slat on the blinds and I jolted upright. I was late for work. The afghan covering me fell to the floor as I sat up and shook my head to dissipate my fuzzy-headedness. Then I remembered I had the morning off.
“She’s up, Mama!” Tim, in Spider-Man pjs, with brown hair jumbled from bed, leapt up from his spot in front of the TV, and ran from the room. I yawned, my jaw popping with the exertion, and watched Sponge Bob and Patrick frolic in Bikini Bottom for a minute before pushing off from the couch. Fatigue weighed me down, and I yawned again as I shuffled into the kitchen.
Shana stood at the stove, wrapped in a floor-length pink fuzzy robe, flipping pancakes frying in a cast iron skillet. Barry and Clarence, Shana’s dad, sat at the kitchen table eating. Tim had crawled up into a chair and kneeled on it, shoveling syrupy bites into his mouth.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” said Shana.
“Morning,” I said. “Hi, Barry. Good morning, Mr. Hills.”
Barry flashed me a grin and Mr. Hills nodded his greeting, his speech lost due to the stroke.
“You gals going to be up to no good this morning?” asked Barry. He poured me a glass of orange juice as I sat at the table.
“Thanks,” I said. “No, just following up on some loose ends.” I took a long swallow of the juice, my throat parched and feeling scratchy. I hoped I wasn’t coming down with something; just my luck with my big date tonight.
“Ya’ll need any muscle, you make sure to give me a shout out,” said Barry.
“We learned our lesson last week,” said Shana, giving Barry a kiss on the head. She slapped a plate of pancakes down in front of me. “Next time anyone mistakes us for a target they’ll have you to deal with.”
“Ahhhh…” Mr. Hills gurgled and nodded toward Tim.
“Right, Dad, not in front of Tim,” said Shana. She turned to me. “I’ll get ready, Jess, and then when you’re done we’ll go over to your place. I’ll look through your closet while you shower and find a little something-something for you to wear tonight.”
“Okay,” I said. I was a little reluctant but I knew my wardrobe didn’t include anything risqué so her choices would be on the more modest side.
“I have to stop off and see Trevor at the cop shop before work so it can’t take too long.”
“Got ‘cha,” said Shana. “I’m going to hop in the shower. I’ll be done in a flash.”
An hour later, Shana put on her finishing touches. The girl can’t go anywhere without her layers of eyeliner and mascara. I used the time to snuggle on the couch with Tim and we got caught up on Dora’s adventures. Barry finally chased her out of the bathroom so he could give Clarence a shower.
“Girl, what you need to plaster on all that paint for?” he asked as he pushed Clarence’s wheelchair into the bathroom. “You look fine without it.”
“I want to look my best for you,” she said.
“You…ni-wi-ut,” said Clarence.
Shana gave her dad a hug. “Thanks, Papa.”
“Git,” said Barry, shutting the door behind them.
Shana came into the living room, carrying her shoes in her hand. She plunked herself down on the couch beside us and shoved her feet into the sneakers.
“You’re a lucky woman,” I told her. “There’s not too many men who would give their girlfriend’s disabled father a shower.”
Her eyes watered a little as she responded. “He’s a keeper, all right.” Shana stood and slipped on her coat.
“You ready?” she asked.
I snorted. “Don’t bother asking.” I untangled from Tim and stood.
“Tim, you mind Grandpa and Barry now,” The little guy ignored her, entranced by a commercial for a toy, which, according to the ad, was composed of plastic strong enough to withstand the weight of an elephant. She gave him a quick hug and a kiss. He didn’t take his eyes off the tube.
“Let’s roll,” I said. I had my jacket and shoes on and whistled for
Harley. He had been fed, watered, and played with by Barry and Tim before I woke up. No wonder he loved coming to the shop. We left the house and climbed into my truck.
Traffic was fairly heavy in downtown Dyersville. I had to slow down once to let an old-timer pull out in front of me. The top of her white head barely cleared the steering wheel of her big old Buick so I doubt she spotted my three-quarter ton, bright red truck when she pulled away from the curb. I made it home without having to dodge any more senior drivers. Lonnie stood in front of the apartment building when I turned into the driveway and he met us in the back.
“Hi, ladies,” he said as we exited the truck.
“Hey,” I said.
“What’s up?” asked Shana. Harley ran to Lonnie and rubbed against the big guy. Lonnie obligingly gave him a vigorous rub-down.
“I feel a little stupid,” he said, giving us a sheepish grin. “I went and locked myself out of my apartment.”
“I suppose I can let you in,” I said. “I think I’ve seen you around.”
He laughed. “If it were only that easy. I can get into the building but I can’t get into my apartment. My front window is unlocked, but there’s no way I can squeeze through.”
Shana and I looked at each other.
“Well, my booty can’t get through that little window,” said Shana, giving her tush a little shake. She had received an extra portion of behind when God was doling them out.
“I guess I can give it a try,” I shrugged. After all the guy did help when I was attacked in the hallway that night.
“Right on,” said Lonnie. We followed him around to the front. The window would be a tight squeeze for me and it was a good four feet off the ground.
“I’ll give ya a boost,” he said, crouching down and fashioning a stirrup with his hands. I slipped my coat off, handed it to Shana, and placed my foot in his hands. He grunted and hoisted me up as I pulled myself through the window. I got my top half through, then the momentum stopped. I teetered on the window sill and wiggled a bit. Stuck.
“How about a little push?” I asked. “By the way, I’m not enjoying this.” My lower abdominal muscles felt cramped against the hard wood.
“Well, I’m enjoying this view,” said Lonnie, “you sure fill your jeans well.” Shana guffawed and I even giggled.
“Shut up,” I said. They pushed on my feet until finally, I ended up inside, crawling forward with my hands until I pulled the rest of my body through. I landed on a pile of magazines and papers haphazardly stacked in the living room. As I pushed off the floor, I noticed a plat book of Creek County among the pile. I picked the book up, walked to the apartment’s front door, and unlocked it.
I left it propped open as I went around to let Lonnie, Shana, and Harley inside the building.
“Thanks so much,” said Lonnie. “No tellin’ how long I would have been outside. Vicki’s gone for the day so I would’ve had to wait until this afternoon to get a key.”
“You’re welcome,” I said. “Can I borrow this?” I showed him the plat book.
“Sure. I got all them back roads memorized so I can get to my favorite fishin’ holes.”
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