“How the hell we gonna get in,” Tim blurted. Just the fact that Tim would blurt anything was an indication that something highly upsetting and important was about.
“He wants me to come over tomorrow morning and look at some problem with that screwed up Camry he is so enamored of. You guys can just come in with me; I’ll make up some story ‘bout how you all just ‘wanted to see where he lived,’ since he lives in that prestigious ‘Budleigh’ neighborhood he is always goin’ on about, and ‘bout how much friggin’ property tax he pays. Jeeeeez. He will eat it up.”
“How about Mrs. Huffstetler?” Matt asked, with a hint of the clench teethed Peter Boyle grin coming through?” Matt had always spoken of Shady’s wife in that fashion; it all went back to when she made some copies of a lease application for him, after Timmy refused to. After all it was on a sacrosanct Sunday.
“He goes to swim at 9 and is always home by ten; she goes to Rex Wellness as soon as he gets home and is always gone ‘til 11. I checked it out,” he said.
It was just Mike, Tim, and Matt at the island; it was 6:30, and all four of the islanders had departed promptly at 6, with Shady not being informed to return at the later time.
“I am all in,” said Tim, working on a double Canadian Mist with a splash. “His attempts at humor seem to have taken a turn toward a rather nasty sounding sarcasm. Getting a bit old, like he has just got to be the center of attention; for example, the other day when he came in with that stupid hickory ax handle and then got all huffy when we didn’t fall in the floor laughing our collective asses off, and then when he always has that stupid comment when Greg comes in, ‘looks like Greg the Jew has fallen off some; wait ‘til he turns sideways and I can tell better.’ And what does being Jewish have to do with it. (Timmy’s leftward lean gets the better of him occasionally.) Seems to be getting more and more argumentative also. And how he kept screwing with me when I injured my ribs so horribly, asking ‘if alcohol were involved.’” Tim had delivered this soliloquy while scratching a patch of eczema on his forearm, knowing that he would be applying his bruise cream to the spot the next day.
“Yea, and he harped on my new chair in a joking way for a long time, bout how I had said it had ‘changed my life;’ by God it has. And that was after I had donated my old chair to Mrs. Huffstetler,” Matt said, the Peter Boyle look darkening a bit.
“And I know that he jokes about me and my long hair,” Mike inserted, twirling a tress as he spoke. “Plus he likes to mention about how I am always going along with what Andrea wants to do. He does it behind my back, but I know he does it, right guys?”
Tim and Matt obediently nodded.
“Well when is it goin’ to come off?” Tim asked, absentmindedly scratching his forearm. Tomorrow morning; I’ve got it all set. I will pick up everybody between ten and eleven so that we arrive at his ‘manor’ ‘bout 10:15,” Mike said, his usual pleasant smile exchanged for a wry look.
Mike rang the doorbell on the side porch, the entourage behind him. Shady came to the door and greeted them; “my goodness I didn’t know you were bringing the whole island,” he said, laughing.
“Although no man is an island, if Mohammed won’t come to the island, the island will come to Mohammed, or Shady in this case. How’s it goin’,” Mike quipped, as they walked into the house. The “manor” was nice enough; the room they were in was the kitchen, a narrow galley affair, but apparently recently renovated if the granite counter tops were an indicator.
“Like the house,” Mike said, a comment echoed by his co-conspirators.
“Come on into the living room; we can go look at the Camry later,” Shady said. Shady had a gas log fire going, and after Tim and Matt sat down on the sofa he plopped down into a brown leather recliner—-a wingback. Mike remained standing in front of the fire, it being a bit of a cool day and him being a bit cold-natured.
“Nice fireplace,” Mike offered, just the opening the “Shadester” needed to launch away.
“Yea, I actually picked out those gas logs; it was while my mother-in-law was living here, before we took over. Used to be a place over in Cary near South Hills where they had lots of gas log fireplaces built into a wall, all kinds of styles and one could walk up and turn on whichever one you wanted. She wanted my input on what would look right. I picked her out a nice one, don’tcha think,” he said, smiling broadly. The group recognized the question as being rhetorical and did not reply. “This house was custom designed and built in 1954, the architect being the rather locally famous Arthur McKimmon. He was sort of known as the darling of the Carolina Country Club bunch,” Shady said, glowing and looking around at his audience. Timmy, with his architectural background, nodded in agreement and mentioned having heard of the esteemed Mr. McKimmon as he admired the ceiling moldings and the tall baseboard.
Shady did not need much encouragement and immediately launched into a soliloquy about his leather chair.
“It was over four years ago that I bought this Lazy Boy leather reclining Wing Back chair; ya see I was getting ready to retire from the city with my pension and I thought I might spend a little money on something I wanted. Actually was Mrs. Huffstetler’s idea. It was only $2300 but I call it my million dollar chair,” he spouted, leaning back in the chair with a flourish as he went on. “It was just after I bought the Camry, for cash.”
Matt was looking around with a discerning air, a little bit ticked that Shady had used the term “Mrs. Huffstetler;” “I came up with that appellation,” he thought to himself, while simultaneously figuring that Shady probably didn’t have a pot to pee in before the nuptials.
“I’ll show you around a little if you like,” Shady said, a comment greeted with mumbled acquiescense. He launched himself from the “million-dollar chair” and they followed him into the room that was used as an office. Matt espied the chair he had donated to “Mrs. Huffstetler” immediately.
“I assume Mrs Huffstetler loves the chair I gave her,” Matt stated. “Sure, but she has little time to use it, what with all her charity work and all,” Shady said, assuming a pompous air. The Peter Boyle clenched teeth grin erupted and tightened. As Shady led them into the sunroom and was pointing out the adjoining deck he had built “with my own two hands” Mike was looking around for something. Andrea had been going to give a lovely Tiffany style lamp to some charity and he had objected and had asked around at the island if anyone were interested in it. Shady had jumped all over it with both feet; Mike had brought the lamp to him one day at the bar, having carefully replaced the bulb in the base and warned Shady that the glass that screwed down on top of the beautiful shade to hold it in place had a nick in it and to be careful with it so as not to get cut.
“Where ya keepin that Tiffany style lamp that you liked so much, the one you sent me the picture of?” asked Mike, looking around the room.
“Oh, I kinda forgot we had this other tiffany style lamp, so I gave it to my daughter,” Shady said, waving toward a rather nondescript blue lamp on a table. “She and her husband are just starting out.” Shady did not see it but Matt and Tim did, the dark look and scowl that came over Mike’s face.
“Let’s go back by the fire before we go check out the Camry,” Shady suggested, and led the way back into the living room. They all went back to where they had been; Tim was again on the sofa and noticed the small lap top computer sitting on the side table. It was a MacBook Air, the very model Shady had told him he was going to buy after Tim had told him that it was “insane” to pay eleven hundred dollars for a friggin’ computer. Course the “shadester” had declined the advice and was now free to type away on his drastically over-priced computer the short stories that he religiously sent off to be posted on his website that no one ever paid any attention to.
“And over there is my laptop, the one I write all my stories on,” Shady announced proudly, nodding toward the Macbook. Matt, Tim, and Mike were exchanging collective inward and outward eyerolls at this comment.
Tim and Mike sometimes had this innate communicative connection, almost like reading each other’s minds; it did not happen often, but as Shady’s last comment sank in Tim glanced at Mike and then at the Macbook Air and with lightning speed Mike grabbed the computer and turning it so that the corner would hit first smashed it down on his forehead as he sat in his million-dollar chair. It was a perfect hit, and Shady’s lifeless arms fell loosely on each side of the chair. Before they departed Mike leaned over and turned off the logs. They were having their first drink at High Park when Mrs. Huffstetler’s blue Subaru Forester pulled up the Hathaway Rd. driveway.