Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wrote this, tonight

Jake's "boys" are Tone and Matt.

With my boys busy, I figured now would be a good time to drop in on Meredith Gorman. She rented the condo two doors down from Uncle Owen’s.

It was bright and sunny but a sharp chill was in the breeze, snapping hard enough to make me wonder if it ever snowed in this part of California. I doubted it, because no matter where you looked, everything was dry-as-hell brown or red or gray dirt and rocks, with only a couple patches of olive-drab trees to cut the monotony. I hated to think of how much water it took to keep the golf greens green.

Her place was almost like my uncle’s, with the desert flowers and plants for decoration and low water usage, except for another Oleander bush softening the corner. The stucco walls and double-pane windows looked right on it, especially next to the cheap-assed condos lined up to the left of hers. Staying in Uncle Owen’s the last few nights had shown me he was smart to weatherize them, even at the loss of a coupled dozen square feet; the a/c didn’t have to work non-stop on that one hot day and noise from the construction was nearly non-existent.

I rang Meredith’s doorbell and hear Geordie yapping. A moment later, she opened the door, telling Geordie to, “Hush, it’s Jake, you little fool.” Then she looked at me and smiled, and for a second she reminded me of my grandmother. “Would you like some bologna?”

“Don’t wanna make him too fat to yap,” I said, crouching down and letting Geordie sniff my fingers. Then he started yapping even more while spinning in a happy circle. “But then again, he may need the fuel.”

“It’s the small dogs that’re the worst when it comes to noise. Come in. Come on.”

She led me into a room filled with really nice-looking antiques and rugs, all of it coming across as comfortable and homey instead of just impressive. Pictures of her and Sondi covered the top of a baby grand piano and a couple of end tables. Her plants looked thick and healthy and gave the place the feel of a country conservatory.

She shuffled on into the kitchen, so I followed.

“You want some tea? I have a pot fresh brewed.”

“That’d be great,” I said.

She motioned for me to sit at the counter and watched me out of the corner of her eye as she brought down a couple of china cups and saucers. “You look good.”

“I’m fine,” I said, a bit confused.

“I hear the police beat you.”

“Only where it doesn’t show. The stuff on my face is just the usual On-the-ground crap they like to pull.”

“I hope you’ll sue the bastards.”

“That’s an option.”

“But not a good one. I know.”

Geordie was whimpering and skittering around the base of my stool, so Meredith handed me a slice of turkey bologna and I absently pulled off bits of it to drop down to him.

“You been through this?”

She poured out the tea, a smile on her face. I could almost see the memories rolling past her eyes. Then she said, “In the Fifties, during the McCarthy Hearings. I was called into the CEO’s office and told I was a security risk. Since we made parts for military aircraft, I was told I’d have to be let go. I didn’t say a word, just went back to my desk, under armed guard, and cleaned it out. Then I was escorted to my car and followed until I was off the property. It was all very humiliating, and meant to be. All those men acting like I’d committed some sort of betrayal of America by not wanting to be with any of them.”

“Jerks are jerks, Mere.”

“No, just assholes. And dicks.”

“Did you have trouble finding another job?”

“I didn’t need to. I was in procurement, and they called me back in and demanded I explain my system of ordering to my big, buff, married-with-children male replacement. I refused. They screamed and raved and ranted and threatened to have me arrested for treason.”


“Swear to god. I just shrugged and ignored them. This kept up for ten days. I was even visited by two rather menacing gorillas from the FBI, who informed me I was sabotaging a vital part of the nation’s security and I could be sent to prison. I just shrugged and ignored them.”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “Procurement’s not that hard. I did a version of it for the city, when I worked there.”

“All it takes is intelligence and an ability to think one step ahead of everyone you’re dealing with. What helped my cause was, the man who replaced me was an idiot. No, not so much an idiot as a fool. He waited for the heads of various departments to contact him and tell him what they needed, which put him about two days behind the curve on ordering. I always went to the shop stewards to find out what they were running low on. They were more accurate and I always had what they needed to them days before they ran out. They got used to that and didn’t go to my replacement when they got low on materials. So...they’d run out and the production line would need to be shut down, thus angering the union.

“Finally the CEO came to me and begged me to tell him how to make things work smoothly, again. I just shrugged and said, ‘No.’ Then I told him I was being considered for a position at Lockheed. The next day, I had security clearance, back pay, and my job, again. And I cleared up everything within the space of four days. I kept the job for another twenty years.”

“Why? They treated you like shit.”

“And I rubbed their noses in it, even day I was there.”

"Damn. What’d Sondi have to say about it?”

“She was terrified. She thought I’d get carted off when the FBI came, so stayed in her room talking to an attorney, just in case. She always was more afraid than I. I think she feared I’d die before she would, and she wouldn’t know what to do. I think that’s part of the reason she never made up a will. She was afraid it would jinx us. But then she died first, and because there was no will, I now live here instead of my home. It's almost pathetic.”

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