Chapter Two Beginning
Greye had been on the road all day. He had made it to Daytona. His ass was sore and he needed a distraction. And he could use a place to crash as well. He had been cruising the city for a while now. If he was going to be here for a while he wanted to get a feel for things. He made his way along most of the highways. He made sure he knew every means of exit, just as they had taught him. But his ass was getting raw. Xane had insisted on this damn saddle. He couldn’t argue that it did look good but he had wanted one that was a bit more plush.
“Well, Xane, you may be dead but you are still a pain in my ass.”
I felt good to say. Maybe if he could have a sense of humor about it, it would not hurt so much. Just as he was muttering to himself he saw a for sale sign. It was attached to a trailer.
“Perfect,” Greye thought.
It was almost sunset and he figured it would not be too late to call. So he pulled into the drive. It was a nice house. Not a rich man's residence but it was nice. Well maintained. Well groomed lawn and garden, sort of a Spanish style roof, a two car garage, and a half circle driveway. There were a Dodge Neon, and a VW Jetta in the drive. He wondered what was behind the garage door. They certainly don’t tow that thing with a Jetta, he thought to himself.
He walked up to the door and rang the bell. He waited for a few minutes but there was no answer. He tried again. Then the wind shifted and he caught the sent of a grill.
“Mmmm, barbeque,” he said to himself. “I hope they won’t mind a visitor.”
He walked around the path at the right of the house. There was a gate in the white picket fence that surrounded the backyard. He began to open it as he heard the playful yip of a dog. He decided to knock on the inside of the gate as he peeked his head through and coughed. Inside he saw the dog. A beautiful purebred Irish wolfhound. Staring at him with a protective but disciplined look that conveyed ferocity despite the Frisbee clasped in its teeth. The dog told Greye quite clearly that he had better behave himself.
A little ways from the dog was a girl. A young woman just out of high school. Laughing and playing with the dog 'til she noticed his presence. She must drive the Neon, he thought to himself. She was quite attractive, he was pleased to note. Soft brown hair and bigger brown eyes, with charming dimples as she smiled, wrestling the Frisbee from the dog. He could see the same eyes and dimples on what he figured was the owned of the Jetta, a lovely and vivacious woman in her forties dressed perhaps a little too chic for a backyard barbeque. She had a sultry grace to her movements as she set a picnic table with drinks and silverware, that had not been stolen by motherhood. But she was blonde. Her daughter's dark hair must have come from Daddy.
And that is what she called out when she saw me. I turned my head to intercept the object of her attention. Tending a rather elaborate grilling apparatus was a tall figure of about fifty. A strong and vital man that had not taken on any of the customary paunch that typically accompanied his age. He had broad shoulders and a square jaw. His eyes sort of squinted in concentration. He reminded Greye of his military instructors. This likeness was further supported by the neatly groomed, mostly gray haircut and the jacket he wore. It was a commercial leather jacket but it bore the subtle, subdued rank of Sergeant Major on the collar and the sleeves carried the unit patches of the 82nd airborne, 10th mountain Division, the 101st airborne, and the 3rd Ranger Battalion.
Yes this man had been around the world, and mostly likely to hell and back. His teachers had taught him to recognize these things. And he could also guess from the presence of a well-trimmed beard that this man must retired.
They looked at him expectantly. He slid his way though the gate. He knew they must be confused at his presence. And his youth would not incline them to consider him a potential buyer for the trailer. They looked at him expectantly and just as the father looked as if he was about to ask, Greye decided to speak.
“Uh Hi! Sorry to interrupt but I saw your for sale sign out front and.....”
“Oh, you interested in the trailer?” the man asked.
“Yeah, I was just riding by and I saw it so I thought I would stop and see what you wanted for it.”
The man looked at him with an intuitive but quizzical gaze that Greye felt revealed more than he cared to show. He felt as though this man could read his very thoughts. It seemed he knew everything there was to know about him even though they hadn’t yet been introduced.
“Well, that depends,” he said.
“On whether I like you.” He smiled with a devilish grin that was both endearing and worrisome. He sort of cocked his head, squinted his eyes and seemed to be summing up just what sort of man Greye was.
“That ride of yours sounds tired. And I am guessing you are, too. Why don’t you join us for dinner and give that hog some time to cool off.”
“Oh, I couldn’t sir. I just...”
“Horse shit! If there is one thing I could never stand is people turning down good hospitality cuz they think it is polite. Now stop hovering at my gate, get in here and grab us a beer.” He pointed at a cooler with his spatula and then beckoned him in. “That is unless you got something better to do?” He looked expectantly at Greye.
Naturally, Greye had nothing better to do.
“Well, sir, if you insist,” he said, as he pulled off his gloves and opened the cooler.
“Son, there are two things in this life that I just can’t abide. #1 is people calling me sir when I am not at a restaurant. I was a Sergeant Major in the US Army with 500 young men tougher than you under my command and they didn’t call me sir, so I damn sure ain’t gonna let you. #2 is a Corona without lime, so make sure you get me two.”
“All right ‘Sergeant Major,’ what would you like me to call you?”
He wiped his hand on his apron and extended it.
“Sergeant Major William Thomas Sinclair, retired. But you can call me Bill.”
He shook Greye’s hand with a firm but friendly grip of his right and took his beer with his left.
“That a fact?”
“Sure Is. And this is my wife Stephanie, and my daughter Daphne.”
“Greye. Greye Sinclair!”
“You heard me.”
“No shit. Well don’t be putting the moves on my daughter just yet. I know she is cute but you might be our cousin for all we know.”
“Hey, wait a minute.” He leaned in close to Greye. “You ain’t the son of some long lost broken heart whose momma told you I was yer daddy are you?” He winked.
“Uh, no, not that I know of.”
“Thank god. Thought I was in trouble there for a minute. Well have a seat, Greye, and let us show you that Southern hospitality is not a dead practice. Steph, fix our guest a plate."
Greye spent the evening with them, listening to Bill’s colorful war stories and embarrassing anecdotes gleefully aired by his wife. They talked about Daphne’s first semester at college and her dad teased her about all the boys she must be fighting off.
Greye allowed himself to almost believe he belonged there. Here in this seemingly perfect family. It felt almost like they were welcoming him in a bit too much. Almost unnatural. But then it came out just, and he understood it even if it didn’t make him any more comfortable.
“You know, Greye, you must be about my son's age. I bet you two would have gotten along like two bandito’s at a Mexican whorehouse.”
“Bill, don’t be crude,” Stephanie said.
“I suppose you're right, Honey. I shouldn’t torture myself, or the two of you, but I couldn’t help but think it was almost like he was here.”
“I am sorry. Where is your son?” Greye was almost afraid of the answer.
“Oh, he was a good boy, Greye. Followed in his Pappy’s footsteps joined the army. Went special forces and got himself KIA somewhere in Afghanistan.”
“I am sorry to hear that.”
“Well, shit happens I guess.”
Greye almost thought he saw a tear in the man's eye.
“Don’t help to think about it, I suppose. How about dessert? Steph,you got something sweet in there that can choke back these rising emotions that are bound to undermine my supreme facade of ultimate manliness?”
“Well, how does a raspberry white chocolate cheesecake sound?”
“My god, woman, I knew there was a reason I married you. Greye you got to try this. The only thing better in this world is...” he glanced at his wife, “Well, something I shouldn’t mention at the table.”