Angela stared out the windshield at the pouring rain. After the parching hot summer the rain should have been welcome, but this muck... She was glad she wasn't out in it. She shivered. The tall forest trees and the relentless rain made the road dark. The twisting road made her cautious. She was just saying for the fourth time "I am glad I am not out in that!" when she saw someone who was out in this muck.
He was a wearing a suit, which was incongruous. Nobody in this neighborhood wore a suit. And he was stomping furiously as if he were mad at the whole world. She was curious, and one shouldn't be out in this weather in that pathetic clothing. She slowed down. Picking up strangers on the side of the road was stupid. Allowing a person to drown in this storm was cruelty. She passed the man slowly and stopped on the side of the road. The man passed her truck still stomping as if his mad was getting worse than better."Hey " She yelled. "get in"
He stared at her and then kept on going. She drove the truck another 20' and stopped again. "I can't let a man catch his death. Get in here. What is your problem anyway?"
"I just have been let let out prison. Leave me be."
She stared at him "You are telling me you have walked 80 miles in this muck? I don't believe it."
"80 miles?" He looked confused.
"Stoney Mountain is that way. I have just come from there. That doesn't look like the clothing they give to released convicts either."
He looked at her. "You have come from Stoney Mountain?"
"Yeah. I was visiting my dad. Now will you get in the truck?"
He calmed down and got in the truck. He sat far away from her. He looked at her quizzically. "Picking up prisoners is a dangerous thing to do."
She shrugged." You are ten miles from the nearest town. I can't let the worst person remain in that rain. Besides, I can take care of myself. "
"You can take care of yourself. How marvelous."
"You make it sounds like a woman who can do that is weird. It isn't buster. " She thought to herself "I picked up a neanderthal."
"Sorry, I was thinking of something else. How much further?"
"I have to drive slower than the limit because the rain is making the road dangerous. We have lots of dips and curves on this mountain road. Just how did you get out here? There isn't a bus stop or anything up here."
He didn't answer. He just stared out the window.
She was quiet for a while her curiosity got the better of her. She Asked "Why were you at Stoney Mountain? It wasn't anything sexual, was it?"
He stared at her. "Excuse me?"
"Stoney Mountain is the only prison in this state, so I am wondering what you were doing there. It wasn't bank robbery. You are too young to be released for that. Or Murder. Was it some sort of burglary?"
He gave a sardonic smile "I cashed some checks I shouldn't have. Quite a few of them."
She shook her head. "They gave you a small sentence for cashing some big checks didn't they?"
He nodded. "The checks were very substantial. I have to pay them back somehow. I don' know I am going to do it. I can't do what I had been doing. And the sums are so huge."
"What does your probation officer say?"
"Come now, when you are out on parole you have a probation officer."
"I served the whole sentence."
"What! No time off for good behavior!"
"No good behavior. I was a very naughty boy."
She looked at him. He seemed calmer now. He looked ahead. "There is a motel up ahead. Let me off there." She nodded and drove up to the Cozy Rest. He got out of the truck. "Thank you very much for your kindness. I appreciate it, and I will never be able to repay you."
"Take care" she said. Then she drove off, leaving him standing there in the neon light......................................
The next morning she went to the Cozy Rest for breakfast. She had tossed and turned all night wondering about him. She saw him resting there over a cup of coffee. She sat down and asked "Did you sleep ok?"
"Better than I have in years. But I am in a conundrum. How do I get to Sharps City? I asked about bus service and the woman at the counter just laughed."
"If tou can walk 80 miles from Stony Mountain, walking 30 miles to Watsonville should be easy. And from there, there are five busses a day."
"30 miles to Watsonville. Oh boy." He stared into his coffee cup.
"What are you going to do for work? You have to have a job within 45 days of release."
He looked at her. "Why do you know so much about the conditions of release and the prison."
She shrugged. " My old man bounced from jail to prison quite a lot. He is serving a five year sentence, which means he will be out in 1 1/2 on this one, but he has time to serve on parole violations first. I have seen him more through wire than not. Mom called him misunderstood. I call him a pest."
"Your mom called him?..."
"You caught that. She died three weeks ago. I was just up at the prison to tell him that, and to tell him goodbye."
"I see. "
"But jobs for you. How are planning to swing that? You said you couldn't do what you were doing. You get busted for cashing checks? You had a job as a bookkeeper or something?"
He contemplated her, then said very quietly "My job title was Controller. It was very responsible."
"You can't do that any more, can you?"
"No." He shook his head. "I can't do that again. No."
"You know what a green chain is? I office manager for a lumber yard. My husband died in Afghanistan. I am desperate for workers. I pay $15.65 an hour. I have a bunk house which is cozier than the Cozy Rest. What do you say?"
"I don't have a clue as to what a green chain is."
She leaned back. "This is such a small town. The boys go into the army the day high school ends. I need another worker."
"As you know I need a job. You haven't described the green chain yet."
"You would be working the bottom. The guy at the top takes boards and cuts them to length and you would be stacking the boards at the bottom. And sorting them. The boards usually are 1x6, 1x8, 2x6 and so on. They run from 10' to 15'. It is a job. You strike me as someone who has a lot of stick to it. You walked 80 miles. You can work a green chain"
He looked at her, trying to see if she was was trying one on, but she looked as she believed him walking 80 miles. He ran marathons twice a year, but an 80 mile walk...
"Oh Damn it to hell, the assholes are coming through. " She looked furious. "The speed limit is 25, but the town can't hire a cop, so the cruise as fast as they can. Damn. We are the first strait bit of road and they gun it up to 70."
"Who are they?"
"We don't know their name. They own a big corporation, and a small 'charity' owns some property 14 miles up the road. They come up here two or three times a month. Bastards. The school bus has to drive kids across the highway. Bastards. I would so much like to get one of them down here and make them work. I would like to be Simione Legree toward them."
"So.... I would probably get fired my first day, and I don't have any work clothes, but it looks as if would have to put in the effort."
"We can get you some used clothes. And you can start at 10:30. I have an order I have to get out by tomorrow no later than 11:00. I am desperate. Come on. Lets get you comfortable in the bunkhouse and into some overalls. "
"First things first. Let's go to the office and get the I9 stuff out of the way. "
"I9? What do you mean by that?"
"Immigration form. All the paperwork when you hire someone."
"Oh no. I tossed my wallet with the stuff they gave me" He looked contrite. "I am sure my attorney can get that stuff for you. He is a good guy. He has got me off of worse fixes."
She looked sour. "You are going to have to talk to him first. Lets go."
An hour later he is dyeing from exhaustion. He had pressed 100lbs for 50 reps every day. But this was like pressing different reps, all of them more than 100, and he was going to have to do this for four more hours. It doesn't help that she is at the top of the chain, directing the pulling of the planks effortlessly, or that he is the slow poke of the three men at the sort line at the bottom. Behind him are four carts that they are sorting the planks into. The big man, Fred, puts his planks into two carts. Ned has a cart with 15' or longer planks, and his are the short planks. They keep up a conversation with her as Tom and her pull the planks out of the store and puts them against the saw. She looks at the clock and yells "Lunch!" He is so grateful
He flopped at the bottom. How could he keep up with them for four more hours. He looked askance at Fred and Ned who were walking outdoors with cigarets dangling on their lips. How did they do it!
She tapped him on the shoulder."You can't be in here without me being here. Smoke 'em outside if you got 'em. Otherwise, go to the lunchroom. " She pointed at the small room near the doors.
He staggered to the lunchroom and sat down. She followed him and opened the refrigerator. She said "What do you want. You can have two. We have egg salad, ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, beef and cheese...."
"Two egg salad."
She made a face and tossed two egg salads two him, while she grabbed two ham and cheese for herself. "We got orange juice, cranberry juice, water and whole milk. You can have two."
"An orage juice and a cranberry juice"
She grabbed them ahd took out two milks for herself. Then she Sat down at the table. "We got about 60% done this morning. That is very good! I thought for sure you would conk out on us. Fred and I will get the boards banded and ready for shipment this afternoon. Ned can drive it to the customer and have it there by their quitting time at 6:30. I am so glad you were able to help us."