Joe was sitting at his kitchen table when the first rays of sun lit up the street outside his apartment. It wasn’t that he’d gotten up early that brought him to the kitchen at dawn, but that he’d not gone to sleep at all the night before. He could easily blame the thunder for his sleepless night, but that wouldn’t be fair. The storm had passed off to sea by two o’clock and left only a constant, gentle rain behind it. The rain should have acted like a lullaby, gently tapping against the window as it did, but it only served to amplify the thoughts that kept him awake. Each time he closed his eyes, the word of the letters floated before him.
Three separate letters, each received on the same day, each delivering a different life-altering message; a holy trinity of change.
He spread the three on the table in front of him. The first: the letter from Auburn for Jimmy with an offer of a free ride through college. Next to that one, the crumpled letter Lindy had gotten, denying her request for a scholarship. The third, he had not mentioned to the kids. In fact he hadn’t even looked at it until they’d both gone to bed–the letter that was in the fat envelope Tony had given him with his pay check.
He picked it up and began to read it again, hoping to find a different interpretation this time, than he had the previous fifty times he’d read it.
“In light of the current economic conditions, it has become necessary for UpTown Taxi to reduce our current fleet. . .” He set the letter down and rested his head on the palm of his hand. The paycheck had included a severance settlement of six weeks pay. “Not even long enough to take me through Christmas. Cheap bastards,” he grumbled, flipping the letter face down on the table.
He lit the stove and put the kettle on. It was about the time he would be getting out of bed on any normal day, so he didn’t worry about waking the kids. They had to get up for school anyway. He flipped on the radio on the kitchen shelf, and tuned to WBZ to catch the scores and traffic report. “Keep it normal. Keep it calm. Things will work out.”
The station crackled into life. “It’s six fifteen . . . and the Sox lost another one . . .”
“Bone heads.” Jimmy yawned as he shuffled into the kitchen. “The curse reversed! It’s baaack.”
Joe chuckled. “Yea, well. That’s our Red Sox. Always ready to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Toast?”
“Sure,” Jimmy replied sinking down onto one of the chairs. “Some storm last night.”
“I wonder if they’ll cancel school.”
“Why would they cancel?” Joe asked, placing a plate with toast down for his son. “It’s just rain, not snow.”
“Yeah, but the lights went out for a while. My clock is flashing midnight. How long were they out?”
Joe glanced at the clock on the oven, and noticed for the first time that it was also blinking twelve o’clock. The electric clock on the wall had hands, the only one in the apartment. It read six o’clock, straight up. “Well that one is fifteen minutes slow, so I’d say fifteen minutes.”
“Just long enough to kill my alarm. I’m glad I heard you or I’d have over slept.” Jimmy nodded toward Lindy’s bedroom door. “For once I’m up before Lindy.” He grinned. “Hot shower here I come!”
“Eat your toast.”
Jimmy picked up the toast and stuffed his mouth as he headed toward the bathroom. Joe’s termination letter floated to the floor. He scooped it up quickly and tucked it into the pocket of his robe. He wasn’t ready to tell the kids this bit of news. He’d wait until they came home. No sense ruining their day at the very beginning. Lindy was upset enough already without adding this to it.
He pulled the white business card from his pocket, and placed it on the table. For the first time he noticed it was not exactly paper, but something a little thicker, and not completely white but more of what Sandra would have called ‘ecru’. “Linen? Wow, they must pay the professors pretty good on that island.”
“What island?” Lindy asked with a yawn as she came into the kitchen.
Joe looked up and smiled, offering a cheek for his morning greeting. “Hey kiddo, did you sleep ok?”
She shrugged, reaching for bowl from the cupboard. “I guess.” She plopped down in the chair across from Joe and poured her cereal and milk into the bowl. “So what island?”
“Oh, Gibbons.” He pushed the card across the table. “Remember? I showed you this.”
She nodded, glancing at the card. “Yeah, it’s a pretty pricy school. I’m sure the profs are all rich and snooty.”
“This fellow didn’t seem snooty.” He took the card and read it again. “Logan . . huh, I wonder if that’s his first or last name.”
“It’s where he keeps his private plane parked,” she offered, a ghost of a grin on her face.
Joe was encouraged. “You think he’s got a plane?”
“And a yacht. Big enough to land his plane on.” She laughed, and Joe joined her. It felt good and normal. He wanted normal.
After a moment, she asked, looking up from her bowl, “So, do you think he’s the real deal?”
Joe considered for a moment, recalling the man’s demeanor. “I do. I don’t know why, but somehow, I really do. It’s that lining, you know?”
“The silver one. You know, when everything starts falling apart. . . ”
“Daddy, I over reacted.”
She smiled and sat back. “I am really sorry I turned into wonder bitch yesterday. I really lost it, and I shouldn’t have gone off on you and Jimmy.”
“Hey, kiddo, I can’t blame you—”
“There are plenty of other schools that do look at transcripts before biceps and I have plenty of time to apply.”
Joe reached across the table and grabbed her hand. “That’s the spirit. And you’ll have them lining up to get you in — Doctor Kelly.”
She blushed, but smiled. “Well that’s a few years down the road.” She picked up the card and turned it over. “What’s this symbol?”
“I don’t see anything.”
She angled the card, looking at it from the edge. “Look this way, you can see a watermark or something. See? It’s got a symbol. . . Oh, it’s infinity. See? The sideways eight.”
Joe adjusted his reading glasses and looked closely as Lindy had done. Sure enough there was a symbol on the back of the card, only slightly visible when the light hit it just right. “Yeah, there it is. Huh, what’s the sense of putting something on a business card when you can’t see it?”
“That’s what fancy rich people do. It’s a watermark. They do it on stationary and official documents and stuff, to prove it’s real.” She raised her brow. “Proof. He’s loaded. TWO yachts.”
Joe laughed out loud. “So you want me to call him? See if he’s got room on his island for a brilliant future rocket surgeon brain scientist?”
“Daaad. It’s brain surgeon, rocket scientist.” She rolled her eyes and laughed again.
“Right. I forgot. So you want I should call him? You even interested in Standish?”
She stood, picking up her empty bowl. “Sure, why not? Hey Jimmy.”
“Hey,” Jim replied, coming through the kitchen. “Shower’s all yours. I left you a half bucket of hot.”
“Gee, thanks, bro.” She started to leave, then turned at the door. “Hey Jim. . .sorry I went crazy-ninja-bitch on you.”
Jim smiled. “No prob, sis. I’m really sorry about your scholarship.”
“There are others.” She smiled. “I really am proud of you, little brother. Give em’ hell in Auburn.”
He grinned. “Thanks. I will. And I want you to know, that I’m not gonna blow of the education part of the deal.”
“Good.” She disappeared through the kitchen door.
Joe watched the conversation quietly. They’re good kids. We did good, Sandra. . .