“Hey, David. Daniel here. How’s everything going?”
“Glad to hear your voice. It’s been good; busy, but good.”
“Any fires that I have to put out?” Daniel knew that there was an ocean of things that could go wrong on any given day. He had been gone for almost a week, and he wanted to keep up with everything as best that he could from afar.
“No. Nothing to speak of. We had some cattle that went missing on Monday. That was fun. I spent a good portion of the day out in the back forty with Mario.”
“Oh?” Daniel was concerned. Missing cattle was not a good thing. “Someone should have called me.”
“I would have, but we were able to locate them. Jacob’s got the fence mended too, so it can’t happen again.” David quickly assured.
“I see. What had happened to the fence? It sounds like it had to be pretty bad for the cattle to get out like that. How many had run off?”
“We rounded up twenty-two strays, sir. All of the livestock is now present and accounted for.”
“That’s good to know.” Daniel was relieved.
“Yeah. I was grateful. I guess someone must have gone through the fence with a tractor or a combine is the best that we can figure. At first we had thought that it might be poachers, but the fence wasn’t actually cut, but knocked down pretty good.”
“Or pretty bad, I’d say.” Daniel said.
“Yeah, pretty bad. I was just glad it wasn’t worse.”
“Sounds like you did good getting it back in order. I appreciate it. How have the boys been? They been listening to you? They aren’t giving you any trouble are they?”
David paused a second and then answered, “Well, I wish that I could give you a good report on all of them, but I’m afraid that I just can’t. Mostly things are running smoothly, but no thanks to Butch or Clemens. Those two don’t seem to want a job very bad.”
“You don’t say. What’s up with them?” Daniel waited patiently for David’s report. He suspected what it would be, as he knew his workers pretty good.
“Well, both Butch and Riley were late on Monday. I got on them a bit, and Riley seemed to get it. But Butch, well, he was late Monday, Tuesday and today. With tomorrow being Friday he’s not got a good record going on.”
“He has tested me in that area. He’s a good worker though. I’ll certainly be having a ‘Come to Jesus’ talk with him. He’ll either take his job seriously, or I’ll have to take mine serious. I can’t have him disrespecting his position like that. It’s not good for business any way you slice it. What about Clemens?”
“Clemens didn’t show up at all on Monday. He hadn’t called either. When I got on him about it on Tuesday he had a pretty poor attitude. Said something about it not being any of my business. I told him that he was mistaken, but he pretty much stormed off. He’s been on site the rest of the week, but his attitude towards me is really destructive for his productivity. He not only walks around like he’s angry all the time, but he also makes himself pretty scarce. I don’t know what he’s got going on, but it’s certainly interfering with his job performance.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. He’s a good kid. He’s got a lot going on in his life right now; most of which he’s just not able to do anything about. His mom is dying and his dad’s an alcoholic. He carries a lot more weight than a kid should have to. I don’t like him disrespecting you though. I’ll give him a call and let him know that it doesn’t matter what he’s going through, that he has to be professional when it comes to his work environment, or he won’t have a job.”
“All in all, it sounds like you’re taking care of business, my friend.” Daniel stated with a strong sense of confidence and pride.
“I’m doing my best, sir. You should have seen me on Monday night; after being out on the range on that horse for so long. I could hardly walk. I didn’t realize that I’m such a green-horn.”
“That’s pretty amusing. I’ll have to see about changing things up for you once I return. Don’t want you going soft on me.”
“No worries about that. I like my job. Don’t think that hefting all of those bushels of apples and all of the other produce is all that light! Anyway, I’m good at what I do, and you know it. What would you do if it was only Gladys running that produce stand?”
“Lord, help us. She’d be chasing off all of our clients! She’s good at what she does, and she certainly knows her horticulture; but that woman can be a bit firm! I need to have your smiling face reassuring our customers that we love them! I do appreciate you David, and all of your hard work.”
“I know you do. And it’s my pleasure to do it. You have any other questions or concerns?” David asked.
“No. Just finish up the week and then run a skeleton crew for the weekend, like we discussed. Just you, Mario and Gladys should be fine.”
“Sounds good. Man. I didn’t realize that you have to work seven days a week. Don’t you ever get like tired?” David couldn’t believe how much work running that farm entailed; that is until he was left to do it.
“Tired? Yeah. I get tired. I could never give it up though; although to be honest, I haven’t really missed it – not like I had thought that I would.”
“I know what you’re saying. There’s a whole lot not to miss.” David laughed.
“You complaining?” Daniel wouldn’t have blamed him if he was.
“No. No complaints here. I’m just glad that you’re going to pay me good for my time.”
“That I am, David. That I am. Well, I’m out of here. Have to get busy planning to go out and about, and we’re going to a bar-b-q with my friend, Jessica tomorrow. Sounds like it might be interesting. First though, I’m looking forward to seeing more of the City. This place is massive.”
“Better you than me. That place looks like a madhouse to me. Does it really have all of those cars bumper to bumper and honking? Is it really as bad as it looks?”
“Worse. You should see it. It’s obnoxiously loud, but exciting. And never mind about common courtesy when it comes to people in the streets! Those cars demand the right of way! If someone is in the intersection and the light changes then they better be hot-stepping it to the other side! Horns are blaring and people are screaming at the folks to get out of the way! It’s all a whirlwind of busy!”
“Don’t sign me up for all of that.” David stated seriously. “I would not be having a good time.”
“Who’s to say? I didn’t think that I would like it either, but I actually find it kind of fun.”
“Like I said. Better you than me. Call me if you need anything. I’ll call if I have any problems too. So don’t worry, and just have a good time.”
Daniel knew that what David was saying was true. He could count on him. “I sure appreciate –”
“I know you do. You’re welcome. Now go. Have fun.”
“Thanks, David. I’ll call you mid-week.”
“Sounds good. And Daniel,” David said, “Thank you.”
Daniel gently set the phone down on the cradle. He was glad to know that everything at home was running pretty smoothly. He was also grateful that David was doing such a fine job. Once he got home he was going to give David the official position of Foreman, and he was also going to give the man a raise. He couldn’t begin to express how good it felt to know that someone as responsible and able-bodied as David was handling his business so well.
He left his work concerns behind as he exited the parlor and his business call and joined the two young women and Brittany in the living room. He couldn’t believe what a strong sense of ‘being home’ he had in the company of Penelopy, and yes, even little Suzie.
Jessica was racking her brain; trying to figure out what women to invite to her bar-b-q. She knew that she had to invite at least a couple, but who? She knew that she didn’t really want to invite any of the other models that she had been working with. They were way too snooty to be interested in a quaint little bar-b-q, she was certain. Then she thought about some of the girls that she had met through Penelopy; other Debutantes. The thought of the high society girls enjoying a friendly game of pool was not a reality.
So, what was her options? Why had she even thought that she’d have some kind of a get together in the first place? It was all starting to sound and feel way too hooky to her. She didn’t want to seem like the backwards farm girl that she had once been.
“Penelopy, I’m in trouble here.” Jessica said forlornly into the phone.
Penelopy listened patiently. She had had to leave Daniel and the baby and Suzie in the living room so that she could take the call, but she didn’t mind. Jessica was her best friend and she was never too busy for her. Jessica hadn’t continued talking and so Penelopy asked her, “Why? What’s wrong?”
“It’s the party. I don’t know what I was thinking. You should have seen Ernie’s place. It was a mansion.” Jessica’s insecurities were surfaced in the tone of her voice, and in her words.
“Who cares? Does he live in the heart of Manhattan?” Penelopy challenged.
“Well, no. But neither do I.” Jessica didn’t get the connection.
“No, you don’t. But I do. And who loves you girl?” Penelopy’s voice was reassuring.
“You do, but –”
“No, buts about it. I’m coming to your party, and I’m not too good to. You need to just relax, and make it fun.” Penelopy tried to sound as comforting as she felt.
“But I need to invite a couple of women, and I just don’t know who to invite.”
“A couple of women? Why?” Penelopy was fairly confused.
“Well, I don’t want to have the attention of three men at the same time again. That was beyond awkward.”
“Look, it’s going to be somewhat of a business get together. You need all three of those men to be there so that they can have the ice broken and so that they’ll all know that they can still work together. You drinking the other night made your working relations strained, at best. I don’t see that adding women to the mix is going to do anything except for cost you more money.”
“I see what you’re saying, but it all feels so awkward. I’m lost over here.” Jessica felt hopeless and confused.
“Look, you’re making far too big a deal out of this. You’re just having some good food and a chance for the guys to re-acclimate with each other; that’s all. No big deal. I think you’re thinking of it more as a social event, instead of something to do to just have fun.”
“I don’t know what to do to fix it.” Jessica was obviously open for suggestions.
“How about your guest list. What’s it look like so far?” Penelopy asked.
“Well, I have Brad and Ernie; and Pete; and you and Daniel, so far.” Jessica offered.
“Sounds a bit heavy in the testosterone. But that’s okay. You wanted it to be a bit of a get together and shooting billiards?” Penelopy said.
“Yeah.” Jessica responded.
“Well, sounds like just a little more testosterone and you’ll be fine.” Penelopy had an idea.
“How’s that?” Jessica was curious what Penelopy had in mind.
“We’ll have my Uncle Ray come; and we’ll have Suzie and Brittany along also.”
“How will that work?” Jessica didn’t quite get the plan.
“Well, the men can shoot billiards, and the women can do what women do: We’ll cook the food and watch the kids. That way the men can just be men. And I think we could even let them have a couple of beers, you know, with their food. It’ll lighten the atmosphere and keep everything light. All you really want to do is to get the men all in the same place at the same time, right?”
“You’re brilliant. Thank you, Penny. I really think it’ll work.” Jessica was relieved and grateful.
“I’m certain it’ll work. And you know what?” Penelopy asked.
“We’re all going to have a great time. I’ll sweet talk Uncle Ray into coming. I don’t think that he’ll mind. I’m certain of it. Like I said, we’ll have a great time.” Penelopy had solved Jessica’s dilemma.
“We will. Thanks again. See you tomorrow.” Jessica hung up the phone and sat down at her small desk. She needed to get her grocery list ready so that she could go to the store.
Penelopy sat the phone down and considered her friend, Jessica. That girl sure did know how to get herself into the thick of things! At least it looked like everything was going to work out with the whole mess. Penelopy was grateful. Even though she was a bit of a rogue at times, still Penelopy was happy to have Jessica in her life.
“Everything okay?” Daniel asked, as he came up behind Penelopy.
Penelopy was surprised, and pleased.
She turned to him and smiled. “Just fine. I was just talking to Jessica. Got to love that girl.”
“Tell me about it. What’d she do this time?”
“Oh, did she get in mischief back home too?” Penelopy asked.
Daniel smiled broadly. “You’re kidding, right?”
“I guess that’s a ‘yes’”, Penelopy was amused. It was silly of her to even ask such a question. Knowing Jessica, of course she got into more than her share of trouble no matter where she went.
“She’s just Jessica. Got to love her.” Daniel meant it. Jessica didn’t mean to cause trouble; she just didn’t always make the very best choices. That’s what everyone liked so much about her though; she was lively and fun and spontaneous. “Did you two sort out her bar-b-q situation?”
“Yeah, we kind of changed gears though.” Penelopy said.
“Oh, how’s that?”
“We thought that it would be best if we all went; you know; even Uncle Ray and the girls.”
“That’s a bit unusual. How’d you guys come to that conclusion?” Daniel was genuinely perplexed.
“Well, it was my idea actually. Jessica was trying to think up what other women to invite, and well, it just got messy from there. It started to feel way too complicated. I told her that we could just have like a small and personal family get together.”
“Are you sure that’s going to work? Are you forgetting who you’ve invited? Those men are all professionals. What will they think?” Daniel was not convinced in Penelopy’s plan, at all.
“They’ll think food and fun. It’ll be fine. They don’t care if we impress them. I know Brad, and he’s a down to earth kind of guy. He’s only in it for a good time. And from what Jessica tells me about the other two, well, they’ll be okay too. They have to work together and I’m certain that they’ll appreciate the chance to mend the rift that Jessica inadvertently put between them.”
“If you say so,” Daniel put his hand gently on Penelopy’s shoulder as he faced her and looked into her eyes. It was their first ‘touch’ besides for a few hugs here and there. But this time was different. This time his hand lingered there, for a few moments longer than may have been just casual. Penelopy didn’t pull away.
Daniel removed his hand and stepped back away from her; before he followed his natural instinct to lean in and actually kiss her. It wasn’t time; not yet. He didn’t want to scare her off. He didn’t want to rush things.
Penelopy looked at him a bit quizzically, but she was not offended. She had been pulled into his magnetism, and was almost expecting the natural flow of things to result in a kiss. She didn’t say anything. She was neither put off, nor disappointed. She had felt the draw; the desire; just as strongly as she could sense that Daniel did, and for the moment, that was more than enough.
“So, what’s next?” Daniel asked; knowing what was next in their not so far-away future.
Penelopy recomposed herself rather quickly and stated with just a hint more of joy in her voice. “Next we get everyone around. It’s time that we explored the City. You game?”
“I’m at your every beck and call.” Daniel assured, with a smile.
“Let’s round everyone up. The day’s going to pass us by if we don’t do something about it.” Penelopy was ready to begin sharing her world with Daniel.
“We’ll stay pretty close to home today. Maybe on Sunday we can go on upstate. It’s gorgeous in that part of the country. It’ll take us a full day for that one, but it’s worth it.”
“Whatever you say. I’ll get Brittany ready. You tend to Suzie. Deal?”
“Deal.” Penelopy smiled, with a twinkle in her eyes