Chapter 16: Tipping Point
He longed for her contact, as her taillights grew smaller still. Repeating to himself, that could have gone better. Unlucky at love, unlucky at... crap just unlucky.
Walking towards the entrance, he found the door to Eddington’s open. Speculating aloud, “This place is unreal, there must be no crime to leave everything open like this,” recognizing, he felt better than the morning before, when he stumbled into the building.
“What you plannin on stealin?” Grace like a ninja was standing just inside the door. Watching the whole scene, holding a sizeable bowl and an oversized wooden spoon to match.
Jumping back two steps, “Jesus Christ woman, do you ever sleep? You scared the shite out of me.”
“I plan on sleeping when I die. What is your excuse? You are up as many hours as I am,” she kept stirring the batter as she spoke.
Trevor did not remember when he enjoyed a full night’s sleep, he shrugged, “It’s complicated.”
“With you everything is complicated. Life is simple: you born, you live, you die, simple. No reason to make it more complicated than that.”
“How can you say that? There has to be more to life than that,” Trevor pleaded.
Handing the bowl to Trevor, “Hold this,” she wiped the battered spoon on her apron partially cleaning it. The spoon in her firm grip she smacked Trevor on the top of the head.
“Hey what the hell?” feeling his head, he found batter mixed with his hair. “Why did you do that?”
“Because you needed it, you keep moping around here I will give you another. If I was ten years younger, I would put you over my knee and give you a good one,” shaking the spoon as she lectured him.
“You could’ve just told me,” pulling batter out of his hair.
“Bring that bowl I need to wash my spoon, you got hair on it,” she started heading inside, expecting Trevor to follow her, and he did.
Inside the back area, she went to the kitchen. Throwing the now hairy spoon into the sink, “Give me that,” taking the bowl of batter from Trevor and sitting it on the counter.
Picking up an even larger spoon, “Now you follow me,” she grabbed a key hanging on a hook and started out the way they came.
Still rubbing and wiping his head, he followed her, trying to speak in her adopted accent, “You takin me to the woodshed to tan my hide?” his accent was horrid.
“Would probably do you a lot of good,” she turned and looked him over, “No, you might like it.”
She led him up the stairs to the second floor, the guest rooms. At the end of the hall, they faced a locked door.
“This is the door you decide to keep locked?” curious now Trevor followed her waiting for the unexpected.
“A few years ago, some fool tried to jump off the roof to kill himself. Ended up breaking both legs. He tried to sue me. I can’t handle those headaches, I keep the roof locked now,” she walked up the seldom used, claustrophobic stairwell.
“Funny thing is, if he wanted to die so badly I could take him out into the desert... And taken care of him,” stopping on the stairs, she gave Trevor a cold stare and did the universal spoon across the neck motion. “Real painless like.”
Trevor had no idea if she was joking. He was sure there was more to Grace than met the eye. This town was a real bag of mixed nuts.
“Come look at this,” she held the door at the top of the stairs open for him. They stepped out into the fresh air of the flat-roofed building.
Gazing at the early morning sky, “The stars are lovely.”
She smacked him again with the clean spoon, this time on the back.
“Hey, stop that,” was Trevor’s reaction.
“Why you always thinking of what is out there?” pointing to the sky. “I didn’t bring you up here to gaze at stars,” she started to push, guide him to the edge of the building.
“The Milky Way is incredible here. So, bright,” he held his hands up when she threatened him with the spoon again.
“Okay, Okay. What did you want to show me?”
“This,” with her spoon, she motioned out over the knee wall at the side of the roof.
“What? I don’t see anything, Junior’s?” she hit him with the spoon again.
“Hey! If you don’t stop that, I am going to take it away from you.” He howled.
Giving Trevor the mom-look, “That would be the last stupid thing you ever did.”
Surrendering, “I want to learn what you are trying to teach me but I don’t understand.”
“Do you always, only think of yourself? There are two thousand people calling this place their home. They all have one thing in common.”
“They hate living in cities?” that got him threatened with the spoon again.
“They are all dying. The second they came out into the world they started dying. We all did, from the most influential to the most humble. We all dying. That is life.”
“What is it all about, what happens after?” he pleaded.
She continued, “No one knows. That is the fun of it. The idea is to not worry so much about what comes next but to concentrate on living what life you got. You get a reset, great. If you go to somewhere else, great. If there is nothing, you’d better do everything you want this one chance you got.”
“What has this to do with the two thousand people living here?” still, not getting it.
Mumbling something in Mandarin, then slipping back into her Texan accent, “You are just stuck on stupid, aren’t you boy?”
Her spoon as a pointer, she motioned out over the edge again, “The people here have nothing compared to the stuff you got. They are taking the cards dealt them and they are living. Not whining about how bad it is.”
“They should be, why accept your fate in life? Why not try to understand? To make your life better?”
“AY DIOS MIO,” slipping into Spanish now, English and Chinese just couldn’t express her frustration.
“The bad is what makes us enjoy the good. If you are so worried about how bad things are for you, how can you ever accept when something good comes along. You keep worrying about everything you don’t have, you will die old and alone. Start appreciating the good in your life.”
“You know that makes no sense,” Trevor, like a blue tick hound on a scent, just couldn’t let go.
Grace tried one last thing, “You know the only difference between enjoying life and hating life?”
Trevor shook his head.
“Your decision on how to take it. Your thoughts are the only thing that is yours alone. You must decide, you goin to chase life or chase death,” she started to head towards the stairs. “I have pancakes to make. You want some?”
“In a moment. I want to enjoy the view for a bit; I will lock the door on my way down.”
“You must promise not to jump. Not high enough, you want to die, I’ll take care of you. I know a place,” he still wasn’t sure if she was kidding.
Stopping at the door, “Think on this. Change is an act of violence,” with the last words of wisdom, she disappeared down the stairs.
Trevor sat on the roof for some time, trying to absorb what Grace was selling him. Could happiness be as simple as a change of reference? If contentment was so easy why did he meet so many miserable people? Perhaps unhappy people hung out together like a herd or they wore their misery like a badge of honor. He knew more than a few people that would complain to anyone they met. Miserable bastards found a twisted pleasure in explaining to each and every person they found willing to listen to them how badly their life sucked.
Deliberating for some time, he came to the conclusion he had no friends, his lifestyle over the past decades did not lend itself to keeping friends. Those he did meet did not want to hear his angst about the lack of meaning in his life. Maybe Grace’s tough love had shown him something. No one gave him the honest truth about anything. His people worked for him, or more accurately his brother, but after his mother died, he shut everyone out. Including his brother. He’d simply been going through life with an anchor around his neck, holding him in the past.
That is how the decision was made. On a roof, early one morning with only a few hours’ sleep over several days, Trevor decided to become a member of the human race once again. The largest obstacle was he was not entirely sure how to do that.
Witnessing the glow of the early morning hour he noted the number of white pickup trucks, first three in the gas station, at pumps or parked. Then searching the driveways in his field of vision. Grace said two thousand people lived in Marysfield, Trevor would not be surprised if there were two thousand white pickup trucks in town.
He vowed not to become depressed over the odds of finding the correct truck. The chances of that truck were even a local, slim. Look, you found Old Sits, what were those odds?
Scanning the Milky Way before heading down, he caught a hissing noise, then a clackity clack, coming from below where he stood. Silently peeking over the edge, he spied a kid spray painting the back of his building. First impulse was to shout, but a second thought came to him.
Springing down the stairs he had a plan, but he needed to be as quick and as quiet as possible. Bounding past Grace as she cooked pancakes, he headed into the back alley, best speed possible, trying hard to not scare off the vandal. Sneaking up behind the kid he wanted to catch him, not allow him to run. Right away he ruled out physical confrontation, not his style. He figured he would use his forte’, “Hundred bucks if you don’t run,” the kid took three steps before the money part sank in.
“What’d ya say?” came a most definite female voice, from under the hoodie.
“I said a hundred bucks if you don’t run,” pulling out his wallet and peeled off five twenties.
Trying to judge the artwork in the dark was difficult but it appeared the kid displayed talent.
“How would you like to paint something, and not get into trouble for it? You painted the back of my building. How about the front window?”
The teenaged girl pulled off her hoodie. Blonde curls falling out from under in sprays, “What’s the catch?”
“I want to approve the art before you put it up. When I find it acceptable, I’ll pay you a hundred for the art. We will later discuss your time to paint it.”
“A hundred just to show you an idea?”
“Mister you got a deal.”
“Please, call me Trevor. What’s your name?”
“Sure thing Mister Trevor. People call me Ellie.”
“Ellie, you like pancakes? I’ll bet Grace would set one more for breakfast.”
She took her half can of paint and threw it by her backpack, “Sure thing.”
Walking her back to the door to Eddington’s, “Grace, got another one for pancakes, if you don’t mind.”
Trevor wasn’t positive what Grace said, most of it was in Mandarin, eventually, he got a, “Sure thing, anything else your lordship?”
“Nope, I’ll be right in. Ellie, go in and wash your hands. I’ll be right there,” he went back to inspect the artwork Ellie sprayed on the back wall. Snorting and turning his head to catch a better view. There on his back wall was a pretty decent representation of the picture he had seen in the newspaper that started his little adventure. Perhaps the cosmos was trying to help him on this one. Raising his head to the fading stars, he addressed the universe, “Thank you.”