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The last box unpacked. He displayed the last toy on a storage box he’d flipped over for a table and plopped on the chaise lounge in his living room. “Finally, peace.”

A woman’s scream — a gunshot. Miles leaped out of the chaise lounge and cracked the curtains open. People laughing and splashing in the swimming pool of the Purple Pelican Apartments. A soft tap on the front door snapped him away from the curtain. He inched the door open and found a woman in her thirties balancing a covered dish. “Happy Thanksgiving, neighbor, I’m Cassandra, but you can call me, Cass.”

“Did you hear a woman scream and gunshot?”

“That’s Mr. Sweeney next door to you. He turns his hearing aid down so he can’t hear his phone ring and listen to tenants’ problems. Mind if I come in a sec.?” She nudged Miles aside and marched to the kitchen. “I made you a homemade apple pie. I’ll set it on the counter. How about I dish you up a piece?”

Miles gave the outside another glance then closed the door and turned the deadbolt. “No thanks.”

Cassandra plopped on the outdoor chaise lounge and scanned the quaint room. “Love your choice of furniture, a kind of outdoorsy feel.”

“It’s temporary.”

She pulled a pool chair next to her. “Come, have a seat.”

He shrugged. “Sure.”

She took his hands in hers. “You have soft hands for a man.”

“I’m a... was a designer.”

“Clothes?”

“Toys.”

“Bedroom toys?”

“Children’s toys.”

She glanced at the toy robot on the box. “Have you ever had your fortune told?”

Miles shook his head, “Can’t say that I have.”

“People say I have the gift. My mother had it, and her mother had it, but I say it’s more coincidence than anything else. Close your eyes and think of something pleasant.”

Miles played along and closed his eyes — I’m thinking it would be pleasant if you left now.

“This will only take a minute, then I’ll leave,” she said.

Miles cracked an eye open.

“You’ve recently gone through a difficult time.”

A twenty-seven-year-old moving into the Purple Pelican Apartments would have been your first clue — not impressed.

“Hold on. I see a beautiful woman in your life. She’s in a car, laughing with…” She paused and shook her head, “Oh, that’s not you with her.”

“Okay, that’s enough. I don’t...”

Cassandra shushed him. “Wait. I see something else. Three people. You will have three people visiting you soon. Three unexpected visitors.”

“You’re the first one, right?”

“I don’t count.” She glanced at his watch. “It’s ten-thirty?” She shot out of the chair, gave him a peck on the cheek, and rushed to the door. “Sorry, Miles, got to run. Talk to you later.”


Miles chewed a bite of Cassandra’s apple pie when his cell phone beeped — an unknown caller. “Hello?”

“Miles, it’s your father.”

“Dale?”

“I know it’s been a while, son.”

Miles dropped the pie on the plate. “Fifteen years to be exact. How d’you get my number?”

“We can talk about that later. Listen, I’d like to stop by if that’s okay.”

Miles stared at the ceiling — the first unexpected visitor. “You know where I live?”

“We can talk about that later. Can I stop by?”

Miles glanced around his apartment. “Sure, why not?”

Dale clicked off — a knock on the door. “Who is it now?” he muttered. He shuffled to the door. “Dale?”

“Hi, son.” A tall and thin Dale marched in with two large duffle bags and a backpack.

“Just set them down here?”

“Laundry?” Miles said.

Dale wandered into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and a piece of the pie. “Want a beer?”

Miles closed the front door and inspected the duffle bags. “Sure.”

“Nice choice of furniture, Miles.”

“It’s temporary. Why are you here? I’m kind of tired.”

Dale sat down on the chaise lounge and set his beer next to the toy robot. He apologized to Miles for not being in his life and how trucking had taken him all over the country.

“So what’s with the duffle bags?” Miles said.

“I need a place to stay until my truck gets fixed. Mind putting me up for a while?”

Miles gulped the beer and glanced around at the living room. The size of Dale made it even smaller. “There’s not a lot of room, but I suppose you could stay in the guest room if you don’t mind a bunch of storage boxes.”

Dale reached out and smothered Miles in his arms. They sat and shared their hardships over bottles of beer. Miles told him about his wife leaving him in Las Vegas and losing his job, all in one week.

“Now that we’re caught up on old things, there’s one more thing I need to ask.”

Miles downed his beer and gazed out the window. “What is it?”

“I got married again.”

Miles’ jaw dropped.

“She got a cosmetology degree on the internet and starting work at the beauty parlor around the corner, but we’d like to be together. Mind if she stays us for a while?”

The room just got smaller. “How long is a while?”

“Just a short time. You won’t even know we’re here.”

“How long is a short time?”

Dale downed his beer and wiped his mouth. “A couple weeks?”

Miles hesitated. “Sure, why not?”

Dale sprung from the chair and strode to the front door and yelled, “He said, yes.”


A tall woman with a rainbow of colors plastered to her face and dripping in dime-store jewelry sprung out from behind bushes. She waved and whistled to someone in the street. “Bring it in boys.”

Miles grabbed all the beers in the refrigerator and faced the woman. “You must be, Miles. Your father has told me so much about you. I’m Rita.”

Miles started to twist the cap on the beer when she pulled him into her bosoms. “My son,” she said. “It’s so nice to be home.”

Home?

Three men in gray overalls struggled through the front door carrying boxes and a pink leatherette sofa. “Just set the boxes at the front door and put the sofa here, facing the window,” Rita said.

Miles glared at Dale — second unexpected visitor. He needed solitude. He turned to Dale and said, “I’m going for a walk.”

Dale was on his knees reading directions to put a wood table together. “Sure, son, don’t be too long. Rita’s making a Thanksgiving dinner.”

Miles strolled alongside the pool and surveyed the mountain of contents in the moving truck. He cringed and marched down the sidewalk. “Cassandra.” So far, she’d been right. Who could the third visitor be and how long would they stay? He only had his room and the guest room. He prayed the pink sofa was a sofa bed.

When he returned home, an odor of mystery food wafted through the air. He trudged and tripped over empty boxes near the front door and noticed the living room looked like someone had regurgitated a large case of Pepto-Bismol. Rita strolled up in a pink apron and handed him a beer. “What do you think?” she said, presenting the living room like a game show hostess.

“Where’s my stuff?” Miles said.

She put her arm around his shoulder. “It’s in your room... your new room.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your father and I feel you’d be cozier in the guest room. Besides, we needed a larger room for all our things, don’t you agree?” 

He wanted to sandpaper that smile off her face. Before he could muster the courage to tell her what he thought, she said, “We got you a special surprise for your room.”

He watched her stroll back into the kitchen humming a happy tune. Miles punted boxes to get to the staircase and found his door closed. He pushed it, but something from behind prevented it from opening all the way. He turned sideways and squeezed in. “A bunk-bed?”

The wall behind the door was lined with boxes. There was a note on a pillow which read, didn’t know if you preferred the top or bottom, so we prepared both for you. Hugs and kisses.

Miles fumed and clenched his fists. “This has to stop.”

Dale’s voice rang out, “Miles, dinner’s served.”

Miles emptied his beer and marched downstairs. “Dale, we need to talk.”

Dale and Rita stood beside the small table covered with a magazine display of food and settings and saluted him with glasses of wine. “To Miles. We love you, son,” they chorused. “Here’s to new beginnings.”

Miles slumped — defeated. All will and motivation drained. The best thing was to accept the inevitable. Besides, how much worse could it get? 

“We know you’re itching to get into that Thanksgiving meatloaf,” Dale said, “but we have one more piece of great news for you.”

“Let’s get you a glass of wine first,” Rita said. She shifted the box of wine on the floor and pressed the spout. “Cheers, son.”

Miles did a double-take at the dinner table and furrowed his brow. “Why are there four settings on the table?”

“That’s the great news,” Dale said.

“Let me tell him,” Rita said in an upbeat tone.

“Your father told me everything about your wife and how she left you standing outside the casino while she drove off with another man. He also told me you lost your job.”

Miles gulped wine and leered at Dale from the rim.

“My daughter recently split with her husband, too. She’ll be here any minute to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. Won’t that be exciting? One big happy family.”

Miles exhaled a wind-tunnel of air. “And let me guess, she needs a place to stay.”

“You’re the man, Miles,” Dale said. “Wouldn’t it be a kick if you two hit it off?”

“She’s a head-turner,” Rita said with a wink.

Miles helped himself to another glass of wine and thought about Cassandra’s prediction.

“What you think, son,” Dale said.

Miles emptied another glass of wine, wiped his chin and took a deep breath. “She can have the bottom bunk.”


Rita pulled out her cell phone and punched in a message. Before she could replace the phone into her pocket, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” Miles said. He swung the door open. A slender person wearing a short skirt stood between two large suitcases. A bouquet concealed her face. “I see you didn’t waste any time,” he said under his breath.

A moment of awkward silence.

“Miles?” she said.

Miles took a step back — that voice. “Samantha?”

Rita nudged Miles to the side with a smile across her face and fused with Samantha. “Honey, you’re here, come in. Miles, get her luggage.”

Rita led her past Miles while he lugged the suitcases inside. He and Samantha stood five feet apart glaring at each other without a word. “You two know each other?” Dale said.

Miles dropped the suitcases and one unlatched. Clothes spilled onto the floor.

Samantha tapped a foot and folded her arms across her low-cut blouse. “You could say that.”

“Yeah, it only took me a year to find out her true colors.”

“You’re the one who left me in the desert,” she said.

“What do you expect? I came out of the casino to find you driving away with some guy in a Ferrari.”

“He was a valet, Miles. I wanted to ride in a Ferrari. We parked it, came back, and you had left. I tried to call you, but you wouldn’t answer. I came back to the city by bus, and our place was empty. What was I supposed to do?”

“You could have told me he was just a valet before you took off with him.”

“You were paying the bill. How was I supposed to know how long you’d be?”

Dale stepped between them. “It sounds to me it was just a big misunderstanding.”

Rita shuffled up beside Dale. “There’s no reason to split up over misunderstandings. Why don’t you two kids hug and make up?”

Miles and Samantha waited for the other to make the first move. “Are you telling me the truth, Sam?” Miles said.

“I’m telling you the truth. I love you, Miles.”

That was the first move. Miles inched toward her and held her.

“Great,” Dale said. “Let’s dig in before the meatloaf gets cold.”

They sat at the table and Rita toasted and gave thanks for their happy family. Samantha squeezed Miles’ thigh under the table. He set his glass down. “Dale, Rita? You too have filled my day with one surprise after the other. Now, I have one for you.”

Dale and Rita held hands and leaned over the table. “What? Tell us,” they said.

Miles tossed a wink at Samantha. “I know how much you two liked that bunk bed, so I’m officially giving it back to you, starting tonight.”

November 29, 2019 04:59

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