Page 57… in a fiction series
As they drove together to a classified college football stadium, Tiller told Miranda this story.
“We were moving a well-to-do family out of Birmingham, up north to Wequetonsing… you know, right across the Bay from the office. After we worked in the heat all day, we finally carried out the last piece– a baby grand piano down a long flight of stairs. And the truck was parked halfway down the block.”
Tiller looked like he had travelled back 40 years and was reliving that day in his head. He explained how he wiped the sweat off his face with his dirty undershirt, then walked into town to buy a Coke and some chips. The sign at the bank said 101-degrees. Miranda was enjoying his candor. Tiller was a real person after all.
“When we got it all loaded, I folded up a stack of moving blankets and crawled into the back of the truck to sleep. Me and Raymond would deliver the furniture to the biggest cottage you’ve ever seen on Little Traverse Bay the next morning.”
Tiller passed an SUV with a team logo on the bumper, a bunch of collegiate types squeezed inside. Miranda wondered it they were getting close.
“I tried to get comfortable so I could sleep, but the blankets were musty and damp with my own sweat. While I was lying there, Miranda, there was one thing I knew: I didn’t want to work that hard again in my whole life. I saw all that good furniture, and paintings, and that damned heavy piano, and I saw my future: If I worked harder than anyone else, I would be successful, too.”
At age 16, Emerson James Tiller had no idea how right he was.
“We finished the job the next day, made it back to Detroit. I headed straight for the bowling alley where I used to set pins every night. The money was steady. I was the man of the house, you know… helpin’ my mom take care of me and my sisters. Between that and stocking shelves at the grocery store, we managed to make ends meet.”
He took another sip of water, checked the rear view mirror to make a lane change. “You’re not asleep over there, are you Miranda?” She could hear the smile in his voice.
“On weekends, the lanes were crowded and I could always count on something a little extra above the 30 cents a lane they paid me.” All these years later, Tiller loved to tell the story about the gamblers who came in late one night and wanted to stay past closing, bowling, laughing, and betting on who would win the next game.
“When the stakes got high, the owner left me with the keys and those crazy men stayed and bowled all night long! Not only did I earn my regular pay, but an extra $20-bucks from those men. Maybe even a couple’a beers, I really couldn’t say. The point is Miranda, my priorities were already in place. Set goals, work hard, and make money.”
“That must have been very hard,” she sighed. Miranda looked at his hands, swollen and gnarled against the steering wheel, thought about those bowling balls crashing against them. She always assumed it was arthritis.
“Hard? Are you kidding me? You know what– you’ve got it made out there on that boat of yours, livin’ the “Life of Riley!” She had no idea what he was talking about, but knowing Tiller, he was probably right.
To be continued…
*This story is based on some true events, however, has been fictionalized and all persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
© 2012, Shoes for an Imaginary Life. All rights reserved.