Friday, May 10, 2013

Diamonds and Rust


It was the scraping sound that Gretna noticed first and then the birds. Sounds you miss when in hospital. She smelled coffee on the stove and noticed chairs askew at the kitchen island. The house was a marvel. In the dungeon of bitterness she had built, she never dreamed that light could return to this house. The sun was beaming through the trees across St. Augustine road and she thought of the old days when she walked the old dirt paths. She wandered those fields with Kerry when hope of his return still hung in the air like a kite. She poured coffee and walked painfully to the porch supporting herself on furniture as she moved, to see the source of the sounds, coming from outside.

Roscoe was working a soft block sander on the curves of the old bus. The inside was gutted and transported back to his house piece by piece. The motor, rear end and transmission were nearly done. There was nothing left but to sand and massage the body. Roscoe lost himself bringing the old bus back to the smooth curvaceous beauty she was when she left Stuttgart back in 66. She was sea foam green with a white seats and matching door panels. Roscoe checked the numbers on her and found her whole story, just like him she had a long journey. He stood upright and stretched his aching back looking for low spots in the panel he had sanded.

Gretna lit her one and only cigarette for the day. She allowed herself one, and only one when the boys were not around. Life with no vice is no life at all, and so she hid a pack and kept one little secret connection to her former self.  She looked at the new railing and porch, and briefly thought of her fall back to grace. She was eating right, not drinking and her family was around her again. She went to physical therapy twice a week and met with a nutritionist once a month. She was thirty five pounds lighter and able to walk a little everyday. She had awakened from a spell. Fifteen years of bitter torment at her own hand had ended with a fall in dog shit. The dog looked like a show winner, after that Roscoe man nursed it back to health. Rooney sat wagging, waiting for an invitation to be petted. It was as if he had forgiven her, but still remembered the fire she used to spew at him. Dogs move forward, and Gretna had too. Being broken into pieces had afforded her the opportunity to be put back together again.

Roscoe was finally down past the body line, below the windows. All the corners were repaired, sanded and the floor was finished and primed. The fender wells were tough,  but now nothing stood between this bus being done and Roscoe except the vast expanse of sheet metal below the windows. It was mostly flat and easy going from here. Then the she would go to the body shop for paint rubber and windows. Roscoe heard Gretna calling from the porch and wondered how this would play out. They really hadn't spoken in the hospital, and he worried about what she might say. Kerry had told him a lot about the woman and most was not good. He clapped his hands together and a cloud of maroon dust expanded in front of him.

"Mr. Roscoe? Roscoe?"

Gretna called out to the garage and finally he appeared into the sun light. He patted his overalls shaking loose what ever dust that still hung to him and wandered out toward the porch.

"Thank you for the swing. And all of this."

She motioned around her and up into the air at all the improvements he had done around the house and property.

"Would you like a cup of coffee?"

He nodded and walked slowly to her. He used to get a lot more done when there was nobody around. Now he'd have to get to know her, and the solitude of working on the bus would be harder to find. But is was only a few more days and then the trailer would come. Once it was painted, it would be brought back to his house and he could put her right, in the silence of his shop. Just the Reverend Al Green, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, and Roscoe doing work. Roscoe liked it that way.

"I guess I have you to thank for amazing transformation around here, are you working on that old bus?"

Gretna poured the coffee while Roscoe rotated his hat in his hand in the doorway.

"Come in and sit down. Cream and sugar?"

Roscoe nodded yes and sat in the chair by the counter.

"How'd she pay for all this? I know Kerry doesn't have any money."

"Well, some of the wood came from the part that fell down, and there was some lumber out there in the garage. I had some things around my house, shingles and some paint. I never throw anything away that's useful. Kerry got some insurance money for some of it and I guess the money I paid her for the bus covered everything on the inside. She never told you about any of this?"

"No, I guess she wanted it to be a surprise, and she didn't want to argue about it. Well now, you have seen me half naked and I hardly know anything about you!"

Roscoe howled and laughed at her directness. He hadn't laughed in a long time and had a little trouble stopping. The vision of her and the comedy of errors when he found her was a fresh memory. It was all funny now that she had recovered. 

"Well I am sorry about that, it was a windy day and I am afraid that dress wasn't made for rough weather. I hope you are not embarrassed. I used to be a medic in the army and it's all just the human body to me. I must say I have seen some people that were tore up pretty good, but I don't think I ever saw someone covered in dog mess before!"

And he began to laugh again and this time Gretna joined him. She shook her head and looked out toward the yard.

"I must have been some sight all sprawled out like a turkey waiting to get stuffed! Dear Lord what an awful thing that was."

They began to talk and filled in the blanks in each others stories. They told the simple stories people tell when they meet. The easy stories that don't hurt. The stories that require little effort to bring up. They eased into the cold waters of their histories, each knowing the other had deep scars and long journeys that led to this little moment in a kitchen. A red bird landed on the new rail Roscoe built to replace the one Gretna fell through. It lit there for a moment outside the open window and twitched its head from side to side. They noticed the bird in unison and smiled as is flew off in a dart.