The Brass Statuettes--Ch.16, a short story by Autumnwriter. Date added: 2009-11-07. Times viewed: 966.
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- Intro: Doubt and Certainty
The Brass Statuettes
© Copyright 2007, 2009
Chapter 16 Doubt and Certainty
Frank ran into Aaron the morning in the lobby while he was waiting for the elevator.
"Thanks for coming in early, Aaron." His protégé shrugged. "You're a real lifesaver. I'd like to take my daughter to Austin on Thursday and help her get her things into her dorm. It's a big deal-first time living away from home, and all. You'll see someday."
"Don't worry about it," Aaron mumbled. "Glad I could help you." The bell rang and the elevator door slid open. The two men stepped in.
"How's your wife holding up? Did you tell her about our conversation about the FBI?"
"Naomi? More or less, I guess. She's still nervous, but she's willing to wait a while longer to see what happens."
"Just keep your cool. Things will work out. If something happens and you need to make a move, I'll give you the word," Frank promised anew.
"Okay," Aaron said. He pressed the button for the sixth floor. "I want to get some things from my desk before I come upstairs," he said as he stepped out of the elevator car. "I'll see you up there in a few minutes."
"You can have coffee up there," Frank replied as the elevator door closed.
When Frank stepped off the elevator on the Executive Floor he saw Floyd standing in front to the glass wall of the reception area looking at him.
"Mr. Bennett, you're always an early bird, but this a first," Floyd said as Frank walked into the area. "I heard the elevator bell. I couldn't imagine who it could be."
"Got to get an early start on the forecast," Frank told him. "I've got personal business on Thursday, so I've got to buy some time today and tomorrow."
"It's never done, is it?" Floyd sympathized as they made their way to Frank's office.
"You mean work, or personal business?" Frank bantered back. Floyd laughed. "The answer is ‘yes' to both," Frank said.
Floyd unlocked Frank's door. "I'll bring you some coffee when it's finished brewing," he promised. "Should be about five minutes."
"Would you mind bringing an extra one? I've got Aaron Fishman in here with me. He's down on the sixth floor getting some things out of his desk right now."
"Sure," Floyd answered. "Is he the same young man who worked up here with you the last time?" Frank nodded. "He must‘ve done a good job."
"He wouldn't be on his way up here if he hadn't," Frank answered.
"I'm surprised," Floyd said, "him bein' under suspicion by the FBI, and all."
"What're you talkin' about, Floyd? Who in the hell told you that?"
Floyd took a step backward. His eyes opened wide. "Sorry, Mr. Bennett. I meant no offense."
"Forget that," Frank demanded. "I just want to know who said that."
"Well, I just saw him in and out of the office those FBI fellas were using. I just thought..."
"I didn't ask for a line of baloney, Floyd. I asked where you got that information." Floyd opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He started shaking his head and holding up his hands as if to say ‘I don't know'.
"Give it up!" Frank shouted. He'd never yelled at Floyd before.
"It was...it was..." Floyd began to say, but then stopped.
"Out with it!"
"Mr. Bennett, I don't know how to say this," Floyd pleaded.
"Don't figure out how; just tell me, goddammit."
"It was Miss Jeannette," Floyd said, nearly breaking down into tears. "We were just chattin'. I don't think she meant anything by it."
"Jeannette?" Frank gasped. "Are you sure?" Floyd's statement stunned him.
He had thoroughly expected it to be Jason Lowell. "Of course not," he corrected himself, "when would a guy like Jason have anything to say to Floyd?"
Frank staggered to the chair behind his desk and dropped into it. "I would have never thought..."
"Please don't tell her I said anything," Floyd begged. "Like I said, I don't think she meant anything by it. You know how people get talkin' and like to trade stories. Please don't tell her."
Frank stared up at the ceiling for a second and then looked at Floyd. "Alright," he said. "I'll let you call the tune. I'll stay silent if you promise to tell me if she says anything else about this."
"Oh, I promise."
"And I mean about anything," Frank repeated. "That means about Aaron, or me, or anyone-is that clear?"
"I promise," Floyd said. "You're not going to punish her, are you?"
"I guess not," Frank said. "No one's perfect. Besides, I already said I wouldn't tell her what you said, so how could I punish her without telling her?"
"Oh, right," Floyd smiled. "You're not still mad at me, are you?"
"No, why should I be? You're just the messenger."
"Well, you sounded pretty mad a minute ago."
"That was then; this is now. I will be mad if I don't get a coffee pretty soon."
"Comin' right up!" Floyd said happily as he stepped out of the office. "Don't forget a cup for Aaron, too," Frank called after him.
"Aaron, let's go over the assumptions for the forecast." Aaron had stepped out of the elevator just as Frank was concluding his conversation with Floyd. He waited for Frank to rattle off the economic parameters. He took a sip of the coffee that Floyd brought for him.
"It's not as good as Jeannette's," Aaron commented as he tasted Floyd's brew. "At this time of the morning, anything would be good."
Frank looked over his reading glasses as Aaron awaited the forecast dictum. He wondered to himself if Aaron had heard what had been said a few minutes ago and was fishing for information.
"Blake Hart's group generated most of this data," Frank said. He decided to say nothing about the other subject-see what course it might take, if there was a course at all. "To start with, consider U.S. homebuilding down around thirty percent. Here is the orders estimate from the National Sales Manager. The Plant Controllers should be sending their calculations on shipments and unit costs today or tomorrow. Make a draft when you put it together and show it to Blake. He might want to shift some production."
"That means that the Sealant and Adhesive's Division is going to get clobbered," Aaron said.
"I'm afraid so," Frank said. "Assume that it will be sooner, not later. Consider the Consumer Division steady. Don't factor anything for downsizing or restructuring at this point. Let Blake come forward with that after he sees the numbers."
"It won't be pretty," Aaron said.
"It's not all bad. European and Pacific operations should contribute more because of the weak dollar."
Aaron nodded, making notes about the Euro and the Yen. "There's that reserve for the costs of the Wertheim deal that didn't come off," Aaron reminded him. "We didn't take it back into income in the last forecast. That will come in handy now."
Frank raised his hands to stop him. "At the last forecast it wasn't certain that the deal was off, so we kept in there for safe-keeping. Now, it's our secret. I want operations to put forth everything they can to deal with this. The reserve is in my hip pocket. We'll save it for the end-if we need it. So, mum's the word on that."
"Understood," Aaron assured him.
Frank leaned back in his chair and tapped his pencil on his desk. "In fact, assume the dollar stays at the same value as it is today. They can take any gains up to now. Any effect on future income, we'll deal in later. Keep their feet to the fire. Just set up your worksheets so we can factor it in later."
"Sounds good," Aaron said and then finished his coffee.
"And, of course, we have to deal with Dr. Lowell," Frank said. He regretted the sarcasm, but it was too late. "I want you to go over his projects with him. Don't fine tune it; just look for anything glaring that has to be fixed."
"That's fine with me," Aaron said and let a small laugh escape.
"Don't forget he's a Vice President of the company! What you think of him personally makes no difference." Frank warned. "When you have that put together, we can take a look at the Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement. The P&L is the big thing on these quarterly forecasts."
Frank picked up Aaron's empty cup and tossed it in the waste basket. It was the signal that the meeting had come to an end. "I'll try and get up to see you around four and let you know how it's going," Aaron said as he stood up.
"Be sure you do," Frank answered. "The FBI guys are finished here for the time being, so you can use the Controller's office again. I like it better than having all this stuff out in open view in your cubicle downstairs."
"I've got a lot of work to do to set this up," Aaron said. "By the time I get that done, people will start arriving at the office and I'll be able to talk to everyone I have to."
Something seemed not quite right to Brenda. She glanced over to Gloria sitting in the passenger's seat as they waited at a signal light on their way to the Sunrise School. Brenda spent a lot of time with Gloria, and had come to learn that she would never be able to know all of Gloria's moods-at least not in advance. New ones always seemed to appear at the most unexpected moments.
"That was quite a big step for Darlene," Brenda said. "I had my doubts at first, but when she actually got in her car to drive to San Antonio, I knew she stepped over the line."
"It was inevitable," Gloria agreed. "Jim Sweeney would never take ‘maybe' for an answer. And, I know how Darlene must have felt. She had to do something to save the situation. She used the only means she had available."
"Jim has a way of making the whole thing ‘fun for everyone'," Brenda added.
Gloria had a laugh at the way Brenda made her point. The light turned green and the sedan eased forward. "That's so true," she agreed. "Still, in some ways I wish it could've been worked out some other way."
"Have you ever met that wimp, Jason?" Brenda asked. "He'd never stand up for himself. It was the way it had to be. Now little Darlene has earned her wings."
"I guess I'm still a romantic after all these years," Gloria said. "Innocence lost, and all that. She was a fresh, young thing; now she's gone all the way. She's one of us."
Brenda sensed the reason for Gloria's special mood. Change was in the air. In the old days of not too long ago guilt could never have found a place in her mind.
"I could've gone to San Antonio in Darlene's place," Gloria continued. "I could've talked to Jim for her-and convinced him, too. It wouldn't have been the first time, and the result would've been just the same." Gloria paused, looked out the side window of the car at nothing in particular. "I haven't been with Jim in a long time. I miss him; it would have been a good time. I wish I'd thought of it before Darlene went."
"What‘re you saying, Gloria?" Brenda protested. "Darlene's a big girl; she can fend for herself. You can't take care of everything for everyone. What about your innocence, anyway? I thought you and Alvin...you know."
"I know, I know," Gloria answered. "Sometimes I think that innocence is all relative. I'm just philosophizing-getting idealistic in my old age, I guess."
"Old age!" Brenda exclaimed with a hoot. "There's nothing in your shape that says ‘old age'. Besides, how would you have gotten yourself down to San Antonio to meet with Jim? You know how you feel about driving; and you sure couldn't have Alvin's driver take you."
"I'd have had you drive me. You could have helped me with Jim. If we had done that, Jason would be Company President right now," Gloria said with a laugh.
Brenda was happy to see Gloria's mood brightening. "I'm not sure I would be willing to do that for Jason," she said, "interesting concept, though." Her comment brought another peal of laughter from Gloria. Brenda laughed, too; it was funny and reminded them both of some simpler times they'd enjoyed together. "Of course, I might have done it for myself. One never gets enough practice." They had a hearty laugh again, and Brenda nearly swerved into the oncoming lane.
Unlike Gloria, Brenda never debated points of idealism versus the pleasures of practicality. She gave that up when she was in college and Clinton was just coming into office. Idealism became such a mirage. She looked about and saw older grad students with promising degrees in the making and futures for the taking. Her looks gave her a leg up on the competition. She learned to separate wheat from chaff. She slept strictly with the wheat and finally filtered Blake from the rest. With him, she got what she'd bargained for, and Blake wasn't finished rendering return on her investment. She met Blake on a tennis court one day. They'd made great doubles partners-in a number of ways-and an occasional singles match was a nice diversion from time to time. Practicality ruled.
"So, what's the purpose of our visit today?" she asked Gloria.
"Just the usual," Gloria said. "I enjoy the children. Whenever I'm glum about something an hour with the children is just the thing to cheer me up."
"Those children mean a lot to you."
"It's my good side," Gloria confessed.
"And we're not going to see Maddy?" Brenda hinted.
"You never know," Gloria answered in a sing-song voice. "I didn't ask her when I spoke to her over the phone."
"It's not something you can ask over the phone," Brenda agreed. "We could get a hotel room downtown, or maybe we could go back to your place."
"She's got an apartment not far from the school," Gloria said. "If she's in the mood, we could go there after school's over for the day."
"We'll find out soon enough," Brenda said. "There's the school just ahead."
She pulled into a visitors' parking place near the front door of the school. Maddy must have seen the car because she stepped out the door to greet them. She wore a wide grin, as well as the usual canvass skirt and peasant blouse. "The children are at lunch right now. They'll have art work after that."
Brenda and Gloria followed Maddy through the front door and into her office. "I haven't seen either of you since the pool party," Maddy said.
"It was quite a flop," Gloria said. "My parties were never flops until that one. It was a first."
"More than one first," Brenda added.
"It turned out just fine in the end," Maddy corrected in her perky tone. "Better than fine, actually. So I wouldn't say it was a flop at all."
"And Alvin ended up giving you the money to hire an office girl, anyway," Brenda reminded Gloria.
"Office Manager!" Gloria snapped at Brenda, and then put her smile back on. "Anyway, if you enjoyed the festivities that much, we'll have to do it again some time."
Maddy jutted out her lower lip and nodded slowly. She tucked her lip back in and grinned again. "Sometime real soon, I hope." The outlines of her nipples pressed through the fabric of her blouse. She leaned forward and her blouse fell away from her collarbone, exposing some inviting, round cleavage. "As soon as possible," she whispered.
Brenda didn't say anything. The surprising rebuff from Gloria stung, so she didn't want to risk another by speaking out of turn. Besides, things were progressing nicely without any further input from her. She'd set it all up in the car before she and Gloria arrived.
"The children should be on their way to art by now. Why don't we join them?" Maddy said. They walked to the Assembly Room where easels and paints had been set up while the students were in the cafeteria. The dual-language alphabet cards were still mounted on the wall. "We already did our ABC's today," Maddy told them. "Trudy was a big hit when she was here. The children still ask about her. We do the ABC shapes just like she taught us. The children love it."
"Trudy?" Gloria mumbled, but said nothing more.
Brenda saw Gloria's eyes narrow and darken. She knew right away that it was the wrong thing to say and she felt like flogging herself for not anticipating that it might come up. She wished that the children would hurry up and get into the empty room. It would defuse Gloria, and they could get on with their visit so they could get on with other things.
Suddenly Maddy turned around. She was still smiling, but for the first time, Brenda could see something other than sweetness was beaming from her face. "I was hoping that you would bring Trudy with you today," Maddy said, in a voice just above a whisper.
"What?" Gloria uttered. Brenda knew the storm was approaching.
"I was hoping that Trudy was with you," Maddy repeated, "and not just for ABC's. Can you think of the fantastic foursome we'd make?"
"Trudy?" Gloria repeated in a hollow voice.
"I'd just love to get her clothes off and feel those long legs around me," Maddy swooned. "What potential! What a..."
"Brenda, we're leaving!" Gloria snapped. "We can't stay. I just remembered I have an appointment. I have to get back to the house right away."
"But Gloria..." Brenda began to say. Maddy stood speechless with her mouth wide open.
"We have to go right now," Gloria insisted. She abruptly turned and marched out of the Assembly Room. Brenda looked at Maddy, who shrugged and then turned to catch up with Gloria. In less than a minute, they were in the car, pulling out of the school parking lot.
"I'm sorry, Bren," Gloria finally said.
"You don't have an appointment."
"No, I don't," Gloria confessed, "and I know you wanted to have some fun with Maddy. I just had to leave. I couldn't stand it."
"Because of what Maddy said about Trudy? Forget it. It's just an infatuation for Maddy. Trudy would never..."
"Of course she wouldn't," Gloria retorted. "It's just that she wanted her more than me. It's always Trudy. It doesn't matter if it's ABC's, pool parties or sex. She's in my way every time I turn around."
"Only because you allow it to be that way," Brenda said. "Trudy doesn't even have an interest..."
"Even Juana likes Trudy more than me," Gloria hissed. She ground her teeth together. "I can't stand it; I hate her."
Brenda knew better than to argue. Something soothing was in order. "For what it's worth, you have me." Brenda felt a twinge of hypocrisy, but then remembered how that vice was the companion of practicality.
"Don't think I'm not thankful, Bren. Without you, I'd go crazy. We understand one another. We're both corrupted by the same things."
Brenda became silent. She disliked the comparison of herself to Gloria.
She always considered the two of them to be complementary entities. The comparison made her uneasy.
They drove for a few minutes without saying anything. It suited Brenda, because she couldn't get the question at hand out of her mind.
"We'll have to replace Maddy," Gloria announced.
Brenda snapped her head around to look in Gloria's direction. "Gloria, you mean just because Maddy..."
"It's me, Bren," Gloria explained. "The school is the good part of me. Now, Maddy is crossing over to the bad side. I can't have the school on both sides. I couldn't handle that. I've got to keep the good side good. The bad in me always seems to take over."
Brenda let out a deep breath. Gloria was becoming more difficult to handle with each passing day. Whatever happened to some simple self-indulgent hedonism as reward for handling all the things they had to handle? In a more rational moment, she would make Gloria see the light about Maddy.
They rode along for a while longer before stopping for a red light.
"I'm not corrupt like you," Brenda said, staring straight ahead.
Gloria turned to face Brenda and laughed. "You must be kidding. I know too much about you to let you get away with that. In some ways, you're worse than me."
"To be corrupted," Brenda explained, "you have to have a good side that can be ruined. You're corrupt. Now Darlene is, too. Not me-I never had a good side-or a bad one, either. I was always practical."
Nine o'clock rolled around on the clock. Everyone was gone for the day, even Floyd and Jeannette. Everyone, that is, except Frank and Aaron who were working late on the forecast. Frank stood at the door of the Controller's Office where Aaron was working.
"It's late. Let's pack it in and get a steak," Frank said. Aaron hesitated. "Call you wife and tell her I said that you have to."
They ended up in a restaurant Frank knew not far from the office. Frank and Aaron each nursed a scotch on the rocks. "Nice place," Aaron said.
"It's not the kind of place where the waiters wear tuxes and arrange your napkin on your lap like a doily," Frank said. "It's the best steak in town and nice and quiet."
"It's fine with me," Aaron said.
"Have any trouble when you called home?" Frank asked.
"No," Aaron replied. "My wife was surprised, that's all. She didn't think..."
"No need to explain," Frank interrupted. "She didn't think I would give a damn you were working late. She probably thought I was already gone for the day."
Aaron looked down at the table in front of him, as if the whiskey in his glass would yield some sort of oracle. "Not exactly," he mumbled.
"What d'ya mean?"
"It's nothing," he said, "not worth mentioning-and it's just her opinion, anyway."
"I don't get it, Aaron," Frank said. "You've got to tell me; you can't leave me hanging like this."
Aaron took in a breath. "Well, it's..." He hesitated again. Frank didn't say anything; just leaned forward in expectation of the rest of the answer. Aaron let out his breath. "She didn't think you'd want to be seen with someone like me."
"Hmmm, I see," Frank answered. He paused for a few seconds. "I've got a feeling that's your opinion, too."
"Not exactly," Aaron replied.
"There are some people...you know your wife would be right in saying what she did."
"Yeah, I know."
"Aaron, you have to decide which route you're gonna take. You can expect the best from people and risk being disappointed from time to time. Or, you can be on defense at all times. Of course, there are disappointments connected with that, too."
"Yes, I suppose..."
"You're not the only one that's ever had to deal with this sort of thing," Frank said. "You know, my grandfather's last name was Bennedetto when he came to this country. He changed it to Bennett, hoping it would help him get a job. He always said it was so it was easier for Americans to pronounce. I think that wasn't the only reason."
"So, did it help him get a job?"
"No," Frank laughed. "He couldn't speak English back then. It was a dead giveaway."
Aaron laughed along with Frank and drank some whiskey.
"He did get a pretty good job, eventually. Raised a big family. He never let those early years get to him-at least that I know of. He never had a chip on his shoulder. He was better off that way."
"Okay, I get it," Aaron conceded.
"Like I said, it's up to you," Frank said. They were interrupted as the waiter came to take their order.
"This used to be a pretty unexciting company," Aaron said after the waiter left with their order. "You can't say that now.
"I could do with a lot less excitement," Frank said, "especially the type we're having."
"A lot of people are saying the company is about to be taken over."
"A lot of people are wrong," Frank replied. "Don't count on it-not right now, at least. I would fight it tooth and nail. The shareholders would never get value. After that, who knows? I'll worry about it then."
"If it wasn't for this insider trading thing, we'd be humming right along."
"It's a temporary setback," Frank said. "We'll put it behind us and get back to normal."
"What about the deal in Germany? Do you think that will ever come off?"
"You never know, but I doubt it," Frank answered. "Once these deals hiccup, they usually don't come back to life. There'll be other deals, if it's deals we want. The most important thing at the moment is to get our credibility back and get the financing for R&D. If we can do that, we'll be fine."
"There's a lot to think about," Aaron said.
Frank had enough of shop talk.
"Hey, speaking of a lot to think about, I've got a question for you," Frank said. "What d'ya think about those Astros?"
The next day, in a restaurant just outside of Austin, Frank sat in a booth with Trudy and Patricia. Frank rented a minivan. It outside in the parking lot, loaded with Patricia's belongings that she was taking to her dorm room as she began her college career. Trudy was on the cell phone checking on Margaret, who had begged her way out of the trip. It was just as well-it was Patricia's time. While Trudy was busy on the phone Frank and Patricia finished their lunches.
"Better clean your plate," Frank warned. "It might be the last decent meal you'll get until you come home for Thanksgiving."
"Everything's alright with Margaret," Trudy piped up before Patricia had a chance to answer. "I reminded her that I didn't want anyone in the pool while we're away from the house." She folded the cell phone and stashed it her purse.
"If I know her," Patricia said, "she's still in her pajamas talking to her friends on the internet."
"No doubt she is," Frank agreed, "but you won't have to worry about that anymore, will you. You'll have plenty to keep you busy."
"I know," Patricia mumbled, in the way she always did when her father instructed her. She cast her eyes downward at her empty plate for a few seconds. "Are you telling me I can't come home until Thanksgiving?"
"You can come home anytime you want to," Trudy answered.
"Of course," Frank agreed. "I'd bet you'll be so occupied that you won't want to leave the campus until then."
"Maybe," the daughter half-conceded.
"Take it a week at a time. If you want to come home for a visit, let us know. Just be sure to take advantage of everything that the University has to offer."
Before Patricia could reply, the cell phone rang. Trudy answered and then handed it to Frank. "It's for you; it's Jeannette."
"I wonder what it is," Frank said. "Jeannette wouldn't call if it wasn't important. He rose from his seat in the booth and took the phone to a waiting area near the entrance of the restaurant.
"Frank, I thought you should know. There's a meeting going on with all the Directors on the Finance Committee in Mr. Warner's office; Herr Mueller, Simon Lambert and all the others."
"I didn't know about any meeting," Frank said. "What about Jim Sweeney?"
"Yes, him too," Jeannette confirmed. "Mr. Crossman went in, as well."
Frank thought for a second and then heaved a sigh. "I don't know what it means. They obviously didn't want me there. There's nothing to do about it right now. Just..."
"Wait!" Jeannette interrupted. "Mr. Hart and Mr. Smith are heading in that direction, too."
"The only thing to do is wait it out, Jeannette. Keep track of who goes in and fill me in tomorrow morning. If they come looking for me, they know where to find me. In the meantime, not a word to anyone."
"Thanks for the call. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Trouble at the office?" Trudy asked when Frank returned to the table.
"No," he replied. "It was just an accounting question."
"Oh," Trudy grunted and glanced at Frank for a few seconds. He didn't see her. He was looking over the check that the waitress brought to the table while he was on the phone.
Frank looked at Patricia. "Ready to go to college?"
The sun was behind Trudy and Frank as they drove back to Houston that evening. It was after three before Patricia checked into her dorm and they lugged all her things up three floors. By the time they looked around the campus, and Patricia was pleading for them to leave, it was closing in on five-thirty in the afternoon.
"You must be tired," Trudy said. "Want me to drive for a while?"
"I'm forty-two, not eighty-two," Frank answered back. "I'll let you know."
"Okay-okay," Trudy laughed. "Just make sure you don't wear yourself out driving. I have other plans."
"It's too bad we can't stay over," he said with a sigh. "I just don't have the time to spare from the office right now."
Trudy patted him on the thigh. "Don't worry; we'll be home before ten, even if we stop to eat." She sat back and relaxed in the passenger's seat. "I'll bet Margaret would tell us to stay out as long as we want-but she'll have to be disappointed," she added and then laughed again. "I'll call and check on her on the cell phone a little later."
They sped along on I-10, watching the scenery pass by. Neither of them said anything for a few minutes. Trudy fumbled with the radio dial on the rented van hoping to find a station with some of her kind of music.
"You know, Trudy," Frank finally said, "sometime soon, when we have time we could take a trip. We could drive right around the whole state. We'd start at Houston, stop at San Antonio, over to El Paso..."
"That sounds nice, Frank, but you're not thinking about touring around Texas in a minivan. You're trying to find a way to tell me about Jeannette's call during lunch."
Frank looked at Trudy. "How does she always know before I tell her?"
"It doesn't look good, Trudy. You better be ready for anything. We might have some time on our hands to take that trip."
"What could have happened in the space of a single day?"
"Beats me; there was a meeting today in Alvin's office with all the members of the Finance Committee. I should have been there, but I didn't even know it was going to take place. It's hard to take that as good news."
"But Frank, you haven't done anything wrong. They've got to give you a chance..."
"Things aren't always fair, Trudy. They might think by shedding me it would be a chance to hit the recycle button-get a fresh start. I don't agree, but..."
"So, you figure to throw in the sponge and take a drive around Texas?"
"It's not like that Trudy. It might be already decided. Anyway, it's not like we'd be out of money, or anything. They'd pay off my contract and..."
"Listen to me, Frank," Trudy answered in her stern voice. "I know care about the money. And I really don't care at all about the status or fitting in with Gloria's crowd. It's you, Frank. You never give up. If you do, you'll never get over it. You have to fight it out all the way. Then, either way it comes out, things will be okay."
Frank laughed and shook his head. "Trudy, you know me better than I know myself."
"I've had plenty of practice," she countered.
"Does that mean that if I fight it out and they can me anyway, we can take that trip around the state?"
Trudy gave out a hearty laugh. "I'd like to think about a riverboat trip up the Mississippi and back," she said as she patted his thigh again. "That would be nice, but it'll never happen. We'll never have the time. You're going to win."
Frank stole a glance at her as he drove. He reached across to her seat and patted her leg.
"Trudy, I feel better already."
TO BE CONTINUED
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