Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Home for the Holidays

   Bing Crosby crooning the sentimental lyrics of I'll be Home for Christmas wafted gently in the background, blending with smell of banana bread baking in the oven. The natural gas powered fireplace appeared to be crackling beneath a mantle decorated to look like Santa's workshop.  All in all a very festive and holiday ambience surrounded Cheryl and me as we sat, trading sections of the Sunday Free Press and sipping our beverages; tea for her, coffee for me.
   Suddenly she lowered the section she was reading and looked at me. "Are you picking up Uncle Billy on Tuesday?"
   "No." I kept scanning the article about how the Lions playoff hopes depended on the game with the Giants this afternoon.
   "No? He is coming, right?" she asked.
   I lowered my section to look at her. "Well ... yes ... but he won't be here until five o'clock ... what made you think of that anyway?"
   "I was just reading this article about older people spending the holidays alone ... if you're not picking him up how is going to get here?"
   "You're not going to believe this, but he and Clara are volunteering at the soup kitchen on Tuesday ... from noon until four."
   Cheryl sat forward. "What?"
   "That was pretty much my response when he told me." I took a sip of my coffee.
   "That had to be Clara's idea."
   "You think?"
   "How in the world did she get Billy to do that?"
   "Must be love ... that's the only thing I can think off."
   She sat back, a contemplative look on her face. "Well, I knew he cared for Clara ... but love? I didn't know Uncle Billy was capable of it."
   I set down my coffee cup. "Come on ... you know he loves us."
   "Well, yes ... but it always seems a little more out of obligation than from the heart ... don't you think?"
   "That's just Billy's way ... he doesn't always show what he is feeling ... you know that."
   "Still ... you think he loves Clara?"
   "I do ... but he'd never admit it ... at least not to others."
   "Do you think he's told Clara?"
   "I doubt it ... but agreeing to volunteer at the soup kitchen has to be a clue for her."
   "So, is Clara coming for dinner too?"
   "No ... she is going to her son and daughter-in-law's ... she's going to drop off Billy on her way."
   "Hmmmm ... I wonder why Billy isn't going with her?"
   "He said he want's to spend Christmas Eve with us ... the tradition and all that."
   Cheryl smiled. "That's nice ... the boys do enjoy his company."
   "That's because they only see him once a year."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Financial Times

   I opened the door and saw Uncle Billy sitting in front of the television. “How come you have the door shut?” I asked.
   Billy waved a hand at me. “Shhh … I want to hear this.”
   A carefully coifed female talking head was saying something about the real estate market. “Are you watching the business news?” I asked.
   Billy waved his hand at me again. “Will you shut up?”
   I walked into the kitchen and saw a pile of dishes in the sink. “Is your dish washer on the blink?”
   Billy ignored me.
   The dishwasher was closed and locked. I opened it and saw the washer was full. “Are these clean?”
   “Yes … shut up.”
   I started to unload the washer. “What is so engrossing on the TV?”
   “You wouldn’t understand … this is business.”
   I shrugged. “Must be really interesting to cause you to let dishes pile up.”
   Billy clicked off the television. “What would it matter … I can’t watch this with you chattering non-stop.”
   “I’m sorry Uncle … I’ll be quiet … you go ahead and watch.” I started to unload the washer.
   Billy stood up. “I heard what I needed to … let’s get going … I want to get to the bank before it closes.”
   “This'll just take a minute … then you won’t have to mess with it when we get back.”
   Billy glanced at the clock. “Okay … hurry up … I’ll get my coat.” He walked to the closet.
   I put a stack of plates in the cupboard. “So, why do you have to go to the bank today?”
   Billy pulled his coat off a hanger. “What does it matter?”
   “I just wondered … you usually don’t go during the week.”
   He slipped his coat on and walked back toward the kitchen. "I have some business to take care of."
   I put the glasses in the cupboard. "Okay ... if you don't want to tell me."
   "I don't ... now hurry up."
   "Uncle, it's not even two o'clock ... "
   "I have an important meeting at four ... and I'd like to be on time."
   "A meeting?"
   "Will you just finish that up so we can go."
   I put the last glass away. "I'm almost done ... who's the meeting with?"
   "Mike Burczyk ... if it is any of your concern."
   "Mike Burczyk?"
   "Yes ... now let's go."
   I pulled a pan out of the dishwasher. "You're meeting with Mike Burczyk?"
   "Is there and echo in here?"
   "Here ... at your apartment?"
   "Do you want to know what I'll be wearing?"
   I put the pan away. "Okay ... okay ... it's none of my business ..."
   Billy opened the apartment door. "Good, we have that straight."
   "I just find it a little odd ... that's all." I started to put dirty dishes in the washer.
   "Can you do that later?"
   "It won't take long."
   Billy sighed. "I'll meet you in the parking lot."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bowling for Business

   I slid smoothly into the right lane from Back in the Day's parking lot. "You really want to go to the bowling alley before I take you to Manny's?"
   Uncle Billy nodded. "Yep ... I'm meeting Mike there."
   "Yeah ... the new guy with the D'Angelos."
   "Mike Burczyk?"
   I merged into the left lane. "You're meeting Mike Burczyk at the bowling alley?"
   "Yeah ... he says he likes to get in a little practice before league play starts."
   "How do you even know him?"
   "Zac introduced him to me last week."
   "So, what are you meeting about today?"
   I glanced over at Billy. "Business?"
   "High finance kinda stuff."
   "The guy is a foreman at D'Angelos Concrete ... what high finance?"
   "You wouldn't understand."
   "And you do?"
   "Look, just take me to bowling alley ... you don't need to know everything about my affairs."
   "Uncle, you just met the guy ... you don't know anything about him."
   "So what? He seems like a nice guy."
   I slowed for a red light. "They guy is at least sixty and he doesn't have a gray hair on his head."
   "What does that have to do with anything? Lot's of guys dye their hair these days."
   "Maybe ... but I think this guy is hiding something."
   "You decided that because he dyes his hair?"
   "Well ... don't you find it a bit odd that he he moved here from Florida ... in December?"
   "He moved here for a job at D'Angelo's ... and a pretty good one, according to Zac."
   The light turned green and I accelerated again. "That's another thing ... are you telling me that D'Angelo couldn't find a qualified foreman around here ... they had to recruit all the way from Florida?"
   "Zac told me that he's related to old man D'Angelo ... a nephew or something ..."
   I looked over at Billy. "And that doesn't strike you as suspicious?"
   "No. Why should it?"
   "D'Angelo never hires family ... he doesn't want any of his employees to get suspicious of nepotism."
   "That's not true ... there are several D'Angelos working there ... "
   "Yeah ... but they are all founders of the company ... they all helped with the start-up ... and they are all named D'Angelo."
   Billy rubbed his chin. "Well ... now that you mention it ..."
   "I'm telling you ... there is something going on with that guy."
   "What do you know? You're just jealous that he didn't invite you to talk about business."
   "Zac probably told him that I don't have any money."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Ringer

   The crash of pins was louder than usual and Eb, Hank and I turned to see the source. Two alleys over we saw three of the guys on the D'Angelo Concrete team high-fiving each other. The forth, a tall, thin man with slicked back dark hair, stood in the alley.
   "Who's that?" I asked.
   "Mike Burczyk," said Hank.
   "He's the new guy with D'Angelo's, eh?"
   "Yep," said Hank, "a ringer that Zac brought in."
   Uncle Billy stopped his approach and turned toward us. "Do you mind? I'm trying to pick up this spare."
   "Sorry, Bill," said Hank.
   Billy made his typically abbreviated delivery and held the finish as the ball rolled down the alley. We all watched it curve ever so slightly toward the four pin, then miss it by a fraction of an inch.
   Billy turned and walked slowly toward us. "I might of made that if you ladies would shut-up for a few seconds."
   Another loud crash came from the D'Angelo alley. The man with the slicked back hair appeared to be admiring the particularly violent strike he'd just thrown.
   Billy stopped and turned to look. "Who the hell is that?"
   "That's what Hank was just telling us," said Eb.
   Billy walked over to the bench and sat next to Hank. "Well?"
   "His name is Mike Burczyk," said Hank. "He's a friend of Zac's ... that's about all I know."
   We turned and looked at Burczyk as he released another ball toward the pins. The ball rocketed down the alley with amazing speed, curved into the pocket and scattered the pins in a wild explosion.
   "That's a turkey, isn't it." I watched the other guys on Burczyk's team shake their heads and laugh.
   "It is," said Hank.
   "It looks like D'Angelo's is tired of bringing up the rear," said Eb.
   "Don't they know they can't bring pro's in?" said Billy.
   "The guy's not a pro," said Hank.
   "I thought you said you didn't know anything about him," said Billy.
   Hank shrugged. "Well, I know he's not a pro bowler."
   "How do you know that?" asked Billy.
   "Zac told me he just moved from Florida to work as a foreman for D'Angelo."
   "Moved from Florida ... in the winter? What is he ... nuts?"
   "Could be ... but from here, it looks like he's a hell-of-a-bowler," said Hank.
   Billy stared over at Mike. "Yeah ... it does."
   "Hank ... you're up," said Eb.
   "Oh ... yeah,"said Hank.
   "And no more seven-ten splits, there, Ace?" said Billy.