Condo

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A stablehand living in a condo? What madness is this?

The clients who had viewed Razor the previous day return to the stable. They pull up in a cobalt sports car driven by the young man with the flashing smile.

I’m rolling up the watering hose in the barn. A couple feet away Dick and Tracey stand in the shade of the barn door waiting for their clients to exit the car.

“Did you get the contract written up for her to sign?” Tracey asks Dick as she adjusts the ball cap on her head.

Dick nods and his jowls shake, “Of course. I printed out the stabling agreement and payment plan the way you wanted it done.”

“Tracey smiles, “Perfect.”

She turns her attention to me, “Hey Debby? Can you bring Razor in and brush him? Allison is going to want to ride.” Tracey rolls her eyes and sighs, “And then I’ll probably need to give her a lesson, because God knows she can use the help. Poor Razor.”

“Of course,” I comply, “I’ll go and get him right now.”

Razor is content to come into the barn and exit the hot sun.

I brush his already gleaming body, and he rests a hind leg with his eyes half closed enjoying the attention.

I hear the door to the office open and Tracey leads the clients towards me.

This time I’m introduced to Allison, a raven-haired, petite woman, with a large laugh and a well-endowed chest. Her husband John, is the classic boy-next-door, crossed with Barney Rubble from the Flintstones. Last, but certainly not least, I meet Allison’s brother Antonio, a good-looking fellow with obvious Italian genetics, dark-hair and a flashing smile.

Tracey places a hand on Allison’s shoulder, “If you ever need anything around the stable Allison,” she gestures towards me, “Debby can help you.”

I bow my head in agreement, “Sure, Absolutely anything,” I parrot.

I wish Tabby would show up to take Antonio away. He was making me nervous. “Do you need me for anything else Tracey?” I ask.

She waves her hand, “No, go ahead with the rest of your chores. I think Dick went to get Tabby.”

“Ok,” I reply, feeling eager to get back to my horses with their accepting ways.

I stroll down the alleyway to the tack room and empty the washing machine into a basket. Today was ideal to wash the horses’ flysheet covers. The wind outside was keeping the paddock area relatively fly free. I swing around with the basket and walk smack dab into Antonio who has followed me into the tack room.

“Oh, sorry “ I murmur, “I didn’t hear you come in.” I push past him towards the clothesline.

“It’s okay.” He said trailing me into the sunlight.

The breeze tosses my hair and I’m aware of how unkempt I feel. I hope Tabby gets here soon.

I take the basket of laundry to the far end of the line.

The Italian watches me with interest.

I want the Mafia to come and take him away.

“How long have you been working for Dick and Tracey?” He asks leaning back into the shade of a tree.

“A couple months,” I reply as I clothes pin the flysheet in a couple places, and pinch my finger in one. Where is Tabby?

I take the next flysheet even further away from him, next to the tree, and begin to pin it too.

“Do you like horses as much as your sister does?” I ask, struggling to make conversation.

Antonio walks out of the shade towards me, “ No, I’m slightly allergic to horses.”

He comes even closer, “I can help you hang the rest of those up.”

I’m just about to refuse. A shooting pain flares on my upper calf. I shake my leg and three more sharp pains flames up on different parts of my leg. I look down and see fire ants dashing around on my calf muscle. “Oww, Son of a bitch!” I holler frantically flicking ants off my legs. I distance myself from the fire ant hill which seems to have erupted overnight. Without our handyman Owen this would become a common occurrence.

I lean over taking a good look at the inflamed bite marks. Bloody hell— give me a grenade to exact my revenge those smarmy little bastards. They’re probably sitting on their anthill laughing at me.

Antonio kneels beside me to look at my leg.

He sucks in his breath, “Oooh that looks nasty. You should get some ice on those and take an antihistamine,” he shakes his head, “You need to watch where you put your feet.”

“Yeah, thanks Einstein, I’ll get right on that.” I said with knives in my tone.

He rubs his chin, “No offense. It happens easy enough.” He bends down and rolls up a pant leg, “See these scars?”

I look closer. There is a cluster of twelve scars in a tight grouping. “Yeah, looks like that was nasty, much worse than mine.”

He nods, “Two days in the hospital, rotten little mother effers. I’m also slightly allergic to them.”

“Antonio!” Tabby shouts from the barn.

The Italian looks in that direction and then flicks his gaze back to me, his eyes dance with amusement, “Duty calls.” He said getting to his feet. “Don’t forget to look after your bites.”

“I’ll take care of them.” I said, “You go look after Tabby.”

After Allison, John, and Antonio left for the day, Tabby tracked me down at the back barn.

She wanted to vent. I had become her confidant.

Tabby sighs with exasperation, “I wish that women would just sign the papers already, and then I can end this pretence.”

I toss the hay in the stalls energetically.“ I thought they signed the papers.”

“Yeah they did,” she huffs, “but they have a small window of time to reconsider.”

I purse my lips together and bob my head. “Well that’s good, they signed the papers. I don’t think Allison will reconsider though, she not letting Razor go. She loves that horse. You can see it when she looks at him” I said picking up another flake of hay. “She won’t give up Razor just because you’re no longer entertaining her baby brother.”

Tabby smoothens her hair behind her ear and studies me with a new appreciation, ”Are you sure about that.”

“Positive.” I reply bending down to collect bits of hay that dropped to the ground.

“Perfect, then the next time they come, I’m going to stay in my room.” She gazes over at the big barn, ”Do you think Dad will be angry if I quit playing the hostess?” asks Tabby picking out a speck of dirt from under her nail.

“No.” I shake my head, “Not if Allison is buying the horse, and believe me— Allison is buying Razor. “

Her lips stretch across her teeth in a broad smile, “Since I don’t want to date Antonio, maybe you want to date Antonio?”

I shake my head with aggression. “No way.” I said flushing at the idea of dating Antonio. “No. I’m busy enough looking after horses and spending my days off with Carlin. I don’t need the complication of a pretty boy.”

She pokes me in the shoulder and gives me an exaggerated wink. “Yeah right. Because your life is so complicated.”

I smile, “My life is uncomplicated. I have my job, and I hang out on Mondays with Carlin. We go on adventures to different beaches, and try different foods like alligator. My life is great. A guy would interfere. I would need to fit him in— I don’t have much time off. I only have Mondays. Next thing you know, he would try and horn in on my Mondays with Carlin. That would be a downer. Mondays right now are magnificent.”

“Yuck!” She said scrunching up her face, “You ate alligator?”

“Yeah, Carlin and I both did.”

What did it taste like?” She asks wrinkling her nose.

“It tasted like a piece of tough old chicken with seasoning. Maybe it was just an old alligator.”

She contemplates that for a moment, and then asks, “Where are you guys going this Monday?”

“It’s Carlin’s pick. I think she said we’re going to Sanibel Island. We can collect seashells on the beach. And maybe eat snails.” I jest.

She shakes her head hard and her hair flows like satin waves. “I’m never going on adventures with you girls. You two are gross.”

I laugh.

She sticks her tongue out at me, and then trots off. “I’m going swimming” she shouts out, “Come and join me when you’re done.”

I don’t answer. I grab the hose for watering and turn it on. I drag it over to the far stall.

A rattling vehicle pulls into the yard.

It’s Owen.

I turn off the water tap and dash over to the truck.

I rush over to the open window on the drivers side.

He steps out of the vehicle. “What’s the hurry Deb?” He asks. “You’ve been moving like a snail since you got here, and now you have a little spring in your step.” Owen teases with a wide grin.

“Asshole.” I snip. “I’ll put a spring in your step. I was worried about you. I didn’t know if Dick fed you to the gators or what? Everything that man says requires a shovel.”

Owen rubs his nose and nods, “Yep, that’s why I thought I’d let you know Dick is behind on his rent. That’s why I haven’t been around. The leasing company has given him notice to vacate the premises. I work for the leasing company so they told me to stop coming until the Fatterods moved out.”

I stare at Owen, mesmerized by the truth, “I thought Dick owned this place.” I confess, the words come out like thick molasses. “I mean, he never actually said that— but he implied it many times. “

Owen scratches at a mosquito bite on his arm, “I kinda wondered if you knew he was renting? But then I thought—what difference would it make anyway?” He looks down and kicks a black pebble down the driveway. “Sorry Deb.”

I knit my eyebrows together and sigh, “Oh well, not much to be done. So far all my cheques have been good—“ I pause and meet his eyes, “Sorry about your job.”

He shrugs, “Shit happens. I have other jobs. I wasn’t full time here anywho— I’m kinda curious, what did Dick tell you?”

“He told me you moved back to Idaho.” I said bending down and gently touching my fire-ant stings. They throbbed with a heartbeat all their own.

“Pishaw on Idaho, I like the heat,” Owen said with enthusiasm.

He stares down at my leg. “I see you’ve gone and got bit up? Didn’t I warn you about them little hell fires?”

“Yeah, you did. But they are sneaky little bastards. It happened a while ago, I’ll treat them soon.”

“Damn right. You’d better treat them soon. Be careful of infection.”

Dick’s truck rumbles into the barnyard. I can see him craning his head to give Owen a hard stare.

I smirk at the maintenance man, “Speaking of infections. Am I a bad person if I find delight in Dicks misery?”

“If you are— then I am too.” Owen confesses with a grin. “Now, “ he continues, “I want you to be cautious around him. Don’t poke the bear too much because he does have teeth. You’re a nice kid, I wouldn’t want to see you get hurt. Maybe you should go back home?”

“I shake my head, “But—”

He raises a finger and wags it to silence me. “ I know. I realize you’re on a quest of sorts, and you’re only young once. But I had to mention the possibility of you going home for my own peace of mind.” He pulls a slip of paper out of his pocket and discreetly hands it to me. “This is my home phone number, the missus and I had a chat, if you need anything— if you get into any sort of trouble. You call us.”

My eyes water, and my heart ripples with warmth, “Thank you Owen,” I reach out and touch his arm, “You’re a good man. I glad I met you.”

We hug briefly feeling the dark glare of Dick upon us, and then Owen is gone as quickly as he came.

Dick idles up to me in his truck.

He parks beside me. The window rolls down and he removes his sunglasses. His cold eyes are such a stark contrast to those of Owens.

“It’s time I let you know,” He drawls. “We’re moving.” He said.

We all move into a condo, minus the horses of course. The Fatterods had rented out a couple barns at a large horse facility a twenty minute drive away. Everyone had a bed or a stall to lay their head on at night. Everyone except for me. I slept on the floor in the living room. It didn’t bother me, as a youth I am flexible enough to flow along with any plan. So far all my cheques cleared. Each month I had enough to pay my student loan, and car payment to my bank in Canada.

At 21, I’m floating through my days, and wandering on the whims of life. All is well—for now.

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