Oh, how I wish that title was only about something simple. Like the Fleetwood Mac song from Tusk. But it's not. It's about something Val does not do well. Something serious.
This morning I was looking for Hick, because I was pretty sure I heard his Gator and the dogs barking as they ran alongside. I looked out front, and caught a glimpse of Juno's swishing tail, but the Gator wasn't in the front yard. I stepped out on the porch and found Juno and Jack, and the neighbor dog Copper laying down on the brick sidewalk showing proper respect for our porch while I was present. Even though he sprawls on it like he lives here when I'm down in my dark basement lair.
I still heard a vehicle, and looked right, to the carport. Hick's Trailblazer was parked under the roof, running, and Hick was inside. I know he saw me. He looked right at me. But he sat there a minute, and then turned it off and came up on the front porch.
"I was over in the BARn puttering around, and I saw Tommy standing up on the gravel road."
Tommy is our neighbor, across the road and one house up. He and his mother are the ones I suspect of taking my favorite cat, Snuggles. Actually The Pony's cat, pictured at the top of my blog all these years. She just disappeared one day, never to be seen again. Hick always said he saw her over in Tommy's yard, and that he thought they were keeping her in the house. I didn't pitch a fit, because Snuggles was a grumpy cat, didn't get along with the other four cats OR Hick or The Pony or Genius. She only liked ME, and since we kept her outside, where she was always on the run from her detractors, or hissing like an overworked teakettle...I figured she might as well be happy being a house cat for Tommy and his mom. Because if Snuggles wasn't happy, I guarantee they would have tried to unload her faster than kidnappers ransoming Red Chief.
I haven't mentioned yet that Tommy is no kid. He's an adult, 58 years old (Hick found out today), and has some special needs. He and his mom never had a car, and we'd see them go by in a cab once a week to do their shopping. For the past 3 or 4 years, nobody out here has seen Tommy's mom. Hick and his buddy, Buddy, used to joke that she was probably laying in her bed all mummified, and Tommy was keeping her like something in a movie. Hick and Buddy don't know their classics.
Anyhoo...Hick said that he saw Tommy standing up on the gravel road in front of the BARn field.
"I was getting ready to go to town, so I stopped and asked him what was going on. He told me that his mom died about a month and a half ago, and that he couldn't get ahold of his sister on the phone, and that his brother was out at sea. I don't know if he's in the service or what. But Tommy had to take care of all the arrangements by himself, and his brother and sister didn't find out until after their mom was already buried. Tommy said he was out of milk, and he needed to go to town, but the cab charges him $35, and he only has $2000 left. He said he already walked up to [REDACTED]'s house, but they said they couldn't take him until Tuesday, and he needs to go now, and he didn't know what to do, and he wondered if maybe I could take him. I told him, 'Tommy, I go to town all the time. You don't need to spend money on a cab. I'm going now. I can take you.'"
"So you took him?"
"Yeah. He's harmless. He asked if I could take him to Walmart, and I said I could, but he'd have to wait until I did what I went to town for, so he said he'd just go in Country Mart. I dropped him off and went to do my stuff and came back for him. I told him when he needs to go to town, to come over and I'll take him."
"So if somebody comes to the door, it's probably Tommy? Because I don't even know what he looks like."
"Yeah. I told him I'd take him. He said he's been trying to get a job, but they all say he needs dependable transportation. I told him there's that SMTS van that takes old people around, and he said that they only go once a week, and they don't come out here. He said he never graduated from high school, but that he has books he reads to learn things. He said he's got a biology book. I think he might just have something like that autism. He's just kind of slow. Surely there's got to be someplace that helps people like that. I told him we have a guy at work who's my janitor, and a van brings him and picks him up. Maybe we can ask your sister's husband's sister at the barbecue tomorrow."
"That one won't be there. And she's retired from Social Security. So I don't know how much she would know. But we can have the ex-mayor call her and ask. They probably refer people to other agencies. I'm pretty sure the EMAA can help with something. They pay people's heating bills and give them air conditioners and get them clothes to wear to job interviews... that's where I would start. You can take Tommy over there to talk to them on Friday, maybe."
"Somebody should be able to help him. And the roof on his house is practically gone. I guess he only knows the [REDACTED]s, and I doubt he knows them very well."
"I'm sure if you tell other people out here what's going on, they can help look out for him, too."
Here's the thing. Imagine how worried Tommy must be. Nobody to talk to, no friends, no way to go anywhere, money running out. He doesn't even know us, but he stood on the road because he heard Hick working down in the BARn. Stood there until Hick went to talk to him. Tommy said he goes for walks. He doesn't have anything else to do except read his books.
Hick is a helper. He has always had somebody he looked out for. When I met him, it was a 90-something-year-old man who lived up the street. Hick went to visit him every Sunday night, taking him supper that I packed up for him. Then the old guy got sick, and his daughter moved him up to Montana with her, and he died. So Hick started visiting my grandma every Sunday night, after her husband had died. He even sorted out her medicine every week, and worked on her house to keep her from giving money to random old guys who came by looking for odd jobs. Once Grandma passed away, Hick helped my mom. And now that she's gone, Hick has been without a human project.
"I always remember how people helped my family, and it means a lot."
Hick and his two brothers grew up in a house without indoor plumbing. Neither parent worked. His dad was blind, and him mom was in the hospital most of the time. Not for anything physical. The oldest brother went to live with an aunt, and Hick got a job at 14 at a gas station/garage. He's done pretty well for himself, and likes to help other people. I don't mind helping, but I'd rather do it from behind the scenes. I'm really not a people person.
"Now I'm going to be worried about Tommy. Surely he's getting some form of income. Social security or something. Maybe you should find out, because if he's not, you can take him to sign up for it. There's got to be something."
"Yeah. They couldn't have just been living on the old lady's check. Because now it'll stop."
It's not that Val is heartless, you know. But there was still one pressing question that she needed answered.
"Oh...did you ask him about my cat?"
Let the record show that Hick did NOT think to ask Tommy about my cat.