Smoker wiped his hands off with an already dirty rag. Figuring the old Chevy truck would last a couple months longer if he kept an eye on it, Smoker knew his Harley was as sound as ever. She always started the first time, but this damn truck was a different matter.
Smoker walked into the house figuring on a beer and some quiet. Reba was in the kitchen washing dishes and keeping one eye on the laundry.
“Hey Babe, How ya doin’?” Smoker asked even though they’d both been home all day. Reba just smiled, opened the fridge and handed Smoker a cold beer. Smoker took it, opened the top, and took a deep drink. With a wink to Reba he walked back to the rear bedroom.
The back bedroom was the only room in the house that Reba’s kids wouldn’t enter without knocking. That was the first thing they learned after Smoker and Reba started together. It didn’t take long, only a couple of swats on their rear ends and the lessons were learned.
Smoker sat on the bed and his foot hit the wooden lock box under the bed. He knew the contents of that box by heart, and he knew the material inside was clean and functioning perfectly. The guns and other equipment inside were part of a past Smoker didn’t follow anymore, but they had been a major part of his life for so long he could easier hack an arm off than get rid of them.
Deep in thought, the ringing phone diverted his attention. There was only one phone in the house, which was the way Smoker liked it. No matter how much the kids pleaded, Smoker just couldn’t bring himself to getting a cell phone. “Just another chain,” was his usual comment.
Suddenly, a timid knock on the door caught Smoker’s attention.
“Smoker?” It was Reba’s oldest daughter Chelsie. “There’s a phone call for you.”
“Okay”, he replied. “I’ll be right there. Who is it?”
“Some guy named Dan Carsonton or something like that. He asked if ‘Jimmy’ was home. How come he calls you ‘Jimmy’. You said nobody calls you that,” said Chelsie
Like most 15 year olds, Chelsie was pretty good at asking questions Smoker didn’t want to answer. He was already moving down the hall as Reba looked up with a disapproving look on her face.
When she heard her daughter use Dan’s name, Reba’s face showed disdain and concern. Reba didn’t ask much, but when they decided to stay together, she asked that he give up his old life, and that included working, if you could call it that, with Dan.
“He’s an old friend Chels”, Smoker explained.
Reba wasn’t happy with the idea of Dan getting back into Smoker’s life, but she was willing to let it go for old time sake.
“You don’t let anybody else call you ‘Jimmy’,” said Chelsie. “He must be a real old friend!”
Chelsie was talking as much to herself as to Smoker.
Smoker was fond of Chelsie. In a lot of ways she was like Reba. He just hoped she was as tough as her mom. It’s a hard world out there, and Smoker wanted her to be prepared.
Smoker picked up the phone and answered, “Hey Dan. What’s up? It it’s about any kind of work, I gotta tell you no right at the top. I’m not doing that kinda work anymore.”
“How ya doing Jimmy. Not to worry ol’ buddy, I know you got a great thing with Reba…not gonna ask anymore. I wanted to tell you I got a call from my sister on the coast. My mom is pretty sick and they don’t think she’ll make it. Sis wants me to come out, so I’m gonna take off this afternoon. What say we get together for a few beers when I come back?”
Smoker knew this was just talk. He and Dan never “just got together”. If Dan wanted to see Smoker it was for some job or another. “Jobs” that Smoker swore to Reba he’d given up.
“Sure Dan. Give me a call when you get back,” he replied. Smoker figured Dan wouldn’t call, and probably wouldn’t even come back.
Smoker looked into the kitchen. Reba was standing at the sink just sorta washing dishes. Smoker knew she was worried about the call. Worried that that Smoker would fall back into his old habits.
Smoker knew what a good thing he had with Reba. She was a good lady, and the kid’s seemed to accept him. He didn’t try to get involved with the kid’s discipline and Reba seemed okay with that. Yeah, he had a good thing going and he wasn’t going to mess it up.
Smoker walked up behind Reba and put his arms around her. “Hey Babe,” he started. “The truck will run for another month or so and the bike is running great. What say you and me jump on and go down to Billy’s for a beer and a burger? Kids ‘ll be okay for a couple of hours.”
Reba turned around slowly, and with a smile that would melt the heart of Genghis Khan, she put her arms around him and hugged her man.
Smoker didn’t miss the tiny tear drop in the corner of Reba’s eye, and promised himself that he would never do anything to hurt her.
“I’ll get my jacket and change to boots,” she replied, and off she went knowing she was still safe…
Smoker stood there for a moment and just watched her walk away. “Yep,” he whispered under his breath, “life is pretty damn good.”