Redwood Nine Ch. 04byRoyceConnors©
Vie de la Mort
Stan invited everyone back to his house, the chance to have his family together again, outweighing the emptiness of loss. All the guys cleaned up as best as they could and Wally took Lenny with him, while Piney, JT and Jake got in with Stan. The ride there, was spent mostly staring out the windows in silence, everyone reflecting on the moment and what place it took them to inside themselves. Stan pulled in the driveway of his ranch bungalow and Wally parked on the street. Several cars were out front, letting them know other people were there as well. As they got to the door, sobbing could be heard and Stan hesitated in turning the knob and going in. Piney put his hand on his dad's shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze. Stan patted his hand and then turned the knob and opened the door.
Lorelei Winston saw her husband and son walk in and burst into tears. They went over to her and hugged her, letting her know that they mended things between them. The others stood patiently at the entrance and waited, a great uneasiness at so much sadness around them. Stan rose and welcomed them in and introduced them to those already there. Lorelei looked at JT, seeing him for the first time, since Piney left home. Her hands opened to him, beckoning him to come to her, her need to bond clearly given to him. JT went over and hugged her, letting her know how bad he felt about Lester. She held his face in her hands, looking into his tear-soaked eyes, seeing the same pain she was feeling herself. She held him close, mothering him to her and JT accepted it graciously. Until the rift started, Lorelei had treated JT as her own son, because he cared about Piney so much.
Stan could see that his wife needed to have a connection with her children and urged Piney and JT to stay with his mother for a bit, while he took the others to get some of the food on the table and go out back to look at the bike. Piney hugged his dad and for the first time since the divide between them started, he had a reason to thank him. Stan kissed his son's cheek and held him tightly, hearing his son say something positive to him. He gave him as fatherly a look as he could and patted his cheek softly.
Piney went to his mother and Stan took the others into the kitchen, where paper plates and everything needed, was laid out. They filled their plates and went out back, standing together and holding them, as they ate. Stan came out and walked past them, straight over to the bike and pulled the tarp off, then stood looking at it. The guys could see he was thinking of something, as he stared at it, then he turned and came over to them.
"How's the food? Help yourself to more if you want."
They thanked him and Jake noticed Stan's divided attention between them and the bike. He could tell there was still a connection to it, some untold reason he had held onto it all these years.
"Had some good times on it, I bet?"
Stan kept looking at the bike and smiled.
"Yeah. Saw a lot of America on it. Met many of its people along the way."
"So why did you stop riding, if you don't mind me asking?"
Stan looked at Jake, saw it was an honestly asked question and looked at the ground and then back to the bike. After a brief look, he turned back to Jake.
"Time to stop rambling, I guess. Met Lorelei and had Piermont a year later. Always meant to keep it in good shape, just never had time. Always hoped he'd want it one day, but he seems to be into cars and no interest in bikes. That's okay, I know it's going to be in good hands with you, Jake. I know you'll fix it back up and get it running nice again. She's a good runner, you'll see."
"It's a Chief, isn't it?"
"Yes. '39. The twelve hundred was a smooth engine, much smoother than the Harley V twins. More power too. Got it late in the production year and that's why it has the big fenders. They weren't on most of the other '39's and I lucked out. I like the look of them. I guess it's a bit '39 and a bit '40 actually."
Jake could clearly see why Stan had held onto the old bike all these years. He had wanted Piney to enjoy what he had, those many years ago and share that with him. It was the dream of a man, a moment in his life, when he had felt freedom. A feeling that had possessed him and was held dear by him, in hopes it would help his son to become a better man, the way he felt it had changed his life. Jake gently put his hand on Stan's shoulder and walked him towards the bike and away from the others. When he felt he was out of earshot, he turned Stan towards him.
"Stan, I really feel I have to be honest with you and come clean about something."
Stan looked at Jake with questions written on his face, wondering when he had been lied to.
"The bike isn't for me, Stan. It's for Piney. He was so worried about having to face you and talk to you about it, positive you'd never sell him the bike. So, I was going to buy it for him. He really wants to ride with JT and the others standing over there. It's his dream, Stan. One he wants to live out. I'm real sorry about pulling a fast one on you, Stan, but I was just doing it for your son."
Stan listened to Jake, heard everything he said and stared at him blankly. Little by little, all that was heard, started finding its way to his heart and helped him understand what it meant. He looked at Jake with teary eyes, ones that were finding a peace in his soul. JT and Piney came out at that point, with plates of food and stood with their friends, glancing over at Jake and Stan by the bike.
"What do you think Jake's saying to your dad, Piney?"
"Hopefully to just give him the bike for free."
"Don't you wish. No, really, look at your dad. He almost seems happy about something."
That had all the guys looking at the pair by the bike. Jake was talking to Stan and it looked like what he was saying, was making him smile, like it was bringing him a peacefulness. Stan reached out and shook Jake's hand, clasping his other one over it. The guys could see that Stan was grateful for something and Jake held Stan's shoulder with his other hand, as Stan talked. When he finished, the two men hugged, patting each other's backs. The guys all looked at one another, mostly to Piney.
Stan and Jake broke apart and Stan turned to Piney and waved him over, a smile on his lips, tears still in his eyes. Piney walked over to them and looked at Jake, then to his dad.
"Jake and I were just talking about the bike, son. He told me he wasn't buying it for himself, but for you. Pier....Piney, this bike was always meant to be yours. I wanted you to ride it and see what I got to see, feel what I got to feel. I was just waiting until you were old enough to give it to you, then all that happened between us. I'm so sorry, son. I realize it was wrong of me to try and separate you two. I know how close you two are and I should never have tried to stop that. I should have been a better father to you and to JT. I know how lost he became, when his father was killed, how he had no one to guide him anymore. I should have realized that and taken him under my wing, instead of turning him away. Instead, all I did was cause problems for everyone, because I was mad and acted stupidly and didn't think first. I've lost so much time with you, I don't want to lose anymore. Please forgive me son."
Piney was standing stalk still, listening to the outpouring of emotion from his father. Every word he spoke, seemed to erase more and more of the hurt he held inside, until he finished and felt nothing but love for his father again. His tear stained face smiled in peacefulness and pulled his father into a bear hug. His father returned it equally, knowing his forgiveness was granted and his son was returning to him. They wept together openly and Jake patted both their shoulders and walked away back to the others. JT looked at Jake with wonder, trying to imagine what he had said to Stan. Jake nodded his head, not saying anything right off.
"Looks like I'm going on a trip."
JT seemed puzzled how that came out of what he had just saw.
"Where to, Jake?"
"Going to be riding the coast. Do a run to Big Sur, then up the coast to Eureka and back."
"Why are you doing the run?"
Jake looked at JT and then over to Piney and his dad, still embraced in bonding.
"Promised Stan, I'd take you boys on a run and show you, what he can't."
"Piney's dad wants us to go on a run together? Why?"
"He knows you boys are forming a club. He always wanted to go riding with Piney, it turns out, so now that he doesn't feel he can ride anymore, he's asked me to. You boys ready to club ride?"
JT looked around at Lenny, knowing he was the only other rider there, asking with his eyes if that was something he wanted to do. Lenny shrugged, his expression saying he wasn't sure. They walked a short distance away to talk.
"Have to call Otto and see if he can make it, Chico too. My bike is almost ready, yours is getting taken care of tomorrow and now we just have to get this bike back to the shop and make it a runner."
"My bike may be ready, but I still have a place to find."
JT put his hand on Lenny's shoulder and looked at him squarely, keeping his voice low.
"You work at Oswald construction, right? There's got to be material lying around at the sites, that we can use. Once we get the place cleaned out, we can make some rooms to start with and then worry about a shitter and kitchen later. This run isn't happening for some time yet, man. Just check out what we can get our hands on easy enough and we'll get a truck to haul it to the clubhouse."
"They have a yard truck, that they leave on site. They use it to run material from the drop point at the main road and distribute it to the lots. No plates on it, but the tank is always full and the keys are easy to get."
JT and Lenny shook hands happily. JT nodding and Lenny agreeing.
"Done deal, man."
"Done deal, brother."
JT stood beside Jake and looked at Piney and his dad talking about the bike. The loss of Lester was still in the background, but on the surface, they were enjoying the life they still had to live. Finally, they walked over to the rest and Stan came up to JT. He looked at him in a way JT hadn't seen come from an older man in a long time. It was the way his father used to look at him when he was younger. Stan walked JT away and slowly paced his steps, just moving away for a little privacy.
"JT, there's been too much hurt, over something so minor. I owe you an apology, son. I should never have taken such a hard line with you boys. You and Piney are like brothers and you were like a son to me, JT. After your father died, I should have done more to fill in for him, but instead of fathering you, I ended up trying to control you. It was the disappointment I felt, when I had such high hopes for you both. I thought you were going to drag Pierm... Piney down with you and didn't want him wasting his life, getting in trouble. I shouldn't have acted the way I did."
JT didn't interrupt Stan, as he confided to him and shared what had been between them, all these years.
"When you boys went off to war, I prayed every day for both of you to come back safely. I knew in my heart that you wouldn't let anything happen to him, so I became more concerned for you at that point. When you boys stepped off the plane and I saw you, I was so happy and relieved. I thought we could put the past behind us, but I had done so much damage between us, JT. You boys wanted nothing to do with me and I didn't blame you. You weren't going to listen to me anymore, weren't going to heed my words to do what I thought was right."
JT was holding it together on the outside, but inside, his stomach churned, the emotions that Stan was stirring up from the past, were coming back and being felt. This time, they were being dispelled, giving him the chance to let go of them, but feeling them still, brought back memories of what was.
"I was so wrong, JT. I know it now. I don't own you, or have the right to command you at will. You're both supposed to make your own decisions and all I was supposed to do, was guide you, explain what happens in life and let you decide which way to go."
Stan paused and hesitated slightly, as he went to put his hand on JT's shoulder.
"You're a good man, JT. You've turned out fine, son. You have a good heart and a good head on your shoulders. You know enough to think first and act later, Piney doesn't. You watched over him all these years and you've been more of a brother to him, than he was to Lester."
JT felt Stan's hand squeeze him tighter at the mention of his name,
"I want that again, JT. I want to be a father for you again and feel I have gained back a son, for the one I lost."
JT lifted his head slowly, turning to Stan as he did. He saw that look, the one a man wore when he was proud of someone and that someone was him. It took little else for him to let go of the past and accept what was given to him with love.
In the instance of hugging, JT was once again feeling grounded, felt he belonged somewhere and stopped feeling alone and separated from family. Just calling Stan, 'Pops' again, was a sound from his lips that brought happiness to his heart.
The guys watched them and not one felt less of JT, for his show of love and willingness to forgive, but instead, made them prouder of the man who would lead them. JT and Stan came back, teary smiles on both of them, that Piney took in his own heart and felt deeply, wiping away that bitter moment in time that had divided them and closing the ends together to erase it.
Wally and Lenny were becoming unsettled, knowing it was proper to pay one's respects, but time was ticking and work needed to be done. Lenny turned to Jake and whispered that they wanted to go and clean, but weren't sure if that was disrespectful. Jake nodded, understanding what was asked and said he'd take care of it.
"Stan, I'm so happy that you've been able to work things out with Piney and JT and we'll come by soon and pick up the bike. I know I speak for all of us here, when I say we are so sorry for your loss. War doesn't solve a thing and does nothing but kill young men, we know that. I feel so bad, that your son had to be one of those to pay that price. You let me know when he comes home, because I'd like to pay my respects to him as well and say goodbye to a fallen comrade. His passing should be honoured in the highest manner possible."
Stan looked at Jake with deep feelings of gratitude, proud to know a man who knew honour, as a part of his life. He nodded most agreeably, finding it hard to get words out. He looked at Jake and then to the others, pausing on JT and Piney standing together.
"I'll let you know, Jake. I'm honoured, I really am, thank you."
They shook warmly and with compassion, the bond forming between them as friends, becoming stronger. When Jake felt it was a good time, he broke Stan away from the moment to tell him of their need to go.
"Stan I truly would like to stay, same as these guys, but we have a storage building that needs emptying and cleaning in the worst way. Lenny needs to move in somewhere by the end of the week, seems developers have him evicted from his house and they did it somewhat illegally, in my book. So please forgive us for having to go. Thank you, for your kind hospitality and we'll see your wife on the way out and say the same. It's been a great pleasure meeting you, Stan, it really has."
Stan looked at him and then to the others, seeing that need to go, written on each one. He looked at his son and saw the conflict of going and staying on his face.
"You know what? Let me get changed quickly and I'll come and help. Lorelei has her family with her and doesn't really need me to be here and I'm sure she'd agree, that helping my sons and their friends, is more important than standing around feeling sad and sorry for myself."
They all agreed wholeheartedly that he should join them, so Stan began thanking them. JT got his attention.
"Hey Pops, let's get moving."
Stan heard JT use the name and felt a warmth come over him. He smiled and nodded happily, as he hurried inside to change. The guys all stood for a moment and took stock of everything. So much had happened in such a short span of time, it was hard to keep up with everything and keep it in order. One thing Jake realized straight off, his ordered world he had created, was now going to be filled with chaos and confusion, until an new order was made to make things right again.
They went in and said goodbye to Lorelei, wishing her peace and they could see she was smiling through the pain, as she held Piney and JT to her. From a great pain of loss, she was able to have the great joy, of having her family whole again. When Stan came out in his work clothes, they said goodbye to everyone and piled into the cars once more. Stan did his best to keep the mood happy and let Piney put whatever music he wanted to hear on. They enjoyed the ride back, the sombreness of the moment past and the chance to be back to a more normal feeling, happily received.
They pulled into the garage lot, to find Ann-Marie, Suzy, Gloria, Mary and Keith, sitting on the picnic table waiting for them. Once again, things didn't work out as planned, as they had said they'd be back after work to see them. Wally parked, but Stan dropped everyone off and said he would go buy some beer and snacks. Once Stan was gone, the reason for all of them being there became apparent, when Suzy explained. Jake went in to the garage to close things up, knowing nothing more needed to be done today, the guys doing such great work and getting farther than he hoped
They had been sitting in the room after a good shower and cleaning up, when a woman knocked at their door. She said she was the wife of the owner and wanted to know who they were. The girls explained their lie, as best as they could to convince her they were real guests and it was the clerk who screwed up. She wasn't buying it and when they said they had friends next door who would vouch for them, she asked why they were staying there and not recorded in the book. One thing led to another and the woman asked them to leave. Keith had brought them one by one to the shop and when no one was here, they became worried about what to do.
Jake walked past them and opened the doors to the building, letting it air out a bit more, as talk of where to sleep became an issue. The girls were wanting to go back to their own places, but leaving their new beaus behind wasn't an appealing prospect. The guys started going in and dragging out the junk and debris, stacking it and making room on the dock, for everything to come out. They used the old pump truck to move the skids out, but it was leaky and would lose height rapidly, unless they continued pumping. Bit by bit, more and more of the place became exposed and ideas began happening.
The girls moved the picnic table as far away from the dust and dirt billowing out the doors, as the guys stirred up years of settled filth. Stan pulled in and parked, then came to them with several cases of beer and a couple of bags of snacks. He asked if they were wanting any and they immediately said that was the closest they were coming to dinner that night. He looked at them with surprised concern, wondering why they had no way to have a proper meal.
"Would you young ladies like to have something better to eat? There's plates and plates of food at the house, that no one is going to eat. You're very welcome to come and eat whatever you'd like."
The girls found the idea more to their liking, a selection of things to choose from, instead of popcorn and chips. Suzy was curious enough to ask about the reason for all the food.
"Were you guys having a party?"
Stan looked at the innocence on Suzy's face, completely unaware of the death of his son. He became a bit unsure of how to approach the subject, becoming more nervous in his mannerisms.