Monday, July 13, 2009

The Man Hole Cover - Chapter 5

Well it's Monday again and time for all of you to become my editors, critics, and book reviewers. I am now up to Chapter 5 in my book, "The Gallery" which is where this story begins for those of you just jumping in. I would love your blunt honesty and nothing you say will hurt my feelings. I need the honest criticism. So let them rip. Blogger is having issues allowing me to post a picture which is why there is one missing for this title. I hope I can get it to post later. I hope you enjoy this!

The Man Hole

They are there every day. Right smack dab in the middle of the street. You wouldn’t even notice them unless you were looking for them and I have one right in the middle of my street. Not more than 500 feet from my front door. The only way I noticed it was there, was during a picture scavenger hunt I gave my daughter and her friend more than 2 months ago. One of the items was to take a picture of a man hole cover. They found it. Yet there it remains. A cover to whatever world lies beneath it.

Oh sure I have watched my fair share of discovery shows on TV to know that just below the man hole cover is a pipe that lead to some sewer line buried beneath our street. It’s where all the stuff from our home drains away so we don’t have to know where it goes once toilets are flushed or showers are turned off. It just all disappears down the drain. No need to know from there. Just gone.

Yet it puzzled me in a creative way one day to wonder what possibilities could lead to what lies underneath the man hole cover if we didn’t have someone to point the way. The imagination is a very powerful thing. So I stare at the man hole cover while watering the lawn today. I don’t have time to wonder today. I have too many things on my plate today. I will think about it later.

After I roll up the hose, my cell phone is already vibrating and ringing away in my pocket. I put it there because I need to make sure I don’t miss a call. My job requires that I am pretty much on call whenever they need to reach me, especially in this economy. I have to do twice the work as every one else. We just can’t hire more help right now. The company is already teetering on whether or not to close our local office, so for me, I am just happy to be working right now.

I look down at the phone and sure enough caller ID reveals it’s my boss. I roll my eyes before pressing the send button and prepare myself for whatever dilemma or crisis will reveal itself to me in an instant. I hesitate momentarily but press the button anyway. Can’t avoid it, he will only call back.

“Hello? Hey Jake, what’s going on?” I asked trying to sound wide-awake.

“We’ve got a really big issue going on at the mall project you’ve been working on. Our contractor never showed up and the client is pretty upset.” Jake yelled. “We need you to get out there right away and make sure there is some presence on site so that the client knows we will handle the materials delivery that is already in route. There isn’t anyone else on site that can receive it in, and make sure nothing is missing. How soon can you be there?”

Without thinking, I answer, “Give me an hour and I will take care of it.”

“Great! I knew I could count on you. Call me when you get there.” Said Jake before hanging up.

“Sure, no problem.” I say as close the phone and put it back in my pocket.

Now reality sets in. Once again I stopped to think about my recent decision. I can’t even believe where the words came from. I said I would be there. I would be on my way. How was I going to be able to leave?

Since it was still relatively early, I made my way into the house quietly to see if anyone was awake yet. The coffeepot still sat sleeping in its holder, unaware of my presence. No automatic light signaling the brewing process was in the works or even on a delay setting. The house was silent.

Every one was still asleep. So I quietly slipped into the shower while leaving all the lights off in the house. I was in and out before the water had time to warm my feet still cold from watering the lawn. I grabbed my clothes that were lying on the floor from where I left them, and headed downstairs to get dressed.

I slipped into the bathroom downstairs and quietly turned the handle before turning on the light. I got dressed and brushed my hair. I had very little time for anything else.

Normally on mornings like this I would make some coffee and set the timer to go off before she would get up. The smell of morning coffee brewing was like heaven in the morning. One thing less that she would need to do before any of the kids put demands on her. If she could just get through one cup uninterrupted, it would be a great day. I simply didn’t have time today. I checked the time on the coffeepot and I had already been here 25 minutes. I knew the commute might take me a bit longer since everyone else would be sharing the road with me. I could cover for that if I needed to and I could push the speed limit a bit on my way in as well. Should be able to make it.

Thank goodness I had gotten up early this morning. I had a sense that I would have to go in today. I worked non-stop for the last four weeks and today should be the final day of the project. Today should hopefully be the last day to head in to the mall for another long day. After today, things would be different.

I had already packed up the car with my laptop and tool this morning. I figured it would be the last thing my wife would want to see staring at her or the kids today. It’s been up and on when I am not gone. Just in case I get something urgent from work that needs my attention. It’s part of the job I tell myself. So I wanted to make sure it wasn’t sitting there again this morning. I figure I would put it away. I put everything away this morning that reminded me of my job. My organizer, my computer, tools, my GPS, my cell phones. I have more than one. I have one for my family and one for my job. This way my family can always call and I don’t have to worry about explaining calls to my boss on my company phone.

So we got the family plan that allows us to have unlimited minutes between us all. It helped months ago when I was gone. I was required to be out of town for a “special project” that needed my immediate attention. Plus I really needed the money. In this market, both your working and getting paid, or you go hungry for weeks. Since we were getting back on our feet again, I didn’t want to risk another possibility of now work if I declined this offer, so I said yes, no problem.

Again I said those same words to my boss. My wife’s brother. I mean could I really say No? You would think he would understand all the previous weeks of being out of town for months at a time. Being flown out last minute with less than a days notice to Florida or Indiana, Oregon or Washington. Always having a start day but never knowing just how long I may be gone.

The answer I usually got? “Whenever you finish what needs to be done. We’ll fly you home.”

I barely missed being gone for Christmas but thankfully I had a court date from a creditor on December 17th that required my presence. It couldn’t be postponed again. I already did that once before since I was out of town the month before. It was a convenient excuse so I let it stand. I would rather attend court than to deal with telling my family; I wouldn’t be home for Christmas.

Doing that over Thanksgiving had already produced the first big fight of many I would have with my wife. At first I thought she would understand. We were almost four months behind on our house payments when her brother as a way to bail us out first offered me this job. I was told the work was always busy and the money was great. What he failed to tell me was the price I would pay to take this job. The price my family would be faced dealing with not having me around. I was told that most of the travel was only for a couple of weeks and the likelihood of some work being available in my state would come before the first of the new year.

We talked and agreed that we couldn’t risk the loss of our home right now with the holiday facing us in a few months, so I took it. I left the very next day to Oregon. Two weeks later. I was headed home. I was home for a few days, then I was told I had to go back. There was more work that needed to get done and still there was no work here locally. I left again after the weekend was over first thing Monday morning.

That time, I was gone for three and a half weeks. I dealt with all the crying of my youngest saying she missed me and wanted to know when I was coming home. It sucked not being able to give her an answer other than, whenever daddy finishes everything up.

I dealt with all the late night calls listening to my wife deal with going to sleep without me yet again. I couldn’t even give her the answer she wanted and needed to hear. I simply didn’t know. I was working to try and get things done as soon as I could.

I got to stay home for a week after that. It should sound great however, when I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So while staying at home with my family was nice and having my littlest one glued to my side as much as should could, I knew I couldn’t stay. I had to get back to work.

This time, I was gone for 5 weeks to Florida. At least it was supposed to be Florida. I was hoping I would be staying here because it was working on a hotel. When we worked at a hotel, all our expenses would be paid for. If we didn’t we had to pay for it ourselves and the company would reimburse us when we returned at $85.00 per day. If we went over that, it was on us. I don’t know about you but you can’t really expect people to live in a hotel away from home, and eat all day for $85.00. Yet that is what I did. I had to. Even then, I was taking that same $85.00 out of my bank account until I could get home, fill out all the expense report forms and submit it before the next pay period. After that, I would cross my fingers and wait. Hoping that I would see that reimbursements appear on my paycheck.

Sometimes they didn’t. There were errors in payroll I was told. They didn’t get my paperwork. They didn’t have a signature on the forms by my manager. He failed to submit the paperwork in time. I didn’t have the original receipts.

So I would have to wait for another two weeks. In the meantime, that money was already spent so I had to take another out of town job. I had to since there wasn’t any work at home in my state. So when the job to Florida showed up it gave me hope. I didn’t have much money to travel on so staying at the hotel and working gave me an out I needed.

It didn’t last. I was needed in Indiana. The very same day I was flown out. This wasn’t a hotel job. Worse yet, Thanksgiving was a week away. This was a high profile job with a major communication's carrier. I was told if we could do this job and make it look good, it would bring our company more revenue and get me back home sooner.

More nights of lonely calls to a house that was slowly losing hope. My youngest daughter was lashing out in anger at both home and school. She wasn’t sleeping and waking up to nightmares. My wife wasn’t sleeping since for 13 years, we’ve never been apart. Suddenly she was being pulled in the direction of both wife and husband.

When the sprinkler system failed at home and began to flood our front lawn, she called me. She was crying because she couldn’t turn the water off. When I told her where it was the shut off valve was, water had flooded the valves and she couldn’t see them under all the muddy water. Water was flooding all the rose bushes and filling our street. I was thinking it had to be the water main since there was so much water coming from the lines.

She hung up with me in frustration and thankfully a neighbor came to her aid. They turned all the water off in the house. I was in Indiana still with no way out. When some time had passed and things dried out, I told her where to locate the water shut off for the sprinklers. Unfortunately for her, she had to dig three feet of mud and debris to locate the sprinkler shut off valve that had gotten buried when the sprinkler valve blew.

She wasn’t in the best of moods when we talked later that night. She had pulled quite a few back muscles in between tears trying to get the water turned back on in the home so the kids could use the bathroom and take showers. Thankfully it worked. She told me the grass could die because she wasn’t about to fix the sprinklers while talking to me over the phone.

Then more bad news. I wasn’t going to be finished with the project before Thanksgiving and our company needed us to work through the holiday. They couldn’t send us home This project was too big. That wasn’t a phone call I was particularly found of making to my family. Thankfully we don’t do big Thanksgiving dinner with family; it’s usually just us. Not this year. It was just them without me. She said she understood and hopefully this would not impact Christmas.

She did remind me that I had a court date pending on December 17th and she would not be able to get it extended. Perhaps she reminded me, that the company would at least deal with it since it was a legal obligation of mine I couldn’t change.

I was home on December 14th. I told them I needed time to prepare with my attorney before the actual date. I was hoping that they wouldn’t send me out after that. They didn’t. I didn’t work again or get paid again for that matter until I went back to work on January 3rd.

Nope it wasn’t at home in my state either. It was in Philadelphia and New Jersey. My littlest daughter was inconsolable at the airport that day and it broke my heart as I watched both my wife and family leave me at the curbside check in. I didn’t know when I would be back. I would be there at my job. No problem. They could count on me.

The only way I made it home in time for my youngest daughter’s birthday was a threat from my wife. It was plain and simple. Either you come home for her or you don’t come home at all. She told me that if I wasn’t going to be able to make it, I would have to be the one to tell our daughter why. She was tired of being the bad guy all the time.

I tried to negotiate with my daughter. I tried to tell her that perhaps we could do her birthday some other weekend when I got home. Perhaps the weekend after or the weekend after that. I tried to explain that I had no control of that situation. She didn’t care. She didn’t want to hear it. She wanted her daddy home. I wanted to come home.

My brother understood and had me flown home the day before her actual birthday. I surprised her at friends and she cried. She said she didn’t want any presents that just me being home was present enough. It broke my heart. I needed to find another job.

I put my resume in a few places, but I really didn’t try hard enough. Just tried to make it seem like I was. I even tried to drive around and put applications in but only at a few places. It just seemed like no one was hiring. So I left when a job offer came around to fly out to Northern California this time with my old company. The jobs were coming through in our market. They were looking for a person to manage mall projects here. So I took the offer since it meant I wouldn’t have to fly out. No problem. I am your man!

This time, however, it proved me wrong yet again. I couldn’t get home for our wedding anniversary of 11 years and worse yet, I was going to still be out of town for my wife’s birthday, two weeks after that. I tried to arrange for our friends to help me. I had one pick up a cake I had bought and paid for over the phone. I had another friend agree to go pick out some flowers for her and deliver them. I even had promised to call her all day. I don’t understand why she was so upset.

She told me to call all those friends of ours back and call it all off. She didn’t want anything and then refused to take my calls that day. I called first thing to tell her Happy Birthday but had to hang up when worked called. She didn’t answer any phone calls that day. I don’t understand why she doesn’t realize I am only working so she doesn’t have to. She can stay home with the kids now all day long.

I came home two days later. She threatened me with divorce if I didn’t go speak with our pastor. I really didn’t want to go because I knew what he was going to say. He just didn’t understand my situation. I sat in the car that day sitting outside the church. I was afraid. Not sure why. He would understand in this economy a man had to do what he could to provide for his family. After all, I am doing what God told me to do. I felt much better after giving myself that talk.

I was right too by the way. The pastor did understand. He understood my need to provide for my family in the best way I could. He understood the economy better than I had thought too because so many other men were in the same boat but losing their homes and families because they couldn’t find work.

I felt so much better. He told me that the cost to my family however was too great. It was something that they weren’t supposed to do. They are supposed to be trying to be a family without me, just so I could provide a paycheck.

I was thinking I was leading my family and being the head of our household, but all I was doing was providing for them financially. I wasn’t present in my home anymore. Phone calls and emails were not a substitute for me.

I vowed to change. He asked me to read a book with my wife to work on putting myself back in our marriage. I agreed wholeheartedly and would hope she would join me. She loved this stuff. He also suggested that I start looking for a new job.

When I returned that morning, my wife thankfully agreed to work on things with me if I agreed to change. I promised her I would. I also told her I would find another job.

I was called out to work in Las Vegas for a week and agreed. That turned into three weeks. I got an offer to complete two more malls in California again and told my boss no problem. He could count on me. There was even an offer to a promotion in it if I could successfully complete those malls on time and under budget.

I finished those projects and got the promotion. I was going to double my current salary. What I didn’t realize after my wife figured it all out, was that all my hours I was putting in during the last six months this year was more than my current new salary. Plain and simple, my company would be saving money by moving me to a salary position from my old hourly one. We would be losing money.

She must be wrong I assumed and waved her off.

“We’ll just wait and see what the checks show.” I said smugly to her.

She didn’t respond. She just walked quietly upstairs. She didn’t even look back when my work phone rang.

“Hey buddy! How’s it going, Congratulations!” said Jake proudly.

“Yeah, thanks a lot!” I said.

“We’ve got a new mall project just a couple of hours from you we need you to manage? You up for that?” he asked.

“Sure, no problem. When do you need me?” I asked.

“Need you out there today to go over the mall with both the client and the manager of the mall to work out all the details of the project. Can we count on you?

“Sure, I can be there in about an hour!”

“Great! Call me when you get there!” he said before hanging up the phone.

I didn’t understand it when my wife lay there on the bed watching TV. I told her I got to go, this new promotion thing and it wouldn’t take too long. No response.

“Bye,” I said standing in the doorway of our room waiting. Nothing. She didn’t even look at me.

“I love you,” I said, waiting. No response. I shrugged my shoulders and closed the door.

I walked down stairs and leaned over the recliner my youngest was sitting in watching cartoons.

“Daddy has to leave for work baby!” I said kissing her on the top of her head.

“Bye” she said not looking up from her cartoons.

I don’t know when the reality of it all came crashing down. I don’t even remember if there was even a starting point at which things went south. I do know that the people at my job loved how well I did my job. I was called at all hours of the night, and I was always able to provide answers to any problem that came up. I was the “go to guy” for the company. I loved my new title and all the recognition that came from that.

My family wasn’t home as much when I got home. They were gone out shopping or to the movies. Heck I don’t even know where they were most of the time. I know that when I needed to talk to them someone was always available on the cell phone. Our family line.

It wasn’t always the same for them. Sometimes, I left my phone in the car or on the ground when I was climbing up in the ceiling. They got used to calling me on my work phone when I didn’t answer the family phone. They didn’t call me very often. I was usually super busy or I had another person on the other line.

I didn’t even notice that they didn’t call so much anymore. Weekends rolled by and work still demanded my presence at the site. I was working so much I couldn’t remember sleeping but a few hours when I got home the next morning. The family was great about letting me sleep before I had to get back to work that night.

One day at work a man handed me a yellow manila envelope after confirming who I was. I figured it was another contractor’s bid that day. It was Dissolution of Marriage form and a date. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't remember breathing. I tried to call that day on the family phone but no one answered. I tried calling our home phone. No one answered.

I went home that night after I finished dealing with work and found our home dark. They must be asleep. I quietly opened the door and found no one home. The upstairs closet doors were all open and empty hangers filled the once full closet. All the pictures of our kids and family were gone. I picked up the phone and called our family phone. I could hear it ringing somewhere in the house.

I ran down the stairs and found a phone lying on the kitchen counter ringing. There was no one there on the family phone for me to talk to anymore. So here I sit looking at the phone and realizing that my family is gone.

The price I paid for that job and the promotion was more than my family could take. They needed a leader and not a financial provider. Someone who would come home instead of calling. Inside my pocket my phone rang again. Not the family phone but the work phone. Called ID showed “work calling” and I waited.

I looked up and wondered how that man got to the point in the painting.

Here he sat in his home, sitting at the kitchen table.

The family phone sitting on the table in front of him.

Manila envelope in his hand.

An empty home.

No blinking light on the coffeepot.

No one would be making coffee for him any longer.

No lights on in the home.

Just above the roof is a pipe.

A pipe leading to the street above.

Covering that pipe is a man hole cover.

Now I know what lies beneath that man hole cover.

The one just outside my home. I no longer need to use my imagination to know what lies beneath it.

I see it in front of me.


Gotta Have Faith said...

Wow, this post really hooked me into the story as if I was the one in it! Great Post, keep writing! Can't wait to see what the next chapter is about. Don't give it all away though. Keep the ending secret so the whole book is not out there for everyone to see.

RCUBEs said...

It's so sad I don't even know what to say sister Kat. It's hard when a man is in that position where he must choose between his family and work. Though family comes first, he needs the work to support his family, too.
Your post evokes so many feelings...God bless.

Heart2Heart said...

Thanks for the feedback so far. I was beginning to think I frightened some people off.

Don't quite know where the ideas come from but there are so many sad stories to tell that I hope people can choose to relate to.

My goal is to write one for each, though the situations may vary the majority of it is correct.

I have watched way too families in the midst of this economic crisis just walk away from everything because it all becomes too much to handle.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Mich said...

To be honest, I only read the first half, but not because it wasn't interesting, I'm afraid I gotta get back to my job as "mom." Interesting for sure...can't wait to come back and finish it.

Sarah Dawn said...

Sweet one, it is a joy to get to know you as well. I love your gift for writing, keep going, you are touching lives.

Sarah Dawn