Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 17

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.

Before he took off, Salazar made one last attempt to save his bacon. “Mr. Boehner, I was only trying to–“

“To squash the human spirit? To make sure that a woman who took initiative was punished for her ingenuity? For her concern for our customers? Or maybe you were trying to set up your nephew in Ms. Morgan’s job? Whatever you were trying to do, I’m not interested in you doing it on my dime. Now please leave, Jose. I don’t want to have to tell you again.” With that, Jay Boehner put a hand on Freddie’s shoulder and asked, “Are you ready to get back to fixing that palm tree? We have a lot more to do before the sun goes down.”

At five, a food truck showed up. It was white with lettering that announced, “TACOS,” and a zesty, colorful image on one side that beckoned our hungry crew. Later I would learn that Boehner had mysteriously located the owner and asked him to come and serve all the volunteers dinner. Mr. Boehner picked up the tag, but we didn’t know that until we got ready to pay. The fragrant mixture of cumin, peppers, and onions made my mouth water. The tacos and burritos proved themselves as good as their smell had promised. Greta and Freddie made a drinks run and came back with cold cans of soda, lemonade, and bottles of water.

When the sun finally started sinking around seven-thirty, there wasn’t much left to finish. Where once mud stretched on and on, the residents now looked out at a gazebo. In the far right hand corner sat tiny marked rows of a vegetable garden. Fig trees formed a backdrop, as did a few lime, lemon, and orange trees. To the left trickled a water feature that emptied into a shallow basin. If you traced a triangle around the gazebo, you could pinpoint the locations of three huge bird cages. Flight cages, I think they’re called. Kookie’s cage was snuggled up against the window of Helen’s room. Once or twice during the long work day, I saw a pale face rise and stare out at us, as Helen took notice of our efforts. Kookie had been surprisingly quiet throughout the hustle and bustle. Skye went to his cage several times, offering him grapes and tidbits. He took them and promptly dropped them to the floor of his home.

I had to hand it to Cooper, because he’d worked with his landscaping buddies to insure that the majority of the plants were heat, fungus, white fly,and mold resistant. Although a sprinkler system had been installed, most of the plants would be fine without help once they’d put down roots. Cooper had also worked with his people to keep the walkways accessible for those whose mobility was impaired. He’d thoughtfully installed lights along the edges so the space could be enjoyed in the evening.

Our customers had played their part, too. Because Sid had checked with Cooper early on, we’d asked that they bring plants that would flourish such as penta, periwinkles, hibiscus, Mexican heather, and bougainvillea. While I’d given out a healthy number of discount vouchers, I figured that I’d break even because a lot of people were introduced to my store because of our good works. 

James “Jay” Boehner walked up to people, shook their hands, and personally thanked them for their help. He was deep in conversation with Cooper when my employees and I decided we’d had enough for one day. I went to find Greta to tell her we were leaving. She was ready to go home, too. The assistant administrator promised to make sure the grounds were vacated, and all the volunteers were thanked and sent home. Since he’d come in at three, he was still energetic. Greta looked as exhausted as I felt. 

Freddie had proved himself to be a charming young man. He was lavish with his affection for his mother. By the time we were ready to call it a day, he’d worked his backside off–as had we all. “I’m going to drive him back to his residence,” said Greta, giving me a hug. “I can’t thank you and your friends enough for all you’ve done. I’d like to have a public open house next month so I can properly honor you and all the volunteers. Will you promise to attend?”

“Of course. But we want you and Freddie to stand over here, please.” After I arranged them next to us and grabbed a passer-by, we all posed for a photo. Once the mother and son left, MJ, Skye, Poppy, Sid, Honora, EveLynn, and I posed for a selfie that I planned to add to our website. I was sending the picture to my email account when Greta came trotting back. “I forgot to tell you that Helen seems better. It can’t possibly last, but I think her spirits were much cheered by the activity.”

While I was grateful to hear the good news, I was so tired I could barely stand up. So I gave Greta another filthy hug. My friends and I fairly wobbled to our cars. 

~ To Be Continued ~

Well, dear hearts. We’re almost done. But wait…I know you want to hear what happens next. And I want to know too, so there’s ONE more installment. I’m saving it for Mother’s Day! Hugs and kisses– j

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 16

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.
When Salazar lit into Greta, her son Freddie was working alongside a tall man wearing a baseball cap. At the sound of Salazar’s ranting, both men froze. They’d been hammering wooden supports to a palm tree. In their statue-like positions, they could have been images from one of those Old Florida postcards. Freddie reacted first, setting down his hammer carefully and coming to Greta’s aid.
“Furthermore,” said Salazar, turning to jab that fat little finger at Freddie. “See this? I don’t know where he wandered in from, but he should never have been allowed on these grounds. You’ve endangered our entire organization by encouraging this handicapped man to work in a dangerous environment. He could have had an accident and sued us! Not only are you fired, but I’ll make sure you never get a job in the assisted living community ever again.”
The man who’d been working alongside Freddie stepped quietly to the side of the young man. Freddie’s face was very round, guileless, but his eyes proved the threats weren’t lost on him. “Ma? I can go. I can call a resident advisor and get a ride.”
I put an arm around Greta. She trembled against me. “Mr. Salazar? Please…if you look at the plans, we’ve kept to them. There have been minor modifications, but those were because we were able to make small improvements–“
“You aren’t qualified to make those judgments. You know nothing of architecture or of landscaping. Undoing the harm you’ve done here will cost this company thousands upon thousands of dollars,” he started, but this time he was interrupted by Cooper Rivers, my old boyfriend.
“That’s patently wrong. I am a registered architect. I personally have supervised this work. There’s nothing here that wouldn’t be considered within an appropriate–” But Cooper didn’t get to finish, because Salazar got up in his face.
“See that? That bird cage? And that one? You added those. Birds carry disease. They are a liability issue. We cannot put our residents in danger like that. And the so-called water feature? It’s an attractive nuisance. That’s means it might look good but it could potentially endanger our clients. No, you can’t buffalo me. I’m here to represent the Boehner Group, and this is on my watch. I’m telling you that I want every bit of this scrapped, immediately. And I want the name of each and every volunteer, because I’m sure our corporate counsel will–“
This time it was Salazar who was interrupted. The tall man in the baseball cap tapped Greta’s furious boss on the shoulder. “Jose?”
Salazar whirled around. His jaw dropped. “Uh, Jay, what are you..?”
The other man nodded.
“I’ve got this under control,” said Salazar. “This woman has exceeded her authority. I’m having all this cleared out.”
“No,” said Jay in a quiet voice. “No, you don’t have this under control. And yes, she did exceed her authority, but she didn’t exceed her mandate. I’m relieving you of your duties, immediately. I’ll have our corporate attorney discuss your severance package with you. Please go.”
Salazar sputtered. “You don’t understand.”
“That’s where you’ve got it all wrong. I do understand. I understand entirely. Now I suggest you leave before I have you thrown off my property.” Suddenly the gray eyes that had been shielded by the baseball cap turned cold. Boehner had a nicely chiseled face and broad shoulders. His stance changed, and I had the impression he was ex-military. And he was definitely not happy.
After Salazar stormed off, Greta wiped her eyes and turned toward the man who’d come to her rescue. “Sir? I’m Greta Morgan.”
“And I’m James Boehner,” he said, shaking with her offered hand solemnly. “CEO of the Boehner Group. Allow me to introduce my good friend, Freddie. Who is an incredibly hard worker. He’s been telling me how much his mother loves her job and her new chums here at Martin Gardens. That’s the word he used, chums. Seems he loves watching Call the Midwife. I do, too.”
“Then, you’re the man who owns this place?” I wanted to be sure I understood what was happening. “And you’ve been working here all day, haven’t you? You showed up with donuts at eight.”
His chuckle was melodic. “My dad was a great believer in the power of a well-timed bribe. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the number of people I’d be feeding. Now let’s get back to work, shall we?”
~ To Be Continued ~
Yes, I know this is hard to read because you have to scroll through other posts. Trust me, I’m going to see what I can do about it. But thank you for taking this journey with me. I wasn’t sure how to write this scene–and then I woke up this morning and it popped into my head. Sometimes writing is like that. It’s this awesome sort of magic. You do your bit, you let it go, and then the best parts are sent to you via e-mail of the brain! Lots of love– j

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 14

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.

Sid had been on the sidelines for most of this adventure, tapping away at his keyboard and quietly marshalling resources. On Saturday, when we had our final planning meeting at Martin Gardens, he had announced that a variety of media would be joining us on the appointed day to watch the installation. Greta had invited all the mucky-mucks of her parent company, but none had responded. Her immediate boss had given her a lukewarm okay to the idea of planting a few flowers and generally sprucing up the landscape.

“I wasn’t entirely honest with him,” she admitted to me over a glass of wine. We’d become pretty good friends. I had learned that she, too, was a single mother. Her husband had abandoned her shortly after they learned their son had Down Syndrome. Freddie had struggled through life, but recently found a place at halfway house (I guess that’s what you’d call it) for adults with disabilities. He bagged groceries and loved his freedom. However, he still had a wide variety of medical needs that drained Greta’s resources.

“Why didn’t you brag to Mr. Salazar? This has turned into a really, really big deal!” Skye tucked her legs under her bottom and curled up on her futon. Admittedly, her apartment had become our gathering spot. She’d done such a fantastic job of turning trash into treasure with her decor that I never failed to get inspired after a visit.

“He’s prickly at best. Doesn’t like me. Doesn’t think I’m qualified. Doesn’t think I show him the proper deference.” She paused. “A bit of gossip. His nephew applied for the same job that I did, but I got it and he didn’t. Rumor has it that Mr. Salazar wants me out so he can bring Paul in and crow about my failure.”

Each visit began with the “How Is Helen?” report. This had been no exception.

“She’s fading fast. Manages a bite of food now and again. Extremely cachetic. Um, that means she’s wasting away and ‘extremely’ is redundant to be precise.” Greta was usually precise except in matters of the heart. I found her an odd juxtaposition of rigid and soft, almost as if both sides warred within her.

“Will she make it through tomorrow?” I was worried. Kookie had been installed in his new cage. Poppy had concocted a sort of small sized hurricane shutters that could be lowered when the sun was too bright or the wind too fearsome. We didn’t find any more of his feathers on the ground, so the plucking seemed to have stopped. He wasn’t eating much, but now instead of shrieking Helen’s name, he cooed and sang lullabies.

“Almost as if that durn bird knows she’s on her way to eternal rest,” Poppy had observed.

Skye took all this a bit hard. She’d always wanted a bird. Then along came Kookie. And she’d willingly given Kookie back to Helen. But I could see the sad light in her eyes each time we visited. However, Skye was no stranger to loss. I had a hunch that in her mind, she chalked this up to yet another disappointment that life had thrown her way.

~To Be Continued~

Author’s Note: Oh my gosh! I asked you to “talk” to me–and I was bowled over by your response! I’m taking a series of online classes right now. One teacher says that Facebook is a TOTAL waste of time for authors. That we’re only fooling ourselves. But I think we’ve found a wonderful way to share with each other–and because I feel closer to all of you, I get tremendous energy. So here’s a big HUG from me to you. Have a great day! — j