When Life Happened(9)

By: Jewel E. Ann


“Depends on the neighbor.”

She pointed a finger at him. “You know … I did shear Rags for you. Maybe we can make an even trade?”

He barked out a laugh. “An ‘even’ trade? Since when does it cost several grand to buzz down a dog?”

“No! Not that.” She shoved his shoulder.

He wanted to shove her back—as in up against the wall. Swallowing hard, he blinked to erase the vision from his mind. That wasn’t him. Those thoughts weren’t his. Yet, he let them in his mind, and they felt real as they spurred parts of him to life in unwanted ways.

“I’m talking about moving the outlets, not rewiring my house. I don’t want to feel like I owe you.”

“That’s fair.” He turned back to the fuse panel. “I’m going to flip the switch to all the electricity while I do this. It will be easiest. Are you good for a little bit without it?”

“Yes.” She headed up the stairs. “But let me open this door. Otherwise, it’s going to be pitch black down here when you flip it.”

The door hinges groaned when she opened it. “Okay.”

He flipped it and navigated the creaky stairs.

“Just don’t forget to turn me on before you leave.”

The toe of Gus’s boot snagged on the edge of the stair, and he caught himself with the rail. Had she been reading his mind?

“Sorry.” Parker cupped a hand over her mouth, muffling her laugh. “Gah! That sounded so wrong.”

“Nah … the switch.” He cleared his throat. “I got what you meant.” The perfect chance to give her shit presented itself, and he choked because his dick began to have an involuntary response to her.

“Brady? Let’s get this done before your game.”

Brady, having taken a seat on a chair in the kitchen, jumped to attention.

“So, Mr. Brady, why are you hanging out with Uncle Gus today?” She grabbed a cookie from an old ceramic cookie jar shaped like a chicken and held it up as if to ask Gus permission to offer it to Brady.

Gus nodded.

“Thank you.” Brady took the cookie and shoved half of it in his mouth.

Parker led them up the stairs.

“My sister got called into work, and Brady’s dad is out of town.”

“Grandpa’s sick. A pain in his ass,” Brady said matter-of-factly through his mouthful of cookie.

“Brady!” Gus tugged on the little boy’s ear until he giggled.

“Grandma said so. She said until he got better, he was a pain in her ass too.”

Halfway down the hall, Parker glanced over her shoulder; a smile tugged the corner of her mouth upward. Gus pinched his upper lip between his teeth and rolled his eyes.

“My dad’s hemorrhoids have flared up. My dear sister needs to refrain from using speaker phone when they call. Innocent ears.”

“It’s okay. My mom talks like an uncensored child all the time.” She winked at Brady then pointed to the outlet by the window. “Can you move that about five feet to the right?” Then she pointed to an outlet below her television mounted to the wall opposite her bed. “Can you move that one so it’s hidden behind the TV?”

“Yes and yes.” Gus inspected the outlets.

“You can watch my baseball game today.”

“Oh …” Parker looked between Gus and Brady.

“Um … I’m sure Parker is busy, buddy.”

“Yeah, I’ve got like a bunch of stuff … to do …” She shook her head. “Not busy at all actually.”

Gus looked up from his tool bag. “Well, if Brady invited you and you want to go, then …” He shrugged. That was his excuse if anyone asked. He didn’t invite the neighbor lady, Brady did. Who was he to say she couldn’t go to a little league game open to the public? Parker would be there; other men and women would be there. No big deal.

“Sure. I love baseball.”

Of course she loved baseball. Gus loved baseball. His absent wife did not like baseball. Gus questioned if his wife still liked him.

“Great … just … great.” His enthusiasm faded after the first great, settling into an uneasy pang of guilt in his gut.

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