Never Too Old to Fall in Love by Rod Wright

On August 1, 2004, while standing in the shade of the ancient pecan trees growing on the court house lawn, retired county sheriff Charlie Haley and his niece Lydia Baker watched the old Texas Theater being dedicated as the Jolene Haley Baker Library. The outside of the theater had been restored to its original 1920’s art deco style. The inside was made into a modern library which included the latest computers arranged on desks that occupied the old stage.
Never Too Old to Fall in Love
Never Too Old to Fall in Love by Rod Wright
When the ceremony was finished, Mayor Bernard Fouquet and his wife Silvia approached them to shake hands. “Charlie and Lydia, I want to thank you again for converting the old movie theater into a library, and donating it to the city. I am so sorry that Jolene is not here to see her dream come true.” Charlie replied, “I am too, but that’s life. Lydia added, “I am sure she will be watching me from above to make sure that every book is in its proper place.” "Lydia, it was very generous for you to retire, and move back here from Dallas," Silvia remarked. Lydia answered, “The traffic is getting so bad that moving back home was a pleasure. How do you and Bernard like living in the old mansion?” Sylvia answered; “I would have rather built out by the community college.” Bernard quickly replied, “Dear, it is so historical and the builder, Duke Joseph Vybiral was close friend of my ancestor, Bernard Fouquet. By next summer, I will have the carriage house demolished and your pool put in, just like I promised.” Silva with skeptical look on her face, said, “Bernard, I am going to hold you to your promise.” Ignoring his wife, Bernard asked, “Where are Janet and Robert? I thought they were coming to the dedication.” Charlie replied, “Janet called me this morning to say that Robert was sick again, and that they would be unable to make the dedication. Bernard replied, "I am sorry Janet couldn’t make it. Caring for Robert. with his illness keeps her home playing Robert's nurse a lot. If she had a healthy man, she would really enjoy life.” Lydia thought, “You old goat, you are just sorry you missed a chance to hit on my sister-in-law. A lot of good that will do you.” Silvia said, as she looked at the people standing on the court house steps. “Bernard, look over there. It is Betty Lou. We need to talk to her about our contributions to her husband’s campaign." That night before bed, Silvia was brushing her hair. She looked at Bernard, who was setting in an overstuffed chair petting his white Persian cat, Princess. She asked, “What was the real reason you wanted this old house?” “I didn’t want Janet and Robert to keep it in their family. Since Robert can no longer work because of his health, and Janet wants to retire from teaching nuclear engineering to take care of him, we got it at an excellent price. When old man Haley dies, with a little manipulation, I should be able to get the Rocking H Ranch. I already have developers interested in the land.” Silva remarked, “Is money the only thing you ever think of ?” "My dear, we need money so that you can live in the style you are accustomed to.” Chapter 2:Bernard Tries to Buy the Ranch The lyrics of the song “Happy Days Are Here Again”, played in his mind as Charlie climbed into his three year old Ford 150 pickup truck. “That auction was a gift from heaven. It has been a long time since we got such a good price for our cattle. I’ll have enough to pay off the loan on the ranch and pay Lydia and you and Janet a nice dividend.” Robert replied, “Put Janet’s and mine back in the ranch account.” “Don’t you need the money?” Charlie asked. After Janet sold the old mansion to Bernard and Sylvia, we are OK.” Robert replied. Then Charlie asked, “Are you sorry you sold it to Bernard.” “Yes I am, but he made the best offer. Janet and I were not going to let something that happened forty years ago interfere.” “You are a good man, nephew. Most men would have divorced Janet for cheating with Bernard.” “I almost did, but I realized that I loved her no matter what. I have never regretted my decision.” When Robert was stationed in Vietnam, Janet who was pregnant moved back to Comanche Springs to live with her grandmother in the old mansion. After Janet’s and Robert’s son Robert Lee was born, Janet became restless and took a job at the bank where Bernard worked. Even though Bernard was engaged to Silvia, Janet’s friend, he lusted after Janet. On a Friday, Janet, Silvia and Bernard were watching a football game at Silvia’s apartment. Encouraged by Bernard, Janet drank too much beer. Silvia insisted that Bernard drive Janet home, but instead of taking her home, he took her to his apartment. There he seduced her. When Janet sobered up, she deeply regretted what had happened and feared that Robert would be badly hurt if he should find out. Silvia became suspicious when Bernard was gone for so long. When Silvia confronted him, he claimed that Janet had seduced him. Silvia forgave Bernard, but the events of that afternoon destroyed Janet’s and Silvia’s friendship. To make matters worse, Miss Lustgarten, the town gossip saw Janet and Bernard go into his apartment. It was not long until Miss Lustgarten told Lydia, who had hated Janet, her sister-in-law, because Janet killed Lydia’s lover, Allen Tompkins, who was trying to knife Robert. A short time after Janet's seduction, Robert returned from Vietnam. Lydia told Robert about Janet cheating. Knowing his sister, Robert did not at first believe her. However, he looked so sad, when he came home, that Janet fearing the worst, asked him what was wrong. He told her what his sister said. Janet, who was in tears admitted that what Lydia had said was true and asked for his forgiveness and understanding. Shocked and angered, Robert stormed out of the house. By that evening, he had decided that he would not divorce Janet because he loved her. They reached the town square. Charlie took up two parking places when he parked his pickup and cow trailer in front of the bank. Robert asked, “Charlie, look how you’re parked. You’re going to get a ticket.” Charlie smiled and said, ”The meter maid wouldn’t dare!” Charlie went into the bank and Robert not wanting to talk to Bernard went over to the bakery to buy coffee and a donut that he really didn’t want. However, going to the bakery was a better choice than staying in the hot truck. When Charlie entered the bank, Bernard came out of his office to shake Charlie’s hand. “Charlie Haley, what brings you to the bank today? Do you need a loan? You won’t find better interest rates.” “Bernard, I don’t need a loan. In fact, I just dropped by to finish paying off my loan.” Smiling, Bernard asked, “Did you win the lottery?” Charlie replied, “No. I didn’t win the lottery. I sold my entire herd. I am getting too old to take proper care of them.” Bernard’s eyes lit up, as he said, “Charlie, a man of your age needs set back and take it easy. Move to town. I’ll give you top dollar for the ranch.” Charlie looked at Bernard and said, “The ranch has been in my family for hundred and sixty years. It is not for sale for any price.” “If you change your mind let me know.” Bernard went back into office and picked up the telephone, and placed a call. “This is Dark Water Security. How may I help you?” This is Bernard Fouquet. I need to speak to Ken.” After the cattle trailer had been put away, they were met by Janet, when they went into the house. “How did the auction go she asked? “Charlie replied it went real well. We made enough to pay off the loan on the ranch.” “That’s wonderful. I am so glad the loan to the bank is paid in full.” Robert patted his pocket. “I thought I brought my cell phone. “You did, but you left it on the kitchen counter. You had a call from Rick Ricardo to say that he was moving to Comanche Springs to teach at the community college.” “I asked if we could help with his move, but he said no. He will call you, when he has found an apartment, so that we could all get together.” “That is a surprise. We haven’t talked since his wife passed away last year.” Charlie said, “I liked that fellow , when he and his wife visited you a while back. Maybe, when everyone settles in, we can get Ramon and Maria to come up from Austin and we can all go deer hunting. Since I sold the herd, I don’t have to worry any more about you young people shooting my cows.”Janet smiled and said, “Charlie, this should be a guy thing. Robert, Invite your son and son-in-law. Maria, her twins, and Rita Fay and I can use that weekend for a mother/daughter shopping trip to Dallas.” Chapter 3: Rick Moves to Comanche Springs Professor Rick Ricardo pulled his candy apple red 2003 BMW into a parking place in front of the administrative building of the Community College. Hurrying to get out of the afternoon sun, he quickly entered the administration building. He saw a sign over a door that read Dean Miller. A very shapely young woman setting behind the desk asked, “My I help you.” Ricardo answered, “I have an appointment with the Dean.” The young woman looked at her computer monitor, got up, gently knocked on an inner door, and said, “Dean, Professor Ricardo is here to see you” “Beth, send him in please.” A fifty something plump man dressed in a white shirt and wrinkled gray slacks shook Rick’s hand, when he entered the office. “Professor Ricardo, have a seat. You’ve had a long drive. May Beth get you some coffee?” Rick smiled, and said, “Dean, a cup of coffee would be most appreciated.” With his cup of coffee in hand, the Dean remarked, “Professor we are really glad to have you as part of our faculty. You will be a great asset to our history department. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a professor with your talent and tenure would be willing to teach entry level history, government, and also chair the social science department at a community college.” Dean Miller was expecting more of an explanation of why Rick wanted the job, than the one that appeared on his resume. However, Rick only said, “I am sure, that it will be my pleasure to teach here.” Changing the subject, Miller asked, “Have you found a place to stay?” “No, I came directly to the campus, when I arrived in town.” The dean went on to say, “May I recommend the Trail Drive Motel, until you find a permanent place to live. The rooms are clean, have on line access and are reasonably priced. Also, the best steak house in town is just next door.” As the Dean got up his chair he said. “Let me show you your office and classrooms. Oh, Monday morning at ten, we have our first faculty meeting for the fall semester. Come by my office first. I will take you to the meeting and introduce you to the rest of the faculty.” Rick’s room in the Trail Drive Motel was nothing to write home about. However, it was clean, the king sized bed was comfortable, and the TV and plumbing worked. He looked at the awful yellow and gold drapes and matching bedspread, and was glad that he would be in the room for just a few days. He went over to close the drapes and noticed that he had a view of the pool. “That nice clear pool looks inviting.” I think I will go for a swim. The exercise will loosen up my stiff back.” After he swam a few laps, he got out of the pool and stretched out on a pool side recliner. He closed his eyes and started to doze off in the warm September sun, when a man sat on the recliner beside him and said, “Mind if I join you?” Rick replied, “Have a seat.” Before he could close his eyes, the man said, “My buddy and I came from Dallas to find a deer lease. Are you looking for a dear lease? We read that there are some trophy bucks on the Rocking H.” Rick answered, “No, I just got to town today. The only thing I will be leasing is an apartment.” “What are you going to do in this hick town?” “Teach at the community college,” Rick replied. The man glanced once again at Rick and saw a fifty four year old man that was excellent shape. A tattoo that read USAF Saigon 1968 was on his upper right arm. A long white scar extended from his elbow to his wrist on his left arm. “You look a little on the hard side to be a college professor.” Rick smiled and replied, “Never judge a book by its cover.” The other man inquired, "If you don’t mind me asking, where are you from?” “Miami,” Rick answered.” "It is hard to believe that you left all the parties and women to teach in this dump of a town." Rick gave the man a hard look. "Believe what you like. It is no concern of mine what you believe." A big man with a heavy black beard walked over, and said, “Ken, you want to start the poker game.” Ken asked, “Professor, you want to play some poker with Greg and me?” "Thanks for the invitation, but all I want to do is to eat dinner and go to bed.” Ken replied. “Have it your way,” and left with Greg for their poker game. Rick thought, as he watched the men go into their room, “Those guys are trouble looking for a place to happen. I wonder what they are up to.” Chapter 4: Lydia Meets Beth, Her New Assistant Lydia woke up, when the alarm clock started ringing at seven in the morning. Her dog hopped up on the bed and licked her hand. Lydia groaned, turned off the alarm clock. “I am getting up Hanna. You know that you are not supposed to jump up on the bed.” A tall slender woman with long brown hair streaked with gray around her temples looked at Lydia from the reflection of the full length mirror that hung by the front door. “I don’t look bad for fifty five year old lady, who had a misspent youth,” she said to Hanna as they went out the front door. Lydia and Hanna walked the six blocks from the house, that she had inherited from her mother, Jolene Haley Baker to the library. Just before she reached the town square, a black crew cab pickup slowed and pulled up beside her. The driver lowered his window and asked, “Can you tell us how to get to the Rocking H Ranch?” Lydia smiled and said, “Make a right at the next corner. Go one block. Then turn right again. That street becomes FM 11. Follow it north. The ranch is about five mile out of town.” The driver smiled, and said, “Thanks” and drove off. Lydia with a concerned look on her face thought, “I wonder what those good old boys want with Uncle Charlie.” A few minutes after Lydia opened the library, a college age woman came in. “Are you MS Baker?” she asked. “Yes, I am,” Lydia replied. “Hi, I am Beth Thomas. “Dean Miller said that you requested a student to help you in the afternoon. That’s me.” Lydia looked at the shapely young woman.” “I hope you don’t mind carrying boxes of books up to the balcony.” “I don’t mind at all, MS Baker. The exercise will help keep me keep my figure.” Lydia managed to keep from saying, “Girl, you really don’t need to work on your figure.” Hanna came over from under the desk to say hello. “What a cute doggie!” Beth said; as she reached down to scratch the dog’s ears. “What kind of dog is he? What is his name?” Lydia replied, “Her name is Hanna and she is a Beagle. You know, like Snoopy in the comic strip.” “But Snoopy is a boy,” Beth replied. Lydia did not reply, but thought, “Why do I get all the dumb ones.” Lydia handed Beth a note pad. “Write down your full name, address and telephone number. When Beth had finished writing, she said, “MS Baker, it was nice to meet you, but I got to run or I will be late for my history class. See you later Snoopy.” Lydia thought, “It’s only nine in the morning, and I already need a drink!” As Beth went out the door, Lydia called out, “If you can remember, be back here by one." Chapter 5: Rick Finds Lydia at the Library Rick got up the following morning with the intention of finding an apartment that day, if it was possible. A party in the next room had kept him up most of the night. When he went over to their door and knocked, a drunken college student answered the door. Rick asked him to quiet everyone down a bit. The student just laughed, and asked Rick, if he would like a beer. “No, I don’t want a beer. I just want you to be a little quieter.” The student replied, “Screw you Man!” Rick, with stunning speed punched the student in the solar plexus. Rick looked passed the student double up on the floor, and said, “This is the last time I am going to tell you. Keep the noise down.” The next morning, Rick bought a paper in the lobby and went back to his room to search the want ads for an apartment to lease. An apartment, in the Blue Bonnet Estates was available to lease. It was some distance from the campus, but it was close to the Catholic Church. He called the manager to make an appointment to see the apartment. Since he had some time to kill, before he was shown the apartment, he drove down town by the court house. He saw the bakery. Deciding that he was hungry, he parked and went in to buy a donut and a cup of coffee. As he was eating his donut, he noticed the library across the street. “I wonder if Robert or his family is involved with the library. After I finish my coffee, I will walk over and find out.” Lydia looked up from her desk, when Rick walked through the front door. She thought he looked familiar, but couldn’t place where she had seen him. "Hello, may I help you,” she asked. Rick recognized Lydia and said, “Remember me? I am Rick, Robert’s friend.” Lydia replied, “Rick it’s been a long time. I am sorry to hear that your wife passed away.” “Thank you. The last time I talked to Robert, you were working at a radio station in Dallas.” "I retired and came home to take care of Mom’s library. "Have you talked with Robert lately? “I called a few days, before I left Miami, but he wasn’t available, but I did talk to Janet. I told her that I would call back, when I settled in.” Lydia asked, “Are you moving to Comanche Springs? "Yes, I am going to be teaching at Texas Hills Community College.” Robert looked at his watch. “Lydia, I have to run. I have an appointment with an apartment manager in ten minutes. Let’s continue our conversation this evening. "Will you join me for dinner at the steak house?” “Sure, I would enjoy that. I will meet you there at seven.” Chapter 6: Ken and Greg Confront Charlie Charlie was setting on the front poach swing, trying to decide what he wanted for supper, when he saw the black crew cab drive down the gravel path. “Don’t recognize the truck, “he thought. He checked to make sure that his old Colt Detective Special was in its holster that was on his belt and under his shirt. Ken and Greg man got out of the truck, walked up the steps and asked, “Are you Charlie Haley?” I was, the last I checked,” Charlie replied. Ken remarked, “We understand you have trophy bucks here on the Rocking H. We have a client who will pay to harvest a buck that will make the Boone and Crocket Record Book.” Charlie replied, “Tell you client that no one, but family and friends hunt on the Rocking H and we don’t take no trophy bucks. I want them to breed and improve the quality of the deer on the ranch.” “Surly you won’t miss one buck. Our client will pay a premium for a world class buck.” Charlie’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Ken. “What part of no is the part, that you don’t understand? Get off my property.” Ken looked over at his partner and said, “That old man needs a lesson. Lets beat one into him.” They were shocked at how fast Charlie drew his pistol. “Boys, I am too old to bust my knuckles on you. So, if you don’t get in your truck real quick, I am going to start busting caps.” Without another word, Ken and his partner got into their truck and left. Chapter 7: Rick Leases an Apartment Rick liked the apartment. The apartment had two bed rooms with a large bath between them. The living room had a large native stone firearm place and was separated from the kitchen by a bar. The garage lead directly in to the apartment. The living room and bed rooms were painted an antique white. All the appliances were furnished. When Rick learned the appliances were furnished, he decides to lease the apartment. It was in the new Blue Bonnet Estates, a high end apartment complex. He signed the lease and went back to the motel for his things. Rick brought his few belongings into the apartment. It only took four trips to bring everything in. He had three suitcases containing his clothes and toilet articles, a lap top computer, a box of reference books After setting everything on the floor, he thought “I wish the apartment was furnished. Now I have to furnish it.” He looked at his Rolex and saw that it was three in the afternoon. “I still have time to do some shopping before I meet Lydia for dinner.” He remembered that he saw a furniture store in the shopping strip that contained the bowling alley. “I’ll shop there for some basic furniture. Then I can go to K-Mart to get towels and linen. Finally, I will go to the A&P Grocery to get some food to put in my pantry. If I can’t find what I need, I will ask Lydia to recommend some stores. I wonder where the liquor store is. From what Robert has said about his twin sister’s drinking, she knows where it is located.” He went to the furniture store and found the furniture he liked, and surprised the manager, when he said that he would pay cash, if it could be delivered that afternoon. He brought what he needed at K-Mart and his groceries at the A&P, and was back at the apartment a few minutes before the furniture was delivered.

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