Yoharie: Security Check (part one)
It would be a bad moment for Yoharie, if someone rang the front bell. He wanted Dawn and the kids to get out—leave him alone, yes—but above all, since they had this nice place, and there was a little money at last, let em get some enjoyment out of life. The settlement was meant to be in lieu of the living he couldn’t make. He didn’t think you weren’t allowed to, aside from paying off the hospital…the therapy…
The bed, the chair…
Done deals, all that stuff over with. He’d let himself get talked into things, and wouldn’t any more. He was not going to buy newer equipment, or start a different line of medication, worry about his breathing or his fiber, get just the one leg that had a knee-joint fitted with a prosthetic, learn to cane himself around for the exercise. Yoharie, in spite of his daughter, didn’t mind if this was fatalistic.
“What are you saying? It’s been eight years since the accident. You waited a long time to get a lot less justice than you deserve, Dad. Don’t talk like you’re giving up!”
He couldn’t argue. He didn’t know Giarma so well, but knew she had arguments already conjured up (she wouldn’t like it if he put it that way) for stuff he had no opinion on anyway. But private in his head, Yoharie had determined to give up therapy. He had an appointment that afternoon; Dawn was coming back to take him, but he wasn’t going. Headache, he figured. He was working on it, how he would get back control of his own information, so he could stop all of this…
And if attrition was the only way, he would stop it one excuse at a time.
“Treat yourself, sweetheart”—that had been the phrase in his mind, the direction he’d been heading. Yoharie balked at this, though; it still sounded likely to cause trouble. That guy from across the street had made a kind of hostile, clucking noise in his cheek, still grinning. But pointing a finger down at Yoharie’s chest and saying, “Three mil. Cool.”
Well, not three mil. Only about half that to begin with, subtracting out what insurance wouldn’t cover, legal fees, buying this place for cash, so the kids could have it one day free and clear. The remodeling. Their neighbor, he thought, had caught something in the paper. Yoharie had puzzled on it, and concluded it was his name.
Different. People remembered.
“No, Dad,” Giarma told him later. “Mat Busby? He googled you. He probably googles everyone.”
Yoharie saw one of his squirrels hanging on to the new suet feeder, trying to nose in through the wire mesh. Now, he told himself, if those rodents won’t leave enough for my woodpeckers…if my little downies (Yoharie had discovered and got fondest of these, next to his hummingbirds) start getting run off all the time, I’ll have to check the Amazon store…
And then he told himself, “Why don’t I just do that? I could have a couple more feeders if I wanted.”
He shoved aside his spiral notebook. He watched it skitter to the floor and settle, splaying itself open. He heard a musical reverberation. The front bell… Westminster cathedral, or something. The kid rolled his eyes whenever this sixteen-note sequence went off, but Yoharie didn’t get tired of it. He’d bought a wind chime, liking the other thing so much, for his flower bed…massive, long tubes of chromatic hot-pink and aqua steel. He was braced for a complaint from the neighbors. But he’d be just as happy having it indoors next to his bed, where he could reach out a hand and start it going.
He had a sort of intercom arrangement that let him speak to callers. Only every time, he had to get the gadget going and figure it out fresh. He could peep at the front porch…if he managed this…on camera. If he wanted to.
He was going to ask Giarma—it occurred to him just then—to find out if you could get the UPS guy to bring packages round to the back.
There was that dog got in the yard sometimes. He thought dogs might be a question…but it was a nice dog. He was moving himself, ruminating on these things, towards the edge of his bed, where he could lower onto the wheelchair.
And there it was, nosing up to the glass. Baird…or Beany.
“Beatty!” Jeremiah Hibbler came up the ramp. He put his own face to the glass. He yelled.
“I don’t want to bother you, Mr. Yoharie!”
“Come on in. Just push the handle.”
Hibbler admonished the dog a couple more times. “Beatty, sit! Beatty! Sit!” He cracked the door and put his head round; Beatty’s came nudging between his knees. “If you don’t mind, I thought I might do you a favor.”
The dog barreled in.
“I don’t know, Mr. Yoharie, if you’ve ever had someone give the place a security check. Did Mat tell you about the neighborhood watch?”
Yoharie hadn’t, a hundred percent, found himself liking Busby. Mat got involved—that would be a nice way of putting it—and so it was looking like Mat would take on the role of representing Yoharie to the neighbors.
The dog plunged into the trash, got out a suet cake’s plastic wrapper. Hibbler, fast, clamped the snout, pressed down on the lower jaw, thrust fingers through the stream of drool. Beatty growled and wagged. Hibbler yanked a raggedy remnant free, flung it dripping back in the can. Yoharie, feeling bad and apologizing, watched Hibbler drag the dog and shove it back outdoors, all in grim silence.
“Uh,” Yoharie said. “Take a kleenex.”
Hibbler wiped, and looked over Yoharie’s equipment: the motorized chair, the hanging grip Yoharie used to haul himself in and out of bed, his tablet, his printer on its stand in the corner…the camera in its box.
Valentine (“Yeah, pretty soon. I mean I’ll get around to it.”), or Giarma, (“Sure, Dad, I can…I will…but wasn’t it Val’s idea? Shouldn’t he set that up?”) or Dawn, who wouldn’t know how—but would, whatever time Yoharie asked…needed to install it, and then he could string a video of his birds. Something Uncle Nick might like, down in Florida.
“Wireless,” Hibbler said, pointing. Yes, there was that too, the doohingus with the flashing lights.
“Your printer.” Hibbler put a finger on the tray and rifled the stack. “You send pictures from your phone?”
Yoharie could not get his mind around the nature of this question.
Hibbler didn’t wait for him. “Here, you want me to hand you these things?” The top thing was a printed photo. Hibbler’s fingers stuck, it seemed, for a second; not long, but long enough to put a special emphasis…
(That there be no mistake about it, Hibbler also leaned and peered, handing across…at one of the framed pictures on Yoharie’s rolling table).
…on Valentine, as a topic raised.
“I see you have two daughters. Or am I wrong?”
Son of a bitch, Yoharie thought.
Giarma would have been his best counsellor here. He couldn’t call to mind any of her sayings that seemed exactly right…maybe this particular attack had never been launched when Giarma had been there to help. Dawn would say, “Now, Yoharie, sometimes people are just stupid. You have to give them a chance.”
To prove it.
Hibbler answered himself. “I guess I am.”
“That’s Val. A few years back.” Yoharie said.
“I don’t know if I told you…lemme see. I met you that time they were unloading your stuff from the van. You remember I came over.”
Hibbler had come over, from out of Mat Busby’s garage, and started waving the driver into position…getting his temper worked up, as Yoharie recalled. (“No! Hold it! You gotta pull it forward, pull it forward! Aw, Christ! No!”)
“You got a neighbor likes to help out,” the moving guy had said.
“And then,” Hibbler said now. “You remember seeing Kate and Raelyn. I think my older girl was there for a while. Over at Mat’s. Thought…um.” He faded.
Yes, Busby’s place seemed a conduit for Hibblers…
Moving day. Giarma hadn’t then come home to live.
Yoharie found he’d lost the picture of that apartment in Rochester. And something persistent interfered with Renata’s face…a woman from the shopping channel who looked like her.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)