“Fourteen years and I still hate doing this;” Andy muttered to himself.
He jammed his spiked boots into the sides of the aging creosote pole and allowed himself a moment’s respite from his climb up. Andy wiped sweat from his stubble of a red beard with his sleeve and glanced toward an old farm house at the end of what amounted to nothing more than a dirt path. It was no different than a dozen others he had been called to in the area over the course of the last month. It’s long U-shaped porch wrapped around clapboard walls that hadn’t seen a good coat of white-wash since F.D.R. ushered in the New Deal.
He followed the wires from the pole he was perched on toward the house. One veered off to the right and tied into a wall near the front of the porch. The other, the one he was concerned with, ran to the left side of the house and terminated at a box where an electric meter should have been. That it was gone was no surprise to Andy since he had removed it a month earlier. Miss Emma hadn’t paid a bill in months and the new power company didn’t have the patience of the local utility they had just bought out.
Andy squinted and muttered again; “Crazy old woman. She’s gone and hotwired her power.”
He looked up, sighed, and slid his climbing belt up the pole. The quicker he did this the better as far as he was concerned. He took a deep breath, cleared his mind, and decided to get it over with.
His tools froze in place at the sound. Surely not.
He slowly placed his wrench back in its place and glanced down. Emma Harris stood directly beneath him: her head protected from the heat by a faded bonnet, plain blue dress to the ankles not quite covering work boots covered with mud. She was looking straight up, her face as hard as the red clay beneath her.
“Morning Miss Emma,” Andy’s words came out like an old tractor that didn’t want to crank. He cleared his throat and tried again; “Sorry about this; I ….”
The sound stifled whatever else he had in mind to say. Emma shifted her weight and replied; “Mornin’ Andy. I don’t want to shoot you son but if you don’t tell me what you’re doing up there on my pole these old arthritic fingers might just let these two hammers go. My eyes ain’t too good but I’m pretty sure I can hit enough of ya’ from here to bring you down the hard way.”
Before he could respond the faint sound of a phone ringing carried on the wind from the house. Emma glanced with one eye toward the house while the other stayed trained up the double barrels of her shotgun toward Andy. Focusing both eyes back on her intruder she spat a wad of brown Rooster Snuff out the side of her mouth. “Now you ain’t aimin’ to cut my phone off are you? This is Tuesday mornin’ and Gracie and I always swap stories on Tuesday mornins’. Ain’t missed a Tuesday in over thirty years and I don’t plan on changin’ anything today.”
Andy forced his hands to quit shaking and managed what passed for a friendly grin. “Now Miss Emma, you know I don’t work for the phone company. That would be Bob Braxton.”
The barrels of the shotgun lowered an inch and then toward the ground. “Then what ya’ doin’ up there?”
“I’ve got to turn your power off. Don’t you know you could have burned yourself to death hotwiring it like that?”
Now the gun was sitting on its butt, more of a crutch than a weapon. Faint sounds of the phone still ringing came again. “So you ain’t gonna cut off my phone?”
Emma looked toward the house and back at Andy. She spat again and began to walk away, “If I had known that’s what this was about I’d of never wasted the energy coming down here.” She made four steps before stopping dead in her tracks not bothering to look back.
“But I tell you what Andy Richards. If I missed Gracie’s call I’m coming back for ya’; you hear?”
Emma Gray didn’t miss her call. That and watching Walker, Texas Ranger that night made for a perfect day.
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