A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

7: Making a Deal

Stacy Lawrence and Bobby Hennessey set up a time to meet at the Kountry Kitchen restaurant the day following his job offer to her.

Stacy had wanted time to think about the offer and think of any questions she might have about managing Bobby’s farm on Catoctin Mountain.      

Stacy and her son, Peter, showed up first since it was close to where they lived in Thurmont, and Peter insisted that she be on time. He already did odd jobs for Bobby, and the youngster wanted his mom to work full-time at the farm.

Since Stacy often ate at the tavern where she worked, she hadn’t been in the restaurant before. She felt like she was stepping back in time. It had a friendly atmosphere that felt like it was a 1950s diner with checkerboard floor tiles, wood paneling, and counter seating along one wall.

They took a seat at a table. A middle-aged woman with brown hair pinned on top of her head in a large bun brought them some water to drink.

“Hi, Gail!” Peter said when he saw the woman.

“You know her?” Stacy asked.

“Bobby brought me here a couple times for pie when he was bringing me home.”

Stacy ordered sodas and said, “We’ll wait to order. We’re meeting someone here for dinner.”

“Bobby? Are you meeting him for dinner?”

“How’d you know that?”

The waitress smiled knowingly. “He called earlier and said he may be running a little late. He’s helping May DePaul move some furniture.”         

“Oh. Is she his girlfriend?”

The waitress chuckled. “No, she’s an old friend of his who is downsizing to a smaller place. Actually, most people thought you two were an item.”

Stacy felt a slight blush creep up on her cheeks. “No, we’re just friends. I’m actually considering managing his farm.”

“About time someone does,” Gail remarked. “Bobby doesn’t have much interest in it anymore. He only keeps it because his wife and daughter are buried there.”

“They were his wife and daughter, right?” Stacy asked.

The waitress nodded. “Their deaths nearly killed him, too. First, he got depressed, and then he got drunk and stayed that way.”

Stacy couldn’t believe what she was hearing about gentle-natured Bobby turning to alcohol. “That must have been tough for him.”  

The waitress nodded sadly. “It was. But we all rallied around him – you know how he’s always helping others. We wanted to repay the favor and show him that he’s appreciated in this town. Eventually, he got back to his old self.”

As if on cue, the front door opened and Bobby walked into the restaurant, his friendly face breaking into a smile when he saw Stacy and Peter waiting for him.     

“Speak of the devil,” Gail said, her voice tinged with playful sarcasm.

“I love you, too, Gail,” he replied with a mischievous smile.

She smirked in response. “Take a seat and I’ll bring you your usual.”

“You know me too well,” he joked.

Diane’s gaze flickered to Stacy. “I suppose I do.”

Bobby settled into the chair next to Peter. Peter reached into his shirt pocket and brought out a smooth piece of wood, carved into the vague shape of a four-legged animal.

“Have you been working on that? Looks like you’ve made some progress,” Bobby observed.

“A little, but the knife isn’t cooperating as well as I’d like,” Peter admitted.

Bobby took the wooden creation and examined it closely. “Give yourself some credit, Peter. This is your first attempt at whittling. You’ll only improve with practice.”

Curiosity sparked in Stacy’s eyes. “What are you two discussing?”

“Bobby has been teaching me how to whittle,” Peter answered proudly, offering the carved animal to his mother. “This is what I’ve made so far.”

Stacy smiled warmly, though she couldn’t quite make out what the object was meant to be.

“It’s going to be a great likeness of Hershey when it’s finished,” Bobby chimed in, as if reading her thoughts.

Nodding in agreement, Stacy asked, “When did you learn how to whittle, and where did you get a knife?”

“Bobby sometimes teaches me after we finish our work on the farm.”

“I gave him an old pen knife. It’s a good way for him to practice handling a knife,” Bobby explained.

“With you painting and Peter whittling, I have to ask – how much work are you two actually getting done up there?” Stacy teased.

Bobby nudged Peter playfully. “You see? She’s already sounding like the boss.”

“That’s her ‘mom voice’,” Peter chimed in, causing Bobby to chuckle as Stacy blushed.

“So have you thought about my offer yet?” Bobby asked, changing the subject.

“Are you really willing to let me manage the farm on my own terms?”

“Well, it’s still my place,” he said, “so you’ll need to consult with me about any major expenses and plans for the farm. But day-to-day maintenance is up to you. I trust you’ll do a great job.”

Stacy nodded, taking another sip of her soda before asking about the cottage Bobby had told her she could live in with Peter.

“It’s in good shape,” Bobby replied, “my grandparents lived there after my father took over the farm. It has some furnishings, but the appliances will need updating – which I’m happy to cover.”

“And the big question,” Stacy hesitated, “is how much are you willing to pay?”

Bobby thought for a moment before answering. “I’ll give you a base salary that includes rent and utilities for the cottage. And since the farm isn’t generating anything right now, I’m willing to give you 50 percent of any profits you can generate.”

Stacy did some quick calculations in her head and realized it was a fair offer compared to other jobs in the area. It would be more than she was making at the tavern.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“I told you yesterday,” Bobby replied calmly.

Stacy shook her head, disbelief etched on her features. “Things like this don’t happen to me.” Her life was a testament to that. She was divorced, she had lost her job in Gaithersburg, and then couldn’t afford her apartment any longer.

“That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t or can’t,” Bobby reminded her.

Stacy turned to Peter, who had been sitting quietly throughout their conversation. His eyes held an anxious look as he waited for Stacy’s decision. She could tell he wanted her to take the job.

With a deep breath, Stacy held out her hand. “Fine. You’ve got yourself a farm manager.”

Bobby smiled and shook her hand, relieved and grateful. The future of his family’s farm was now in her hands.

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