As soon as you think you know someone…

The Ace Hardware was just a few blocks down and a couple over from Timmons but it came and went as Bill puttered beyond it.  Nearly a block and a half later he wheeled into the alley and parked behind a squat, brick building intent on crumbling into itself.  He grabbed a zippered folio from under the seat and walked briskly, unceremoniously in through the back door.  It took a minute for his eyes to adjust to inside but he walked, cautiously, toward Marvin Hammond’s office.  He probably could have walked there blind.  Marvin greeted him with little more than a nod as he looked up from a ledger.



“How’s tricks?”

“Oh, Marv, too old to learn new ones and everyone’s tired of my old ones.  You?”

“Still pluggin, punchin the clock.  You’re right on time as always.  To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Bill appreciated Marv’s direct, no-nonsense manner, always had.  Over the years they’d navigated some real calamities and prepared for others that never materialized together.  He always got right to business but you knew he was a decent shit at the same time.

“Marv, I’m here for a real different reason than normal and I don’t know if you’re my guy for this honestly so if it’s out of your wheelhouse, just say so and no harm’s done.”

“Hell, Bill, just spit it out, we’re friends.”

“Marv, I’m here to put things in place to divorce Nancy.”

Marv stared hard at Bill, looking for a joke or a hint that he was kidding.  He clearly was not, just business as usual, as usual.

“Well, Bill, that’s a helluva thing.  You sure?”

“As certain as I am about that heart attack I had last spring you helped me out with while Nancy was at her sister’s.  You know me, Marv, I don’t make big decisions on the fly.  This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time.”

Marv leaned back in his chair and spread his hands across the relic of the desk in front of him.  He slapped his palms lightly, in some forgotten rhythm on the legal pads, documents and unopened mail that lay across its expanse.  Then, he leaned back in as he grasped the edge of the desk.

“We’ve always been blunt with each other Bill so I’ll shoot you straight.”

Bill nodded in assent.

“I’m certain I can handle the property and the legal documentation for you, we’ve been thick as thieves on all that for as long as we’ve known each other but I don’t handle divorces and I’ll have to bring in Pam in our office to sort of check my work, you know?  You comfortable with that?”

“I’d rather we got the assets straight, Marv, than hire some divorce specialist that didn’t know siccum about agriculture and my business.  She’d be part of the retainer I have with you right now?”

“Yes, absolutely.”  He paused to rub his stubbled chin.  “You intending to file soon or have a date in mind?”

“No.  Can’t say that I do, but I want to be ready to pull the trigger when I get to that breaking point and believe me I’m pretty much there.”  He exhaled like a man who’s just run a mile, unaware that he’d largely been holding his breath.

“Okay, well, assuming you would file you would present the valuations of the farm, machinery, house and any other joint assets.”

“I’ve got that here,” he said as he unzipped the folio and presented several yellow legal pad sheets.  “I have copies, those are yours.”

Marvin raised his eyebrows as he glanced through the documents.  Very comprehensive.  Legal descriptions of the parcels of land Bill and Nancy had acquired over the years were followed by a detailed listing of machinery including serial numbers and finally the house listed simply as ‘three bedroom ranch-1969’.

“Well, you’ve certainly done your homework.  Are these appraised values?  Some of them look like they’re on the low side.’

“They are, Marv but that’s by design.  I’m betting Nancy won’t take the time or energy to have them appraised and I can walk away with them.”

“You really think so, Bill?  We’re talking about leaving thousands on the table if she doesn’t counter.”

“I’ve lived with the woman for a long time, Marv.  And I know she’s sitting on a pile of money from her grandparent that I’ll absolutely never see without a frickin’ fight.  She’ll turn her back.”

“I’ll play it whatever way you want, Bill but you know the old saying, ‘Hell hath no fury…”

Bill dismissed him with a wave.

“I know, Marv.  Like I said, lived with her a lot of years.  I’ve seen the hellfire and the fury.  I truly don’t think it’d phase me at this point.  Let’s just get this done and let her worry about pushing back.”

“Okay, Bill but what about the house?  That seems woefully low.”

“That was my folks’ place, Marv.  She hasn’t ever called it hers from the get-go; course that hasn’t stopped her from letting me put in a den or t.v. room with surround sound or anything else to make a part of it mine.  It’s about the same as it has been since we moved in around ’73 when we lost dad to his heart attack.”

“Allright Bill, we’ll write this up like you have it here.  I’ll consult with Pam on crossing all the t’s and dotting the i’s and of course do a financial search under Nancy’s name, just in case….”

For the first time since he’d walked in, Bill let his focus wander as Marv droned on in front of him.  He heard a distant roar of a College Football Saturday crowd as he dreamed of settling back into his electric recliner, a beer sweating in the cup-holder.

The sound enveloped him and he smiled.

Ever get surprised by someone because you judged them and put them in a box a little too soon?  Yeah, me either.

Every week I write about all sorts of things in this old life.  Some are like this and others, well, you’ll just have to check them out for yourself at the blog.  Click this to go to its home page.  I hope you enjoyed this third installment of this story and will subscribe to my blog.  Subscribing is free and means you’ll get an email on Sunday with links to the week’s posts, nothing more or less.  I never sell or share emails so no worries about getting a bunch of junk.  Subscribe here by clicking here or at the blog.