Stand In - By Brian Law

He’d been told that he didn’t have to come to the front door and that the boy would be in the back by the pool, expecting him. It was always like this with his clients. Their kids were alone all day while the parents were away, wherever. That’s why they called him. They needed someone to give their kids some structure, some guidance, even if the kids didn’t want it. 

He moved along the path by the hedge that led alongside the house and to the rear. He could hear music playing. He took a deep breath and turned the corner to the pool. 

The boy looked up and asked, “You the guy my parents called?” 

“Yeah. You Carl?” 

The boy nodded and took another sip from a beer bottle. Two empties stood on the table. It was eight-thirty in the morning. 

“Okay, Carl. Let’s lay down the ground rules. You do what I tell you to do today and your parents get a glowing report. You good with that plan, Carl?” 

“I haven’t made up my mind yet.” 

“Then there’s a military school with your name on it in your very near future, Carl. It’s in Arizona. They wake you up at five in the morning, Sundays included.” 

Carl sat up, drained his beer and put on a shirt. “Okay, what do I have to do to get you off my back?” 

He directed Carl to take him to his room. It was on the third floor, overlooking the pool. A James Dean poster was tacked to one wall. The room was a mess. 

“Okay, Carl. Let’s start with the bed. Strip it, get fresh linen from the linen closet, and I’ll show you how to make it properly. When we’re done, you’ll be able to bounce a quarter off of it.” 

“Really?” 

“Five in the morning, Carl. Even on Sundays.” 

“Okay, okay, I’m on it. Jeez!” 

An hour later, after watching Carl make and remake the bed over and over again, he was satisfied Carl had acquired the skills needed to do it alone next time. It took another hour for him to direct Carl in the process of properly cleaning one’s room from top to bottom. James Dean would have been proud. 

“Okay, Carl. You know where the waste baskets are in the house? And the kitchen garbage can?” 

“I think so.” 

“Good. Empty them all in the receptacles in the garage. Then you can make us both lunch.” 

“Maria makes lunch.” 

“Not today, Carl. You’re up. Just keep thinking about that glowing report.” 

“Okay, okay.” 

Twenty minutes later, Carl met him in the kitchen where he’d laid out the ingredients for lunch. An hour and a half later, they’d eaten and Carl had cleaned up the kitchen using some of the skills he’d learned cleaning his room upstairs. 

“How am I doing?” Carl wondered as they sat together in the clean kitchen. It was one-thirty. 

“You know anything about lawn mowers, Carl?” he asked, knowing the answer. 

“Manuel does all that stuff.” 

“Not today, Carl. Let’s go,” he said, heading out the side door to the garage and holding it open for Carl. 

Carl picked-up on how to operate the lawn mower quickly. He had some mechanical aptitude which would appear in the report to his parents. They’d be pleasantly surprised. And he mowed the lawns reasonably well, too. The kid was okay. 

As Carl finished dumping the lawn clippings and putting away the lawn mower, he was summoned over to his father’s car. 

“You’re going to change the oil in this car, Carl. Ever done anything like that before?” 

“Nah.” 

“You got any ideas on how to go about it?” 

Carl thought for a moment and then he laid out what he thought he’d need for the job. He was handed the car’s operating manual and told, “Never guess, Carl. Always check the manual.” 

Carl read the manual and smiled. He’d got most of it right on his own. 

An hour later, cleaned-up and proud of his day’s accomplishments, Carl asked, “How’d I do?” 

“Good start, kid. I’ll be back tomorrow. We’re going to change the filters on everything in this place and then do some maintenance on the pool equipment. If we got time, we’ll do some plumbing repairs, too. And some varnishing of some outside furniture. You up for that?” 

“But tomorrow’s Sunday!” 

He just smiled, pointed to his wristwatch, and held up five fingers. Then he left. 

End

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