East on St James

by Rick Beck

Chapter 3

Appetizer

Dury dropped the trash in the can as they left the park. The idea of doing something more for Keith had been building. Not having a client in nearly a month left Dury wanting to do something for the pleasant man he'd met on what would have normally been his lunch break, but was now something to do while he didn't do anything.

Dury hadn't taken on any new clients since the first of the year. He'd resolved all the cases on his desk by the time his retirement became official. There was no specific day he'd retire, he worked until all his work was done, and he stood up, looked at his empty desk, except for one file in the out box, and he retired from his partnership.

The farewell lunch came just before he'd finished his final case. His secretary knew when it was a matter of days before the big event. When the final case was successfully completed, Dury said goodnight to his secretary, leaving work for the last time.

Keith was not a case. Keith was a man. Each man came with his own ideas and experiences. Keith was a cook and for Dury to help him, he'd let Keith cook lasagna for him. His cases weren't so enjoyable once it came down to dollars and cents. Over the years men had gone from wanting fairness to wanting all they could get.

Dury became an attorney so he could help people. He'd come of age during a most turbulent time. It was a time of innocents and a time of hope. By the time he'd done three years as the public defender of the guilty and the hopeless, he wanted to be a different kind of attorney.

Dury settled on being the civil law partner in a three partner firm formed by him and his two attorneys he was closest to since graduating Columbia Law School in the early seventies.

He was looking for something he'd recognize as a good direction for his future to follow. While the treatments and outcomes were greatly improved, AIDS had left Dury depressed and exhausted. He didn't need to get emotionally involved this time. AIDS was no longer allowed to run rampant through any group, no matter its popularity.

Keith had a strong desire to remain independent. He'd balked at even letting Dury buy him a cold drink. Having the idea of letting Keith cook for him was the logical solution.

Dury hadn't eaten well since his wife died. At first he had no appetite and then he ate what was available to stay healthy. Nourishment for the sake of good health never worried Dury as he worked his life away.

Letting Keith cook a few meals, while he got him the proper care, made sense. Dury was comfortable with the agreement. This wasn't what he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing, but he was qualified to get Keith started on a routine that would keep him healthy in the years ahead.

Dury wasn't one who took to new people easily. Beverly organized and arranged recreation and the dinners she gave for their friends. Dury came home from work, had a martini, and got ready for whatever plans Beverly had arranged.

Dury met plenty of new clients but they almost never became friends. Once he'd heard a client's peccadilloes, while preparing his case, Dury couldn't feel comfortable socializing with most. He was careful never to judge them, but acting like he didn't know what he knew wasn't possible. There were a couple of exceptions.

He drank and took meals with his partners, when work kept him at the office, but even his partners were no more than business associates. He hadn't seen any of them socially since his retirement. He didn't miss seeing them, but he did miss his secretary's kind attention.

Dury was searching for a direction that allowed him to use his skills and do some good. Helping Keith was a narrowly defined task. Payment would come by way of Keith's cooking skills.

Dury had learned a valuable lesson about helping people and not expecting pay. Some men aren't going to allow him to willie nillie lend a hand. It would be important for him to find some means by which people needing help can be made to feel like they are earning their way, while accepting it.

Too many years of clients wanting all they can get had Dury forgetting that most people have never been in litigation and didn't see life's bad breaks as a reason to get an attorney to go after someone.

Dury was a man of considerable wealth. Each of his cases paid him handsomely. Using investors and tax accountants had allowed him to always have his money working for him. The last ten years, with Dury working all the time, everything he made was invested, and he made very good money.

After all, he wasn't giving Keith anything. Keith was cooking for him and Dury would put a call into Dr. Marshall that day. He'd find out where to start to get Keith the proper treatment. Dury was certain he was getting the best end of the deal. Now that the idea of fresh lasagna was on his mind, he couldn't stop thinking about it.

Keith was impressed by the light green Lexus. It was smooth and quiet. Keith knew it was the car of a successful man. Ten minutes after they drove away from the square, they were parking in front of the grocery, where the manager walked the two of them around the store as Keith selected the best ingredients for the dish he'd fix.

The manager, Mr. Popdoplus, overruled Keith only once.

"You want these. There are no bad choices here, but you like these better for flavor and distinction.

"Thank you," Keith said, putting back the two large cans of tomatoes he'd picked to the ones recommended.

"I'll put this on your bill, Mr. Lane. It's nice seeing you again."

"I don't owe you anything, do I Pop?"

"If everyone paid like you, Mr. Lane, I'd have to keep my money in the Caymans."

Both men got a good laugh from the comment. Dury mostly stopped for frozen dinners, grabbing a half dozen at a time, because it was fast and easy, but he'd even slowed down on that since Leo's opened next to his office.

It was five more minutes from the grocery to the house. The garage door open ahead of them, closing behind them as they came to a halt.

They entered the house from the garage, going through the utility room, coming into the back of the large kitchen.

On the back wall of the kitchen were stoves and several kinds of ovens, the sink and draining board. The cupboards and shelving was built around the cooking appliances with one large refrigerating unit in the corner.

In the middle of the kitchen was a ten foot island. The top was wooden and at one corner was a chopping block with knifes and measuring devices built into it. Above the island were the pots and pans. On the shelves below the counter were more pots and pans.

Dury sat his bad down on the far corner of the center island and Keith put his bag beside it, as he took in the kitchen.

"Wow, this is a kitchen. I've worked in restaurants with smaller kitchens than this one."

"In our first house we had a tiny kitchen. Wasn't large enough to eat in. When we started working on this house, the contractor let Beverly plan the kitchen. This was what she wanted."

"We bought all the ingredients for the dish. I think everything I'll need is in plain view. This is really nice," Keith said, putting the contents of the bags on the center counter.

After washing his hands, Keith pulled down a sauce pan and began opening his cans of tomatoes for the sauce. He broke the tomatoes into bits and after washing his hands again, he began adding the seasons to the sauce, turning on a burner to start it simmering.

The ground chuck was next, and he broke that into bits before putting it on a burner and adding the seasons as it simmered.

"It's martini time. Would you like one, Keith?"

"No. I'm not big on martini. I'm just a country boy."

"I've got fresh orange juice in the fridge if you like."

"Yes, orange juice would be nice."

Dury got down a glass and put a full glass of orange juice down for Keith.

"Thank you. I'll need to dice and brown the onion, garlic, and green peppers. I'll add them to the meat and let that simmer for a few minutes. I'll let that sit and I'll cook and dry our lasagna noodles. The sauce needs to simmer for two hours and I'll assemble the lasagna in a casserole dish and bake it for two hours. It'll need to sit for fifteen minutes to cool and you can do the garlic bread just as you like it."

"Sounds like a plan," Dury said, sitting at a table for two that was a breakfast nook according to the contractor.

Dury sipped his martini and watched Keith move easily around the kitchen. His long slender fingers deftly diced and chopped as he got the different pans cooking before bringing the glass of orange juice over to sit with Dury.

"I feel like I'm in a dream. This is too nice to be real. Everything sparkles. It's a wonderful kitchen, Dury."

"We could only do it because the contractor, Gary, built it at cost. I won a big settlement for him and we even ended up with a very valuable piece of property he wasn't expecting, but that I always wanted to get for him. It all worked out and when it was done, he promised to build me a house at cost. This is that house. As I said, our first house was tiny. You could put the downstairs in the kitchen and the dinning room of this house.

"Come on, I'll give you a tour."

Keith followed Dury through a door near the breakfast nook and there was a shiny wood table that he knew could seat 12. On the front wall of the dinning room as a very nice fireplace. Most of the chairs that belonged to the table sat back against the wall and only four chairs were pushed up to the table. There was a bar and a small refrigerator on the opposite wall from the fireplace and a magnificent buffet cabinet beside it. Everything was made with the same wood.

"Come this way."

They went out a door opposite the one that took them into the dining room. There was a long hallway and there were three doors. Dury took him to the first door.

"This is my office. It's never been this clean before. I always had files, records, and books piled everywhere. That all ended when I retired. Lucille, my aid, cleaned it right after I retired and it's still clean. Come on, I'll show you my library," Dury said, as they went through a door that was on the inside wall of his office.

"This contains most of the books I've read in the past twenty-five years. I love to read. I can control the music from in here and in my office. Every room in the house is wired with state of the art speakers. I love opera and the classics. I sit there in my chair with a lamp that can adapt to any lighting, so the page is always properly illuminated.

"We'll need to go around to get into Beverly's crafts room. This is the artistic capitol of our house. The room is catty cornered on this end of the house. It's almost like a theater might be made. Everything looks out on the entire backyard," Dury said, opening the drapes that kept the room in a dim light.

"The gazebo was my wife's idea. It's complete with bird feeders and the gazebo is bugged, so the sound in this room during the day is glorious bird songs and other sounds of wildlife."

"This is so beautiful," Keith said.

"Come this way and we'll go back to the kitchen by way of the living room."

They walked the length of the hallway and came out in the largest room in the house. There were two large sofas, two recliners, tables, and other chairs. There was a large and ornate fireplace that dominated the room. Keith was sure the fireplace in the dinning room backed up to the one in the living room.

A large sweeping staircase arched it's way from near the front door up to a second level balcony. There were two bedrooms opposite the railing that ran over top of half of the living room. There were hallways on either side of the two bedrooms that Keith could see.

"Those are the two guest rooms. Each has its own bathroom. The two bedrooms over the kitchen have one bathroom between the two and the other side is the master bedroom over my offices and library. It's complete with a sitting room and full bathroom. My wife's crafts room is only one story. There's no upstairs above it. Originally she wanted it separate from the house but then decided getting to it would be far easier from inside the house.

"That's the entire view. The door under the stairs takes us back into the kitchen and my martini and your orange juice.

"What a remarkable house. I've never seen a nicer home," Keith said.

"It was the Lane's dream house. Now it's where I live," Dury explained.

There was nothing for Keith to say. There were some things best left alone.

"I've got a phone call to make and if you are in a holding pattern, I'll show you the guest room. It has a most marvelous tub. Nothing like a good soak."

` "That would be great. I know I've been in a hospital, but I feel like I could use a bath," Keith said.

"I've also got extra sweat suits we kept for guests. I'll put one out on the bed while you use the tub. They'll be more comfortable than what you have on."

As Keith bathed, after getting another martini, he went to his office to make a call to Dr. John Marshall."

Dury got comfortable, dialed the number, giving his name to the first two people who he got on the phone.

"Dury Lane, speaking of a blast from the past. How are you, Dury?" Dr. Marshall asked.

"Dr. Marshall. I didn't expect you to pick up right away."

"When they said you were on the phone, I picked right up. What can I do for you, Dury?"

"I'm good. I've retired. I've suddenly found myself involved with AIDS again. I haven't been following the advancements, but I understand it's substantially better."

Dr. Marshall gave Dury a brief summary of how medication and treatments were advancing. Dury listened carefully, jotting notes.

"I've got a fellow who has been diagnosed with AIDS. He's not aware of anything in the way of getting assistance. Since you and I go back so far in the AIDS battle, I thought you'd be the man to ask where to get him started. He's certain he doesn't have long to live but I'm not so sure. He got all his info from the ER," Dury said.

"He doesn't have a doctor, Dury?"

"No doctor. He's an independent sort. Didn't want any help, but I was sure you could get me on the right road. As I say, I haven't kept up since Brenda passed."

"I've got a golf game Wednesday afternoon. I've been trying to wiggle my way out of it. They always cost me more money than I want to part with. If you don't mind the drive, I'll see your friend Wednesday afternoon and not feel a bit guilty out of backing out of eighteen holes of torture."

"The drive's no problem. I'll tell him that he can't do better than that. I'm sure he'll go for it to find out if he's on death's doorstep or not."

"Have him in my offices Wednesday at 2:00 p. m.?"

"That's more than I thought would be possible. He can't do better than that, John. Maybe dinner afterward if you have the time. Being retired, I'd like to reconnect with people I'm fond of," Dury said.

"Glad you finally called me John. Dinner is a possibility, but I never know from one day to the next. We'll talk tomorrow and I'll know for sure."

"That's perfect. I'll be looking forward to seeing you," Dury said.

"It's been a while," John said.

"Bev's funeral. You came to Charleston for her funeral."

"I remembered as I said it. I wouldn't bring it up. You sound good. I'm glad, Dury. I'll see you Wednesday. It'll give me something to look forward to."

Dury finally got back to his martini. He thought the phone call went well. He admired John's bedside manner with Brenda. He was very low key and soft spoken. He always was prepared and never surprised. They were all admirable traits to Dury.

Dury went upstairs to change out of his suit and get comfortable. When he finally got back down to the kitchen, Keith was standing at the stove in the sweat suit Dury laid out for him. He'd begun to layer the lasagna.

"I've got you a doctor's appointment with Dr. Marshall in Atlanta. It's for Wednesday afternoon. I never expected he'd see you, but you can't do better, Keith. He's been treating AIDS since the early days of the disease. He treated Brenda the final weeks of her life."

"That's great," Keith said. "I don't know how I'll repay you for helping me."

"We'll work something out," Dury said, knowing better than to tell him it was his pleasure to be able to help him.

"You mentioned beer back between the ground beef and the dicing of garlic and onions. I'd like that beer now."

It only took a minute for Dury to bring back a Samuel Adams and a frosted mug to pour it in. Keith tipped up the frosty mug and drank half of the brew in one gulp.

"I was getting parched working over the heat. This is delicious. The orange juice was good but not as good as this."

"I'm glad you're enjoying it. There are plenty more if you like."

"No, one is fine. The lasagna will need to cook for two hours. I set the timer on the oven. It'll cut off automatically. It'll need to cool for fifteen minutes. That'll give you time to fix garlic bread before it's ready to eat."

"While it's baking, why don't you go up and lie across the bed where I put the sweat suit out. You look a little tired," Dury said.

"Dury, you don't know me. I could be an axe murderer. You shouldn't just invite strangers home with you," Keith said with alarm in his words.

"I rarely trust anyone I don't know, Keith. As far as axe murderers, I met one I refused to defend. You're no axe murderer.

"You were on hand when I was having one of my more frugal moments. Waste not want not. Your story was interesting, but I did more than listen. I offered to buy you another sandwich for later, a cold drink, and you turned me down. I was aware of your reactions to my offers.

"You forget I'm an attorney. You can usually spot a sociopath. They're all charm with no substance. As a public defender, I saw it all and I couldn't wait to give it up."

"I suppose you'd need to be a good judge of character," Keith said.

"Like me, you were more hungry for the conversation than the tuna. I listened to your story and your comments. It was all quite consistent."

"I'm impressed. I never sensed you were cross-examining me. The truth is far easier than a lie. There's nothing behind a lie. Sooner or later the truth comes out. Starting out with the truth is the best idea."

"Had I merely asked you to come home so I could help you see the right doctor, you'd still be in the park. Lasagna became the lowest common denominator, and here we are."

"And a nap would be as welcome as the bath was. I'm running out of gas. I got the lasagna on before I sputtered though."

Talk about this story on our forum
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily. Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]