“I see my son is selling the truck he was using.There is a problem, though.That is my truck and not his.”
Joe was standing at the front door of the Yellow House looking at Mark Harden, Sr.He had been surprised when there was a knock at the door given the stay-at-home order issued by the Governor.
“Actually, Mr. Harden, it is my truck.Your son has signed the title over to me.”
“He had no right to do that.That is my truck.”
Joe did not move or say anything.
“I am going to talk with him and get this straight.He can’t sell what is mine.”
Joe closed the door and watched as Mr. Harden walked across the meadow to the Mill House.Joe observed him knocking on the door, and on receiving no response, he looked in the windows and saw an empty space.Joe likened it to watching a slow-motion video of a volcano exploding.The man huffed and puffed his way back across the field and was knocking on Joe’s door again.
“Where is he?Where is my son?”
“He no longer lives here.You should contact his attorney.”
“Don’t give me that horse-shit answer.That is his home.That is where he lives.Where is my son?I will have the deputy here to arrest you today for theft of my truck.”
“Mr. Harden, since you have threatened me with a lawsuit, then I can only say that you should also speak with my attorney.You kicked your son out of his home.I now own the truck.End of story.”
Joe closed the door, and a smile spread across his face.
Later that morning, Joe watched as a wrecker approach the property.He walked out when the driver positioned the wrecker to haul the truck onto its bed.Joe smiled as he approached the driver and asked if he could help.The driver, Sam, said that Mr. Harden said one of his trucks had broken down and asked them to come to get it for him.
“This is my truck.”
“Mr. Harden said it was his truck.”
“Hold on, let me go get the title to the truck.”
Mark and Joe had anticipated something like this happening, so they had affected a title transfer, and the title was now in Joe’s name.Sam looked at the title and shook his head.
“I don’t know why Mr. Harden would send me to get a truck that was not his.He must have made a mistake.Sorry to bother you.”
Joe stood in the yard watching Sam pull away.He knew this problem had not ended.Joe got in the truck and pulled it into the driveway.He had left it beside the street with a for sale sign in the window.He was hoping to have already sold the truck so he could have put the money in a bank account that Mark had set up.Mark and Joe were both signatories in case something needed to be taken care of in the United States.At first, he had been reluctant to try to sell the truck as a favor to Mark and Dan.Mark had taken the truck to a Ford Dealership in Durham to see if they would sell it for him, but they said they had a lot full of trucks that needed selling and they would do him a favor by trying to sell it, but not to expect much in the way of results.
Mark was glum when he returned from the dealership.He thought about donating the truck to the public radio station, but he knew he could use the money to maintain some financial independence in Algiers and France.Mark was just learning about financial independence as he had always depended on his family for financial underpinning until he was recently fired.Mark then understood the importance of his ability to stand alone financially.
Dan had grown up in a very different world where he was used to sharing and taking care of his family.Dan had already put Mark’s name on his bank accounts.Mark didn’t understand that level of generosity, and when he asked Dan, he was told that it was the right thing to do.Dan said that whatever he owned; Mark now co-owned.That statement brought tears to Mark’s eyes.It reminded him of what Linda had told him early in their marriage.Mark swallowed when he saw the bank balances.He had never had that much money in a checking account.Except for Linda, no one had ever trusted him so completely.
“What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine.We are married, Mark.You are all I want in life.The money doesn’t matter, really, as long as I have you and the children.Perhaps we have different frameworks of thinking about money.I have enough money so that I never have to work again, but what is the point of life unless it is helping other people.The hospitals pay me because it is about equity and equality.Those administrators need to understand that it costs money to provide healthcare.I make far less than the American doctors, but I don’t care.All of the money I earn at the hospitals is donated to Médecins sans Frontieres.People in third world countries are receiving medical care because of my gift.I am helping people receive care even though I am not able to be there in person.The organization has added your name to their list of contributors.You are making a difference in people’s lives around the world.Remember, we are one.What I am contributing comes from both of us.
Mark was choked up and didn’t know how to respond.He had never experienced such generosity of spirit before.Never.He worked at a University where the Duke family generosity took the small Trinity College and made it a world-class institution for instruction and medicine.On a much smaller scale, he and Dan showed the same type of benevolence as exemplified by his employer.He would talk with Dan about what he should do with his paycheck now that he was working again.Mark grew up in a household where that type of benevolence was not practiced.He decided he needed to add Dan to his American bank accounts.
Why was he worried about the few dollars from the sale of the truck?He thought of it as a justice issue.His father had refused to buy him a work truck, so Mark bought one and put a magnetized sign with the company name on the side.He was prepared to inherit the company one day and thought that it was worth it to not fight about a truck in the long run.He now decided that the truck's proceeds would be contributed to the Hillsborough Meals on Wheels.When he mailed the check, it would be from both him and Dan.He had a certain level of satisfaction in knowing that his parents would find out about the contribution and would seethe that the contribution would be listed from Dr. Daniel Lillie-Oranaise and Mr. Mark Harden, Jr.He was trying to be a better person. He grinned, thinking about that small level of payback to his parents for their bad behaviors.
Joe decided to call Evan Glynfell and let him know about the encounter with Mr. Harden.Mr. Glynfell was still Mark’s attorney of record.Evan thanked Joe for the call and said he was calling Ralph Peterson, who had represented the Hardens when they sued Mark for custody of the children. Evan decided a shot across the bow might be effective in having Mr. Harden back off.Joe also scanned and emailed a copy of the title to Evan, showing that he was now the owner of the truck.There was no need to worry Mark with this interaction.
Joe enjoyed telling Thomas about his encounter with Mark, Sr. as he had derived some pleasure in cutting the man off at the knees.Normally, Thomas would have responded using some Bible verses about generosity and suggested that Joe’s attitude needed an adjustment. Instead, Thomas stood at the counter and said the bastard was getting his just desserts.He smiled and then said he would pray about his own transgressions during Evening Prayer, but it felt good in the meantime.
“Joe, perhaps you should drive the truck around town.Buy one of those magnetized signs with your name and company on it.Make sure you drive by Harden Construction every day.”
“What happened to the priest I married?”
“He got sucked into the world of Zoom and disappeared.He has lost all patience.If I have to sit through one more meeting where we discuss scheduling changes and budget revisions, I will scream.Even the patients I am following at the clinic in Chapel Hill get a telephone call from me.There is no face to face time with folks who feel isolated under the best of circumstances.Now they don’t even get that face time.Hopefully, they will have a patient portal available for my use in the next couple of weeks.Either that or I drive into Chapel Hill each day and sit in a cubicle while I talk with them over the internet.At least I will be able to look at my patients when I am meeting with them.I hate Covid19.I hate Zoom.I hate living through another fucking plague.You know, we lived through one, and I never thought we would have to do this again in our lifetime.Yet here we are.”
“We are survivors, my darling husband.We will figure out how to make your ministry more meaningful during this time.Remember, during the AIDS years, it took us some time before we found our niche.”
“Yes, it was Bugboy’s doing.I wonder what he would be thinking right now.He was so brave and fierce.He challenged us to be our best selves and step up.I also remember the huge fight with the church.”Thomas was smiling.
“We will figure this out and then we will take on the church again with a capital “C” church.Let’s hold them accountable.There is no vestry or bishop who have control over our lives anymore.This time we can raise all of the hell we want to get things moving.”
“Speaking of that, there is a Black Lives Matter march in Hillsborough next week.I think I should wash my clericals and get ready.We are marching with them.”
“Gosh, we haven’t marched since last fall at the Gay Pride Parade in Durham.Belinda would love it if she were here.”
Thomas smiled and looked at Joe.There was a glint in his eyes that had been missing.
Joe was onto it and encouraged.
“Can we enlarge pictures of our family and walk with those images?We can get someone to take pictures of us marching and protesting in front of Orange County Courthouse.We will send them to Sean, Mark, and Dan.”
“Brilliant idea.I am feeling better.I am adrift, and you extended a needed life raft.You have to be my life raft, Joe.”
Joe walked up behind Thomas and held him.Thomas turned in his arms, and they started kissing.They looked at each other and smiled.Thomas grabbed Joe’s hand and pulled him upstairs.Joe was chuckling because he hadn’t seen this coming.Their sex life had slowed with the years, but suddenly both seemed eager.Afterward, as they lay cuddled on the bed, the love between them was as strong as ever.
“Well, that was an unexpected afternoon delight.We should do that more often.”
“I am making a date with you for next week after the march.I will be worked up and need someone to share my enthusiasm.”
“It’s a date.In the meantime, I need a date with some food.Those peanut butter crackers I had this morning have long departed my system.I am going to grab a bottle of wine while you finish cooking.”
When they went to bed that night, their intimacy continued.Joe felt that he had applied a balm to Thomas’ soul for the day.He wasn’t sure how long it would last, but he hoped it would hold for a week when they had another date.
It was only two days later that Thomas was in a dither.
“I know I paid the cable bill; why don’t we have internet?”
“I heard it was out in our part of the county.They are projecting it will come back on late this afternoon.”
Joe heard something hit the wall.He was hesitant to put his head in the line of fire by looking into the room.He then heard Thomas left out an expletive.
“Why don’t we go out for lunch, Thomas?”
“We might as well since I don’t have internet and can’t see my clients.This world is caca.”
Joe started putting on his hiking boots and suggested that Thomas do the same.They walked up St. Mary’s Road heading out of town.There was no sidewalk, so they were constantly on the watch for vehicles as they walked along the ditch bank.They wound their way to Vinnie’s restaurant, where they ordered meatball subs and fries.Laramie was their waiter, and they enjoyed his androgynous looks.He always acted like he wanted to ask them some questions but couldn’t let himself do it.As they ate the last of their fries, Thomas started relaxing.Laramie brought them the check, and Thomas leaned over and quietly told Laramie that he ever needed someone to talk with them that he was available.Laramie smiled and said he did have a few questions.Thomas pulled out a card and gave it to Laramie, who quickly pocketed it.Laramie didn’t want anyone to see the card and to think he was into old men.
Joe suggested they go to the grocery store in the shopping center to pick up a few things they could carry with them.Joe was trying to keep Thomas occupied.They saw several of their neighbors and waved but didn’t engage in conversation.They were wearing masks but didn’t want to take chances.The walk home was more treacherous as they were weighted down with grocery bags.At one point, Joe almost fell into a ditch when a car passed too closely.Thomas was laughing at their folly, which ignited a laugh deep inside of Joe.
They were on a pilgrimage of discovering what to do with their lives, and Joe knew using humor would help them survive.They were home, at least that counted for something, or so Joe thought.