All she did was complain and walk around half naked. Borrowed to the Bone. Chapter 22

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Penny caught Ben Tom in the yard as he returned from visiting Willy in jail. “We have to talk.”

Ben Tom had been expecting it. “Okay, babe. Colleen?”

“You have to do something about her.”

“What’s she done now?”

“That’s part of the problem—she doesn’t do anything except lie around and complain. And you can’t believe the kind of words our kids are picking up from her. Not to mention that she walks around half naked.”

Ben Tom’s heart was soft and his innate tendency to protect his brother and his family was strong, but Penny’s happiness trumped everything else. “You think we can talk to her, or does she have to go?”

“I’ve talked till I’m blue in the face. The woman doesn’t listen. Besides, her old furniture makes it too crowded in there to walk.”

Ben Tom’s only vacant rent house contained a lot of his treasures, but he moved Colleen into it the next day.  He moved and rearranged his possessions to allow Colleen just enough space to live.

He told Willy when he visited on Sunday. Willy jumped to his feet, turning over the table where they were sitting. That almost brought their visit to an abrupt end when a guard came running. Ben Tom took the blame and told him that his belt had hung on the table and he had accidentally toppled it over.

Willy was not grateful. “You telling me that my own brother turned my wife out onto the street?”

“She’s not on the street. She’s in a rent house almost as nice as the house we live in.”

“Yeah, well. What’s she gonna eat? Who’s gonna protect her?”

“I bought her a bill of groceries to start with and I drop by with take-out almost every night. I think she likes being alone there. It’s not a bad neighborhood.”

Ben Tom kept delivering food to Colleen, even staying long enough to visit and listen to a litany of Colleen’s needs and complaints every day. He did this even when it became obvious she had been gradually hocking or selling off some of his antiques.

Willy was as happy as possible in his new role as the mad jailhouse rat too crazy to mess with.

Ben Tom paid his five hundred dollar fine and picked up Willy on the last day of his sentence. He told him on the way to the rent house that he and Penny were moving, that they wanted their kids to grow up in small town and go to school there.

This was beyond Willy’s comprehension. “Where the hell you goin’? You can’t leave everything and everybody you grew up with. How you gonna survive? You got contacts, jobs here.”

“I can commute until I make new connections out there. We’re moving to Riverby, Texas. Found us a little place there on the banks of the Red River.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Not much there. Small town, small school. It’s by the river. You know, river by?”

Willy cleared his throat. He had smoked heavier than ever during his year in jail and his voice had a new raspy sound to it. “I get it. Stupid name. I give you a month or two. Then you’ll come crawling back.”

“Don’t count on it. I ain’t ever coming back.” Ben Tom stopped in front of the house where Colleen had been living.

“What about your rent houses?”

“I can collect rent by mail and I can look after them when I come up here. Dad said he would look in on my renters.”

“How long before you throw me out of this one?”

“When you get back to work, you can pay me $150 a month. That about covers the mortgage. Get the utilities transferred over to you as soon as you can swing it.”

“Back to work? Who’s gonna hire an ex-con now that you’re buggin’ out on me?”

“Pop can find you work. You know damn well that a lot of ex-cons work construction.”

Ben Tom had made up his mind. He had mentally closed the door on Dallas and opened it on Riverby. He had located a historical home near Riverby badly in need of repair. He planned to completely restore it. It sat on a hill overlooking the Red. The family had plans to live in half of the huge house while he restored the other half.

 

 

Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.

You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.

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