The man Max loved has become a hopeless alcoholic. The man Charlie trusted has left him bankrupt and homeless. When they meet, neither man is in any position to start a relationship, but there are times when the only solution is to break all the rules.
“Isn’t it a little early to start that?” I stared at the bottle of scotch in Ray’s hand with disapproval.
“If I need someone to monitor my alcohol intake, I’ll let you know.”
“I hoped you might undertake to do that for yourself.”
“I hoped you might undertake…” Ray noticed the activity in the back yard and abruptly changed course. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing, Max? I was under the impression that you were going to hire a new lawn maintenance company.” Ray poured two inches of scotch and knocked it back in one swallow. He refilled the glass, then stood at the kitchen window and glared at the man who was pruning the hedge. “Well. Do I get an answer or don’t I?”
“I’ve hired three different companies in the course of the past two months. You’ve sent them all packing.”
“They were all incompetent and expensive.”
“You may be right about that. All I know is that you fired the last crew two days ago and the job was only half completed. Every company I tried is booked at least two weeks out. I really didn’t have much choice if we want the place to be presentable for the dinner party on Friday.”
“And why did you choose this particular…specimen?” Ray spit out the last word like it tasted bad.
“I chose him because he wanted to work. He assured me he could do the job and I hired him.”
“You picked him up on the street.”
“Yes, I picked him up on the street. He didn’t exactly have an office. He didn’t even have a shelter. As a matter of fact, he was standing on the sidewalk near the freeway entrance, holding a sign and hoping for the best. Any more questions?”
“I really don’t believe your lack of judgment, Max.”
“I’m sorry. The next time I’ll go to the financial district and see if a stockbroker or a lawyer wants to earn a few extra bucks by helping us with our gardening needs.” I felt my blood pressure rising. “Bottom line, he’s trimming the goddamned hedge and as far as I can tell he’s doing an excellent job of it.”
“That’s just great. We can pick up indigents along the highway for all our needs. I’ll call the catering company and cancel. I’m sure you can round up some down-and-outers to cook and serve for our guests on Friday.” He reached for the phone.
“Don’t be a fool, Ray.”
“I don’t suppose your decision had anything to do with the way he looks? When he finishes, why don’t you hose him down and fuck him? Or maybe you’d prefer him without the bath? I’m not really sure about your taste in men these days.”
“Funny, I wouldn’t have thought you cared one way or the other.”