A Second Chance -- Chapter 35


A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

Sorry for the big gap since the last chapter. Apparently there was a major event early this week. It was the start of the World Junior Hockey Championship, which is more important to Canadians over the age of 14 than Christmas: Dawn

SATURDAY, May 28, 2016

Rachael was up first. Luckily the girls had not done the traditional sleepover thing of talking all night, and managed to get a good six hours sleep before waking at 4 a.m. Mikki woke up when Rachael got back from the shower, and followed her in, and then Rachael went downstairs to make toast. She knew Mikki liked coffee, and she got orange juice for herself. When Mikki came downstairs toast was ready and Rachael and Mr. Stoner were chatting.

Mikki’s dad was driving, and of course also brought his camera along to document his daughter and friends making the video. A few minutes later they loaded into the van, which Rachael noted now had a cute Stoner Photography logo on it.

After picking up Larissa and a tired-looking Carly, Mikki directed her father to the part of the gravel pit where she wanted to set up. The gang got out and went to their respective positions. Mikki, her dad, and Rachael carried camera equipment to the first shooting area, while Larissa went back to direct others to the parking area. There would be a large contingent of people coming to help out today. They expected at least 25.

Carly took a position closer to the shooting site, where she was able to direct people to where they needed to be. As they got to the first site, they saw Mr. VanEyke, the owner of the quarry, standing next to his backhoe. He had been first in, to unlock the gates, and was ready in case Mikki needed additional earth moved. She had come in on Tuesday after school, and outlined what she needed done, and Mr. VanEyke had moved earth around, building the foxholes and bunkers that were being set up. Luckily a rainfall Wednesday overnight had erased all the backhoe tracks. Mikki made sure to take a picture of the quarry owner next to his backhoe for the credits page of the movie.

Earlier in the week Mikki and Rachael had gone through the part of the film with Grandpa explaining what had happened in the battle to Larissa, and timed every portion of what he was saying. For instance, when he said the company moved into the danger zone, it took 12 seconds. This meant that Mikki needed at least 12 seconds of video of the town boys in uniform marching down the path on the first site. There was no sense getting much more video than was needed. The second scene, only 6 seconds, came when Grandpa had said that the German’s started firing, killing the Captain and lieutenants, and he led the rest into a depression. Then there were another 40 or so short scenes making up the 9 minutes of the film that they already had of Larissa and Grandpa talking.

Some of the kids from the high school drama class had come in, after Mr. Churchill had alerted their teacher, and they had some special effects. The best were squibs, little explosives that mimicked bullets hitting the dirt. Mr. Churchill had gotten about 10 dozen of them somewhere, and they were set up by the drama students. Mikki was not worried about running out. She intended to PhotoShop copies of them into different parts of the film to sync with the sound and action. The only tricky ones were those that went on the young Legion member dressed as the captain, and the two younger lieutenants. These had to go off on their chests, with them crumpling to the ground immediately after. These three wore Kevlar vests that Constable Winslow had borrowed from the police department under the uniforms, and the squibs would destroy their shirts, especially since blood capsules were going to run down from the ‘wounds’. That was one of several scenes that Mikki wanted to get perfectly in one take. Rachael was going to operate one of Mr. Stoner’s other cameras for these, at a different angle to improve chances of getting a good shot.

When the sun was about to rise, and the pre-dawn light made it easy enough to see, Rachael was amazed at how many people were here. There were the 25 soldiers wearing the vintage uniforms donated by townspeople, and another nine in German uniforms that Mr. Churchill had somehow acquired. There were six men in each of the German positions, so three boys were in both scenes, and were told not to allow their faces to show in both places. One had a wispy little fake moustache that he wore in one, and not the other, and another boy actually had grown a moustache, and was willing to shave it between the two scenes.

But there were a lot more people there than just the actors. It seemed that the entire Legion were there, a few in uniforms, and others just wearing their berets. Parents and girlfriends of the soldiers had come, as well as friends. Luckily there was no need for silence on the shoot: the noise from chatter was loud. (Mikki had been sent audio files of rifle and machine gun fire from the National Film Board guy, and would place that in the final track, although most of the sound was Grandpa and Larissa talking.) In all, there must have been 150 people in the quarry.

Shooting started at 6:45, and Rachael was amazed at how much work went into getting 10 seconds of video shot. They budgeted 15 minutes for each scene, and there were 40 scenes, for a ten-hour day. Some scenes were shot twice, and a couple needed a third shot before Mikki was satisfied. Most took less than the 15 minutes, with only the two scenes where ‘Grandpa’ took out the two German positions running long.

Unfortunately Rachael didn’t get to see those being filmed. Pastor McNaughton appeared far too soon, and after watching the action for a few minutes, he approached Rachael in between takes. Rachael turned her camera over to Carly, who would replace her as second camera, and then headed to the Pastor’s car. Gary was driving, as the pastor had not yet been cleared to drive after his heart attack.

“That is quite an amazing thing you are doing there,” the Pastor said as they walked back to the car. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay and postpone this?”

“No,” Rachael said. “This is important. I want the guys to have a chance to come to church tomorrow. And I think it is important to you too. You need to clear your conscience.”

“I guess so,” the pastor said reluctantly. In the car she was amazed to find that it was nearly 11 a.m. The pastor clearly didn’t want to do this, and had procrastinated. As they drove up to the shops, Rachael saw that there were customers outside of the bakery, although not as many as on Thursday. They arrived at the art gallery at 11, and John greeted them, noting that Paul had a customer, and they could talk to him when he was free.

The pastor told John of his revelation at the gates, and as the more religious of the two, John was very taken by the story. He forgave the pastor for his evil words, but could not promise to attend the church again. Apparently Paul was quite outraged at the homophobic rant, and John had barely been able to convince him to let the pastor come talk to them. After about 10 minutes, the customer left, and Paul came forward cautiously. The pastor repeated his description of his revelation, which caused Paul to scoff slightly.

“In conclusion, I am the sinner, not you, and I freely admit it,” the pastor said. “I was wrong … have been wrong all my life … and I would dearly love to have you return to the church and show our new, inclusive philosophy.”

“Okay,” Paul said. “I will come to service tomorrow, if John wants to,” John nodded his agreement, “but only if you will come here and hug me.” Paul was quite sure that the minister was not sincere, and would refuse such close contact with a gay man.”

The pastor surprised him, stepping forward and putting his arms around Paul and hugging him tightly. “Forgive me my son, for I have sinned and I desire your forgiveness.”

Rachael perked up. The voice she was hearing changed significantly after the first two words. The hug seemed to last for a long time as well. Finally, they broke apart, and Paul looked shaken, and John rushed to his side. The pastor also had a confused look on his face, and Rachael took that opportunity to take him to the back of the gallery, where the huge painting of Jesus hung on the wall.

The pastor approached it silently, and then dropped to his knees when he saw it in all its glory, and began to pray. Rachael left him alone, and went back to the men, and found them in an animated conversation.

Paul explained that as soon as the pastor had hugged him, he felt strange. When the voice change occurred, Paul recognized the new voice immediately. It was the voice of his father, who had kicked him out of the house and the family nearly 20 years ago when he had ‘come out’ as a gay. The man had died five years ago, and said that he was using the pastor’s body to ask forgiveness. On arriving in heaven, he learned the truth about God’s views on same-sex relationships, and found that he would not rest in the afterlife until he was forgiven. At the end of the hug, Paul had forgiven both his father, and the pastor.

“I should go see if he needs help getting up,” Rachael said. “He is quite taken by your masterpiece, John.” She left them chatting and went back to the pastor, who continued to pray for several minutes. When he came out of his trance, he smiled up at Rachael, and as she helped him to his feet, said: “He forgives me. I just have to live a loving and open life, for as long as it lasts. I feel so much better. So clean. So good.”

“So you like my work?” John said as they approached. “Although Rachael says I didn’t paint it. She says God used my hands to paint it.”

“It is … magnificent,” Pastor McNaughton said breathlessly. “It is inspired, and I think that it can actually talk to us. I saw your price tag on it. I wish that I had that kind of money.”

“Well,” Paul said. “John and I have just talked about that. Not only do we forgive you for your words the other week, we want to give you this painting. We feel it is the right thing to do.”

“Oh my,” the pastor said, actually starting to cry. “It is too much. I don’t know where … yes, I do know where it should be placed. Rachael, could you run out and get Gary to come in from the car?” Rachael hurried out, listening to the sobbing pastor mumble his thanks over and over again.

Gary came in, and the pastor showed him the painting. Gary also dropped to his knees before it, and prayed, although not for as long as the pastor had.

“I can see it at the end of the entrance hall to the church,” the pastor exclaimed. “Everyone entering the church will see it. Hopefully some of them will pray to it.”

“I could do that,” Gary said. “Is it in pieces?”

“Yes, there are four six by four canvases. If they are fit together closely, the seams should be invisible,” John said.

“I’ll bring my truck back as soon as we get to the church,” Gary said.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” the pastor asked John.

“Yes, and you will keep the other part of the bargain?” John said.

“What bargain is that?” Rachael asked, confused.

“These two gentlemen have never been married,” the pastor said. “While the national Presbyterian church accepts same-sex marriages, no pastor was forced to officiate at these, so of course there has never been one in our little church. This will change. As soon as they are ready, I will be happy to officiate at the ceremony.”

“That is wonderful,” Rachael said. “I would love to come to your wedding. In fact, if you need music, my mother and I can sing a pretty nice duet. Just let us know of the songs you want, and we will sing them. Oh, she might still be busy with the store. If she can’t make it, I will sing solo.”

“That would be wonderful,” Paul said. “You are the first person we met in Ingersoll after opening the store. And I think you had something to do with this meeting taking place. And it was you who stood up for us after we were kicked out, and that means a lot to us. You definitely need to be there.”

Rachael begged off to take a quick visit to the bakery, going through the back doors to avoid the crowds in the store.

“Racheal,” her mother called as she saw her. “Can you help out? Carol is swamped in the front, and I’m working both front and back.”

“Sure, as long as you let me get some treats for the boys. They drove me here, and were planning to take me back to the filming.”

“Of course. Oh, the filming. I forgot you were doing that. You go on, we will handle things somehow.”

“Don’t be silly,” Rachael said. “They will get along without me. You really seem to need help here. I’ll be back in two minutes.” She picked out a pair of Danish for John and Paul: lemon and cherry. Gary got two rolls. They were the kind her mother had given him when he was doing the sweeping, and he loved them. Finally he got a pair of Angel Food cupcakes for the pastor, with the second one for Helen. She took them back to the art gallery, to thanks all around, and then ran back to the bakery, grabbing an apron from the rack as she hurried to the front.

Carol, had looked hopeful at first seeing her come out for the pastries, and then looked sad as she left, now was thrilled to see her in an apron, taking a position at the counter. It took two hours, but gradually the lineup in the store tapered off around 2. Word had gotten around that telephone orders were the best way to avoid the crowds, and the time from then to the end of the day was steady with people coming in to pick up orders.

More than a few people came in late, and were dismayed to find the shelves completely bare. Carol and then Rachael started promoting telephone orders for these people, and more than a few made orders: some for Monday, and others for next Saturday.

During a lull, Carol told Rachael that her posters in the store were a hit, with most customers reading them while waiting in line. “Some of them commented on them when I was serving them,” she said.

At ten to six, Mrs. DaSilva came into the store carrying a bag. In it were three jars of her famous tomato sauce, and a collection of cold cuts along with four nice apples “for the bambino”. She stopped in front of the sign directing people to visit DaSilva’s for more healthy goodies, and read it carefully.

“New customers have come to the store all day,” she said in her heavily accented English. “They say, a sign in the bakery told them to come. We have never been so busy. We are nearly cleaned out.” She looked at the empty shelves in the bakery. “Not as empty as in here though. This is a present for you thinking of us,” she said, setting the bag on the counter and leaving to close up her own store.

After she left, Rachael opened the bag, letting out a squeal of delight at the sight of the tomato sauce. She handed one of the jars to Carol. “You have to try this,” she said. “It is the best spaghetti sauce you will ever taste, and it makes a great pizza too. Oh, look. There is pepperoni, sausage and mozzarella in there too. Those are mine. I’m going to make a pizza.”

“Shouldn’t it all be yours,” Carol said, pushing the jar back towards Rachael. “I mean, she gave them for the store.”

“She gave them for us promoting her shop,” Rachael said, pushing the jar back. “You have been telling customers all day what a great place they have. I heard you several times this afternoon. You have earned this.”

“That’s right,” Geoff said. The exhausted-looking man had come up to the front, and was reading the summary from the cash register that Carol had just run. “And now it is bonus time. We outsold even Thursday, so there is another round of bonuses. He handed out twenties to all the staff, including Kyle who was not expecting this. Doug gladly took his. It was to be his own money, since his Mother said that what he had brought in as bonuses earlier was enough for her to make her payments. He planned to order in a pizza, which was something the family had never been able to afford. When it came time for Geoff to give Rachael hers, she argued, but was told she also had to take the money.

“Okay, but this is the real bonus,” she said as she put her arms around the goodies from DaSilvas, excepting Carol’s jar.

Maria’s bonus was a big hug and kiss from her man. “We are working tomorrow morning, trying to get the shelves stocked up,” Geoff said, once he got his tongue back. “Either of you boys want to work with Maria and I?”

“I do,” Doug said immediately. Kyle thought about it. “I’m exhausted right now, but yes, I will come in tomorrow. What time?”

“How does four sound for Doug and six for you? We will be done at noon.” Geoff asked. Doug immediately nodded, and Kyle agreed.

“And judging by these figures, I think we need another clerk. Rachael saved us today, but if people have to wait too long for service, they might not come back. Carol, do you know of anyone who needs a job and is willing to work?” Geoff asked.

Carol thought for a minute, and then spoke: “I do know of a girl who needs a job. She is a high school dropout and she was in prenatal classes with me for her second child. I think she might be nearly 20 now. One baby is three, and then there is the newborn. Her boyfriend split after she got pregnant the second time. I have taken my baby over to see her several times for play dates, and occasionally I leave her there as babysitting, so I can give her some cash. She lives with her parents, and her Mom would probably look after the babies if Jennifer was working.”

“She’s hired,” Maria said. “How can she not be? She is in exactly the same situation as I was, although the gap between kids is closer. Is that all right, Geoff?”

“Hey, you are the boss of the front,” Geoff said. “I just authorized another staff person. You do the hiring and training.”

“Can you ask her if she can come in on Monday at 8?” Maria said. “We will pay her for the day, and if things don’t work out she will have a day’s pay at least. Minimum wage of course, and it will be five days a week, with either Monday or Tuesday off. She will have to work every Saturday. Carol, can you take Tuesday as your day off next week, so you are here when your friend comes in?”

“And that means Maria will be taking Wednesdays off,” Geoff said.

“Fat chance,” Maria retorted. “I will start working a five-day week when you do. Partner.”

After locking up the shop, the family walked the few blocks to Grandpa’s. Rachael was able to whip up a spaghetti dinner quickly. Maria continued on to the Stoner house, and picked up Bobby, who had spent the morning with Danni and the afternoon riding his bike around town with his gang.

“That smells wonderful,” Maria said as she ushered her son into the new house. “Put your helmet up into your room, Bobby. You won’t have a chance to use it tomorrow until after the move.” The boy looked confused. To him his room was in the other house. “Your room here, upstairs,” Maria clarified. “This is our new house, although I think Rachael and you will sleep there one last time.”

“We will have to,” Rachael said as she got the garlic bread out of the oven. “Bobby and I have our church clothes there. But after that we will all be together here with Grandpa. And soon Geoff, when he stops being so lazy and actually marries Momma.”

The thought that Geoff had been lazy led to chuckles all around, and Rachael then said her prayer. Grandpa again honored one of the men who he had served with, mentioning the captain who had died early in the Victoria Cross battle. “He was a good man. Fair and sensible, and not many officers showed both of those traits. He led from the front, and that cost him his life. But it saved the life of one of his men, perhaps me, and for that we honor his memory.”

“Well said, sir,” Geoff said. “I’m glad you and yours did what you did in that war, because since then Canada has largely been at peace. We owe you a lot.”

“You only say that because you want to marry my new daughter,” Grandpa answered with a smile. “You are lucky that I know you are a good man, and will do her well. Otherwise I would have shown you the door long ago.”

That led to more giggles as Rachael dished out the salad. She also brought the warm garlic bread to the table, while checking on her pasta. She had considered Love bread too valuable to make garlic bread, so she had taken three sub rolls from the bakery and cut them lengthwise into four breadsticks each. They made excellent garlic bread, and even Bobby liked them, eating three. Rachael knew that young palates often rebelled to sharp tastes, but the boy loved garlic.

The spaghetti was a hit as well. How could it not, with Mrs. DaSilva’s sauce? Geoff and Grandpa had not tried it before, and raved. Bobby showed his enthusiasm in asking for seconds. An afternoon of riding through town had apparently made him hungry.

Rachael did the dishes, waving Geoff and Maria away, since they had been up since early morning and needed to relax, according to her. When everything was put away, she joined what was soon to be her family in the living room. Maria was snuggled up next to Geoff, and Rachael sat on his other side, and snuggled in next to him as well.

“I want to get some love from Daddy,” she said as she hugged him.

Bobby was sitting on the carpet, and perked up. “Do we get to call him Daddy now?” he sang out. “Daddy, daddy. I have a daddy now. First a Grandpa, and now a daddy. What could be better?”

“Well, you also have a new Grandma,” Rachael said. “Mrs. Barron is Geoff’s momma. If he is your Daddy, then she is your Grandma.”

It was almost overload for the little boy, who started dancing around the room. “Daddy, Momma, Rachael, Grandpa, Grandma,” he sang repeatedly. “I have a family. A real family. I love you all.” With that he collapsed to the floor.

“And that is the way you work off a big spaghetti dinner,” Maria said with a laugh. “I think Geoff and I will walk to the old house with you kids and pick up a few boxes.”

“But I have to get Grandpa ready for bed,” Rachael said. “And it is too early. But you two need to get some sleep for tomorrow.”

In the end Rachael just got Grandpa’s pajama tops and helped him into them, since it was the buttons on them, and his day shirt, that caused him problems. She turned down his bed so he could get into it easily, and then gave him a kiss before the four others walked down to the old house for one last time.

Rachael and Bobby read for a good long time after their parents left with their boxes, and Bobby had his bath. Rachael noticed, when he had come to get her in only his underpants, that her little brother was no longer as chubby as he had been. He was active on his bike and his friends, and she no longer had any doubts that he would be ‘one of the cool kids’ when he got into middle school next year.

After he fell asleep, Rachael recounted her day in prayer.

Dear Lord

Thank you for the wonderful weather today. I missed the last half of the filming, but Mikki texted me at 5 saying that they had wrapped everything up, and she was pleased with what she had gotten. Thank you for forgiving Pastor McNaughton. He really is a good man who just had some bad ideas about things. And thank you for whatever happened to Paul after that hug. I have never seen him glow so much. He had always seemed dour. But his face just lit up when he and John gave the pastor the painting. And bless my little family. I just know we are all going to be so happy.


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