Good on Paper


“Becca? Hey, it’s me. Listen, can you take Dad to the doctor on Friday?”

“Oh, hey Taryn. I’d love to but I have that retreat, remember?”

“Oh, right. I totally forgot,” her sister replied. “I can’t get off work again that soon. If you can’t take him, what are we gonna do? Those Visiting Saints charge a hundred dollars for four hours, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of money laying around.”

“Hold on a sec, okay?” her older sister, Becca, said. “I wrote this guy’s name down, but I can’t remember where.”

“What guy?” Taryn asked as she heard the sound of drawers opening and papers rustling. She smiled as she pictured Becca holding the phone between her chin and neck loudly rummaging around.

“Ah! Here it is!” she finally said. “You ready to write this down?”

“Um…sure. Gimme one second here,” Taryn said even though she had no idea whose name and number she’d be writing down.

She grabbed a pen and said, “Okay. Shoot.”

“His name is Luke Edson. The number is (xxx) xxx-xxxx. He helps out senior citizens if he has time. It’s at least worth the call, right?”

“Um…maybe. How much does he charge?”

“Nothing. That’s the crazy thing. He does all kinds of things for free. He evidently doesn’t have a fixed schedule so if he’s free and he feels like it, he’ll do it.”

“That’s not exactly comforting, Becca. Where did you get this guy’s name and how do we know he can even be trusted?”

“I got it from Mark’s mom. She got it from a friend of a friend. Anyway, this Luke guy showed up and took his mom’s friend to the doctor, waited for two hours, then drove her home. He wouldn’t even let her make lunch for him as a kind of payment or thank you.”

“So you think he’s okay?”

“Hey, if my mother-in-law trusts someone…”

Her younger sister laughed and filled in the rest.

“Yeah, she doesn’t trust anyone to include her own son!”

“No kidding. And yet she trusts this Luke guy. So give him a call. What harm can it do? If he’s busy, he’s busy. But you might get lucky.”

“What if he says ‘yes’ then changes his mind?”

“He won’t. He never does. At least that what Debbie says.”

Debbie was Becca’s mother-in-law, and for now, her word, even second or third hand, would have to be good enough.

“Well, okay. It’s that or Dad has to put off going. Again.”

Becca sighed and said, “Yeah, that’s not okay. His insulin levels are all over the place lately, and he really needs to get in.”

“No kidding. I’m really getting worried. His eyesight is bad enough he can’t drive, and I know he hardly ever checks his glucose levels,” Taryn said.

She sighed then told Becca, “All right. I’ll give him a call.”

“Let me know what he says, okay?” Becca requested.

“I will. And thanks, Beks. Talk to you soon, and have fun this weekend!”

“Fun. Yeah, right,” her sister said with an edge knowing Taryn understood why.

Taryn Nelson, Becca Shands’ younger sister by two years, was 38 and the mother of a ten-year old son named Matt. Her father, Edwin Johnson, was 67, a diabetic whose illness came on five years ago largely due to the heavy drinking and other less-than-wise lifestyle choices he’d adopted after his wife had suddenly passed away without warning.

He was taking insulin but refused to check his sugar levels more than a couple of times a day or regularly take the much-needed drug, and as a result, he was paying a heavy price for it. A price that was easily avoided if he’d just tend to his illness.

As she dialed the number for this Good Samaritan, or someone she hoped would at least follow through, she couldn’t help but wonder what kind of person had the time or the inclination to do all of these good deeds for senior citizens. Then again, as long as was willing to help, it wasn’t her place to ask. Free was free, and as her father had often told her growing up, one never looks a gift horse in the mouth.

“Luke speaking,” she heard a male voice say loudly as all kinds of background noise made it hard to hear.

“Oh, hi. I can barely hear you,” Taryn said.

“Sorry. I’m at the Boys Club gym playing basketball. You caught during halftime. Let me step outside so we can talk, okay?”

So when he wasn’t helping senior citizens he was goofing off playing basketball. Taryn didn’t really care what he did with his life, but unless he was retired, she had a very hard time with people who didn’t work. Especially people healthy enough to play a sport like basketball.

“Is this any better?” Luke asked.

“Much,” she said. “Listen. My sister, Becca Shands, got your name from her mother-in-law, Debbie, who…”

“Oh, sure. I know Debbie. Nice lady. I gave her friend Kathryn a ride to the doctor a while back.”

Taryn was tempted to ask, “You think Debbie Shands is a nice lady?”

Instead, she shook her head in disbelief then told him why she was calling.

“This Friday? Sure. What time?”

“The appointment is at 10 o’clock, and it takes about fifteen minutes to get there. And my şişli escort dad isn’t exactly fleet of foot anymore,” she said in even greater disbelief.

Luke laughed politely and told her. “No worries. I’ll get there at 9:30 so we can get acquainted and that way I can gently push him along. So, yeah. I can do that. What’s his name and his address?”

Taryn told him and he repeated, “Edwin Johnson. Okay. Got it. Consider it done. Oh, please give him a call and let him know I’ll be stopping by, will you?”

“Yes. Of course, and…wow. I wasn’t sure this was for real, and I thought you’d probably be busy even if it was so thank you very much.”

Luke chuckled again then said, “It’s my pleasure. I really enjoy being able to help out our senior citizens and kids. Both groups don’t get nearly enough attention so whatever I can do is my pleasure.”

Taryn found herself smiling then said, “We need to find a way to clone you, Mr…”

She looked for his last name and just before she could say it, he said, “Luke is fine, but I didn’t catch your name.”

“Oh, gosh. I’m so sorry. My name is Taryn. Taryn Nelson.”

“Taryn. What a great name. I like that,” he said in a very friendly tone of voice.

“Oh. Um…thank you,” she said, surprised by the unexpected compliment.

“You’re very welcome. And don’t worry. I’ll be there Friday at 9:30 and stay with your dad as long as he needs, okay?”

“You must be some kind of saint, Mr…sorry…Luke,” she said with a polite laugh.

“No saint. Just a common sinner trying to make a difference in this often cold, uncaring world of ours.”

“Well, you are. That’s for sure,” Taryn told him. “And thank you, again, Luke. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

“I’m happy to help, Taryn. Take care now, and don’t give this a second thought.”

“All right. You take care, too, Luke. Bye now.”

She heard the phone make a noise then go blank. Still stunned, she sat there even more perplexed by who this caring man might be. He didn’t sound ‘old’, but that could be deceiving. It was quite possible he was someone maybe in his 60s and in great health who just enjoyed helping out the very young and the very old. Regardless, she was both grateful and relieved not to have to worry about her dad getting to the doctor. Getting him to check his sugar and take his insulin was another matter.

Taryn called her sister back and let her know everything was all set, and Becca said, “That’s incredible. I’d love to meet this guy.”

“Same here. I wish there was a way to thank him that he’d accept.”

“The only other thing I know about him is Debbie said he’s a really good-looking guy.”

Taryn thought for a second then realized her sister’s ‘MIL’ was her father’s age, so if this Luke guy was say in his late 50s or so, she might very well think that.

“I’m sure Dad won’t care one way or the other,” Taryn said with a laugh. “I’m just glad he’s willing to help.”

“I know, right? But what I can’t understand is how he has any free time, you know? I mean, once people start telling their friends about this guy, it seems like he’d be booked solid all the time. And no one is going to spend that much time helping out total strangers.”

“One thing and one day at a time, right?” Taryn said. “Maybe one of us will be able to drive Dad next time he needs to go.”

“And that’ll be very soon,” Becca said.

It was sad to watch their father slowly disappearing right in front of them, but he just wouldn’t make any changes. Since their mother passed away five years ago, he’d gotten even more stubborn making them think he didn’t care whether he lived or…

Taryn reminded him he had three grandchildren to live for. She had Matt and Becca and her husband, Mark, had two of their own. That alone seemed like it would be more than reason enough to want to take care of himself, and yet he seemed to care even less as the months slipped by.

On Friday, right at 9:30, Luke knocked on Mr. Johnson’s door. He waited then knocked again before hearing, “Hold your damn horses already!”

Luke smiled and took step back, waiting for the door to open.

A very rough-looking man who was maybe 20-30 pounds overweight opened the door and said, “Well, you gonna stand out there all day or come inside?”

He hadn’t shaved in a few days, and the man’s hair was as disheveled as his clothing.

“Thank you, sir,” Luke told him as he followed the man inside.

It was obvious the man hadn’t bathed or showered, either, but Luke didn’t care. Body odor wasn’t why he was there, and he’d smelled much worse.

“Have a seat,” the older man said gruffly. “You interrupted me while I was getting dressed.”

Luke didn’t apologize as he hadn’t done anything wrong. He only smiled and told him very politely to take his time.

He watched Mr. Johnson shuffle away and could tell he probably had several health-related issues going on. Taryn hadn’t told him why he was seeing the doctor, and the reason didn’t matter. Helping him get there did.

At mecidiyeköy escort 9:47, he came back out fully dressed, but one side of his shirt didn’t get tucked in all the way, and his hair still looked like a white bird’s nest.

“You gonna sit there or drive me to the doctor?” Edwin growled.

Luke smiled, got up, and said, “I’m ready when you are, Mr. Johnson.”

The other man made a loud, scoffing noise and shuffled toward the door which Luke made sure got locked before helping him down the steps.

“A limousine? Who the hell can afford that?” Edwin said with another scoff as Luke opened his door.

“It’s a Chevy Tahoe, Mr. Johnson.”

“Yeah? Looks like a limousine to me,” he snorted as Luke helped him step up and get in.

As they pulled out onto the street, Edwin looked over and said, “Is that what you do for a living? Drive a limousine?”

“No, sir. I don’t get paid for this. It’s just my way of giving back,” Luke told him.

“Uh-huh,” Edwin said in a way that said he was unimpressed.

He looked back at his driver and said, “Shouldn’t you be in school or at an actual job?”

Luke laughed politely, glanced over at him, and said, “I graduated from college a couple of years ago, Mr. Johnson, so my school days are behind me, and for now, this is all the job I want or need.”

“Uh-huh,” Edwin snorted again. “Another ward of the state.”

Luke just smiled then tried to strike up a conversation.

“Mind if I ask what’s brining you to the doctor today?”

“Ah, it’s those damn girls of mine. They get all in a tizzy about me havin’ a little diabetes. They should know to mind their own business by now. That’s how we raised ’em both. Me and my Jeannie.”

“Your wife?” Luke asked.

“Yep. Married forty-one years,” he said. “She passed away, well, around the time you was going to school, and ever since, them girls hover over me like I’m helpless.”

“I’m sure they’re just concerned about their father,” Luke offered cheerfully.

“Hah! Then they should try worrying about themselves for a change! Hell, Rebecca’s husband has cheated on her twice, and Taryn’s walked out her and left her to raise a son on her own! Worried about me, my ass.”

Luke didn’t comment. He just drove and listened.

“A woman needs a man around the house. Especially if she’s got a boy like that Matthew. He’s a good kid, but ever since his dad left—a few years after my Jeannie died, he’s crawled into some kind of shell. And his mother keeps saying she’s gotta find some guy with…”

He paused to think then said, “Oh, right. He’s gotta have a good resume. Resume my ass! She just needs a good, decent guy. Someone to help her raise that boy of hers. And don’t get me started on Rebecca! She needs to give that guy a swift kick in the ass and send him to the curb!”

“Is it possible your daughter—Taryn—just knows what she wants?” Luke offered.

“Ah, she don’t know shit from shinola!” he grunted. “What the hell good is a ‘resume’, anyway? Who cares if a guy looks good on paper? What matters is what’s in here,” Edwin said as he tapped his chest above his heart.

“Hard work and a little concern is more than enough. I don’t understand kids these days, you know? Who falls in love using a checklist, anyway? Who goes around ticking things off like what he does, and where he works to see if someone ‘qualifies’ as a potential husband? That’s just crazy talk in my book!”

Luke kept driving and Edwin said, “You ain’t married, are you?”

“No, sir,” Luke told him.

“Yeah, you’re way too young to be thinking about that anyway. What are you? Maybe…18 or something?”

Luke didn’t laugh or even smile as he politely answered. Evidently, he either didn’t know or had forgotten how old someone had to be to finish… Luke tried not to laugh when he thought about saying ‘college’ the way Mr. Johnson did like it was lice-infested or something.

“I’m 24, Mr. Johnson.”

“Twenty-four and no job?Jesus, Joseph, and Mary!”

Edwin waved one of his very large hands in a dismissive gesture indicating his disgust with an able-bodied young man who wouldn’t work then said, “It’s just up here on your left.”

“Got it,” Luke said as he watched his navigational aid. He knew the area well, but loved gadgets and technology like GPS.

An hour and a half later, they were on their way back, and Edwin said, “Hey. You mind if we stop to get somethin’ to eat?”

“No. Not at all. As long as you’ll let me pay,” Luke told him.

This time, Edwin didn’t growl or even grunt. Money was always in short supply, and although he had ten bucks in his wallet, he was happy to let the kid but his meal.

“Will you tell my girls if I want to get some dessert?” he asked in almost friendly tone.

“Not a chance,” the much-younger man said with a smile. “Just tell me where we’re going!”

Another half hour later they were back in the car and Edwin said, “You’re all right, kid.”

Luke chuckled and said, “Thank you, Mr. Johnson. That’s high praise.”

“I know. I can be a real sonuvabitch sometimes, but when you get to be my age, and your wife goes first, well, I hope you never go through that.”

“I’m very sorry about her passing,” Luke told him sincerely.

“She was my whole life, young man,” he said kind of wistfully. “Now? Well, now I just don’t much care anymore, you know?”

“I never offer unsolicited advice, sir, but I will make you an offer,” Luke said.

“What kind of offer?”

“I spend a lot of time at the Boys Club. What most folks don’t know is they have an area for you know, people over 60. I was wondering if you might want to bring your grandson who’s so shy and you could spend some time playing cards or whatever interests you while I try and get him interested in basketball or whatever.”

“You got people my age there, huh,” he said trying to sound uninterested.

“Oh, plenty of them. They’re always looking for new folks to play cards with or just sit around and talk.”

“Huh. What time are we talkin’? Mornings I hope. I’m up at 4am every day, but I can’t stay up past nine o’clock anymore.”

“Sure. We have a whole lot of morning people there. How about letting me give you another lift? And maybe see if that young man wants to tag along. If his mom will let him, of course.”

“If I take him she will,” he said almost proudly. “I just don’t know what to do with him these days. I’m not exactly ready to play basketball or anything.”

“No problem. Just bringing him will let him know how much you care. Worry about what he’ll do after you get there once you bring him. And I’ll take care of that so you can relax and enjoy yourself.”

“Well, if it ain’t just a bunch of cacklin’ old hens, I guess I could try that once,” Edwin said.

Luke laughed and told him, “We have plenty of ladies there, but no worries. There are almost as many men.”

Edwin wasn’t ever going to admit how lonely he was, but since Jean passed away, every day had been like an eternity, and booze and fatty food were the only pleasures he had left in life. Oh, sure, he had his girls and the grandkids, but they were both working and too busy to stop by more than once a week for an hour or two. The rest of the time he was alone with his TV and the whiskey he hid just in case Rebecca or Taryn dropped by, although most of the time he didn’t give a damn if they knew.

So maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to at least try getting out once.

“So there’ll be other men there?” he snorted.

“Guaranteed,” Luke assured him.

“Well, okay. Maybe I’ll see if Matthew’d like to go somewhere with his grandpa.”

“And I’ll drive you both,” Luke promised.

Once they were back in the house, Luke gave him his phone number and asked him to call anytime he wanted a ride either to the Club or back to the doctor or anywhere else for that matter.

Luke went to leave, and Edwin said, “Say there. Not to pry, but how is it you can do all this and not have a job?”

Rather than answer him directly, Luke said, “The way I see it, getting to meet good people like you and maybe help them out a little is a lot more rewarding than a regular 9-5 job.”

“Don’t tell my youngest that,” he snorted. “A guy like you wouldn’t look good at all on paper.”

Luke just laughed before Edwin grunted then said, “Hey.”

“Sir?” Luke said as he waited for Edwin to say something else.

The older man turned away as he spoke.

“Thank you.”

It was obvious he didn’t ‘do feelings’ very well, as couldn’t say that while looking at Luke.

“You’re welcome. And don’t worry, your secret is safe with me,” he said promising not to spill the beans about the soft ice-cream cone he’d had after lunch. “But please do check your sugar levels, okay?”

Edwin flung his arm out the way he had before and said, “So much for not offering unsolicited advice!”

Luke just shook his head and smiled as he walked away feeling enriched for having met someone new and for having been able to offer a small amount of help, time, and companionship to someone who clearly didn’t much of those things.

It was summer and Matthew was out of school. Even so, when his grandfather asked to speak to him the following day he was more than a little surprised. When he explained what he wanted to do, he was shocked.

“Hold on, okay, Grandpa?” he said.

“Mom! Grandpa wants to take me somewhere. Can I go?” he asked excitedly.

“What?” Taryn said. “When? Where? Your grandpa can’t even drive.”

“Put your mom on the phone, buddy,” his grandfather said.

“Dad? What’s going on?” Taryn asked.

He explained what he wanted to do, and now she was the one who was shocked.

“Oh, my goodness! That sounds wonderful! Yes. Sure. He can go with you,” she said handing the phone back to her son.

“Grandpa? Did you hear that?” the boy asked even though his mom had just asked him directly.

“I did,” his grandfather said. “So Luke and I will be by around 9am tomorrow. You got any gym shorts to wear?”

“Yeah, sure. I got my PE clothes from school.”

“Well, there you go!” his grandpa said. “I’ll see you then, okay?”

“Okay! Bye Grandpa!” he said excitedly.

“Mom? This is so cool!” Matt said as he handed her the phone.

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