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.He knew in that moment that she wasn’t like other kids her age—not that he knew any.But he could tell she had a mind of her own.She didn’t wait for some idiotic TV talk show host to tell her how she felt.And, unlike her mother at that age, she wasn’t afraid of him.Bill shifted in his chair at the thought—there was no denying it now, no point at all in denying it—that his own daughter had once been afraid of him.“What’s all this about life lessons?” he asked.April rolled her eyes.“The reason I’m here?” she said.“School paper? Life lessons from a mentor? Remember I called the other night and told you about this stupid assignment for school and then my mom talked to you and told you she’d drop me off for an hour or so while she showed a client a house and I could, you know, like, interview you?”Sometimes, the memory of something half forgotten washed over Bill as quickly as April’s words were falling out of her mouth now.And as Bill remembered the conversation with April, the conversation with Marcy, he felt a warm wave pass from the top of his head to his stomach.“So you consider me a mentor?”April looked up at Bill.“No.But you’re the oldest person I know.”Bill remained silent.“Our deal,” April said.Bill smiled.He couldn’t help it.“Sure.Sounds like a good assignment.Better than an essay on how to have safe sex or something, which I understand is what they’re teaching you kids these days.”“Grandpa, please.Disgusting.”“Sex is disgusting?”“Old people talking about it is.”“I see.”Bill remembered the conversation with April on the phone.He remembered the last time she was here.He remembered the white earbuds and the way she complained and how she tied up the papers and her questions about his car and how excited she got at the thought of driving it up and down the driveway—until her mother threw a cold blanket on the idea.It was good to remember things—and not just the things from twenty or thirty years ago.Remembering these things made him want to dance.“What class?” he asked.“Huh?”“What class is this life lessons essay for?”“English, of course,” April answered, but Bill caught the hesitation.He wanted to hug her.“Forgetting our deal already?” he asked.April stared at him.“You don’t really have an essay assignment, do you?”Her face reddened.Bill laughed.“Your mother was a lousy liar, too.But she wasn’t as creative.Not nearly.”He dug into his pocket for his car keys and dangled them in front of him.“Ready for life lesson number three?” he asked.The sun streaming through the front window caught one of the keys, sending sparks to the walls, to the ceiling, to April’s widened hazel eyes.CHAPTER SEVENIt took the sight of bare branches reaching up to the sky, like the naked limbs of skinny old men, to remind Mike Warrington of the surprising number of trees that lined the main street of Cranston, Illinois.Cranston had always been small, but through the eighties it had been a moderately thriving hub of machine-tooling companies that supplied parts for every major industry in America.Now it was home to just two major employers.Mike could see one of them from his booth at the Waffle House: a call center for an insurance conglomerate headquartered on the East Coast.It was located in a strip mall in what used to be a discount electronics warehouse.Rumor along the Waffle House counter was that the 250 jobs—held primarily by locals with, at most, a high school diploma—would soon be outsourced somewhere, probably India.The other business, and one of two reasons Mike made the seventy-mile trip down from Schaumburg, was ten miles outside of Cranston.Power Industrial Supplies used to be one of the biggest buyers of the precision metal-cutting tools and drills manufactured by Transcon Tooling, the company Mike represented as a regional sales director.Power-I, as they had branded themselves, didn’t seem to be faring much better than the call center.Two of their major customers had gone belly-up over the past six months, and the industry itself was trying to extricate itself from a two-year slump.Consequently, Power-I was buying less and less product from Transcon.Still, Transcon’s account manager for Power-I, Stephanie Kraus—the other primary reason Mike traveled to Cranston—was starting to turn things around.Stephanie was one of the few women in the business and the only female sales rep who reported to Mike.Still, he knew that once the novelty of buying from a woman wore off, sales would slide again.It might take a while, since Power-I’s buyer, Frank Chadwick, acted as if a thirtyish redhead with an athletic build, an MBA, and a boatload of ambition didn’t notice the gut hanging over his belt, the bad comb-over, or his sophomoric attempts at humor.When Frank revealed, between not-so-discreet glances at Stephanie’s chest during dinner the previous night, that Power-I had entered into an exclusive agreement for milling inserts with one of Transcon’s major competitors, Mike finalized his decision.He kept the decision to himself, though.He didn’t interfere when Stephanie set up a meeting with Frank for this morning.“Just you today, honey, or will your wife be joining you again?”The waitress was about his age, Mike guessed [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]