Friday, January 27, 2017

Free Fiction: Work To Do II

Even with Chaz's help, it took six hours to clear all the walkways on Knute's list.

The snow brought in by the snowstorm was heavy, wet, clumping snow. Every shovel full dragged with weight, but the solid clumps of snow were easier to shuck off to the sides.

Chaz followed Knute to each walkway and after the first few, they fell into a pattern. Chaz whistled while he worked, a perfectly in-tune, trilling whistle with high notes and low notes. Knute didn't recognize the tune, but he enjoyed the music.

Normally he tucked his ear buds in and listened to something with a pounding beat to help energize him through the difficult shoveling hours, but Chaz's infectious whistling was too interesting to miss out on. Knute wanted to hear how the whistling moved along. Would Chaz stick to the same tune, or change it the entire time?

By the last walkway, Knute had his answer. Chaz progressed through an entire litany of musical themes, a few Knute had recognized, although most he had not.

Knute flung the last shovelful of snow to the side and stopped to admire their handiwork. "Man, that was a lot of snow. I couldn't have done it without you."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a curtain twitch inside the house. A woman with bright eyes and gray hair peeped out at him. When she realized he'd seen her, she gave him a flash of a smile and a thumbs up signal before pulling the curtain closed again.

Chaz swept his gaze down, in an aw-shucks move that made Knute's stomach squeeze.

"Weren't nothing. Glad to help," Chaz said.

Knute checked the time. "Noon," he said. "Lunch time. Do you want to pick up something on the way home? Pizza?" The restaurant where he worked would be open now and Knute could pick up a pizza for cheap. He turned away from the condo area they had been shoveling and set out toward the restaurant, which was in the same direction as home.

"Sure, that sounds good." Chaz starting walking beside Knute.

"So...." Knute gripped the handle of his shovel. "About payment? What were you thinking?" He figured he should probably offer half of what the jobs were worth, except that the shoveling gig kept him afloat. When Chaz had offered, it had felt more like a friend doing a favor, but as they'd worked through the walkways, Knute realized it wouldn't be fair if he didn't pay Chaz fairly. "I don't get paid for this until the end of the week, so we both'll have to wait a little."

"I didn't help you because I wanted the cash," Chaz said.

"Yeah, but it's not right if you did half the work," Knute argued.

Chaz reached out and put his hand on the handle of Knute's shovel and they paused in their walk to face each other.

"I was hoping to spend some time with you. Get to know you better," Chaz said.

Knute swallowed hard. "What--"

Chaz's hand slid up the handle until it covered Knute's. They both had on thick winter work gloves, but Knute could feel the pressure of Chaz's hand. "You work all the time. How else is a guy supposed to get some of your time?"

"Oh," said Knute. He hadn't dared to hope that might be the case, and here it was. "I--"
He struggled to know what to say. "I guess we'll have some time to talk over pizza."

"That'd be nice." Chaz removed his hand from the shovel handle. "Anything but onions. They give me heartburn."

"And bad breath," Knute added.

Chaz looked sideways at him, a hint of a smile at the corner of his lips. "Anticipating a kiss?"

"Maybe. Maybe not," Knute said. "But everyone knows you don't order onions, either way."

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