George had just climbed up on his tractor to load hay when his phone buzzed in his pocket. “BREAKFAST” read the text message. Just one terse word, a command, without so much as a hello or a question mark. It was from Gabriella, ready to face her day. George jumped back down and trotted briskly to his car. Such a request came in nearly every day, at any given time, sometimes twice or more. Fortunately, he liked breakfast, and lunch and dinner too, so taking her out for meals wasn’t that big of a pain.
Gabriella had been needier than ever lately. Some days she barely had enough energy to replace the empty roll of toilet paper on the holder (that message had just said “BRING TP”), let alone the emotional strength needed to prepare a bowl of cereal. There had recently been a handful of incidents in the area where folks were being pulled over at night by someone impersonating a police officer, and a few of the more gullible ones had been robbed. Gabriella had a meltdown and declared the petty acts an epidemic crime wave, fearing for her safety. She said she could no longer handle driving herself around anymore and needed a 24/7 on-call chauffeur. Because Uber did not service the rural North Idaho area, that meant George.
He was a man who could not say no to anyone or anything. It all stemmed back to his years as a reform school teacher, forever hopeful that with each new droopy-eyed, mouth-breathing face he had the opportunity to change the world and make a difference. His ‘hope burns eternal’ attitude crossed over into his personal life, too. For one thing, he’d married and divorced Gabriella four times over the years. After the last split he’d decided to open his home to all of God’s children, giving birth to Bonner County’s most well-known flophouse. Nobody said being a slumlord would be easy, but George managed to make it a thousand times harder, just because.
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