I tossed my rain-covered cap and raincoat on the floor of the porch, sat down in the chair near the front door, removed my shoes and saturated sock along with the dry one, and entered the house barefooted.
The bottom part of my jeans was also well saturated but, even in the country, one does not casually remove one’s trousers on the front porch so I walked to the bathroom and doffed them there, hanging them over the top of the shower door to dry.
In the adjacent bedroom, I pulled another pair from the shelf of the closet, slipped them on, and wandered back to the den to retrieve the day’s mail.
Sidetracking to the kitchen, I poured a cup of hot coffee into my favorite insulated cup from the still-hot coffeemaker and headed for the plush chair by the window.
With the rain still coming down from an overcast sky, there was too little natural light to properly see what had arrived in the mail so I switched on the floor lamp which sits just behind the chair and throws a warm glow of light over my right shoulder. This is where I do most of my reading at night, when I’m not at my desk.
Bill. Bill. Junk mail. Letter with no return address on the envelope. Set that aside to read. Advertisement for the local supermarket’s weekly specials. Furniture store flyer. AARP membership solicitation. Not quite ready for that one yet! Flyer for a European river cruise. Hmm. Maybe one day.
Back to the no return address letter. Postmarked Charlotte, North Carolina. I noticed that whoever had addressed the letter had pretty poor handwriting. Guess I tend to be a bit critical about minutiae like that since, when I write a letter, I often try to personalize it by writing with a fountain pen rather than a ballpoint which has a way of reducing everyone’s handwriting to a low common denominator. I just hoped that the letter inside might be typewritten instead of handwritten as I wasn’t looking forward to trying to decipher a full letter of poor penmanship.
Ah, good luck. The letter was neatly typed except for a few typographical errors:
Dear Mr. Tate: I would like to meet to discuss with you the posibility of a painting commission at your earliest convenience. Please call me at 704.363.8881 so that we can discuss arrangement to meet. Sincerely, Lionel Trane
Short and sweet! While I usually don’t like to discuss commissions over the phone, I felt that any discussion could be kept sufficiently innocuous that no suspicions would be aroused by anyone listening… like the NSA. Anyway, using a landline phone would reduce the possibility of eavesdropping.
With nothing else important to do on this rainy day, I decided to go ahead and place the call.
The phone at the other end was picked up on the second ring and a very feminine voice pleasantly announced, “Hoerst Shipping, this is Carolyn. How may I direct your call?”
“Mr. Trane, please,” I responded. “This is Michael Tate. I believe he’s expecting a call from me.”
“Of course, Mr. Tate. Just a moment please.”
One always wonders what an unfamiliar person on the other end of a phone line looks like, especially trying to link a voice with facial features. While Carolyn sounded every bit like a twenty-something fair-haired ingénue, I couldn’t help thinking that she was probably a forty-something, overweight, fastidious harpy who held her job because she was so bloody efficient. Hope I never find out one way or the other. It’s much better to think of her in the first way.
My thoughts were interrupted by the voice of an obviously cultured gentleman — although not an especially adept typist if he wrote the letter himself — who was accustomed to speaking with some authority.
“Mr. Tate. Thank you so much for calling. And so promptly, too. I assume you’ve only just received my letter.”
“Yes. Just received it today and thought I’d go ahead and call. No sense in putting off until tomorrow and all that,” I replied. “And please. Call me Michael.”
“Of course, Michael. No reason to stand on protocol. Everyone calls me L.T.
“Would it be possible to meet with you in the next few days? The commission I have in mind is a bit urgent. I’m assuming, of course, that you have some time to fit me and the commission into your schedule.”
“Oh, I imagine I can juggle things a bit if necessary. Just say when and where.”
“Well,” continued Trane, “the sooner the better. If it would be convenient for you, I can come to your place. No need for both of us to be traveling for this initial meeting.”
I’ve never received a commission at the house before, simply for security reasons. I wasn’t about to start now.
“How will you be traveling, L.T.?” I inquired, hedging a bit.
“I’ll be coming into Lexington on American Airlines. Short flight from Charlotte,” he answered.
I knew then that he wasn’t coming from Charlotte since all the flights between Charlotte and Lexington are on US Airways and Delta.