Renee (Ruh NAY)

I’m not sure if it was the way I told him or if it was the act of telling him at all but the fact that shitty work wouldn’t cut the mustard seemed to destabilize Renee.

We had spent a week in Las Vegas and a week in various Texas towns working on a project. It seemed like forever but I’d just met Renee about 4 weeks ago. Some guy named Randy had hired an old friend and fellow project guy to do some super interesting work across the West half of the  US.

Well I got a sticker under the saddle and called Randy to hire me. Crazy as it sounds, it appeared that that might make better money than washing windows. Turns out that I had to start a business that could cross state lines, buy a bunch of stuff I couldn’t afford, and be ready in a few weeks. A few days before we took off it appeared I had to hire someone else as well.

Randy put an ad in the city paper and 3 men showed up. He asked which one I wanted and I picked the one with teeth. Randy hired the others.

Cuban refugee. Yup, you heard that right. If you live in Florida, it seams, there are Cuban refugees in and out of your life. Where I had lived, that is a far-away idea.Turns out that Renee was a refugee and it was a real interesting story that filled the miles. Between towns and projects, motels and Denny’s, Renee told me his life story at my request. Wow!! If you ever meet someone this interesting, soak it up!

He started learning the ropes.

We were crossing a big dam, in Nevada I think, and there was some kind of security checkpoint. Renee seemed kinda squirmy and nervous but this was before the whole Twin Towers thing and I thought nothing much of it.

During this whole time, we were having battery problems with the truck so we couldn’t travel well at night. We had changed the alternator and that didn’t fix it and now we are hundreds of miles away in a new town. Alternator checked out good and we had a full battery so we drove another day only to learn the next night that we were still losing headlights.

We got into Las Vegas late at night after the lady on the phone (outlandishly) threatened gun-play if someone didn’t show up. I really didn’t think that she would shoot anyone but it did sharpen my curiosity about her and an equal desire to show up as promised.

The headlight started giving out on the South Las Vegas Blvd. It was a mess but somehow the system produced enough electricity to keep the motor running and we found a place for the night.

4 or 5 days later we were in rolling across the Texas countryside when I remembered the old Paul Harvey commercials that would come on during the noon visit of News and Commentary about Napa Auto Care Centers and how happy travelers are that REAL mechanics still exist and can fix a car. I decided to put ’em to the test!

The next town had a Napa Auto Care Center and for 60 bucks they would satisfy my cravings to know why the hell my truck was struggling. Renee  and I walked to the little grocery store 2 and 1/2 block away for a box of Little Debbies (snack cakes) and before we got to the check out line I received a call from Napa that said he found the problem and could have it fixed for an additional $12.83. He had a deal and in 30 minutes we were on our way.

We got a call from Randy and agreed to meet up in some West Texas town and clean up some projects so I stepped on the gas. Up ahead things got REAL BRIGHT and we pulled into another check point. This time Ranee was wiggling around all kinds of upset and the shouting started. GET OUTTA THE TRUCK, GET OUTTA THE TRUCK. “I’m legal!!” he kept screaming. I asked the guy what he wanted me to do and he said to sit still or get shot. I remember Grandma saying “Sit still or get spanked” so I complied without receiving gunpowder burns.

I could hear shouting for awhile over the traffic then nothing for about 40 minutes. Then…. there he was. They found his records and he was free to move through the country.

A week or so with Randy had Ranee hating white people and the two of us moved on.

I think we were still in Texas but not certain when we started a money-maker. Finally, after several week of burning cash like dry grass before a flame we were gonna make bank. I went around the corner and corrected his technique and went back to work. Half an hour later the work Ranee had just done had already failed so I brought him back to show the result and reaffirmed the need to DO IT RIGHT.

The owner of the project mention that he played guitar and would Renee and I like to hang out after work and play music. I said yes and Ranee said he was tired. Wasn’t long before 2 AM rolled around and I slept in the office of a warehouse and the next day I finished the project alone by 10 AM or so.

I called Ranee’s  phone with no answer and got a little worried, you know, a black man with a Cuban accent in a tiny Texas town and all. I called my office and explained the situation and the receptionist called me back in about 10 minutes. “I called his wife and she said he stayed in a motel and got up early to catch a Grey Hound (US interstate bus system) back home.”

Are you KIDDING me???

After all he went through to get to the US, you would think he was tougher than that. I felt a deep, aching loneliness for about 3 days before I met Brian. Now BRIAN knew how to work.

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