Have you ever judged a book by its cover? What about a person? With a book, you don’t know what’s inside till you read it. But with a person, do you wait for them to tell you what’s going on, or do you just ask?
I hung up the phone after leaving a message for my mom with her assistant, Aphaid. I hoped to chat with her soon about my expanding family.
I turned back to the office and continued packing, removing the last shield from my wall. I saw a few more names that I have added since I started back to this type of record-keeping, and one stood out. Bob.
Bob was the truck driver that brought us our freshly roasted coffee beans every Thursday. He was a giant of a man, and by giant, I meant seven-foot-tall, broad shoulders and as strong as Hercules compared to other mortal men. I’d seen him lift a pallet’s worth of coffee beans alone when the pallet jack broke. That was 800 pounds of coffee beans.
His cheerful smile was infectious. He always had a tune to hum, and for as big as he was, he could dance along the loading dock as smoothly as any dancer. Everyone liked him. He’d been working for us for about a year now, and I loved it when I worked in the shop on delivery day. Everything was better on delivery day, or so I thought…
“Nike?” I heard my name being called from the storeroom. I followed the sound of conversation to find Cara there with Sherman from the Olympus hospital location.
“Hello. Sherman, is it?” I said.
“Yes, hello, nice to meet you, my lady,” he said as he bowed.
I smiled. “What did you need, Cara?”
“Nike, it’s ten-thirty.”
Glancing at my watch, then the loading dock clock, I looked back at Cara, puzzled.
I realized who she was referring to. “It must be traffic or something.”
“Nike, he is never late. He is always here before we get here. The bagging workers have been here since seven waiting for him.”
“Have you tried to call him?”
“Yes, the depot said he left hours ago.”
There was a beeping noise coming from the dock. Someone was backing up a truck.
“Ah, there he is.”
We all went to the dock to greet Bob. When the truck was parked, a man got out and walked up the ramp. This was not Bob.
“Hi, you Cara?” he asked. This man was about 5’3”, greased black hair, wearing coveralls and Italian loafers. His accent reminded me of a heavy American gangster movie dialect.
“Yes, I’m Cara,” she answered as he got closer to her. “Where is Bob?”
“Aha, yeah uh, Bob, he got called away on some family business and asked me to run this here shipment over to youz,” he explained as he rolled his shoulders and popped a toothpick out of his mouth.
“And who are you, sir?” I asked, sensing something wasn’t right here.
“I’m Jonnie. Jonnie with an ie. Jonnie Lucca. People call me Little Jonnie on account of I’m the youngest of the Lucca brothers.”
“You are late with our delivery, Mr. Lucca,” Cara told him.
“Oh, yeah? Well, I would beg your pardon as I only got this job…I mean, he just called me,” he stammered.
“What happened to Bob?”
“Bobby? Oh, well, uh, here, let me get this truck open for yuz.” He moved around me to the doors and opened them, avoiding my question.
“At least the coffee got here,” I sighed.
“Der yuz go. I made surez to drive really carefully. He said dis stuff was for a big VIP.” He punctuated each of the letters in VIP.
Cara glanced over at me. “Mr. Jonnie, you haven’t told us what happened to Bob?” I asked again.
“Well, it’s like dis. You see, his kid is sick, so he might have had to go to the hospital.”
“Dear gods! What happened? It’s not the virus?” I said.
“Aha. No, ma’am. It’s some rare ting his kids got. I needs to get dis here unloaded for yuz, unless youz have someone to do dat?” he asked in his thick accent.
“We don’t. Usually, Bob takes care of it.”
“Oh, I seez. Well, I ain’t as big as old Bobby, so it’s gonna take me some time.”
“Excuse me, Lady Nike, I need to get back to the shop. Can I send Hector back to pick up the order tonight if that works for you, Cara?” Sherman asked, eyeing Jonnie carefully.
“Yes, Sherman, that will be fine. I’ll call you and let you know,” Cara said through clenched teeth.
As Sherman left, I pulled Cara aside. “Please find out all you can about Bob and let me know as soon as you have something.”
“Nike, what is going on?” she whispered back.
“I think I’ve seen this guy before, but I need to go back to the building to see if I’m right. Can you handle things here?”
“Sure, I’ll call in some backup. We can have all the orders ready for delivery in the early morning.”
“Thank you. Sorry to leave you with…” We both looked over at this Jonnie character. “I’ll talk to you soon.” I turned away and watched as Jonnie stood there, looking at the inside of the truck as if the pallets would unload themselves. He saw me, turned, and grinned. I knew I had seen him before, but where?
I popped to the roof of the building when no one was looking, then took to the skies to head back to the security offices. I needed to ask about this guy. Perhaps my brother knew who he was.
Cara got me the info I needed on Bob. Robyert Michail Svyatogo. He was married and had five children, four girls, and his young son. Petro had leukemia, and the medical bills were piling up. Bob worked hard. He delivered all day for both Dark Sparks than for a flower company. They had a small house just outside the city because the doctor said it would be good for Petro. Reading Bob’s file made my heart ache.
A week went by, and it was Thursday again. I had asked the depot not to send that character Jonnie Lucca back ever. The dispatch laughed and promised that it would never happen again. I hung out by the loading dock, awaiting Bob anxiously. At five-thirty in the morning, the truck backed up. Bob was early.
My heart quickened, then squeezed. Rubbing my chest, I knew that meant trouble and a person in need. Once the truck came to a stop, I stood there waiting to greet Bob, but it wasn’t Bob. I mean, yes, it was, but he looked different. He moved slower as he came up the ramp. His leg dragged, his shoulders were slumped, and he walked past without greeting me. I called out, “Hey there, Bob. We missed you last week.”
It was as if he hadn’t even seen me, and the sound of my voice startled him. He tripped, lost his balance, and hit the loading dock hard. He looked up, his sad eyes blackened and bruised, but not from crying or no sleep. He’d been in a fight, and from the look of him, I’m not sure he’d won. “Bob, what happened to you?” I squatted to look him in the eyes, reaching to help him up.
He pulled away from me but was off balance, and I caught him using my goddess strength. I helped him to his feet. He winced as I held him around his waist, which meant he had a few ribs either broken or seriously bruised.
“Lady Nike, you don’t need to help me. I’m fine.”
“Bob, you know who says they are fine? People who aren’t. Now, tell me what happened to you. I can help you.” I said as I practically carried him to the bench outside. No one else had arrived yet, and I was glad we had some time to talk.