Coop managed to wake Timber long enough to eat dinner with Scott and himself, in which she managed to down a reasonable serving of Pasta Alfredo and two pieces of Italian bread which he made without garlic for her and then cut up in small pieces to sneak past the sores in her mouth. The salad was a no go, but she did eat three of Coop’s mother’s sour cream cookies from a batch he said she made especially for Timber. Scott – via his brother Miguel – was right about the headache, and shortly after dinner Timber went looking for her in house medical authority to get him to dole out whatever “take at bedtime” pills he had for her, only to find him in the rec room reading a paperback copy of The General’s Daughter.
“Coop mentioned it was a real good book,” Scott said looking up into her expression of disbelief.
“I must already be asleep,” Timber said to the ceiling, and walked out feeling something primal must have shifted in the universe if Scott Avila was reading for pleasure.
In her room it was like Christmas with a box of shoes and two boxes of clothes. Everything except underwear. In the bathroom Scott had stacked a dozen New York Yankees night shirts and two towers of green hand towels on which he had propped an index card which read in blue felt tip pen: “I thought these shirts would be good for your modesty needs and still let me change your dressing while you are asleep or drunk or otherwise unable to assist. The green towels are my drapes, please don’t use them for your showering purposes.”
Who could not laugh at that?
A more enigmatic communique was left by Pete Puckett, whose barf stained shoes and pants had been removed, but whose wad of cash wrapped in an ATM receipt was now sitting in the soap dish by her bathroom sink. Scrawled across the receipt in Puck’s chicken scratch printing was the message: “If you wanted the money Timber, all you needed to do was ask.” Still no hairbrush but he had added body lotion and Visine eye drops to her toiletry collection.
Timber chose the nightgown on the top of the stack and fell into bed on her back. Seven minutes later Scott brought her three white pills of varying sizes to swallow with a glass of ginger ale which he made her chug down because Miguel had told him Timber should drink more. He then made sure she flipped over on her stomach, lined pillows around her to make it harder to roll, tucked a soft blanket around her incredible shrinking body and whispered goodnight. But Timber was already fast asleep.
It was after 1 a.m. when Timber jerked awake from the crash dream covered in sweat. It was a dream she used to have almost every night, but in the last few months had managed to banish completely, until tonight. She was on her back, the pillows Scott had arranged lying haphazardly on the floor. Her failure to be able to do such a simple thing as stay on her stomach disheartened her, and she got up to wash her face and have a drink of water, which she drank from cupped hands, as there was no glass in the bathroom. Downstairs she heard the front door open and footsteps ascended the stairs. A key jingled in Remy’s bedroom door lock and the door opened and shut. She listened intently for any sound of conversation or bedsprings squeaking, but there was nothing. Looks like Remy struck out.
Two hours later Timber was still awake, and the urge to turn over on her back was so overwhelming she got out of bed, put the hideous orange Duck’s sweatshirt over the nightshirt Scott had provided for her “modesty needs” and crept down to the kitchen in search of any leftover Fudgy the Santa cake. She found him in the freezer with half of his face and all of his hat gone. When she turned around with the cake in her hands, Coop was there.
“I had the same thought,” he smiled conspiratorially. “Is there enough for two?”
Coop produced plates and spoons and even paper Christmas napkins that read: Noel.
“I heard Remy come home,” Coop observed. “Looks like we’ll all be sidestepping his bad mood tomorrow.”
“Do you know why she hates me Coop? Samantha? Dr. Heckert? I’m not even sure I what I’m supposed to call her.”
“Timber, I swear, Remy is the last guy in the world to talk about his private life. I cannot even confirm for a fact that she hates you.”
“She’s not here because I am, right? The hate thing would kind of follow.”
Coop ate Santa’s eye and made no further comment.
“So I I would guess you have your own significant other problems?” Timber changed the subject.
“What makes you say that?” Coop continued to spoon ice cream and didn’t look up.
“Uh, Supermodel Carolina No Last Name stood up in Turks and Caicos?”
“Oh that.” Coop said like there could be an assortment of significant other problems Timber could have been referring to. “She was fine with it. She’s working. No worries, ok?”
“I don’t know Coop, you could have been a superstar in the bullpen this year with all the guys passing around the candid shots of you and all the models like they took with Jeter.”
“I’m already the superstar in the bullpen,” Coop claimed, “And you know what I always say, ‘ya seen one swimsuit shoot ya seen ‘em all.’”
“Have you seen one Coop?”
“Not yet. But when I do I will have.” He winked.
“When I do I will have?” She giggled. “You’ve been hanging around Carolina too long. You’re losing your ability to speak English. How do you two talk to each other anyway? Whenever I see her on Entertainment Tonight she practically needs a translator.”
Coop let that one go by too, got up and cut them both another piece of Santa ice cream cake.
“Can we talk for a minute?” He opened.
“About the pool house?” She asked suspiciously.
“No. Although I’d like to hear about that some other time when you are ready to talk about it. About something Puck said: that someone should ask you why you are so scared of Dr. Avila and Dr. Chen. You know at first, I thought you were in trouble with the law and you were afraid they’d discover something and have you arrested. But then today, when Puck put you in my truck, you looked terrified Timber, and you asked me if I was taking you to the hospital.”
Coop got closer to Timber and lowered his voice. Timmie, what you are afraid of, is it a real threat? Or is it your imagination? Like Scott pranking you with the poop shake?”
“How would I know that Coop?” She countered. “The poop shake thing felt real at the time.”
Coop gave her a smile. “Can you maybe tell me? I would be glad to render my second opinion.”
Timber dug into her second piece of cake thinking. Coop ate in silence waiting.
“The part of the story you are talking about started four or five months ago.” Timber began quietly, unsure of where Remy and Scott might be. “We have medical marijuana in Michigan, and I went to try to get my pharmacy card.”
This admission surprised Coop, but he didn’t stop to put Timber on the spot about why she wanted to smoke pot.
“You have to see a doctor,” Timber explained, “but the doctors who have these pharmacy card practices must not be very good, because the one who saw me thought the lividity was bruising from being beaten up, just like you guys did. Only this doctor reported it to the police.
“So three days after I applied for the card, early in the morning, I was still in my nightgown, a man and female cop appear at my door along with a social worker, and they want to come in and talk to me about who is beating me up. And I say they must be mistaken, someone is using my ID and tell them to go away. But the male cop keeps at me, threatening that if I don’t let them in they will come back with a warrant that I am a “danger to myself” and force me to cooperate or take me to a mental hospital.”
“So I am freaked, but since they didn’t have a warrant, I told them to wait on the porch while I called my lawyer. But I didn’t think it through Coop. Usually I think these kinds of things through. I see all the sides. But I was so freaked, I called John Vanderhei, my Chief Operating Officer at World Wonders who is a very good guy; I trust him, and I asked him to send our in house counsel.
So the lawyer does what lawyers do, and the police go away, and they haven’t been back, but ever since then that cop threatening me with being “a danger to myself” has been worrying me. Because I looked it up, and in Michigan it’s the standard for involuntary commitment, maybe in New York too, I’m not sure because I never thought I’d be here so I never researched it.”
Coop reached over and took Timber’s hand. “Timmie. I really think you are worried about nothing. Timber looked down and Coop could see she was disappointed he wasn’t more worried. “Is there someone out there you think would try to use this to have you committed?” He asked.
“Not actively trying Coop” she admitted, “at least I don’t think so, but there are people who would benefit from me being committed, people who would surely seize on it if they knew about it, and I have no way to know about what my COO and the lawyer say in the break room, you know? And there’s this man, Ben Guthrie, the Chief Financial Officer, I’ve had to smack him down twice now for trying to undermine our community capitalism structure, and replace it with a pay structure that maximizes profits and benefits the company executives at the expense of our street level programs.
Part of what we Coop is buy bad utility debt, and then we allow the debtor to pay it back by working at a job we provide that benefits the community, like tearing down vacant housing, or child care at night so the single mother can get the extra dollar an hour at the factory. We need to keep a large cash reserve to pay those salaries, and this guy, he wants to change the algorithm I came up with that determines the ratio of operating funds to profit, because profit increases executive salaries…” Timber could see she was losing Coop.
“The bottom line is if he has his way, it will slow hiring debtors and World Wonders will eventually collapse, and my whole Community Capitalism will be a failure. A joke.”
“But he can’t do any of that now, right?” Coop asked. “Because you own the company. You have the last say.”
“Now I do. Now I do.” Timber confirmed. “But if I were ever committed, the court would probably appoint a conservator, and the common practice is to allow the executives to run my company and send me my profits. I’d have no input.
“Then there’s door number two,” Timber went on. “My sister. She’s married to an English Duke. He has a title but no money and if she were appointed conservator, she’d drain off the cash in a heartbeat. They’re like a greedy Downton Abbey times ten. She takes care of our mom, and I pay the bills, which I don’t mind, I don’t mind at all, but if you could see what she charges me for you’d know what I mean. Things like five pounds a kilometer to go visit the home Mom’s in, or to go buy her an ice cream cone. She’d trash my business. She’d suck off all the cash and once again it would collapse and Community Capitalism will be deemed a failure.
So Coop, I don’t know if anyone is actively trying to commit me, but I know there are people who would if they could, and as long as I look like this, I’m in danger of that happening. So I tried to make myself better, but I couldn’t. And I was afraid to go to a doctor because he might see my back and my sores and how thin I am and say I’m danger to myself. And the more I tried to help myself, and the more I failed, I realized there was no one in this world who gives a damn about whether I’m in the loony bin or not unless I pay them. And if I can pay them to be on my side, someone else can pay them more to be against me. There was no one I could count on if I was committed. I’d rot in some nicely appointed dead end place until everything I built is gone and my economic theory is trash.
I grew up in Connecticut Coop, but there’s no one there I even send a Christmas card to anymore. Jay Metzger got traded to Arlington, so my best friend Dana’s down in Texas. Scott’s parents moved to Florida for a fresh start. And then I thought of you guys, and I sent that email, and I meant to come to Flint, but then I fell asleep and forgot about it, and I didn’t think you’d really come anyway. But I was hoping…” Timber teared up and Coop squeezed her hand.
“So the bottom line is Coop,” Timber got herself under control, “as soon as I can get well, the threat goes away. Because no one can say ‘Look at her, your honor, you can see what she’s done to herself.’ My lawyer can say, ‘yes, she went through a hard time, but look, she’s all better now.’ And that’s what I’m trying to do Coop, gain some weight and get rid of the lividity and the sores and get well enough that the danger to me and my business goes away.”
Coop got up and poured them both a tall glass of milk. “Wow,” was all he said as he took the gallon jug from the fridge. “Wow,” he repeated, as he put one of the glasses in front of Timber.
“So, as I understand this, you aren’t under any direct threat that you know about, but if certain people knew about your condition, they might be able to use it against you.”
Timber nodded at that assessment.
“And you feel getting well will end their threat?” Coop added.
“They won’t be able to say I am a danger to myself,” Timber nodded. “So yes.”
“And whatever it is that is responsible for your lividity,” Coop pressed her, “It’s not against the law? Something you could be sent to jail for? You didn’t shoot anyone with that loaded gun?”
Timber shook her head no. “I bought some Internet drugs to see if it made things better, but I don’t think that would be a prison type crime.”
Coop smiled at her his big toothy “We’re in the Series” smile. “Timber, Sweetheart, you can be out of this tomorrow morning.”
Timber looked skeptical with a touch of hope around her bright green eyes.
Coop took her by both hands, still smiling ear to ear. “Think about this. If you had to go to court to defend yourself today, it would look bad. I can see that. But all you have to do is say yes to Remy tomorrow when he presents our game plan for you, and all your problems go away.
“Timmie, if for some reason you had to go to court, your lawyer would say, ‘Your Honor, my client had a medical problem, but now she’s going to a doctor every week and following his advice, and she’s working with a nutritionist and gaining weight, and she’s seeing a physical therapist, and a grief counselor, and she’s strength training with the four hottest Yankees on the team,” Coop winked. “And we’d all be there, standing right behind you, to tell that judge how hard you are working and how much better you are every day, So what’s that judge going to do? How’s he going to send you anywhere that will give you any better treatment than you are getting right here, with us? With the people who love you, Timmie?”
Upstairs, the door to the guest room opened and they heard Scott make his way down the hall to Timber’s room no doubt to check that she was sleeping on her stomach.
“Think about it,” Coop urged, squeezing her hand. “All you have to do is say yes, and you don’t have to live in fear of being found out anymore.”