The Mystique of Melquisedec
Angennet Adams didn't want to answer the door when she heard the bell buzz. It might be a bill collector or some other pain in the ass intent on ruining her day. But when none of the kids showed any interest or motivation to head for the door, she had no choice but to do it herself.
Angennet opened the door and she did a double-take when she saw Melquisedec Danvers standing on the porch.
"Mel!?" She exclaimed with surprise. "What in the hell are you doing here?"
"Reporting for duty," he answered, giving her a hand salute, followed by a hug.
"What are you talking about?" Angennet asked when she broke from the embrace.
"Your mother-in-law reports The A Team ship has run aground," he said.
"Oh God, you saw Sylvia?"
"Saw them in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago," he said. "They seem to like it down there."
"So, that's why you're here?" Angennet frowned. "Under Sylvia's orders?"
"Aren't you going to ask me in?" Melquisedec asked with a grin.
She rolled her eyes and stepped back. "Of course," she said. "But proceed with caution," she warned.
The house was cluttered and messy, dingy and dusty. She led him into the lifeless living room and gestured for him to have a seat.
"Judging from your hair length and scraggly growth of beard, I'm guessing you finally retired," Angennet observed, sitting on the arm of the couch and looking at him where he sat in the overstuffed easy chair.
Melquisedec nodded affirmatively. "About six months now. I've been doing some travelling and visiting."
"What are your plans?"
"Don't really have any."
"Still juggling my options."
"So Sylvia sent you here on a mission," Angennet stated with disapproval.
"I like visiting Hillsboro," he said.
"What are Sylvia's expectations?" Angennet wanted to know.
"She didn't give me any specific marching orders," Melquisedec revealed. "She's just concerned about you and the kids."
"But she moved away anyway," Angennet complained sarcastically.
"I thought maybe I'd stay in the cellar apartment for a while," Melquisedec said.
"Why?" Angennet frowned.
"Just to offer a helping hand," Melquisedec said, shrugging his shoulders. "Help get the ship afloat again."
"Don't you think that's rather presumptuous of you?" She asked with annoyance.
"Probably," Melquisedec admitted. "But why not give it a try?"
Angennet chewed on her lower lip, giving his proposal some thought.
"You look exhausted, Ang."
Her long black hair was messy and streaked with gray. She had put on a few pounds in recent times. There were sacks under her eyes.
"It's been a long haul," she admitted, sounding defeated.
A teenager stepped into the room.
"You remember our oldest, Annie?" Angennet said to her guest.
The teen looked like her mother did when Melquisedec first met Angennet when she was a teenager herself.
"Annie, your remember Dad's buddy, Mel?" Angennet asked. "He was at the funeral."
"The Navy Man," Annie recalled.
"Nice to see you again, Annie," Melquisedec said warmly.
"You look different without the uniform," Annie remarked as she left the room.
"How are the kids doing?" Melquisedec asked.
"It's been a challenge for all of us," Angennet remarked. She studied her friend for a moment. "I often wonder how different things might have been if Al decided to make the Navy a career like you did," she said.
"Me too," Melquisedec admitted.
"He'd probably still be alive," she sighed.
"One never knows," Melquisedec replied. "But there would have been deployments and separations, transfers and moves."
"You did it."
"I wasn't married with three kids," Melquisedec reminded her. "I didn't grow up in Hillsboro where the two of you wanted to be."
"We were young and foolish," Angennet sighed with regret. "In hindsight, I would have loved to have seen more of the world than those two years we lived in Pensacola."
"Well, we can't change the past," Melquisedec said.
"No," Angennet agreed with sadness as she stood. "The cellar apartment is a mess," she warned as she led him toward the cellar stairs off the kitchen.
He followed her down the stairs into the apartment. He had slept there during various visits over the years and Al rented the space out to Green College kids during lean times, but not for many years now.
There was a small kitchen, an outdated bathroom, and a living space with a small bedroom, plus the laundry room and the furnace. There was an ugly puke green carpet on the floor and aged wooden paneling on the walls.
It was a dim dungy play made worse by all the cluttered junk piled up – cardboard boxes full of unused and discarded useless items and other crap made for a depressing sight.
"I guess we let this get away from us," Angennet sighed with embarrassment. She glanced at him. "You sure you want to stay with us?"
"It'll be okay," Melquisedec smiled.
"You can't go all law and order on the kids," Angennet warned.
"Of course not," Melquisedec agreed. "I'll try to lead by example."
"Thanks for doing this, Mel," Angennet said with appreciation as she headed for the stairs. "As you can see, I've been overwhelmed."
Melquisedec kept a low profile. There was a separate entrance to the apartment off the stairs and he used that to come and go.
He had the cellar cleaned up in no time. He rented a dumpster and had it placed on the side of the garage, which he cleaned out and rearranged so that Angennet could park her aging mini-van inside the structure. Melquisedec's two year old sporty coupe looked out of place when he parked it in the driveway.
Melquisedec then went to work on the rest of the house – getting rid of the hoarding in the halls and spare rooms, cleaning the junk off the back porch, fixing loose door handles, broken cupboard doors, cracked window panes, leaky faucets and other small tasks.
The kids mostly ignored and avoided the cellar man but that didn't stop him from saying hello when their paths crossed. All three were moody, reserved, and cautious kids, but they were polite teens and respectful whenever Melqisedec made suggestions about how to make the household run smoother.
It took him five days to get the dishwashing and laundry under control after finding piles of unwashed clothes in the pantry and in his cellar apartment. He posted a chores list on the refrigerator to try to keep up with the dishes and laundry without reading anybody the riot act.
Surprisingly, the kids started to follow the guide list – the dishes weren't piled in the sink for days, the laundry developed a routine, and there seemed to be less clutter around the house.
Melquisedec did his own food preps and cooking in the cellar apartment but he helped out upstairs with the grocery shopping and occasional food preps when Angennet was running late at her clerical job at the town water department.
Angennet was much less stressed now that Melquisedec was overseeing household operations and she valued his contributions and assistance, including rent money and other funds to help with the monthly budget.
The kids began to trust him more, less suspicious of his presence and more unlikely to be judgmental, rude, or moody when he was around. They occasionally asked for his advice and opinion on various matters and he was happy to help out when asked.
He brought Annie to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to get her driver's permit and he helped her sign up for lessons at Howell's Driving School in Greenville, including paying for the costs.
"Are you rich or something?" Annie asked as Melquisedec drove her home from signing up for the lessons.
"Why would you say that?" He asked.
"You don't work," she said. "You have that richy sounding name. You're driving this nice car. You just handed me a check for seven hundred bucks without batting an eye."
"I'm living in your cellar," he reminded her. "How rich could I be?"
"So, you met my Dad in the Navy?"
"Yep," Melquisedec confirmed. "And your mom. Right here in Hillsboro."
"You came here on leave?"
"With your Dad."
"Why didn't you go visit your own family?"
Melquisedec let out a sigh but he didn't answer the question, instead telling her about her parents when they weren't much older than she was now.
"I stayed with your Dad at your grandparent's house," he said. "Your mom was still in high school."
"Where are you from originally?" Annie asked as Melquisedec drove the car.
"California," he replied. "But I really liked Hillsboro and New England when your Dad first brought me here. I did a tour in Groton Connecticut when you were two or three and some schooling in Newport when you were about ten."
"I think I remember you visiting when I was ten," Annie admitted.
"I was probably here ten different times over the years," Melquisedec let her know.
"How come you and my Dad stayed friends?" She asked. "He was a delivery driver for Punderson Oil. You were off sailing the seven seas."
"He was the first real friend I made in the Navy," Melquisedec explained as he pulled the car into the driveway. "We met at training school and we got buddy orders to the same squadron in Pensacola together. We hit it off."
"What about my mom?"
"Your Dad was crazy for her," Melquisedec smiled as he turned the car's engine off. "Missed her terribly when we were down there and she was up here. Finally convinced her to move to Pensacola those last few years of his tour. The three of us shared a dumpy apartment off base until he got out and they came back here."
"It was a stupid way to die," Annie complained.
"Accidents happen," Melquisedec told her.
"How does a tanker truck lose it brakes on a hill?"
"I don't know," Melquisedec answered truthfully. "But I miss him too."
Annie didn't say anything as she climbed out of the car and Melquisedec couldn't help but feel sorry for Al's daughter as he watched Annie head for the house.