Redemption: All I Wanted

Dwight cocked his pistol and walked into the bank. He chose the youngest teller. A child waved at him. Dwight put the safety back on. What was he thinking? This was, quite possibly, the stupidest thing he’d even done. If he robbed this bank – got the money he needed to keep his son, then what? His son would have a thief for a father. More than that, he’d heard the statistics about how many people who robbed banks were successful. He had a better chance of winning the lottery! Most bank robbers were caught!

He sighed and turned around, suddenly in a hurry to leave. In his rush, he nearly walked into someone in a wheelchair. He stumbled back, squeezing his eyes closed as shame nearly overwhelmed him. “Sorry,” he managed.

“Dwight?” a lightly accented voice said.

He knew that voice! Gasping softly, he opened his eyes. His gaze locked with warm green eyes. Thick brows drew down over them as concern washed over his former co-worker’s face. “Long time no see! How you been, man?” Gilbert continued, tilting his head. It was always jarring for Dwight, hearing the familiar American speech pattern spoken with that German accent.

For a moment, Dwight considered saying he was fine. Somehow, though, that wasn’t what came out. Instead, he shook his head. “Not – not so good,” he admitted, tears welling in his eyes.

Gilbert frowned and nodded. “Just – just let me do this,” he said, holding up the check he was there to… deposit? Cash? Dwight didn’t know. It didn’t matter. “Then, I’ll buy you a coffee. Yeah?”

“Y-yeah,” Dwight said. Without really knowing why, he stepped off to one side and waited. He watched Gilbert roll his chair over to the young teller he had been targeting. He pulled himself almost out of the chair to reach the teller and hand her the check. It was hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, they’d been unsure if Gilbert would even live another day.

Suddenly, Dwight felt ten times worse. As hard as he had it, with his debts and the threat that he might lose his son, Gilbert had it so much worse. He was out of work now, thanks to being shot. Sure, he was getting a pay check, but only because the attack had happened while he was on the job. He was starting down the road of what would be a long slow recovery. Hell, they weren’t even sure he’d ever walk again.

Gilbert rolled back over to him and gave him a wan smile. Slapping him on the arm, he said, “Come on, man. Let’s get that coffee.”

For a moment, Dwight was uncertain. Then, as Gilbert headed for the door, he fell into step behind his old friend. As they headed outside, Dwight said, “H-how’ve you been?”

“Getting there,” Gilbert said, giving him a weak smile. He shrugged and patted the chair. “Still stuck with the wheels and – and I can’t play drums just yet. Ya sorta need your feet for that, ya know? Until – until I’m recovered, the plans for any kind of contract are on hold.”

“That was a tough break,” Dwight said, nodding sadly.

“Times are hard all over,” Gilbert said, nodding. He smiled when Dwight pushed the door of the café open for him and held it. “Thanks, man,” he added, entering the cheery little café.

“Just take a seat anywhere, honey,” the lady at the counter said, giving them a sunny smile. “I’ll be right with you!”

Dwight nodded. He and Gilbert settled down at a table. He sighed softly. “I don’t even know where to start,” he said, shaking his head.

Gilbert started to speak, but the server bounced up to them, then, to get their order. He gave her a faint smile. “An apple crumb muffin and a coffee, light and sweet,” he said. Then, he nodded at Dwight and added, “And whatever he orders goes on my bill.”

“Gil,” Dwight started, shaking his head.

Smiling, Gilbert waved his protest away. “I invited you here, man,” he said. “I’m paying.” He looked at the server and said, “Don’t you take a dime from him.”

“Sure, sweetie,” she said, nodding brightly. She grinned at Dwight then and tilted her head inquiringly.

Dwight sighed softly. “Black coffee,” he said, his voice soft, “and a slice of apple pie, with whipped cream.”

“You got it,” she said. Then, she bounced away to get their order.

Gilbert looked at Dwight again and his brows furrowed. “I know things have been hard for you, man,” he said, his voice soft. “I mean, losing your wife…” he trailed off. Shaking his head, he added, “I can’t imagine losing Maddy that way.”

Dwight took a shuddering breath and nodded. “Amy had been sick for so long,” he said, his voice soft. “It was almost a blessing. It kills me to say that, but…” he trailed off, shaking his head.

“No, man,” Gilbert said, patting his hand. “I get it. I totally do!” He sighed and then shook his head. “I take it… things just got worse from there?”

Nodding, Dwight said, “The hospital bills… I got behind on everything. I’m up to my eyeballs in debt! They’re talking about turning off my power and – and my son…” he trailed off, burying his face in his hands.

He sensed the server return with their food, but she was quieter now. He supposed it was hard to be bouncy and bubbly when a patron was crying. He was dimly aware of Gilbert thanking her. Nodding, he lifted his head. “Sorry,” he said, shaking his head, “none of this is – is any of your concern and you’ve got so much on your plate right now…”

Gilbert shook his head. “I’m your friend, man,” he said. He took a sip of his coffee and then, he began picking at his muffin. His brows furrowed and he shook his head. “I wanna help you, somehow,” he murmured.

Dwight sighed. “I’m so – so desperate,” he breathed. He laughed. It was a wry, humorless sound. Shaking his head, he said, “I was gonna rob the bank and – and then this little kid waved at me and – and I thought of my son…” he trailed off.

A scowl formed on Gilbert’s face. “Don’t go down that path, man,” he said, his voice soft. He took another sip of his coffee and looked thoughtful. “Look, Maddy and I – we got a little money saved aside. What if we loaned you a bit?”

“I won’t take charity,” Dwight said, shaking his head.

Gilbert sighed and fell quiet for a moment. Then his eyes widened. “What about this then: you work for me?” he asked, grinning brightly.

“Work for you?” Dwight said, shaking his head again. “What kind of work do you need from me?”

“Well,” Gilbert said, smiling, “you’re good at woodworking, yeah? I need some help around the house. There are certain accommodations we’re making, ‘cause of what happened.” He patted the chair again and said, “We’re moving the bedroom downstairs, moving the exercise room upstairs. I can’t do any of that. Maddy’s back to work now. So, it’s all at a standstill.”

Dwight gave him a weak smile. “You – you’d pay me for that?” he said. For the first time in months, he felt a small glimmer of hope. It wasn’t much, but it was something. Maybe, just maybe, he could get his head above water.

“Yeah,” Gilbert said, nodding. His smile grew and he said, “You’ll have to work at our place when you’re not at the museum, but… the extra income might help a bit and, hey, I’m not doing anything. I can watch Noah for ya, right?”

Sighing, Dwight took a sip of his coffee. “I could kiss you, man!” he exclaimed, stifling a chuckle.

“Don’t, please,” Gilbert said. He laughed and added, “Folks’d talk!”

After that, the conversation turned to other things. For the first time in far too long, Dwight found himself laughing again. He was joking and teasing a friend.

Gilbert paid their bill and they headed out. As Gilbert started off down the walk, towards his house, Dwight said, “You walking? I mean… um…”

Laughing, Gilbert shrugged. “Not cleared to drive yet,” he said, shaking his head. He turned the chair to face Dwight and tilted his head inquiringly. “Why do you ask?”

Dwight shook his head. “Come on, man,” he said, laughing. “I’ll start my new job right now: give you a lift home.”

Gilbert chuckled softly and nodded. “Careful man,” he said, his tone light and teasing. “I might decide I like having you doing things for me. Then, you’ll never be rid of me. I’ll wake ya up in the middle of the night, asking for a glass of water.”

Laughing, Dwight patted him on the shoulder. “I think Maddy can handle that, man,” he said.

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