“What kind of accident? What happened?” Helen asked.
“He started out selling glass. Cut glass, actually. Crystal. He had great plans, Dad said, Al had Nova Scotia above Truro and all of New Brunswick for territory. He packed the car with the sample cases, and in his head he had it all sold already: Dad says Al had a map with a whole bunch of specialty stores, one after another, and once they took the crystal on and were selling it, it would just be filling orders and watching the money roll in. It would just sell itself, it was that good. Vases, crystal bowls, candy dishes. High-class stuff, the kind of glass that splits the sun into colours and throws it all over the room.
“And Dad says Al was driving and thinking about how much money he’d be making, that he’d already placed some merchandise in Truro and he was heading up the toll highway to Amherst, and they’d liked it in Truro and asked how quickly he could get them more.
“Al was apparently thinking about how if it all went well, he’d be able to get a house and move out of his apartment, that he’d be able to get a new car and maybe meet a girl, have a whole bunch of kids live happily ever after.”
Dennis had shifted forward in his chair, his hands out in front of him, involved.
“And you know highways in January, you’ve driven with Dad on enough of them. Al was in the passing lane and came up over the top of a hill and the plow had picked up its blade for some reason, and he hit a big drift of snow and went straight in the ditch, and he should have had the boxes in the trunk, but they were in the back seat instead. Then they were flying everywhere, coming open, all that glass breaking. Like an ice storm, but with shards of glass.
“There was so much blood in the car that they thought he was dying, but really, it was only his ears, the top sliced right off one and slivers of that fine crystal in his hair and all through the car. The car was wrecked and the inventory, too, and there was a problem with the insurance and Al was going to have to pay for everything.”
“Dad met him at a coffee place on the edge of Amherst, at the table next to him.
“Al said if he couldn’t find a new job, he’d end up begging on the street. You know how Dad has a soft spot for people in trouble, and you’re right, he doesn’t really like marine paints, so he was going to give it up, hand his territory right over to Al. And train him, too, even if it meant a few extra days on the road.”
“That sounds like Tom for sure. But he’ll be back soon?” Helen asked.
Dennis was quite for a moment. He looked uncomfortable again.
“Soon, Mom. A few more days and we’ll see what happens. You should get some sleep.”
Helen thought about Tom, about how it was just like him to help a lost stranger. She closed her eyes.
New chapters available each afternoon except Sundays