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Third Time Lucky

Third Time Lucky

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Third Time Lucky

5/5 (1 valutazione)
304 pagine
4 ore
Nov 30, 2011


Fifty-plus Tess Lanzetta and Hal Sitko, who have never met before, are separately recruited to help with the Prosperity Point Kitchen hot meal program.
When they must prepare lunch for the delivered meals and the soup kitchen clients with only bits and pieces, most of them left-overs, Sitko and Lanzetta make what they call tail-end stew. They then help deliver that to the homebound clients in a livelier than usual manner. When some of the sickly clients report feeling better than they have for weeks after that meal there in talk of a miracle or a secret ingredient of potential great value to food companies despite the cooks’ insistence that the helpful effects were simply the result of a cheery presentation on a nice day and maybe some extra mild spices.
A female TV news reporter with a grudge against Sitko claims on-air that Lanzetta and Sitko actually tried to poison the clients and only by accident made them feel good. Her claim is eventually shown to be the result of her misreading of some magazine articles so the station makes a nice donation to the food program to smooth that over. All the publicity due to the controversies makes the general public aware of the charity kitchen’s existence and problems resulting in volunteers and money coming their way. While dealing with all that, the pair find romance.

Nov 30, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

After years of teaching high school and then college biology I retired to write. I am back living in the Philadelphia, PA area where I was born and raised.

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Third Time Lucky - Thomas P. Hanna

Third Time Lucky

A Novel

By Thomas P. Hanna

Copyright 2011 Thomas P. Hanna

Smashwords Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it or it was not purchases for your use only, please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the work of the author.

Table of Contents

Chapter 01

Chapter 02

Chapter 03

Chapter 04

Chapter 05

Chapter 06

Chapter 07

Chapter 08

Chapter 09

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 01

The name Prosperity Point had been was on local maps for at least seventy years. By the present time it wasn’t clear whether the name had been applied to the area in earnest hope it might trigger some magic that would make it seem prescient and helpful or if it was a sarcastic comment on a place with little going for it. Whatever was intended back then it was now a rundown, largely abandoned, industrial neighborhood.

The Prosperity Point Kitchen served two meals a day to the needy without the irony since its name came from the official site designation not from any claims they made, although they did support the non-religious based HoBast or Holding Body and Soul Together program.

The Kitchen was a rectangular single-story building with a truck-loading dock at the back of the parking lot beyond a trash dumpster to facilitate deliveries. At eight this morning, there were only two cars in the rather small lot.

Inside, the preparation area was a typical if somewhat thread-bare institutional kitchen with much used but lovingly cared for equipment. Maggie Dawson stood at a work table sorting the contents of a large bag of carrots, good ones into one plastic bin, those with problems into another. She was sixty-five if you asked but sometimes looked twice that by the end of a long and tiring day although not quite that much when she could relax and get rested.

She glanced up when Halcroft Sitko, fifty-five, neat and trim, and intelligent looking, carried in a carton. He entered without fanfare but not silently to be sure he wouldn’t startle anyone.

He said, Hi. Delivery guy. Unofficial so I don't get a special uniform. Is it okay to sit this on the table or where should I put it down?

Wearily but not unpleasantly Dawson said, We don’t care about uniforms. If you're here to help we don't care what you're wearing - as long as you won't get arrested when our clients or the neighborhood snoops spot you.

Sitko examined the writing on the outside of the carton he held. I'm only a courier, unless that sounds too highfalutin in which case feel free to ignore it. I’m dropping off a package for somebody named… Hobast? Does that name ring any bells?

Hobast is the ‘Holding Body and Soul Together’ program here at Prosperity Point. Mostly we do that by feeding people so I assume the package is either food or something for preparing it.

I wasn't on scout's honor not to but I didn't peek so I have no idea what's in there. I'm Hal Sitko by the way.

Dawson held up her food-server plastic gloved hands to show why she couldn't shake.

Hello, Hal, I'm Maggie Dawson. Be a good guy and help an old lady by opening the box so we can check that it doesn't need to go in the fridge.

All right but if it's steaks and lobsters there may be a blur and the box and I will never have been here.

I'll take that risk although you might be surprised how fast I can still run if there are lobsters involved. I mean to grab them, not running away in fear.

Sitko looked around as he sat the carton down and opened the top. Where's everybody else? Shouldn't your staff be here getting today's lunch ready?

In the ideal world, but this is Hard Knocks Street and my only volunteer for today called in sick. He's in detox after falling off the wagon so it's a legitimate excuse.

Which leaves you to do it all yourself?

Unless some helpful and generous person walks in the door and offers to give me a hand. A few of our regular clients help with the final steps but they don't show up until it's almost meal time. I can't pay them so that's important panhandling time. For some that’s close to life or death for real.

Sitko smiled as he saw where this was going. He peered into the carton as he asked, Did you set this up with Oscar?

I'd be honest and proud to say I'm that kind of a conspirator but I don't know any Oscar and you're a total but pleasant surprise to me.

You hardly even know me and you've picked right up on my superlative qualities.

At least on the fact that you're big enough to lift some of the things I have trouble with. If you have a few minutes to help.

If I could lie easily I'd say I know nothing about food and kitchens and then flee out the door.

Hallelujah, someone who knows how to cook! If you'll help me fix lunch we'll have the clients singing in the aisles instead of staring at what I made and wondering what mystery meat or meat substitute might be hiding there among the filler.

Do you have aprons?

On the shelf in the stock area in the back. What's in your box?

He jumped back in faked shock. Madam, we've hardly met!

Dawson laughed. Heck, even if you can't cook you'll keep me laughing so I won't notice how much work needs to be done. So what's in the carton you delivered?

Oh, that. Rigatoni. Maybe twenty pounds. He said he got it on sale.

That's when it tastes best. Put it in the stock area. Unless you want to cook it for today.

I'm not in charge of the menu. Tell me what needs to be done and I'll try to figure out how to do it.

We have day-before-yesterday's ground beef from a supermarket up the street. As long as we use it today it's good. We usually make burgers but we always cook some loose for those who can't chew.

Don't you also do a home meal delivery program? How do you keep it all straight?

Lists. We have lists for everything. You'll see, we check lists all day long and keep making up new ones so we know what needs to be done tomorrow.

Probably not the most efficient system known but if it keeps chaos at bay I guess it’s not to be disdained, he said.

"We consider it stop gap until we stumble on something that works better. A major change in staff from day-to-day fights us. Collectively we lack short-term memory. When John arrives in the morning he doesn’t know what it was obvious last night needed to be today because he hasn’t been here in a week unless someone left a note and it saves time to make those lists of what need doing. Maybe you don’t need to say or write it down if you have the same people helping with the job every day.

This is an education already and I haven’t even boiled any rigatoni. I’ve done a bunch of things in my time but always with the same basically competent crew so we didn’t have to start from scratch each morning.

Not total scratch because we make our lists but some days it comes close around here. It keeps us from getting into a rut because we aren’t able to get too zoned out. Autopilot only works if you do the same things in the same way each day. We’re more adventurous than that.

You make it sound scary but fascinating at the same time.

You can call that Maggie’s gift if you want. Preferably after you put your friend Oscar’s gift in the pantry, wrap yourself in an apron, and ask what else needs to be done.

* * *

The Merci Lez Retirement Home was a semi-shabby urban place identified by a sign. Fifty-three-year-old Tess Lanzetta sat with her seventy-year-old mother Mildred Iococca in the latter’s small, simply furnished and decorated room.

I'm sorry that I can't help you find a better place than this, Mom.

I only complain fifteen hours a day and this is my off hour. I get the basics here and I never expected or really wanted more than that.

If you won't use this hour to complain maybe I will - except I don't have anything specific to complain about. It's just that my life seems blah.

Such an effectively onomatopoetic way to describe it. I’ve loved that word since I learned it but I’d still have to look up the spelling if I decided to write it down. As all the world knows, it’s one of my very few big words. Anyway, if your life is blah do something about it. If you were sick I'd say see a doctor. If you were crazier than I've always told you we all are in our family I'd tell you to see a shrink. But if life isn't keeping you on the edge of your chair with excitement the obvious remedy is to change what you're doing by adding or subtracting to make it more interesting.

It's not that easy, Lanzetta replied.

Are you sure? I don't claim to have found wisdom in my advanced years but when I look at your situation and don't see physical or legal barriers or armed opponents I suspect the biggest hurdle is in your head. Among the rocks.

I work full time so I don't need either the income or the exhaustion from a second full-time job.

Good for you. So if you've got time on your hands, give it away. It's not worth anything to anyone if you just twiddle your thumbs and moan. Save that stuff for when you can't do anything else. I could tell you a few horror tales about that. She laughed a sort of non-threatening cackle. Oh wait, I’ve been doing that for a couple of years. Or is it decades now?

You're right. I could do some volunteer work. Maybe seeing other people's sorry lives would make me appreciate mine more.

Iococca nodded, It's satisfying to see that you're better off than some others because of what you choose to do. That doesn't mean gloating about the bad stuff that happens to them - unless they brought it on themselves. It also doesn't mean feeling superior to anyone - except when it's clear that you made better decisions and used your native talents better. Those things you can gloat about ever so quietly if you want.

I don't really have any special skills though. Yeah, I pretty much run an office but that's all standard stuff.

Stop with the negatives, girl. Right away you want to talk yourself out of the good decision you've started to make. Most volunteer work isn't solving math problems, it's sorting donated clothes or dishing out the hash in a food kitchen.

You're right but I still don't know what to do. I'm not the most patient person. I won't last long among chatty air-heads or zealous do-gooders out to convert me to their ways.

Good, then I won't have to waste time worrying about you joining a cult and preparing to beam up to the mother ship. I can stay focused on who passes by on the street outside here. We don’t get many interesting passers but you never know and you need to stay ready when opportunity walks or drives by.

I won't make any big commitments.

Of course not. But get your feet wet. You may find you like not having so much free time on your hands if you have something or even someone to keep you occupied.

Come on, don't start with that again. Two less than perfect experiences should be enough for anyone. I'm not looking for a man, only for some fulfilling work.

Not that shaping a man into something to be proud of isn't fulfilling. But you're right, not another word on the subject. At least for today. I can blame it on my faulty memory the next time I bring it up.

Do you have any suggestions about who needs help of any kind that I might be good at, Mom?

My immediate answer is most of the world but I'm just spouting off. Come with me, there's somebody in the office who might know. She's pretty much up on a lot of stuff.

What are you going to tell her that I want to know about?

It’s your adventure. I'm gonna let you do the talking? It won’t be easy for me to hold my tongue but I’ll use my new ‘Hold your tongue with these special tongs’ things they sell on the TV for only twenty-nine ninety-nine plus fifteen dollars shipping. She laughs. Your expression made my whole next ten minutes until I forget it. No, I didn’t buy some dumb gadget sold at maximum decibels on the TV. You think I’ve gotten dumber than I think I have. I hope I’ve got the better fix on that.

Chapter 02

The next morning Sitko looked around the empty soup kitchen while talking on his cell phone. What did you get me into, Oscar? I helped Maggie Dawson out yesterday since she was swamped and today I'm here doing the whole thing myself. I have long lists of things that need to be done but only my two hands to do them. This isn’t good.

Dawson entered looking harried and toting two heavy bags.

Sitko said into the phone, Gotta go. I'll moan and whine to you more later. To Dawson he said, Based on your expression I won't bother with the cheery good morning.

I only do this because a bunch of people would go hungry if I don't but some days…

Maggie, sweetheart, you need to reschedule things to take full advantage of your strengths.

I don't know what that means but I'm not complaining about the sweetheart part.

You're in the wrong line of work. I’ve been thinking about it and I suspect that if you spent less time preparing meals and more time recruiting helpers it'd all go better in the long run.

You think I'm a lousy cook? I agree.

No, I think your strength is in cajoling people into helping a good cause. And that that’s a very special talent. Almost anyone can mix sauce into pasta.

Meanwhile who'll fix the pasta? A day without our lunch can be a day without food for some of our clients.

If you'll get out there and look for long-term helpers I'll run the kitchen for two weeks. I'll even dragoon enough temporary help from people who owe me but who won't agree to stay longer that I’ll guarantee to keep things going with minimum input from you.

You can be honest. Am I that unpleasant to be around?

To be as honest as you’re giving me permission to be, you're not a total delight when the strain’s showing. But this is about spreading the work and the satisfaction among people who don't yet know what they're missing.

Can I use that line when I'm bending arms and begging?

Even in the short time I've dealt with you I know you're not a beggar, you're a cajoler, a persuader.

Okay, before you realize what you said and take it back, I accept your offer to take over the kitchen while I search the byways for volunteers. When do you start?

Today. Sort of. I didn't know if anyone else would show up to help so I planned a menu I can fix alone. Since you're here and haven't had time to plan your pitch circuit I can use your help today, which will also reassure you that things won't fall apart entirely with me in charge for two weeks.

About that. Do you turn into a pumpkin after two weeks?

I have great confidence in your people skills. If after two weeks you haven't found enough help to make this work I will recommend shutting it down as unworkable. I'm not a believer in lost causes and I won't keep any program going that can't stand on its own feet.

We'd better get lunch ready and then I'll hit the pavement. With the possible future of Prosperity Point in the balance I'll be highly motivated.

And, I’m fully confident, highly successful.

* * *

Although she tried not to let any distress show Dawson was taken aback a while later when she reentered the kitchen from checking on preparations in the dining room to find three trays of fried chicken parts on the work table.

Oh, uh, you work fast, Hal. You found where the fowl were running free, chased them down, carved them up, and cooked them that fast.

I was amazing. I’d be an Internet sensation if anyone had been able to film me but my hands were moving so fast that even on a high speed camera they’d only have been a blur. I punched those numbers into my phone, talked fast but to the point, and made sure the path from the back-door to that spot was clear. But it’s not something I could do again anytime soon.

O-kay. But in case anyone official asks, where did this chicken come from? In my position I have to look the gift horses in the mouth so I can tell the state inspector about what I saw if there are questions, Dawson said in an apologetic tone.

I know someone who runs a small catering business. She was hired for some kind of a family reunion thing yesterday but before the guests had time to dig in a fight broke out and the event broke up. Fortunately she had insisted on being paid in advance so it’s not an out-of-pocket loss for her but she had this stuff that she can’t reuse for another party but hated to have to throw away. She was happy to give it to your place here even though I couldn’t give her a tax write-off on it.

Actually I can give her a chit for that purpose if you give me her name and address. That’s one of the things that keeps donations from businesses coming in our door. I admit that for a moment I was afraid you had taken the easy way out and ordered in which isn’t illegal or anything nasty like that but isn’t economically sustainable for us.

No, strictly tapping a resource I knew who had good but surplus food. In this case simply because a particular family tried and showed they can’t get along if they’re within throwing distance of one another, Sitko said with a shrug.

They actually threw stuff around?

That’s what I heard by phone last night. That may explain why there are no rolls to go with the chicken. And there’s only chicken because the party organizer said that otherwise there’d be fights over who took too much roast beef or who wasn’t deserving of any meatballs and on and on like that. No choice was supposed to keep the peace, Sitko explained.

Okay, I’m vigorously scrubbing away all mental images of such a melee and getting back to our challenges here.

You are either exquisitely sensitive about your terminology or you’ve been at this a long time and know the importance of picking words to stay upbeat.

She looked her question at him.

You avoided saying your place has problems.

Okay, now I’m on that track. Yes, we have challenges every day but with luck and generous benefactors we only have problems now and then.

I have to ask this since she was pretty emphatic. If I tell you where the chicken came from does that have to go into some kind of a beggar’s database so she’ll get regular appeals for donations? If so I’m not allowed to reveal my source. Not even for a small tax benefit.

I in turn have to ask a question of you. Is this person likely to remember that we’ll always be glad to receive it when she has usable food to pass along even though each time it’ll come out of the blue?

I’m confident that she will. She was glad to hear from me today because she really hates to waste.

Dawson said it with a twinkle in her eye, Are you sure she wasn’t just glad to hear from you because you’re you?

She’s half my age and engaged to the man of her dreams who seems like a really good guy so I doubt that. Rumors aside, I don’t have to beat off the ardent women with a stick.

Okay, ‘nough said about that topic. A word of caution since you may get phone calls while I’m not here. There’s a list of three names taped on the wall by the phone over there and also on the office door. Those are the only people we politely say no thank you to if they call and offer us food donations. They’ll deliver unusable garbage but they expect us to signs forms for their tax write-offs indicating it was worth even more than if it had been in top shape. That leads to the I.R.S. deciding that our certification is a sham, which then creates problems for the donors of good stuff who also are doing that in part to reduce their taxes.


Other than them – and any new names we learn from sad experience that we need to add to the list – we always say yes and thank you. We can’t afford to forget that at bottom we are beggars.

But such charming ones that no one thinks of us that way.

See that, you’ve given me a whole new perspective on my work here.

They looked over as several people came in the back-door.

Here come some helpers now who’ll pitch in and get the Hobast meals dished up and delivered and do the dishing out here to keep the local clients from mimicking the family that paid for the chicken, Dawson said.

Is that a problem here? Sitko asked with concern.

Not usually but since we always keep control of the serving implements it’s hard to estimate how often it might be otherwise. There have been a few instances but those are rare and isolated.

But we have to stay on the alert.

Just like at a family reunion picnic, she said. These folks know their part of the routine so I’m going to get myself out to spread the message and recruit recruits.

You’re not going to eat before you go?

With the amounts we have to work with today we may be playing it close and I can go to a burger place and be served, many of our clients can’t. I’ll be fine. Oh, it’s not because I don’t trust your cooking, Hal.

She says that as she backs away from the food. Go on, get out and raise your voice in a clarion call to those looking for a way to help out. We have things under control here.

* * *

At three P.M. Sitko was alone in the kitchen

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