Mack Atlas

Cheyenne is waiting at the door when he gets home. She’s got that look on her face. Mack has been told that the Eskimo tribes have over two hundred words meaning snow. Cheyenne has a dozen variations of worry. There’s worry about him at the job, worry when he’s in danger, worry that he’s going to leave her for another woman, and this particular worry, which is always about money.

“You said you took care of this,” she says, waving an envelope at him. Mack adjusts his glasses, holds out his hand, and takes it. She didn’t have to open it, and neither does he. “What I said was that the state is supposed to handle it,” he says, reciting the familiar words. “We don’t pay taxes, honey.”

“Tell that to them,” she insists. I have, he thinks. But nobody talks to anybody, so it’s not really surprising any more.

Mack closes the door, choosing his words carefully. “Cheyenne, honey, you’re a wonderful woman. You love me no matter what.” He sees the disbelieving look on her face, as she senses empty flattery, but he presses on, knowing it’s not. “Even when I’m built like a truck. I’m also one of the strongest men on the planet. People are… well, they can feel intimidated by me, you know that. Dan had a suggestion. When I talked to him before, he said… well, he thought maybe that someone who wasn’t so big and scary might… get better results. He said you might talk to them, and maybe they’d be more likely to listen.”

Cheyenne softens. “Finally found a load you can’t lift, huh?” she asks. But it’s not cruel. Mack knows she likes being useful. “Alright. I’ll go talk to them tomorrow. Now come in and tell me about your day.”

Mack settles into the reinforced recliner he uses. “Crazy is what it was. The AT&T building - you know, with the mirrors? Those guys can not catch a break. Place got hit in 2008 by a pipe bomb by accident. It took another one last week. I was cleaning up rubble for hours.”

“They know you’re covered by the CSLB, right?” Cheyenne asked critically.

Mack grins. “Yeah, I that’s the first thing I told them. Turner and Roel had some guys out there, but their estimates were two weeks. I finished it in the afternoon.” He loses the smile. “Got some pretty dirty looks. But they can still bid on the rebuild, that’s not part of my job.”

“Honey, have you ever thought about doing it? Quitting the state, working construction full time?”

Mack shakes his head. “I like helping people, not fixing buildings. Sure, the pay isn’t the best, but we do okay, right?”

“We wouldn’t have met otherwise, would we. So yeah, we do okay.” Cheyenne’s got a beer for him. She hands it over, then leans in and kisses his forehead. “I love you.”

Mack squeezes her hand - very gently, always gently. “I love you too.”