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“That’s how I ended up working here. My parents were so controlling, and I was… rebellious. I took a job here just to piss them off. It worked. They were so angry they didn’t speak to me for years. Actually, it was your uncle that got us talking again.”

“Really? How?” I wasn’t sure why Carl had to die for me to learn so much more about him.

“It was my birthday, and he planned on asking me to marry him. But he wanted to do it the so-called ‘right way’ and get my parents’ blessing. So he went and had a talk with my father.”

“Wow. How romantic is that?” I said.

“Yeah. He never even complained about the black eye my dad gave him that day for hiring me.”

“Wait. Your dad beat up Uncle Carl?” I couldn’t believe it. Carl stood way over six feet tall and was built like a lumberjack. That’s why he didn’t need a bouncer at the club. He was the biggest guy in town.

“Just one punch. And Carl didn’t tell me, my dad did. On our wedding day.”

“That’s poor timing,” I said, shaking my head.

“Not really. It was kind of sweet. He was walking me down the aisle and whispered it in my ear. He just wanted me to know how much Carl really loved me. Do you know he never even raised a hand to block my dad? He just took the hit so my dad could get out all that anger on him and not on me.” Trixi picked up a photo of her and Carl that was sitting on the desk. “Damn, I miss that stubborn bastard.”

I flopped down in the seat across from her and said, “So do I.”

We sat there quietly as though neither were ready to let go of the memories were holding onto. Uncle Carl, I wish I’d come home more often. I just thought we’d have more time.

Each time he’d call and invite me to Bermoose for a visit, I hesitated, afraid that if I came, he’d try talking me into staying. So I thought up all different ridiculous excuses. I could feel the regret building up within me for being so selfish.

Sniffing to fight back the tears I thought had vanished, I asked, “Where do you recommend I start with all this paperwork?”

Trixi looked down at the cluttered desk and said, “Honestly, I don’t know. If you put me in charge, I’d toss it all and start from scratch.”

“I don’t think that is a wise thing to do. Some of that might be bills to be paid. The club won’t stay open long without electricity or heat.”

She laughed. “I don’t know. I look a lot better in candlelight.”

“Just remember, you’re not a dancer, you’re a manager now,” I reminded her.

“I think I’m just here for moral support. Besides that, what do I have to offer?” she asked.

“Well, first of all, you can manage the ladies. And deal with the customers. I’ll handle the paperwork.” And keep my ass in the office.

She got up and said, “Then I guess I’d better give you this chair and get out there before customers start showing up.” Trixi headed to the door and added, “Don’t forget, I’m just a few feet away if you need me.”

“Same here. And Aunt Trixi, thanks again for agreeing to help me.”

“That’s what family is for,” she said, closing the door behind her.

And that’s why I’m doing this. For my family.