Brad Peters, Chemical Engineer

“The Brewer’s Backstory”-Episode 18

May 2007

The Brewer's Justice cover

Coming January 2016!

Brad steered the ancient Blazer around the last corner. A half block away, the mailbox and lamp post of his childhood home anchored bunches of black and gold balloons. Several cars already lined the curb. He parked across the street from his house where a black and gold yard sign proclaimed, “Proud parents of a CU grad!” Above one garage door, black lettering on a gold banner said, “Congratulations Brad!” Over the other garage door, a second banner, “Congratulations Maddy!” fluttered with a passing breeze. The opened gate on the side of the house showed guests the way.

“Your parents really decorated,” Maddy said.

“I suspect Natalie had something to do with it.” Brad knew his sister, two years out of Colorado State University and three months away from her wedding, wanted this to be his and Maddy’s day. The joint graduation party had been Natalie’s idea. Six weeks after carpel tunnel surgery, Maddy’s mother was in no shape—physically or financially—to put on a party. For Carol Hatfield and her two children, money had always been tight.

Brad opened the Blazer’s back gate and pulled out a half-keg of beer iced down in a plastic bucket. He followed Maddy toward the side yard gate. She wore shorts, and her long, toned legs were on full display. If his hands hadn’t been full, he would have reached out and squeezed that firm little butt.

In the back yard, his father looked up from the smoking grill and said in a voice loud enough for the neighbors to hear, “The graduates have arrived!” This was met with applause and hugs. Julia Peters, Maddy’s mother and Natalie waved through the kitchen window. Grandpa Peters pushed himself out of his seat beside the grill and held out a hand. “Way to go, Brad!”

Brad set his cargo by the drinks cooler and shook his grandfather’s hand before hugging him. The older man held Brad at arm’s length and said, “You know, don’t you, that I’m almost as proud of you as your dad is for landing the brewing job at Coors? I hear that for the first year, you’re going to live in Boulder and commute. You don’t think you’ll get tired of the drive?”

“It’s only a half hour,” Brad replied, “and Maddy will be in law school at CU. Be right back. I’ve got one more keg in the car.”

Coming into the front yard, Brad noticed an old car he didn’t recognized parked down the street. Probably a clunker the Berrys bought Parker, who must be driving now. Years of exposure to Colorado’s extreme weather had dulled the finish to a drab brown. Parker had probably been in kindergarten when God knew who or what had cracked one side of the front bummer.

As Brad reached into the Blazer, he heard a car door open and shut. He glanced towards the old car and froze. Surely, his imagination had gotten the better of him. Trying to avoid a brazen stare, he took a second quick look. The man who had gotten out of the clunker moved along the street in no apparent hurry.

Brad had only seen Maddy’s father one time. He wasn’t at all sure, but he wasn’t going to wait. He slammed the Blazer’s gate shut and hurried in the front door to his parents’ house. In the kitchen, his mother came over with a huge smile. “How’s my chemical engineer today?”

He hardly returned her hug. “Carol, can you come with me a minute?” His mother’s smile vanished. “It’s nothing, Mom. Don’t worry.”

Maddy’s mother frowned; worry lines wrinkled her forehead. She brushed by Brad, not stopping to hug him. “Is it Dick?”

“I’m not sure.”

She rushed out the front door that Brad had left open. The man was now at the Peters’ driveway, and Brad saw his face clearly. He hadn’t been mistaken. Carol’s face turned hard. Her voice was harsh. “You’re not wanted here, Dick.”

“I’m Madeleine’s father. I have a right to congratulate my daughter,” Dick Hatfield said as he continued to move toward them.

Brad’s mind flashed back to Christmas Day dinner. Him sitting with Maddy, her brother, Carol and Carol’s sister Ruth at the table in the small house Carol had rented a few months earlier. She had baked a turkey and fixed more food than the five of them could possibly eat. They had just sat down when there was a loud knock on the front door. Dick Hatfield peered in the window and caught them all sitting in silence, waiting for him to leave. “Open the goddamn door!” he shouted. “It’s Christmas. Families are s’posed to be together.” He’d started to hit the window frame. “Open the fucking door or I’ll break the damn window.”

Seventeen-year-old Seth jumped up from the table, knocking his chair to the floor, and ran to his room. Wiping away a tear, Maddy spoke through clenched teeth. “Mama, make him stop. Make him stop it!”

Brad rushed to Maddy, pulled her out of the chair and wrapped his arms around her. She tensed with each blow on the window frame and put her hands over her ears.

“Ruth,” Carol commanded, “go to the hallway where he can’t see you and call 911.” She turned toward the window. “Stop that goddamned pounding, Dick! I’m coming!”

“Don’t let him in, Mama,” Maddy called. With only a window separating them, Brad stared at the madman. If Dick Hatfield had a gun, he might very well kill them all. But this Maddy, cowed and crying in his arms scared Brad even more. She was his wonder woman. Nothing ever fazed her. Nothing until now. She shivered in his arms and pressed against him.

“I’m not lettin’ him in, baby,” Carol said, her voice softening. She reached the window and every hint softness disappeared. “I’ll fix you a plate and you can be on your way.”

“Open the damn door, Carol!”

“Think about the consequences, Dick.”

“The hell with consequences,” he shouted.

“When you’re high, Dick, you do things you regret afterwards.”

“I’m not high!”

“And my mother’s the queen of England. Dick, remember the restraining order. You lay a hand on any of us and you go to jail again. For a long time.”

“I just want to be with my family.”

Brad watched in fear and amazement as this man, taller than himself, slumped against the window and began to cry. Then, like a puppy, Dick Hatfield raised his head and turned it to one side as if listening to a faint sound. He slammed his fist against the window frame, making the glass rattle. “Aw, shit, Carol. Why’d you go and call the cops?”

“I haven’t been out of your sight, Dick. Must’ve been one of the neighbors.”

“Just lemme in. It’s cold as the dickens out here,” Dick Hatfield whimpered.

Even now, standing in the late spring warmth in front of the house where he had grown up, Brad could practically hear Maddy’s sobbing, her face buried against his chest. He remembered the sound of the approaching siren, so eerie in the deserted streets, and the wreck of a man slumped against the window, the table full of cold food, and the utter despair he had felt.

Here Brad was, once again watching and helpless. Carol, who knew how to handle Dick Hatfield better than any other person, repeated, “Go away, Dick. I don’t know how you found out about the party or how you got the address, but you’re not going to ruin this special day for Maddy. You’ve ruined too many, already.”

“Carol, listen.”

The woman blew out a breath. “What?”

“I’ve been in rehab. I’ve been clean for fifty-three days.” Brad studied Dick Hatfield’s recently shaved face and combed hair, his erect posture.

“That’s really good, Dick,” Carol said, sounding as though she genuinely meant it. “Tell you what, you stay clean one year—three hundred and sixty-five days, Dick—and then maybe I can talk Maddy into seeing you again.”

Dick Hatfield’s eyes filled with tears. “Is that a promise, Carol?”

“Promise,” she said, placing her hand on her heart. “So long as you go on your way now.”

A tear, glistening in the sun, rolled down Dick Hatfield’s cheek. To Brad’s surprise, the man turned and walked back to the clunker in front of the Berry’s house. The car sputtered to a start, made a U-turn and disappeared around the corner.

Carol put her healthy hand on Brad’s arm. “No good will come of us telling Maddy about this. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

“We have two graduations to celebrate!” she said. “Let’s get back to the party.”

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