Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

An Aerial Adventure
A Tale From Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©1993, ©2001, ©2007, ©2011

Chapter 29

It was a good week after Thanksgiving when the news came.

Mark called the central office to check a circuit. This would about complete the party line out at the plantation, and there wasn’t a lot of work to do after this. A couple more circuits had to be finished, and there were several days’ worth of phone installation waiting, but the work at Twillingate was visibly coming to an end.

Bessie answered the phone. It was good to hear her on the circuit again, even though her time as "Central" was coming to an end; she was getting better, so much better that Jackie had come with Mark and Paul a couple of times, this being one of them. "Brother Erasmus is a-lookin’ for you," she said.

"Did he say why?" Mark asked.

"He said that some mullet fisherman found old Samuel’s boat a-driftin’ off’n the river mouth, and there weren’t no sign of Samuel. He wants you to go get in your plane and look for him, or his body, anyways."

"Don’t see why not," Mark said. He hung up the phone and asked Paul if he would drive them to town.

They stopped by the phone company office, where Brother Erasmus was waiting, but he couldn’t add much to what Bessie had told them. "They found the skiff about a mile offshore," he said. "I done asked around, and no one has seen old Samuel for two-three days, but that ain’t strange. Don’t guess nobody saw him."

"We saw him head out on the tide about three days ago," Jackie said. "We didn’t think anything of it."

"You was about the last people to see him, then," Brother Erasmus said. "I can’t believe the boat would have drifted too far to where it was found, and if’n he’d fallen over a couple days ago, it’d either be ashore or gotten a long ways away."

"I can’t make any promises," Mark told him. "That’s still a big area to look over, and really, a body is a pretty small thing to try and find."

It was strange to get in Rocinante again. They had not been in the cockpit of the little Cessna in almost a month and a half. There had never been the need to go flying, although a couple of times they had talked of flying into Perry or Tallahassee for a movie or something, just to be somewhere besides Twillingate. But, there had always been some reason why it didn’t happen.

As Mark taxied Rocinante down the runway and ran the engine up, his head filled with many memories. He and Jackie had put a lot of miles onto Rocinante’s wings in the past few months, and it seemed almost like normal.

"This is probably going to be pretty hopeless," Mark observed. "We’ll give it a shot, but I don’t think we’re going to find anything."

They picked out an area perhaps a couple of miles square off of the river mouth, and flew low over it, back and forth, searching out the windows. Below them, they could see several of the local fishing boats, out on the same mission, and they didn’t seem to be having any luck, either. They kept it up until Rocinante’s gas gauge began to reach an alarming level. "Guess we’d better break off and go to Perry and get some gas," Jackie observed.

"Yeah," Mark said, a little disappointed. "We can come back and look some more." He picked up some altitude and turned to the east, in the direction where he now believed that Perry was. They found it, landed and gassed up quickly, and flew back to Twillingate, and searched for an hour more, until the light began to get bad. They made one last pass right up the shoreline, right down low, in hopes that old Samuel’s body might have drifted ashore. They had done that before, and found nothing, but with the light in a different direction, there was the possibility that they see find something now.

It was not to be. Reluctantly, they picked up a little altitude and flew back to the Twillingate airstrip, where Mr. Thibodaux, Brother Erasmus, and a handful of others were waiting for them.

"No sign of him," Mark reported. "Of course, if he fell overboard and drowned, you’d expect his body to sink. If he had a heart attack and fell overboard not breathing, it might not, I think. But, we didn’t see anything."

"’Twas bound to happen sooner or later," Brother Erasmus said. "Old man like that, he ain’t gonna go on forever. I ’spect, if’n he had to die, he’d want to die in his boat."

"That skiff was his life," Thibodaux observed. "I don’t think he would want it any other way."

"Don’t think he would have wanted us to find him," Brother Erasmus observed. "I think he’d wanted to have been buried in the sea."

"You might be right," Mark said.

"He was a nice old man," Jackie said. "I would have liked to know him better, but I’m glad to have known him at all."

By then, the day was shot for doing any more work on the phone system. Thibodaux gave them a ride back to the shantyboat. "What do you want for supper?" Jackie asked.

"Don’t know," Mark said. "Open a can or two, I guess. I guess I’m not real interested in eating, anyway."

Mark set up the easel. He had been working on a painting of the church for Brother Erasmus, and he’d been trying to work on it at times when the preacher might not drop by, in hopes that it might be a surprise. Somehow, this didn’t seem like the time to work on it, and it seemed likely he might drop by, anyway.

"How about working on the mirror?" Jackie suggested.

"I just can’t get interested in that right now, either," Mark said. Jackie busied herself with making a light supper, while Mark dug out his pack of cigarettes and pulled one out. He sat back in a chair, with his feet on the rail of the houseboat, and just stared out across the river.

After a while, Jackie brought a plate of stew out to him. He flipped the cigarette over the rail, and it died in the water with a hiss. "It’s got you down, huh?" Jackie observed.

"Yeah, I guess it has, a little," Mark said, putting his feet down and digging into his stew. "He was a good old guy. This river, this ocean, was his life. I guess this is where he was supposed to be, and I guess that was how he was supposed to end up. This was his home."

"Kind of a different way to live," Jackie said, digging into her own plate.

"Yeah, but it was right for him. It wouldn’t be right for you or me, but it was right for him."

"Well, I agree, I guess," Jackie said. "Still, it was nice to see his way of life."

"Yeah," Mark said. "We’ve been doing a lot of seeing how other people lived. I guess that’s what we set out to do on this trip – see things, get to know other people. We’ve done pretty well. But, while it was fun to do, I don’t think it’s how we’re supposed to live."

"You’re talking about going back to Spearfish Lake, aren’t you?" Jackie asked.

"I guess I am," Mark said. "Now that you mention it, I guess that’s it. Jackie, I think that’s where we belong."

"You really want to go back there, don’t you?"

"I don’t think I ever wanted to do anything different. Like Samuel belonged here, I’ve always felt we belonged there. Think how out of place he would be in Spearfish Lake. That’s how far out of place we would be if we were to stay here. I know you’ve never been real enthusiastic about going back, but I’ve been willing to consider what you want. I still am willing to, for that matter. But there’s so much in favor of going back that it’s hard to consider not doing it."

"I’m not against going back," she said, sitting down beside him. "I’ve just enjoyed being away from Spearfish Lake, where no one knows us, where we’re judged on what we are, not what we were or what our parents were. That’s been kind of nice to not have to carry that baggage around with us."

"I agree, it’s been nice," he said. "But the longer we stay in a place, the more of that sort of baggage we’ll pick up. That’d happen in any small town, and I don’t think either you or I are the kind of people who could live in a city, and stand it or each other for very long."

Jackie looked out over the water for a while. "Well, you’re probably right," she said. "The only big city we’ve been in on this trip was San Francisco, and I was just as happy to get out of there. I suppose if we have to live in a small place, it might as well be Spearfish Lake, where at least we know where everything is."

"We can always change our minds if it gets to be too much, or too hard," Mark told her. "But if it happens, we can do it on our own time, and make sure we have a good place to be jumping to."

"I suppose," Jackie said. She looked up, and added, "Here comes Brother Erasmus. Did you want to talk about him marrying us?"

"I don’t know that this would be too good a time, considering Samuel and all," Mark said. "We’ll have to see."

The preacher came up the gangplank and said, "Just wanted to thank you two for the time you took to look for Samuel."

"Just wish we could have found him," Mark said. "I take it that none of the mullet fishermen found anything?"

"Not a thing," Brother Erasmus said sadly.

"Are you going to be planning a memorial service, or something?" Jackie asked.

Brother Erasmus leaned back in the chair, "No," he said, "Not now, anyways. It still might be a little early. After all, he could have been up the coast somewheres, and his skiff could have drifted off on a rising tide. I think we’s best wait a while."

Mark nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense. He could be walking home from somewhere, and then think how you’d look if he did wander in."

"Yeah, don’t want to be in no rush to bury someone who maybe ain’t dead."

They sat and talked for a while, about many things and life in general. It was nice to sit on the deck of the shantyboat, to talk with a friend, and they knew that there wouldn’t be a lot longer they’d be doing it. Mark and Jackie had made a lot of friends in Twillingate, and they were going to be sorry to leave. It wouldn’t be much longer.

Finally, Jackie realized that now was as good a time as any to drop a question on Brother Erasmus. "You know that Mark and I are going to get married," she said. "We’ve got a little problem, and I thought maybe we’d like to hear your opinion on what to do."

The preacher asked what the problem was.

"We decided long ago that if we were going to get married, we ought to get married at home," she said. "The problem is, there’s not a church at home that we feel like getting married in, and somehow I feel like we ought to get married in a church. And, we’d like for you to marry us in yours. I just don’t know how we handle it."

"Well, I’s glad to hear you gettin’ married," Brother Erasmus said. "But you done set yourself a problem."

"Yeah," Mark told him. "Anything we do seems like the wrong thing."

The preacher smiled. "I’d be glad to marry you," he said, "But you’re right. You should be gettin’ married at home, ’fore family and friends. Course’ I’d like to see you get married in a church, too."

"I had one idea," Jackie said. "I thought that maybe we could get married twice. Once, here, in your church, and maybe not even bother with a wedding license. Then at home we could have the official thing. Maybe just a civil ceremony, at home, to deal with the paperwork."

"Might work," Brother Erasmus said after thinking about it for a bit. "The only thing is, I’d be happier if’n you had a church wedding, or at least one by a preacher, back home, too, since that would be the real official one."

"I suppose we could do that," Mark said. "The thing is, the churches back home seem so cold and impersonal, after going to yours and Reverend Sprague’s."

"You get out of it what you put into it," Brother Erasmus said. "If’n you expectin’ it to be cold, then it will be. You two ain’t been goin’ to church at home, I take it?"

"Not for years," Jackie said. "My dad had kind of a problem with the church, what with the problems he had with my mother, and we just sort of quit going. But, they were pretty good about the funeral service for my mother, Dad said. I suppose we could ask the preacher there."

"Now, you makin’ me wonder," the preacher said. "You two always acted like you was saved, but I guess I never done asked you about it. Have the two of you taken Jesus into your heart as your savior?"

"I guess," Mark said. "I’ve never really thought about it in those exact words, but yeah, I guess it comes down to that."

Brother Erasmus turned to Jackie, who was sitting there, thinking. "Me, too," she said finally. "I couldn’t have said that when we were here last spring, but somewhere between then and now, I guess that I’ve come around to thinking like that."

"Then it’s real important that you get into a church when you get back home," the preacher said. "Might be the Baptist Church up home, but might not be, too. We’s independent here, but I can get along with the Baptists. Ain’t no reason you cain’t shop around a little. You should be baptized into your church, but I take it you ain’t never been baptized, either?"

"I was as a baby, I guess," Mark told him.

"Now, that’s what we call sanctifyin’," Brother Erasmus told him. "That’s for when you was a kid, and you hadn’t been able to make a grown-up decision to follow in the path of the Lord. You really ought to be baptized, and the sooner the better."

"What’s the big rush?" Mark asked.

"Well, first, it’s important," the preacher said. "’Specially if’n somethin’ should happen to you. It signifies to the Lord that you’re one of Jesus’ children. An’ it helps you to set in your own mind that you’ve chosen Jesus’ path. We can get you two baptized Sunday."

"Brother Erasmus," Jackie smiled. "Do you remember the eunuch in Acts? How he and Phillip are riding across the desert in his chariot, talking about this sort of thing?"

"You mean, where he says, ‘See, here is water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?’"

"That’s it," Jackie said, waving her hand around the shantyboat. "There’s water all around us."

*   *   *

Wet and dripping, Mark and Jackie went into the shantyboat to change. Dried off, they came back out on deck, where Brother Erasmus waited. "Now that we’ve got that out of the way," he said, "We can talk about a weddin’. A Twillingate weddin’, that is. When do want to do it?"

"I’d rather we didn’t let it go too long between here and home," Jackie said. "I don’t want to do anything too big or elaborate. Maybe just some Sunday, after church. Mark, are we going to be ready to leave by Christmas?"

"Easily," Mark told her. "It’ll be tough to drag out until then."

"Then how about the Sunday before Christmas?" Jackie suggested. "Then, we can work out something for right after Christmas, whether we travel until spring, or stay in Spearfish Lake."

"Sounds all right," Brother Erasmus said. "Now, if you don’t be mindin’, I’d like to go get on some dry pants."

"Remember," Mark said, "We don’t want to do anything special. Just a short service. No gifts or anything like that."

"I’ll take care of everythin’" Brother Erasmus said as he departed. "Don’t worry, we’ll do it right."

"That scares me a little," Mark said to Jackie after Brother Erasmus had left.

"What?" Jackie said.

"What his idea of doing it right might be, compared to what mine is."

"Yeah," Jackie reflected. "We might get more than we bargained for."

The next few days slipped by quickly. As the days dwindled down, Mark carefully repacked the glass blanks for the mirror in their shipping crate. With a little help from him, Jackie had been able to get most of the glass hogged out from the mirror, but it would take bench testing at home to tell if it was enough. Then, the mirror would have to be polished and figured, so there was still a lot of glass work yet to come.

With the blanks in the mail, heavily insured, Mark wrapped up the paints and brushes and the paintings that he had done in the last six weeks, and also shipped them off to Spearfish Lake – all but two.

One of them was the painting of Roger and Kathy, on the beach at Titusville. Mark still wasn’t perfectly happy with it, and thought he could do better if he started over, but finally decided it was best left well enough alone. They thought about shipping it to the Griswolds, but Jackie thought there was room enough in Rocinante to take it with them, and they could have the fun of dropping it off in Arvada Center.

The other painting not shipped to Spearfish Lake was the one of Brother Erasmus’ church, that Mark had been working on, he hoped without Brother Erasmus finding out. It wasn’t just a picture of the church sitting quietly in the woodland, but a much more ambitious project. Mark had painted the church as he remembered it during the roof raising, back in the spring, with most of the community gathered around, trusses being handed up, shingles being carried up ladders, and the building swarming with men with paint brushes, hammers and saws. In the courtyard of the building, the women of Twillingate, both black and white, were gathered around tables, setting up a great community feast. Mark thought it said more about the community and the church than any quiet painting ever would.

It was the one painting he really would have liked to take with him as a souvenir of the little town, but he knew it would mean more to the people in Twillingate. Jackie did take a couple pictures of it, and Mark thought that some day, he might like to do the painting again, just to remind them of this place.

The work on the phone system progressed, and slowly it came to life. It still only worked locally, but every few days another line or two went into service, and Bessie and Jackie found themselves answering the switchboard less and less often. Finally, there came a day that Mark and Mr. Thibodaux, armed with cutters, cut the old Rhinelander switchboard loose from its wires and carried it out to the garage. "Too bad you don’t have a museum here," Mark said. "That’s a real museum piece. Why don’t you call the state historical museum and see if they’d like to have it? It might be better than just hauling it out to the dump."

"I don’t know but what it should be in the parlor," Paul said. "Bessie and I have spent a lot of years being slaves to that board. The kids, when they were home, used to answer the phone if she or I was busy, sometimes when they was just four and five. This is sure a big day in my life, and I hear you got a big day coming in yours this Sunday."

"Is it this Sunday, already?" Mark said. "I thought we had another week."

"That’s a single man talking," Thibodaux said, "Trying to drag it out as long as he can."

"Not hardly," Mark told him. "Jackie and I have been a long way getting this far, and once we’re past it, then we can worry about other things."

There was still work to do on the system, as well as taking out some of the old phones, and Mark and Thibodaux concentrated on that. Back at the Thibodaux house, Bessie and Jackie kept waiting for the bell that would never ring again to go off on the switchboard, and time lay especially heavy on Bessie’s hands. "What you gonna wear Sunday?" she asked one day. "I don’t suppose you’re gonna get married in blue jeans?"

"Why not?" Jackie said. "I don’t want an all-out wedding dress. I thought about getting a knee-length white skirt, and a white blouse, but it looks too much like a waitress’ uniform, and this is one day I’d rather not be reminded I’m really nothing but an unemployed waitress."

"Well, we ought to be able to come up with somethin’" Bessie said. "Let’s go over to the general store and see what kind of fabric they’ve got."

"I suppose it won’t hurt to look," Jackie told her. "But really, blue jeans are all right with me."

The two of them headed for the door. They were no more on than on the porch when Bessie stopped. "Who’s going to stay with the phone?" she asked.

"Bessie," Jackie reminded her, "That doesn’t ring anymore."

"Lord sakes, child," Bessie said, "I wonder how long it’s going to take me to get over that. I been answering that board for over forty years, and it doesn’t seem right that I won’t have to answer it no more."

It felt strange for Jackie to pull on the blue and white dress on Sunday; it was the first time she had worn a skirt since Arroyo Grande, back in July, and in that time Jackie had come to the conclusion that she preferred to wear pants, preferably jeans. It had taken Bessie and her a couple days to design and sew, but it fit nicely and looked as if it would serve the occasion.

Before the church service, Brother Erasmus got them off into one corner, and said, "We might’s well do the paperwork now. You did get a weddin’ license, didn’t you?"

"No," Mark said. "Like we said, this is just for the church wedding. We’ll do the official one up in Spearfish Lake, but this way, both of them will be important to us."

"I don’t like it," Brother Erasmus told them. "It ain’t right, but I guess we’s kind of stuck with goin’ through with it, anyway. You gotta promise me that you’ll get a weddin’ license for when you get home."

"We will," Jackie promised, although remembering she had suggested to Mark that they skip the wedding license there, too, just to leave his options open, but Mark had drawn the line at that. "I thought you understood this was what we’d agreed on."

"I remember you sayin’ it, now," Brother Erasmus said. "I guess, so long as you do it right, with a preacher, when you get home, it’ll be all right. Guess I should have cleared it up before this, but now we got a weddin’ set, and people be expectin’ it, so’s I guess you get a commissary weddin’ in church. Lord won’t mind, and the state of Florida better not, either."

The church service that morning was pretty normal, although the church was much more crowded than usual, and there were a lot more white faces there than usual. The singing was hearty, and Brother Erasmus preached a good sermon. The only mention of Mark and Jackie’s wedding came during the announcements: "Now, most of you know Mister Mark and Miss Jackie, who came to us last spring right ahead of the Devil’s Wind that took the roof off of this church. They stayed to help put it back on. They came back to us, to help with the new phones, and they’re going to be getting married here, about half an hour after the service is over. You’re all invited to stay around and help us celebrate their decidin’ to spend their lives together."

The church was packed during the regular service, but afterwards, it grew even more crowded, rather than less. A lot of people who wouldn’t normally be at the regular service came into the building: the Thibodauxs, the Cowgills – Mrs. Cowgill out for the first time in a long time – Reverend and Mrs. Sprague, the lady who ran the general store and her husband, and many, many other people – some of whom they only knew by faces, and some of whom Jackie only knew by their voices.

"We’re gathered here together to celebrate the marriage of this man and this woman," Brother Erasmus said. "Now, we all know that a lot of people get married out of the passion of the moment, and they’re the people that we say marry in haste and repent in leisure. That can’t be said of these two people. They’ve made no haste in gettin’ married, but they’ve taken their time to be sure of what they’re doing.

"Now, marriage is a sacred thing, and it shouldn’t be rushed into. It’s a commitment in the eyes of God, and it’s a commitment that’s for a long time. The Lord wants us to do the right thing, but sometimes we have to make sure what we know is the right thing to do. Sometimes, there’s good reasons to decide not to get married, if a man and a woman aren’t right for each other, so it’s well sometimes to wait and think about what you want to do and be sure of what you’re doin’.

"Mark," Brother Erasmus said, turning to the groom, "Do you take this woman to be your wedded wife, to love her and honor her, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forth, till death do you part?"

Mark turned to Jackie, and said, "In sickness and in health . . . I do."

Both Mark and Brother Erasmus could see tears come to Jackie’s eyes; they could just hear her whisper, "You didn’t have to do that."

"I wanted to," Mark whispered back. "I meant it."

"Jackie," Brother Erasmus said in a voice loud enough so the congregation would hear, "Do you take this man to be your wedded husband, to love him and honor him and obey him, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forth, till death do you part?"

As quickly as the tears came to Jackie’s eyes, they were gone. "I do," she said quietly.

"Then by the power vested in me, I hereby declare you man and wife."

Once the service was over, Mr. Thibodaux took a few snapshots with Mark’s camera – of the two of them, with Brother Erasmus and without. Then, they went outside.

Mark and Jackie shouldn’t have been surprised to see over a hundred people waiting outside the church for them to come out. Beyond, they could see tables set up, covered with food, like at the church raising in April. "You didn’t have to do this," Mark quietly said to Brother Erasmus.

"We don’t get a lot of weddin’s in Twillingate," he said. "But when we do get one, we likes to do it right."

Mark raised his hands over his head to call for silence. "While I’ve got you together," he said. "There’s something special I’d like to say."

The crowd grew silent, and Mark continued, "Jackie and I have been traveling all over this country since last spring. We’ve had some great experiences, and met a lot of great people. But, we’ve never made better friends, or enjoyed ourselves more than we have here. Now, Brother Erasmus has become an especially good friend, and we felt like we had to do something for him. Paul, did you bring it?"

Thibodaux brought Mark a large, flat package, wrapped in brown wrapping paper. "Seems to be appropriate to me to be giving gifts at a wedding, but in this case, it’s better for the bride and groom to give, rather than to receive. Just by you people being yourselves, you’ve given us the greatest gift of all. Now, this is a little gift to repay some of that. We’re giving this to Brother Erasmus, but it’s really for all of you."

He handed the package to the preacher. "You shouldn’t have done this," he said.

"Not the first time today," Mark said.

Brother Erasmus opened the package, with the painting of the "church raisin’" inside. He held it out to look at it. "I kinda wanted you to do somethin’ like this for me," he said, "But I didn’t want to ask."

"You didn’t have to ask," Mark told him, as the preacher held the picture up for the crowd to see. "We knew you wanted it."

*   *   *

There were half a dozen people around the airstrip the next day as they loaded Rocinante. They hadn’t packed their luggage in the plane in almost two months, but they hadn’t forgotten how. There was a place for everything, and everything went into its place. There was enough room on top of the pile for the painting of Roger and Kathy. Once they were ready to go, they went down the line of people, shaking hands and thanking each one.

Mark and Jackie took a little extra time with Mr. Cowgill. "We want to thank you for letting us use the Billie Jean," Mark said. "It’s been our first real home. I’m just sorry we couldn’t take it back to the fish camp for you, but we’d never find the way by ourselves."

"That’s all right," Cowgill said. "Might have it rented for down here sometime, anyway."

There were special thanks for Paul and Bessie Thibodaux, and for Brother Erasmus and Ethylene, and then it was time to go. Mark and Jackie got into the plane – Jackie on the left, this time – and she started the engine. It took a minute or two to taxi out to the end of the runway and do the runup, and then she started it rolling. They waved to the little knot of people standing by the T-hangar, and then Twillingate was gone.

Jackie set Rocinante on course to the north, climbed to cruising altitude, and throttled back to a cruise. "I wonder if we’ll ever go back there?" she mused.

"Don’t know," Mark said. "I’d kind of like to. Maybe someday. Maybe not. Who knows?"

"That sure was a nice party yesterday," Jackie said. "What with all the food and the dancing, it wore me out. I never thought that on my wedding night, I’d be happy to just go to bed and go to sleep."

"Well, our wedding has been kind of an ongoing thing," Mark told her. "I consider our wedding night to be that night back at Waverly."

"I don’t think then for me," Jackie said. "We may have gotten married then, I think, but I don’t think I realized it until Walden Pond. What do we celebrate for an anniversary?"

"Doesn’t matter," Mark said. "Waverly, Walden, Twillingate yesterday, Spearfish Lake next weekend. Let’s celebrate all of them," he laughed, and she laughed with him.

"You know what’s funny?" she said. "I can just see us going to the preacher in Spearfish Lake, and him giving us a big, solemn pitch about all the counseling sessions we have to have before we get married, and us telling him that they don’t matter, we’re already married, and we just want to do it one more time."

After a while, they needed to stop for gas, and it was getting dark as they approached Kentucky, so they made a night stop before they continued on the next day. It was getting along in the afternoon before they approached Arvada Center. "I’d better do the landing," Mark said. "It’ll be the last one on the trip that’s away from home, and you can land us at home."

"Home," Jackie said. "I’m actually going to be happy to get there. Twillingate started to feel like home, but I guess Spearfish Lake really is home."

Mark took a low pass over the field they had landed in the summer before. There didn’t seem to be any wind, and the field was still short stubble, but from the patches of light snow and the general appearance, he guessed that it was frozen solid. Winter had come to the North Country, only a few days before Christmas. He took a low pass over the house, and while circling, they could see Roger and Kathy come outside to wave at them. With that, Mark swung the Cessna around and landed, as Roger and Kathy drove up.

"It’s good to see you two again," Roger said. "We’ve been wondering when you might drop in."

"It’s good to see you, too," Jackie said. "Kathy, you look different from when we last saw you."

"It was a little boy," she said. "He’s just the sweetest baby. Can we get you a cup of coffee, or anything?"

"We really should stay with the plane," Mark said. "There’s no way we can tie it down in this hard ground. We can only stay for a few minutes, anyway. I want to make it home before dark tonight, and nobody at home knows we’re coming, but we can talk next weekend, if you like."

"What’s next weekend?" Roger asked.

"We’re not sure exactly when, yet," Jackie said, "But we thought you two would like to stand up for us at our latest wedding."

"Your latest wedding?" Kathy asked. "Do you want to explain that?"

"It’s a long story," Mark said. "Let’s just say it will be our official wedding. We kind of got married unofficially the day before yesterday, but it takes a little telling."

"Of course we’ll be there," Roger said. "You can call and give us the details."

"Since we’re probably not going to see you until after Christmas," Mark said, "We thought we’d like to stop and give you this, too." He reached into Rocinante’s luggage compartment and pulled out the package.

"Can we open it now?" Kathy asked.

"If you like," Jackie said.

The Griswolds pulled the wrapping paper off of the package. "That doesn’t look like me," Kathy said when she saw the picture.

"That’s what they all say," Mark smiled. "I’ve heard you say that before."

Roger looked at it. "Looks good to me," he said. "That’ll make a great reminder of our honeymoon. Is last spring as long ago to you as it is to me?"

"Afraid so," Mark said. "It was as long for us as it was for you."

"So you’re getting married, finally?" Kathy asked. "I know this is a silly question, but where are you two going on your honeymoon?"

It was a question that had never occurred to Jackie, but she had an answer: "What would we want to go on a honeymoon after we get married for? We’re just finishing the best honeymoon anyone could possibly ask for."

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