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Hiding Patty
A Tale From Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 17

“So how did the spaghetti turn out last night?” Heather asked the next day as the three of them were sharing lunch.

“Surprisingly enough, not very badly,” Tricia replied. “I thought it lacked, well, something, but Henry said he liked it.”

“Henry? I never heard you say anything about a Henry.”

“Oh, I only met him last night,” Tricia grinned. “He just moved in next door to me in the last couple days. I went over to meet my duplex mate, tell him hello, and, well, one thing led to another.”

“Wow, so you’ve got a boyfriend now?” Molly snickered.

“Well, not that,” Tricia smiled. “He’s a nice guy, and we sat around and talked for a while. He’s a local guy, and he filled me in on a lot of the local stories I’d heard about but didn’t know anything about.”

In fact, it had been a pretty good evening. It wasn’t in the slightest romantic or anything, just a couple of neighbors enjoying sitting around and talking. Henry did in fact know a lot of the local stories, even some of the ones that had happened while he was out of town working in several small TV stations. That wasn’t surprising, since he’d grown up with the Record-Herald and had kept up on things. He admitted he’d done so on purpose, since he’d expected there was a reasonable chance he’d wind up back there after all. He’d had a few other stories to tell, mostly about some of the things he’d seen as a small-market TV reporter.

“So,” Molly grinned, “are you going to see him again?”

“Oh, probably,” Tricia nodded, seeing Molly’s question as just exactly how she meant it – checking to see if there was going to be a lush, hot romance to talk about in the near future. “He lives next door, after all, we’ll probably run into each other every now and then. He sort of offered to take me dogsledding some time when there’s more snow on the ground.”

“Henry?” Heather’s eyebrows shot up. “Dogsledding? You don’t mean Henry McMahon, do you?”

“Yeah, that’s his name, he works at the Record-Herald.”

“Oh, wow! I had the biggest crush on him when I got back to high school the year after I had Lee! He was just the nicest guy, but I knew I never had a chance with him, between having Lee and the fact that he was always hanging around Cindy deLine. Did he say anything about her?”

“No, not a word.”

“Well, I suppose he wouldn’t say anything about her,” Heather shook her head. “That whole thing was kind of weird. I never really understood what he saw in her, anyway.”

“A real super high school romance?” Tricia asked, wondering just a little about it. No, there hadn’t been mention of a girlfriend or a wife or anything. It seemed a little strange, now that she thought about it – every time the conversation seemed to drift near the topic, it somehow had seemed to drift away. “I saw a few of those back when I was in high school. I even had a sort of a boyfriend for a while, even though we both knew it would never last.”

“Actually, I don’t know what it was,” Heather frowned. “I mean, they were always good buddies, but they were never all lovey-dovey like kids can get at that age.”

“You’d know if anyone would,” Tricia nodded. “So how was it strange?”

“Well, they never exactly struck me as all that good a match,” Heather said. “But you’d have to understand Cindy’s mother. She was a real nutcase from the word go. Always had an opinion and always was ready to tell you all the gory details. I mean, not nicely either, she was always screeching about it. She was the reason I sort of had to drop out of school when I was real pregnant with Lee. She didn’t think it was a good influence to have me around the other kids, if you know what I mean. I mean, she was a real asshole about it, too.”

“You didn’t drop out, did you?”

“Well, no, they worked out a home-schooling deal for me in my last trimester so I could keep up with the class, and a couple teachers came over to help me with it after school. Even the principal helped out with that a bit. They were real understanding, but the kids . . . well, even today I still get some shit about it. That’s part of why I like to work with kids on those issues. I’ve been there and know what it’s like.”

“That was Lisa deLine, wasn’t it?” Molly said. “I was a few years ahead of you so I wouldn’t know about that, but she was a real bitch even while I was in school.”

“Yeah, what an obnoxious nutcase,” Heather shook her head. “I don’t really know for sure, but I always had the impression that Henry was trying to give Cindy some breathing room from her mother. See, her mother was very controlling, she had every minute of Cindy’s day planned out and everything she was going to do, and it was going to be her way or no way. You ever hear the term ‘helicopter parent?’ I hadn’t heard it at the time but it was a real good way to describe what was going on.”

“You mean like someone hovering over their kids all the time, watching every move they made and ready to swoop down on them if they get the slightest bit of independence?” Tricia asked. “I’ve heard the term and know the type, and it doesn’t stop with high school. Hell, we had people in med school who couldn’t go to the bathroom without their parents’ permission. I suspect they’re going to make really great doctors,” she added sarcastically.

“That’s exactly what I mean except that Lisa deLine was even more so,” Heather said. “I mean, if she didn’t like something, she’d bitch to the teachers, to the principal, to the school board, to the newspaper, and god knows where else. Poor Cindy had very little she could do but to just take that shit from her mother. Like I said, I don’t think Henry was all that close to her, but sometimes he did manage to give her a chance to get away and hide from her mother for a while. God knows she needed it.”

“If her mother was watching her that closely, how could he do that?”

“I don’t really know,” Heather sighed. “Probably they ‘studied together’” – she held up two crooked fingers on each hand as if they were quote marks – “At least some of the time. It could well be that Cindy’s mother saw Henry as a pretty good boyfriend for her and allowed them a little space, so long as it didn’t go too far.”

“Too far probably meaning a very chaste goodnight kiss?” Molly smiled.

“If that far. Like I said, Cindy’s mother kept a real close eye on her, but I’ll give Cindy credit, she socked it to her mother a good one. I mean, she really got her.”

“Is this one of those long stories that I’ll probably hear sometime?” Tricia laughed.

“Oh, you’ll probably hear it, but it’s not that long,” Heather grinned. “I’m not exactly clear on how it all came down, but Henry planned to go to Central, and I guess Cindy told her mother she wanted to go there too, so she could be close to Henry.”

“Understandable, I guess. She probably saw him as something of a protector.”

“Oh, I’m sure she did,” Heather laughed. “Or at least a false trail. Look, it was no secret that Cindy’s main goal in life was to get as far away from her mother and Spearfish Lake as she could, so when Central was where he was going, that was where she was going, too. Or, at least that’s what Cindy told her mother. God knows if Henry was in on the deal or what. I wouldn’t put it past him. Like I said, I think he was trying to protect Cindy more than anything, rather than get something going with her.”

“Well, what happened, for Pete’s sakes?”

“I guess Cindy’s mom was planning on getting a place down in Mt. Pleasant so she could continue to keep an eye on her,” Heather replied with a really wide, sparkling grin. “What her mother didn’t know was that Cindy had also applied to go to school somewhere else and got accepted there. So at the last damn minute Cindy announced she wasn’t going to go to Central. She was going to go to a school up north.”

“Northern Michigan?”

“Way more up north than that,” Heather laughed. “University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Which is just about as far away from Spearfish Lake as you can go to college and still be in the country.”

“Oh, my god!” Tricia laughed almost explosively. “That would do it all right! Did they have to call the ALS ambulance for the heart attack her mother must have had?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me, but I never heard any details,” Heather continued. “What I do know is that her mother was really pissed that Cindy would pull a trick like that on her. She must have been able to launch a space shuttle on her blood pressure alone.”

“No doubt,” Molly added. “I mean, she was pissed with everybody in town for helping Cindy put that little trick together. It didn’t matter whether they even knew her, they were in Spearfish Lake so they had to be responsible. It was the talk of the town for a while.”

“Yeah, and then came the kicker,” Heather went on. “So Cindy’s mom put her house up for sale in this huge huff and flew off to Fairbanks, where Cindy was living in a dorm. Her mother bought a condo there and settled down to get her daughter back under control. Now, it gets colder than hell in Fairbanks and Cindy decided she didn’t like that too much, and I guess her mother didn’t like it very much, either. So it got down to the end of the semester, Cindy packed her bags and flew off without so much as a word to her mother. The story I heard was that a day or so after Cindy was supposed to be at the condo for break her mother went over to her dorm room to see what had happened to her. She found a note from Cindy there telling her that she was transferring to the University of Miami or some school down around there. She said that if her mother followed her she’d transfer again!”

Tricia let go of a big belly laugh – she couldn’t help it. “So there her mother was, making payments on a house in Spearfish Lake and a condo in Fairbanks, and her daughter had run between her feet again. God, this Cindy must have been pissed right off, and her mother had to have been even more pissed. So what happened?”

“Well,” Heather sighed, “I guess the story ends there. The last I heard was that wherever Cindy transferred to, it wasn’t anywhere around Miami, because her mother spent a lot of time looking around there for her. I’ve heard Cindy has been back in town a couple times since, real briefly, but no one I know has actually talked to her. Henry probably knows where she is if anyone does. His family might know, too, but my guess is that they’re still helping Cindy hide from her mother. You’ll have to ask him about it, and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t tell you very much.”

“It’s strange he wouldn’t have mentioned it last night,” Tricia replied thoughtfully. “But maybe we just never got around to it. He told some pretty good stories, but that one never came up. But it doesn’t matter, I guess. It’s not like he’s my boyfriend or anything.”

“He could become one,” Molly pointed out with a big grin.

“Not very likely,” Tricia protested. “Hey, look, this is a guy who was nice enough to put up with my cooking for an evening, and that’s all. If things get a lot more serious, I’d want to know a little bit more about it, at least as far as that stuff would affect me.” And, realistically, the reverse might be true, she thought, not wanting to say anything about it. But that was a bridge that wouldn’t have to be crossed now, and most likely never.

“So what are you going to do?” Heather asked, obviously pushing a little, like Molly had been doing.

Tricia decided to change the subject a little bit, if for no more reason than to point out the subject of Henry McMahon and Cindy whatever-her-name had been closed, at least for today. “Try out that spaghetti recipe at least one more time so I can do it without having a printed checklist. Then maybe I’ll start returning some dinner invitations.”

*   *   *

Over the next couple of weeks, Tricia did just that. Binky and Steve were the first victims – well actually, guests – and it went over fairly well. It was actually a pretty good evening, and Binky didn’t have any derogatory comments about Tricia’s spaghetti sauce. Danny and Debbie were the next, and Danny even said it was pretty good. When Debbie asked where she’d gotten the recipe, Tricia just said it was one from Heather without revealing just how simple it actually was.

In that time she saw Henry a couple more times, but not for an evening – just waving at each other when they happened to be outside at the same time. Tricia was pretty sure they’d be getting together again sooner or later, but it didn’t seem like a huge imperative.

The truth was that Tricia wasn’t sure how badly she wanted to get into a relationship with Henry, or with anyone else, for that matter. Not that a relationship wouldn’t be nice; it could get lonely, even as busy as she was. She was not unaware that part of the reason she pushed herself so hard on things like studying Dr. Luce’s patient notes was really a reflection of the fact that she didn’t have much else to do with her life other than medicine. Realistically she could see that in time his bad handwriting was going to become less and less of an issue, even though it was going to be a long time before it went away entirely. Once she got past the first couple of visits with a patient, the records were going to become more irrelevant, unless someone cropped up with a chronic problem. So that wasn’t going to serve as an excuse much longer.

The reason she was reluctant to get into a relationship was the familiar one: Peppermint Patty. Though Tricia had tried hard to put those times behind her and for the most part had done it, they were still there, and she couldn’t deny them. It was just dead clear that revealing that part of her life, however accidentally or purposely, could blow a relationship sky high and probably take her career in Spearfish Lake along with it – and maybe her career elsewhere, too. It seemed like a hell of a risk to take; with Danny in town, she was taking a big enough risk with it as it was, although as far as she knew Danny had kept his word to the absolute letter.

Other than inviting the Evachevskis over for dinner, Tricia hadn’t seen much of Danny since her first days in town; they’d had no need or opportunity to get together to talk things over alone, although it would probably happen again sooner or later. There were times when Tricia really wanted to let her hair down with Danny a little, to discuss the burden Peppermint Patty had put on her life, but figured that it was probably best to leave it buried as much as possible.

Still, in the wee small lonely hours of the morning, Tricia’s thoughts often turned to him. It would have been so nice if things had worked out a little differently! Danny was the one person in town who knew about her from back in those days, and they shared things that could only be shared with each other. Debbie was clearly the love of his life, and Debbie obviously felt much the same way about him. Still, that didn’t keep Tricia from often thinking about might have beens. Could she be as honest with a lover, even a husband, as she could be with Danny, at least about Peppermint Patty? She couldn’t imagine it.

Nothing could be done about it now, of course, and perhaps nothing would have to be done about it ever. Finally, she just decided to quit worrying about it for now; it wasn’t helping anything and if she stayed out of a relationship it might never become an issue at all. Maybe doing nothing was the best course, after all. But still, there were those times late at night . . .

The second half of November is rifle deer hunting season in the Michigan woods. Tricia had been at least a little aware of deer season while she had been in Wisconsin, but it really hadn’t mattered much to her since she’d been in a pretty urban environment. Now that she was in the middle of deer country, things seemed a little different.

Tricia still got together with Gene Metarie, sometimes a couple of times a week, although usually only for a few minutes to coordinate things. Often they talked about the plan to set up a joint medical clinic in the old hospital. Those plans were firming up a bit, although they were still months if not years from becoming a reality. Gene had even taken her through the unused part of the old building one Saturday afternoon. It seemed cold and dusty and empty; the building was kept heated only the minimum necessary, and it made it seem even more of a joyless place. She’d conceded the idea had some potential, although Gene said there were many obstacles and roadblocks that would have to be overcome to make it a reality. Still, it seemed to be an idea that might be made to work.

However, when she met with Gene not long before the start of deer season, she was concerned. “How big an impact is it going to have on us, and what am I going to have to do to get ready?” she asked.

“Probably not much impact,” Gene told her, “and nothing out of the ordinary. You hear stories of the woods being a war zone during hunting season, with lead flying all over the place, but mostly those are just stories. It becomes a little less so each year, and there are a number of reasons for that, at least partly because of the fact that while we may be up north, this isn’t the deer country that it is down in farm areas. We get guys coming up here because it’s tradition to come up north, and also because we have a lot of public land and Clark Plywood land where they can hunt without paying through the nose for hunting rights. Still, we haven’t had a gunshot wound during deer season up here for, oh hell, years. I can’t tell you when. Ten years anyway.”

“That’s a relief. I had to deal with gunshot wounds a few times when I was an intern and working the ER, but usually it was just trying to keep someone from bleeding out until a surgeon showed up.”

“That’s been my experience with them, too,” he replied. “Now, there are other problems. The big one is that you get guys coming up here who are pretty sedentary. They’ll shoot a deer and literally kill themselves with a heart attack dragging the damn thing back to camp. Of course, they’re out in the middle of the woods with no one else around, so the odds of it being fatal are pretty high. But even that has backed off in recent years since you have more and more guys with that kind of risk who head out into the woods on quadrunners or even sport-utes. In any case, neither one would bother us very much. It’d be dealt with by the ambulance service. You or I might get called on to act as coroners, but that doesn’t happen very often since usually the ambulance guys haul a victim of something like that down to Camden General and they get pronounced there.”

“I guess it may be the city kid in me,” she sighed, “but I don’t see the appeal in it.”

“You’re probably not alone,” Gene told her. “The other reason that deer season medical incidents are dropping is the simple fact that fewer and fewer people are hunters each year, so the number of hunters in the woods is less. Those who still hunt are generally more likely to be serious about it, and don’t just shoot at everything that moves like the stories from fifty years ago. There are still some of those assholes out there but fortunately not very many of them. On top of that, for a lot of the guys who go deer hunting, especially around here, it’s an excuse for them to go out to the hunting camp, hang around with the guys, drink beer, tell stories, fart without their wives bitching at them, and play cards. They might go out into the woods once in a while, and some of them might even take a rifle when they do it.”

“A little male bonding, then?”

“That’s it exactly. A lot of guys ride Harleys for the same reason, so I’m familiar with it. It’s a case of ‘to each his own,’ I guess. Now, all that said, a guy from down south you’ve never seen before may show up in your office with chest pains or a minor injury, but it won’t be anything much out of line from what you normally deal with.”

In the end, Gene proved to be right about it, as he usually was. Time and again Tricia had reason to value his sage advice on things, and this was no different. Things would have been a lot worse if she hadn’t had him to lean on.

The topic of deer season came up in the lunch hours at the office, of course. One day, after several fairly successful attempts at spaghetti, Tricia even risked trying it out on Heather and Molly. She’d actually made everything up the night before, but the office microwave got it hot and steaming again. “Not bad,” was Heather’s verdict. “You might want to experiment around with it a bit, though. Try different sauces or ingredients.”

“It’s not broke and I don’t plan to fix it,” Tricia told her. “However, I can see I need to add something else to my repertoire. Sooner or later I’m going to have someone over for dinner again and I don’t exactly want to show off how limited it is.”

“Henry, maybe?” Molly grinned.

“It might happen sooner or later,” Tricia admitted. “But he knows the truth about my cooking, so it’s not quite the same thing.”

“Maybe I’ll have to have you over some night this week,” Molly suggested. “My husband will be out in the woods with the guys, so it’s kind of girls night out. A bunch of us get together and talk girl talk, go on shopping trips, and those kinds of things. It’s nice to have the guys gone once in a while.”

“I’d take you up on that,” Tricia replied. “In fact, I could stand a little shopping myself. I bought some new clothes right after I came here, but they’re a little light with winter coming on.”

“Camden runs are always good,” Heather agreed. “I don’t get to do that kind of hang-out-with-the-girls thing during deer season very often. Russ usually gets out in the woods for a day, even two sometimes, but this time of year they’re always pushing hard to get some job finished before there’s snow all over the place, so he doesn’t get a chance like this very often. The up side to that is that he’s home for Thanksgiving, so we can have the big family get-together. It’s going to be at our house this year, and we’ll have the whole mob over.”

“To tell the truth, I hadn’t even thought about holidays very much,” Tricia admitted. “The last few years, I haven’t even thought about Thanksgiving at all. We got a break over the holiday in med school, but when I was a resident it was just another working day. I’ll probably just stay home and take the day off.”

Heather shook her head. “You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to,” she said, the thought that Tricia had no family to celebrate the holiday with obviously on her mind. “Come on over to my place. Like I said, the whole gang will be there, adding one more isn’t going to mean more than just setting another place at the table.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” Tricia protested.

“It wouldn’t be intruding,” Heather assured her. “There’s probably going to be two or three shirt-tail relatives I only see once in a blue moon, and maybe even some strangers I never met before. Come on over. You might even find it interesting.”

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To be continued . . .

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