Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
“Blanche Tickle?” Matt’s father smiled at Mary as he stood in the open doorway. “Is that where this is? If you asked my wife, she’d tell you I’m in Boston.”
“Jeez, Dad,” Matt said as he got out of his chair. “You’re about the last person I expected to see here. How did you find us?”
“It wasn’t hard,” Adam replied as Mary held the door open for him to come in. “The woman at the post office told me. It was getting here that was hard. Boy, you can’t hardly get here from there, can you?”
“What did you do? Sneak off so Mom didn’t know where you were going?”
“Pretty much,” his father said as he began to peel off his jacket. “She knows I was planning on going to a conference in Boston, although I never really intended to go there. I’ve been on five different planes getting from Detroit to here, and then I had to rent a car at the airport in St. John’s. That’s still a hell of a drive down here.”
“It could be better,” Matt said. “You’re lucky you caught us. We were planning on going up there in a couple days, and then we’re going to Florida for a while at the end of the month. Are you planning on staying long?”
“Not as long as I’d like, considering what I had to do to get here,” Adam said. “But I just wanted to see you for a bit before you take off for the summer. You’re going to be sailing again, I take it.”
“Some,” Matt told him. “Actually, we plan on spending a good part of the summer cruising canals in Europe, so there won’t be much actual sailing.”
“Sounds like fun,” Adam said as he hung his jacket on a nearby hook. “Have you been having a good winter?”
“Oh, yeah. This is quite a place, and I’ve made a few friends here. It’s about as different from home as you can get.”
“Can I get ye a mug of coffee or somethin’?” Mary asked. “I just made it fresh.”
“That would taste good,” he agreed. “Since I live in Michigan I ought to be used to winter driving, but it’s not quite the same thing up here. Nice little house you have here, Mary.”
“It’s tiny, but it’s comfortable,” she replied. “It’s been nice havin’ Matt here with me this winter. Are ye plannin’ on stayin’ the night? I’m afraid it’d have ta be on the couch.”
“If you’ll have me,” he replied. “I wouldn’t want to put you out.”
“Ye wouldn’t be puttin’ us out. ’Sides, there ain’t no place else ye could be stayin’ around here, ’specially this time of year.”
“Then I guess I’ll take you up on it, but I have to start back the day after tomorrow if I don’t want Brittany to know what I’ve been up to.”
“Well, it’s good to see you again,” Matt said. “I’m sorry it had to be so short last fall, but there wasn’t any staying around with Mom in the fury she was in. I take it she hasn’t changed her attitude much?”
“Not much,” Adam nodded as Mary handed him a cup of coffee. “While I’ve missed hell out of you, I think staying away was probably the smart thing for you to do. She wasn’t about to let up on you for an instant until she got her way.”
“Sounds like Mom,” Matt shook his head. “Her way, or else.”
“No fooling,” his father said, taking a sip of the coffee. “Fortunately she doesn’t get like that with me very much, but when your name comes up she can get switched on so quick it’s not funny. Let’s face it, she’s not very happy with you, and she’s not going to be until she gets her way. I hate to say this, but she’s especially not happy that you’re with Mary instead of some girl she picked out.”
“Doesn’t surprise me,” Matt said. “There’s no point in our standing around going over the same ground over and over again. Why don’t we just sit down in front of the fire where we can be comfortable?”
“Sure, I’d like that,” his father said. There were only two chairs close to the fire, but Mary dragged a third one over from the kitchen and joined them.
“It’s nice to have a fire,” Adam said as he got comfortable. “We have a fireplace at home but I’ve never been able to enjoy it. Your mother claims it would smell the house up too much, but it really makes this place feel comfortable. Mary, I meant what I said. You have a nice house here, and I envy you. It feels lived in, and not a showplace for people who don’t care much about who you really are.”
“It’s not much,” she shrugged. “But it’s home. I mostly grew up here, an’ I still think of it more as Cousin Albert’s place, rather than bein’ mine.”
“It’s a whole different world from home, and that’s no fooling,” Matt said. “But I have to say, I like it here.”
“I haven’t seen much of it, but I can see how you’d like it,” his father replied. “It seems to be nice and peaceful.”
“It is, for the most part. The people here aren’t rich in terms of money, and they live a hard life, but they’re friendly and they have a good feeling for what really matters. So, Dad, what brings you up here?”
“What I said, I mostly wanted to see you and spend a little time with you. I realize you feel you’re not welcome at home, and as long as your mother wants to make an ass out of herself that isn’t going to change. But I didn’t want you to think that I’d forgotten about you and don’t care about you, because I do. It’s a pain in the ass that I have to see you this way, but if I can’t do it the regular way this will have to do the job.”
“Don’t think it’s not appreciated,” Matt said, genuinely warmed by the thought. His father had often been distant and distracted by his work, and they hadn’t been close the last few years, but apparently that had changed, at least a little bit. “I realize that things haven’t always gone as well as they could have, and I’m sorry we couldn’t have been a little closer, but I guess that’s just how it worked out.”
“Yeah, I let work get in the way of some other things I ought to have done. I can see that now, but I guess I didn’t see it all that clearly a few years ago. I think the fact that you had to go to Jake to get your boat and put it together, then take off alone taught me that there are a few things I should have paid more attention to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy you got the boat, and I’m happy that you’ve had some fun with it, just like I’m happy that you’ve found a girl you apparently really like. There isn’t much there that your mother would have appreciated.”
“I’m glad you see it, Dad,” Matt sighed. “I’d pretty well figured out most of it a long time ago, but knowing it and doing something about it have been pretty hard. The thing that really bugs me is that she seems to totally deny the fact that I have to live my life while I can, since I don’t know how much time I’m going to get to do any of the things I’d like to do.”
“I can’t disagree,” his father said. “Hell, I’m hoping you’ll have a long life in spite of the leukemia, but I’ve come to realize that you’ve got a point, and it’s a pretty good one. I hope that someday you can settle down and do some of the things your mother wants, but if it was yesterday it wouldn’t be soon enough for her.”
“That’s pretty obvious. After that show she put on last fall, I don’t think there’s ever going to be peace between us. I’ll tell you what, she pissed me off right from the beginning. I mean, no hello, no how have you been, no chance to introduce Mary, she just started in on me and hardly let up long enough to take a breath.”
“You’re right, and that was pretty damn rude of her,” his father sighed. “Mary, I hate to say this, but Brittany never made any effort to even talk to you, and she doesn’t have anything nice to say about you. I mean, you’re that poor little orphan girl who dragged her Matt away from what he should be doing. And that’s when she’s been nice, at least what’s nice for her anymore.”
“Doesn’t surprise me much,” Mary nodded. “An’ from what you’ve said an’ Matt has said, it doesn’t seem like there’s any chance of her changin’ her mind.”
“No, not a bit,” Adam admitted ruefully. “I know we never got to get to know each other last fall, and that’s part of the reason I wanted to make this trip, since I wanted to get to know you a little better. Last fall wasn’t exactly the best time to accomplish that.”
“Aye,” she nodded. “I was tryin’ ta stay out of the way. It seemed like the best thing ta be doin’ at the time.”
“Dad,” Matt said after thinking about it for a moment. “Maybe I shouldn’t be saying this, but I can’t imagine why you’d still be putting up with Mom since she’s been acting this way.”
“Damn good question,” Adam said slowly. “And I’m afraid I can’t give you a good answer, although there have been some times that I’ve thought I ought to be doing something about it. Let’s just say the time isn’t right yet. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve given me a lot to think about with your example of taking off in your boat and doing what you want to do. I never had any opportunity to do that, and you know the reason why. But I’ll tell you what, since you took off last spring, I’ve been wondering if perhaps I shouldn’t make a change myself while I still can.”
“I thought you were pretty locked into the company.”
“I am,” Adam sighed. “Realistically, there’s not much I can do about it while your grandfather is still alive. Oh, I could say screw it and just leave, but I’d be taking a major financial hit to do it since I don’t own much of the company. That could change, and there’s a good chance of it changing after he passes on, which might not be too much longer. I’m not saying that there’s something on paper, or anything, but there have been some buyout offers floated around, and I could come out of it retiring early if I wanted to. Until then, your mother offers me a few things I need in my life, but if the time comes that I don’t have to deal with the company any longer, I’m not going to hang on for the sake of hanging on. I want to do something else while I still can, and if your mother doesn’t like it, she’s going to find out that the pre-nup your grandfather insisted on her signing before we got married really is going to be worth the paper it’s written on. And if she manages to get me pissed off enough, she may find out anyway.”
“You’re really thinking about it?”
“Giving it some consideration, at least,” Adam shrugged. “It’s not like a done deal, but every time your mother pitches a fit over you it gets a step closer. Like I said, there are reasons to stay with her for the time being, but those may not last forever if she doesn’t get her head screwed back on straight. One of them is to protect you from her the best I can. If that’s something I have to do, then I guess I’ll do it.”
“So what do you plan to do if you decide to hang it up?”
“Honest to God, Matt, I don’t know,” his father shrugged. “Maybe I’ll have to find some quiet little place like this to sit around and think about it a bit. That it’s really a possibility has only come clear to me in the last few months, and I haven’t had the chance to explore it as much as I’d like. In the meantime, go and have your fun, let me deal with your mother, and do what you have to do. Maybe it’ll give me some ideas. This notion of yours about cruising the canals around Europe sounds like it might be fun, and could be something I could do. Like I said, I don’t know, and I really haven’t had time to think it out at all.”
“Well, if there’s anything we can do, we’ll help you out how we can,” Matt replied. “I don’t know what it would be, though.”
“Well, for one thing, let’s not beat the subject of your mother to death, since that’s about all I’ve been doing for months and I need a break from it. I came up here to see you and Mary, and to get a feeling for how the two of you are doing and what your plans are.”
“I’ll agree, that’d have to be a more pleasant topic,” Matt agreed. “I’m just glad to know you’re here, and that you’re still interested in us.”
“Oh, there’s no doubt I still am interested. But tell me, what’s life like here? Pretty quiet?
“For the most part,” Matt said. “We really haven’t been doing much in one sense of the word, but we manage to stay busy with different things. I’ve gotten to know some of the people in the village a little, and they’re good people.” Matt went on to talk about their life in the village and the standard chores they have to do, drives to St John’s for groceries, and about things like the mummers back at Christmas. From there, the three of them talked about some of their plans for the summer, and about the fact that they had arranged to borrow the boat in Florida for a while for a winter break.
The coffee mugs were emptied, refilled, and emptied again over the course of the next hour or so. Finally Mary said, “All this is well an’ good, but I’ll be back in a minute or two. I’ve got ta make a run out to the biffy.”
“Enjoy yourself,” Matt grinned as she got up and put on her jacket.
“Biffy?” his father asked.
“Outhouse,” Matt explained. “An indoor toilet is one of the things this place lacks. I’ve gotten used to it, but you learn not to spend much time there this time of year.”
The door had no more than closed behind Mary when Adam said, “She’s quite a girl, isn’t she? I never expected you’d wind up with someone like her.”
“To tell the truth, me neither,” Matt smiled. “I always figured sooner or later Mom would shove someone like Stephanie down my throat. When you get right down to it, Mary and I are pretty different, and in so many ways it would take me hours to describe all of them. But we tend to see a lot of things the same way, even though it’s mostly for different reasons. Somehow I’m surprised that we managed to last for ten minutes, but my main fear in life, besides the leukemia, is that someday the differences are going to overwhelm us. I’ll do what I can to keep it from happening.”
“Does that mean living here?”
“Probably not,” Matt shook his head. “We’ve talked about it, and we’ve pretty well come to the conclusion that while we both like the place it’s probably not a good place to make a life together, if I even get to have one. Don’t get me wrong, this winter has been a lot of fun, but the only thing that’s been keeping us from counting the days until we’re back on the Mary Sue is that we don’t know when we’ll be doing it. We haven’t been doing a lot that’s been useful other than research on what we want to do next summer, so that’s been kind of a drag. But we’re about halfway through winter now, and going to Florida will make the second half seem quicker.”
“I know I asked you last fall, but do you two have any plans to get married?”
“No, and we still haven’t talked about it. The leukemia is involved in that question too, and I’ve tried to not pull any punches about it with her. She tells me she’s going to stick it out with me whatever happens, and that makes me just love her more. For right now, all we’re planning is staying together for a while. I don’t know what happens when we decide to settle down, and we’re going to have to work on it when we get to that point, if we get there.”
“Your mother would just about blow a fuse to discover that Mary is her daughter-in-law,” Adam grinned. “Especially if she knew what I know about her background, and all I know is what you’ve told me.”
“If things go that way, then she’s just going to have to get used to it,” Matt shook his head. “I’ll tell you what, though, I can’t see Mary as a suburban housewife like Mom. She wouldn’t know what to do with herself, and she wouldn’t be very happy about it.”
“I don’t think so, either,” Matt’s father agreed. “And you’d be a fool to try getting a job with the company and following in my shoes if you want to stay with her. Don’t get me wrong, I like Mary and I think she’s what you need in your life. My impression is that she’s a girl who understands the realities of life, and not one of those prima donna Barbie dolls your mother seems to want to stick you with.”
“I think you’re right, especially about understanding the realities of life. In fact, it may be why the two of us get along so well together. Most of the girls Mom would want me to marry wouldn’t see the leukemia as a reality with a good chance of happening. They’d be like Mom and just couldn’t get it into their frame of reference. Mary at least understands that life can be hard and short, and sometimes people die early along the way. Like I said, we come at it from different viewpoints, but we’ve reached the same conclusion.”
“I understand you, Matt. And that’s why I think she’s the girl you need in your life right now, even though your mother would never understand it. But I’ve come to realize that the leukemia means you’re going to have to be living your life in your own way, not trying to follow in my footsteps or what your mother wants you to do. I’ve come to believe that your mother will never understand that. I don’t know what I can do about it, but I’ll try to shield you the best I can while I can. I’m afraid that’s not going to be easy, but it’s probably about the best I’m able to do.”
“Believe me, Dad, it’s going to be appreciated. I know it’s going to be hard for you to put up with Mom, but it would be worse if I didn’t know you were backing me up.”
“I realize that I haven’t been the father to you that I should have been,” Adam sighed. “And that’s even overlooking the part about Jake. But maybe I can make it up to you a little.”
Mary came back shortly after that, and suggested that since it was a nice day for Blanche Tickle in January, that Adam might like to take a little walk around the village to see a little more about what it was like. They agreed on it, so pulled on some warmer clothing and explored the place a little. Adam was able to meet people like Sinead and Evan, who had become special friends during Matt’s short time there, and see that even in the depths of winter the village was a picturesque place.
The short winter day was drawing to an end when they made it back to Mary’s house; as soon as they were inside she put dinner on the stove. They ate while talking about some of the adventures Matt and Mary had experienced, and some more of their future plans, including the fact that they were at least kicking around the idea of doing a round-the-world cruise at some time in the future. The talk continued around the fireplace until late, when they all headed for bed in the little house.
The time for Adam to leave came all too soon. “I really wish I could stay with you a while longer,” Adam said as he got his few things together to get ready to leave. “But if I don’t keep to my schedule Brittany is going to get suspicious. I don’t know when I’m going to see you again, but let’s try to not be strangers.”
“I’ll write you and try to keep you up on what we’re doing,” Matt promised. “Maybe I’ll e-mail you at your office. Nothing is exactly settled yet and probably won’t be till we get there, but there’s a chance we could be back here for at least a couple months next winter.”
“If you are I’ll try to find some conference to attend or some other reason to duck out on your mother for a while. I’d be half tempted to try to see you in Europe next summer, and maybe ride with you on those canals for a bit, but I’m afraid your mother would figure me out if I was gone that long.”
Finally there was nothing left to do but for him to go. Matt and Mary walked out to the SUV Adam had rented. “Take care, and be careful son,” he said. “And Mary, take care of him for me, would you?”
“Aw, I will. I’ve reason to take care of him myself, ye know.”
“You take care of yourself, too,” Adam added. “I know I still don’t know you very well, but I’ve come to like you an awful lot anyway. Look, both of you. If you run into any trouble where I can help, just let me know.”
“Sure will, Dad,” Matt smiled. Soon they were in a three-way hug that went on for a while; as far as Matt was concerned it could have gone on longer, but finally it was clear that his father had to be getting on his way.
Matt and Mary stood in the yard watching as his father turned the SUV around and headed for the road back to St. John’s. “That was nice of him ta come see ye,” she said finally.
“I’m glad he did,” Matt said with a little heaviness in his heart. He didn’t want to admit it, even to Mary, but he’d never felt closer to his father in his life.