Enduring on the Lake

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chapter 28


Sensing I wasn’t going to get away with blowing him off in any way, shape, or form I sighed and gave him a very, very brief and edited version of the last two years of my life. 

“So there you have it.  The whooooole flustercluck.” 

His eyebrows shot up into his messy hair and I turned away, embarrassed at the expression I had chosen to use. 

“You are a lot angrier than you let on.” 

I sighed.  “If I constantly dwell on it, yeah.  That’s why I don’t like to discuss it.  But I suppose … for whatever reason you want to know … it’s not exactly like you were trying to get me angry.  But seriously, I don’t like to talk about it.  It makes me feel like a fool.  A big one.  And though I may let people think I’m a little silly or childish sometimes, I don’t ever want to be taken for a fool.” 

He was quiet for a moment then he said, “I was driving.  We went over an IED.  We weren’t even on duty, just heading for some R-n-R to a safe haven kinda place.  It was a charity thing.  We used to play soccer with the kids and let ‘em see we weren’t monsters like some folks were telling them.  Apparently someone didn’t like that.”  He shook his head.  “Somehow the explosion blew me out … most of the rest of the guys in the truck weren’t so lucky.  I only lost my foot … most of them lost their lives.” 

I sighed.  I’d heard similar stories before.  Mom used to do a lot of volunteering with the VA services until it became too much for her.  “People can be such crapheads.  Not that what happened to me is the same as what happened to you.  Just the craphead factor stands out as a personality issue for some people.” 

He leaned forward and said, “I still get angry.  Not as much and not the same kind of angry … but I miss … well dammit I miss my foot.  I miss being tickled.  I miss it itching.  I miss the retarded way my toes would look when my foot would be wet for too long.  I miss feeling cold, hot … I miss every feeling you can think of.  I even miss stepping on Max’s damn Legos and having it hurt like a sumbitch.  But there’s nothing I can do to change the way things are.  Had a doctor tell me it was a grieving process.  It took me a long time to understand that particular concept I tell you.  It sounded crazy to be grieving for my own foot … but then I realized that’s exactly what I was doing, missing all the things that are gone and not coming back.” 

“I … well I guess I never thought of it like that.” 

“Maybe it is time you did.” 

“Huh?” 

“You’re grieving.  You lost something or … or had it taken from you.  Like my foot.  This guy … Dan … he stole something, broke something, took it away.  Maybe other people don’t want to see it that way.  They think you’re young, that there is no way it could have been that much of a big deal … that you’ll get over it.  But I understand.  It was real and alive and now it isn’t.  You’re grieving … for something that is gone and not coming back.   And because I understand I’m asking you to listen to me even if you don’t understand what I’m saying right now.  Can you do that?  Just listen … and think about it?” 

“Sure, I guess.” 

He nodded like he knew that was about as good as I was going to give him.  “One of the steps of grieving is being angry.   But you can’t get stuck in that step or you’ll never progress.  On the other hand you can’t hide from it or ignore it and hope it eventually goes away either.  Right now you have that all shoved in a box and think if you never take the lid off you don’t have to worry about it.  The problem with that kind of thinking is whether you know it or not what’s inside that nice neat little box is growing.  Pretty soon you are going to have to tie the box shut, tape it shut, whatever way you want to look at it … maybe even have to shove it in the back of the closet and put other stuff on top of it hoping that will keep it in.  Eventually though the lid is going to come off that box.  Either it will explode … and you might lose something vital along with it.  Or it will be some kind of monster like the blob and ooze out and eat everything else up inside you.” 

I barked a laugh without meaning to.  “The Blob?  That old movie?” 

“Laugh if you want to Syd but I’m telling you that’s what is going to happen.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.” 

“OK, so you tell me how I’m not supposed to be angry?  Because I’ve thought about it six ways from Sunday and I just can’t figure it out.” 

“No one said you aren’t supposed to be angry.  Stop trying not to be angry.  Start trying to deal with why you’re angry.” 

I opened my mouth and then closed it as I realized there was a difference and I couldn’t deny it. 

“If you were anyone else Zane I’d say you were making this sound a lot easier than it is and that …” 

“That I was trying to make your feelings smaller than they are?” 

I nodded.  “Yeah.” 

“But I am who I am.  And I’ve been where you are sitting right now.  So worried about hurting other people that I only wound up hurting myself.  And as for this thing with your parents?” 

“What thing?” 

“Don’t Syd.  I finally started putting two and two together when you said I lectured you more than your dad.”  He shook his head.  “I know they care.  I don’t know why they are doing … whatever it is they are doing.  And there is probably more I don’t know.  I know I’m surprised your dad didn’t tear off up here when he heard what had happened.  Instead he just … I’m not sure exactly what it was but I saw you get all closed off.  Even Red and Lawrence were surprised at how he reacted.  Especially considering how protective he used to be.  It must be quite a change for you.”  He looked at my expression and said, “And you can get that thought out of your head.  This is not some test your old man set up.  And I’m not going running to him telling stories either.” 

I shrugged.  “It is what it is.  I guess they’ve got their reasons.” 

“Reasons that include keeping you away from the family?” 

“Or keeping them away from me,” I said.  “I’ll admit that I can sense that something is going on.  I’ve got lots of theories but not a lot of reason to think any of them are more likely than the other.  And since I can’t do anything about it I’m just going to focus on what my job is … and while you’re here let me show you that I got my hunter’s license.” 

“Syd …” 

I stopped getting up and sat back down.  “Zane, I listened.  I will think about it.  But right now I’m topped off.  I … I just need to do something that moves me forward.  Whatever this is, however I handle it, it isn’t going to suddenly just up and get fixed or change or whatever.  I will think about it and that’s all I can say right now.” 

“That’s all I’m asking.” 

“You’re asking a lot.” 

“That’s because I think you’re worth a lot.” 

I shook my head.  “Don’t …” 

“Too bad … and too late for whatever it is that is running around in your head.  If nothing happens then it wasn’t meant to happen.  But nothing can happen until we’re both in a place that we can handle what might happen.” 

I shook my head.  “Did that even make sense?” 

He grinned slowly.  “You tell me.” 

I rolled my eyes and stood back up to get the paperwork that I had pulled out of the post box earlier in the day.

Chapter 27


Trying to answer him I gave it some thought.  “Zane, I know how I act.  Most people probably think I’m … a simpleton – which is a nice way of saying stupid – or … or young for my age or something along those lines.  You probably think it too and Daddy and Mom treating me like they do probably hasn’t helped that perception much.  But I have good reason to act like I do.  It’s nothing against anyone, just more like a …a … hmmm … a convenience I guess you could say.” 

“A convenience?  What by a Barbary pirate’s eye patch is that supposed to mean?” 

Making a face at the saying that I knew for a fact Sam had helped make up when the boys were all young together I told him, “Don’t get upset.  There’s no reason for you to.  I’m more myself with you and Max than I am with anyone.” 

“Oh really,” he said unconvinced. 

“Yes really so let me explain before you get all bent out of shape though why you should I don’t know.  Look, you know my parents.  You’ve seen how they are.  For a long time they needed me to … to …” 

“They needed you to stay a little girl.” 

“Yeah.  So they could feel in control … of protecting me.  At least about some stuff.  Some stuff they expected me to be almost grown up about before I was ready to be.  I know it sounds crazy; it used to drive Dan nuts.  We weren’t allowed to go out on dates until I was half way through my senior year of high school and even then it was grudgingly allowed … and that is to say both my parents felt that way.” 

“I … I got the impression from Red that your dad had liked your … uh …” 

“He did.  Mom and Daddy both had liked Dan.  And they were really good friends with his parents … and still try and be polite to them and support them despite everything that’s happened.  But I … I’d prefer not to talk about it if you don’t mind.” 

“You don’t trust me?” 

“Huh?  No.  It just feels … icky.” 

“Icky.  Icky?” 

“Yeah.  Icky, so knock it off.  Dan was a major mistake on my part.  I’m … I’m not sure how or why or … or much of anything else for that matter, but it was a mistake.  I let my feelings …”  I shook my head.  “I’d like to say it was just a crush or whatever but it wasn’t.  My feelings were real and … and he … he broke …”  Getting angry I threw one of my hands in front of me like I was brushing something annoying out of my way.  “Like I said, I don’t want to talk about it.  Suffice it to say that the whole situation and the things that came out during it are one of the reasons that I stopped trusting my feelings.” 

“Until me.” 

“Yeah until …”  I looked up and he had an expectant look on his face that alarmed me. 

“Zane?  You … uh …” 

“Take it easy.  I just wanted to know for sure … hear you say it … that you trusted me.  I just want you to remember that … even when I wind up making an ass out of myself by yelling at you in front of other people.” 

Sudden relief flooded me and I tried to play off his words.  “Well I hope you aren’t going to make a regular thing out of it.” 

“Probably at least as much as I hope you aren’t going to make a regular thing out of worrying the snot out of me.  I don’t think it is real healthy for either one of us.” 

I was ready to laugh at the expression on his face until he said, “Because I’m not just watching you because your dad asked me to anymore.  And I’m not just watching you because of Max.” 

“Uh …” 

“I just want you to know that.  OK?” 

Suddenly irritated I asked, “And what the heck am I supposed to do with that?  That you’re just watching me and not for any particular reason.” 

“There is a particular reason.  I’m watching you for your sake.  Because it would upset me to no end if something happened to you.  You seem so damn innocent … not ready to be living on your own so far from family.  Then you’ll turn around and say something sooo .. insightful and cynical … that you sound like one of Gran’s friends that come over for game night.  Makes me so crazy my teeth hurt.” 

In exasperation I asked him, “Did I ask you to worry over me?!  Contrary to what everyone thinks I do have some brains in my head.” 

“Yeah, you’re academically smart … really smart if half of what Max says is true.” 

“Oh puh-leeze … as much as I love the little guy he is only eight.” 

“Almost nine … and speaking of, what’s the deal not saying anything about your birthday?” 

I sighed.  Lord you’d think once you hit adulthood that not having a birthday would be no big deal but apparently some people still think it is.  “Zane, I’m not a child.  I know how my parents think of me.  I know how you and just about everyone else around here think of me.  Lawrence is about the only one that gives me any credit and that’s probably on accident.  I honestly just don’t think my birthday is that big of a deal.  I was nineteen and now I’m twenty.  Big whoop.  There’s nothing I can do today that I couldn’t do before.” 

“You still can’t drink.” 

Looking at him in disbelief I said, “Really?!  You’re going with that argument are you?  Because it isn’t like there isn’t practically a winery and distillery going on down in the cellar.  I’m just lucky that Deputies Laurel and Hardy didn’t traipse down there and stick their nose into things.” 

He grinned, “I saw you moved those sheets of plywood to cover stuff up.” 

“You bet I did.  Had to tell Max it was because I didn’t want anyone to see everything I had canned and get nosey about it.  That’s one of the few half-truths I’ve ever told him.  I just didn’t want him getting into trouble or noticing things too much.” 

Zane kept grinning and said, “This is Harmon, you didn’t have to explain.  Max would just assume you didn’t want the law on your private stash and not say anything anyway.” 

I rolled my eyes and then admitted – at least to myself – that I had forgotten Daddy saying that almost all of the local families have or had some kind of something running whether it is ‘shine or wine or beer.  “Fine but that just makes it even truer.  If I want something to drink a date on a calendar isn’t going to change it that I could imbibe if I wanted to.” 

“Do you?” 

“Do I what?” 

“Imbibe,” he said, giving me the sense he was teasing me for my choice of word. 

“You’re beginning to irritate me Zane.  Not a healthy thing to do when I’m in the mood I’m in.  You know doggone good and well things can turn nasty fast and not always because I want them to.” 

I stood up to do I don’t know what but stumpy foot or not Zane is fast and reached over and stopped me.  “Sit down.”  When I chucked a hard look at him he added, “Please.” 

I sat down but it was without good grace.  “What is it you want Zane?  To read me another lecture?” 

“No.  I’m trying to understand you.” 

“For heaven’s sake, whatever for?” 

“Because I feel like a cat and you’re one of them stupid laser pointers.  I no sooner think I’ve caught you than I realize you were never there to begin with.” 

“I’m not sure but that sounds like an insult.” 

“Wasn’t meant to be.  Just means you’re elusive as hell.” 

I couldn’t help it.  I laughed.  “Zane, I think you’re short on sleep.  I’m about as un-elusive as they come.  You don’t think … uh … that I’ve been … er … trying to … to … uh …” 

Zane snorted.  “Spit it out Syd.  Do I think that you’ve been teasing me on purpose?  No.  Do I think that you’ve been teasing me on accident?  No … at least not that you’d ever admit to and either way it isn’t your fault.  Do I think that you are about as interesting a woman as I’ve ever come across?  Hell yeah.  And all things considered I’m not sure what to make of that.” 

I’m not sure how long I sat there looking at him with my mouth hanging open but it was long enough for his pride to get zinged and then for him to look at my expression closely and then start laughing.  “Honestly Syd, you look like you’ve been nailed with a two-by-four.” 

“Well … you called me a woman.” 

He stopped laughing in surprise and then started laughing even harder than he had to begin with. 

“What is your problem?!” I snapped. 

“I profess to finding you interesting and all you can do is focus on I called you a woman.”  He laughed some more then wiped his eyes and said, “That’s exactly what I’m talking about.  I’m just never sure how much of what you do is an act.” 

“Well I’m not acting thank you very much.  And what is that supposed to mean anyway?” 

“At the risk of making you even madder than you already are, did you drive Dan this crazy?” 

I was ready to throw something.  “I thought I told you I …” 

“… didn’t want to talk about it.  Fine.   I don’t want the gory details anyway but answering something like that shouldn’t set you off like a bottle rocket.” 

Gritting my teeth in irritation I told him, “I’m not sure how I made Dan feel.  I thought I knew … and it wasn’t crazy, we … it seemed … look, we were young and friends at first and it just went from there.  And things were … good … we both agreed that things were better than good … until they weren’t.  Only I didn’t know it until it was too late … way passed too late.  Daddy probably explained it all.” 

“Yes and no.  How about you tell me.” 

“How about I don’t.  It was humiliating enough the first time around.” 

“He cheated on you.” 

“Good Lord, what part of no don’t you understand?” 

“No he didn’t cheat on your?” 

“ARGH!  I am going to the kitchen.  I am going to bake some muffins.” 

“You don’t need to bake any muffins.  You’re tired and out of sorts and are likely to cause a kitchen fire in the mood you are in.  I want you to sit here and talk to me.” 

“I am going to thump you.  I am going to thump you so hard …” 

“You can try.  C’mon Syd … talk to me.” 

“Why?!  Why on earth do you want to dig up that ancient history?!” 

“Because it isn’t ancient history and it is part of what makes you like you are.  And for some damn reason that is all I can think about lately.”

Friday, September 12, 2014

Chapter 26


The cops had all gone and Max had reluctantly left with the rest of his family.  I’d had a long conversation with Daddy and Mom and rather than lecture me I was praised that I let someone else handle it and had followed instructions to a “T” and then they rung off asking me to keep the excitement to a minimum.  I told them I would if given the choice and Daddy growled, “You make the choice one way or the other.” 

I’d waved what I thought was the last of my good byes to everyone and was shaking my head at the ungodly mess that had been made in the yard when Zane’s truck came back.  I walked out to meet him as he opened the truck door.  “Is Max OK?” 

“He’s already asleep.  If they don’t wake him up they’re going to have to pull over so he can upchuck or they’re going to have to let him ride up front.  He … er … don’t tell him I told you.” 

“He already told me.  He gets car sick.  I told him not to worry about it because Sam used to do the same thing.  He’ll probably outgrow it as soon as his body stops growing so fast and his inner ear and hand/eye coordination have a chance to catch up.” 

Zane pulled his tool box out of the back of the truck.  “You always know what to say to him.” 

I shrugged.  “Not hardly.  It’s just he and I agreed to be truthful with one another.  So far it has worked out.  I think some of it is he just senses all the things people don’t say around him.” 

“No one wants to hurt his feelings.” 

“He knows that, still, it makes him nervous because he’d rather have his feelings get pinched than have to wonder what people are thinking and saying.  I was the same way.  It bothers me when I can sense I’m not being told the truth or I’m not getting all of the truth.  And what’s with the tool box?  Aren’t you too tired to work on the maintenance list?” 

“It isn’t that.  It’s because it looks better than me just going into your place with nothing in my hands.  This way if people want to watch they’ll think I’m here to fix a door or something.  That railing for instance.” 

I looked at him and said, “And … uh … you’re not here to fix the railing?” 

“Nope.  But we’re going to go inside … if … uh …” 

A little flustered I said, “Oh … sure, of course.  You want something to eat?” 

“Maybe.  Depends.” 

I almost missed a step up the porch.  “Depends on what?” 

He reached around me and opened the door but stepped back to let me go in first.  “On what we’re going to talk about.” 

“We’re going to talk about something?” 

“Yeah.  ‘Cause after today … look … let’s … uh … you mind if we sit in the front room?” 

“I guess.” 

My head was starting to ache and I blurted, “Does your family not want me to be friends with Max anymore?” 

“Huh?  No!  No, that’s not …”  He stopped and sat down with a sigh.  I nudged the ottoman over to him and he looked at me in gratitude before propping his foot up … the titanium one.  “I left without … without putting a stocking on it.” 

Realizing what the problem was I told him, “I have the same problem with tennis shoes when I don’t wear socks.  Hang on.  As long as it isn’t too bad I’ve got something that should help.” 

“Wait … what?” 

Too late, I was already going for my medical supplies.  Having a mother who is a nurse is a win-win even when there are challenges.  I came back and said, “Go to the bathroom and wash and dry the raw place real good.  Then you come out here and I’ll …” 

“Uh, no.” 

“Uh, yes.  Well anyway, you shouldn’t feel the need to get all bashful.  It isn’t like you have to take your jeans off for this.” 

Zane gave a slightly hysterical laugh.  “What the heck?  Syd …” 

“You’re going to wind up really sore or with an infection now knock it off.  I may not be a nurse like my mother but she taught me how to do basic wound care and stuff like that.  Plus I helped her with Aunt Rhonda and my cousin Patrice before they got well enough to fight me.  C’mon, I told you I had a friend that is an amputee.  And one of Daddy’s uncles that I can just barely remember lost a hand in a combine accident when he was a young man.  I don’t think it’s gross and I won’t go screaming into the woods or anything asinine like that.” 

It took a little more persuading but finally he did as I asked and then came out … hobbled out using the walls and furniture for balance … and sat.  He wouldn’t look at me at first but Mom always said that keeping things cheerful usually put the patient at more ease.  And if you couldn’t be cheerful or if the situation didn’t warrant it, being business-like and calm was good too. 

“What’s that?” 

I picked up the bottle and told him, “It’s called Cicatrin.  This goes in the wound.  It helps to dry it out and heal it.  I’m going to put a tegaderm patch over it.” 

“I know what that is.  I’ve used it before … is what I normally use when I have a bad place.” 

“Good.  Mom says it is the best stuff.  Do you have enough?  I have a couple of cases upstairs in the third bedroom.” 

“I’ve … uh … got plenty.”  I nodded and then started to put a dob of Vaseline on the outside of the tegaderm.  “Hey, what are you doing?” 

“This will make your stocking slide over the tegaderm without catching.  Here is a pair of Daddy’s dress socks – he always brings them here and leaves them because he can’t stand to wear them.  Mom finally stopped buying them after she figured out what he was doing but not soon enough for there not to be enough socks for Sherman’s army.  These are new so you don’t have to worry about other people’s feet funk.” 

He snorted and I realized he’d finally relaxed.  “This really doesn’t bother you does it.  Doesn’t seems like much of anything does.” 

I slipped the stock over his stump and then sat back.  “Zane there are a lot of things that bother me and you’ve seen me cry like an idiot.  But this?  No, this doesn’t bother me.  It’s … look it’s just about being honest.  I know that sounds crazy and I’m sorry if I got up in your space and made you uncomfortable but …” 

He sat forward and put his prosthetic foot on, then his shoe, and then rolled down his pants leg.  “It made me uncomfortable … at first.  Not even my mom or sisters …”  He shook his head.  “It even makes Josh and Junior uncomfortable.  Max is the only one that …”  He shook his head again.  “You two are like peas in a pod and that’s going to make this next sound really strange.” 

“I knew it.  Your family doesn’t want me to …” 

“Are you hard of hearing?  I told you that’s not it.  Look, about Sunday …” 

“What about it?” 

“I … I was kinda hard on you and …” 

“Huh?  Oh.  You mean the lecture.  Well yeah, but I figure I deserve it.  It was pretty stupid not to run with Max.” 

“Well yeah it was,” he said, still sounding a little exasperated.  Then he calmed down.  “But I didn’t have to lay into you like that.  And I shouldn’t have done it where other people could hear it.  It’s not my place.” 

“In a way Daddy made it your place when he set you to watching me.” 

“But you already let me know that that bothers you.” 

I nodded.  “It does.  But not as much as it did in the beginning.  I … I didn’t know you then and it … well …” 

“It hurt your feelings to have your dad having a complete stranger doggin’ you.” 

I nodded but added, “Maybe not a complete stranger.  I remember you a bit and you were friends with Sam and Daddy and Uncle Red thought enough of you that they agreed that my feelings were on target about you being the right person for the job.” 

“Your … uh … feelings?” 

“Yeah.  Max and I are alike in that way too.  He reads people really quickly the same as me, he just doesn’t trust his readings, is naturally distrustful which turns being able to use his ability to read people upside down and make it a handicap at times.  I went through a time when I didn’t trust my feelings either and stopped ‘feeling’ stuff … maybe on purpose I guess.  You are the first one I’ve had a feeling about in a while.” 

“Really?” he asked looking strangely interested. 

“Uh huh.  So anyway, I don’t mind the lecture.  Like I said, I know I deserved one.  Things could have turned out worse than they did … a lot worse.” 

“Yes they could have,” he said quietly.  “I still could have handled it differently.  And for that I apologize.” 

“There’s no need.” 

“Yeah there is … ‘cause I say there is.  I … uh … I did try and call yesterday.  You didn’t answer.” 

“Max told me.  I guess I slept the whole day away.  I don’t even remember getting up for nothing.  I came in from church and was sick pretty much the rest of the day.  I went to bed early and the next thing I remember is hearing the pounding on the door and thinking at first my head was pounding.  Thank goodness I didn’t just roll over and go back to sleep.” 

“You still don’t look … I mean …” 

“I know.  I’ve got a mirror.  I look like Medusa’s ugly step sister.” 

“Not that bad … but you kinda don’t have a good color.  It’s one of the reasons why I came back.  I realized no one had asked if you needed help … or anything.” 

“I’m fine.  I’ve been shook up worse.  I’m just concerned Max is going to dwell on this and refuse to put it in perspective.” 

“He’ll deal.  Lawrence said he’d speak to Brother Mixon and have him come over.  Brother Mixon, before the arthritis in his hands got so bad, used to do a lot of work at church camps that served troubled kids.  And he and Max have always gotten along … I think it is that honesty thing you mentioned.  Brother Mixon pretty much tells it like it is whether it is uncomfortable to hear or not.” 

“Yeah, I got that.  I like him; you always know where you stand.” 

We both grinned in understanding but mine faltered when Zane got serious again.  “It … it scared me.  Today.  You and Max … you both could have been hurt … hurt bad.” 

Agreeing I said, “We could have … but we weren’t.  I guess there will come a day when I do get hurt again but …” 

Zane interrupted, “What do you mean again?”