Enduring on the Lake

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chapter 20

Not feeling so hot.  I'll live but doggone I should not have had that second bowl of chili and that is a righteous fact.  The day started out fairly decent despite the heavy mist I drove up in to get to church.  But then something shifted inside me, like a feeling that wanted to be heard but that was too incoherent to be understood.  The mist started to make me think of that Stephen King story and it is one of the creepiest things I have ever read ... not the movie, the movie was awful just like most of his book-to-movies are.  I'm talking about the original where we never find out what the ending was but you got the feeling it wasn't a happy one.  Yuck, yuck, yuck.

So I was a little creeped out already and then the stop at the gas station didn't help.  That scummy guy from across the lake was there and he had a friend with him that looked like he was even worse news.  They both look so normal and yet they give off slimy vibes.  I have mentioned them to a couple of people casually and most haven't got a clue what I am talking about.  Weird?  Those guys?  No, they say.  Just because one of them hasn't got the fashion sense to leave the 70s doesn't mean they're weird.  I must just be letting my youth get ahead of my commonsense.  Geez.  Why I can't remember to keep my "feelings" to myself is beyond me.

It pushed my buttons that one of them had the nerve to start reaching into my car to snag a muffin from the basket of them I had fixed for the dinner on the grounds we were having.  I'd worked long and hard to get the recipe for those pizza muffins just right and I wasn't about to let some weasely, greasy, nasty, skanky sex fiend have one.  Pardon my insult to weasels and skanks everywhere.

The day went a little better once I was at church.  It was nice to be wanted and welcomed somewhere.  It offset my suspicions and feelings of hurt at my parents basically telling me that the only use they had for me was as a house sitter for just in case the end of the world as we know it starts to happen.    Actually I know they didn't really say that it is just that is the way what they said made me feel.  I just do not understand why I can't come home for at least a day ... Thanksgiving at least.  One day.  Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day.  I don't even have to stay the whole day if they don't want.  It doesn't have to mean we do anything fancy, I just miss them.    Gotta stop thinking about it or I'm going to cry again and that is a waste of water, time, and energy.  It is what it is just like me lying here with a hot water bottle on my stomach is what it is.

The sermon was on Job.  It felt like a message ... or maybe a reminder.  Although this one was more about persevering through the tempests tossed our way in life than about forgiveness.  During the sermon I noticed a lot of people really saying amen and nodding in a few places.

And shock of all shocks Zane was there; not just him but the whole Slowthower clan.  What shocked me even more was when I was nearly barreled into in the vestibule and turned to find Max.  We'd spent a lot of time together and I think he likes me despite me being a "fee-male" but to have him hug me just about threw me for a loop.

He tried to play it off but he looked a little rough around the edges like he'd been manhandled by too many "fee-males".  His hair looked like it had been intentionally cemented in place with enough extra-strength hair mousse that it would take a jack hammer to get the locks unstuck.  "Hey!  You wanna sit with us today?"

"Who is us?"

He swallowed and seemed to have trouble breathing.  "They're all here.  All of them.  Grams got in a mood and told everyone off and said if they didn't start coming to church that they could all move off.  Josh is the only one excused and that's because he has a job taking some hunters out.  You ... you gotta ... I mean ..."

"Breathe Max before you pass out.  I'll sit with you so long as there is room and Mrs. Slowthower doesn't have a problem with it.  First let’s go ask Mrs. June where she wants these."

Max finally noticed the cloth covered basket I was carrying and tried to peak under.  "Whatcha got?"

"What else?  Muffins."

"What kind?"

"Pizza."

"Huh?"

"I said pizza."

"Naw.  Pizza muffins?"

"Yep.  Want one or do you think it will spoil your appetite.  Maybe you shouldn't.  You don't look like you feel too ..."

I smiled when a hand went into the basket and took out a muffin.  He started eating it like he was afraid I would snatch it back.  I had a hard time not laughing.  Max being Max was as good as medicine for me and the last of my mullygrubbs disappeared ... at least for the moment.

"Got one of those for me?"

I turned and found Zane looking unusually cleaned up and neat.  Something must have shown on my face because he grimaced.  "Yeah, I know.  At least I avoided the spraycrete Grams put in Max and Junior's hair.  She's not a big fan of what she calls the hippie hairstyles that we normally have."

"It's not the hair," I said trying not to smile.  "At least not the hair on your head.  It's ... well ... now I know why you don't shave all the time to the skin."

Max grinned and said, "Yep, Zane has dimples.  They are the bane of his existence."

I had to bite my lips and just nodded.  Zane sighed and looked heavenward and then did his best to shuffle us through the much more crowed-than-normal church.  I got waylaid by the church ladies who directed me to put the muffins in the back building.  By the time I came back the choir was already in the loft and the piano and organ were tuning up to play the welcome.  Max made so bold as to leave the pew and come get me.

During the hugging and handshaking welcome chorus I told Max, "Afraid I was going to slip my leash?"

"I just wanted to make sure you would sit by me."  I glanced his way to see he was upset about something.

"What's wrong?" I whispered.

"Annie and Gran are getting into it.  Over me.  I wish they wouldn't.  I'm fine.  I'm not like ... like him."

"Him who?"

"You know ... him."

I glanced over to where he was trying not to look and I saw an emaciated and shaky man with facial sores and a really odd twitch.  I looked at Max then back at him and finally made the connection.

"No Max, you aren't like him." I gave him a one armed hug and then the song ended and we all sat down.  I moved my arm - I didn't want to embarrass him - but every so often I leaned against him a bit and let him know I thought he was ok.

Through the sermon Max relaxed more and more but at the end of the doxology he tensed way over the top again as his biological father quickly made his way over.  "M ... m m m Max.  Wanna go out and have some fun?"

I stepped in front of Max and said, "How do you do?  I'm Syd."

"Uh ..."

"I don't believe we've ever met but Max works for me every now and again and today he promised to help me with the basket of muffins I brought for dinner on the grounds.  I hope you are going to stay and sample some of the food."

The man unconsciously began to pick at one of the sores on his face making me want to shudder but I didn't because Max was doing it for me behind my back.

I did my best to persuade the man and he nervously agreed to stay for a minute but then he needed Max because he'd promised to meet some friends.

"Really?" Zane said coming into the conversation.  "Who?"

"They live on the lodge side of the lake.  Nice guys.  Said we could use their deck to do some fishing.  Then they have this cool set up in their house with all these games and stuff.  Max loves that stuff."

Zane scowled.  "Max actually doesn't like those games.  He prefers being outside because he spends enough time on the computer for school."

"Er ..."

Concerned I asked, "Which friends are we talking about?  I know everyone on the lake that is left.  And there are only a couple of people still on the Lodge side."

"Just ... just some friends."

"Which ones?  Like I said, I know them all.  And can walk out onto my own deck and see them all.  I'll be able to see Max ... and your friends."

He got really nervous and started getting belligerent.  "I do not need to be watched to spend time with my own son."

"Who is talking about watching you?  I said I could see you ... and your friends.  Not much goes unnoticed around the lake.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  I wouldn't be the only one seeing what is going on.  We kind of get into each other's business over there.  Sound carries that sort of thing ... especially now that things have cleared out so much.  Or maybe it is the sheriff's patrol that has kept things quiet.  They're out there a lot."

He turned and stumbled away and I rounded on Zane.  "Zane, this is your family's business but ..."

"Max isn't going anywhere with Terrance," he said and I noticed he had his hand on Max's shoulder like he was staking a claim.  "Something is up and I need you to stay with Max.  Can you do that?"

I looked at Max and he stepped closer to me.  "You betcha.  Max is way too important to me.  He's not going to get away."

Max's eyes getting a little wetter than they normally were struck a chord in me and I suddenly knew without a doubt that anyone that tried to take him off was going to get a royal Bohemian butt whooping.  I didn't let my temper out often as it is unnecessarily destructive and tended to burn my bridges but if my feeling was true this time I would let it have full voice to keep Terrance from taking Max to spend time with a couple of scum bags.

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