Enduring on the Lake

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chapter 23


Was your dad really mad?  I’ll call and say it was my fault.  Terrance is my father.” 

I looked up and Max stood there with a second bowl of venison chili – the pastor’s wife’s specialty – and I didn’t have the hart to say no to him.  I took the bowl and started eating it.  Even had I known the dire consequences I probably would have eaten it anyway.  Once Max figures out how to use those puppy dog eyes for something other than glaring at girls no “fee-male” is going to stand a chance.  The idea of the look on his face had I told him that almost made me smile.  Almost. 

“Was he?” Max asked again. 

I sighed.  “Stop saying it was your fault.  It wasn’t.  And I thought we’d already agreed that Terrance isn’t your father.  He may have been part of the biological soup that got you growing to begin with but that’s biology, not fatherhood.  Take it from me, when you have a real dad you’ll know it even if there are days when they are less … er … fatherly.” 

“So he was mad.  How mad?” 

“Well, he wasn’t happy but …”  I had to stop because I was still confused at Daddy’s reaction.  Putting the puzzle aside for the time being I said, “Basically I got a little chewed out for being stupid like I figured I would be … but not as bad as I expected to.  When I lived at home he would go bonkers over the smallest thing.  One time in high school I lost driving privileges for a month just because I came home with a quarter tank of gas.” 

“Huh?” 

I snorted.  “Daddy has this rule that you never let your motor get below a half tank of fuel.  Doesn’t matter what it is … car, chainsaw, lawn mower, boat, you name it.  It is like one of the Ten Commandments of our house and he was Moses.  Even when he and Mom were here I caught him jiggling the fuel canister I have out in the barn.  I even saw him pick up the chainsaw and slosh the fuel around in it and count the number of 3-cycle oil jugs that I have.  And yet this time …”  I shrugged.  “Maybe … maybe he … oh I don’t know.  Maybe Uncle Red told him that Zane would do his chewing for him and decided to cut me some slack this one time.” 

“You don’t sound too happy.  Did you want him to be mad?” 

“Of course not.  I just knew that he would be because I was kinda mad at myself for making the mistake of … well I’m not hashing it out all over again.  I know what my mistake was … heck I’m sure the whole church heard Zane blessing me out … Daddy just didn’t react the way I expected him to.  I suppose when you turn twenty you gotta stop expecting … what are you getting all bug-eyed at.” 

“I thought you were nineteen.” 

“I was.  Now I’m twenty.  What’s that got to do with the price of beans?” 

“When?” 

“When what?” 

“When did you turn twenty?” 

“The other day.  Why?” 

“Wow.  Is that why your parents came to see you?  Zane didn’t say nothin’.” 

“No, they went to lay a wreath on my brother’s grave and … and came by to tell me some stuff.” 

“You didn’t get a birthday party?  I thought girls are all into that stuff.” 

It was a question that I’d heard numerous times since I was little.  “Different families do different things differently.  We had a funny thing happen in our family.  Mom, Sam, and I all had the same birthday and Daddy’s was a couple of days later.  Used to be we would have one big party.” 

“Why’d you stop?” 

“I guess it reminded us too much that Sam wasn’t there.” 

He looked like he was thinking hard.  “Sooooo, everybody just stopped having birthdays because your brother died?” 

“Partly but it’s kinda silly the way you say it.” 

“But I thought you said Sam was a nice brother.” 

“He was.” 

“So he wouldn’t want you to give up your birthday and cake and all that stuff.” 

He got the first smile out of me since Zane had gotten through chewing on me.  “Like I said, that was only part of the reason why we just kind of changed the way we did things.  Right after the attack that killed Sam and those other soldiers the news people – or people who thought they were news people – wouldn’t leave us alone.  Then some loonie got the idea to contact all of the families of the dead soldiers on the soldier’s birthday for a how-do-you-feel-now retrospective thing.  It just got to be too much for all of us.  Plus things were getting hard financially around the house and then in high school I went into public school and money had to be spent on that.  It isn’t that my parents don’t recognize my birthday … it’s that the recognition is saved for the big ones like when I was old enough to take my driving test and then when I turned eighteen.” 

“But turning … never mind.” 

He shut up so quickly and scowled that I thought he was upset with me but then a shadow fell across us and I looked up and back to find Junior standing there.  “Time to go Max.” 

“Stuff it.” 

Surprised I yelped, “Max!” 

It took a little bit of persuading but Max finally gave up his anger in favor of going with his mother … not Annie … oh geez why do things have to be so ever loving confusing.  Mrs. Slowthower Jr., Annie, and Belle were going to go by a friend’s home that were looking to get rid of some of their chickens and apparently Max was to give his opinion of them.  He asked me to come along but I explained I had laundry to do … fee-male laundry.  He lit out fast enough after that but I could tell he still wasn’t his normal self. 

Annie stopped and I looked at her as the others walked away.  Trying to defuse the tension I felt coming from her I asked with half a smile, “You going to lecture me too?” 

She snorted.  “I don’t know why I should.  It never did me no good.  Generally sent me in the opposite direction if you want to know the truth.  I just wanted to say thanks.  Just ‘cause I couldn’t stand to raise him doesn’t mean that I wanna see him hurt or abused.  Mom has done the best she can but Max is just about as hard headed as I was at his age.  Maybe if I’d had someone like you I wouldn’t have felt so cross all the time.  You’re good for him.  Even I can see that.” 

Embarrassed at the unexpected compliment I answered, “He’s good for me.” 

She nodded.  “I can see that too.  Which is why … look, don’t get your feelings hurt over the way Zane acted.  He’s protective of Max.  What happened … I think it shook him.” 

“I don’t think it did any of us any good.  Do you think Mrs. June will …” 

“She’s done with Terrance unless he goes through rehab … and he won’t and it’s stupid to wish for it.  He’s a heartbreaker, always was, always will be, one way or the other.  He may give up meth – which I seriously doubt – but he won’t give up the other stuff he uses.  I don’t know why he’s like that but he is.  She’ll love him but I think he’s used up his last chance without some serious changes.  But look … if Zane doesn’t bring Max for a while … well I think he’s worried about those perverts.” 

Sadly I said, “I’ve already thought the same thing.  I’ll just figure out some other way for Max and I to see each other … at least until Max … well he’ll outgrow me.  Boys always do.” 

“Sounds like that’s experience talking.” 

I shrugged.  “I used to do a lot of babysitting.  Almost became a Nanny.  My parents had other ideas though.  Max will be too old pretty soon and he’ll want boys his own age to play with.  I didn’t realize he was only nine when I first met him.” 

“He’s big for his age.  Was at birth too which was the only thing that kept him alive until they could fix his heart.  Takes after Mrs. June’s side of the family in size but my side in looks and build.  All the men on her side are pretty good sized but he’s still too skinny for his height to do him much good.  Well, I need to get or Max will want to know what we were talking about.” 

“Tell him the truth.  I always do.” 

“Hopefully he won’t ask,” she said and then told me bye and left.  It was one worry off my mind that I hadn’t offended all of Max’s family by being so high-handed.  By then my stomach was starting to squirm but I put it down to nerves.  Uncle Red and Lawrence had already said goodbye so I packed my stuff up and started out to the car nodding at the few that looked my way. 

I realized on my drive back to the cabin that I was lonely.  I wanted to call and talk to my parents so bad but at the same time I knew my folks had already said all they were going to say about it.  I also knew that this was their way of saying that it was time that I stood on my own two feet and I had to do it without being propped up and told what to do.  They expected me to know what to do.  There were still unresolved questions in my mind but without anyone to talk to about them it was nothing but shouting into the wind to think about them.  It felt like a test of some type.  I hate people doing that, even my parents.  You want to test me then be upfront about it, don’t pull any psychological tricks. 

By the time I got back to the cabin I was so glad that Zane had fixed the old sticky door and lock that I was beside myself.  I’ve been in and out of the bathroom ever since crossing the threshold.  And doggone it now I feel like I’m getting a fever.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you , thank you! Will be waiting for more of this one rather impatiently.
    Dana

    ReplyDelete