Wednesday, March 31, 2021

GOING HOME - Chapter 3


     He wanted to know more about his dad's Tanner past. Was there more to his Fedder connection than he realized? 

   Perhaps a bit of low-grade detective work was in order. 

                                     Chapter 3

Dinner at the Asylum was always early, never later than five o’clock....wedged between Linda Fedder’s two jobs. Sue Ann usually arrived home from her night shift at the paper mill by eight in the morning. Most days she was up and around by mid-afternoon, having managed five or six hours of sleep, ready to prepare the evening meal with help from Bonnie, Sandy, and Gail.

On that Monday evening the others were already seated when Sue Ann set the macaroni and cheese in the center of the dining room table, along with a dish of vegetables and a plate of bread. Like most evenings, it would be the only time all day the five of them were together in one place, making it a natural forum for announcements and special instructions.

“Ron Pierce brought the application forms by the restaurant this morning,” Linda said between bites. “For the food court at the State Fair.” 

Her information was directed at Sandy and Gail, who were pretending not to hear. “He’s sure he can get each of you forty hours that week if you turn them in by this Friday.”

“Grandma,” Sandy’s expressive whine was the first sign of resistance. “What about the concert on the last Saturday night? Everyone will be there. And we’ll be working. That’s not fair.”

Linda was laughing softly as she reached for another slice of bread. “Please, dear. Give your old Grandma some credit. That’s why Mr. Pierce wants your applications early, so he can schedule your hours for the first part of the Fair week. That way you’ll get forty hours of work and still have Saturday night off.”

If Sandy was willing to accept that compromise, Gail was showing signs of being a harder sell. “Do we really have to do this?” she grumbled. “Other kids go to the fair to have hang out and mess around. We’ll just be there to work.” Then, turning to Bonnie. “Please, Mom. Everyone will see us doing some dorky job, in some dorky uniform.”

“And that’s what bothers you, isn’t it?” Bonnie took the lead now, prepared to debate her daughter’s priorities. She had always considered herself a firm and caring mother, and nothing about her wheelchair confinement had changed that. 

“We’ve gone over this a hundred times before. I’m glad your friends can spend money all week long. But you know very well you can’t afford to do that. If you want those fancy shoes you were talking about, you had better plan on earning some money.”

As often happened, Gail was prepared to take her case to a higher authority. “Grandma. It’s not fair. Why do we have to be the only ones working during the fair?”

Just as predictably, Linda refused to be drawn into their interfamily exchange. “Don’t you ‘Grandma’ me, young lady. You certainly won’t be the only ones working. Besides, you heard your mother. If you want something bad enough, you’ll have to earn it.” 

Drawing a deep breath she reminded herself to stay calm. Then, as was her way when the girls’ complaints grew too insistent, she took her coffee and retreated to the back steps.


There, in the early-evening quiet, Linda sat  looking out over the scruffy back yard as the tangle of troubling thoughts returned. There were times when it seemed that her trials, in one form or another, would never end. Who could blame the girls for their reluctance to accept the family’s situation? After all, they had heard the same depressing logic since childhood. In their teenage universe of affluent peers, the hurt she saw their eyes was the most natural of reactions.

Who wouldn’t be frustrated? She knew all the pertinent facts and she found them frustrating. Her two pay checks and Sue Ann’s one, along with Bonnie’s modest disability stipend, were scarcely enough to feed and clothe the five of them. There was no health insurance. The occasional medical surprise was sometimes enough to set the budget back for months. 

Their home was in a state of disrepair that required constant expenditures....some modest, some not-so-modest. And always, there were the girls’ hopeful appeals for the right clothes and the right activities.

Taken together, the toxic blend of financial issues was enough to give anyone a headache. Yet year after year she had faced that litany of troubling problems with an unspoken assurance that they would not defeat her. Decades of coping, of dealing with the sad legacy of a hopeful start turned sour, had given her that confidence.     

Now, however, there was a menacing new threat demanding her attention. If anything could bring them down, it would be that frightening new possibility....the one coming ever closer, the one she could no longer avoid.

Years before, when she accepted Bonnie into her household, Linda had not realized how expensive it would be to modify the Asylum to accommodate her paraplegic niece. 

A bulky, electrically-operated hospital bed and wheelchair were obvious requirements, along with renovations to the bathroom and Bonnie’s bedroom. It had taken two days for the contractors to reinforce the ceiling and install the overhead grab bar Bonnie used to get in and out of bed. An outside ramp to the sidewalk took nearly a week, and more dollars, to construct. Finally, there was the used van, equipped with a power lift, that made the family mobile.

Those expenditures had to be made. It was the only way to make Bonnie part of the family. A home-equity loan had allowed them to have the work done. Now, after three years of late payments, penalties, and rate increases, the original fifteen-thousand dollar loan had ballooned to nearly eighteen thousand. And still there were months when Linda could not make the full three hundred and twenty dollar loan payment. 

Ron Clifton, the bank’s local loan officer, was an old friend. For months he had lobbied the bank’s Loan Committee to give Linda some extra time. Finally, just two days earlier, he had been forced to tell her that he could not put off ‘a resolution’ any longer.

There were tears in her eyes when she asked Mr. Clifton what options she had. His response did nothing to make her feel better.

“You might be able to get a sub-prime loan,” he explained. “But that’s not really an answer. You’d pay extra points and higher interest. Your payments would be even higher than now.” 

Linda did not doubt his regret when he offered, “Perhaps you’d better see if you could sell the place. That would probably get you more than having the bank foreclose.”

There, seated on the back steps, she stared into her cold coffee, then glanced at her watch. It was five-forty. Time to be off to work. As she walked back through the dining room her worried frown was easily noticed by the others. Perhaps that was what prompted Sandy to offer her hopeful bit of news.

“Grandma, Gail and I made twelve dollars Saturday on the cherries we took to Rawlins Market. Mrs. Rawlins said they’d like some more. We’re going back to Ma Fedder’s on Wednesday.”

“Good for you two.” 

That had Linda reminding herself how often it happened. About the time she was ready to give up on the girls, they stepped forward to show their true colors.


Tom Fedder and Rick spent Monday afternoon exploring the Orchard House and surrounding outbuildings. Moving from room to room, Tom was making a mental inventory of items he wanted to take back to Highland City. It was soon apparent their canopy-covered pickup could not possibly hold everything that caught his eye. By that evening he was seriously considering the possibility of renting a truck to transport their treasures. In that case, he and Rick would each drive a rig home.

That plan, however, failed to address what had become a more pertinent issue....what to do with Betty Fedder’s car? The ten-year old Audi sedan, which had been stored safely in the garage, had just thirty-thousand miles on the odometer. Judging by the thick layer of dust that covered its maroon finish it had not been driven for months, though the license-plate tags were still current. Not surprisingly, Rick had immediately staked his claim on ‘Grandma’s wheels.’

That evening the two of them had dinner at Gilroy’s, the North End’s most respectable dining establishment, located in the building that once housed the People’s Savings Bank. Back home after their meal they sat in the front room of the Orchard House, half-following a televised ball game. Actually, while Tom watched the game Rick was watching his dad, processing his own stream of questions, the ones their new surroundings were triggering. 

In all their years together Tom had never once demonstrated a willingness to talk of his roots. There they were, sitting in the very house he had called home as a boy. Yet Rick, his avowed son, knew almost nothing of the old man’s boyhood, family, or home town. He had never been closer to his dad’s past....and still it remained a mystery.


On Tuesday morning Tom returned to Paul Corin’s office for an update on the property-auction plans. It was only twenty-four hours since their first talk, which seemed to him a very short time in which to process something so complicated. 

“I think we’ve had a pretty good response,” Paul explained. “Four of the six prospects are definitely interested. They’ll be at the house Thursday afternoon for a walk through. One of the fellows who wasn’t interested suggested another investor in Tanner. I called him, and he plans to be here on Thursday."

“That would give us five possible bidders. Is that right? Will there be any more?”

“That’s all. Just those five.” Paul set his file folder on the side table and leaned back in his chair.

“We don’t want any last-minute bidders," he continued. "The process works best when everyone who enters a bid was there for the walk through. That way everyone hears the same information at the same time. They’ll all have heard the same answers to the same questions. It’s the best way I know to avoid problems.”

“So we can plan to see everyone at the house at three o’clock Thursday afternoon. Is that it?”

“They’ll be there. But I’d rather you and the boy were not. If anyone has questions, I want them talking to me.”

Tom was laughing to himself as he ticked off a mental list of things to be done to make the place ready for a public showing. “Sounds like we have some cleaning up to do in the next day or two. We’ve been stacking things all over the place, getting ready to pack.”

“I wouldn’t worry about the housekeeping. None of those folks care a thing about the house. Along with the orchard, it will probably be the first thing to go.” With that Paul stood and motioned Tom toward the front office. “You have time for a cup of coffee?”

“I suppose I have more time than anything.”

The unconvincing Starbuck’s knock-off was across the street, next to an antique mall. Tom passed on the more exotic offerings and settled for plain black coffee. Then, drinks in hand, they made their way to a booth on the back wall.

“I had a call this morning,” Paul said when they were seated. “It was something I thought you ought to know about it.”

“Ought to know what?”

“Someone noticed lights on at the Fedder place last night. Whoever it was called Bob Cannon. I suppose they knew that Bob was a shirt-tail relative of the Fedders. You know, being Linda’s brother.”

“Bob Cannon’s sure as hell no relative of mine,” Tom said firmly. “I don’t suppose he’d claim me either.”

“Probably not,” Paul nodded. “Anyway. Bob called me this morning. He wanted to know what was going on. I couldn’t very well lie to him. I told him you were in town for a few days, to settle some estate things.” 

Sipping his coffee, Paul looked over his glasses at Tom, gauging his reaction. “So Bob knows you’re here. And I’d have to say he wasn’t real happy to hear about that.”

For the next few seconds Tom Fedder appeared to check out of their conversation. He had planned their Tanner trip with an eye toward avoiding the very confrontation Paul was hinting at. 

Bob Cannon of all people. Why did it have to be him, the last person he had seen on that terrible departure day forty years before? They had come to blows in the course of that brief exchange. Was there a repeat performance looming in their future? If so, it would surely be a pitiful sight to behold.... two old men, each standing his ground, each unwilling to hear what the other had to say. There had to be a better way.


While Tom met with Paul Corin, Rick Levant was alone at the Orchard House....bored and house bound. They had been in Tanner nearly two days and still he had seen little more than the aging downtown core of the North End neighborhood. There must be more to see and other answers to be found. Having located a phone book in Grandma Fedder’s roll-top desk, it took only seconds to find the surprisingly simple answer to his first question. 

There were two Fedder names in the Tanner listings. One was Betty Fedder on Kirby Street. That would be Grandma Fedder. The second was a Linda Fedder, on Bluff Avenue. He had never heard his dad or grandmother mention a Linda Fedder. Could there be a connection between the two?

Turning to the back of the phone book, Rick leafed through the green-edged pages of city maps. The Tanner maps, there were four of them, divided the town into quadrants, with a full page for each quarter. A detailed Street Directory was spread across the bottom of the pages. 

There, in the tiniest of small print, were listed grid coordinates for each street. It took only a moment to find a listing for Bluff Avenue, then a few more seconds to locate it in the northwest quadrant of town. Remarkably, the map showed Bluff Avenue dead-ending at Redden Street, on the north edge of the Fedder orchard.

What did that mean, another Fedder family, right there in the North End....someone his dad had never mentioned? He had time for a short walk. It would not be far. No place in the North End was very far from the Orchard House. According to the map, from the Fedder orchard Bluff Avenue continued north for six blocks. Linda Fedder’s address, 580 N. Bluff, must be at the far end. Why not have a look?

It was a sunny morning, warm for ten o’clock. Rick walked up Kirby Street to Redden, then left to Bluff Avenue. It was an unremarkable-looking neighborhood of older homes....with scruffy lawns, minimal landscaping, and more than its share of derelict cars and pick-ups lining the streets and driveways. Looking north, toward the far end of the street, the even-numbered addresses were on his right. He crossed to the odd-numbered side, allowing him to approach the Fedder home inconspicuously, from across the street.

He noticed them from a block away....three youngsters, apparently teenagers, standing beside the red sports convertible in front of what must be 580, the Fedder home. Drawing closer, he could tell the two girls were not pleased with whatever the lone boy had to say. Seconds later, as he paused directly across the street from the three of them, the shorter girl’s complaints grew louder.

“She can’t go with you, Burt. She can’t leave.”

“Shut up, Gail.” The boy she called Burt moved closer to the girls. “You just go back to the house. Sandy’s coming with me.” He turned to Sandy, reaching for her arm.

Sandy Harden was quick enough to avoid his grasp, but not at all sure how to respond to his insistent demands. “Burt,” she protested, trying her best to sound defiant. “I can’t go with you. My mom won’t let me. Will you just leave.”

The three of them had yet to see Rick standing across the street, taking in their increasingly vocal exchange. For another few seconds he watched, noting the frightened reaction on the otherwise attractive face of the girl called Sandy. Then, stepping from the curb, he started across the street.

“You’re coming with me.” There was no subtlety in Burt’s demand. Clearly, he expected to be obeyed. Again he reached for Sandy’s arm. “Now get in the car.”

Gail was the first to see Rick coming toward them. Sandy and Burt, facing each other, had not. The first they knew of his presence was his hand resting lightly on Burt’s shoulder. Burt brushed it away and turned to face the intruder. 

At six-two, he was nearly a head taller and perhaps forty pounds heavier than the young Indian. Predictably, his immediate reaction was a burst of blustery bravado. “What the hell do you want?”

Rick looked up, locking on the taller boy’s eyes, smiling a rather unfriendly smile. “I think she’s trying to say she doesn’t want to go with you.”

“But she is. Now get lost.”

Rick had the boy’s arm again, this time with a grip that would not be brushed aside. He edged closer, nearly chest to chest. “No she’s not.” The smile was gone. His words were soft, but his dark-eyed stare was penetrating. “So why don’t you just leave.” 

Rick tensed, bracing himself for Burt’s reaction, assuming that someone that big and loud would not be backing down. A moment later he realized there would be no push back, no forcing the issue. 

It may have been the boy’s steely Indian eyes, or his tightening grip. Whatever the reason, it was clear that Burt had no interest in pursuing the matter. He stepped toward the car, then paused to offer a last defiant question, “Are you sure you want to start this?” 

“I’m not starting anything. Now go on.”

The girls stood riveted in silent wonder as he drove off down the street and the moment’s tension faded. Turning to study the newcomer, they were not sure what to make of the long haired, rather good-looking youngster. They had never seen him before. Why had he appeared just then? And what made him willing to stand up to Burt Dunn?                                 

Meanwhile, Rick had his own questions. More than a few. They were standing in front of what must be Linda Fedder’s home. Perhaps it was home to one of them. What did that mean? There was no avoiding the questions. But was it his place to be looking for answers? Probably not. 

Instead, he settled for a toothy smile in Sandy’s direction and a quiet, “Maybe you two should go inside.” With that he turned and started back down Bluff Avenue toward the Orchard House.

Monday, March 29, 2021

GOING HOME - Chapter 2

    How had it come to this?

    It was meant to be his inheritance....their most prized possession settled on him.

    Why then had it become his sad role to sell the family legacy?

                                             Chapter 2

    Rick had been awake since four-thirty. By five o’clock daylight was filtering through the curtains and there was no reason to be bed bound, not when the tantalizing prospect of the day’s travel made sleep impossible. 

    He was eighteen years old and had been beyond the borders of Montana only three times in his Yellowstone Park in adjacent Wyoming, across the state line into Idaho, and to an uncle’s place in Alberta, Canada. On that July morning he was preparing to become a world traveler, journeying all the way to Oregon.

    Sitting there on the edge of the bed he paused, recalling how his best friend, Ben Lee, had found Rick’s eager anticipation more than a little puzzling. 

    “Man, why settle for Oregon?” Ben had asked. “You ought to hold out for California. You know, Disneyland and the beaches, all the fine looking ladies.”

    “I’ll be going to the beach. That’s part of the deal.”

    “Come on, I’ve seen pictures of the beaches in Oregon.” Ben was laughing by then, certain that his friend needed to reorder his priorities. “California has cute girls running around in next to nothing. Oregon has sea lions laying on big ole rocks. Man, you’ve got it all wrong.”

    “They have girls in Oregon,” Rick countered. “Though I don’t suppose they go for Indian guys.” His smile faded as he considered that likely truth. “Besides, it’s where I have to go. My Dad has some business to take care of there. We’re going to his home town to sell my Grandma’s house. Then we’re going to see the ocean.”

    Though he would never have admitted as much to his dad, Rick’s hopes for an Oregon excursion included more than simply seeing the family home and Pacific Ocean. He had mulled the nagging questions for as long as he had known the old man ....of gaping blanks in the history Tom Fedder admitted to, and material information he had never volunteered to provide. If clues to his dad’s pre-Montana life could be found anywhere, Tanner, Oregon was a likely place to begin.

   They drove south that Saturday morning, through high-plains grasslands, skirting the jagged Rocky Mountains that would dictate their route for more than three hundred miles. Two hours brought them to Interstate Ninety, the shortest route west over the Continental Divide. 

    By that afternoon they had put the mountains behind them, emerging from the western flanks of the Rockies onto the sprawling Columbia Plateau. Following the Snake River, dammed into an impressive lake, they climbed out of the deep river canyon into the Palouse, with its rolling wheat fields....golden and treeless. Another long hour of driving, directly into the late-afternoon sun, brought them to a motel stop in Pendleton. After a long day on the road, they were at last in Oregon.

    Their second day was more leisurely. They started late, driving the length of the high-walled Columbia River Gorge, stopping just east of Portland for a short hike to the towering Multnomah Falls. Two hours later Tom finally turned off the interstate at the well-marked North Tanner exit.

    “Grandma always talked about Tanner,” Rick remembered. “This is it, eh?”

       “This is it.” 

    They passed a sign noting a population three times the number Tom remembered. He drove past the busy turn-off that routed traffic around the congested downtown area and instead followed the old highway toward the Tanner suburbs he remembered.

    “It’s going to take a while to get my bearings,” he grumbled. They were driving past subdivisions and strip malls, where he remembered only farms and orchards. 

    “When I was boy the part of town where we lived was a separate little community, quite a ways from downtown Tanner....maybe two or three miles. It was called North End. We had our own business district and schools, all that least until we got to high school.”

    They were approaching the heart of what Tom had known as the North End, yet the familiar sights he remembered were not immediately evident. On the east side of the highway, where small acreages once lined the road, dated and undistinguished tract homes now spread as far as they could see. 

    Across the highway, in what he had known as the North End business center, disrepair and neglect had won the day. He was shaking his head as he pulled to the curb. How could the one place he ought to know better than any other be producing only disorienting confusion.

    “Man, it’s changed so much. I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we go back to that motel we passed at the interchange? We can settle in, maybe get a bite to eat. Then we’ll come back and try to make sense of all this. It’s hard to believe, but I may need a map to get around my own home town.”


    The neighborhood that Tom Fedder had grown up knowing as the North End had come into being in 1884 as Hutchings, a modest mid-valley township surveyed and platted on a bluff overlooking the broad Willamette River flood plain, and the pioneer river port that locals still referred to as "The Landing." 

     The village of Hutchings, as diagrammed on the elaborate map filed with the county court, was six blocks long, laid out along the main road from Portland. It stretched west toward the river for three blocks, before ending abruptly at the edge of the precipitous bluff.

  Like many pioneer land speculators, Col. Lyle Hutchings must have nurtured dreams of a thriving metropolis, or at least a viable trade-center. In truth, the Colonel’s dream never had a chance. His timing was bad, and his location even worse.    

     By the turn of the century Tanner, just three miles upstream from Hutchings, had established itself as the region’s dominant commercial and population center. With its growing state bureaucracy, county courthouse, and newly constructed Willamette River bridge Tanner was a force to be reckoned with.

     When Tom Fedder arrived on the scene Hutchings was long past its prime, though old timers would never have admitted that. By then the remaining community had become known as North End....a struggling step-child of big-time Tanner.

    To his way of thinking, Tom Fedder had grown up in North End, not Tanner. Except for his later successes at Tanner Northside High School, there was nothing about Tanner that he remembered as home.

      In the post-war era of Tom’s youth Tanner was ‘down the road,’ its city limits marked by the gaudy “Welcome to Tanner” sign that stood long side the old highway, a mile or so south of the People’s Savings Bank. In those days the North End business district, two-blocks deep and four-blocks long, was a declining, but still-active work-a-day market place. Clearly, all that had changed.

     “This is really hard to believe,” Tom muttered for the third time. “Just look how everything has gone to pot.” 

     Their after-dinner drive had taken them to High Street, a block west of the old highway, once the hub of North End commerce. On that evening they had their choice of parking spaces.

     “All of this is part of Tanner now, though maybe they call it the North End neighborhood, or something like that. Hell, in my day, if anyone thought we were from Tanner we’d have straightened them out in a hurry. 

      "We were from North End, by God. Being from Tanner was an insult, at least until we got to high school. That was Tanner Northside High, so we had to be part of Tanner.” He winked at the boy and added. “Though we weren’t always happy about that.

       “There’s nothing this dumpy anywhere in Highland City,” Rick observed. “It seems like half the stores are empty.”

    “And the others don’t look too prosperous, do they? You’d think they’d have taken better care of it. I suppose the businesses that were still doing well moved downtown, or out to some mall.” 

    For fifteen minutes they strolled through the derelict remains of the North End business district, up one side of High Street and down the other. In each block a few run-down retail establishments were trying their best to be seen among the boarded-up storefronts and second-hand shops.

     “This used to be the main drag,” Tom told the boy. “It was our Highland Avenue. This is where everything happened in North End.”

     As they walked on Tom was soaking up long forgotten sights, reliving an absorbing stream of memories and emotions....doing his best to remember the excitement of now-vacant soda fountains, record shops, and clothing stores. 

    There was so much to remember. Seemingly insignificant events, of no particular importance at the time, returned with powerful, nostalgic force. So many “first times” had happened there. The person he had become was formed and molded in that place. Sadly, life-changing mistakes had also been made there.

      At Adams Street they turned west for a block, to a nondescript storefront where Tom pulled the boy to a stop. It was a dinghy place, one of the few stores open at that hour on Sunday. Inside, a few bare bulbs lit the narrow aisles. Chaotic stacks of used furniture and knick-knacks spilled out the open doors onto the sidewalk.

      “My dad sold shoes here,” he explained. “It was the Buster Brown shoe store back then, a busy place. That was before the cut-rate stores started showing up in Tanner. It’s the only job I remember him having. That, and working in the orchard behind the house.”

    “He had an orchard? What did he grow?”

      “Cherries.” Again, the old man's remembering look returned. “That was my first job. Picking cherries for Dad, and gathering the limbs when he pruned the trees.”

    “I guess I’ve never wondered where cherries come from.” 

  “Back then there were cherry orchards all over the valley. Lots of other fruits too, and walnuts.” They walked back to High Street. A block later Tom tugged on the boy’s arm, pulling him to a stop. 

      “See that place over there on the corner?” Tom was pointing to a long, two story office building on the corner of Flynn and High Streets. It was, by any measure, the best maintained structure in the North End business district. “That’s the old Masonic Lodge building. Your grandma told me that Pauly Boy had fixed it up. Looks pretty good doesn’t it.“

       “It looks out of place," Rick replied. "Why would anyone spend money on a place like that, in a place like this?”        

     “I suppose because he wanted to.”

Tom was chuckling at Rick’s undisguised puzzlement. “That’s Paul Corin’s office. He’s the attorney who is handling Mom’s estate. I’ll be seeing him in the morning.” 

      Paul Corin,” he repeated to himself. Who in the world could have guessed that?

     “In high school Pauly Boy Corin was what you’d probably call a nerd. He didn’t play sports. Never had a girl friend. He was a little guy....kind of different. Today you’d say he was weird. But he was smart as hell. 

    “Your grandma told me more than once that Pauly Boy was the best attorney in Tanner, even though he always said that North End fit him better.

    "I guess that’s why, after working downtown for a while, he moved his office out here. I have a hunch he’d like to renovate more of the old town. And if he sets his mind to it, I wouldn’t bet against him. Anyway, he’s the best. That’s why Mom hired him to do all her work.”

    “He’s going to help you sell the house?” 

    “I hope so. With any luck we can get it sold in a hurry.”


    Explaining the legal ramifications of the Betty Fedder estate was not a stretch for Paul Corin. He was comfortable offering advice on how to conduct a sealed-bid auction to dispose of the late Mrs. Fedder’s property. 

   The Fedder place, four acres of prime development land, was well situated within the city limits....abutting the back nine of the prestigious Toll Booth Country Club, and already zoned for single-family homes. There would be no problem finding interested bidders.

    All that was easy enough. But on that Monday morning, more than forty years since their last face to face visit, Mr. Corin was less certain what to make of the sixty-four year old incarnation of Tom Fedder sitting across the desk from him. His long- absent friend appeared fit, still tall and slender, with only a few extra pounds around the waist. 

      There had been nothing in their introductory dialogue that touched on the subject of Tom’s long-ago departure from North End. Instead, he seemed to be all business. From the attorney’s perspective, the plan Tom had in mind was straight forward ....sell the Fedder place as quickly as possible, hopefully before anyone knew he was even in town.

   “That was your mother’s idea,” Mr. Corin explained, addressing Tom’s question about the zoning status of the Fedder property. “Betty called me perhaps ten years ago, asking if we should apply for subdivision zoning. During those years the City Planning Commission was issuing approvals on a routine basis. Today it would probably take months, maybe even years.”

      “And a fortune in attorney’s fees,” Tom added with a grin. He was pleasantly surprised at how well he and ‘Pauly Boy’ had hit it off. Though it had taken a moment to recognize his old friend, now heavier and nearly bald, Tom was glad to learn that not everyone in North End hated him. “It works that way in Montana too.”

    “It did cost her a few dollars.” 

    Paul Corin too was enjoying the ease with which they had reconnected. He had grown up admiring Tom Fedder as one of the movers and shakers in their high school class. Tom had been good looking, athletic, and popular with the girls. Paul had been none of those things. Yet, in that high-school setting of ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders,’ Tom Fedder had always been friendly and approachable. Paul Corin was not one to forget something like that.

    “But I can assure you that whatever paltry amount I charged her, it was money well spent.” Paul was smiling now. “Four acres, right up against the country club. That‘s a very desirable location. And already zoned? Why that’s icing on the cake. It’s worth a great deal, Tom. I know for a fact your mother turned down four hundred thousand for it. Four hundred thousand cash.”

That had Tom straightening up, straining to be sure he had heard Paul correctly. “Four hundred thousand! My God. I had no idea.”

     “That was four years ago,” Paul added. “It should be worth more now. There are a couple years of property taxes to pay off, but that won’t be much. The orchards qualified for an agricultural exemption years ago, back when your dad farmed the property. After he passed, your mother still sold the cherries....on the tree. She did that until just a few years ago.”

       Leaning back in his upholstered chair, Paul was enjoying the sight of Tom’s obvious disbelief. “Of course, the trees are getting pretty ratty. They haven’t been pruned or sprayed. But your prospective buyers won’t care about that. One of the first things they’ll do is get rid of the trees.”

     “So what’s the plan? How do we get it sold?” 

      Paul pulled a manilla folder from his desk and spread the few pages before him. “When you called last week you said you wanted to turn this around in a hurry. Is that still the case?”

      Tom glanced up, certain that Paul understood the reasons for his interest in spending as little time as possible in Tanner. “Yeah, it still is. You know damn well there are folks who’d rather I didn’t hang around any longer that necessary. I know that’s how I feel.”

    “Well, after your call I put together a list of six developers....folks with money to spend and an interest in something of this size. I’ll be contacting them this afternoon, to arrange for a walk through on Thursday for those who are let them see the property and ask their questions.

     "We’ll request that sealed bids be received by Monday afternoon, a week from today. That’s warp speed for this kind of transaction. Once we have the bids, you can decide which one you want to accept. After that you can ahead back home if you like. I can handle the rest of it for you.”

    Tom was grinning as he stood to walk across the room, stretching his legs. “Boy, that is fast. That’s exactly what I want.”

     “I’ve picked companies and people who can move quickly. Most of them know the property already. A couple of them have been interested in it for some time. I can’t guarantee this approach will get you the absolute top dollar. But it will be fast, and I’m sure we’ll get a fair price. Besides, if you don’t like what they offer, you can always choose to reject all the bids and cast a wider net.”

    “I like it,” Tom replied as they walked to the hall, then on to the front office. Paul reached out to shake Tom’s hand, looking as if he had something more to say.

      “From what you said earlier, I gather you realize there are probably still some hard feelings out there, even after all these years, especially on this end of town. It may look like we’re part of Tanner these days. But for the old timers it’s still North End. And some of these folks have long memories. So don’t be surprised by that.”

      “I plan on laying low,” Tom nodded. “I have no interest in stirring things up.”

      They were standing in the front office, next to a filing cabinet, when Tom noticed the large family portrait on the wall. He leaned forward....studying the husband, wife, and three grown children. “That’s a handsome family, Paul. I suppose by now there must be a few grandkids to include.”

      “Five so far. They’re a great bunch of kids.”

Tom cocked his head, still scanning the picture. “The lady, your wife, she kind of reminds me of Sarah Randall, from school.”

      “I suppose she does,” Paul agreed. “That’s who it is.”

     Tom’s embarrassed grin turned easily into a soft laugh. “Come on, Paul. Sarah was the best looking, classiest girl in school. Every guy in the place wanted to know her better.”

      “And she ended up with Pauly Boy,” Paul too was laughing as he completed Tom’s thought. “How ironic is that? When I came back from law school she’d just been divorced. She was single, with Jay and Jan, the twins. We just kind of got together. Been married thirty-eight years.”

    “Good for you.”

    From a filing cabinet Paul pulled out a small envelope, opened it, and drew out a key chain. “Here are the keys to your house. I’m pretty sure you’ll find it’s one of the few things in town that hasn’t changed much in all these years. I knew you'd be here for a few days, so I arranged to have the utilities turned back on. You know, the lights, and phone, and the cable service.”

      “Thanks, Paul. I appreciate that. I appreciate all your help.”

   “Come by in the morning....say ten o’clock. I’ll know by then what kind of reception our prospects have given us.”

    Tom returned to the motel to pick up Rick and their suitcases. Minutes later they drove back to the North End, down Taylor Street, past the trim white house he remembered so well, and into the long driveway that led between ancient walnut trees to the Fedder home. It was cream colored now, not the stark white of his childhood, and so much smaller than the dated pictures he carried in his mind.

     “This is it, Son. Grandma’s place.”


    For generations the Fedders had called it the Orchard House. Tom’s grandfather had planted and nurtured the fledgling orchard as a newly-wed young man, setting out the first seedlings in 1920. In Tom’s fourteenth year his grandparents had moved into a downtown retirement apartment, and the Orchard House became home to Fred and Betty Fedder and their son, Tom.

       Pulling up beside the house the two of them got out to take it all in. From the driveway Rick noted the two-car garage and boxy shop building beyond the back lawn, each painted the same cream color. To their right, on the far side of the house, rows of dark-green cherry trees, dotted with ripening fruit, stretched back toward the country-club boundary. 

    A covered porch stretched across the front of the house. Midway down the left side, a wooden porch swing hung suspended on chains, a sight Rick had seen only in old movies. At the front door, even before he tried the key in the lock, Tom leaned closer to peer through the cut-glass door panes.

   Pushing the door open, he led them inside. Brilliant sunlight filtered between the loosely-drawn curtains, casting bright stripes on the carpeted floor. Though forty years was far too long to remember the exact setting, the overall impression seemed a pleasing match with the mental image Tom had nurtured over the past few days. Standing there in the middle of the living room, absorbing the familiar aura, he realized it was still as close as he could come to a definition of 'home.'

    Betty Fedder had not collected antiques. She never understood those who did. Yet her home was full of furniture and furnishings her mother-in-law had first used seventy or more years before. Except for her favorite recliner, and the television set she played loud enough for the neighbors to hear, Betty had never felt the need to replace those perfectly good, still-functional furnishings.

    While Rick conducted his own exploration of the old house, Tom shuffled slowly from room to room, gleaning impressions from the half-forgotten surroundings. He climbed the worn steps to the upstairs rooms....his old bedroom and the playroom. As an only child, the second upstairs bedroom had been dedicated to his diversions....electric trains, a ping pong table, and high school sleep overs. Certainly none of his friends had known such a luxury.

    Standing at the top of the stairs, he looked down to the first-floor hallway, reminding himself that even as a youngster he had understood that one day the Orchard House would be his. In those heady times he could never have imagined that his role in the family’s long history would be to dispose of that legacy, the home his own people had loved so dearly.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

GOING HOME - Chapter 1

    It is an undeniable fact of the human condition. As sure as we are on our way toward a new future, we are also moving away from our past.
    Perhaps the pull of that new future is meant to dull the reality of a painful past. Yet there may be times when there is no escaping the past.....and that might be a good thing.

                            Chapter 1

Going home....what can that mean? Perhaps for some the possibility arouses pleasant thoughts of well-remembered good times. For others it may renew intimidating recollections of an adolescent coming-of-age, complete with enabling affirmations and humbling missteps. There are, however, those for whom ‘going home’ is something less than a good idea.

For Tom Fedder, the prospect of going home produced only dread. For decades he had carefully sidestepped any reason to revisit hometown Tanner. But now he had come face to face with the necessity of returning one last time. Try as he might, he had not found a way to avoid that frightening possibility? 

For the moment, however, it was time to set those concerns aside and close up shop for another day. Twisting the dead bolt, he locked the front door of the Basin Hardware Store. Before returning to the cramped office he paused to glance through the long front window, taking a moment to look up and down Highland Avenue, which did double duty as the state highway in that part of town.

Though it was nearly eight-thirty, the late-July daylight would be hanging on for at least another hour. It had been a warm day, but at four-thousand feet elevation Highland City nights were cool in even the warmest weather. It was one of the things he liked about big-sky Montana summers .

The cash register drawers were locked in the small safe at the rear of the office by the time he heard footsteps approaching from the warehouse. A moment later the office door opened and the young man stepped inside.

“Hope you don’t mind having your BLT toasted,” the youngster said as he handed a paper bag to Tom. “Sally had it all done before she even asked if it was okay.”

The youngster leaned against a file cabinet and pulled a hamburger from his own sack. At five foot eight he was a head shorter than the old man. While Tom Fedder’s slender build accentuated his height, the boy was compact and stocky. Though he was told that girls considered him good looking, what most people noticed first about Rick Levant was his shiny black hair....straight and shoulder length, framing his Native American features.

“I’m so hungry I’ll eat anything,” Tom laughed. “With Gus off sick it’s been a long day.” He unwrapped his sandwich, then looked over at the boy. “I appreciate your help today, Son. It would have been a tough go without you.”

It was more than an idle compliment. At Tom’s age, he had turned sixty-four just two months earlier, he was indeed grateful for Rick’s broad shoulders and strong back. When it came to unloading the weekly supply truck from Great Falls, it was hard to beat an eager eighteen year old.

“No problem, Dad.” The boy was opening his second burger. “Besides, it beats the heck out of bucking hay bales out at Scott’s.”

“Yeah," Tom agreed. "That’s a tough way to make a dollar." He remembered well his first summer in the Basin, decades before, when he was still young enough to do that kind of work, and thankful for the chance to earn a paycheck. 

“There’s not many places doing that by hand anymore,” he continued. “A few more years and all that will be history. That’s another reason for you to get signed up at the community college for the fall term. There’ll come a time when you can’t count on muscle power to earn a living.”

“Hey, there are lots of jobs that don’t take a degree,” Rick insisted. They had been down that road before. The boy had heard every one of his dad’s arguments. Tom, on the other hand, knew all too well his son’s desire to "Get on with my life."

“Besides," the boy added. "College is tough. There’s no guarantee I can even do it?”

Wadding his dinner sack into a ball, Tom dropped it in the waste basket. “Don’t you go there again.” he said. “I’m not buying that nonsense. Half the folks in town have told me at one time or another that it’s a waste of time, sending an Indian boy to college. You know the story....he’ll never stick it out. He can’t take the discipline and the hard work. Hell, lots of them just don’t believe an Indian is smart enough to cut it.”

 Tom’s words were growing louder and his gaze was locked on Rick’s. He jabbed a finger in the boy’s direction as he offered his parting objection. “That’s a crock. And you know it.”

 “Come on, Dad. I know that’s how you feel. And you might be right. But maybe you’re not. Maybe I couldn’t do it. Maybe there are good reasons why guys from the tribe don’t stick with it.”

Tom leaned back in his swivel chair. It was late and he was too tired for another of their periodic debates. Except....if Rick was willing to talk, which was not always the case, he had to stay with it. 

“Look, you’ve heard me say all this before. I don’t pretend to know about the cultural stuff those Indian kids bring with them from the reservation. It’s true, most of them don’t stay. But you’ll never convince me it’s because they aren’t smart enough. I'm guessing it has something to do with their schooling. God knows their reservation education isn’t always first class. But they’re not dumb.”

“That’s one thing I’m glad about,” Rick nodded. “Highland City has good schools. I’ve been lucky that way.”

“Exactly. You’ve never lived on the reservation. I suppose that means you’ve missed out on some things. But it might make it easier for you to deal with college.”

“Why couldn’t I just work here, in the store?”

Tom’s palm slammed on the desk top. “Don’t you give me that crap. Just think about that for a minute. What if you thought the rest of your life was going to be spent right here....peddling nuts and bolts and garden hose to a bunch of fussy customers....tied to a desk and computer all day long. Is that your idea of living?”

A thin smile came to Rick’s face, hearing again the undisguised passion he heard in the old man’s voice whenever they talked of the boy’s future. “That’s been your life,” the boy countered. “Has it been all that bad?”

For an instant it felt as though he had been caught in his own trap. Tom Fedder understood well enough that life in the high basin country had been good to him, especially the last nineteen years, as owner of the Basin Hardware Store. 

Still, it was nothing at all like the life he had dreamed of forty years earlier, and certainly not the road he had started down as a young man. Truth be told, he had been lucky enough to make the best of a bad situation. He knew that. Yet even now, after all that time, there were moments he caught himself wondering what he had missed, and what might have been.

“It hasn’t been that bad, Son,” Tom nodded, returning to Rick’s question. “But I know it’s not the life you dream about. And remember, I promised your mother you’d get the best start I could give you. To me that means college.” He was smiling to himself, remembering Annie Levant’s tortuous indecision over what would constitute an appropriate future for her only child.

Though it felt like a lifetime ago, it had been only four years. At thirty nine Annie had spent her last days in the Intensive Care Unit of the Highland City Hospital, waging a determined, but losing battle against a virulent strain of viral pneumonia.

On the morning of her last day, as she grew weaker and more feverish, she had insisted that they decide young Rick’s future. Would he stay with Tom, or be sent north to live with her brother in Browning, on the Blackfeet Reservation?

In Tom’s mind the boy’s future had never been in doubt. The three of them had been together for five years. Most people in town assumed that Tom and Annie were married, though they had never bothered to formalize their relationship. There were townspeople who took umbrage at the notion of a successful businessman keeping the company of an Indian woman. Tom knew that, and had learned to ignore their off-hand remarks and questioning stares. 

After nearly three decades of life lived alone, he had counted himself fortunate to find such a caring woman. The fact that she had arrived with a nine year old son in tow only made it better, helping to fill yet another void in his long-solitary life.

By the time Tom Fedder entered Annie’s life she was thirty, working as an aide at the High Mountain Nursing Home. She had met Jean Levant, a young French-Canadian, on the reservation and followed him to Highland City, where they were married. Two years later Jean Levant disappeared, leaving Annie on her own with a year old son and few prospects. For eight years she had struggled to provide a home for Rick and herself, often wondering how they would survive.

Then, out of the blue, Tom Fedder had stepped forward. She had been in his hardware store a few times. He was friendly enough, always polite, with an easy grin. Yet how could she have guessed that quiet old man, he was fifty four at the time, would be so taken with her soft ways and Rick’s shy smile?

When he asked her to dinner the first time, Annie assumed it would be a quiet evening at his home, away from the prying eyes of townsfolk. Perhaps he, like others in her past, expected the dinner invitation to include something in the way of other favors. At the time she had wondered how he would react to her refusal to play those games. 

In fact, their night together had been nothing like she expected. The three of them...Annie, Rick, and Tom....had dined at the nicest restaurant in town, at a front table, for everyone to see.

Annie, of course, understood the bemused whispers their relationship had generated, especially when Tom insisted that they be a family, living their life in the open as husband, wife, and son. He was old and not particularly imposing in a physical way, but there was no doubting his commitment to her and the boy.

In the end Annie Levant, tethered to her hospital bed by IV tubes and an oxygen hose, had managed to scrawl her shaky signature on the brief, one sentence statement Tom had composed, stating her desire that Rick stay with him. The Nursing Supervisor witnessed Annie’s signature and Tom filed the paper away. He realized that her informal declaration would probably not stand up to a court challenge if her family chose to do that, but they had not.

With Annie’s blessing, the boy and the old man had remained a family. Tom was "Dad". Rick was his son. And now Tom was again playing his fatherly role. 

“I want you to plan on starting at the college this fall,” he told the boy. “You go one term. Give it your best shot. Then we’ll sit down and decide where we go from there. Is that fair?”

Rick had tested his dad’s stubborn resolve before. He understood there was nothing to be gained by arguing the point. For a few minutes he sat wondering whether the situation called for sulking or anger. Before he could decide, his dad was offering a new reason to stay the course.

Tom ushered the boy out to the main store area, turning off the office lights as they left. He checked the side door to be sure it was locked, then led them to the front door. There, in the fading daylight that filtered in from the street, he turned to Rick. “It’s what, five or six weeks before school starts?”

"Something like that. Why?” 

“I was thinking we might have time for a little vacation. Maybe get away for a while.” 

On the surface the idea may have sounded routine. Yet in all the nine years he had spent with Tom Fedder, Rick had never heard the old man speak of a vacation. There had been summer hikes into the high-country fishing lakes, enjoyable outings for both father and son, but hardly something to be called a vacation.

“What do you mean? What kind of vacation?”

“I suppose you’d call it a working vacation,” Tom replied. It was his mother’s death, just four months earlier, that made the trip necessary. Though it was by no means a vacation he was looking forward to, it had to be done. 

“I got a letter a couple days ago from Grandma’s attorney in Tanner. The legal work on her estate has been wrapped up. I need to go back there and sell her place, and bring some things back here. It shouldn’t take long. But I need to be there to get it done.”

“And I’m going with you?,” the boy asked hopefully. “I’m finally going to Oregon?”

For as long as he could remember, Rick had heard enticing snippets of Tom Fedder’s past....his youthful recollections of awkward moments, lessons learned, and the like. Though the old man had never provided much detail, the setting was always the same....his boyhood home in Oregon.

For all those years Rick had looked forward to Grandma Fedder’s twice-yearly visits. Yet, as much as he enjoyed the time spent with her, he sometimes wondered why she had always come to visit them, while they had never traveled to her home in Oregon.

“Does that mean I get to see the ocean?”

Tom knew at once he should have anticipated that question. The boy had first posed it years before, when Tom had pointed out Oregon on an atlas map. The long coastline, where the map’s green mountains met the blue ocean, had immediately captured Rick’s attention. Going to Oregon meant seeing the ocean.

“You bet. We’ll see the ocean. I promise.”

For weeks, as he considered the need to return to Tanner, Tom’s mounting apprehension had been fueled by the same recurring questions. Could he complete his estate transactions without stirring up any extracurricular unpleasantness? 

From his perspective the stakes were high. A misstep could easily undermine the well-rehearsed rationalizations that kept the distressing reality of his first life at bay. Beyond that was the risk of damaging the carefully constructed framework that made his second incarnation livable. With luck, they would take care of business, show Rick the ocean, and hurry home to Highland City in a matter of days, without creating any unnecessary side issues.


“Grandma. Can Gail and I go pick cherries at Ma Fedder’s this afternoon?” Sandy Harden’s question was directed at the slender, gray-haired woman standing at the kitchen range, stirring scrambled eggs. “Rawlins Market said they'd buy a couple boxes. Would that be all right?”

Truth be told, Sandy Harden was not a big fan of picking cherries. At eighteen, she was certain she had outgrown such adolescent chores years before. But the canneries were not hiring, and spending money was hard to come by. Her cousin, Gail Cannon, was seventeen and even less excited at the prospect of manual labor, but just as desperate for some money of her own. That would be enough to win her cooperation.

Linda Fedder...."Grandma" to Sandy and Gail.... was more than happy to see her young charges express an interest in earning a few extra dollars. Life at the Asylum, Linda’s pet name for the crowded Fedder/Cannon household, required every dollar her clan could scrape together. It had been that way for forty years. The next forty promised to be more of the same.

The well-worn three-bedroom house on Bluff Street that bore Linda's somewhat affectionate label was at least sixty years old. It had been among the first postwar homes built in Tanner, part of a compact subdivision built along the western edge of the old North End neighborhood. 

The area’s homes showed their age, the Asylum more than most. Except for an urgent, debt-financed investment a few years earlier, there had never been funds available to address more than the most urgent roof and plumbing repairs. While the neighbors made their own judgments about the home’s state of disrepair, its five inhabitants no longer noticed such things.

“Sue Ann,” Linda called down the hallway, “Could you stay with Bonnie if the girls go cherry picking this afternoon?” 

Linda’s daughter, Sue Ann Fedder Harden, stepped from the home’s one bathroom with a towel wrapped around her still-dripping head, pausing to mentally leaf through her day’s schedule. 

Then, poking her head into the bedroom at the end of the hall, Sue Ann asked, “Gail, if you can stay with your Mom later this afternoon, I’ll go to town then. That way I can be here with her while you kids go picking. Will that work?” With that matter settled she returned to the bathroom. 

On the surface their few seconds of negotiated accommodation may have seemed a complicated thing. For the parties involved such compromise and cooperation were simply a necessary part of life at the Asylum.

It was Saturday. Linda Fedder would not be working her regular seven to four weekday shift as Assistant Manager at Gilroy’s, the North End’s busiest restaurant. The weekend, however, brought no such relief from her seven day a week job.... clerking from six to nine each night at a north-side convenience store.

For twelve years, ever since her ex-husband had skipped town in the company of the minister’s wife, Sue Ann had worked at the sprawling paper mill just south of town, the last four years on the all-night graveyard shift. 

During the school year Sandy and Gail meshed their class schedules with Linda and Sue Ann to deal with the family’s most labor intensive obligation....caring for the fifth member of the household, Bonnie Cannon, who was Linda’s niece, Sue Ann’s cousin, and Gail’s mother.

For most of Gail’s seventeen years, she and her mother had lived across town, near the south-end freeway interchange. With no apparent need for a man in her life, Bonnie had operated her own beauty shop, while thriving as an independent, tough-loving single mother.

That state of affairs had ended three and a half years before, when a horrific automobile accident claimed the life of Bonnie’s mother, Terrie. Bonnie had escaped with her life, but was left paralyzed from the waist down. For years prior to the accident, Linda Fedder and her sister, Terrie, had barely spoken to each other. Bonnie had grown up in the same town as her Aunt Linda and cousin Sue Ann, yet they had remained strangers.

For days after the accident Linda had struggled with her options, trying to understand what she owed her sister’s family. In the end she had made the only choice she could. Bonnie and Gail moved into the Asylum, with Linda, Sue Ann and Sandy. They had nowhere else to go.

From that point on, Bonnie’s care had become a family affair. In time the icy gulf between Linda and Bonnie melted....partly of necessity, partly the result of a growing respect for each other. From the wreckage of broken bodies and shattered relationships they had salvaged a chaotic, but functional family.

“It sounds like we have everything covered for today,” Linda said, putting the last of the dirty dishes into the nearly full sink. “Is that right?” The girls nodded their agreement. “Okay. Now then, why don’t you two get Bonnie up?”

"Getting Bonnie up" was, in fact, a carefully choreographed exercise requiring the skilled assistance of one or more strong helpers, and the concentrated efforts of Bonnie herself. To be sure, there were more technologically advanced ways of transferring a patient from bed to wheelchair, and back. Those other options were also very expensive. The Fedder household relied on the low budget approach....strong backs and a determined patient.

Finally, with her Saturday as organized as it was likely to become, Linda Fedder poured herself the last of the coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. She savored those infrequent moments of quiet, when for a minute or two there were no immediate demands, no expectation that "Grandma will take care of that." The kids were older now. Hopefully that meant her restful interludes might become more frequent.

During those occasional breaks she was sometimes visited by pleasant thoughts of a better time, a time before those trials, when the future looked more hopeful. Invariably, it took only seconds for those Pollyannish daydreams to give way to harsh recollections of the day when her youthful hopes had been washed away by waves of hurtful reality.

There had been a time when she allowed herself to dwell on those toxic memories, soaking up the justified hatred they allowed. In time, however, she had learned that those flashes of unbridled anger hurt only herself. Setting aside the consuming need to blame was the only way to free herself from its disabling grip.

When she viewed her world from that perspective, Linda Fedder was actually thankful for how well things had turned out. Her neighbors, and the North End at large, could make their jokes about the threadbare and sometimes unruly Fedder clan. She, on the other hand, was rather proud of how well her brood had weathered their storms.

    A moment later the present returned to intrude on her reverie. “Mom, why don’t you go back to your room and take a nap. You look bushed.” 

Sue Ann rested a hand on her mother’s shoulder. “Bonnie will do the ironing, and I’m taking the washing down to the Laundromat to dry. I’ll be back before the girls leave for Ma Fedder’s. It’s your day off. You don’t have to work until six. If you don’t catch up on your sleep now, it’ll be another week before you can.”

Linda reached up to pat Sue Ann’s hand. They were good girls....her Sue Ann and sister Terrie’s Bonnie. In spite of their own personal traumas, they were instrumental in helping maintain the fragile balance that made the Asylum a productive, if slightly-unorthodox, venture.