Thursday, April 29, 2021

GOING HOME - Chapter 17


    For years she had been the past he hoped to forget. Why then was he mulling a new, unlikely way of remembering?

    At the Orchard House the boy was waiting impatiently. Would he and the girl be allowed one last evening together? What if they were denied? Would she be willing to join his open rebellion?


From Tom Fedder’s perspective Paul Corin’s sealed-bid auction had produced a most satisfactory result. A week earlier he would have considered that unexpected outcome a complete success.... cause for a satisfying, even triumphant return to Highland City. Instead, still sitting in Paul’s office, that fiscal victory was feeling a bit hollow. Something was missing....and he was sure he knew what it was.

“Here’s the deal,” Tom began, setting his papers on the corner of the desk. “I told you before that Bob Cannon came calling a few nights ago. He laid in on pretty thick, about how hard Linda’s had it.”

“I remember.” The attorney had settled back, wondering where his friend’s explanation was leading. “You were talking about giving her some of your mom’s furniture. Right?”

“Yeah. But there’s another part I didn’t explain then. Bob told me that a few years back Linda refinanced her home to make some improvements. 

"It seems that since then she’s had a hard time making the payments on that loan. According to him there’s a chance she could lose the place. He made a big deal of really wound up. Do you know anything about that?”

“There’s no reason I would,” Paul answered. “And if I did I probably couldn’t tell you about it. If it’s a bank loan you’re talking about, chances are she dealt with Ron Clifton here at the North End branch, or maybe Cindy Carter at the credit union downtown. They’d be the ones to talk to.”

“Here’s what I have in mind," Tom continued. "I want to pay off that loan, from the sale of Mom’s house. But I don’t want Linda to know about it. Not that it was me. I just want it done. Could you arrange that?”

“Using proceeds from the sale?”


“Let me explain a few things,” Paul nodded. “The loan information, what you’d need to pay it off, is confidential. They can’t be handing those details out to you. There are rules against that.”


Paul’s toothy grin was giving him away. "Okay. If she’s dealing with Ron or Cindy, I’d be willing to ask for a payoff balance. They know Linda. Chances are either of them would be willing to give you a hand, with just that one number. But if it’s one of the downtown lenders or one of the big chain banks it would be a lot harder to get done.”

Paul paused to read Tom’s reaction. “In any case, even if we knew the exact payoff amount, the tricky part would be doing it without her knowing how it happened and where the money came from.”

“Please see what you can do.”

Paul turned to a fresh page in his yellow pad and paused to scribble a few notes. “Okay. You’re saying you want to pay the full balance. Can you give me a ball park figure?”

“I have no idea. Bob didn’t say.”

“Hold on. You’re offering to pay off her loan.... and you don’t have any idea how much it might be? As your attorney, may I suggest that’s not too smart?”

“Come on, Paul. Everyone says her place is really run down. I’ve driven past it. It’s not much to look at. A loan on it can’t be too much. Just look at the bid we received for Mom’s place. Seems to me I can afford to cover it.”
   “And you’re ready to spend as much as it takes on Linda’s debt?” Paul was ready to reel his friend back to reality. 

“Hey, it probably won’t take much at all. Just pay the damn thing off. That’s all I’m asking  But don’t tell her what you’ve done until I’m gone. And don’t tell her it came from me.”

“Come on, Tom. Get serious.” Paul was shedding his professional persona for a more natural role of concerned friend. “When word gets out that you’ve sold the Fedder property, and you know it will, it won’t take her long to figure out where the money came from?”

“Let her guess if she wants. But don’t tell her.”  

Paul stood and leaned over the wide glass-topped desk. “Look, you’re paying for my advice. It’s my job to give you the best counsel I can. That means I’ll start by trying to find out who holds the loan and how much it's for. If I can do that, then we can talk about what comes next. That’s the only way I’m willing to do it.”

“Okay. You find out.” Tom paused, asking himself why every good idea seemed to come with its own set of drawbacks? “Do you have any idea how long it would take for that? We’re planning to leave in the morning.”

“Why didn’t you think of your great idea last week?” Paul laughed. “That would have fit your schedule a lot better.”

“I’m sorry.” Tom felt no need to explain that when he first learned of Linda’s plight, days before, it had not registered as something for him to address. But having met her again, and visited with Sue Ann, that had changed. 

“I should have figured it out sooner,” he confessed. “But I didn’t. So how long will it take?”

“That depends on how cooperative the lender is. If she’s dealing with Ron Clifton, and there’s a good chance she is, I might be able to get a number this afternoon. The transaction itself would not be too complicated. Let’s see if we can find out the amount, then we can review the whole idea one more time to see if it makes sense.”

“Paul, I’m going to do this.” Tom was growing more insistent by the minute. “The question is, how long will it take?”

“Under normal circumstances, we could wrap it up in no more than a few days.” The attorney was reading his friend’s noticeable disappointment. “In this case, if we’re working with Ron, I expect we could get it done tomorrow. That would set your schedule back a day. Is that a good trade off for you?”

One more day of waiting....another day of keeping the boy and his granddaughter from their own craziness. Surely he could manage that. “That would work for me.”

“Why don’t you come by in the morning?” Paul took a moment to pull up his Tuesday appointment calendar on the computer screen. “I could squeeze you in at nine o’clock. By then I’ll have a better idea of what we can do and how long it would take.”

 Leaving Paul’s office Tom retraced his steps to the pickup. Once there he closed his eyes and rested his forehead on the steering wheel. For a very long time Linda Fedder had been the face of a past he wanted to forget. Until that is, sometime in the middle of a sleepless night, when the first stirrings of change had surfaced. 

Those initial urgings had arrived in what he took to be a midnight dream, until he checked the glowing digital clock for the third time and realized that he had been awake for nearly an hour.... replaying Bob Cannon’s vivid recital of Linda’s trials and his own role in the price she had paid. That morning he awoke knowing it was time to do the right thing. Now, if only Paul could find a way to make it happen.


At the Orchard House Rick Levant had spent his Monday morning in a state of anxious waiting. He did the dishes, put out a last load of wash, and straightened up every room in the exercise that struck him as particularly futile in a home scheduled for demolition.

By noon the clock had shifted into a lower, even slower gear. He tried to keep busy, but could not move beyond his increasingly stressful question. What if Dad said “No”? What if he and Sue Ann had decided he could not see Sandy again?

The boy was no stranger to parental rules and restrictions. They had always been a part of growing up. Along the way there had been times when the rules were bent, occasionally even broken, but almost always in ways he considered petty and insignificant. 

This was different. Could he be expected to obey his dad’s simplistic dictates about something so important? The more he wondered about that, the more indignant he grew. Elaborate schemes began to surface, ways to evade or avoid their unwelcome constraints. 

Those tempting mind games had continued until a totally different question finally jerked him back to reality. Would Sandy be willing to take part in an open rebellion? If not, what were his options?

Finally at two-fifteen Tom Fedder pulled into the driveway, back from lunch with Sue Ann and his meeting with Paul Corin. He came in the back door, through the house, and out to the front porch, where he found the boy sitting on the steps. 

“Hi there, son,” he said as he sat down beside him. “You have a good morning?”

“I guess so.” Rick made no effort to hide his harsh frustration. “Kind of boring. Not much to do. How about you?”

“First class in every way. I can’t remember a better day.” 

Tom’s broad smile and upbeat mood were much too smug for Rick’s mood. “You had lunch with Sue Ann?”

“Sure did. A good one too. That girl of mine is something special. I should have known her a long time ago.” He paused, hoping to coax a happier look from Rick. “If you’re going to have a sister, and that’s kind of what she is, I’d say you’ve got yourself a real winner.”

“She’s not my sister.” The boy’s surliness was still on display. "She’s Sandy’s mom. How can she be my sister?”

If Tom was inclined to continue his half-joking recital he thought better of it. Obviously the boy was in no mood for light-hearted banter. Something else was in order. 

“I had a good meeting with Paul Corin."

“He found a buyer?” Rick asked. 

“He sure did. We got a fair price and the papers are signed.”

“So we leave in the morning?”

“Well, we do need to be getting back home. That’s true. Gus has been tending the store for over a week now. I owe him some time off.” 

In truth, Tom was not sure how to introduce the notion of an extra day or two in Tanner. How would his son, and granddaughter, deal with the opportunity for more time together? “The thing is,” he continued. “Something else has come up with Paul. Something that will take at least an extra day to sort out, maybe more.”

“We’re not going tomorrow?” Rick perked up at that surprising news. 

“Nope.” Even in the face of his son’s dark mood the old man could not resist one last tease. “Tell you what, since we have some extra time on our hands, I think I’ll take one last walk around the old neighborhood. You want to come along?”

“I’ll pass. It’s not my old neighborhood.”

“Suit yourself,” Tom stood, patted the boy on the shoulder and started inside. “I’ll see you later.”

Before he reached the front door Rick was standing behind him, posing his question. “You forgot, didn’t you?”

Wiping the grin from his face Tom turned and asked with apparent nonchalance, “Forgot what?” By then he was biting his lip to keep from laughing at Rick’s stoney glare.

“About Sandy and me. About tonight? You forgot. You didn’t even talk to her mom about it, did you?”

“What about tonight?” Tom was trying his best for a serious, wondering expression as he watched the boy’s lips tighten and his eyes flash. An instant later the old man’s laughter escaped. 

“Damn it, son. You are a sad-looking sight for sure. Did you really think you couldn’t trust your old man to get things done?”

The hint of a grin broke across Rick’s face. “You did talk to her. Didn’t you? Can we go? Can we?”

With his hands on the boy’s shoulders Tom turned serious. “Yeah, you can," he nodded. "But it comes with some strings attached. You’d best pay attention to those. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Sandy’s mother is very concerned about you two getting carried away, whether you can deal with that.” 

Tom was leading them toward what had always been an uncomfortable conversational space. Yet he had to go there. He owed that much to Sue Ann. “You understand, this is my granddaughter we’re talking about. I take that very personally. I want you to take that very seriously.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So we decided that you can have your dinner and movie,” he continued. “Sandy’s mother has agreed to that. But the girl will be home by eleven o’clock. You got that?”

“Eleven o’clock? But .....”

“No 'buts.' Eleven o’clock.” Tom stepped back, trying to meet the boy’s down-turned stare. “Sue Ann is showing a lot of faith in you, son. I’m not sure you’ve earned it. But she’s willing to cut you some slack. 

“So let me give you some advice. If you think you want to know Sandy better you’re going to want her mother on your side. In that case, you mustn’t give her any more reasons to doubt you. You hear?” With that Tom pulled the screen door open and stepped back into the house.

“Thanks, Dad.”

Without looking back Tom answered. “You’re welcome.”

Three minutes later Sandy had heard the good news....and the not-so-good restrictions. “That’s okay,” she assured him. “At least we’ll have the night together.”

“What if I came by at five-thirty? Would that work? That way we can get an early start.” He hung up and started toward the garage to find his dad. They met on the back porch.

“I thought I’d be seeing you again,” Tom joked. “I expect you’re looking for some spending money, eh?” He handed the boy three twenty-dollar bills. “You buy her a nice dinner. Okay?”


It was five o’clock and Rick was running ahead of schedule. That was not surprising, given his undisguised eagerness. He scolded himself for not having brought something nicer to wear, then dressed himself in the best he had....clean jeans and a light-blue sport shirt, tucked in to add a hint of formality. Brushing out his long, shiny hair he paused to wonder if he should braid it for the special occasion. Back home he might have done that. But this was different. Was Tanner ready to accept the traditional Blackfoot three-braid styling? Probably not, he decided.

Pacing nervously from one end of the house to the other, it felt as though the clock was moving more slowly than ever. As much as he wanted to be on his way, he was equally sure it was a time for making good impressions, especially on Sue Ann. It would not do to arrive too early.

Meanwhile the boy’s grim impatience was almost more than Tom could bear. “Damn it, son. You’re going to be a nervous wreck before you ever get there. Just calm down.”

“How can I? It’s our last date.” That was enough to trigger a new possibility, based on his dad’s announcement that they would be spending another day in Tanner. “Though maybe not,” he noted hopefully. “You said we’ll be here tomorrow. Right?”

By then Tom was prepared to nip that kind of thinking in the bud. “This will be your last date,” he said firmly. “Tonight is a one-time reprieve. Don’t expect another. I know for sure that Sandy’s going to be a busy girl tomorrow. She’ll be spending the day helping her Uncle Bob.”

“Can’t I even see her again?”

“I didn’t say that. But don’t be thinking about any more dates. You got that? And remember what I told you. That’s my granddaughter who’ll be sitting beside you tonight. You keep that in mind.” 

There was no reason for Tom to elaborate on the unspoken deja-vu his own words produced. How old had he been when his own father first cautioned, “Just keep your pants buttoned, boy.?”

Even now, nearly fifty years later, he could still recall the urgent reality of those ‘carried away’ moments. Hopefully these youngsters would be able to resist those same urgings.

“Dad. I’ll remember. Okay?” Rick was in no mood for another lecture. With one last look at the clock he concluded it would not hurt to be a little early.

At the front door of the Asylum Gail could hardly contain her giggly grin as she motioned Rick inside. “Sandy,” she yelled. “He’s here.” 

Sue Ann appeared from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “Gail, there’s no reason to be so loud. Come in, Rick.”

He had never faced a moment quite like that....a formal audience with Sue Ann, then seconds later, Linda. It felt as though he was on display, with every word and action being scrutinized. It was no time to stumble. He had to get it right. Trying for his most ingratiating smile he prayed that Sandy would hurry.

Suddenly, with no further preliminaries, Sue Ann stepped forward to make her point. “You’re aware of Sandy’s curfew?” 

From Rick’s perspective her bluntness was helpful. There would be no beating around the bush, no word games. She was prepared to get straight to the point. That worked for him. 

“Yes, Ma’am. I promised my dad. And I’m promising you. She’ll be home by eleven o’clock.”

“And I expect the two of you to be grown up enough to behave yourselves.” 

He turned away from Sue Ann’s stare, keeping his laugh to himself. "Behaving" and "Not getting carried away" seemed to be on everyone’s mind. If anything, he found that part of her message a bit confusing....her insistence that they act "grown up." For some reason he had understood that being "grown up" was what made such things acceptable. 

For her part Linda managed to cover her own grin, stifling the urge to ask what suddenly qualified her daughter as an expert on teenage abstinence.

The only vocal response to Sue Ann’s well- intentioned advice came from Sandy, who had just walked into the room. “Mother!” she exclaimed. “How could you? We’re going to dinner and a movie. That’s all. What do you suppose he’s going to think, hearing you talk like that?” 

At once Rick sensed the uncomfortable glare of five feminine stares boring in on him. At least it felt that way. With no way to retreat, he resorted to his own offense. 

“It’s okay, Sandy.” He was smiling, wanting to appear calm. “I heard the same thing from my dad.” Turning to Sue Ann he added, “I told him there was no need to worry. I’m telling you the same thing.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

GOING HOME - Chapter 16


    It was a bit surreal, the notion of lunch with her father. He had been so absent in her life. How would he act? Did he really hate her?

    He had never known a day like that....lunch with his daughter, then an unsettling meeting with the attorney, reviewing bids for the Orchard House.

                              Chapter 16

From the moment the idea first crossed Tom Fedder’s mind, having lunch with Sue Ann had seemed like a good idea. Nothing had happened to change that. So why did the nervous butterflies have his stomach churning like that? A single phone-call to his own daughter would confirm their arrangements. Why should that be generating such anxiety?

By eleven-thirty Monday morning he could put it off no longer. Pawing through a stack of papers and books destined for the dumpster, he located the Tanner phone book, found Linda Fedder’s number, then paused long enough for a surge of “Linda” thoughts to pass. Moments later Sandy handed the phone to her mother. 

 “I hope you haven’t changed your mind,” Tom said. “I’m ready for some lunch.”

“Me too. Come on over.” A moment later Sue Ann was adding her own proviso. “And when you get here, please come inside for a few minutes. You’ve already met Sandy, but Bonnie and Gail are anxious to meet you too.”

“Couldn’t you just come out to the car?” he asked. What was she talking about....making their private lunch a public event? “I’m sorry. I’m really not ready to see the whole family right now. Couldn’t we keep this for the two of us.”

“I’d like you to meet them, that’s all,” Sue Ann pleaded. “It wouldn’t take but a minute.”

“Please. You just come out to the car and we’ll be off to lunch. Okay?” 

With a dejected sigh Sue Ann agreed. “I’ll be ready when you get here.” She had lost round one. What did that mean for the rest of their visit? 

Minutes later, when Tom drove up in front of the Asylum, Sue Ann walked down the front steps and across the lawn to the Audi. From the living room window three pair of eyes watched him step around the front of the car to hold the door for her.

“This is Ma Fedder’s car,” she observed.

“It was," he nodded. "My pickup is kind of a mess. It’s loaded for the trip home. Besides, this is a little classier for a special occasion like this.”

As he pulled out to the street and started down Bluff Avenue Sue Ann was reminding herself that their time together was his idea. Let him take the lead. Yet having decided that was not enough to stop her own wondering. What would he have to say? Would she have the nerve to broach her own questions....the ones she had waited a lifetime to ask?

“This part of town has changed so much,” Tom noted as he turned on to the Old Highway. “It’s hard to find much of anything I remember.”

You’ve been gone a long time. You have to expect that.”

“I suppose so.” A few seconds later he was asking, “I saw a restaurant out by the highway interchange. Is it any good?”

“I guess so. I haven’t heard anything bad about it.”

“Would that be okay?” There was no need to explain the obvious. Lunching with his daughter at Gilroy’s, during what he had been told was Linda’s shift, was more than he was ready to deal with.

“That would be fine.”

In a booth next to the front window they placed their order. A moment later Tom was fidgeting with his silverware as he leaned forward, hoping to keep their conversation private. “I’m not sure where to begin,” he admitted. “There’s so much I don’t know about you....what you’ve done, what you’ve gone through.”

Noting his hesitation, Sue Ann wondered out loud, “Are you sure this was a good idea?”

“Oh yes. This needs to happen. After all, you’re my daughter. It may be a bit awkward, but I want us to get acquainted. I didn’t realize that at first, when Sandy suggested I should see you. But when I saw you at the house I knew right away that we needed some time together.”

That was enough to win her smile. “I wasn’t sure I’d have the nerve to come see you," she explained. "Even though I wanted to. If Sandy hadn’t run off like that I don’t suppose we’d have met at all.”

“Funny how things worked out, isn’t it?” Once again Tom was dwelling on the truth to it. He had spent so much of his life fending off thoughts of her. Long ago, always-pleasant recollections of the new baby in their house had been pushed to the back of his mind, covered over, but never erased. 

It was a bit disconcerting to realize that the sights, sounds, and smells of that time still remained....powerful and evocative, waiting to be revived. As hard as he had sometimes tried to forget all that, he never had.

Pausing as their sandwiches were set before them, he continued. “It sounds like your marriage didn’t work out so well.” At once he wondered why he had chosen to start there of all places.

Perhaps Sue Ann saw the irony in his question. With a sardonic grin she replied, “No, it didn’t. I guess he thought he’d found someone better. Took off with the minister’s wife. Funny, eh? That kind of stuff seems to run in the family.”

Tom was unwilling to let his response sound like a joke. His message was too serious for that. He reached across the table for her hand. “Maybe that’s a better place for us to start. Because you must understand....that is not what happened to me. It’s not what happened to your mother and me. 

“I didn’t leave with anyone. I didn’t go to anyone else. I left, that’s true. But it had nothing to do with my feelings for you or your mother. Those had not changed one bit. There was no one better than her, not in the whole world. And certainly no one better than you. I knew that when I left.”

Sue Ann stared conspicuously at their still-clasped hands, wondering what to make of his unexpected declaration. Then without prompting, she blurted out her own question. “Then you didn’t hate me?”

“Hate you?” Tom pushed his plate to the side and leaned forward. “Where did you get that crazy idea?”

“I guess I’ve always wondered. I couldn’t figure out why else you would have gone. My girl friends had dads who said they loved them, who stayed with them. I didn’t have that. I thought maybe I’d done something to make you hate me, something to make you run away.”

Retrieving the last of his sandwich, Tom turned to look out the window....focusing on his own pleasant memories, seeming to talk to himself.

“You were the cutest little thing. I used to hold you and be absolutely amazed at how perfect you were, and how small. I’ll bet you felt that same way with Sandy, didn’t you?”

She was nodding, pulled along by the warmth of his quiet affirmation.

“When you got a little older,” he continued, “I’d play with you on the floor. You’d laugh and squeal. I never got tired of that. It was great fun.”

“I don’t remember any of that. I suppose I was too young. After you left there was never a picture of you around the house, so I didn’t even knew what you looked like.”

“I guess I can understand that. But I promise that my leaving had nothing to do with you.”

Suddenly it dawned on him. He had never once told her, at least not that she would remember. Again he reached for her hand. “I always loved you, Sue Ann. Always. Even when I didn’t realize it, I loved you and I missed you.” He gave her hand a squeeze.

Looking across at him, her tear-filled eyes were not focusing well. Reaching for a tissue from her purse she patted her cheeks. “Thank you,” she said softly. “I guess I’ve wanted to hear that for as long as I can remember.”

“I’m sorry it took so long.”

A few minutes later they walked across the parking lot to the car. He held the door for her, at least until she stopped short and turned back to him. “Can I ask for one more favor?” 

“Of course.”

“I’m forty-one years old. And I don’t remember ever hugging my father.”

Without another word her favor was granted. Tom pulled her close, his arms around her, his chin resting on the top of her head. With one hand he reached up to wipe the tears from his own eyes. Stepping back, he was grinning, “Thank you, little girl.”

They were in the car, with their seat-belts buckled, before Tom remembered his last piece of business. “There is one more thing,” he said, shaking his head at the unlikely prospect. “I nearly forgot. You’ll need to shift gears for a minute, from being my daughter, to being the mother of my son’s girlfriend. At least I think that’s what he considers her.”

This time Sue Ann provided her own soft laugh. “Is that strange or what? My dad’s son has got my daughter all excited.”

“I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Rick is not really my son. If he was we would certainly have something bizarre on our hands.”

“I know that,” she said. “But it’s still pretty crazy. I’m not sure how it all began, but it seems to have got serious in a hurry.”

“You can’t remember that far back?” He was  reminding himself again that he had missed out on those times in her life. “When things are right, it can happen very fast.”

“I can tell you for sure that she would never have run off with any of the other boys she’s known. I know she's liked a couple of them. But not like that.”

“What can I say?” he joked. “She’s showing extremely good taste. He’s a good boy.” 

With that Tom stopped short. Was it his place to be endorsing their budding involvement at the very time he and Rick were leaving? Still, having come that far, he needed to finish his thought. “And, of course, I have to admire his good judgment. My granddaughter is a real sweetie.”

Sue Ann was ready for a reality check. “Dad.” She paused. “Can I call you that?”

“Of course. I’d like that.”

“Good,” she continued. “The thing is, you and the boy are leaving. Sandy probably won’t see him for a long time, if ever. I don’t think I want to encourage her too much. Chances are she’d just get hurt. That seems to run in our family, if you'll remember.”

Pushing himself back in his seat, Tom was again wondering how things had become so complicated. It had taken Rick about twenty-four hours to scuttle his original plan for an under-the-radar return to Tanner. Since then it seemed the boy had managed at least one surprise every single day. Apparently that was not about to change.

“Here’s my problem, Sue Ann. I told Rick that I’d talk to you about the two of them going out tonight. I think he’s already mentioned that to you. It’s their last chance to have some time together ....and I’m inclined to let him go. I can remember how much I’d have wanted that when I was his age.”

“You really are an old softie, aren’t you?” Sue Ann was shaking her head as she fiddled with the strap of her purse. “The thing is, Sandy ran off without permission. You don’t think she deserves to be punished?”

“It’s not my place to tell you how to deal with your daughter.” Tom was willing to admit that much, even as he offered his own spin. “But suppose you gave her whatever punishment you think she deserves, to be served after he’s gone. That way they could still go out tonight.”

“Oh, I know exactly what she deserves,” Sue Ann countered. “I’ve already arranged for that. I talked with Uncle Bob, mom’s brother, this morning. He’s been planning to paint most of the rooms in their house. He was quite happy to hear that Sandy was ‘volunteering’ to lend a hand, starting tomorrow. He needs the help and she needs to be helping, whether she knows it or not.”

“Sounds like you’re on top of that,” he nodded. “Which still leaves me wondering about tonight. Do we let them have a night together before we leave.”

By then Tom was picking up her distress. Clearly Sue Ann was dealing with something more than a simple yes or no answer. “What is it, honey?” he asked.

Looking up, she took a moment to let his use of a pet name sink in, noting again that it was a day of firsts. “I guess I’m kind of frightened,” she finally admitted. 

“They’re old enough to get carried away....for things to happen. Their feelings seem so strong. They know they’ll be apart after tonight.” Her subtle shrug mirrored her question. “Do you think they can deal with all that?”

His first impulse was to wave off her concerns. Perhaps that was his notion of the required male response. 

On second thought, however, Tom found himself face to face with an earlier understanding. They were talking about his son and his granddaughter. He wanted only the best for each of them. Was a long leash, on an emotionally charged evening, a good idea?

“I can’t answer that for you, Sue Ann. But I have a lot of faith in Rick. I expect him to do the right thing, even when it’s tempting not to. I’m willing to let him go if you decide that Sandy can. If you say she can’t, that’s what I’ll tell him.”

In the end, like her father, Sue Ann yielded to her own need to trust Sandy, unwilling to accept that she could not. “Okay,” she said with more self-assurance than she felt. “We’ll let them go. But I expect Sandy to be home by eleven o’clock. They certainly don’t need to be parked out in the hills until the wee hours.”

“How would you know about that sort of thing?” Tom winked. 

“I remember my girl friends talking about it. Back in high school.” There was little humor in her subdued laugh.


At one thirty-five Tom was ushered down the hall to Paul Corin’s office. There the attorney nodded to acknowledge Tom’s arrival as he moved a stack of papers to a back counter. Finally, with everything in order, he stood to shake Tom’s hand.

In that moment it required no special insight to detect Paul’s upbeat mood. In a business that too often focused on disappointment and depressing reality, he was taking particular pleasure in being the bearer of good news. 

Taking a manilla folder from the corner of his desk he paused to leaf through the papers before announcing, “I think our bid process went well, Tom. We did fine. We didn’t quite hit my target, but we came damn close.”

“Come on, don’t keep me in suspense. What have you got?”

Obviously Paul was not above stringing his friend along. News that good was too rare to hurry. “I told you before," he began. "We had six investors look at the property. By noon today, which was the deadline, we had received four offers, each with the required ten percent bid deposit.”

“What turned the others off? That can’t be good news, can it?”

“We don’t care about the two who didn’t submit. It’s the four who did that matter,” Paul answered as he spread four single pages across the front of the desk. 

By then Tom was leaning forward, looking for numbers, hopefully big numbers. In the jumble of small print he could not locate the amounts, so he sat back in his chair and let Paul carry on. 

“I didn’t tell you before,” Paul began. “But my target was five hundred fifty thousand.” 

“Five hundred fifty thousand dollars! That’s crazy. For four acres of cherry orchard?”

“Oh, no. For four acres of the most desirable residential development property in town.” 

“You’d better believe I had nothing like that in mind,” Tom explained. “When you talked about half a million the other day I thought that was a pipe dream. I knew the place is valuable, but nothing like that.”

Paul walked around the desk to stand leaning against the front edge. “Why don't we see what your bidders think it’s worth. After all, they’re the experts.” 

Picking up a page he ran his finger down to the Bid Amount line. “Here’s the first one. They entered a bid of four hundred forty thousand. How does that sound?”

“Four hundred forty? Thousand?” Tom was suddenly doing mental math on a scale he had never attempted before. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.” Though Paul was laughing, by then he had decided a reality check was in order. “Don’t forget though, there may be taxes to consider, depending on the size of the estate.” He was grinning at the sight of his befuddled client. “Like I said the other day, we’ll bring in a CPA to help sort out that part. The point is, don’t be spending your windfall until we know for sure.”

“Paul, when you talked about numbers like that the other day I thought it was a sales pitch. I know it didn’t sink in. But you really have someone willing to pay four hundred forty thousand dollars for the orchard?”

“Yes I do. But don’t tune me out too fast. Let’s look at the other bids first.” He gathered the remaining bid papers and held out a second page. “How about four hundred seventy thousand? There, you just made thirty thousand dollars. Isn’t this fun?”

Tom was on his feet, pacing across the office and back, straining to comprehend the scale of Paul’s numbers. “You’ve got to be kidding,” was the best he could muster.

“If you don’t like that.” Paul was having trouble containing his delight. “Would you settle for five hundred and five thousand?” 

“Oh, my God.”

“Or finally.” Paul held up the last page. “The grand champion. Five hundred forty-two thousand dollars and no cents. That’s a nice number, isn’t it?”

“Five forty-two?” Tom felt a rush of faintness. Reaching for his chair, he sat down.

“Before taxes,” Paul added again. “If there are any. Less, of course, a modest bill from your attorney.” By then there was no holding back his happy laughter. “All you have to do is sign the offer sheet.”

Sitting silently, his chin on his chest, Tom was doing his best to make sense of Paul’s news. Had the attorney thought of everything? Was it as certain as he made it sound? 

“Do they have that kind of money?” he finally asked. “Are they good for it? What if they can’t pay?”

“Are they good for it? You bet they are. Their bid includes a ten-percent deposit of fifty-four thousand plus, which is yours as soon as you sign their offer. 

"And I can assure you the balance is pocket change to them. The real question is, are you ready to accept their bid? Like I told you before, we may be able to get a higher offer if we take more time and cast a wider net. We could advertise for a few weeks and try for more.” 

“Are you kidding,” Tom laughed. “This is exactly how I wanted it. It’s quick and the price is more than fair.”

“If you’re sure about that, we’ll go ahead.” Paul picked up the phone and dialed his secretary. A few seconds later he turned back to Tom. “If you’re ready to sign, Sarah will come in and notarize your signatures.”

Four signatures later, each one duly notarized, Tom had formally accepted the winning bid. One of the signatures had assigned the bid deposit to Paul Corin’s escrow account, from which it would be dispersed when the sale was finalized. 

“That’s all there is to it?” Tom asked sheepishly, still trying to digest his good fortune.

“That’s all for now. With the Power of Attorney you just signed, I can complete the paperwork. You can go on home and wait for the final documents and, of course, the final bank transfer.” With that Paul stood to walk them to the front office, until Tom motioned for him to wait. “Is there something else?” the attorney asked.

“In fact there is," Tom replied. "It’s something that kept me awake last night.” 

He was plowing new, perhaps rocky ground now. For years Linda’s well-being had never crossed his mind. Yet at some point in the middle of the night he had concluded it ought to be considered. It seemed he owed her that much. “This might be a little trickier, but I’m sure you can manage it.” 

“You’ve got another job for me?” Paul laughed. “Sounds like you’re full of ideas this morning.”

Sunday, April 25, 2021

GOING HOME - Chapter 15

    How was a mother to act....wanting to scold, yet relieved at her daughter's return? Then, before she could sort that out, the boy was back, asking for more.

    At the Orchard House the old man too was wondering how to make his point....even as he remembered the youthful times his son spoke of.

                            Chapter 15

In the Asylum driveway Rick and Sandy, fresh from their beach adventure, stepped from the Audi to find Gail and Sue Ann waiting on the front porch. Seconds later Linda pushed Bonnie’s wheelchair through the doorway and the four of them watched as the young pair approached. Reaching for Sandy’s hand, Rick gave it a squeeze. She answered with a wink and nudged him on toward the house.

For a moment their silent return had the feel of a wild-west showdown, an early-evening ‘High Noon.’ Sandy advanced slowly pulling Rick along, waiting for someone to say something. The boy’s first impulse may have been to turn away, but that was not an option. 

On the porch the four scowling faces were trying their best to hide their welcome relief. Sue Ann bit her lip, determined to maintain the stern appearance of parental control, even as her nervous laughter threatened to escape. 

As the pair drew closer she stepped forward, took a deep breath and prepared to make her point. “You have some serious explaining to do, young lady. Do you have any idea how worried we’ve been?” 

With Sandy’s attention riveted on her mother, Rick was scanning the other faces. Finally he stepped up beside her to state his case. “Ma’am,” he said. “It was all my fault. It was my idea. I talked her into it.”

Sue Ann’s stern stare had turned toward the boy as she replied. “I don’t suppose that took a lot of talking. It wasn’t a hard sell, was it?”

How could Rick show the deference he intended when he wanted to laugh out loud? “I hope not,” he answered. “But it was still my idea. We went to the coast.”

“So I gather.”

“You knew that?” Sue Ann’s casual confirmation surprised Rick and it was showing. Unless Sandy had told Gail, how would they know that? A quick glance in Sandy's direction seemed to produce no answer.

Sue Ann, however, was in no mood to hide her own good news. “At first we didn’t know where you’d gone,” she explained. By then her maternal resolve was melting into a smile. "Or if she was even with you. So Mom and I visited your dad, to see if he could help us out."

“Really?” That was enough to earn Sandy’s instant attention. “You saw your dad?” Then, turning to her grandmother, “And you went too? That is so cool. You actually talked to him?”

Finally Linda stepped forward, ready to bring some structure to their impromptu homecoming. Nodding for Gail to push her mother back into the house, she suggested, “Why don’t we go inside? There’s no need to be standing out here.”

“I want to hear about you seeing him,” Sandy said as they started inside. In a matter of seconds  she was processing unanswered questions about such a meeting.

Her mother, on the other hand, was not about to be sidetracked. It was time to maintain control. “Sandy Harden, you are in very deep trouble. Don’t you think I’m going to forget that. You’re going to pay for these gray hairs.”

“Just one minute, please.” Rick said as he stepped up on the porch. “Could I say something before I go.”

“What is it?” Sensing the renewed possibility of unwelcome news, Sue Ann tugged at her mother’s sleeve, effectively asking Linda to stay with her. 

“First of all,” he said. “I’m sorry for making you worry. That wasn’t part of the plan.” Sandy was standing beside him now, holding on to his arm. 

“What would you expect?” Sue Ann asked. “Dragging her off to the coast, running all over the country, doing God knows what.”

“Mom!” Sandy blurted. “I hope you don’t mean what I think you mean. Besides, he certainly didn’t drag me anywhere. That is so unfair.”

“Please,” Rick urged. Their conversation was not taking them where he wanted the moment to lead. “I don’t think I ‘dragged’ Sandy. And I guarantee nothing like that happened. 

"The thing is, I feel bad that you worried like you did. But I don’t feel bad about asking her to come with me. I wanted to see the ocean. I wanted to see it with her. And I’m glad we did.”

Sue Ann was not sure what to make of such bluntness. She looked first to Sandy, who was answering with a smile, then to her mother. 

For her part, Linda was of two minds. She was a believer in parents acting like parents. Yet the boy seemed so willing to speak his mind, without relying on the litany of excuses she remembered from Sue Ann’s days with Jim.

“There’s one more thing,” Rick continued, hurrying on before he lost his nerve. “I’ll be leaving Tuesday morning. Going back home.”

“Yes,” Sue Ann replied. “That’s what he said.”

“Before I leave, like tomorrow night, I’d like to take Sandy out to dinner and a movie. I’d like for us to have some more time together.” There, he had said it.

Shaking her head Sue Ann was turning again to her mother, scarcely believing what she was hearing. Where had the boy found the nerve to ask such a thing? She was trying to read her mother’s reaction, but Linda had turned away, hiding the smile Rick’s audacity had produced. 

“Do you understand, young man, that my daughter may be grounded for a month of Sundays?”  

By then Sue Ann’s motherly glare was feeling more natural. “She is in so much trouble she may never get out. She may be in jail forever....sneaking off in the middle of the night like that. And after all that, you have the gall to ask if you can take her out again?”

Rick was struggling to hold back his laughter. In all his years he had never heard such a dramatic scolding. His dad had been known to yell, but never with such colorful emphasis. 

A moment later he was grinning as he explained, “It wasn’t the middle of the night, you know. But yes, Ma’am. I would like to see her again before I go. I believe she’d like that too.”

“And your dad?" Sue Ann paused before adding, "He’s my father too, you know.” She was not sure why that was necessary, but it felt good to say. “Do you think he’ll buy that idea?”

“I hope so. I’ll know in a bit.” He reached out and touched Sandy’s cheek. “I’ll let you know what he says.” With that he skipped down the steps and jogged off toward the car.

“I didn’t say 'yes', young man,” Sue Ann called behind him.

“I know,” Rick answered over his shoulder. “Neither has he.” Waving good bye to Sandy, he ducked into the car.


Shortly after five-fifteen Tom Fedder heard the Audi drive past the living-room window. Stirring from his half nap he sat up to look for the television remote. By then he had already decided he would not meet his son at the door. 

After all, Rick was eighteen, too old to be scolded like a child. Perhaps an adult approach would be more effective. Let the boy come to him, and see how he justified himself. With that in mind Tom picked up his book from the side table, settled back on the sofa, and tried for the believable nonchalance he hoped to display.

For what seemed like minutes he waited to hear the kitchen screen door close. But apparently Rick was in no hurry to make his entrance. Perhaps he was not sure what to expect. If so, his dad was just as uncertain. He had spent his afternoon wondering where that conversation might take them. 

Certainly Rick was old enough to make his own choices, a practice Tom generally encouraged. Apparently, in the instance at hand, the boy’s choice had been Sandy. At that point Tom’s allegiance began to blur. Should he hope that his son found the girl willing to return his interest, or instead that his granddaughter might be delivered from the overeager affections of any young buck, including his own son?

He laid the book on his lap, revisiting that surprising dilemma. He was, however, no closer to an answer when the back screen slammed shut and soft, unhesitant footsteps came toward the living room. Grabbing the book, he returned to the page he had already read twice.

Seconds later Rick rounded the corner to find his dad thoroughly engrossed in his book. In fact, he appeared surprised when he looked up to see the boy standing in front of him. 

The ironic paradox was certainly not lost on the youngster. At the Asylum the ladies had gathered on the porch, greeting their return in force, pressing for an explanation. Meanwhile, at the Orchard House his dad seemed to hardly notice he had been gone.

“Hi, Dad.” After having prepared himself so thoroughly for his exchange with Sue Ann, Rick had no idea of what to say next. “I’m home.”

“So it would seem.” Deliberately Tom closed his book and set it on the table. He waited a moment to see if the boy was prepared to elaborate, then asked. “You want to tell me about it?”

“Not much to tell. You knew that I wanted to see the ocean. And you probably knew I wanted to spend some time with Sandy. I did them both, at the same time. It was great.”

Tom motioned the boy to the recliner opposite the sofa. “I don’t have a problem with you seeing the ocean,” he said. “It’s how you did it that bothers me. Taking the car without permission. Not telling Sandy’s mother about having her with you. You know better that that. Do you have any idea why you did it that way?”

“Yeah. I guess I do,” Rick nodded, hoping that after all those years his dad could still remember. “I wanted to spend some time with her. I was afraid if I asked, you might say I couldn’t.”

“So you got seriously sneaky. First the car, then the girl. Right?”


“And you managed to get her mother and her grandmother worried and upset. You understand that, don’t you?”

That was enough to deflect the boy’s attention.... triggering instant questions about the ladies' visit. “And they came to see you, didn't they?," he asked. "That’s what they said. I couldn’t believe it. I knew Sandy’s mom wanted to meet you. But I didn’t think her grandma was ready for that.”

“They came calling. We had a nice visit. Probably better than I would have expected. But they didn’t come to see me. They were concerned about Sandy and where she was. 

"I had to explain that my son sometimes forgets to think about other people. When he gets in a selfish space like that, he doesn’t stop to think about how it might affect others.”

“Come on, Dad. I didn’t mean to upset anyone. I know that was wrong. I’ve already apologized to them.” 

Rick was prepared to argue his case, but not before he heard more about his dad's surprising visitors. “So how about you and Sandy’s grandma? Was it okay? Does she really hate you? I’d never have guessed she’d come here.”

“We had a brief, but civil talk. For the most part I talked with Sue Ann, trying to convince her that her daughter was safe as could be.” That brought the old man to a stop, with his obvious question. “She was, wasn’t she?”

“Of course she was.” 

By then their conversation was taking in a less-comfortable tack. They had visited those father-son questions before, on a superficial, "what if" level. Suddenly they were dealing with specifics, rather than the generalities they both preferred. 

“I shouldn’t have to remind you,” Tom continued. “The girl is my granddaughter. I have a personal interest in seeing that she’s treated properly. I’m sure you can understand that.”

“I do,” Rick answered, trying to produce a confident smile. “Besides, I like her too. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt her.”

“I trust you’ll keep that in mind.” Tom pushed himself out of the sofa and walked to the open front door. There he turned back to the boy. “In the meantime, I’ll have to give some thought about an appropriate price for you to pay for your little adventure. We’ll talk about that later.”

Perhaps Tom thought their conversation was over. In the boy’s mind, however, the most important issue had yet to be addressed. “Dad. There’s one more thing.” His normally confident words had turned timid and tentative.

“What’s that?”

“It’s about tomorrow night. I’d like to take Sandy to Tanner, to dinner and a movie.”

Tom’s initial reaction mirrored his disbelief. Rolling his eyes he answered, “Were you listening at all? You messed up big time. You’re in trouble, remember? This is probably not a good time to be asking for special favors.”

“I know that. And if I had the time I’d wait until I’ve served my sentence, whatever that is. But we’re leaving Tuesday. That’s still the plan. Isn’t it?”

“That’s right.”

“So this can’t wait. Tomorrow’s our last night in town.”

“Son. Perhaps we need to talk about the notion of consequences, and what they mean.” What would it take for the boy to get serious? “They're not supposed to be a minor inconvenience. They're meant to make you think twice before you do something dumb again.”

“I understand that. I really do. And I promise I’ll think twice, even three times, from now on. But it might be years before I see her again. It might be never. Is one date too much to ask?”

Though Tom appeared unready to answer his question, Rick was ready with one last appeal. “Dad, I know it’s been a long time. But can't you remember how it was....being with someone really special?”

Though the boy might not have guessed it, Tom Fedder did remember....more clearly than his son could have imagined. Though he might have been willing to debate the dubious value of one more date with someone who would then disappear forever, he did understand the concept of an evening with someone special.

“I’ll tell you what, son. I’m having lunch with my daughter tomorrow.” He was chuckling at Rick’s questioning frown. 

“Sue Ann and I want to spend some time together before we leave. And that’s what we’re going to do. I’ll have a chance to talk with her about your proposal. I won’t promise anything, but I’ll see what she thinks. In the meantime, I’ll also be thinking about how you’re going to pay for today.”


It was seven-fifteen. Rick and Tom had returned from their fish and chips dinner. While his dad settled in for his weekly 60 Minutes fix Rick was finding it hard to sit still. He strolled through the house to the back steps, then up the inviting foot path that led into the shadowy greenness of the orchard. Walking slowly he sampled ripe, low hanging fruit as he went.

Circling behind the garage and shed he returned to the house, still wringing pleasant thoughts from his special day. He had finally seen the ocean and spent the whole day with Sandy. Most remarkable of all, he realized that she liked him. She really did.

And then of course, there had been the kiss. Knowing how close he had come to backing out of that, he was still wondering where he had found the courage. 

By the time he returned to the back porch a new idea had bubbled to the surface, along with new questions. He had left Sandy only two hours before. What made him think it was time to be calling her?

A moment later he had created his own answer. “Why not?” he asked himself. Back in the kitchen he grabbed the wireless phone and headed for the back steps. 

“Rick?” Sue Ann exclaimed when he identified himself. “I hope you don’t think I have an answer already, about another date with Sandy.”

“No, Ma’am. Not at all. But I would like to talk to her, if that’s all right.”

Stretching the phone cord tight, Sue Ann pulled it across the kitchen table, over Bonnie’s head, toward Sandy. 

“You want to talk to Sandy?” she said, rolling her eyes for Bonnie’s benefit. “You spent the whole day with her. You saw her just a couple of hours ago. Are you sure this is necessary?” She was half laughing, clearly enjoying her modest interrogation.

“Yes, Ma’am. I know that. But I’d really like to talk to her.” 

Suddenly, Sandy was on the line. “Is that you?” she asked. “I didn’t expect you to be calling tonight.”

“Can you talk?” he asked.

Sandy found herself stranded at the end of a phone cord, surrounded by curious listeners. With her hand over the mouthpiece she pleaded, “Mom, could I have some privacy. Please.”

“Did you get in big trouble?” Rick asked when she was back on the line.

Sandy was silent for a moment, watching her mother push Bonnie toward the front of the house, then shooing Gail away. “I’m fine,” she finally said. “Mom gets real emotional, that’s all. But she gets over it fast. She was just worried about where I was and what was happening.”

“She didn’t need to worry.”

“I know that. But she does. She can’t help it. Anyway, she couldn’t stay mad. She was too excited about meeting her dad. She couldn’t stop talking about having lunch with him tomorrow.”

“Did she say any more about us going to the movie?”

Sandy laughed at that, reminding him again how much he liked her laugh. “She didn’t say yes or no. All she could talk about was how much nerve that kid had to even ask such a thing. I think she’s not sure how she can be punishing me and still let me go.”

“I know what you mean,” Rick said. “That seemed to bother Dad too. There must be some kind of parental punishment-code they’re supposed to follow. Anyway, he said they’d talk about it at lunch tomorrow. If your Mom isn’t too set against it, I think he’ll let me go.”

Sandy peered through the doorway toward the living room, to be sure her mother was out of hearing range. “Don’t hold your breath about Mom. She really wants to make a point.” She paused, remembering a more encouraging bit of news.

“I’ll tell you what’s weird though. I think Grandma’s on my side. She reminded Mom a couple times that we didn’t make any excuses. We told them exactly what happened.” 

Her soft, giggling laugh caught Rick by surprise. “Well, almost 'exactly.' And she liked that you came right out and asked about the movie. So maybe that will help, having her in our corner.”

“We’ll probably need all the help we can get.”

“How about you?” Sandy asked. “Was your dad really upset?”

“Not too. He’ll take a while to come up with some sort of punishment, probably after we get home. That’s fine with me. 

"I’ll tell you what did surprise me though. The old guy got pretty intense when he told me that I’d better treat his granddaughter right. I’ve never heard that before, about any girl. He laid it on pretty thick.”

“That’s so sweet. I’ve never had a grandpa to look out for me.”

“You do now,” he laughed. “Looks like I’ll have to play it pretty cool. I’ve got the whole darn family keeping an eye on me.”

For long seconds there was quiet, framed only by low, humming phone-sounds. Rick had nothing more to say, but was not ready to hang up.



“I had a great time today.”

“Me too.”

“It was so good that I’m not even sure what I’m feeling.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“I just wish I didn’t have to go so soon.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

"Look. I’ll call you again tomorrow, after Dad gets back from lunch. We’ll know then what they've decided about the movies. Okay?”

“Okay.” Then, a second later, “Rick.”


“Thanks for a really special day.”

Returning to the house Rick set the phone back on its charging stand, knowing that Sandy’s words would probably last all night. She was thanking him for a special day. That was hard to believe, especially when he knew he should be the one thanking her.