Monday, November 29, 2021

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 9

After days of quiet, farm-house isolation David had returned to town, ready for a bit of Pastime socializing. That had Jason wondering if it was time to spring his last surprise.......and perhaps risk his friend's grumbling protest.

Back in Tanner Angie was ready to take a chance of her own. How would Marian react to her unexpected news? 

                           Chapter 9

A thin shaft of afternoon sunlight knifed through the dim interior of the Pastime Tavern as David nudged the door closed behind him. He nodded to the pair of denim-clad youngsters at the pool table, then to Jason as he stepped out of his office.

“Well, you've come out of your shell again,” Jason noted, tugging on the long tap handle to pour his friend’s brew. “Haven't seen you for a while. Been busy on the farm, eh?”

“Nah, not really. Just haven't felt all that sociable.” With a quick drink David was ready to turn their conversation in a different direction.

“How about you? From the looks of things business is picking up.” David paused to look around the room. "Looks like the ole Pastime is drawing a crowd."

"Oh yeah. Sure does. What do we have here....a 'crowd' of five? I hope I can keep up with it all."

"Seems like I picked a good time to show up."

Without a reply Jason pulled a bag of beer nuts from the back shelf and started to the other end of the counter, where a non-too-prosperous-looking patron appeared to be making a lunch of the freebies. Refilling the empty bowl he returned to David with another question. In fact, by then he was prepared to follow a rather unorthodox hunch.

“So you've been holed up on the farm......letting your mind wander. Is that it?"

"I guess so."

For the next few minutes, while he wiped down the length of the long bar, Jason was debating with himself. There were things he needed to tell his friend. Was it the right time to do that? By the time he returned to David's end of the bar he had decided it was.

"So tell me," he asked. "Could it be that you’re still dealing with what you had on your mind the last time you were here....maybe thinking of that Marian lady?”

“Where’d you get that crazy idea?” As expected David was ready to push back. "Besides, what the hell does she have to do with anything?”

“Just a guess, I suppose. I’m thinking she’s been on your mind from time to when you get down in the dumps. Are you telling me that’s not true?”

David’s first inclination was to argue Jason’s point. But on second thought, they had covered that ground before. Why fight the same war again? Instead, returning to the sad truth of it, he repeated his earlier defense.

“What’s to tell?” he asked. “The lady already has a guy. Your friend Angie told me that. All I could do was write it off as an interesting idea that didn’t work out. It’s not the first time that's happened. So why don’t we just drop it?”

Slipping David’s glass under the tap, Jason refilled it. Wiping at the foamy head running down the side of the glass, he set it back on the bar. Then, reaching in his shirt pocket he produced a business of his own....and laid it on the bar.

“What’s this for?” David asked as he picked up the card. “I don’t need it. I know how to find you home or at work.”

“Turn it over.”

David did as he was told, drawing the card closer to read the penciled message. Before he could ask his next question, Jason was providing the answer.

“That’s Marian’s email address,” he said. With that he turned and started down the bar to towel off the already clean counter top.

Sliding to the edge of his stool, David read the single line once, then again, before waving Jason back within range of his next question. “I can see that you’ve been up to no-good. Why don’t you tell me about it? What do you expect me to do with this?”

“Come on, guy. It’s not my place to be telling you that. I’m just the messenger....hoping that I’m not the one who gets shot. I’ve heard that can happen.”

“And whose message are you delivering?”

With both hands on the counter Jason leaned closer. “Okay. Here’s the deal. Given the way you’ve been acting lately....moping around like you have....I decided to give our friend Angie another call. 

"You’d told me what she said, about Marian already having a guy. I’ll admit, I wondered about that, and what it meant. The only way to know for sure was to call her I did.”

“And I was right, wasn’t I?” David grumbled. “The lady has something going, doesn’t she?”

Jason was shaking his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t ask her about that.” He flinched a bit at that half-truth....telling himself there was no need to resurrect Angie’s talk of Clarence having been ‘sent to the sidelines.’ That was something David ought to find out for himself.

David’s palm slammed down on the bar, punctuating his angry question. “Then why the hell did you call her?”

“I’ll tell you what, old buddy. Angie and I talked about things....quite a few things. And early on I decided I had one main question to ask. If I had a chance to ask it, I promised myself I would do that ....then I’d step aside and let you decide what comes next.”

“And your one question? What was it?”

Jason braced himself David’s inevitable complaint, knowing it was the price to be paid for not backing off. “Since I already had Marian’s email address by then, it seemed the only question left was....what was she likely to do if David tried to get in touch with her?”

“If I tried to get in touch with her? Are you serious?”

“You bet I am. In fact, Angie and I agreed that it might be a good idea. You see, she had already told Marian that you had called. Marian knew about that by the time I called Angie the second time. And after seeing how Marian reacted to that bit of information, Angie was the one who suggested that you should email her.”

Pushing his stool away from the bar David stood, still grasping the edge of the counter. He had never stopped to consider the possibility that Marian had heard of his abbreviated call to Angie. What would she have thought about that? At that late date, did it even matter?

Turning back to Jason, he asked, “Tell me again, why I should email her?”

“Because you want to, you doofus.”

“And what do you suppose Marian would think about that?”

“I don’t know,” Jason answered. “Angie told me straight out that she wasn’t going to speak for Marian....didn’t want to do that. She said it would be up to you to find out. It was about then that she came up with the email idea.”

“Why was that?”

It was time for Jason to make his point and move on. In the end David would have to make his own choice. 

“Up ‘til then Angie and I had been talking in terms of a phone call....a phone number that I could pass on to use or not use, whatever you decided. In the end Angie suggested that an email might be easier for both you and Marian.

“I knew right away," Jason continued. "If it was me I’d rather take it slow, with time to think about what I was saying. Especially since I’d have no idea how she was going to respond. So I agreed with Angie. A second later she was reading me Marian’s email address....the one you have there. With that she said ‘Good luck,’ and that was that.”

David was fidgeting with his empty glass, wishing his friend had a more definitive answer. “So you don’t know,” he said. “You can’t tell me if the lady would even open an email from me....let alone read it or reply.”

“Nope. I can’t. I’m afraid that’s something you’d have to find out for yourself....if you decide you want to.”


“What do you mean, Angie?” Marian asked. With the phone to her ear she was walking to the family room, trying to make sense of Angie’s strange introduction. “Why would I want to throw something at you?”

For most of the afternoon, ever since Jason’s unexpected call, Angie had debated whether she should tell Marian what she had done. And if she did, what was the best way to break that unexpected news? 

Keeping it a secret would surely increase the shock value of an email from David. But what if Marian deleted it before she realized who it was from? Besides, she deserved to know what Angie had done, if only to prepare herself.

“What I’m trying to say,” Angie laughed. “Is that I did something rather sneaky....something that may upset you. I’m not sure you’ll appreciate it, but it felt like the right thing to do.”

For weeks, maybe longer, there had been something weighing on Marian’s normally easy-going take on life. Given enough time Angie might have traced that uncharacteristic distraction to their night in Nashville. But in fact she had been blissfully unaware of that least until Jason Benning’s first phone call.

Once Jason set things in motion it had taken just one brief conversation with Marian for Angie to learn that indeed, something had happened in the course of their Music City night on the town. Though she was not aware of it at the time, and Marian had been reluctant to provide the details, whatever happened had obviously made an impression. 

Now it was time for Angie to admit her part in adding fuel to that fire. She had called knowing that what came next would be the hard part. In one sense, of course, none of Marian’s relational problems were any of her business. But her friend was clearly struggling....unsure how to deal with Clarence Roger’s undisguised pursuit, while mulling what to make of David’s apparent interest.

 “Anyway, I gave him your email address,” she finally announced. “He asked for it....and I gave it to him.”

“Who asked?”

“Jason. You know, David’s friend. The one who called me before. He called again this afternoon, and before we were done I had given him your address....for him to give to David.”

Marian was up and pacing again, captured by an unsettling blend of welcome relief and anxious wondering. “But why did he call again? And why is he the one calling, instead of David? That makes no sense.”

“I can’t answer that. Perhaps David could explain....if he works up the nerve to email you. Jason wasn’t sure he would, but I’m betting that he does. If so, you’d have to decide what to do.”

Angie settled back in her chair, thankful that Marian was taking her surprising news more calmly than she had expected. “Anyway,” she said. “I did the dirty deed. I wanted you to know that. It seemed like you should be forewarned.”

“I appreciate that....I think. I guess I’ll have to wait a bit before I decide whether I should throw something at you. In fact, I suppose that’s about all I can do....sit and wait....and see if he bothers to get in touch. I’ll let you know what happens.”

Setting the phone aside, Marian closed her eyes and settled into her recliner. After weeks of conflicted wondering she was soaking up the welcome prospect of communicating again with her impetuous Nashville dancing partner.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 8


Given her apparent attachment to 'another fellow,' he is convinced that she is out of reach. Meanwhile, she is left to wonder if that now-dismissed 'other fellow' has scared him off for good.

How could a pair of well-meaning best friends help span that Iowa-Oregon confusion to create a workable connection?

                           Chapter 8

With the phone to his ear Jason was pacing from one end of the empty bar to the other....feeling better than he had minutes before. At least Angie, his one and only link to David’s friend Marian, was willing to talk to him. 

He had phoned her again, hoping to learn if Marian's "other fellow" was a valid reason for David to give up. Much to his surprise Angie was actually glad he had called. It seemed she had some explaining to do. First, however, Jason wanted her to know David's situation.

“Let’s see if I can help you understand why David would hang up on you,” he began. “I’m not sure I told you before, but since he lost his wife Sally a couple years ago he’s really struggled. We've tried to get him interested in something ....anything....anyone. I’ve introduced him to some very nice ladies. We tried bowling, fishing, and other stuff. But he didn’t care about any of that....just couldn’t warm up to it.

“Then, on our way to his mother’s place in Chattanooga, we spent one night in Nashville.... walking up and down the main drag, going from club to club, checking out the acts.”

“I know the routine,” Angie interrupted. “Marian and I did that too. That’s how we bumped into you two that night.”

“Yeah, that pretty well describes it....he ‘bumped into’ your friend Marian. Though I guarantee you, the farthest thing from David’s mind was meeting someone. Anyway, for a night that started out so ordinary, for him it seems to have turned into something more than that.”

“Though I didn’t know it at the time,” she replied. “I think it's been that way for Marian too.”

Cradling the phone against his shoulder Jason paused long enough to draw himself a cold draft from the tap. It was a bit early for that, but phone conversations had a way of getting thirsty. 

“Anyway,” he continued between sips. “By the time we got back to our room that night David was more animated and upbeat than I’d seen him in ages. That was fun to see. Unfortunately, it only lasted until the next morning....when Marian didn’t show up for the breakfast date he thought they had made.”

“Oh yes, the ‘breakfast date,’" Angie said. "David mentioned that when he called me. But before I could ask about it he’d hung up. ”

“I didn’t know about it either,” Jason replied. “Not at the time. I’m just telling you what he said later. Anyway, ever since we got back home, it’s been mostly downhill for David.”

“And that’s because of Marian? Is that what you’re saying?” She paused before adding, “Just a minute, Jason. I’ll be right back.” 

Angie clamped a hand over her phone to converse with an assistant who brought a pair of papers requiring her signature. By the time she returned she was replaying Jason’s description of David’s ‘Marian fixation.’ 

Though she had spent that same Nashville night at Marian’s side it was becoming increasingly obvious that she had completely overlooked a connection in the making.

“Okay, I’m back.” she said, now ready with her next question. “Are you saying David was down in the mouth because Marian didn’t go to breakfast with him?”

“I suppose that was the start of it. He moped around for a couple weeks after we got home, until I finally figured out that his attitude might have something to do with the lady he’d met in Nashville. That’s what had me calling you the first time. Then, after you and I talked, I gave him your phone number. That seemed to get him pumped.... even though he was sure that Marian wouldn’t remember him.

“Anyway, he decided to give it a try. I suppose he was hoping something good could come of that, like maybe he’d been given a second chance. Instead, the next time I saw him, after he called you, he told me there was already a guy on the scene....that Marian was spoken for. I could tell that had him sort of messed up....though he didn’t want to talk about it.”

A loud sigh signaled Angie’s impatience. “That’s because he never let me finish what I wanted to tell him. He hung up before I could explain.”

“I’m not sure what kind of explanation you had in mind. But it sounded like the air had already gone out of his sails. He just pulled in his horns and went into hiding. He hasn’t been good company since then. Finally, last night, I promised myself I’d call you again, just to be sure that he’d read the signs right, before I tried to steer him off in some new direction.”

Angie stood, flexing her neck and shoulders. Glancing at the clock beside her computer she reminded herself she ought to get back to the scheduling project that needed her attention. But at that moment Marian’s Iowa connection seemed just as important. Besides, since Jason had gone out of his way to be honest with her, she owed him the same.

“Maybe you can help me out,” she said, returning to their conversation. “You see, at first I had no idea that Marian even remembered David. But when I told her that he’d called....and I didn’t know exactly why....I could tell she knew who I was talking about.”

“And she did remember him?”

“Oh yes. She remembered, though she found it hard to imagine that he would try to track her down. That surprised her. 

"But by the time we were through talking that evening I realized she had feelings she’d never talked about. I don’t know exactly how, but your friend seemed to have made quite an impression. The possibility that he had feelings for her....enough to try and find her....had her smiling a lot.”

It was Jason’s turn to be wondering. Without dispelling the possibility of another fellow ‘hanging around,’ Angie was focusing entirely on Marian’s feelings for David. It was time to be asking the most obvious question of all.

“So tell me this, Angie. What about Marian’s guy? Where does he fit into things? I don’t think David will take this any further if the other fellow is still in the picture. That’s not his way. Of course, I’m not saying he would anyway. but certainly not if she was committed to someone else.”

Clearly Jason was bypassing the preliminaries, moving directly to the end game. That called for caution on Angie’s part. “Of course, I can’t speak for Marian,” she began. “But even before she heard about David’s call, she had already sent Clarence, he’s the fellow in question, to the sidelines. Since David’s name came up I haven’t heard her mention Clarence at all.

“I’m sure she would like to talk to David. The thing is, she is not a particularly self-confident lady. To wade right into the middle of a conversation like that, especially after hearing that he’d hung up on me, might be hard for her.”

With one deep breath, then another, Jason was walking to the end of the room....around the pool table and back. In a matter of seconds his last-chance probing had taken him from depressing doubt to a hopeful hint of success. But there were still questions to be answered.

“But we agree, don’t we?” he asked. “We ought to help them get in touch with each other....then let them sort the rest out for themselves.”

“I believe we should.” Angie paused to consider that possibility, before stepping forward with a new and different approach. “But if David decides that he’d like to do that, perhaps you could suggest that he start with an email. It seems like that would be less intimidating, and give Marian time to compose her be sure that she says what she wants to say.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” Jason said. “At this stage of the game David is apt to be a little short of confidence too. I’m guessing an email, and the time to say things right, would be more comfortable for both of them.

“That sounds like an idea whose time has come,” he continued. “If you’ll give me Marian’s email address I’ll pass it on to David. At that point you and I can step back and see what the two of them do with their connection.?

Thursday, November 25, 2021

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 7


While Jason prepares for a second Nashville holiday he continues to press for details. Has David called Angie? If so, what has he learned? Was he finally ready to contact Marian?

Given David's discouraging news Jason decides to play detective once more.

                            Chapter 7

David Larmer was more than two years into an involuntary bachelorhood....long enough to have learned the basic survival skills. Still, when someone else offered to do the cooking, especially someone whose culinary capabilities far exceeded his own modest efforts, he was quick to accept.

It was six o’clock that evening when he took the can of beer he was offered and slid across the sofa to make room for Jason. They were upstairs in Jason’s second-floor apartment, situated directly above his Pastime Tavern. In the kitchen, just a few steps from where they sat, Jason’s live-in lady friend, Connie Thayer, was preparing dinner.

After a long drink, David set his beer on the coffee table and called over to Connie. “So Jason has you talking about a weekend in Nashville. Is that what I’m hearing?”

“He’s been going on about that ever since you two got back from there,” Connie replied, looking up from the stove. “About the fun you had doing the clubs. I’m not really sure how that would work. I’ve never been a country-music sort of person. But I guess I’ll be finding out.”

“You’ll enjoy it, even if you don’t like all the ‘twang.’ They put on a good show.”

On his feet again, Jason gathered plates and silverware from the cupboard. He was setting the table, mulling earlier bit of Nashville history, when he looked up to ask David, “So, did you call her?”

Before David could respond Connie was giving voice to her own question. “Call who? Who is the ‘her’ you’re calling, David? That sounds like something new and interesting.”

When David chose not to reply, Jason waited a few seconds before offering his own input. “She’s a lady he met in Nashville, at one of those clubs I told you about.”

“You met a woman there David?” Connie was drying her hands on her apron. “Now that’s a surprise. You’ve been on your own long enough to have half the single ladies in town wanting to know you better. And you went all the way to Nashville to meet someone. Is that how it works?”

She paused for a few seconds. By the time she offered her next question it was hard to know if she was being playful or serious. Jabbing a finger in Jason’s direction she said, “I suppose that means that my friendly friend met someone too. Is that your game, you sneaky creature?”

“It certainly is not,” Jason replied through a embarrassed grin. “I absolutely behaved myself. Heck, we were back in our room by ten-thirty.”

A moment later Connie was returning to the intriguing possibility of David’s Nashville rendezvous. “So tell me about your lady friend, David.”

“Come on, Connie," David protested. "Don’t make it sound like more than it was. I sure as heck didn’t go to Music City expecting to meet someone. We ended up in a club that was so crowded they put a bunch of us together at the same table. It was the only way to get everyone in there.

“I suppose that’s the way it is at all the Nashville tourist joints. You’ll see that if you two get there. Anyway, they put us at a table with some other folks. One of them, she was sitting right beside me, was a lady from Oregon. We visited a bit, had a couple drinks, and danced a couple dances. That’s all there was to it. It was nothing. Like Jason said, we were home early and off to my Mom’s in Chattanooga the next morning.”

“Nothing?” Connie was not about to settle for that. “Is that why Jason is asking if you called her? That sounds like more than ‘nothing’ to me.”

By then David was looking to change the subject. There was no reason to explain about ‘her’ failure to show for breakfast, or the kiss he had never managed to forget. Instead, it was time to steer their conversation to something less threatening. That was his intention, until Jason returned to his original question, pulling him back to the moment.

“So, did you call Angie?”

“Who in the world is Angie?” Connie asked. “Is she David’s friend?”

“Actually,” Jason explained. “She’s the friend of his friend. She was with Marian, who is David’s least she might be, if she’s willing to talk to him.”

Turning back to David he asked again, “Did you find out how to get hold of Marian? Do you have her number? Or maybe you’ve already called her.”

David answered with an unenthusiastic, head-shaking frown. “There was no need for a phone number. Angie filled me in on a few details. Turns out Marian already has a guy....a special friend. There was no need for me to bump heads with that, so I just checked out.”

“So you’re quitting? I thought you really wanted to talk to her.”

“No reason for that.” David stood, starting for the dining room table, where Connie was setting out their meal. “Now can’t we talk about the weather, or something interesting like that.”


A week later Jason Benning was at his usual station behind the Pastime bar. It was mid-morning Monday, and Indian Falls was still a bit sleepy. In fact he was the only one in the bar....which suited him just fine. After their weekend in Nashville it had been nearly midnight when he and Connie got home. He was tired and not fully ready to face the day.

Pulling a stool to the end of the bar he sat nursing his coffee, replaying moments of their time in Nashville....the Country Music Hall of Fame and Saturday night in the downtown clubs. He had welcomed the chance to see those sights with share those good times with her.

Yet a moment later his thoughts were pulling him in a different, more frustrating direction.... remembering how much David had enjoyed those same sights just weeks before, and how distressing it was to witness the resulting melancholy that had overtaken him of late.

From Jason’s perspective David had been treading water....turning inward, away from his friends. Even Connie’s last dinner invitation had received a decidedly unenthusiastic turn-down.

Actually, it required no great insight to diagnose David’s problem. He was still dealing with the same unsettling thoughts of Marian, and the equally unsettling news that she was apparently spoken for. Perhaps it would be up to Jason to help his friend face the truth of it and move beyond that unfortunate situation.

On second thought, however, there was another possibility. Was David’s understanding of Marian’s relational status accurate? Was her attachment to ‘the other fellow’ a done deal? Though the chances were probably slim, for the modest investment of a few minutes spent contacting Angie Bateman, Jason could know for sure.


Ms. Bateman answered Jason’s call, heard who it was on the line, and immediately cut him off before he could offer a reason for calling.

“Hold on a second?” As before she was on her feet, hurrying  to close the office door. Once back in her chair she picked up the phone to ask her question. “How did you know?”

“How did I know what?” Jason had scarcely said a word and already the lady was talking in riddles. “What are you saying?”

Angie was laughing softly, telling herself to slow down and help him understand. “It’s kind of a helpless feeling,” she continued. “Not having any way to contact you.”

“Why would you want to contact me?”

Swiveling her chair Angie glanced out the long window overlooking the parking lot, assembling her explanation.  

"Well, you see your friend David called me a couple days after I talked to you. You weren’t sure he would, but he did. Then, before we had a chance to talk he hung up on me.”

“He hung up on you? I knew he’d called, and heard what he thought was bad news. I guess what he called 'checking out' meant hanging up on you.”

“Well, that's what he did. Though at the time it didn’t bother me too much. I didn’t think it mattered. But then, a few days later, I told Marian about his call. Turns out that mattered to her..... more than a little bit. 

"She remembered him, and it sounded like she wanted to talk to him. I told her that she could probably track him down on the internet. She had his name, and where he lived. But by then she was sure that he had probably given up. Seems like if he wasn’t interested anymore, she wouldn't be either. She can be a very stubborn lady.

“I guess I don’t understand," Jason answered. "David has decided there’s no reason to talk to Marian....that she already has a guy. Which puts her out of reach. Now you’re saying she would like to talk to him, but she’s given up on that idea. 

"It sounds to me like they’re both being stubborn....which is too bad...especially if they really want to stay in touch. 

“Anyway," he continued. "That’s why I’m calling again, to find out if she is really out of reach. I’m trying to breathe some life into my old friend. He’s been in the dumps big time. I don’t know if I can help him, but I’d like to try.”

“And calling me will do that? That sounds a little extreme.”



Tuesday, November 23, 2021

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 6

It was an uncharacteristically bold move on his part......calling a stranger, asking his questions, hoping she would help him.....  with no way of knowing it would end in such a disappointing way.

As for Marian......just when it felt as though her own hopeful possibilities were drawing closer, she learns of David's impulsive retreat.


                           Chapter 6

For as long as he could remember David Larmer had been one of that peculiar breed who preferred not to talk on the telephone. It was not something he did if it could be avoided. Whenever possible he preferred the relative comfort of a two or three line email to the vague anxiety of a phone conversation.

It appeared, however, that he had come face to face with one of those times when there was no suitable alternative. For the last two days he had debated the idea of calling Angie Bateman. And apparently that would require a phone call.

Even if he had Angie’s address he could not imagine asking all his many questions in an email, no matter how many lines it took. Like it or not, if he was going to seek his answers he would have to call the number Jason had given him.

“Ms. Bateman is in a meeting right now.” The pleasant sounding female voice was direct and business like. “I expect her back about three-thirty. Could I ask her to return your call, or would you rather call back later?”

That was not a good sign. Three-thirty in Tanner ....that would be five-thirty in Indian Falls. Having finally worked up the courage to call, he was being put off for at least a couple more hours. His search was scarcely off the ground and already things were going wrong. 

If his reason for calling had been less pressing he might have given up right then. This, however, was apparently his only chance of locating the mysterious Marian....the one who had taken up residence in his mind. He had to follow through.

“Would you please have her call me, if she has time.”

He recited his phone number and the receptionist read it back to him, pausing to add her own off-hand question. “Area code seven-twelve. Where in world is that?”

“It’s in Iowa, of course. Lots of folks don’t know it, but we have telephones out here on the farm.”

“Well, Mr. Iowa, I’ll give Ms. Bateman your message and ask her to return your call. Will you still be around later this afternoon, or shall I suggest she call in the morning?”

“I’ll be here. Have her call whenever she can.”

Setting the handset aside, David settled back in his recliner. It was sometime later when the jangling ring of the phone had him rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Poking at the offending instrument, he put it to his ear.


“Is that you, Mr. Larmer? This is Angie Bateman, returning your call.”

David was wide awake by then....struggling to remember what he wanted to say, wishing he’d had some warning. “Thanks for calling back,” he replied warily.

“Actually I wasn’t sure I’d be hearing from you. Your friend Jason didn’t sound too sure. But he said you wanted to get hold of Marian. Is that right?”

“Yeah, I guess it is.” He was on his feet....pacing across the living room and back. “The thing is, I enjoyed my visit with her that night in Nashville. It was short, but nice. At least until she stood me up.”

“Stood you up? What are you talking about?”

“Before you two left that night Marian said she would meet me for breakfast the next the coffee shop in your hotel. I was looking forward to that, the chance to see her again. But that didn’t happen. Turns out she was a no-show.”

Angie must have heard the disappointment in his voice. “I waited around for quite a while," he continued. "But she never came. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. But it was still a bummer. By the time I left I was wondering what had happened. You know, was it something I’d said, or what?”

By then Angie Bateman was confused and conflicted. Marian had said nothing about David Larmer....certainly not about meeting him the morning after their Nashville night. Was he making that up, or had her friend kept that bit of information to herself? Beyond that, how much detail did she owe this complete stranger?

“I’m afraid it was a rather awkward time for Marian,” Angie finally said, hoping that no further explanation would be necessary. “I suppose I can understand why she might have decided not to meet you the next day.”

“I’m not sure what that means,” David answered. “Unless you’re saying there’s already some guy in her life....someone who would make me the ‘awkward’ one? Is that it?”

“I suppose it is. Though I know for a fact that the fellow in question..........” Before she could complete her thought there was a metallic ‘click’ and the line was dead. With a single push of the ‘End’ button David Larmer had left the scene, leaving Angie to stare at the phone set in her hand.


It was Monday, a still-warm September evening. At the long picnic table in the shade of a Granger Hill Park oak grove Marian Crocker waited as Angie, on her way home from work, parked her car and started across the grassy lawn toward her. As often happened, she had arranged to meet her friend for a casual stroll in the shady cool of the park.

Water bottles in hand, the two of them started off on the broad asphalt path that led through the heart of the park. Minutes later, having settled into a comfortable walking rhythm, Angie’s curiosity was bubbling to the surface.

“So, it sounds like Clarence was finally able to close the deal on a weekend at the coast.” Angie was offering what little she knew of the matter, hoping that Marian was willing to fill in the details. “You told me before that you had put him off the last time. But last night you said he finally made it happen, eh? That must mean you two are finally on the same page.”

“If we are, it’s certainly not the page he was hoping for.” Marian’s mischievous grin had Angie wondering. “He wanted it to be a weekend. I suggested we settle for a day. That was Saturday.”

“And how was it?”

They had gone another few yards before Marian was ready to reply. By then she was frowning. “I guess it was fine. The weather was good. We had a couple nice walks on the beach. And spent an hour or so at the outlet mall.”

“That sounds hopeful. Some serious shopping, eh? What did you find?”

Chuckling to herself at Angie’s undisguised probing, Marian realized that she was about to disappoint. “Not much I’m afraid. A jar of body wash. That’s all.”

“You toured that shopping paradise, and came away with one little thing. What is wrong with you, girl? Sounds like you weren’t really with the program.”

Though Angie’s questions remained, Marian’s interest was obviously waning. She was a private sort of person. It would take a bit of prodding to learn the full story. 

“Help me out, Marian. You had your time at the beach, even if it was only a day. Yet all you’ve got to talk about is good weather, walks on the beach, and a failed afternoon of shopping. What has you dragging your feet like that? Does it feel like Clarence is trying to hurry too fast? Is that it?”

“Sometimes,” Marian nodded. “Tom’s been gone a couple years now. Clarence thinks that means it’s time for me to move on. He goes on and on about how the years are catching up with us, how we can’t wait forever.”

“Well, a two years is certainly long enough to make things respectable," Angie noted. "That can’t be a problem. Can it?”

Marian stopped short, prepared to nip that kind of thinking in the bud. Grabbing Angie’s arm, she straightened up to make her point. “I’m not concerned about what is respectable and what’s not.  Not for a minute. That old fool is right about that part. I’m too old to worry about such things.”

“So what are you worried about?”

Without answering, Marian was on the move again....escaping the one question she was not prepared to face. By the time Angie caught up with her it seemed that a new conversational direction was in order. That might have been hard to do while they were on the move, so Angie stepped off the path, steering them toward a trail-side bench.

“Look,” she said when Marian was seated beside her. “There’s something I have to tell you. At first I wasn’t sure if I ought to. But I think I should, even though it might upset you. In fact, hearing you talk about Clarence, I wonder if it has anything to do with why you so confused.”

“What are you talking about? Who says I’m confused?”

Angie had backed herself into a corner, with no clear idea of how to proceed. Was there any good way to introduce something so unexpected? It was time to find out.

“Do you remember Nashville?” she asked. “Our night on the town, going to the music clubs downtown? Does that ring a bell?”

“I remember.” Marian was looking away, fussing with the crease of her slacks. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

“Actually, what I’m talking about is the last place we stopped....where you danced with some fellow. Do you remember that?”

Marian was nodding now, apparently ready to join the conversation. “I remember. But what about it?”

“Well, it seems that you made an impression that evening. Because your dancing partner remembers that too.”

“How would you know that?”

“Because I talked to him. It was his friend Jason, the fellow who was with him that night, who called first. That was last week. Then a couple days later your dance partner called. Turns out his name is David.”

Marian had turned away, momentarily checking out of their conversation. For long seconds her thoughts were spirited away by recollections of that noisy club, shared drinks, and a most memorable dance. She did remember his name....David Larmer....and his interest in her. Without once pushing her where she did not want to go he had been a perfect gentleman, following all the rules.... at least until their pleasantly surprising kiss. 

Now, there on the park bench with Angie, Marian was remembering those moments, and especially that kiss. She was reliving the warm possibilities, until the nagging doubts once again bubbled to the surface....the ones that had sent her into retreat the morning after her dance with David.

Finally Angie rested her hand on Marian’s arm, drawing her back to the present. “You do remember,” she said. “I can tell. From the looks of you I’d say they are good memories.”

Marian seemed not to hear her. Instead she was focusing on her own questions. “What did he say? Did you get his phone number?”

“I wanted to. But before I could do that he’d hung up on me.”

“Hung up? You mean you chased him away?” Marian’s frown had turned a bit unfriendly. “Why would you do that?”

Angie took a mental step back, asking herself new questions. Why had she not noticed before how much that Nashville night had meant to her friend? 

“Marian. I didn’t hang up on him. It was the other way around.” 

“But why would he do that? What did you tell him?”

“What I did was answer his question. At least I started to. But before I could finish he was gone.”

Wringing her hands, Marian was growing more frustrated by the second. At every turn Angie was springing some new surprise....about their night in Nashville, a phone call from David, his hanging up on her. What was she to make of all that? And what was the question he did not give Angie a chance to answer....the one that prompted his withdrawal?

“What was it he asked? What did you say that upset him?”

Certainly Marian deserved to know about David’s call. Angie had accepted that from the start. But why had she not realized sooner that her disclosure would have to include his reason for hanging up? She should have seen that coming. Still, having gone that far, she owed Marian that last bit of the puzzle.

“First he asked why you didn’t meet him for breakfast the next morning....why you ‘stood him up.’ I had to admit that caught me by surprise. I had no idea you planned to do that. So I had no answer for him.” 

By then Angie’s inquisitive frown was asking for details....wanting to hear Marian’s reasons for a breakfast date gone bad. Sadly, she was about to be disappointed.

“I’ll tell you about that some other time,” Marian said. “But for now, are you saying that was enough to have David hang up on you?”

“Not exactly.” While Angie was hoping to learn more about the great breakfast mystery, Marian was still fishing for answers to her own mystery. With something of a sigh, Angie moved ahead.

“He hung up when he asked his next question.... and didn’t give me time for my whole answer. He asked me straight out if there was some other man in your life. I started to explain that there was....sort of. But it was hard to tell how serious it was.”

She was glancing over at Marian. “That’s right, isn’t it?”

“I guess that’s one way to put it.”

“That’s what I wanted to tell him. But he didn’t let me finish. I said ‘Yes, there is a fellow’....and bang, David was gone. Just like that. He didn’t hang around to listen to the “maybe” part that I wanted him to hear.”

Marian leaned back on the bench, replaying Angie’s surprising account. “He called to ask about me. And in the end he was upset to hear about Clarence.” Turning back to Angie, “That’s what you’re saying. Right?”

“That’s it. Except that at the time I had no idea that David meant anything at all to you. From the looks of you right now, I’d say that maybe he does.”

For several seconds Marian’s only response was a faint, closed-eye smile, which Angie chose not to interrupt. By the time Marian’s eyes popped open the smile was gone, replaced by the frown that accompanied her next question. “But I still don’t know how to get in touch with him. It’s like he’s just slipped away for good.”

“Hey,” Angie said. “Don’t be giving up too soon. You have his name, and you know he wanted to talk to you. We know he’s from Iowa. It would probably be easy to find him on the internet.”

“But why would I do that when he’s already decided it’s a bad idea?”

Sunday, November 21, 2021

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 5


It was an unlikely reunion......a cross-country phone call to discuss what neither of them understood. Of course the lady was cautious. Why wouldn't she be?

Meanwhile, how bold (or timid) was David was willing to be. In the end it would be his decision to make.

                            Chapter 5

Though it might take time for David to "sort things out," Jason Benning had already decided it was time to begin his 'Nashville Marian' search ....reasoning that in time his friend would see the need to know how to contact her.

As it turned out, step one of his unorthodox detective project would be the easiest part of all. The Tanner Public School District website required only a pair of double clicks to take him to a long list of district administrators. There, near the top of the Curriculum Department roster, he was sure he had found what he was looking for. There it was ‘Angie’....Angie Bateman....the only ‘Angie’ listed. That was easy enough.

Before he continued with step two, however, there was a different set of questions to consider. Though the two of them had discussed his idea the day before, Jason was still trying to interpret David’s muted reaction to any talk of  finding Marian. 

Even if he had her phone number in hand and a renewed conversation was within reach, would David be able to move past the guilt-inducing notion of betraying Sally? For all his wanting, was he prepared to actually contact Marian? 

Still, Jason asked himself, what could it hurt to call Angie, whose name was listed on the computer screen before him? If she was willing to provide the information he was seeking, it would be up to David to decide what to do with it.

As luck would have it, Jason’s phone call to the Tanner School District headquarters landed him smack in the middle of a long and aggravating answering que. For minute after impatient minute he listened as canned music and recorded messages repeated themselves. 

Finally, after a moment of unexpected silence, a mechanical receptionist instructed him to “Press number eight for the Curriculum Department.” Seconds later there was a series of clicks, hushed rustling sounds, and finally a real-live person answered....and passed him on to ‘Ms. Bateman.’

“Hello. May I help you?” That business-like feminine greeting had Jason reaching for a remembered face to put with her voice. 

“Good afternoon,” he answered. “Though I suppose it’s probably still morning out there. Eh?” 

His question prompted no reply, so he carried on. “Look. This is kind of awkward. I’m calling from Iowa....Indian Falls, Iowa. And I’m sure you don’t remember me, but......”

By then Angie Bateman was on her feet. “Could you hold for a moment?” she asked, hurrying around the long desk to close the office door. Once back at her seat she closed the computer screen she was working on, then put the phone back to her ear to ask, “So what is this about? Who do I know in Iowa?”

“Let me try to explain. You see, I have this friend who wants very much to get in touch with a lady who I believe is a friend of yours. But he has no idea how to contact her. He doesn’t even know her last name....only that her first name is Marian. I’m calling to see if you could lend him a hand.”

Again Angie was asking herself who could possibly be calling from Iowa, asking about Marian. Then, before she had time to assemble her next question, she stumbled onto a very surprising and totally unexpected possibility. “Tell me,” she asked warily. “Does this have something to do with Nashville?”

“I believe it does.”

“So, are you the fellow who sat next to me at a music club? Let me think....if I remember right the name was Jason. Is that you?”

“Right again. Man, you Tanner folks pick up on things pretty quick, don’t you?” Then, holding the phone at arm's length, he motioned for his only customer to draw his own beer. 

“I’m Jason Benning. I was your table mate for a few minutes that night. And you’re Angie. That’s what Marian called you. When I called up your school district’s website I guessed you must be the one. Sounds like I was right.”

“Yes you were.”

“Well here’s the deal,” he continued. “I’m calling to see if you’d be willing to talk to my buddy, David Larmer, about Marian. For reasons I don’t exactly understand, he has that lady stuck in his head. I know he danced with her that night. Beyond that I’m not sure what the attraction was. But I know that he has questions, and I’m hoping that you’d be willing to help him out.”

That had Angie wondering. The man was asking about Marian. But what did she owe a complete stranger....either Jason or the one he called David, a name Marian had never mentioned? “I don’t see how I could do that,” she answered warily. “Seems like that ought to be up to Marian.”

He should have anticipated her objections. He knew that. But now, with time running out, he owed his friend one last try. “I’ll tell you what, Angie. I don’t know why this is so important to David, but it seems to be. 

"I guarantee he’s a good man. He’s definitely not looking to take advantage of anyone. But he is kind of shy. I’m guessing he’d be more comfortable learning a bit about Marian from you, before he jumps into the deep end and talks to her. That’s why I’m calling you.”

“But how could I help? What could I say?”

“I don’t know. Certainly nothing you’re not comfortable telling him. I have your number, and I’d like him to have the chance to talk to you. If nothing comes of it, I guess that’s okay. I’m just hoping you’ll be willing to talk to him if he calls.”

Moments later, choosing not to press the issue, Jason ended their call. Angie had yet to answer “yes” or “no.” Rather than risk hearing her “no,” he had accepted her silence as an implied “yes” and signed off.


After talking with Angie, Jason was left to wrestle with his own unanswered questions, wondering if he should tell David about his call.... and if he chose to do that, how to broach the subject. A few days later, during a post-lunch lull at The Pastime, as he and David set their pool cues aside, Jason was still asking those questions. In all fairness he owed David the truth. But how to explain?

“Haven’t seen you around for a few days,” he said, setting a beer in front of David. “You been in hiding again?”

“Not really. Had some things to do around the house.”

Starting down the bar toward the cash register, Jason was prepared to plant his seed as he asked over his shoulder, “You thought any more about your Nashville lady friend? About Marian?”

“What about her?” 

Jason seemed not to hear his quiet question, which was probably just as well. Though his friend was willing to ask, David was not prepared to explain that indeed, with increasing frequency, Marian was managing to hijack his thoughts. Though she might remain there for only a matter of seconds there was no way of knowing when those pleasant recollections of a Nashville dance or an impetuous kiss might intrude. Still, was that enough to make it a topic of casual conversation?

“Well, have you?” Jason asked again when he returned. “Does the idea of talking to her still sound like something you’d like to do?”

“What are you driving at, Benning? I told you before that’s absolutely the longest of long shots.”

“And I told you before, there might be a way. Right?”

By then David was sensing an unspoken intention in his friend’s insistent interrogation. Perhaps it was time for a more direct approach. “So, is there a way?” he asked. “That’s the question, isn’t it?”

“Hold that thought.” Jason was on the move again, heading for the far tap and another thirsty customer.

“Come on, guy,” David called behind him. “Will you knock off the games. What the hell are you trying to say? Have you already tried to find her?” David was squirming a bit....ready to repeat his pointed question....but half afraid of what he might hear. 

“Well,” he asked again when Jason rejoined him. “Did you find that Angie person....the one who works for the school district? You said you could probably locate her.”

David’s anxious frown had Jason grinning to himself as he replied. “You really do want to find that Marian lady. Don’t you? I wondered how real that was after we talked the other day. But I can see you do.”

“The question is,” David replied firmly. “Can you track down her friend? It sounds like maybe you’ve tried that already. Right?”

Jason was nodding as he leaned closer. They were nearly head to head as he explained softly. “Turns out her friend’s name is Angie Bateman. Like she told us that night in Nashville, she works for the Tanner School District. And yeah, I found her....even talked to her for a bit.”


“And first of all she was surprised to hear that you might want to get in touch with her friend Marian. She has no idea what that’s about. Any more than I do.”

“But did she give you a phone number? Or at least a last name?”


“No?” David was on his feet, banging his stool against the bar rail. “Then why did you call her?” he demanded. “Sounds like you blew your assignment, buddy. How the hell am I going to talk to the lady if I don’t have her number? What were you thinking?”

With a raised hand Jason motioned for quiet. “I’ll tell you what I was thinking,” he replied. “It’s the same thing that Angie had in mind. In fact the two of us agreed on that part. Before she starts giving out Marian’s private information, she needs to talk to you.”

“Angie wants to talk to me? That’s crazy. Why would I want to talk to her?”

“Because it may be the only way you’ll find out how to contact Marian. You do understand, don’t you? Angie doesn’t know either of us from Adam. She wants to protect her friend. Her way of doing that is to talk to you first. Since I was the one to suggest that, it was pretty hard for me to argue the point?”

“But I still don’t understand. Talking to her was never part of the deal.”

“I’m afraid it is now. Near as I can tell, it’s the only way for you to get what you want.” 

From his shirt pocket Jason produced a small yellow note, with a ten-digit phone number. “This number will get you to Angie during her work hours. I didn’t tell her that you’d call....only that I’d give you the number. What you do with it is up to you.”