Thursday, December 30, 2021

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 24

Back home in the local Recovery Center he had his first visitors. After the predictable questions about his condition, she had to ask about his relational failure......and what it meant.

  Having moved beyond Rascal Reggie, and his grand plans for them, she had returned to Tanner, ready to update her friend on the sad state of her world.                 

                          Chapter 24

     It was Sunday afternoon....David’s second day at Carrie Stacy’s one-bed recovery home. Though the facility was a bit primitive by Rigdon Recovery Center standards, it was proving to be thoroughly competent. 

    Carrie, though not a close friend, was certainly no stranger. They had known each other for decades. Best of all, David was home, in the heart of Indian Falls, in the company of a qualified caregiver who just happened to be an almost-friend.

Though he was still aching and sore, with limited energy, the doctor had assured him that his recovery was on schedule, stressing as he had from the beginning that the ‘old’ David Larmer was still months away. To expect anything more was to set himself up for disappointment.

With his bed raised to a near-sitting position David was dozing when Jason and girlfriend Connie stepped in from the hallway. With questioning glances they were asking each other if they should wake him. Seconds later the sound of Jason bumping into a bedside chair was enough to rouse the patient.

“My God, did someone leave the door open?” David grumbled as he rubbed his eyes. With a nod in Connie’s direction he added, “At least you brought a little class with you. Nothing like a good-looking lady to perk a fellow up.”

“How is Carrie treating you?” Connie asked as she stepped closer to the bed. “She and I used to work together at the clinic here in town, before it closed. I kept books and sent out collection letters. She was our nurse. Fortunately for our patients she was better at her job than I was at mine.”

Oh, she’s good alright,” David agreed. “Everything is fine....except maybe the meals. I’m ready for some steak and potatos. She’s big on soup, toast, and cooked veggies.”

“Exactly what the doctor ordered.” The sound of Carrie Stacy’s voice had the three of them turning to see her standing in the doorway. “That’s part of the deal,” she continued. “When the doctor prescribes a certain diet, or a course of treatment, that’s what I do.”

“As well you should,” Jason chimed in. “And if he gets too vocal about it, just cut him down to half rations for a day or two.”

“Whose side are you on?” David protested. “I’m wasting away as it is.”

Carrie stepped to the foot of the bed, ready to look after her still-weak patient. “I also need to see that he gets the rest he needs. So for the next week or two we need to limit his social life. It takes a lot out of him. I’m hoping you can get by with a ten or fifteen minute visit.” With that she retreated to the other end of the house.

David’s eyes were closed, leaving his friends to wonder if he was past being sociable. There was only one way to find out. “I was thinking,” Jason began. “What if I spread the word at church that you’re accepting visitors....especially those nice widow ladies who already have their eyes on you. They’d have to keep it short, of course....ten or fifteen minutes.”

“You do that and I’ll lock the front door.” David did not bother to open his eyes. “I don’t need a lot of company. Especially not that kind.”

“David. I can see you’re not up to that right now.” Connie was prepared to offer her own bit of wisdom. “But I’d hate to see you become a hermit. That’s not your goal, is it?”

Eyes open and leaning forward a bit, David was prepared to put an end to that kind of talk. “Number one,” he said. “I don’t feel up to worrying about that right now. Number two....I traveled all the way to Oregon just to walk that gang plank. Remember? And I ended up in the water. Number three....after that escapade I don’t expect to go looking again. So you can tell your friends to stay home.”

“So you’re through looking, eh?” Jason asked. “And you’ve given up on Marian because she has more money than you can deal with.”

“I didn’t ‘give up’ on anything. I just accepted the fact that it could never work. We’re too damn different. So let’s forget about that, okay?” David’s chin slumped to his chest and he looked ready for sleep. “I’ll bet if you check your watch you’ll see that it’s been more than ten minutes. I’ll see you two later.”


Without pausing for lunch Marian had finished her unpacking, started a washer load of laundry, and returned her jewelry and accessories to their proper places. She was back home in Tanner Heights, and though it was still early in the afternoon it had already been a long Sunday. 

She was not a good flyer. A sound and restful sleep had been hard to come by on the overnight flight from Honolulu. Arriving in Portland she had decided against the cramped and crowded shuttle-bus ride back to Tanner. Instead she splurged, hiring a taxi for the peaceful, and very expensive, hour-long drive home.

Twice that morning she had paused to wonder if she should call Angie. At some point she ought to let her friend know that she was home. Beyond that, there were things for them to talk about. 

For nearly three weeks, since their last extended telephone conversation, Marian had been alone with her thoughts. It was time to share her frustrated musings with someone who cared. It was nearly five o’clock that afternoon when she finally dialed Angie’s number. There was no answer so she settled for a brief message suggesting they get together sometime in the next week.


Angie sipped at her ice water as she glanced toward the restaurant foyer, watching for her friend’s arrival. Their brief phone conversation, and especially Marian’s timid, hesitant tone, had been enough to set her on edge. Now Marian was ten minutes late for their luncheon date and Angie was squirming. Hopefully she was not waiting in vain.

At last, eyeing her cell phone again, checking for messages, Angie looked up to see Marian approaching their table. With a quick once over, she asked, “My, is that a Hawaiian tan I’m seeing?”

“Hey, if a gal can’t get a tan in Maui she’s in real trouble.” Marian dropped her purse on the window-side chair and sat down. “How have you been?”

“I’m fine,” Angie nodded. “Though I’ll admit I’ve been a bit curious about you and what you’ve been up to. Has a few weeks in paradise helped you straighten things out. You told me about Reggie, but I haven’t heard anything since then.”

They paused to order their meals. A minute later Marian was fidgeting with her silverware, wondering how to explain. “I haven’t been in a very social mood the last couple weeks. I was doing my best to sort things out. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough time to make sense of it.”

“Not enough time? Come on. You were there for weeks. If that wasn’t long enough, how much longer would you need?”

“I don’t know.” Marian leaned back as the waitress set a cup of coffee before her. When the girl left she was ready to elaborate. “It seems like most days I’d rather not think about how messed up things are.”

Cradling her coffee in both hands, Angie paused a moment. “Do you remember how is was?” she asked through a mischievous grin. “A month ago you actually believed things were looking up.... that there was hope for you, something more than a gloomy widowhood. It was that Iowa farm boy who had you thinking like that. 

"Now you’re right back where you started. sounding like there’s no hope at all. What’s so different now...what’s changed?”

Marian was looking over the edge of her cup, hoping to read Angie’s intent. “Are you trying to be funny?” she asked. “What’s changed is everything. That’s what is different.”

A few bites later Angie was shaking her head, apparently unwilling to accept her friend’s conclusions. “That's not true. It's not ‘everything’ that has changed. The only thing that has is David ....he’s gone and you wish he wasn’t. That’s a fact, and you can’t deny it.”

“It doesn’t matter if I deny it or not. Does it? Mr. Larmer is history, and that is a fact. It took no more than a couple hours of my company to have him looking for a way out. If I am going to have a future I want it to be something that lasts longer than that.”

With her elbows on the table Angie leaned closer. Her grin had faded as she returned to her original point. “I’m not talking about what David thinks about. it. I’m saying that Marian still likes him. In fact, I think she wishes they could have another chance. You tell I wrong about that?”

“It doesn’t matter, does it?” Marian looked away, unwilling to meet Angie’s insistent stare. “Do you expect me to get hung up on a future that depends on something that can’t possibly happen? I don’t think so. It’s not a matter of what I want. It’s about what can actually happen.”

“So you’ve come back home to hide out in your big house, instead of hiding out in Maui. Is that it?”

For an instant it appeared that Marian might give in to the tears she was struggling to hold back. With a minimum of conviction she offered her hushed question. “What else can I do?”

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 23

Maybe things were looking up. Perhaps her luck had changed. The fellow was bright, charming, and good looking. Best of all he was good company.

Her new friend was full of grand ideas......promises of good times and faraway places. What could possibly go wrong? More to the point......what had he left unsaid?

                          Chapter 23

Angie Bateman’s after-work walk that Thursday afternoon had been a solitary affair. Her usual walking partner had left the to endure the sunny hospitality of tropical Maui. It was nearly six o’clock when she sat down at the Granger Park picnic table to change out of her walking shoes, ready to start for home.

Slipping on her dress shoes she paused a moment to consider the two-hour time difference before concluding that it was a good a time to see how her friend was dealing with paradise. Back in her car, cell phone in hand, Angie scrolled to Marian’s speed-dial listing and placed her call. In a matter of seconds the dial tone was ringing in her ear. After several rings, Marian was on the line.

“Hello there stranger,” Angie said. “It seemed like I ought to check in to see how you’re doing. The last time we talked you sounded a little down-in-the-mouth. I’m hoping things are looking up by now.”

“Well, they least for a while. Matter of fact, the last few days have been sort of up and down. They started out pretty good. But in the end they turned sour.”

“Oh my. So how are you doing now?”

“I’m not sure. It seems like maybe I’m back in that ‘down-in-the-mouth’ place you were talking about.”

“Marian,” Angie protested. “No one goes to Maui to be down-in-the-mouth. Heavens, you can be that right here in Tanner. Can you tell me what it was that turned sour on you?”

By then Marian was asking herself if she wanted her best friend to hear the whole sad story. What would she think if she knew how close Marian had come to going wrong again? Still, who else could possibly help her make sense of it?

“What turned out so badly,” she explained. “Was the same thing that started out so well.” 

Her sudden laughter caught Angie off guard. Before she could make sense of it, Marian was moving ahead. “In a word, the cause of it all was Reggie....Reginald Smythe-Browne. He was the one responsible for my roller coaster ride.”

“Reggie? It sounds like things are getting interesting in Maui. Where did you meet Reggie?”

“I told you before, didn’t I? About the luau my new friend Bessie invited me to last Saturday. It was at the retirement center, and it turned out to be loads of fun. There was lots to eat, silly games to play, and nice of whom was Reggie.”

“Reggie lives at the retirement center? He’s your neighbor?”

Phone to her ear, Marian slipped through the side door and out to the shady side of the adjoining lanai. There, perched on a wooden stool, she prepared to explain. 

“That’s what I thought at first,” she began. “That he lived at the center, just down the road from my condo. But then Bessie assured me that he doesn’t live there. In fact, I haven’t met anyone who knows where he does live. He just seems to show up at most of the good parties that go on here on the weekends. Everyone thinks he is fun to have around, so no one objects.”

“You mean he invites himself?”

“Apparently so. I’m sure some folks know he’s not on the guest list. But he’s so charming and such fun that no one sends him away.”

Angie was laughing at that. “You make him sound like a professional party I’ve seen in the movies.”

A professional party crasher,” Marian repeated to herself. That was probably true, she thought.... though crashing parties might  have been the lesser of his offenses. Perhaps it was Hawaii, with its free-wheeling social culture, that attracted the Reggies of the world.

“That’s one way to describe him,” she finally answered. She was pacing now....caught up in new and anxious questions, wondering what Angie would make of her story.

“Actually, Reggie claims that he’s just the sociable sort, someone who likes people. He calls himself a ‘mingler.’ Anyway, we met at the luau on Saturday and he kind of stuck close to me the whole afternoon. Before he left he asked if he could see me again....that maybe we could do something together.”

“And what did you say?” Angie asked. “As I remember you had gone through your ‘disaster’ with Clarence just days before. You must have been a bit leery about going there again.”

“To tell you the truth, it’s hard to talk about Reggie and Clarence in the same breath. Clarence can be sweet, of course. But he’s certainly not Mr. Excitement. In fact, he is basically pretty bland.”

“And Reggie? Are you saying that he is Mr. Excitement?”

Marian walked to the edge of the lanai to sit on the steps leading to the beach. There, staring at the cell phone in her hand, the wheels were turning as she struggled to assemble a suitable ‘Reggie’ description.

“To begin with,” she continued. “Reggie is English. He grew up in London, and has an absolutely charming accent. He sounds like someone from the movies. And he uses strange, but rather cute words and phrases. Sometime I had to stop him for a translation.

“Anyway, from the first time he talked to me I could tell that he was different. He’s slender and quite good looking, with just the wisp of a mustache. His hair is salt and pepper gray and kind of longish, even a bit scruffy. He’s quite a sight, especially in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and flip-flops.”

“So he goes for the casual look, eh? That is interesting.” Angie paused, wondering if she should ask, and deciding she would. “So how old is your Reggie friend? Has he told you that?”

“He said that he’s fifty-five, which seemed about right.”

“Fifty-five. My Lord, Marian, are you robbing the cradle?”

“I’m not robbing anything. I told you before that it was Reggie who asked me if we could do something together. I didn’t have a reason to say ‘no,’ so that’s what we did.”

“You did? He sounds like a very persuasive fellow.” 

In the Granger Hill parking lot Angie had settled in behind the steering wheel, ready to leave, but wanting to hear more. Putting the phone back to her ear she asked, “So what kind of ‘something’ did you do? That’s not a secret, is it?”

“You know, Angie. I’d like to think that I’m smart enough to have asked what he had in mind. But I didn’t. I just said ‘okay.’ Turns out there was no reason to worry. We spent the next afternoon just walking around town.”

Was this where she wanted to take them, Marian asked herself again. Chances were it would sound like boasting. But Angie wanted to hear about Reggie....the whole story.

“My condo is just up the beach from Lahaina, which is one the main tourist towns on Maui. There’s lots of history here, from back when it was a whaling port. Now it’s full of tourist shops. Anyway, we took our walk, did some window shopping, then drove my rental car out to Banyon Tree Park. All in all it was a nice day.”

“And that was it? You make Reggie seem rather harmless.”

Marian was walking back to the house, rubbing her neck and flexing her shoulders. It was more tiring than she expected, a marathon phone conversation. But given Angie’s anxious curiosity there was no way to stop in mid-stream.

“Are you still there, Angie,” she asked.

“I’m here. Giving thanks for my unlimited minutes phone plan and wondering if there is more to hear about Reggie.”

“Oh yes, there is. I told you about Sunday afternoon. The next day we drove across the island to the hill country. That was spectacular....rolling hills with farms and flower nurseries with the most colorful and unusual blooms. We even visited a lavender farm, then stopped for lunch at a little place called Hula.

“By then Reggie and I were hitting it off better than ever. He went on and on about the interesting places he’s seen, all over the world....and all the places he still wants to see. By then I could tell that he was a vagabond at heart. Just to hear him go on like that in the cute little accent was enough to have me wanting to see those places too.”

“I can see what you mean about an interesting week,” Angie said. “But so far all I’ve heard about is the good stuff. What about the ‘bad stuff’ you mentioned at first.”

Marian was laughing at that. “Let’s see if I can explain. The next day....that was Tuesday....two days ago....Reggie and I drove out to Kaanapali Beach. I hope I’m pronouncing that right. It’s not far from my place, and has probably the best beach on Maui. It’s really famous, especially with surfers. It also has Whaler’s Village, a very good shopping mall.

“Anyway, that afternoon, in a grove of palm trees at the edge of the beach, Reggie and I had our first kiss.”

“That wasn’t the bad part,” Angie asked. “Was it?”

“Goodness no. It was actually very nice. And after that it took just a couple minutes for him to be off and running....telling me again about the places he dreamed of seeing. But by then he was adding new strokes to his word pictures, explaining how he and I would make a really good travel team. How we could go off to explore those special places together, and have a wonderful time.”

“Well that does sound interesting, and ambitious too.”

“You’re right. But that’s what he wanted....the two of us going off to see the world.” Marian paused, sensing again the anxious tingle that Reggie’s elaborate word pictures produced. “He was going on a mile a minute, describing how wonderful our life together would be. I’ll admit, he made it sound like something I’d like to do. In fact it felt like my luck had finally changed.”

“Good for you,” Angie said. “That certainly fits the ‘good’ category.”

“That’s what I thought,” Marian answered. She was biting her lip, momentarily reluctant to go on. What would Angie think about what came next?

“And it was good....for about as long as it took for us to walk back to the car. We were laughing and joking, and Reggie was still selling his grand plans.

“I don’t remember exactly why, but when we got to the car it felt like a light clicked on in my mind. We were buckled up and ready to leave when I knew I had to ask my question. 

“For three days I had been transporting Reggie over half the island, buying his meals and drinks, and anything else that needed buying. The first day he claimed that he’d forgot his wallet. After that he didn’t bother to make excuses.

“I was foolish, of course,” Marian continued. “I let that pass....mainly because I was having such a good time. Finally it began to sink in. He was telling me what he wanted, getting himself and me excited about seeing the world together. But by then I had finally put the pieces together. Even before I started the car I turned to look him right in the eye.

“I asked him point you have the means to afford that kind of travel?”

Seconds later Angie was still waiting for her friend to continue, to relate Reggie’s answer. When at last Marian returned to the conversation there was a new firmness in her words. 

“Can you believe it,” she said. “That scalawag looked me straight in the eye, smiled his sweet smile, and told me....’Of course not. He would need me to sponsor a trip like that....the someone who was willing to pay for those good times and good company.’

“Well.” Marian’s exclamation was loud enough to have Angie pulling the phone away from her ear. “I can tell you, that stopped me in my tracks. Especially when he added, ‘Why else would I ........’”

By then Angie was struggling to tell if Reggie’s words had trailed off like that....or if Marian had stopped short, unable to complete her blunt critique. Whatever the reason, a moment later the sad silence was broken by the hushed sounds of tears that Angie was not willing to interrupt.

Finally, Marian blew her nose, wiped her eyes, and gathered the words to make her final point. “That smooth-talking bastard, pardon my language, actually believed that I was so desperate for the pleasure of his company that I was willing to pay for the party. From the start he had me pegged as a ‘sponsor.’ You can imagine how that made me feel. By then I was spitting nails.”

“How so?”

“Well, before I was done, Mr. Reggie Smythe-Browne was looking for another ride home from Whaler’s Village. Who knows, maybe he was off looking for another sponsor.”

At Granger Hill Park the sun had settled behind the trees as Angie glanced at her watch. She was running late. It was time to be moving on.

“I have to be going,” she said, before returning to her last nagging concern. “But how about you? Are you okay?”

“I think so," Marian replied. "I’m still him and me. It feels like my notion of a new and bolder me was a big mistake. But I’ve got to get past that. I downloaded a couple Kindle books this afternoon. I plan to curl up on the couch for a day or two. It feels like I’m past the socializing stage, at least for now.  ”

“How long do you plan to stay there? Maybe it’s time to come home.”

“I don’t know. Another week or two.” There was no hint of enthusiasm in Marian’s quiet reply. “The weather’s nice. Beyond that, I can’t see any particular reason to be in Tanner....or Maui either for that matter. At the moment it’s hard to see any silver linings in my future.”

Sunday, December 26, 2021

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 22


Settled into her tropic retreat, she was trying her best to forget.......which only made the remembering harder to bear. Perhaps a festive luau, with its social possibilities, was the answer.

Just when it seemed his enforced isolation might last forever, friend Jason arrived with word of new and hopeful possibilities. Perhaps the chance to return home was closer than expected.

                                  Chapter 22

Late Saturday morning Angie Bateman pushed the stack of office files to the far corner of her dining room table, refilled her coffee cup, and reached for her cell phone. It had been four days since Marian’s hasty Hawaiian escape, and still there had been no word from her. Given her friend’s dour mood the last time they talked, Angie was a bit worried. It was time to find out what was going on.

Marian, on the other hand, was still focusing on her own quiet withdrawal. Since her Wednesday connecting flight from Honolulu to Maui she had stayed close to the condo, except for a single supermarket shopping trip and a couple walks along the sandy beach. And why wouldn't she stay close to home? It would take time to move beyond the disappointment of her aborted weekend with Clarence. 

Fortunately, time was the one thing she had in abundance. It was the reason she had slept late that morning, and why Angie’s eleven-thirty call from Tanner found Marian filling the coffee maker at nine-thirty Maui time, still chasing sleepy cobwebs from her mind.

“I thought I ought to be sure you’re back on track,” Angie explained when Marian answered the phone. “You weren’t so perky the last time we talked. I hope that sunny Maui has you feeling better.”

“And it has,” Marian replied. “When this coffee I’m making is ready I’ll be just fine. Actually, I haven’t done much of anything. I didn’t come here to be a tourist. I’ve pretty much lived on the lanai, the patio....reading and resting.

“I did go down to the beach last evening. Met a nice gal from the retirement center down the road. Bessie Sexton is her name. She invited me to their luau this afternoon. That sounded like a fun way to break the monotony. So I told her I’d be there.”

“Seems like it would be a good place to meet interesting folks,” Angie noted quietly. “Maybe even some interesting fellows.”

“Don’t you go there, lady.” It was hard to tell if Marian was being serious or sarcastic. “The more I think about such things the more I realize that one wonderful marriage was probably my quota. You can bet I won’t let myself get ambushed by some ‘interesting fellow.’ Based on recent history that’s understandable, isn’t it?”

“Come on, Marian. I know that you’re lonely. That hasn’t changed in just a week. No matter how nice the weather and your condo are, there’s nothing like good company to make them better. Right? And that’s where those ‘interesting fellows’ come in.”

Marian was pacing as she switched the phone to her other ear. There she was, trying her best to move on, while Angie kept pressing....reminding her of what she wanted to forget. 

“Angie Bateman,” she protested. “I know for a fact that you’ve been engaged three times. For all I know you’re working on number four right now. Does a history like that give you the right to lecture me about interesting fellows?”

“I’m just saying it’s too soon to be giving up,” Angie replied. She had other advice to offer, lots of it. But now was not the time. “Look. I have to be going. I’ll check in with you later. In the meantime, enjoy your luau....and keep your eyes open.”

Setting the phone aside Marian replayed Angie’s final instructions. A moment later, in the warmth of the south-facing lanai, she settled back in her recliner. Eyes closed, she was wondering about ‘keeping her eyes open.’


It was mid-morning on Saturday when Jason poked his head through the door of David’s Recovery Center room to find the patient studying a bowl of green jello.

“Hello there, friend,” Jason said. “Looks like they have you eating the good stuff. That’s a hopeful sign, isn’t it?”

“Who in their right mind would call this the ‘good stuff’? I’m already tired of it. I’m ready for some real food.”

“Damn, you must be feeling better....grumbling like that. How’s it going?”

“It’s better,” David nodded. “Especially without someone taking your vitals every hour. Fact is, I don’t do much of anything....just lay here and sleep.”

It was his third day in the Recovery Center, and a week to the day since his fall. By all accounts the healing process was only beginning. “They get me up a couple times a day to walk up and down the hall. I’m probably up to twenty yards by now.... that’s enough to do me in. It doesn’t take much moving around to have me hurting.”

“Are you getting enough pain relief? There’s no need to be suffering when you don’t have to.”

“Oh yeah. The pills I get work just fine.” David paused, managing something like a grin. “Of course they aren’t as good as my trusty morphine pump. But at least they keep me thinking straight. The thing is, everyone tells me that it may take months to get past all this. So far I’ve had just a week, and I’m already tired of laying here.”

“They’re taking good care of you, aren’t they?”

“Hey, they’re great. It’s just that I’m stuck here in Rigdon. I need to be home, taking care of things there.”

“But you can’t do that. Can you?” Jason paused, mainly for effect. “You heard what the doctor said. But here’s the deal. It wouldn't the same as going home....but I’m thinking that maybe we can get you closer to your work.”

“What does that mean?” David leaned forward as much as he could, eager to pursue his friend’s not-so-subtle hint. “You said before that you had some things to check out. Did anything come of that? Is there really something ‘closer to home’? Is that what you’re saying?”

By then Jason was grinning a bit, unable to keep the results of his hurried planning to himself. “I think I’ve come up with something. If it works for you. 

"I’ve been talking to Carrie Stacy. You know her. She’s the closest thing we have to a rehab place in Indian Falls. She’s what they call an LPN, which means that Medicare and the insurance companies cover her work. In fact, they seem to like it because her rates are lower than a place like this.”

“When do we go? I’m ready right now.”

“Not quite yet. Carrie only has one patient bed. That’s in her front bedroom. But she has Larry Cooper there right now. You heard about his broken hip, didn’t you? Anyway, she thinks he’ll be ready to go home by next weekend. Once that bed is empty, there would be a place for you.    

"And you're sure the doctor will go for that?," David asked. "The nurses here tell me he’s one of the guys who own this place. What are the odds he'll ship a paying customer off to Carrie?”

“He says he will. He knows it’s best to have you close to home.” Jason was grinning at David’s renewed enthusiasm. “I’ve talked with his office. They’re getting the paperwork ready. 

"The way it sounds I’d need to drive you back here to Rigdon every couple weeks so they can monitor you progress, to see how you’re doing. That should be manageable. So how does that sound to you?”

“Man, it looks like you’ve done your homework. I don’t know Carrie real well, but I know she’s taken care of lots of folks. Far as I know she’s never lost a patient.” 

Laying back, David felt the firmness of the raised bed supporting his aching ribs. Closing his eyes, he was giving thanks for Jason’s effort, before remembering that they had addressed only one part of his logistical dilemma. It was a bit embarrassing, having to ask for yet another favor. Yet it must be done.

“But that still leaves me with a house to take care of,” he said. “I don’t have to be there every day. But we’ll be getting hard freezes before long. I'll need to keep the furnace going and check the water pipes from time to time.”

Jason was on his feet, moving to the foot of the bed. “I think I’ve got you covered on that too,” he said. “Jerry Henderson has been living with his sister since he got laid off at the feed mill. He’s getting by on unemployment, just sitting around and driving Betty crazy. I cornered him at the bar a couple nights ago and before we were done we had worked out a deal, subject to your okay.”

“What kind of deal?” David asked warily. “Can I count on Jerry to get out to the house often enough? I’m not sure he’s the most reliable guy in town.”

“We can do better than that. If it’s okay with you he could stay at your place, rent-free of course. You’d pay the utilities. He would cover his own meals and personal stuff. Best of all, Jerry is a handy guy. He knows how to keep things working.”

“He is a good hand,” David agreed. “I’ve used him a few times during planting and harvest.” He paused to let himself consider Jason’s plan, wondering if there was a downside he had missed.

“Damn it, Benning. I believe you’ve just bailed me out. You’re saying if I can make it through another week here I could go back to Indian Falls.”

“Unless you have a relapse or something. It’s just a matter of following the doctors’ orders. Do that and we’ll have you bedded down at Carrie’s before long.”

Fifteen minutes later, having sent Jason on his way, David settled back in his raised bed. Tenderly testing his ribs, he reached for the least favorite of his recovery tools....the infernal plastic breath-measuring contraption meant to keep his weakened lungs functioning properly. By most any measure it had been a good day. Despite his aches and pains, it sounded like he was a step closer to going home.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

OCTOBER OLD - Chapter 21


When reality grew too real it was tempting to escape. When escape included the warm and welcoming shores of Maui it ass hard to argue with that possibility.

Meanwhile, in the face of his own harsh reality, David was dreaming dreams of a more realistic escape...... which seemed to be out of reach.

              Chapter 21

It was Monday evening and Marian was still ‘off her feed.’ Her dinner, like her lunch, had scarcely been touched when it was consigned to the in-sink disposal. For two days mealtime, along with most everything else, had lost its appeal. More than once in the course of her wasted day she had retreated to the comfortable quiet of a hoped-for catnap. Yet each time churning replays of her sad dilemma chased away the possibility of sleep.

On her own, relief in any form seemed out of reach. That, in turn, had her thinking of the one source of help she had yet to explore. Perhaps Angie could help her put things in perspective. That hopeful thought lasted as long as it took to dial Angie’s number and identify herself. Seconds later, before she had said a word, Marian was once again overtaken by a wave of racking tears she could not contain.

By the time Angie realized that her friend was unable to continue she was ready with her own questions. “Marian. What’s wrong? What has you going on like this? You’re back from your big weekend in Bend. Right? I thought you’d be walking on air. When we talked last week you made it sound like you and Clarence had finally got on the same page.”

“Not likely.” Marian was breathing deeply, struggling for control, telling herself to slow down. “I wanted us to be on that page. I really least until I realized that it was all wrong. 

"I should never have gone to Bend in the first place, especially after our day at the beach and the way that turned out. Anyway, I ended up disappointing Clarence and myself. He may never speak to me again, and I’m not sure I want to talk to him.”

“Marian. You’re getting dramatic on me. It can’t be as bad as that. Why would Clarence hate you? I’ve seen how he is around you.”

“I can assure you, that’s not how he was Saturday night.” Marian paused to catch her breath and dry her eyes, wondering if she ought to be telling Angie the embarrassing details. But who else was there? She needed to tell speak the words out loud. 

“We had a nice day in Bend,” she continued. “That part was fine. We went shopping and hiked up a small mountain just blocks from the center of town. We drove out to Sunriver for dinner. That’s a pretty place. Tom and I always enjoyed it. But then.......”

The tears had returned as Marian set the phone down to blow her nose and dry her eyes. Moments later she was back, trying to explain. “Then we went back to our room, and everything just fell apart.”

This time Marian’s silence stretched on long enough to have Angie putting her unspoken questions into words. “What do you mean? How did it ‘fall apart’?”

It was a long time coming, but surprisingly Marian’s reply was framed in a softer tone. “Do you know that I’d never kissed Clarence before that night?” 

Pausing, she carried on with what sounded like a laugh in her voice. “No, I don’t suppose you knew that. Why would you? Anyway, it’s true. There had never been a real kiss, something more than just a peck on the cheek. At least not until Saturday night.

“We were back in our room when he started getting all mushy. Of course I knew where he was going, and what he wanted. And that, of course, started with a kiss.”

Angie waited, but heard nothing. “And?” she finally prompted.

“And that’s where it ended.”


“I’m not sure I can explain.” The rush of exaggerated urgency had passed and Marian’s words were more measured now. “I probably knew before then, but when it actually happened I could tell right away that it wasn’t right. In fact, by then I realized that nothing Clarence wanted was going to be right.”

“So what happened? What did you do?”

“I didn’t say a thing....and I couldn’t look him in the eye, so I just turned away and walked to the bathroom,” Marian explained. “I locked the door behind me and turned off the light. He was outside, half-yelling at me....wanting to know what was wrong. I suppose I sat there in the dark for fifteen minutes.

“When I finally came out he was still full of questions. But I just parked myself in a big chair and didn’t say anything. He was getting more upset by the minute, but I simply didn’t know what to say.”

“Oh my. I’m guessing by then you had a very disappointed roommate.”

“Oh, he was disappointed. And angry and confused. It was terrible, a disaster. We spent the night on opposite sides of a big ole king-sized bed ....because there was only one. We didn’t talk. We didn’t touch. I don’t know if he slept. I know that I was too wound up to get much rest.

“We drove home the next morning. Didn’t even bother with breakfast.” Balancing the phone on her shoulder, Marian dried her eyes with a tissue.

Angie was struggling to find her own words, a way to comfort her friend in the face of a most unlikely setback. It felt like she was coming up empty, but she had to try.

“I’m so sorry, Marian. But you mustn’t blame yourself. How could you have known?”

“That’s the point. I should have known.” For an instant it sounded as though she was laughing. “It seems like I’m on a roll. First I chased David off. Now Clarence isn’t speaking to me. It’s like I’m toxic or something.”

“So what are you going to do now? Have you figured that out?”

“At first I hadn't. I didn't know what to do."

By then Marian seemed to have moved beyond her sullen distress. There was an upbeat spark in her voice as she wedged the phone against her shoulder and started down the long hallway. 

“But by this afternoon I finally calmed down enough to book a flight out of Portland in the morning, to Honolulu. My place on Maui isn't rented out at the moment, so I'm going there to relax and enjoy some sun.”

“For how long?”

“Who knows?” Her laugh was more natural now. “I don’t have a return ticket. I have some serious thinking to do....some things to sort out.”

“Well, please stay in touch,” Angie said. “I’m not sure you should be playing lone wolf when you’re in this kind of mood.”

“I’ll be fine. And I will call. I promise. Besides, you have my cell phone number.”

Marian turned off the phone and stepped to the long window that overlooked the back patio. Though she felt better for her visit with Angie, the haunting questions remained.  Just days before she had been looking forward to David’s visit....getting to know him better, dwelling on the promise of a second kiss. How had that possibility gone so wrong?

She paused to remember their first kiss, the one that had been so right. Still, right or wrong, he was gone and she was preparing to pack for her escape to paradise....odds were that would be a warm, welcoming, and very lonely time.


The rehabilitation facility was on a quiet side street just three blocks from the Rigdon Hospital. The sign over the main entrance read Rigdon Recovery Center. The building itself, a sprawling single-level brick structure, was a picture of understated efficiency. Inside, through the wide double doors, three long patient wings radiated from the central nurses’ station like the spokes of a wheel.

At once the Center struck Jason Benning as the professional setting David needed. If he could not be home in Indian Falls, the Ridgon Center was probably the next best place for his extended recovery. After all, it was highly recommended and usually crowded, thanks in part to its owners....a consortium of Rigdon physicians who regularly funneled their patients through the Recovery Center’s welcoming doors.

It was Thursday afternoon, scarcely four hours since Jason received the phone call advising him that David had been transferred to the Recovery Center. There, at the front desk a nurse pointed him to the hallway on the right. 

“Room A-7,” she said. “That’s where you’ll find him. Though he may be asleep. From the looks of him he’ll be needing lots of rest.”

A minute later Jason was standing at the foot of the bulky hospital bed, wondering whether or not to wake his friend. He watched in silence as David, still asleep, started to roll onto his right side. Instantly, broken bones and internal wounds were objecting to his slight movement. 

More or less awake by then, he shifted back to the half-sitting position that supported his aching ribs. Finally, with his eyes fully open, he looked up to see Jason grinning from the end of the bed.

Jason’s greeting, tinged with a hint of faux-gruffness, was not particularly sympathetic. “Looks to me like you’re not moving too well. They tell me a ladder can do that.” 

Truth be told, he found it a bit awkward to express what he was feeling at that moment. Perhaps it was a ‘guy thing,’ struggling to put his caring and concern into words.

“But at least you’ve got rid of all those tubes and wires you had in the hospital. That must be a good sign.”

“I suppose so,” David answered with minimal enthusiasm. “Though it’s hard to tell the difference. It still feels like I’m in prison. I need to be home, and here I am, forty miles away, strapped in a bed.”

“You’re not ‘strapped’ in your bed.”

“I might as well be. I can’t move. It takes a nurse to get  me up. Hell, I can’t do anything.”

Closing his eyes, David retreated into a sullen quiet that Jason was reluctant to disturb. Long seconds passed before the patient looked up to continue his complaint. “They say I could be here for weeks. If there was someone at home to take care of me I could leave a lot sooner. But there’s not.

“I just don’t see how this is going to work. Winter is coming on. There are things I need to be doing at home to get ready. And I’m the only one who can do them. Why the hell did this have to happen now?”

Moving to the side of the bed, Jason pulled up a straight back chair and sat down. Awkward or not, there were things that needed saying....things that David needed to hear. At that moment there seemed to be only one candidate for the job. Resting a hand on his friend’s arm he prepared to explain.

“Hear me out, old buddy,” Jason began. “In the first place, there is no good time for what you’re dealing with. It would screw things up in the spring, summer, or even the winter. But it’s happened now, and that’s what we have to work with.

“Here’s the deal. I’ve known you forever. I understand what an independent guy you are. Even in grade school you wanted to do everything yourself. So I know how it ticks you off, having to rely on someone else.

“But the program has least for the time being." Jason paused for a deliberate, if silent, survey of his friend's new home. "Hell, even if you don’t want to believe the doctors, your own body is telling you there are things you can’t do. 

"So here you are, in that awkward place where you have to count on other folks, probably quite a few of them, to get you through this. You may not like it, but you know it's true, don’t you?”

As much as David wanted to chase his friend’s unwelcome words away there was no denying the depressing truth. He was wearing a look of surrender as he acknowledged Jason’s logic with a timid nod.

“Okay then,” Jason continued. “I want you to give me a couple days to explore an idea or two that might make things easier. I don’t have any guarantees at the moment, but one way or another we’ll get through this. In the meantime, you have to let me do the worrying and the leg work. You need to concentrate on resting and getting well. Is that a deal?”

Chewing his lip, David felt the tears in his eyes. “Thank you,” he said softly. “I’m just so damn sorry to be laying all this on you.”

“Not a problem.” Jason stood and pushed the chair back against the wall. “I need to be going now. I’ve got some calls to make. I’ll be back when I have more to report.”