He was home for Halloween......though his situation felt more like a trick than a treat. Still, perhaps in those familiar surroundings he could make sense of a future that was hard to bring into focus.
It was Saturday, October 31....five weeks to the day since his fall. After three weeks spent in the caring comfort of Carrie Stacy’s home David Larmer was celebrating Halloween by going home to his Indian Falls farmstead. Jerry Henderson had been living in the old house, tending to the few farm chores, and preparing the place for winter. And he would remain there, while taking on an additional set of responsibilities.
It might take a month or two for David’s ribs and collarbone to heal completely. In the meantime Jerry would be doing the heavy lifting, while monitoring the pace of the patient’s recuperation.
David’s move was by any measure a step in the right direction. Long weeks of convalescence had painted the prospect of going home larger than life. Once settled into the friendly ambiance of his life-long home it seemed he should finally be able to look ahead, toward what his most uncertain future held.
Five weeks earlier, pre-accident, there had been few silver linings on his horizon. After his fall, the future he had contemplated, as bleak as it appeared, had been put on hold, awaiting his recovery.
True, there had been a time when his brief connection with Marian Crocker had spawned surprising visions of life beyond the boring sameness that had dominated his days for so long. Now, however, as he considered his future, it was hard to imagine that he had anythings to look forward to.
Pushing his recliner further back, David closed his eyes and sensed his thoughts returning to questions he had yet to answer. Minutes later, before he had a chance to follow those ill-defined urges, his revery was interrupted by Jerry Henderson’s gruff announcement.
“I hope you’re looking pretty. Because you’ve got company.”
David’s eyes blinked open and he reached for the lever to raise the seatback. “What are you talking about?”
“He’s talking about us,” Jason answered as he steered Connie through the living-room doorway. “We stopped by Carrie’s and she told us you’d escaped....that you'd made your break. We had to come by to see what that’s about.”
“I suppose it’s hard to tell the difference,” David answered. “It’s not the same as Carrie’s, but it had to be done. Medicaid wasn’t going to pay for much more recuperation. Anyway, I still spend my time in bed or in this chair, except when Jerry makes me walk to the kitchen and back. I’m supposed to do that three or four times a day. ”
“That’s the instructions I got from Carrie." Jerry was grinning as he explained. "Keep him moving.... not too much, but a few short walks. If you’ve ever had Carrie chew you out, you know that you’d better follow orders.”
By then Connie had pulled a chair closer to David’s recliner, hoping to move their conversation beyond the mens’ blustery small talk. “Jerry says we can’t stay long,” she began. “That’s another one of Carrie’s orders. We mustn’t tire you out.
“But I’ll admit I’m curious to know what you’re doing with all your spare time. Jason told me that you’ve given up on that Marian lady....which I happen to think is a totally dumb idea. But if it’s not going to be her, is there something else, or someone else, you’re looking forward to?”
David was hoping Connie could read his frustration. If not, his blunt sarcasm might make his point. “Look at me,” he protested. “Do I strike you as a guy who would interest anyone? What I’m looking forward to is to stop hurting like I do, and getting around a little better. All that other stuff is long gone.”
“But you still like her.” Connie was not asking a question....simply stating her belief. “You can’t hide from that, can you?”
Without bothering to reply David tugged the lever on the side of his chair and pushed himself back to a reclining position. When he finally looked up he was trying to muster a smile. “Thanks for coming by. It feels like I need some rest now. Jerry will show you out.”
As the three of them left the room David settled back, scolding himself for blaming Connie and her pointed assertion that he was hiding from his ‘Marian’ dilemma. Why should he be upset with her for speaking the truth?
That night, in the midst of a spy thriller that could not hold her attention, Angie again returned to Marian’s sad dilemma. The truth of her friend’s depression was plain to see. The lady still had David on her mind. But now, instead of accepting his presence as a solution, she saw it only as a problem.
Though she was not privy to all the details, Angie was trying to wrap her mind around the unlikely way the two of them....Marian and David ....had managed to erect such a formidable wall between them. It made no sense. Though Marian had helped build that wall she, more than anyone, wanted to tear it down. Yet instead of trying, she had settled for a Tanner Heights retreat.
It was nine o’clock the next morning, during a break in her busy schedule, when Angie finally gave in to her initial impulse. Though on one hand she was acting against her better judgement, she was haunted by Marian’s unhappy withdrawal. In that moment “better judgement” seemed not to matter so much.
Whether or not it was a wise step, she was leafing through her address book, retrieving Jason Benning’s information. The only phone number she had was for the Pastime Tavern. With that in hand, she chased away her last-minute doubts long enough to poke in the number and settle back.
It had been a slow morning, and Jason was not in the mood to be telephone-social. Still, he laid his cue on the pool table and walked past the empty bar stools to answer the offending phone.
“Well, hello there stranger,” he said when Angie identified herself. “What the heck has you starting the week with a call to Indian Falls? Last I heard, you Oregon folks had given up on us farmers.”
She was grinning at his lighthearted tease. At least Jason seemed willing to be part of a conversation. That was a good sign.
“Actually,” she replied. “I think you have it backwards. The way I heard it, Indian Falls had shut its doors on Tanner. And I must say that left some seriously hurt feelings around here.”
Where was the lady taking them, Jason wondered....answering his feeble joke with her own finger pointing?
“So what has you calling today?” he asked. “It can’t be anything David did, because he hasn’t done much of anything lately.”
“You mean he’s been moping around too?”
“I mean that he’s spent the last few weeks recuperating....laying in a hospital bed or sitting in his recliner. He’s been ‘moping’ alright....mostly because of the pain. He’s ....”
“What in the world are you talking about?” Angie interrupted. “Is he sick or what?”
For the next few minutes their informal small talk was set aside as Jason recounted David’s unfortunate ordeal....from accident to hospital to recovery center, and finally his return home. By the time he was done Angie could manage only a single quiet question.
“Will he be okay? It sounds like something that could leave permanent damage.”
“They say he’ll be fine. I suppose he’ll be a step or two slower. And he swears that he’ll stay off ladders. He’s getting better every day, but apparently it will take quite a while to heal completely. In the meantime he’s a pretty puny pup.”
Angie took a few seconds to digest Jason’s report, wondering how David’s new reality might weigh on the reason for her call. Given his sad circumstances would Marian, and the possibilities she once represented, even register?
“I’m sorry to hear about his accident,” she finally said. “I had no idea he was dealing with all that. But of course, that’s not why I called.”
“So why did you? It was a bit surprising to hear it was you after all this time. Was there something you had in mind?”
“Why do you suppose I called?” Would it take all the details to make Jason understand? “It’s the same thing you and I always talk about. I have a friend who is bouncing along the bottom. She’s angry, depressed, and confused. And when I finally get past all her excuses the reason is always the same....it’s David.”
Jason was half-laughing as he assembled his reply. “Wow. It sounds like you and I are dealing with the same thing. David won’t even talk about Marian. He wants me to believe it’s because he doesn’t care. Fact is, it hurts too much to think about what happened and why it didn’t work out.”
“That’s the problem, isn’t it?," Angie replied. "Your friend David left because he thinks Marian, with all her money, could never like an Iowa farm boy. Right? And at the same time she’s afraid that she could never be the person he would expect her to be. I happen to think they’re both wrong.”
Angie paused to frame her question....the real reason for her call. There was no telling how Jason would react, but she had to try.
“Tell me, Jason. Do you think David would be willing to call her....to start a new conversation?”
That was enough to win Jason's brief pause. It was an awkward thing, being asked to speak for David, especially about Marian. Yet Angie was waiting for his reply.
“Probably not,” he finally said. “I don’t think he could do that. It has nothing to do with the accident. He’s just convinced that they’re too different. Someone like her, with her big house and all that money, is just too intimidating.
“I do agree though,” Jason continued. “They ought to be talking again. It would be the best thing for both of them. But I can’t see him taking the lead on that. I suppose it’s a matter of confidence. He can’t believe she would settle for someone like him.”
Angie’s loud sigh signaled her frustration. “Well, I had to try. They ought to be talking. We agree on that. But who is going take the first step? Anyway, it was good to talk to you. Have a good day in Indian Falls.”