Why was 'being bold' so complicated? Even something as mundane as a cross-country phone call to The Pastime Tavern, looking for travel advice. Now, if only she could keep her plans secret.
It was beginning to sink in. It had been one thing to replay her personal dream of becoming the bold and adventurous person she had never been. But now she was taking her first timid steps toward becoming that new and unfamiliar version of Marian Crocker. It was a bit surprising....how the notion of calling David Larmer had produced an unexpected sense of empowerment.
For as long as she could remember life with Tom Crocker had been a matter of safe and comfortable options. Certainly the vision she was piecing together now, of a future she could have scarcely imagined just days before, would involve a new and heightened level of risk.
Though she had yet to determine an exact course of action, she had managed that first step. Now the challenge was to keep moving ahead before her already-suspect resolve faded. That evening it was Marian's next phone call that had Angie scratching her head....especially when Marian chose not to explain why she was calling to get Jason Benning’s Indian Falls phone number.
Yet even with that information in hand it would take another day for Marian to convince herself that it was time to act. As it turned out, though Angie had been a bit surprised by Marian’s unexpected request for the Pastime Tavern’s number, Jason was positively shocked when he answered the phone at the front bar.
“It’s who?” he asked. “You mean Marian, all the way from Oregon?”
“That’s the one.” By then she was laughing. “We have telephones out here, you know.”
“I know that. I’ve talked with your friend Angie a time or two. But it’s a real surprise to hear from you.” Jason retrieved his towel and continued wiping down the long bar as he talked. “So what’s the occasion? I stopped by David’s last night. He told me that you’d called him.”
“My goodness. Word gets around pretty fast in Indian Falls, doesn’t it?”
“At least the good news does,” Jason answered. He was on the move again. With the phone cradled on his shoulder he carried a pair of glasses to the couple seated at the far end of the bar.
“I know he was surprised to hear from you,” he continued. “But I could tell he liked it....that it was you. It was kind of fun to see him a little excited about something for a change. He’s spent the last month or so not looking forward to much of anything. Turns out his Oregon friend is still able to perk him up.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“As well you should. But tell me, what the heck has you calling the local bar?”
With a deep breath Marian told herself to calm down and take her time. It was the moment of truth ....time to put her idea into words. “If you must know,” she answered. “I’m calling for travel advice.”
“Do you usually call a bartender for that?”
“This is the first time,” she admitted. “But I don’t know anyone else in town. Anyway, it feels like I’m a little out of my element. Tom and I traveled a bit, to Europe and Africa....exotic places like that.
"But we never got to Indian Falls, Iowa. So if I was planning to go there I at least ought to know where the nearest airport is. And once I got there, if I rented a car at the airport, how long a drive would I have to Indian Falls?”
“You’re coming here? To see David?”
“Crazy, eh? It’s a long shot, I know. But I’ve decided I ought to give it a try. It’s too soon to be giving up.”
“Good for you. When would you plan to come?”
By then Marian was more at ease. It sounded as though Jason was endorsing, even encouraging her unlikely venture. Of course, there were no guarantees. Her hopeful excursion might end in disappointment, as it had once before. Yet having come that far it was not the time to be turning away.
“That’s the other reason I called you. I need to know if David is ready to have visitors. I’m told it’s been five or six weeks since his accident. Can he have company yet?”
Her timid questions had Jason laughing to himself. He could tell she was treading unfamiliar, even intimidating ground. Perhaps it was time to help David’s Tanner lady feel more comfortable with her choice.
“Of course he can have company,” he said. “Connie and I stop by to see him every couple days. The thing is, his legs weren’t hurt at all. He gets around pretty well....just a step or two slower. His problem is getting up and down, and keeping his ribs supported when he sits. That, along with the cast on his wrist, is what you’d notice right off the bat.
“Then there are a few other things that aren’t as easy to see. The first couple days in the hospital it took three transfusions to replace the blood he was losing to all his internal cuts and bruises. Those are still healing, but there’s no way to know how fast or how well.
"Anyway, when you put all that together it’s no wonder he’s still a puny pup. He needs a lot of rest. Long conversations tire him out. You mustn’t be offended if he falls asleep in the middle of a sentence.”
“I suppose that sounds better than I expected,” Marian replied, though in fact she was not sure what she had expected. “But do you think seeing me would upset him? I don’t want to cause a relapse.”
“He might not admit it, but seeing you would be absolutely the best medicine he could have. What he needs right now is a reason to get better.”
“I can relate to that,” she agreed. “I’ve spent a lot of time in that space lately. So tell me about getting to Indian Falls.”
“Ah yes, your local travel advisory,” Jason said as he returned to her original questions. “To begin with, you want your travels to take you to the Des Moines airport, which will probably involve a flight from Chicago. Once you’re there the drive to Indian Falls is about two hours and very straight forward ....except for........”
“Except for what?”
“Except for maybe the weather. It’s early November. We can have all kinds of weather here.... anything from sunshine to blizzards to tornados.”
“That sounds a bit intimidating.”
Jason paused long enough to draw himself a draft. It was time to slow down and do this right. There was no need to scare the lady off, especially when she was prepared to do the right thing.
“I’ll tell you what I recommend to my kids when they come visiting in the winter,” he said. “I suggest that they reserve a car at the Des Moines airport. If the weather is decent and the roads are good, which they usually are, they pick up the car and drive here.
“If the roads are messed up, they can always cancel the car and catch the Greyhound bus right there at the airport. It takes an extra hour or so, with all the stops they make, but it comes right through Indian Falls. If that’s what you end up doing, give me a call when you get to town and I’ll come pick you up at the market, which is our bus depot here.”
“That sounds like good advice,” Marian said, proud of herself for having called ahead to ask her questions. “I’ll have to decide how I’ll use it. That may take a bit more thinking. In the meantime, please don’t tell David what I’m up to. If I come calling I’d like it to be a surprise.”
It was dinner hour in the sparse apartment above The Pastime. With Gus, the relief bartender, on duty downstairs, Jason would have a couple hours to relax before his evening shift.
Connie set their meal on the table and called Jason from the living room. Following their usual routine she, having spent her workday keeping books at the county’s largest grain elevator in nearby Clinton, was asking about Jason’s day. That normally produced a brief non-committal reply.... since his days rarely included anything out of the ordinary.
That evening, however, Jason was grinning as he looked up from his meal. “Matter of fact,” he said. “I had quite a surprise this afternoon. If anything comes of it we just might have a little excitement here in Indian Falls.”
“Come on,” Connie teased. “We haven’t had any real excitement around here since Perry’s hogs got loose in the school gym. What happened today that could possibly beat that?”
Jason was still grinning. “Well, if you must know, I had a phone call from a very nice lady. At least I’m told she is. She was calling for my advice ....so you know she must be pretty smart.”
“I’d don’t know any such thing. Perhaps if I knew who it was, this lady who was calling you, I could be a better judge of that. Anyway, how is a phone call going to create excitement around here ....unless it was your ex, looking for another increase in her alimony.”
Leaving Connie to stew a bit Jason returned to his meal. A minute later he glanced up to lead them off on what seemed like a totally different topic.
“It’s kind of hard to tell how David is doing. I know his ribs still hurt, and he doesn’t do much except sit in his recliner. But since Marian called him the other day I’ve been wondering how much he still thinks about her.” He paused to confirm Connie’s knowing nod. “I did tell you about that, didn’t I?”
“Yes you did. And I remember wondering what David made of her call....coming out of the blue like it did. I know you said he seemed glad about it. But the times I’ve talked to him he sounded pretty sure that he’d outgrown those feelings for her. He kept saying she was just too different. Remember how he carried on about that?”
“Oh yeah. And I’m sure he meant it at the time. I know that right after his accident he was doing his best to forget her. I suppose that was his way of dealing with it.
"But then she called....and he liked that. It seemed like that wall he’d built between them just sort of melted a little bit. When you put all that together it’s enough to make me wonder what comes next.”
Connie pushed her plate aside and took a moment to refill her cup from the carafe. By then she was asking herself how David’s trials had managed to hijack their dinner conversation. More than that, why had Jason left his “what comes next” comment hanging like that?
“What do you mean?” she asked. “About ‘what comes next.’ I’m not sure I follow you.”
“It’s about that phone call I got this afternoon,” he replied. “The one from David’s friend Marian, asking for directions to Indian Falls....and sounding very much like she plans to come see him. That’s what I’m thinking might create a bit of excitement.”
“Have you told David?”
“She asked me not to. She wants it to be a surprise....if it happens.”
An anxious frown signaled Connie’s concern. She had experienced a few relational surprises in her time. Not all of them had produced a happy ending. How would David, in his already fragile condition, deal with Marian’s unexpected arrival?
“So what are you going to do?” she finally asked.
“I’m going to step back and see what happens. I suppose there could be a few bumps along the way. But if neither of them gets too stubborn I’m thinking they might just work it out. I know it’s what they want....both of them. But they’ll have to figure out for themselves how to do that .”