Tuesday, January 11, 2022

OCTOBER BOLD - Chapter 30


    It was his return to Indian Falls high society......complete with the one beer she had promised. His rough and ready, pool-playing friends were obviously glad to see him back among them.

    But she had something more than social niceties in mind. What they needed were reasons to carry on together. He was not surprised to hear that she had some ideas to offer about that.

                      Chapter 30

The eight or nine patrons gathered at the Pastime’s bar or playing pool at the end of the long room constituted a capacity crowd in the downsized world of Indian Falls. Jason’s lunch-hour offerings of sandwiches and beer, or donuts and beer, or simply beer, were enough to make his humble establishment the liveliest mid-day venue in town. During the long winter months, when few of his customers had pressing business to return to, their lunch hour break was apt to last two or three times its allotted time.

That afternoon, however, it took only an instant for the noisy barroom babble to be hushed by someone’s loud announcement. “Hey guys, look who we have here.” 

Curious eyes turned and conversations were put on hold as they watched David Larmer, gripping Marian’s arm, shuffle across the room to a sidewall table opposite the bar.

Stepping away from a young patron’s irreverent joke, one he had already heard too many times, Jason Benning was grinning broadly as he approached the pair. 

“My God, Marian,” he said. “How did you manage this? I thought this old guy had locked himself away for good.”

“It seemed like an uptown meal might do him good,” Marian answered, reaching across the table to pat David’s hand. “Though in the end it took a little bribery. I had to promise him he could have a beer, only one, with his sandwich.”

“Good for you. I know these guys are glad to see him up and around.” Turning to David, Jason was asking a favor. “Do you mind if they come over and say hi? Some of them probably aren’t sure if that’s okay.”

For the next few minutes, while Jason prepared their sandwiches, Marian sat quietly....smiling as she acknowledged the visitors’ introductions. Though he was reluctant to admit it, David was obviously pleased to be reconnecting with his small-town friends. Finally, Jason set their lunch before them and the others drifted away, leaving the two of them alone. By then David was ready with his own observations.

“Look, you can probably tell that I like your company,” he said, winking as he added. “There’s sure as heck no one else who could have drug me out here like this. 

"And I’ll have to admit, it’s kind of fun to show these grubby old farm boys what a real lady looks like. Still, at the same time you can bet they’re asking each other what the heck she’s doing with someone like me.”

“She’s with you because this is where she wants to be.”

“And I’m flattered. Confused, but flattered.” David paused to sip at his beer. “But that doesn’t change the truth of it. You know darn well that I’m nothing like the fellows you’re used to. I’m just too different.”

“Please, let’s not go there again,” Marian answered. “All that means is that I’ll have to get used to a new kind of fellow. If he’ll let me, that is.”

She gave him a moment to digest that possibility before elaborating. “Besides, what if I told you about another of those reasons I was talking about....things we could do together. I'm guessing it’s something we both ought to be doing. It’s what my blog guy calls an ‘October reason.’

“Does that mean you’re taking up pool? That’s something we could do together.” David was fondling his empty glass as he explained, “I almost forgot how good a brew can be, and how much I’ve missed it. I’ll bet a second one would be even better.”

“Not a chance,” she laughed. “I’m not sure your doctor would approve of one.”

“What harm could it do?” 

Then, pushing the glass away, he returned to Marian’s bold claim of having found another purpose for them to pursue. “So what is it?” he asked. “This thing we ought to be doing.... together?”

“My. You were listening after all. I wasn’t sure you were. Let’s see if I can explain.”

Marian had been living with her grand idea for days, even weeks. It had, in fact, been there at the birth of her determined scheme....the one that had brought her to Indian Falls. 

She had known from the beginning that whatever common ground they might find was not likely to be based on drinking beer, playing pool, and catfish treks to the Gulf....any more than elaborate social nights at the Tanner Heights Country Club. If there was to be a glue that held them together it would have to come in the form of shared interests.

At first her search for that common ground had produced only frustration....until finally, prompted by her October Years blogging guru, she turned her attention to a personal promise she had made to herself months before, then promptly ignored. 

Now, fueled by the urgency of her promise to be brave and bold, Marian realized there was a place, perhaps even a need, for David in the scope of her renewed vow. With that possibility in mind it had taken only hours to construct an elaborate vision of where they might find one of those shared interests. Now the question was....would he agree? Would that work for him?

“To begin with," Marian began. "The ‘things we could do together’ ought to be things we like to do. More than that, they should be things that need doing....perhaps something we’ve both neglected for a long time. That would be bold, wouldn’t it?”

“Marian. Did you bring me all the way to town just to tell me I’ve been neglecting something important? Hell, anyone who knows me will tell you that I do that all the time.”

“What if it was something we’ve both neglected?” she asked. “Something that needs doing....something we might even call a purpose.”

“Come on, lady. What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about families....mine and yours.” She waited a moment, trying to gauge his reaction.

“I think I know how you feel about your situation. And I know for sure that I have some serious fence mending to do. For way too long I’ve been an absentee mother....and grandmother. At this stage of my life, and theirs, that is no longer acceptable.”

“And that’s your idea of a grand purpose?” David asked with a doubting frown. “A reason to hitch your wagon to a loser like me? Seems to me you ought to think that over again.”

“Stop that!” Marian’s protest was loud enough to have patrons turning at the bar to see what was happening. “This is not about you, or me. It’s about the two of us. About getting on the same page.”

She was quieter now, but no less firm. “And one way for us to do that is to reconnect with our kids. I have three daughters, and a few grandchildren. They’re the family I haven’t had in my life for way too long. I’m guessing it’s the same for you and your three boys. Right?”

Without waiting for David’s response she carried on. “Whether those children of ours know it or not, we are important pieces that are missing from their lives. My God, I have grandkids I don’t even know. And they have a grandmother they don’t know. They may not realize it, but there’s an empty space that ought to be filled.

“It happens all the time these days....families get broken apart because the children go hither and yon looking for work and a career. I have friends who might as well have divorced their own kids. There are times when that’s how it feels to me. And that’s wrong. I want my family back again.

“That’s a part of the unfinished business I have,” she continued. “If I had what some people call a ‘bucket list,’ that would be right at the top.... connecting with my girls. I want to know them again, help them, and enjoy them as much as I can. I want to do all that face to face, not over the phone or on Facebook. And as far as I know you’re in the same boat, aren’t you?

“So when it’s all said and done that is something we could do together....filling those empty spaces in our grandkids’ lives. Doesn’t that sound like a good reason to keep going at our age....together?”

David’s spreading grin confirmed his nodding affirmation. “You’re right about family,” he agreed. “I’ve let myself get out of touch with those boys of mine. But ‘reconnecting’? I’m not sure how you can make that a team effort....a joint purpose for the two of us. How do you propose to make that happen?”

“I imagine we’d have to put our heads together and figure that out, wouldn’t we?” Marian suggested. “And I’m hoping we could use that same time to find out if David and Marian are going to make it as a couple. I think I know the answer to that, but in the end it’s one of those things we’d have to prove to each other.”

Looking up, Marian saw Jason starting across the room toward them. “You know, we can deal with that back at the house,” she said as she waved Jason to their table. “For now, let’s see what your friend is up to.”

From an adjoining table Jason grabbed a chair and pulled it in front of them. “Man, you two have been quiet over here,” he said. “You looked so serious and involved that I’ve tried to keep the guys from bothering you.”

“I’ll tell you what,” David answered. “This lady is just full of ideas. All I have to do is sit back and listen.”

“I haven’t seen you trying to run away. In fact, I’d say you looked pretty happy being right where you were....even if you only got just one beer.”

Marian was laughing. “You should have heard him grumble about that.”

Draping an arm over David’s shoulder Jason had turned serious as he spoke to Marian. “It’s a good thing you’ve done....getting him out of that big ole house. He’s needed that. I just hope you’ll stick around long enough to get him back on his feet.”

“I’m afraid this will be a short stay,” she said. “I’ve got some country-club chores back home to take care of this weekend. But hopefully we’re going in the right direction. If that’s so, I’ll be back. For right now though, I need to get him home before he turns into a pumpkin.”

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