Saturday afternoon. Gladys Horner was in her family room, visiting with her son David, recounting her hot-springs adventure with Jimmy Brooder....at least most of it.
Without trying to follow all her excited details, David could tell that his mother had enjoyed the experience, as well as Mr. Brooder’s company. Truth to tell, he did not find that to be particularly welcome news.
While his mother carried on about hot springs and arrowheads, David was waiting for a break in her narrative. Finally he held up his hand, motioning her to stop for his question
“So it’s getting serious is it, between you and Jimmy?”
“I think it is,” she nodded.
“And you’ve talked about what comes next?”
“Oh yes. We’ve talked about that. Turns out we’re absolutely on the same page.”
“I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
“David. He’s a good man, a very good man. I won’t get hurt.” Gladys had more to say, to reinforce her case for Jimmy Brooder. It was the ringing of the kitchen telephone that cut her defense short.
“Grace. You got back.” Phone in hand Gladys returned to the family room. ”How was it?”
David rolled his eyes for his mother’s benefit, signaling his understanding that the two friends would be talking for more than a little while. He excused himself for a quick trip to the garage. When he returned to the family room a few minutes later his mother was in her recliner, handset in hand, apparently answering Grace Carson’s question.
“You certainly know that at our age it’s not like it used to be,” Gladys was saying. “It’s not like when we were kids.
"At this stage of the game a wedding doesn’t have to be the big occasion it was the first time. Thank heavens for that. I’m sure everything will work out just fine. In a few days it will be all done, absolutely official. ‘Signed and sealed,’ that’s what my Dad used to say.”
Before David could take in the rest of his mother’s conversation the ringing door bell called him to the front of the house. Pulling the door open he was standing face to face with Jimmy Brooder. Without a word David nodded toward the back of the house and motioned for Jimmy to follow.
Seconds later Gladys looked up from her conversation. “How’s that for timing, Grace. He just walked in the door. I’ll find out what he says and get back to you.” Her face lit up as she added, “It’s amazing, isn’t it. Sometimes things work out just like they’re supposed to, even when we don’t see it coming. Anyway, I’d better go. I’ll call you later.”
Switching off the phone Gladys started for the kitchen. “Let me get you some coffee,” she said to Jimmy. “How about you, Son?”
“Not now,” David answered. A moment later he was off and pacing, to the bulky stone fireplace and back. His mother returned with Jimmy’s coffee and took a seat next to him on the sofa. Still David was pacing.
“I was just talking to Grace,” Gladys told Jimmy. “She and Hank just got back from the coast.” She had more to say, until her son’s nervous movement caught her eye. As a mother would, she recognized the signals at once.
“What is it, David?” she asked.
“Don’t you give me that. There’s something on your mind. Now what is it?”
Jimmy was edging forward on the sofa, wanting to know more, but not sure he should be asking. “Why don’t I go outside for a minute. Let you two talk.”
“That won’t be necessary,” David said, finally stopping in front of the sofa. “In fact, I’d rather you were here. I do have some questions. I’d like to hear your answers, along with Mom’s”
At the first hint of the younger man’s not-so-subtle pushing, Jimmy’s initial impulse was to push back. For Gladys’ sake that was probably not a good idea. Instead, he settled for an uncharacteristically passive approach, letting the boy have his say before deciding how to respond.
A few seconds later Gladys was asking again, “Are you going to tell us, Son? Whatever it is, I can see it has you all worked up. So why don’t you just sit down and let us hear it? If you have something to say, just spit it out.”
David glanced across at one of them, then the other, apparently not sure where to begin. Finally, sitting on the arm of an overstuffed chair, he admitted, “I guess it’s not so much what I have to say.” The hard-edged determination he wanted Mr. Brooder to see was melting in the face of his mother’s insistence. “It’s more about what you have to say, the two of you.”
“Who says we have anything to say?” Gladys asked.
“Come on, Mom. I heard you on the phone with Grace. We’d talked about that before. I told you then what I thought. You told me that nothing had been decided. Well, it’s pretty clear that something has been decided now. I wish you’d stop dodging the issue and tell me straight out.”
Setting her cup on the coffee table Gladys pointed to the recliner, silently instructing her son to take a seat where she could see him better. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, David,” she said. “You’re pointing fingers at me, and Jimmy, and I don’t know why.”
David Horner had absolutely no experience at calling his mother a liar. In all likelihood he had never considered that possibility. Yet there she was, if not indulging in outright falsehood, at least deftly avoiding the truth. He did not bother to look up when he found the courage to continue.
“I just heard you and Grace talking about a wedding, about making plans.” He leaned forward, talking now to his mother, seeming to ignore Jimmy. “You knew how I felt about that. Yet there you were, making plans, without even telling me what’s going on....when it’s going to happen. How do you suppose that makes me feel?”
By then David was pouting, Jimmy was confused, and Gladys was on the verge of laughing out loud. As if to emphasize her sudden understanding, she left the two of them stewing in their befuddlement while she disappeared into the kitchen. Only when she returned, carrying a plate of chocolate-chip cookies, did she show any interest in addressing their questions.
Holding the plate out for each of them, she was not surprised when they both passed on her offer of a cookie. Setting the plate on the coffee table she took one for herself and prepared to carry on. “I promise to keep this simple. So that even my two favorite guys can understand. Okay?
“Grace Carson called me a few minutes ago with some very special news. She and Hank Rolland had just come back from the coast. She was calling to tell me they’re getting married, Thursday morning at the church. It won’t be a big ceremony....just the pastor, Hank’s kids, Jimmy, and me. She asked the two of us to stand up for them.”
Gladys paused for an instant to replay the last of Grace’s happy announcement. “She also said something about Sarah being there too, but I couldn’t make sense of that. Anyway, the wedding plans you heard Grace and me talking about were for her and Hank. ”
“Just a darn minute.” Jimmy was on his feet, calling for a time out. “I know that Hank headed south a couple weeks ago. The last time I saw him he was totally messed up.
"The only thing he wanted to do was steer clear of what he called ‘those wily widows’ at the church. Grace told me the other day that he was ready to head back. But he never called to tell me he was home. And now you’re saying he and Grace are getting married. Where did that come from?”
“I’m not sure I know,” Grace offered. “I don’t suppose it matters, as long as they know.”
“And you and Jimmy,” David interrupted, seeking a return to square one, and the fate of his inheritance. “What about you? Isn’t there anything I should know about you two, about what you have in mind, any plans you’ve made?”
“Yes there is,” Jimmy replied.
With a chocolate-chip cookie in hand he returned to Gladys’ side on the sofa. Patting her knee, he prepared to finally have his say. “To begin with, I’ve heard about some of what you and your mother have discussed....enough to get the gist of your concerns, to know where you’re coming from.”
David leaned forward, tensed and ready to defend his idea of what his mother’s friend did and did not deserve. Before he could speak, Jimmy raised a hand.
“Let me finish, Son,” he added. “The other morning, before we left the hot springs, your mother and I had a long talk. And, as you may have guessed, I had a proposal for her. In fact I was ready to go the whole nine yards....on bended knee. But I’ve got this old football thing that makes that hard to do. So I just sat there beside her.”
With a wink for Gladys, Jimmy looked back to David, trying his best to keep from laughing at the youngster’s grim frown. “Thing is," he continued. "I like this lady a lot. I believe we have a future together, the two of us. And that, of course, brings us to your questions about your father’s estate, and what happens to that. Right?”
David Horner found himself backed into a corner, a rather uncomfortable one at that. To admit that his “father’s estate” was at the heart of his objection was to risk looking greedy and insensitive. On the other hand, to deny that reality might risk to the loss of something he had long considered his and his alone. At that moment, without a good answer to Jimmy’s question, he offered none at all.
“Here’s the thing, David,” Jimmy continued. “What was your dad’s, and is now your mother’s, should be yours when she’s gone. I think you’re absolutely right about that.”
“I am?” The son’s surprise was showing. There was no hiding the skeptical wariness of his next question. “What exactly does that mean?”
“It means that I told your mother that I love her, because I do. I told her I want to be with her, because I do. There are lots of things I’d like us to do....together.
"Thing is, if it works for her, there’s no reason in the world that we have to be married to do all that. And that was my proposal. I asked her if she would be willing to be with me, but not be married to me, for as long as we both shall live?”
Jimmy’s wide grin was telegraphing Gladys’ answer. “And she said 'Yes' she would do that. At the time I hadn’t heard anything about Hank and Grace, which I still don’t understand. But the important part is that your mother accepted my proposal, or maybe it was my unproposal. Either way, whatever you call it, I can’t remember the last time I felt that good.
“That means you probably won’t see much of us for a while. We’ve been talking about what I’m calling an unhoneymoon. I expect that to be something very special.”
Again Jimmy made eye contact with a still confused David. “And along the way each of us will be spending some of our own money doing whatever we do, just like before. But the main part of your dad’s estate....that doesn’t involve me at all. There’s no reason it should. That’s for you two to sort out.”
It was by Tanner standards a modest affair, the Thursday morning wedding of Hank Rolland and Grace Carson....held in the church office, with Pastor Williams officiating.
The bride wore an aqua-marine dress....“Greenish,” Hank called it. Kelly and Eric were on hand, beaming at the sight of their father finally ‘moving on.’ After the ceremony Jimmy Brooder and Gladys Horner signed the marriage license as official witnesses.
By the end of the ten minute service Hank and Grace were happily married, and Jimmy and Gladys were just as happily unmarried. Across the room, on the corner of the pastor’s desk, Sarah sat silently, smiling her thin Clabber Girl smile, perhaps knowing more than a casual observer might have expected.
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