July and August, 1970 excerpt from novel

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Back in Kelowna, the next afternoon, I meet someone who will change my life forever.
Jessie has gone off with some guy as usual, leaving me to sit in the park.
A tall guy approaches me and sits down on the grass near me. He shrugs off the army green backpack and sets it down.
He has brown wavy hair, short, unlike the current long hair style for men, and a mustache. He wears glasses, brown framed ones that have been taped up on the side. I love his smile the minute he introduces himself. I like his accent, which I soon learn is a Kansas drawl. He tells me his name is Brad and that he is just a country boy from Kansas, touring the country. Then he says that as soon as he saw me, he told the friend with whom he was hitch hiking “There’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
That is it. I fall in love. What a suave and debonair way to introduce himself. I am intrigued. This is the first guy to mention marriage to me. If I go with him, I am guaranteed to be safe from potential rape and murder. This guy will take good care of me, I am certain. He seems so open and happy.
Jessie comes back from one of her forays away with some guy, and I see her jealousy for the first time. She glares when I introduce Brad. She takes me aside.
“You don’t know anything about this guy. What are you thinking?”
I could point out to her that she keeps taking off with strange guys all the time, and that the last few nights have been dangerous for both of us, as we spend that time on the beach with boys we have just met, but I don’t. I tried to avoid confrontation as always.
“I’m sorry, Jessie, but I am leaving with Brad.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” she asks.
“You could find work picking fruit,” I say, and I don’t mean it in a nasty way, but that is how she takes it. She watches me and Brad leave.
As evening comes, he and I walk with some other people to an old house, where everyone in the group is going to stay. He takes my hand and I am swept away by his care and concern.

And so I lose my virginity that night. We have sex, and while I’ve read about it in books at my sister Doreen’s, it is nothing like I imagined. As we lay beside each other, I whisper, “That was my first time.”
“It was? Oh, wow.” Brad gives me a hug. He kisses me and promises right then and there that he will marry me. It is my biggest dream come true. We cuddle together in Brad’s sleeping bag and I fall asleep.
In the morning, we walk upstairs to the kitchen and Brad has coffee. I didn’t drink coffee or tea, because it is against my religion.
After that, we hike to the park. We sit with the same group of people, and talk. Brad is outgoing and talks away to some of the others. I admire his easy going manner and wish that I wasn’t so shy.
A few people panhandle on the street, and along the paths in the park. We collect enough money for cheap wine and bread and bologna. Everyone shares in the goods, although I refuse to drink the wine. The girl with the guitar starts to play and we sing along.
We meet up with a guy who sells acid (LSD) and mescaline. He is about my height, and wears an Australian bush hat. He is dressed in a denim vest and shorts. He and Brad get talking and exchange where they are from. It turns out that Duffy is from Hamilton, Ontario, which is my birth place.
We walk the streets of town, panhandling. Who should I run into but Brad – the “first” Brad? He looks at Brad and then back at me.
“Are you still interested in work?” he asks.
“No, not anymore.”
He nods and walks away.
I am not sorry. I don’t feel that I owe Brad anything. And since he too has had sex with Jessie, the thought of working for him is rather distasteful.
I am beginning to really dislike Jessie. Maybe not her, but her promiscuity.
Later in the day, we walk across the floating bridge, and up into the hills. The stars are bright above us. Someone wants to start a campfire, but they are prevented by cooler heads, as it is pointed out that not only might the cops see the fire and come to investigate, but it is too dry on the hillside for a fire. People form small groups, and talk. Brad and I are joined by a few others, and Brad chatters away while I hang back, quiet and shy. There is a discussion about the rattlesnakes that lurk in the hills, which scares me. I am too young, though, to worry about the danger. Nothing bad will happen to us.
There are falling stars, from the Perseid’s shower, which occurs every year in early August. We watch the show in awe, voices dropping off as the stars fall. Brad scores some weed, and he smokes it. He offers it to me, and I tried it, just a little. My conscience bothers me, but his urging wins out. It is kind of alright. It makes me feel relaxed. No more anxiety that night.
Long after the voices quiet and people fall asleep, Brad and I have sex. This time I really enjoy it. Brad is a thoughtful and caring lover. As I fall asleep, I wonder at my good luck in the two of us finding each other.
We spend a couple of days like this, in the park in the sunshine, music and panhandling and night time in the hills.
We meet Rob, Dustin and Gary, three guys who are from Red Deer. We comment on how small the world is, when I say I am from Lacombe.
Brad said, “I think we should move on. I’d like to see more of Canada. Will you come with me?” he asks, his head turned a bit towards me, long eyelashes half hiding his brown eyes. There are crinkles at the corners of his eyes as he grins at me, dimples prominent.
“Of course I will,” I say. Whatever else would I have chosen to do? This boy has rescued me from danger – spending the nights with strangers all alone and vulnerable – and he talks of marriage, just as I have hoped someone would. I have found my perfect man. I love his jokes and his general sense of humor. He says he loves my Canadian accent. He and I gather up my belongings, and he puts them into his large army green backpack. I leave my empty suitcase abandoned in the Kelowna park.

The morning is bright and it is already getting hot. We walk out to the highway and stick out our thumbs.
We are picked up by an older white haired man who drives a dark blue Ford pickup truck. It reads, “Handeler’s Orchard” on the cab door. He waits while we pile in and then says, as he starts to drive again, “So where are you two headed this morning?”
“As far as we can go I guess,” says Brad.
The elderly man says, “I envy you two. What a world we live in today. I’d sure have liked to just up and take off like that when I was younger. No job, no responsibilities, just the open road.”
Brad grins over at the man.
“Sure enough, that’s how it is for us.”
“Say, what kinda accent is that you’ve got?”
“I’m a country boy from Kansas, USA.”
“Kansas, eh?”
“Yup. Where the corn and wheat and sunflowers grow tall and yellow in the sunshine.”
The old man smiles.
“You a draft dodger?”
“Nope. I was honorably discharged, sir.”
The old man nods, pleased by this answer.
The truck travels smoothly along the winding paved roadway of Highway 97, running past the lake, blue as a sapphire in the hot sunshine, and past orchards and houses and small shops. There are fruit stands, some not open yet, as the main harvest would not be for a couple of weeks. At last, the man says this was as far as he can take us, and he pulls over to the shoulder of the road. He points off towards the gravel road that leads to the west and tells us, “That’s where my orchard is at. Out that way. If you two ever decide you want a job picking fruit, I’ll sure give you a chance.”
With that, he is gone up the road and we hold out our thumbs again. The next ride is in a Duster, driven by a younger guy who takes us as far as Vernon, the next largish city north of Kelowna. As Brad and I walk along the street, the sun beats down. I am thirsty. We panhandle, stopping strangers with “Excuse me, do you have any spare change?” And I, more fortunate than Brad, collect enough for a soda for each of us in short order.
This boosts my confidence! I find talking to strangers and begging is not so scary after all!
We come out of the air conditioned corner store and meet a couple of guys, in blue jeans and t-shirts, who tell us, “There’s a youth hostel over at the church on Porter Street. They offer a place to sleep and a breakfast in the mornings.”
“Hey, thanks, man,” says Brad.
We make our way to Porter Street and I admire the small church which is painted a sandstone color, with brown trim. The building attached is about the size of a modest bungalow, and a big sign on the door states that it is a shelter for transients. I can’t believe our luck.
Brad says, “This is a good place to stay. Let’s go in and see if we can get out of the hot sun.”
By this time, it is late afternoon, and the priest who runs the shelter meets us at the door. He wears a collar that indicates his calling. He has a bald head and a big smile as we enter. The room is large, with a doorway leading, we would soon learn, to a kitchen. Down the hallway are rooms for couples, and for women and men respectively.
After Brad and he chat, he takes us to the couples’ room and Brad and I set out the sleeping bag. Brad takes off his back pack and sets it beside the sleeping bag. He shifted his shoulders.
“I’m glad to be rid of that burden,” he tells me. “The weight hurts my back.”
He brings out his map of Canada, and then his US map. Unfolding them both, he points out the little town where he is from, in Kansas, and then we pour over the Canadian map, and plan our route for the next day. As it turns out, we would not leave the following day after all. But that is because we meet a nice couple that evening, and get to talking. The couple, Maxine, age fourteen, and her boyfriend Keith, twenty, have come to B.C. from Alberta. She’s run away with him and her parents don’t know where she is. Along with the rest of the people who amble in by evening, we talk and laugh and have a good time. Maxine is little, short, with long brown hair and brown eyes. Keith is tall and has black hair and his eyes are aqua blue. I have never seen anyone before or since who has such eyes as his.
When it is time for bed, Brad leads me to the couples’ room. We are off to one side, while Maxine and Keith are over on the other. Brad and I lay awake talking softly for a while, and then we make love. I fall asleep with his arms wrapped around me. I notice that Brad sleeps with his glasses on, which I think is a little strange. “I can’t see very well without them. If I keep them on, nobody can sneak up to me,” he says, the next morning when I ask him about it.
It seems an odd thing to say, but what do I know? After all, we are sharing a house with a group of strangers, so maybe Brad is more sensible about the danger than I.
While hostels originated in Europe years before, for the traveler, the youth hostels in Canada are based on the same idea, but for those hitch hikers – hippies – that have a transient lifestyle. There is a network throughout the country, and this hostel in Vernon would be the first of several where we stayed.
It is a pleasant oasis after the heat in summer or cold in winter of being on the road. There is usually some food, and while there were rarely beds, the floor provides ample room for an unrolled sleeping bag.
Brad tells me that he is going to “liberate” me. He will change my old fashioned ideas and ways and make me a free person. I don’t question this. I don’t wonder what he has in mind, or why he wants to take this job on. I don’t stop to wonder why he feels the need to change me. And do I really need changing?
The morning brings toast for breakfast, and coffee for the coffee drinkers. I don’t drink coffee. It is against Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. We leave the shelter and along with Maxine and Keith and few others, we roam the streets. We panhandle enough money to go to the little corner store near the hostel, and buy bologna and bread for sandwiches, which everyone shares. I overcome my initial misgivings about eating meat, and wolf down my share. The food is delicious.

Writing Excerpt: Arriving in Alberta: 1964

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We arrive in southern Alberta after four days on the train. We spend all the nights “sleeping” on the train seats, but learn from the man who hired mum that the sleeping car was included in the price he paid!
The rain comes down in buckets as we alight at the train station in Brooks. A little man wearing cowboy boots, hat, western shirt and jeans approaches us. After introductions are made, and we collect our baggage, we climb into the blue pickup truck the man drives and we are off. The ranch is a few miles out of town. There is a modest one bedroom house, and a shack and lean to as well as barns and corrals where a herd of horses stand. He leads us into the house and shows us the room which is ours. I am to share the double bed with mum. The rancher explains that he will sleep out in the shack. I have time to wonder where he will sleep in winter, but don’t say anything. I am still very shy.
That day, mum unpacks our things, and then she makes supper. It consists of canned yams, meat and cherry pie. We soon learn that this rancher eats only canned yams and cherry pie – for every supper. Mum and I soon grow tired of this fare.
The next day, the rancher shows me his older mare, suitable for riding for a young person with no experience. I am overjoyed. I am able to ride this horse out in the fields and can’t believe how lucky I am to have this dream become reality.
Later, I meet the rancher’s young niece. She rides a pinto horse over from her home, and we go riding together.
One day, as we canter across the field, my horse rears up and I fall off. I hurt my shoulder, and it bothers me for some time after.
One hot sunny afternoon – it seems that southern Alberta is always hot and sunny – so different from the rainy day on our arrival – I tag along with the rancher when he delivers a horse to another ranch. There are a lot of cowboys milling around when we pull up in the rancher’s truck.
These are not the “rhinestone cowboys” of Hollywood, or those Calgarians who don blue jeans during Stampede week in July. These are real cowboys. Blue jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hats, worn, not for effect, but because of the hot sun. Weathered faces and some, like the rancher with bowed legs from growing up riding horses all their lives.
In the evenings, I read the Western Horsemen magazines to which the rancher subscribes, and there is the popular prairie weekly newspaper, The Western Producer. They have a kids’ page, and I submit a poem which they publish.
This first published work excites me. I am just eleven years old, and about to enter sixth grade. I wonder if perhaps I could be a writer? The thought has never occurred to me before. I’ve had thoughts of becoming a teacher like my big sister, but writing is something that might be even better!
Mum finds the Seventhday Adventist church and pastor in the phone book, and we attend church a few times. Members of the church invite us to Sabbath dinner a couple of times, and Mum complains to me, that there was meat on the table! SDA’s don’t eat meat, she said. I learn eventually that there were a lot of differences in beliefs between the SDA people in Ontario and in Alberta.
One Saturday morning, she tells me that we aren’t going to go to church that day. Well, we stay in the bedroom and when the minister comes to the house, he and the rancher knock on the door. Mum will not answer. I am embarrassed that we are hiding. Why is mum doing this? Still, she calls through the closed door, at last, and tells the pastor she is not going to church. From the sounds, we know that they have left the house, and I hear the minister’s car start up. We stay in that room all day, and mum doesn’t open the door until after sundown, when the Sabbath is over.
The rancher tries to ask her about this behaviour but she ignores him.
My mum contacts her sister, Lena, in Calgary and she and her boyfriend come down to bring us back to Calgary to live. Mum plans to get on welfare, as she has found the everyday work as a housekeeper is more than she could handle. The day arrives, and mum hasn’t told the rancher that she is leaving. He is quite angry. We have only lived on the ranch for the summer, and I am sure that he doesn’t believe he’s got the money he’s paid for our train tickets back yet.
Nothing will change my mum’s mind though, once she reaches a decision. We leave that afternoon, crammed into the car. First, we stay with my mum’s sister. Lena is a bit rowdy. She smokes, drinks, gambles on the horses and has a great sense of humor. She wears a lot of makeup and jewellery and she dyes her hair. She is the complete antithesis to my mother.
One evening, a young fellow arrives at Lena’s. She introduces his as one of my cousins. He is very handsome I think to myself. We all sit down and have a game of Scrabble. Mum will play this game, and let me play it despite her religious beliefs. The cousin tries to make words but is a terrible speller. When I correct him he teases me.
The game finished, Lena brings out cards and shows us how to play “Hearts”. I don’t remember if Mum allowed me to play, or if she played or not. Cards are forbidden to SDA’s.
Mum and I go downtown to apply for welfare and are given vouchers for food, and to pay for an apartment. She finds a seedy little place right in the downtown, across a river in an older part of town. The school I will attend is across that river, so everyday I have to cross the bridge to reach the school. I don’t settle in very well. By this time, I believe the constant changing of places to live and of schools has taken its toll. I don’t remember much about the class, although I do remember this. I walk home one day, to have the boy in the next apartment stop me.
“D-do you want to listen to some records?” he asks.
The poor kid! I bustle away, blurting, “No!” as I run to my door.
I tell Mum and she says that I am way too young to be around a boy. In later years, I pity that boy and tell myself that I was rude. I was embarrassed whenever I thought about my reaction. The poor kid. I probably scarred him for life. Gets up the nerve to ask a girl to listen to records, and she bolts!
From the seedy apartment, which my older sister, Doreen, calls a slum, we move to an older, two storey house that has been converted into apartments. We will live next to her, in a bright little second story apartment. She lives just next door and it should be a cozy ending to our nomadic life. That is not to be. My mum resents Doreen, as Doreen is free with her advice and guidance, which mum calls “bossiness.”
We are now in a nicer neighbourhood. The elementary school is not far off.
I settle in at the new school. For the first time in my life, there is a girl in my class who is taller than me! Freida and I become fast friends. We take turns having our lunch at her place or at mine. She is funny and kind. At recess, I am included in ball games, and I am happy. I belong, at last. I like the teacher. He is the first male teacher I’ve had, except for a short stint in the small Ontario town, with a military minded teacher who, on dismissal, commanded, “Stand, turn, forward,” as though we were soldiers. This teacher is nice.
Despite the new friendship and my happiness with this new school, I am still very shy. I leave my slip on black shoes under my desk at the end of the school day, and when class starts the next morning, I am mortified to see that my shoes are on the teacher’s desk! I cringe, when he asks, “Whose shoes?” I don’t answer. He asks again, then picks them up and holds them above the wastebasket next to his desk.
“Going, going, gone!” He waits a moment, then drops them into the trash.
I tell myself that the shoes didn’t fit right, anyway, which is true. They were a bit big. Still, I am ashamed of my paralyzing shyness.
Mum makes plans, and we are on our way, in a moving truck, to live in central Alberta, in the town where her other sister lives, as well as her dad, my grandfather. True to past behavior, she doesn’t tell my sister Doreen that we are moving. Doreen will come home after school to find us gone. It is a cold winter day with snow on the ground and a sky of pink and gray. I want to move and yet I don’t. I find my sister overbearing at times and yet I am going to miss her. I like the fact that she promised me a small allowance, and told me that I would be responsible for my saving and spending. That is all gone now. The future is unknown. How I would miss my friend Freida.

On the Bus Again

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I live in a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario. I’ve been here ever since my husband died, nearly ten years ago. I can’t say that I like to be a widow, but I do like my single hood. I suppose I’ve grown more and more independent, and yes, even set in my ways.
I take the bus into the larger city to the west about once a week. Sometimes I have a reason to travel, say, for a doctor’s appointment or to shop the sales. More often, I have no excuse to ride, except to observe, and occasionally meet people.
I enjoy studying people on the bus. I go home and write about them. Haven’t published anything yet, but who knows? It can still happen, even though I’m seventy-three and getting older by the minute, it seems.
The fellow with the pink hair band! Now that was a character. I quite liked talking with him.
Yesterday I rode the bus again. There was a young lady, about twenty, sitting in the first seat, across from the bus driver, and close to the window. She seemed to shrink against the seat, and she didn’t look out the window as I approached. She stared straight ahead,
as I settled down beside her.
She had short hair, cut at an angle on one side, so that it hid part of her face. The other side was shaved. It was black and a bright auburn on the ends. Rather pretty, I thought, and I found myself wishing, not for the first time, that I was younger, so that I, too, might
experiment with bright hair colours.
She shifted away even more, if that were possible, as I sat down.
I set my white leather purse down on the floor in front of me, and leaned back in the soft blue cushion of the seat.
The girl coughed, bringing up her arm so that she wouldn’t spread germs. I liked that. It showed that she had some manners. A rare thing these days.
As the bus lurched forward, and several people stood to be ready for the next stop, I
leaned toward the girl and said, “My name is Sonya. I haven’t seen you on this bus before.”
The girl turned to stare at me. Her wide mouth worked a bit, before she replied, “I just moved here from up north.” She had large grey eyes, an unusual smoky colour that made her hair colour choice fitting.
“Oh, then you won’t have got used to the crowds yet, then.”
“No – no not yet.”
“Do you live in  P—-?” I asked, naming the town where I live.
“Yes, I do. On Dorcas Street.”
“Oh, that is a lovely area. You must have an apartment then.” I know the town well enough to picture the shady tree lined street and the old brick houses that have been converted into apartments.
“Yes, I have a bedsit. But it’s large enough for me.”
“Of course, dear.”
We rode in companionable silence for a couple of minutes. The young lady was no longer leaning so hard into the window side.
“I might get a cat,” she said, all at once.
“Oh, that would be nice. There’s always a cat needs a home.”
“Yes, and I won’t get a kitten, but a full grown cat. Like you said, cats need a home.”
“Good for you. And what is your name, dear?”
“Michaela.”
“What a lovely name.”
“Except no one pronounces it right or spells it properly, you know.”
“I am sorry to hear that, Michaela,” I said, careful to say it right.
“And I got sick of my boyfriend back home always calling me ” Michael.””
“And no wonder. That would be less than respectful, if you didn’t wish to be called that.”
“Exactly, which is part of the reason that I moved down south. Just to get away, from him and from my family too.”
The riders who had stood up moved forward to the doors as the bus pulled up to the next stop. They left and a few more people got on. The bus pulled away from the curb.
I noticed that Michaela studied each person as they moved to find seats. She looked from under her side swept hair, head down and not looking directly at anyone.
“Are you afraid about something that happened before you left?”
She looked at me, her mouth a little “o” of surprise.
“Well, yes, I am worried that they’ll find me and make me come home.  I had to get away before something worse happened.”
This last statement piqued my interest. I realized that I must be careful how I broached this subject.
“Then things didn’t go well between the two of you?”
“Not at all. We had a big fight when I told him I needed some time away. He got mad.”
“Oh, my. I do hope it didn’t get physical.”
The bus lurched as it pulled onto the highway. It wouldn’t be long until it arrived in P—-.
She glanced at me, through her hair.
“Well, it did, sort of. I – I had to defend myself. And I did, ” she went on. The words came then, in a torrent.
“I was at  home. Mum and Dad were out in the barn, tending to the dairy cows. He came into the house, and started to argue. I ran into the kitchen, just to get away from him. And he wouldn’t stop talking to me. He yelled at me.”
She hesitated a moment.
“I hate it when people yell. I wanted him to stop. I didn’t mean to hurt him. I just wanted him to be quiet. To go away.”
I nodded, and Michaela said, “I grabbed the knife on the counter. I’d been planning to make a sandwich when he walked in.
“I tried to make him be quiet. Mum and Dad came in then, and told me I had to get away, real quick. They took care of everything, you know. “
I patted the girl’s hand where it lay, clenched in her lap.
“And so you came south,” I said.
“Yes, and I’m never going back there, ever!”
She looked at me, with those smoky grey eyes. No tears, only clarity.
“Well, this is my stop, ” I said, as the bus slowed and pulled in. “You carry on and make a life for yourself here, ” I told her.
She smiled at me then, as I picked up my purse and got to my feet.
“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for listening.”
I smiled and left the bus.
As I walked down the street, I pondered the conversation.
How little we know of others and their troubles, their plans and their secrets.

NaNoWriMo This November

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Photo by Elliot Cooper on Unsplash

I have plans to participate in NaNoWriMo  again this year. It’s been a difficult year so far, and writing has somewhat fallen by the wayside as I deal with grief and loss.

Still, life does go on, and that means writing. I have no idea at the moment what I shall write in November. No clue. But I am sure inspiration will arrive before then.

As a writer, do you have plans to do NaNo?

Some writers swear by the “pantser” method which means no plan, no outline, and only a small idea to begin to write.

The “planner” on the other hand prefers a near complete outline of story, with characters drawn clearly and a good idea of the story and how it will proceed.

I tend to be a “pantser” although last  year I did work with a rough outline.

Writers, let’s do this together, no matter which method you use.

It isn’t long until NaNo begins.

 

 

Camp NaNoWriMo: Wait For Me!

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I continue to try and find some time every day to work on my Camp NaNoWriMo project. It is a rough go at times, because I have had to contend with hot summer days with no air conditioning, a family member who has been getting regular appointments for treatment, and a lot of thinking, remembering and soul searching.

This last is because I am working on writing my memoirs. There is a lot to remember, and of course, a lot that I would prefer to forget, but is going to be written, no matter how painful or difficult it may be.

***

Here is the essence of my project:

“Does a friendship have to be earned, or does it just happen? Once friends, is it for life, or only until a friendship is weakened and destroyed somehow?
Can true friends hurt one another and remain friends?
Does anyone really love? Is it possible to find one person who completes another? Or is it all a wispy dream, created by romantics who never succeed but who are too dishonest to share their sad discoveries?
I was once a romantic. I gave up on that dream. I fought to hold on but it nearly caused my death. I am here. I survived. I am a cynic. I will tell you how it happened.”

***

 

The picture of the road at the top of this piece? That’s because the memoir focuses on the early 1970’s when hitch hiking was only dangerous and not deadly. Oh, how I traveled! It was an adventure.

***

I began to work on this project by creating a short narrative with the most important points I wished to include. That in turn, led to more detailed paragraphs, which I am now writing.

I am using Scrivener this time around. I am not familiar with all it can do, but so far the basics are working fine.

***

If You’re in Search of an Audio Book Reader

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If you are planning an audio book, I highly recommend

Scott ODell Audio Book Narrator, Actor, Performer. Voiceovers. Member of Sag/Aftra

He is doing my short story collection and I am happy with his work.

Again, I am not receiving any remuneration for this suggestion. Just happy to help other writers out.

 

Martin (Chapter Seven)

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When I learned that Lainie had got the job at Jensen’s Hardware, part of me was happy and part of me was sad. I’d really wanted that job. I left my house that day, and ran into Kate. Well, I didn’t run into to her literally, of course. I knew that she’d be at Mayer’s after lunch. Her shift usually ran either eight o’clock in the morning to four in the afternoon or noon to eight at night. She was there and she siddled up to me and winked. I winked back. We had a good friendship I thought. And she was one of the few kids in school who had never made fun of me. God knows, there were enough of them that did.
“Hey, Martin. What can I get you?”
“How about a cheeseburger and an orange soda?”
“Sure, right away.” She walked towards the back and I watched her. I was half torn between my love for Lainie and a strong attraction to Kate. The girls were so different, I decided I was just weird to find them both attractive. It didn’t occur to me that maybe my thoughts were normal for a guy my age. I was used to finding fault with myself, mostly because of the dyslexia and the teasing I’d got all through school.
Kate brought me my food. I told her that Lainie had got a job at Jensen’s.
“Well, good for her! Give her something for herself, instead of looking after her old man all the time.” As she spoke, Kate lowered her voice and tossed her head towards the back of the restaurant. I saw why as soon as I checked out the room. Lainie’s dad was at a booth with three of his cronies.
The place got busy for a while, and Kate and Mrs. Mayer rushed around, serving customers and cleaning tables.
Then, Mrs. Mayer approached my table. She sat down across from me.
“How are your folks, Martin?”
“They’re doing good, Mrs. Mayer. Mom won at whist the other night.”
Mrs. Mayer smiled at me. She said, “I’m glad to hear that. Her and I have had some bad luck at that game. Too bad I missed that. I was working that night.”
She hesitated, and then spoke again.
“Martin, have you given any thought to what you want to do until college? Are you interested in working?”
“I sure am, Mrs. Mayer. Do you know of some job?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. I need someone to work here, cleaning tables and dishwashing. Would you be interested in that?”
“I sure would! When can I start?”
Mrs. Mayer laughed.
“I’m glad to see that you’re enthusiastic. How about tomorrow, from noon to eight?”
“Sure. I’ll be here. Thank you, Mrs. Mayer.”
She took her leave then, and I finished my meal. I was happy. This was just what I needed. Now both Lainie and I had jobs, and maybe the three of us would make it to that party on Friday night.
I sauntered home, and my mom and dad were delighted when I told them my news.

***

I worked, then for a couple of days and then it was Friday. Kate picked up Lainie and I in her new car. It was an older model, but nice to look at. It was red, and as she drove us to the party, Kate said she’d mostly chosen the car because of the color, although her dad had also given her the go ahead when he checked out the mechanics.
Now, we arrived in the parking lot of Stevenson Park, named after the town’s first mayor.
There were a lot of other vehicles there already. Lainie picked up the case of beer we’d brought and I took it from her.
“I’ll be gentlemanly and carry this,” I said.
“Thanks, Martin, but we all know you just want to drink more than us,” said Kate. She grinned so I didn’t feel bad about what she said. Besides, to tell the truth she was right. We were all old enough to drink in our state, and I didn’t mind knocking back a few. I knew that Lainie would have one can at most, while Kate could drink me under the table if she was encouraged.
Joking and chatting, we made our way down the path to the lake. There were about thirty people there already. There were quite a few people gathered around a campfire and some of them were toasting marshmallows or roasting wieners.
Kate excused herself and went off to talk to some of the other girls, while Lainie and I found a seat on a fallen log just out of the way of the fire and its smoke. I opened the case of beer and handed her one, taking one for myself. We each took a sip and smiled at each other. She congratulated me on the new job and I asked her how the work at Jensen’s was going.
Her eyes sparkled, as she said, “Oh, Martin! It’s the best thing to happen to me ever. I love working there. I just wish my dad was pleased. Seems like nothing I do ever makes him proud of me though.”
Kate returned and I had time to hand her a can of beer, before I was grabbed from behind and pulled off the log.
I landed on my butt, and there was laughter. I turned to look as I got up, and saw Jordan, Jeff and Mark. All three were laughing.
As I attempted to stand up, Mark pushed me back down. I spilled my beer.
Jeff said, “Ha, look, Martin can’t hold his beer.” The three of them laughed uproariously at that.
I got to my feet, minus the beer and swung at Jeff. Jeff dodged me, stepping back, and I swung at air. Jordan said, “C’mon guys, let’s go find somebody else to pick on. He’s already lost the beer.”
“No way. I think Martin wants to fight. Do you wanna fight, Martin?” This from Jeff. He loomed over me, a good six inches taller than me.
I swung at his chin. I missed. Jeff swung his arm and it connected with my shoulder. Then he pummeled my chest and then my stomach. I dropped to one knee.
“C’mon guys. Enough.” That was Jordan again. This time the other two listened and they made off towards the fire.
Lainie was crying as she grasped my arm and Kate, taking the other arm helped me stand. “Oh, Martin, I am so sorry,” said Lainie.
“Not your fault,” I said, from behind a fat lip. I wiped at my mouth and my hand came away, bloody.
Kate opened her pocket book and took out a tissue. She handed it to me, and I pressed it against my mouth.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said. “We’ll go back to my place.”
That’s what we did. Lainie and Kate were both shaken up by what had happened, but not me. This was something that had happened to me before, always those three guys, although sometimes there were others. School had been miserable for me because of it.
We had a good time playing video games and finishing the beer.
Kate and Lainie told me that Lainie was going to move in with Kate.
“Say, that’s great. I can see both of you in one shot,” I said somberly.
I don’t know why, but both girls burst into giggles at that. Then I saw the time and I told them I better get going. We said our good byes, and I walked Lainie home and went home myself.
I was depressed for part of the walk, after I saw Lainie to her door. I mulled over the beating I’d got and wondered for the thousandth time just why it was I seemed so likely to attract the bullies in life. Then I started to think about my job at Mayer’s. That was a good thought. It made me smile, and by the time I reached my house I was grinning. Mom and dad were still up, watching a horror movie. I joined them for a while, and then went to bed.
As I fell asleep, I wondered if Lainie’s dad had given her any trouble when she got home. Maybe I should have stayed around for a bit. Little did I know what was brewing at her place.

***

Well, Martin was the main speaker this week. I wonder what’s going on at Lainie’s? I don’t trust that dad of hers at all.

It is a very good thing I read this chapter over before I posted. I had some names all confused and that would have been even more confusing to you, the Reader. All fixed, though – I think.

Martin (Chapter Four)

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I went home and tore up the job application. What else could I have done? I wanted a job; Lainie needed it.
Mom and Dad were having coffee in the kitchen when I came in.
“Hi son. Did you have a good time tonight?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, I did. Lainie and I went out to Mayer’s.”
“I’m glad you and Lainie are friends. I hear she hasn’t got an easy time of it at home,” Mom observed.
“Poor kid,” this from Dad.
I sat down at the table and pulled the application over.
“Is that something I need to help you with?” asked Mom.
I tore the paper in half and then into quarters.
“Nope. I was going to apply for a job at the hardware store, but I changed my mind.”
“Why, son?”
“Dad, Lainie wants the job. Guess I’ll have to keep looking.”
I excused myself and went up to my room. I tossed my jacket on a chair and had a shower.
I checked my phone for messages when I came out of the bathroom. Nothing. I’d been hoping to hear from a friend, Jordan. His parents owned a resort several miles out of town. They had need of someone to help out with snow clearing and janitorial work inside the lodge. A lot of people booked in to ski and while I didn’t ski, Jordan did. He was a real athlete and I envied him the collection of girls that always hung around him.
I messaged him and then fell asleep while I waited for an answer.

***
In the morning, Mom was cooking breakfast when I came downstairs. I still hadn’t heard anything from Jordan. I guessed I’d have to look for work in town after all.
I gobbled up some eggs and bacon and toast before I headed out.
I walked past Meyer’s and down to Main, then I entered shop after shop with no luck. At Harley’s Meats, old Mr. Harrison finally offered me a job.
“Won’t be fancy and I can’t afford to pay much,” he said. “But I’ll treat you fair and I’ll give you a chance to learn to be a butcher, if you’re interested.”
I had no interest in becoming a butcher. I was destined for better things. I had college to look forward to next year.
I said, “I’ll work hard if you hire me, Mr. Harrison.”
The old man grinned, his dimples showing in the chubby face. His bald head gleamed under the ceiling lights in the meat shop.
“Okay, son. Here’s an apron. Let’s get you started.”
He handed me a green apron, so large that I could tie it around my waist three times. It looked clean enough. Mr. Harrison had a reputation in town for being reliable and good to his customers and staff. I felt lucky to be part of his “team” as he called his employees. He led me into the back and introduced me to Paul, who had been ahead of me two years in high school. He was a big guy. He’d played football and was a member of the winning state team. They’d gone all the way to the semi finals the last year he played.
“Hey, Martin,” said Paul, “I remember you. Got honors every year, eh?”
I nodded, somewhat embarrassed. Honors didn’t compare to being a full fledged football hero.
“I’ll show you around and then I gotta get back to cutting up meat. That skill can wait for another day, but I’ll teach you. No worries.”
Paul turned out to be a good and patient teacher and while it didn’t take a lot of skill or training to clean up a bloody floor, I did my best to complete the work. I didn’t notice the smell of the place after a while so that helped.
Paul and I removed our aprons and went for lunch next door at Maxine’s. She had a small lunch counter and made good coffee. I had a ham and cheese sandwich with fries, and Paul had a steak sandwich. We chatted a bit, and Paul asked me about Lainie.
“How’s she doing now, Martin? You see her a lot don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I told him about her dad and how she’d come back from Bert’s and needed work.
“Don’t we all? I woulda gone to college on scholarship if it wasn’t for my dad gettin’ sick you know.”
I hadn’t known, and I told him so.
“Yeah, he had to leave his job and then the bills started to pile up. I had a choice and I made it. I’m not sorry. Shawna and I are gonna get married next June.”
“Congratulations.”
“Thanks. Well, back to the old grindstone.”
We went back to work. The rest of the day flew by. I had a lot of cleaning and scrubbing to do but nothing I couldn’t handle. At the end of the day, I walked home, pleased that I’d be able to tell Mom and Dad I was now a member of the workforce.

***
Mom greeted me when I got home. Dad, she told me, was out at Mayer’s having coffee with an old army buddy who’d dropped in when he arrived in town.
“So how was your day, Martin?”
I told her about my new job, and she patted my shoulder as she got up to make dinner.
“Good for you,” she said. “Your dad said you were going to come home with good news. That man sure does dote on you, Martin.”
“I just want to make him proud, Mom.”
“I know. After – “she hesitated a moment, before she went on, “after your brother running away, I think he’s put all his hopes on you. Sometimes I think it’s too big a burden for you to have to bear.”
“Oh, no Mom! I don’t mind. I’m glad that he’s proud of me!”
Mom smiled. Dad came home then and our little talk was done.
When Jordan finally called me, that evening, I told him I already had work.
He tried to convince me to come out to the resort on the weekend anyway.
“You might as well have a look around and talk to my parents. No harm in that.”
I agreed. I knew that, should I be hired at the resort, Mr. Harrison would be disappointed, but still, there were all those pretty ladies…I fell asleep that night and dreamed  giant snow rabbits dressed in bright colors hopped up and down the hills.

***

Where, oh where is this story going I wonder? The ski hill and Jordan just popped in there this week. Let’s see if Bert gets cleaned up and whether or not poor Lainie can get some much needed self confidence…

Chapter One: Lainie

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It wasn’t as dark as it could have been. It wasn’t as cold as it could have been. It was late November and in this part of the country that meant snowfall at anytime.
I pulled my thin wool jacket tighter around me, and continued to walk towards the cabin. I was afraid to go back. I was afraid to leave. The wind had picked up and I felt it blow through my hair, left long and loose, partly because I avoided going to the lone hair stylist in Coric Springs. It shuffled the small scrub trees back and forth and leaves fell to the ground. I stopped and picked one up. It was gold and red with a last bit of green at one edge. The trees were losing leaves and I was fast losing my resolve.
I shivered as I reached the porch steps. I stopped and wondered what I should do. I was getting colder.
“I’m too thin,” I thought. “That’s why I feel the cold and he does not.”
I walked up the steps and opened the slatted wood door. Light flowed out into the dusk. He sat at the wood table, chair pulled up close. He whittled a piece of wood. It would be some sort of bird, I thought. He always made birds.
His head came up as I entered the room. The light from the lamp behind him shone on his long tousled hair. He grinned. His beard, long, matted and shaggy, shook as he laughed.
“Ha! I knew you’d be back quick. Too cold out there this time of night. Only the foxes and the wolves like it. Skunks too I guess.”
He looked down at his hands. He tossed the wood aside and stood up. I was rooted to the spot.
He walked over to me and I could smell the man scent, a mix of sweat, beer and a missed shower or two. He reached out and cupped his hand under my chin, drawing my face close to his as he bent down.
He spoke softly into my ear.
“Ready to go home yet?”
I nodded, and shame welled up into my throat. I had no words.
“Okay, I’ll tell your pop that you just ain’t cut out for backwoods living. Go upstairs and gather your stuff. I’ll drive you home.”
I followed his instructions. I had little to pack. My tattered copy of Moby Dick, a Bible that had been my Mother’s, and a few clothes, jeans and sweaters and tops. I struggled to carry my tote and my backpack. I reached the bottom of the staircase, and he took both away from me and strode to the door. He grabbed his red and black plaid jacket from a hook on the wall. He opened the door and went out. I followed him.
As we got into his beat up old Ford pickup, I wondered what Pop would say. I knew he’d view my leaving here as a fiasco, and just one more reason to dislike me.
His words rang in my ears. “No matter what I do for you, you fail. You’re a loser. I’m ashamed to call you my daughter. What would your mother say? She’d be ashamed of you. You have no future. You’ll be a loser all your life.”
“Not this time,” I thought. “I won’t let him say it.” But how to stop him from the verbal tirade? My shoulders hunched and I pulled my jacket close. It was warm in the truck. Bert had turned on the heat, for which I was grateful. I told him so.
“Well, we can’t have a lady gettin’ cold, can we?” He grinned at me. At least he had no hard feelings about my leaving. He’d hired me to stay with him and do the cooking and the cleaning, milk the cows and gather eggs, and be company for him on long winter nights. I couldn’t stand the isolation. I was a town girl.

***

A twenty minute drive and we pulled up at my house. It was a ramshackle affair, with peeling paint and a porch that needed a nail or two and some new boards for the steps.
I turned to Bert.
“I can carry my stuff,” I said. I reached for the door handle.
“No way. No lady’s doing that on my watch.” Bert pushed open his door and got out. He took my things out of the truck bed and walked with me to the house. He set the bags down, as I knocked on the door. He didn’t ask why I felt the need to knock.
The door opened. My dad stood there, a beer in his right hand and the TV remote in his left. His balding head sprouted a few stubborn grey hairs that indicated he hadn’t seen a barber in a while. I thought the comparison between his hair and mine almost funny. But it wasn’t. Not really. It meant that neither of us were making an effort to maintain ourselves. We both missed Mom in our own ways, I guess.
Pop said, “Well, Bert, you brought ‘er back eh? I figured as much.”
He moved aside and Bert carried my things into the house and set them down.
“I gotta get back,” he said to Pop. He nodded at me and left the house. Pop slammed the door shut almost before I was able to step inside.
“You are a disgrace,” he said. He made his way back to his faded blue recliner and plopped down in it. He set his beer beside him on the end table. He glared at me.
“Well, your room’s still there. Might as well go up. Just leave me alone tonight, eh? I have to decide what I’m gonna do about you.”
I took my backpack and put it over my shoulders, and picked up the bag. I said good night to my Pop before I made my way up the stairs. My old room hadn’t changed.
“Of course it didn’t, you idiot,” I said under my breath. “You were only gone a week.”
I set the things down and threw myself on my bed. I buried my face in my quilt.
I didn’t cry. That’s one thing I am proud about. Instead, I got up and unpacked my books and my clothes. I went to the bathroom and put away my face cleanser and my toothbrush. Pop had his bathroom in the master suite, so this one, opening into the hall was, in essence, mine. He still looked in though, once in a while, to check if the room was clean. He left it to me to look after that and I would be in trouble if there was even a hair in the sink.
I wandered back to my room. It was getting late. Maybe tomorrow would bring something better. I hoped so.

***

Morning came, and I woke to sunshine streaming through my window. I loved the east facing room. I had a shower and dressed in a pair of leggings and a denim tunic top. I went downstairs to the kitchen. Pop sat at the table, drinking coffee from his double sized mug. Mom bought it for him for Christmas, a year or so before she got sick.
I said, “Morning, Pop,” as I poured some cold breakfast cereal into a bowl. I grabbed a spoon and the milk and sat down across from him, waiting for him to say something.
When he finally spoke, it was to say, “Morning. Any plans for today?”
I nodded. “Yes. I’m going downtown to apply for a job at the hardware store.”
“What makes you think they’re hiring?”
“Bert told me on the way into town last night that he saw a sign in their window.”
“Fine. You need a job. Help pay for things around here.” Pop took a long drink from his cup. He stood up.
“I’m headin’ down to Mayer’s for coffee with the guys.” He left the room, my voice trailing after him, as I said, “Okay, Pop. See you later.”
I heard the front door slam. I felt my muscles relax. I hadn’t realized how tensed up I was until that happened. If only I could have been content staying at Bert’s. But that was not a job for someone young like me. No, I could do better.
At least Pop hadn’t called me out for failing yet again. I knew it would come though. If not today, then tonight or tomorrow. There was no telling with Pop when the bad mood would hit.
The sun had disappeared behind a cloud, by the time I headed out for the hardware store. It was a nice walk despite the threat of rain. I loved the smell of the leaves as they fell from the trees, and the crunch of dry leaves under my feet as I walked. Old Mr. Allport was raking when I passed his house, and he waved a hand at me.
I waved back, just like I used to do, when I was going to school. Some things didn’t change. I smiled to myself.

***
At the hardware store, I stepped inside and found Mrs. Jensen at the back of the shop. She was attempting to explain the differences between fishing lines to a couple of younger guys, both of whom sported caps with “John Deere” on them, and hiking boots.
I listened for a minute and then I took over, unasked.
“What types of fish are you planning to catch?”
One of the guys said, “Wall eye mostly.”
“Then here’s the lines you need. Anything else would be too weak.”
The men thanked me and follwed Mrs. Jensen to the front till. I waited until they had left, and then I approached her.
“Thank you for your help, Lainie. I couldn’t seem to get it through those boys’ heads what they needed. Guess they thought I was some dumb old woman.”
“Glad to help. Say, I noticed that you’re hiring. Would I be able to apply?”
Mrs. Jensen looked me over. I was suddenly self-conscious.
“Look, Lainie. I’ll be honest with you. Turning up here to apply for a job dressed like that,” and she pointed at my leggings and then my hair, “won’t cut it. Now, if you were to dress in a nice pair of denims and a nice blouse and braid your hair, or even have it trimmed, I’d consider your application. I don’t mean to be harsh with you. I know it’s been hard since your mom passed, but really, Lainie, you need to grow up.”
Tears welled in my eyes.
Mrs. Jensen came close and patted my shoulder.
“I want you to come back and apply, okay?”
I nodded and stumbled out of the shop. I hurried down the street and nearly bumped into someone as I blinked away the tears.
“Hey, watch it!”
I looked back to see Kate standing on the sidewalk. She rubbed her shoulder.
I took a few step towards her and she said, “Well, how’s it going Lainie?”
I sighed. “Okay I guess. I need a job though. How are you doing?”
“I just got promoted at Mayer’s. Now I’m in charge of the afternoon shift.”
“Well, good for you, Kate.”
“I gotta run. I’m shopping for my mom before work.”
Kate turned and continued down the street. I watched her for a minute, and wondered why a promotion at Mayer’s didn’t excite me very much. I thought I was a proud and picky person to not share in Kate’s excitement. Now had she been promoted to manager, I supposed I should be impressed. But shift manager?
I got home in time to watch General Hospital. I wanted to see what happened with Tracy and her scheme. Pop arrived just as the show ended.
He came into the house and threw his hat and jacket in the direction of the hooks by the door. He flopped down in his chair and looked over at me.
“Get a job yet?”
I shook my head.
“Not yet. But I have a lead.”
“She has a lead. Wonder of wonders. So have you started dinner? And bring me a beer while you’re at it.”
“I will, right away.” I got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen. Good thing mom had taught me how to cook, because Pop had no idea.
I set about making dinner after I took Pop a beer.
Then the phone rang and I forgot all about cooking.

***

This is Chapter 1 of a story. I plan to add Chapters as I go along. Let’s see where the story takes us, shall we?

***

The Heavy Foots – Moving In – Part One

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Mr. and Mrs. Heavyfoot lived far out in the “boonies” as it was called by their urban acquaintances. They lived off the land for the most part. They hunted and fished and made use of fur pelts for winter clothing. They bought only the necessities when they came into town. Things like sugar and salt and flour, although Mr. Heavyfoot told his wife he thought she should try making homemade flour. Mrs. Heavyfoot pursed her lips and snorted at Mr. Heavyfoot. She didn’t mind their lifestyle, except when it came to things like flour making. She told her husband that if he wanted flour, he could build a mill, something she knew he would not do. Most of their time was taken up with looking after the cows and chickens, hunting and fishing, and gardening.
Mr. Heavyfoot had a bushy grey beard, and Mrs. Heavyfoot wore her long brown hair in a long braid. Neither took to the current styles of hair or clothing.
It was just before planting time when Mr. and Mrs. Heavyfoot came into town for supplies. They made their usual stop at the post office, and the couple was surprised to receive a letter. It was a large envelope, brown in color. Mr. Heavyfoot ripped it open and took out the sheet of paper it contained while they were in the post office. It was unlike any mail they received, for they mostly got garden catalogs and catalogs from LLBean.
Mr. Heavyfoot read the page, then handed it to his wife. She read it and then she threw her arms around her husband and yelled in his ear.
“Yay! We’re rich!”
The other three people in the post office along with Mrs. Onaway, the postmistress, looked at them in surprise and curiosity.
“We’ve been left some property in the city!” said Mrs. Heavyfoot.
“It was my cousin Jeff. He passed away and I’m the only remaining relative,” said Mr. Heavyfoot.
“You going to move, Hank?” asked Mr. Thomson.
“Darn right. It’s always been a dream of mine to live in the city. Maybe not forever, but we gotta try it out anyway.”
The others in the post office nodded in agreement.
“Just be sure and come back if it don’t work out,” said Jennie Cleland. She offered to look after the homestead and the animals for a while, “just in case you decide to come back.”
“Oh we will,” said Mrs. Heavyfoot. She wasn’t certain she would like living in the city after so many years on the homestead.

Mr. Heavyfoot traveled into the city and met with the lawyer at his office. He was given a tour of the apartment, which was on the fourth floor and required an elevator ride. Mr. Heavyfoot was excited when he saw the view from the apartment windows.
“I can dang near see the whole city!” he exclaimed. He grinned at the lawyer and the lawyer smiled back. The man said little, but let Mr. Heavyfoot examine the place.
Mr. Heavyfoot went back to the homestead joyful and excited. He could hardly wait to show Mrs. Heavyfoot their windfall.

And so it was that Mr. and Mrs. Heavyfoot gathered their meager belongings and brought them into the city later that month. They managed this by bringing a wagon attached to the garden tractor. Mr. Heavyfoot arranged to leave the tractor at the gas station, and told Ernie Watts that he’d pay him a storage fee every six months, until the couple knew whether or not they wanted to stay or head back to the homestead.

Mrs. Heavyfoot unpacked their clothing, such as it was, and hung it up in the closet in one of the two spacious bedrooms. Mr. Heavyfoot busied himself in looking through the telescope that was perched on the balcony. It was apparent, Mr. Heavyfoot stated to his wife, that the cousin had been interested in stargazing. When he attempted to look at the sky that first evening, though, he was disappointed to learn that the lights of the town ruined the sky and made it impossible to view the heavens.

Mrs. Heavyfoot suggested that he try and view the streets instead. Ah, but that was a mistake. For Mr. Heavyfoot, upon turning and adjusting the telescope found that he had a great view of not a star nor a street, but the lady in the apartment across the way. In fact, he didn’t mention it to Mrs. Heavyfoot, but he found the lady over there did not shut her curtains when she changed her clothes, nor when she came into the bedroom after a bath or shower. While Mr. Heavyfoot gazed in awe at this well endowed lady, Mrs. Heavyfoot tried to watch television. She found it boring. The only show she enjoyed was about the far north and the people who battled the elements in their everyday life. It so reminded her of her own existence, before the windfall, that she was brought to tears. She looked about for Mr. Heavyfoot, hoping for some sympathy and hugs, but he was again out on the balcony with the danged telescope.

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