Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chapter Seventeen

I sat and watched them play.  Some moments in your life are like an old fashioned Kodachrome photo – preserved in glorious color, touched by laughter and soul-filling warmth. Moira ran behind the picnic table with Deb play-running slowly, pretending to try to catch her.  They guffawed and giggled as they changed directions, then switched back.  Tonka lay beneath the table, rolling and faux growling.
If only it could stay like this.
It was the last Indian summer day we were likely to have.  Cold and misery lay ahead of us. But today was crisp, with sun in a deep blue sky.  I sat in a pool of light and enjoyed my last rays of sunshine for some time.
I hadn't told them. Not a word about the deal with the devil I'd made.
I would, after supper.  I don’t know how, or what exactly I’ll tell each of them, but I would.  Crap, I already felt cold sitting here.
Deb collapsed on the lawn in mock exhaustion. "You win, Moira!" she panted. Moira, of course, was just getting started.
“Come on, Daddy, pwease?”  Moira tugged my hand to get me to chase her.  Tonka emerged from under the table and gave Deb a play bow, inviting her to tussle with him. She accepted his invitation to wrestle. Brave, that.
Deb laughed as she tackled him. He play-nipped at her.  She nipped him back.  God, she's beautiful.
“What, Sweetie?”
Moira tugged my hand, leaning back with all her might.  “Pwease, Daddy, chase me.”
“Sure, Sweetie.”  I had to force myself to take my eyes off Deb.
Moira and I ran around the table until I was lightheaded with laughter.  Amazing how such a simple thing, a child’s game of "catch me," feels so good.  Why do we ever stop being a kid?
Tonka jumped up and joined the chase.  Sometimes he gets too excited, especially if Moira squeals.  I’m not sure if he thinks she's being attacked or if he knows the game.  Either way, he nipped at the backs of my legs.  When I turned and chased him, he ducked and dodged, his huge jowls flapping while he play-growled. 
Then something tall and blond slammed my side and tackled me like a pro linebacker.  A shorter blond piled atop her and I found myself on the bottom of a pile of laughter and dog slobber. I surrendered. Never mind that I’ll really hurt from being pile driven – it is worth it.  That's the photo I'll hold in my mind until I die – Moira and Deb’s cheerful faces with Tonka nestled between them, framed by blue sky.
I dried while Deb washed.  Moira was supposed to be washing but she had a bad habit of dousing us all with the sprayer, so she stood atop the stool and handed Deb the next plate or cup.  I could hear Swede or Tonka -- maybe both -- snoring behind us in the living room.
Moira and Deb were well ahead of me and finished washing while I kept drying.  My hands were pretty chapped and red – maybe I need to wear gloves or moisturize?  I laughed at myself, took a pull from the longneck and went back to my task.
Deb led Moira back to the bedroom to change into her nightgown.  I placed the last cup atop the precarious pile in the drying rack just as they walked back in.  Moira must have had a quick bath. Her hair was wet.  Deb sat her in her lap and began brushing out tangles.  Moira winced and ow’d! as Deb worked the more difficult knots.  I stood with my back to the sink and watched.
“I love you Debwah.” Moira leaned into Deb. 
I turned back to the sink so they wouldn't see the tears streaming down my cheeks.  After dabbing at my face with the dishcloth, I turned back and gazed straight into Deb’s eyes. Her chin rested atop Moira’s head.  This time I didn't turn away. Deb smiled at the traces of my tears.
We sat at the small kitchen table.  I made notes on a pad as we talked.  I mumbled to myself as I scribbled. Silly, I know. But it helps me think better.  Deb sat, chin cupped in her hands, elbows propped on the table.  I should have remembered my reading glasses.
“What really happened, Jake?”
I laid the pencil down and pushed the pad away.  Deb is smart; she knew.  I looked back directly into her eyes – such deep blue eyes. I never noticed how blue before that moment.
“Do you have any good music?”
She looked startled.  “Uh, yeah, I think. I mean my Dad has his old console record player.”
“That it?” I pointed towards the six-foot oak cabinet in the living room.  Swede snored softly in his recliner with Tonka stretched out beside him on the braided rug.
“Yeah, but …” I was already moving toward it. 
I opened the right top and found a hundred or so vinyl records in dust covers.  Wow, no one has vinyl anymore.  I stood to one side to get a better look at their covers:  Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Nat King Cole, Boston Pops Bicentennial … nope, nope, nope.  Ahh, must be getting to Deb’s old stuff:  Boston, Pablo Cruise, Doobie Brothers, Bread, Barry Manilow (Barry Manilow? Deb, what the ...?)  Here's one.
Yes, this will do.
“What are you doing, Jake?”  I startled. I hadn't heard her walk up behind me.  Then I turned and showed her the 45 with a grin.
I removed the record from its sleeve, placed it on the player, and switched on the hi-fi. I then turned to her, made a slight bow and sweep with my hand.
“If Milady would grant me this dance?”
She tilted her head at me, bewildered, but smiled and nodded her head. I placed my right hand in the small of her back and took her right hand in my left.  The stereo scratched a moment. Then a saxophone led into Van Morrison’s scratchy, yet silky voice.
We moved clumsily at first, but that slowly changed as she put her arms around my neck and laid her head on my chest.  Deb smells of Ivory soap and the warm soft fragrance of a woman.  I closed my eyes. We danced as the record repeated over and over.
Only when we were both lost in our own thoughts and the rhythm of the song did I open my eyes and begin to whisper into her ear.  I told her what had really happened.  I left out nothing. She didn't flinch. She didn't pull back. 
She held me closer as I described what I was going to do and what I needed her to do.  I told her everything. She softly nodded.
We kept dancing very slowly.
You can't stop us on the road to freedom
You can't keep us 'cause our eyes can see
Men with insight, men in granite
Knights in armor bent on chivalry

She's as sweet as Tupelo honey
She's an angel of the first degree
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee 

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