novel-in-progress

Deception Island, Chapter 4, scenes 1 & 2 (revised)

The memory was as clear and sharp as if it had only happened yesterday.

He and Jeremy sat in the captain’s chairs at the stern of his father’s boat, The Lady L, each of them gripping their rods as if expecting a salmon to jerk them overboard at any second. Their dad sat behind the wheel of the boat, steering around the other fishermen on the Sound and keeping the engine at a good trolling speed. It was Labor Day weekend. Jason was twelve.

The late summer sun was warm on his face and flashed in a zillion tiny jewels among the waves. The sky was cloudless. A light westerly breeze cooled the air just enough to make a sweatshirt comfortable and bore the scent of cedar from the nearby islands to mix with the smells of sea salt and diesel exhaust. The Lady L‘s engine grumbled like a tiger purring.

It was heavenly.

“Hey Jason?” his dad called from his seat at the wheel.

Jason turned back toward his father. He thought the man would never look more relaxed, more at home, than sitting there in faded jeans and a flannel shirt, his feet shoved into rubber boots, one hand comfortably minding the boat’s wheel, while watching his sons work their rods. This was where his father was meant to be, not in a shirt and tie in some office above the cannery floor.

“Yeah?” he said.

His dad nodded toward something off the stern on the starboard quarter. “See that twenty-foot Bayliner a hundred-fifty yards out?”

Jason turned back to the stern and quickly spotted the boat his dad was talking about. It was a big, open cockpit number with only a windscreen as protection from the elements; what his dad called a “fair weather” boat. A figure straightened up with a fishing rod and cast his bait out over the stern. His red plaid shirt looked unnaturally bright against the white of the boat.

“I see it,” Jason said.

“What’s he doing wrong?”

It was a test.

Jason glanced to his brother for help, but Jeremy, four years older and a veteran of many such tests, had suddenly grown gravely concerned about the action of his reel. He didn’t even seem aware of the question. Jason was on his own.

What was the guy doing wrong? Jason bought a little time by reeling in some line to reposition his bait. Mentally, he scrambled for an answer. For the correct answer. He knew his dad was looking for one in particular. But what was it?

“It ain’t that hard a question, son,” his dad prodded. “What’s he doing wrong?”

Jason watched the man settle back in a captain’s chair and pour something from a bright silver thermos into a cup. Coffee probably, though something harder wasn’t out of the question. Many fisherman spent the afternoon getting wasted out here. His dad said it was fine as long as they weren’t piloting the boat. Piloting a boat drunk was just as stupid as driving a car drunk; both could get everybody killed. It was one of THE RULES.

Like someone had flipped a switch, he had the answer his dad was looking for.

“He doesn’t have a buddy with him.”

“Give the man a cigar!” his dad said. “Naw, you’re too young, but I believe I will.”

He fished a cigar out of a shirt pocket, then lit it with his lucky Zippo. Jeremy, who had been paying attention after all, playfully slugged Jason on the shoulder. Jason slugged him back.

“Now remind me, son. Why should he have a buddy with him?”

“Because there’s no one there to help him if he gets hurt or falls overboard.”

“Exactly. Rule number one is–?”

Both boys answered together. “Never take a boat out alone farther than you can swim back.”

“And how far can you swim?”

“Not far with a busted head,” Jeremy said.

His dad’s laughter echoed over the blue waters of the Sound.

The islands appeared on the horizon like a smudge of charcoal in the crease of a gray canvas. The whole world was gray. The rain had stopped earlier this morning, but it had left a high overcast hiding the sky behind a curtain of ink-washed cloud. Below it, running to meet the clouds at the horizon, the Sound glistened in the weak light like greasy pewter, its surface only slightly warped by a gentle swell. It was in the subtle crease where the Sound met the sky that the islands now grew.

Jason leaned against the railing just behind the ferry’s starboard bow, his hands shoved deep in his coat pockets against the damp chill, and watched the islands grow as the ferry plowed toward them. It was peaceful. The only sounds the splashing of water under the bow, the raucous scream of gulls, and the steady thrumming of the boat’s powerful engines as they pushed across the water.

He had the exterior deck all to himself this morning. It was well past tourist season. His fellow travelers this morning were all regulars, people whose jobs demanded they ride this ferry early on Tuesday morning. They’d seen the view countless times before and would countless times again; they chose to spend their time in the warmth of the cabin with a coffee and the morning paper.

Jason had seen the view before himself, but was too restless to sit inside and wait.

He had also read The News this morning. The story about Stevenson he’d briefed Debbie on yesterday ran on the lower part of the front page, under a byline crediting both himself and Debbie. The story was good. Debbie had kept to the outline he’d already sketched out, but added some nice quotes that really fleshed it out.

He sent Debbie a text now. Nice job on the story.

The reply came within a minute. Thanks. I had help. How are you?

Okay. On ferry now.

Let me know if I can do anything.

I will. Thanks.

The islands were now close enough that Jason could begin to make out individual features: the blunt point of Mt. Shaw, the highest spot on Ebey Island at a whole 450 feet, the whitewater marking the shoreline of Deception Island to the right, the occasional flash of color marking a house among the forest. They were still too far away to see any real detail.

Jason pulled the photo from his coat pocket and looked at it again. He’d probably looked at the mysterious man’s face two hundred times since opening the envelope yesterday afternoon. He still had no idea who the man was or why his dad thought him important.

The man’s identity would be the second question he intended to answer. The first was what had really happened to his dad. He simply could not believe that his father just fell overboard and drowned. He’d even looked up the weather conditions for Friday and Saturday. It had been mild on the Sound around Ebey Island, with temperatures in the low fifties, a steady rain, and winds barely breaking ten knots. His dad would have called it “bathtub” conditions, certainly nothing he couldn’t handle.

And, of course, there had been the rule his dad had drummed into both his boys: you never went out on the Sound alone. Had his father broken his own rule the day he died?

Jason sensed, rather than heard, the cabin door open and close behind him. He glanced over as a tall, powerfully built man in a black overcoat paused to light up a cigarette. He was absolutely bald, not even a shadow of stubble. The man got his cigarette going, nodded at Jason, and leaned back against the cabin wall.

There was no smoking in the cabin, of course.

Jason returned the nod, slipped the photo back into his pocket and turned back toward the islands.

His cell phone chirped that he’d received a text. He fished the phone out of his pocket and opened it. The text was from Lisa, who would be getting ready for school right now.

How’s it going? Her text read.

On ferry now. Be there in 10.

Good luck. Miss you already.

Me too. Call you tonight.

He closed the phone.

The timbre of the thrumming engines changed under his feet. The ferry’s bow began turning as if the captain intended to pass to the left of the island. But Jason knew it was merely the maneuver that would begin their approach to the landing at Port Salish. The captain was positioning the boat.

He had watched countless times as his dad had made the same maneuver heading back from a day of fishing.

Now he would never be able to see it again.

The islands were now close enough to make out details: the ornate Victorian roof and towers of the Lundgren house high above the bay; the baby blue rectangle of the water tower on the upper slopes of Mt. Shaw. Jason could even pick out the colored jewels that were cars moving along Shoreline Road.

He could not see the town itself yet because the body of Deception Island was in the way, which explained how Deception Island got its name. The early explorers had thought it was part of the main island. Only when Ebey Island was fully charted was it determined that a narrow channel actually separated the two bodies. Thus its name.

The ferry completed its maneuver, turned to starboard and headed into the channel between the islands.

The smoker coughed behind him. Jason glanced back in time to see him light a second cigarette and drop the first onto the deck. The man caught his eye and shrugged through the cigarette smoke.

Jason turned back to the islands. Now he could clearly see the Victorian castle Lars Lundgren had built on the heights of Lundgren Point where he could keep an eye on his domain. His descendants still lived there as far as Jason knew. The yellow paint certainly looked fresh. A long set of white wooden stairs led from the house to a dock where a launch was tied.

The ferry passed a shoulder of land on the left and began a left turn into Salish Bay. Ahead lay the little town of Port Salish, clustered on a shelf of land and the adjoining slopes at the head of the bay.

The Captain got on the PA system and announced their arrival at Port Salish.

Home.

Jason turned away from the rail and started back toward the cabin.

The smoker apparently had similar ideas. He was already gone.

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novel-in-progress, writing

Deception Island: Chapter Two, scenes 3 & 4 (revised)

Once again, this is the revised version of my previous excerpt of Deception Island. It ends up being about thirty words shorter than the original version.

Jason ran down to the deli a few blocks away to get a couple of sandwiches while Lisa started another load in the washer and folded his dried jeans. Lisa had a 2:30 seminar and they agreed she needed to attend, but until then she would help Jason with his laundry.

When he returned, they unwrapped the sandwiches–a pastrami on sourdough for himself, a turkey on wheat for Lisa and two bags of chips–on the coffee table and sat on the couch to eat. Jason had given away his dining room table years ago to make room for his desk, so meals were taken on the coffee table. For a few minutes they concentrated on their lunch. Because they’d overslept that morning, neither had eaten breakfast.

“Tell me about your dad,” Lisa said, pausing between halves of her sandwich. “What was he like?”

Jason wiped his fingers on one of the cheap deli napkins and thought about an answer to her question. “He was a man.”

“Well, I kind of assumed that.”

“No.” Jason shook his head. “Not just an adult male, but a man. There’s a difference.”

Lisa looked intrigued. “I’m listening…”

“He was strong and tough as anyone. I don’t think he was sick the entire time I was growing up. I know he never set foot in a doctor’s office unless it was for one of us kids, or when Mom got sick. He was a commercial fisherman until us kids came along, then, because Mom thought fishing was too dangerous, managed the cannery until he retired. Both are tough jobs that employ tough people.”

Lisa nodded and took a bite of the second half of her sandwich.

“But the same tough guy never raised a hand against his wife, never belittled us kids when we screwed up, never made us feel stupid. Life wasn’t perfect, by any means, but growing up I never doubted my parents loved each other and that both loved us kids.” He looked at her. “There’s an awful lot of people who can’t say that.”

Lisa hooked an errant lock of hair behind her ear. Her own parents had divorced when she was in grade school. Both remarried within a few years and she’d spent her childhood bouncing back and forth between the households.

Jason smiled as a memory came to him. “We had a dog when I was growing up, a goofy mutt named Festus.”

“Festus?” Lisa frowned.

“Festus,” he grinned. “It was the name of the lame deputy on Gunsmoke; my dad was a big fan.”

“Okay.”

“Hey, I didn’t pick the name. I just loved that dog the way a little boy does. He was as much a part of my family as my brother, my mom, or my dad.”

“Like Hector.”

“Like Hector,” he admitted. “Anyway, one day when I was nine or ten, Festus wouldn’t get up when I went to feed him in the morning. He’d never done that before. I went and got my dad, who explained that Festus was fourteen years old, really old for a dog, and dying.”

“Oh man.”

Jason nodded. “He explained to my brother, Jeremy, and me that everything dies sooner or later and that the best thing we could do for Festus was be there so he wouldn’t be scared. My father, the tough guy fisherman, sat down on the floor with us and took Festus’ head in his lap while me and Jeremy knelt down beside him. He held Festus’ head and stroked him and told him what a good boy he was, while Jeremy and I petted his back. We sat there like that until he finally stopped breathing.”

For a few moments, neither of them said anything. The remains of the sandwiches lay on the wax paper, forgotten, unwanted.

“He sounds like he was a really good man.”

For the first time all day, the loss of his father was beginning to feel real. He thought he might prefer the way it was before.

“You’ve never talk about him much.”

“Dad and I were never that close,” he said. “Not as close as I think either of us wanted.”

“Why’s that?” Lisa pinched off a corner of her sandwich and slipped the tidbit into her mouth.

“I don’t know. We just never had all that much in common. I think if my dad and I were just two men, unrelated, we’d be acquaintances, but not really friends.” He looked at her. “Know what I mean?”

“Sure.”

“I was the artsy one, the one who took after Mom. Jeremy was the one who took after Dad. He was the football and basketball star, the hunter, the soldier. I sometimes thought Dad couldn’t quite figure me out.”

“What do you mean, ‘figure you out’?”

He paused for a moment, searching for a good example. “It’s easy to show your support for your kid when they’re a running back on the football team. You go to the games. You celebrate their touchdowns. You save their clippings from the paper. That’s easy. How do you show the same amount of support for your other kid who was named editor of the school newspaper? Then editor of the yearbook? There’s no cheering section for that.” Jason shrugged. “I don’t think he ever really figured that out.”

The dryer buzzed.

Lisa was on her feet before Jason could react. “I’ll get it.”

“I can do my own laundry, you know.”

She leaned over to kiss his cheek. “Since you won’t let me come along to help you up there, doing your laundry lets me help you down here. Besides, I’m going to have to head to my seminar soon. You’re on your own after that.”

She hugged him then, kissed him again, and went off to fold his dry clothing. Jason remained on the sofa, staring at the remains of their sandwiches on the coffee table. After a moment, he reached over and began to re-wrap his sandwich. He was no longer hungry.

After Lisa left to attend her seminar, Jason worked on finishing his laundry, then packing the clean and folded clothing into a suitcase, then a second suitcase. He was going to be gone for several days, possibly a week or more, and the weather would be a factor. It was October, which meant he could be looking at everything from sunny days with highs in the eighties, to wind and rain, and even an outside chance of snow. In addition to underwear, jeans, slacks, various shirts and sweaters, he also packed a set of thermal underwear, a pair of wool socks, and a knit watch cap.

Finally, he pulled his only dark suit from its spot at the side of his closet and brushed the dust off the shoulders. Obviously, he didn’t wear it very often. He was more of a sport coat kind of guy, but during his senior year of college his father had insisted that a new graduate needed a suit. They’d spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon shopping the city’s menswear shops before deciding on this particular suit. Despite Jason’s protests, his dad had insisted on paying for the whole thing, including the alterations. He’d called it an early graduation gift.

It had been a memorable afternoon, just himself and his dad, wandering around the clothing shops of downtown Seattle; lunching on burgers and a beer at a hole-in-the-wall pub near Pike Street, then another beer; watching the fishing boats coming in to the docks on the waterfront. It had been the first time they’d spent any serious time together that was less father-and-son and more as simply two grown men sharing an afternoon.

He wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

He slipped the suit into a garment bag along with a couple of ties that seemed appropriate and added that to the pile of luggage near the door. For a moment, he stood there and scanned the apartment, trying to think of anything else he might need. Nothing immediately came to mind.

Lisa had insisted he spend the night at her place. She’d even offered to cook him dinner. He had offered no resistance. As a result, he would be leaving from there in the morning, not here, so he needed to make sure he didn’t forget anything.

He smiled suddenly to himself. You’d think he was going across the country, not just a couple of hours upstate. If he did forget something critical, it wasn’t like he couldn’t come back and get it.

Still, he wandered from room to room, double checking his mental list as he went.

He came to his desk and stood looking at his laptop and briefcase, lying among the piles of paper and file folders. They were the tools of his trade. He wasn’t originally going to take them because he wasn’t going up there to work; he was going up there to bury his father. Now he was having second thoughts. First of all, they were his toolkit in exactly the same way wrenches were a mechanic’s. Without all the contact information, software, and accumulated notes they contained, he would be worthless as a reporter. He almost never let them out of his sight for more than a few hours at a time. Now he was going to leave them in his empty apartment for a week?

What if Debbie called with a question about the Road Department story? He added his briefcase and his laptop to the pile of luggage at the door.

He already felt better, more complete. The sensation he was forgetting something had gone.

As he stood there, wondering what to do with himself for the hour or so until he’d head over to Lisa’s, his eyes fell on the pile of unopened mail sitting on the kitchen counter. He walked over and began to sort through it, pitching the junk into the trash, saving the bills to deal with later, and concentrating his attention on the few items that seemed interesting.

One envelope in particular drew his interest. It was a 9×6 manila, with his name and address handwritten in blue ink on the front. There was no return address. The postmark, though smeared, looked like it said Port Salish. His hometown. His dad’s hometown.

He examined the handwriting again, trying to determine whether it was his dad’s. Unfortunately, his dad was not a letter writer by nature and Jason wasn’t familiar enough with his writing to say whether it was, or not. Still, who else would send him something from Port Salish?

Jason opened the envelope and pulled out a photograph. A young Asian man stood at the stern of a boat. He wore faded jeans, a coat and knit cap and squinted unsmiling into the camera. Behind him on the left lay blue water bordered by dark ridges of forested land. To the right were the crowded boats and tangled masts of a marina. Port Salish harbor.

It was the standard souvenir photo his dad took for all his charter customers. But it was usually given to the customer. Why did he send it to Jason? He flipped the photo over, but there was nothing written on the back. Nothing written on it at all, no name, no date, nothing.

He returned to the envelope, shook it, then peered inside. There was nothing else. He’d hoped there’d be a note of explanation, something at the very least to identify the man in the photo. But there was nothing. Just the photo of an unidentified Asian man.

So why had his dad sent it? Apparently, he thought there was enough significance in the photo itself to make a note unnecessary.

He examined the photo again, trying to see what his dad had wanted him to see. The man in the photo was unremarkable. He looked to be of average height and build and a complete stranger to Jason. He studied the face for several minutes, but couldn’t kindle even a spark of familiarity. There was nothing in the background that caught his attention and nothing strange about the part of the boat he could see. It had to be something about the man. But the only unusual thing he could find was the fact that the man wasn’t smiling. Usually his dad’s clients were beaming when he took their photo. This man wasn’t. If anything, he looked grim.

Muffled voices sounded in the corridor outside Jason’s door. A second later he heard the unmistakable giggle of Trudy Benson. Her husband, Don, wouldn’t be far away. The two were nearly inseparable. They had lived in the next apartment ever since Jason had first moved in and the three had become friends over the years. He needed to ask if they would watch his apartment and collect his mail while he was gone.

He slipped the photograph into his inside jacket pocket and went to talk to his neighbors.

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novel-in-progress, writing

Deception Island: Chapter Two, scenes 1 & 2 (revised)

Again, this is a revision of an earlier post. Those who have read these scenes probably won’t notice much difference. I just “tweaked” them a little. The revised version is seventeen words longer than the original. Enjoy.

It took almost two hours for Jason to copy and explain to Debbie his notes, the article he had sketched out on Stevenson, and his strategy over what they should do next. All subject, of course, to Miles’ approval. Debbie was more than capable of filling his shoes for a few days and had the advantage of already being familiar with the story. Still, he’d kept most of his ideas in his head, not on paper. That, and the fact that you needed some kind of Rosetta Stone to understand the notes he did take, made Debbie the only practical choice. It would have taken too long to bring anyone else up to speed.

The nuts and bolts mechanics of working a story seemed to dispel the surrealism he’d been struggling with. By the time Debbie and Miles forced him out of the newsroom, Debbie assuring him that she would call if she had any questions at all and Miles insisting the paper could survive for seven days without him, Jason almost felt normal.

At least his mind seemed to be functioning properly and he no longer felt like he was standing off to the side watching himself like some kind of puppet. Now he felt capable of taking care of the things he needed to do before leaving.

How he would handle the tasks he’d face in Port Salish was another story, but he’d deal with that later.

There was still one problem he couldn’t answer. He had no idea how to handle his relationship with Lisa and this new development wouldn’t help. She would want to drop everything and come with him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what he wanted and he didn’t know if he could explain why. Even to himself. It was just something he needed to deal with on his own. At least at first. Somehow, he had to tell her without making it a total rejection.

The drive home was uneventful. The accident this morning had been to the north; he was heading east and most of the traffic was still heading into the city, not out. His apartment was part of a large complex on the southwestern edge of Bellevue, across Lake Washington from the city proper. He’d lived in the same place since his junior year of college. It held a nice mixture of college students, retirees and young couples just starting out. Best of all, it was just a few minute’s drive from both the University and downtown and a short walk from the lake.

He gathered his accumulated mail, let himself into the apartment, deposited the mail on a dusty kitchen counter and his laptop and briefcase on the floor. For a moment, he just looked around his little one-bedroom. He hadn’t been home since Friday morning, three days ago, and he felt like he had to reacquaint himself with the place. He walked through the living room and into the bedroom and bath. Everything was exactly as he’d left it, which is why it felt so weird. It was like everything had frozen in place three days ago.

Back in the living room, he checked his land line answering machine for new messages. There weren’t any.

He decided he could put it off no longer, pulled out his cell and sent Lisa a text asking her to call him when she had a minute. The class she was in now would end in about ten minutes.

He sighed and headed into the bedroom to start packing.

*******

“Jason!”

“In the laundry.”

He pulled a soggy mass of wet denim from the washer and tossed it into the dryer. One of the first things he’d realized was there was no way he would be able to pack for seven days without doing laundry first. He simply didn’t own that much clothing. The first load had just finished washing and he was making room for the second.

Lisa swept into the kitchen, tossed her bag on the counter, sending pieces of his mail scattering to the floor, and headed straight for him, her arms already extended. She looked like she was going to burst into tears. He straightened up and accepted her hug.

“I’m so sorry,” she murmured into his chest. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay” he assured her.

Lisa stepped back and looked up at him, her hands still holding his. “Really, how are you doing?”

“I’m okay. Really. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”

“It will take a while, I’m sure.”

He let go of her hands and returned to the task of moving laundry from the washer to the dryer. “For now, I’m just trying to keep busy.”

Lisa looked down at the dirty clothes piled around their feet. “Don’t waste much time sorting, do you?”

“Never have.” Jason finished loading the dryer and turned it on. “I just wash everything in cold water.”

Lisa rolled her eyes. “Maybe that’s why all your white socks are actually a light gray. Clothes come with washing instructions for a reason, you know.”

He shrugged. He hadn’t been aware there was a problem with his socks.

“Here, let me do it.”

Jason didn’t protest as she forced him aside and began sorting his clothes into piles of whites, darks, and colors, explaining the differing water temperatures for each as she went. Jason let her go. It made her feel useful and he had no burning desire to do the laundry himself. The fact that he would probably never sort his clothes, didn’t mean he would stop her from doing it.

Lisa scooped up the pile of whites and dropped them in the washer. “Bleach?”

“Don’t have any.”

She sighed, added detergent, set the water temperature to hot and started the washer. “Well, hot water’s better than nothing.” She wiped her hands on the thighs of her jeans and turned to him. “What else do we need to do?”

“I don’t know. Not much. I need to pack once I have some clean clothes,” he told her. “Then, once the Benson’s get home, I’ll ask them to pick up my mail. I can gas up the car in the morning. I think that’s about it.”

“You’re not heading up there tonight?”

He shook his head. “First thing in the morning. I mean early. I’ll need to be on the road by 5:00.” That should get him to Anacortes by 6:30 with plenty of time to catch the 7:00 ferry. He’d rather be early and have to kill some time, than risk being late. If he missed the ferry it would be twelve hours before his next chance.

She looked up at him, her expression a cross between concern and something else he couldn’t identify. “I’m sure I could get a few days off. I’d just have to call a couple of professors.”

Jason took a deep breath. He’d gone over this conversation countless times in his head, searching for the right words, the perfect words. He’d never found them. Plus, in none of those scenarios were they standing in his tiny laundry room, dirty clothes piled around their feet. And none of the scenarios fully accounted for the living, breathing Lisa standing right in front of him, her dark eyes searching his face.

So he punted.

“You want some coffee? I made a pot when I got home, so it’s fresh.”

Something passed over her face. “Sure.”

Jason led her into the kitchen, stopping to gather the mail she’d knocked off the counter, then grabbed two mugs and filled them with coffee. Lisa leaned back against the counter, facing him.

“All I have is non-dairy creamer,” he told her as he set a mug on the counter. “Hope that’s okay.”

“It’s fine.” Lisa added some of the powder to her coffee and stirred it in. “You’re avoiding my question.”

Jason took a deep breath, released it. “I know.”

“You don’t want me to go with you.”

“It’s not that,” he paused. The perfect words had eluded him all morning and remained out of reach now. He just had to plow forward and hope for the best. “I don’t think it makes good sense right now.”

Again, something passed over her face, like a flinch, then was gone. She studied her coffee like the secrets to the universe were held in the dark liquid.

“There isn’t going to be much for you to do up there, other than give me moral support.”

“That’s kind of the point.”

“I know, but school is too important. With mid-terms coming up, it makes more sense for you to go to your classes and come up on the weekend. That way you won’t fall behind and the weekend is when the funeral will probably be held anyway. That’s when I’ll need you the most.”

She nodded, but didn’t look at him. “I just don’t want you to be alone. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone.”

“That’s why God invented telephones.”

The attempt at humor didn’t even raise a smile.

“Honey, I really think this makes the most sense. ”

She still wouldn’t look at him.

He felt helpless. This wasn’t going the way he’d hoped. “Please, don’t be mad.”

“I’m not. I just don’t understand,” she said, finally looking up at him, her eyes bright with tears. “If my folks died I’d be a blubbering wreck. I’d want you with me because I couldn’t function on my own.”

“I don’t know that it’s really sunk in yet,” he told her. “It won’t be real until I get to the house, maybe not even then.”

The truth was he hadn’t yet shed a tear for his father. It was still just a bunch of words. Shocking, yes, tragic even, but it truly wasn’t real. He didn’t know when it would make that transition. When he saw the body? When he stood in his father’s empty house? At the funeral? He didn’t know. With his brother, it had been during the funeral, but when his mother died it had been immediate. Then, the sense of loss had hit him like a giant wave, nearly drowning him in grief.

So far, Lisa had shed more tears for his father than he had.

What did that say about him?

She reached over now and took his hand in her own. “That’s what I’m worried about; when it does hit you, you’re going to be all alone.”

He squeezed her hand and shrugged. “It’s just something I’ll have to deal with. And I know where you are.”

Lisa shook her head and looked down at her coffee. “This creamer sucks.”

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