In honor of it being Feel Good Friday and in anticipation of the writing workshop I’ll be attending tomorrow I’m posting Part III of my contemporary fiction series, “It Happened At Pippi’s”. If you need to catch up, here are Parts I and II
Ed was tanned, fit, and ruggedly handsome. He looked to be in his late fifties, but I’ve never been good at guessing age. I hugged him, then Lisa, and while Michael and Ed were shaking hands and unloading the luggage from the minuscule trunk Lisa and I took Pooka into the yard for a potty break.
“Are you sure it’s OK I brought Ed with me? When his schedule cleared this morning and we realized he’d be able to come I tried to call you . . .”
“Oh, Lisa, don’t be silly. You know he’s more than welcome! I’ll even try not to quiz him too mercilessly, although you’ve hardly told me ANYTHING about him and I’m DYING of curiosity!”
Pooka finished his business and scurried up the steps behind the men, who were chatting away about the house Lisa was interested in.
“Ed renovates historic homes,” Lisa explained, “so hopefully he can tell me if it’s worth fixing up or not.”
“I can’t imagine that place has any historic value,” Michael laughed. “And you know what happens to beach houses when they’re not maintained. It’s a shame, really.”
Lisa and Ed went to unpack and freshen up and I was brewing some fresh tea in the kitchen when the screen door to the back deck slammed open and John, our youngest, blew in.
“Mom, you won’t believe all the fish we caught!”
Fully in the throes of middle school and puberty, John had just enough little boy left in him to clutch at my heart on a regular basis and make me want to squeeze the stuffin’ out of him. So I did. Over his shoulder I saw Aaron amble in. Tall, blond, and lanky, but just as sun-browned as his brother, Aaron had a lazy grin that had never failed to make me grin right back. He was home from college for the summer, and enjoying sleeping late and making full use of his dad’s studio. The other students on his floor didn’t appreciate his practicing drum cadences late into the night in his dorm room – go figure.
“What do you want us to do with all this fish, Mom?”
“Can you clean it all for me? Lisa brought a friend with her, so we’ve got one more for supper. If there’s really that much call Beverly and see if she wants some. She hasn’t made that fish stew in a while. If she doesn’t want it I’ve got room in the freezer.”
“We’re on it!” John flew back out the door, an Ale-8-One in one hand and a Big Red in the other, nearly bowling Aaron over on the way.
They really did have a huge catch, because the boys were still cleaning fish when the four of us headed to the beach to walk the dogs and take a peek at the run-down house Lisa had an appointment to see tomorrow. I introduced Ed to the boys, who politely declined to shake hands since they were covered in fish scales. Good call.
The house was only about a half-dozen houses away from ours, but we all had decent sized lots, so the dogs still got a nice walk. I sneaked a peek at Lisa’s face as we got closer to the house. Had she remembered what bad shape it was in? It had been about eighteen months since she’d last visited, and we’d had a couple of nasty storms last hurricane season. Well, at least she didn’t look disappointed. And Ed looked positively enthusiastic. Bless his heart, I guess he’d seen worse. We climbed the steps to the wraparound porch and proceeded to peek into all the windows we could reach. The sleeping porch on the side was my favorite. The chains and the hanging frames were still there for the two beds that used to hand suspended from the peeling sky-blue beaded board ceiling, but the mattresses were long gone. The ceiling fans were still, but I could imagine them turning, adding to the breeze off the ocean and guaranteeing a peaceful night’s sleep. Once all the holes in the screening were fixed, that is. Sleep out here with the mosquitoes and you’d be drained dry by morning.
We climbed carefully down the steps to the beach, where we found Angelia sitting on her own steps.
“I thought I heard someone next door!” she exclaimed as she rose.
I was about to introduce her to Lisa so they could set up Pooka’s appointment when I saw she was staring at Ed and had gone pale.
“Well, looky here! Angelia, I didn’t know you lived here!” Ed boomed, enveloping a very stiff Angelia in a hug.
‘Yes, I’ve lived here several years, Ed. I moved here right after Mother went into the nursing home so I could be closer to her.”
Lisa’s face was blank, and Michael looked as confused as I felt.
“Angelia is my step-daughter.” Ed explained.
I tried to remember what Angelia had told me about her mother. Early-Onset Alzheimer’s combined with Frontal Lobe Dementia, I think. Angelia visited her frequently, more disturbed by her mother’s personality changes than by the gradually increasing memory loss. Surely this wasn’t the step-father she’d mentioned, bitterly, a few times. The one she’d always called “that asshole Ed”. I scrambled to remember. A philanderer, a man who’d never been faithful to her mother even before she became ill. A man who “couldn’t keep it in his pants” I now remembered her saying. Oh my God. And he was staying in my spare bedroom and looking at houses with my best friend.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .