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Chapter Twenty-Seven

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

When Frank woke the next morning, his first thoughts were of fishing. Even before he was fully awake his mind formed lists of things he’d need to fish with Chub today. Then he opened his eyes and took in the bearings of the old familiar room, the same one he’d woken in for the last forty-five years, and the cold and certain knowledge that his friend was dead returned. There was the funeral to deal with. Ollie. These facts visited him one after another and he left his head on the pillow, eyes closed again.

Eventually he rose and drew on his clothes. In the kitchen he lifted Catfish, tail wagging, out of his corner pen, and the dog followed him to the door. Frank let him out, poured some coffee, and sat down at the table. There was an empty plate at his place. In a minute or so the pup would scratch at the door and he’d serve him a bowl of food. Ethel sat at the table, drinking coffee and reading the paper.

“Howdy,” he said to her, quietly.

She looked up at him, eyes tired. She looked ten years older today than she had yesterday. “There’s something in here about his funeral,” she said.

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Chapter Forty-One

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Of course the visit was something she was anxious to converse about. She’d waited months just to see Ollie and now he’d given her so many additional things to say about his new family. But at the moment Frank was outside messing around and she had no one to talk with. She sat at the table and relived the visit—what he’d said, what the little girl was wearing. She hadn’t seen too many things she’d classify as miracles, but she was considering adding Ollie meeting Summer to her short list.

Even though Frank had provided Ollie with strict instructions on how to re-fasten the chain after he headed back home, or wherever he was staying, as soon as he left Frank drove out there to make sure he’d done it correctly. In the headlamps’ beams he studied it. Not exactly as he’d told him to do it, sure enough, so he unlocked the padlock and positioned it so it hung down, not up. Otherwise the key works might fill with rain and rust. That was his son right there: he could do some things, but nothing exactly right, and a lot of them wrong altogether. Redoing the lock gave Frank a chance to think about the mess Ollie’d walked into before Ethel got started.

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Chapter Eleven

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

It was not yet five Monday morning, the window still faintly lit with predawn light, but already she lay alone in bed. She wondered how he’d managed to dress without waking her. Then again, after all the commotion yesterday afternoon, it was no wonder she’d slept through it. She doubted he’d slept at all, as wrought up as he was. She knew why he was up so early, and why he’d been so chatty last night. She remembered the little yellow face with its wet-looking brown eyes, and those tiny ears that hung like pieces of soft cloth. My goodness, this is going to change things, she thought. She took her glasses from the nightstand and rose from bed.

In the bathroom mirror she took notice. Her hair was overdue for an appointment. The skin under her eyes drooped, and a fold of skin looped from her chin like something she might see on one of her chickens. She examined her face, looking for moles that had grown or changed shape. They all looked familiar. Today she didn’t lift her nightgown to inspect her back and chest. Young Dr. Mulferd had told her to do this every day, so she usually did. She was also to examine her breasts for lumps. This morning she gave herself a little less time to self-examine. She used the toilet and got dressed and hurried downstairs to the kitchen.

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Chapter Twenty-Eight

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

It’d lightly rained at some point during the night, and now Ollie’s sleeping bag felt heavy and moist. The sun was just strong enough to heat up the damp bedding and make it stink like wet feathers. His back ached from sleeping on the steel truck bed, and his eye throbbed. As he pulled himself out of the sleeping bag, everything he touched was wet. Soon he was chilled and miserable.

When he looked around, things appeared as they had the night before—he was near the entrance to some sort of park. While it seemed public enough, there was no gatehouse and, apparently, no patrolling rangers. He’d been seeing signs for the Daniel Boone National Forest, and he thought he was close to it, if not smack-dab in it. The only other thing in this small clearing off the road was a dumpster, and he’d heard something bump against it in the night.

But he’d slept all the way through and survived his first night on the road. He knew the open road was a bitch and that he’d be forced to earn her respect. Last night surely earned him some, although he’d paid dearly for it. He stepped to the ground in his sock feet and felt the moisture soak through them. His dry clothes were in the cab, but it’d be tricky getting dressed in there. He’d done it, of course, and his mind went to Summer. By now she’d be missing him. He hoped she was, anyway.

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Chapter Nine

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

By Sunday afternoon it was raining again. This time it came gently over the woods to the west of them, descending slowly like a down blanket being laid over a sleeping child. The rain fell on the leaves of the trees and each drop formed a soft rhythm, a million tiny heartbeats advancing through the woods. Frank cocked his ear to the open door of the barn and listened to its approach.

They always got a lot of rain in July—thunderstorms, mostly—but this summer felt more like a monsoon. He stood in the barn and watched the rain fall first on the garden, then the yard. It hammered the metal roof overhead. He’d been cleaning up the boat, and was about ready to stop anyway. Now he’d get wet on the way to the house. He shut off the lights and grabbed a piece of plywood to serve as an umbrella. With his cane in one hand and the other holding the plywood over his head, he walked out into the rain. He looked down at the wet grass and remembered how he would gather nightcrawlers for bait on rainy nights when he was a kid.

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