The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part V:  If I Were Rational, Would I Be Spending My Time Talking to You?

For disclaimers, see Part I

Chloe yawned again.  Thank god it's Friday, and I have this weekend off.  I think I just want to crawl into bed for two days. I can feel it coming on. I feel all bloated and cranky,  and yesterday I literally wanted to bite someone. On the arm. Hard. She looked across to Marcy, who had once again gallantly picked up Chloe and was hauling her to work at the library before she continued on to her day teaching at the high school. Good thing that neither of us are morning people. I think if Marcy was babbling right now, I'd have to force the car off the road and toss her into a ditch.

It was raining, more of a sleet, and the slow back and forth of the windshield wipers lulled Chloe back to sleep.

"Wake up, Miss Sunshine. Heigh ho.  It's off to work you go."

Chloe slowly opened her eyes, and saw they were parked in front of the library.  Marcy, still bleary eyed, looked like she had made quite the effort just getting that statement out.  Chloe blinked a few times, and grabbed her canvas briefcase from the back seat. They looked at each other, thinking they should say something, then both gave up and shrugged.

"Have a good day." Marcy said, with not much hope in her voice.

"Yeah, you too. Thanks for the ride. Call me at lunchtime."

Once Chloe was in the library, she looked around and saw a large stack of returned books on a small cart. Oh, the twins must have been here last night.  You sure can't call what they do here 'working'.  She looked at the large clock over the check out desk. Oh god, I have over an hour before the library opens.  Maybe I can catch some more sleep. I'll just stretch out on one of the large tables in the reference section.  She took off her coat and stowed it in the small closet in her office. Bad idea. If I fall asleep, I'll never wake up, and well, it would be bad for one of the patrons to find the town librarian curled up on the table near the encyclopedias. Not like they don't like to do that. Many a time, Chloe had found patrons happily snoring away, tucked into a small corner of the library, with book or magazine, open and unread in their  laps.

I guess I'll make a pot of coffee and use the extra time before opening to do a little more planning for the play.  She had heard from all of the kids cast in the play since the list had been posted on Wednesday.  They all had called her at home, or stopped in at the library.  She could hear excitement in their voices, and see it in their eyes.  If enthusiasm alone was going to make this play successful, Chloe was sure that it was going to be a smash hit.  Each student had been instructed to pick up their copy of the script from Mrs. Raeburn's office and read it over the weekend.  Then, on Tuesday, they would all meet to discuss rehearsal schedules, and have preliminary measurements taken for the costumes they were going to wear.  Luckily,  most of the boys could just wear blue jeans in the play. It was the girls whose costumes would be the most difficult, it wasn't like anyone had long schoolmarm  dresses hanging in their closets. OK, well, maybe Paul does. Chloe snickered to herself. That guy is so hard to peg. He still lived with his mom,  never had a date that anyone heard of, and although Marcy had insisted for years that Paul had an unrequited crush on Chloe, he had never shown one bit of inclination to follow through on it.  Good thing.  I wouldn't know how to respond to that.

There were boots and Stetson hats yet to be found. I'm going to have to call some of the neighboring high schools in the area and see if I can raid their prop rooms.  The area schools did this regularly, borrowed costume and props from each other when ever the need arose. It was much cheaper that way. And something close to the most important prop in this play, the infamous 'Surrey with the fringe on the top' could probably be found in one of the neighboring barns here around town.  Marcy, who was in charge of costuming as well as the props for the play, had extensively lobbied for a real live horse to be pulling the surrey. Chloe, being practical before all else, had vehemently argued against this.

" A real horse?  Are you going to sweep up after it?" said Chloe, unsure if her friend's brain was hitting on all four cylinders.

"It 'll look so much more realistic than a cardboard cut out, or even a couple of kids in a horse suit ..."

"And where are we going to keep it until it makes its appearances, in your CAR?" Chloe was once again picking on Marcy's little red Miata.

"Listen, you're the director. You are in charge of these ...  little details.  You figure it out.  I'm the creative director here, I can't be bothered. I just supply the vision ..."

"You need your vision checked, then, Marcy."

"Can't you just see Nelson riding in on a big black stallion, next to the gently waving plastic corn stalks, while the beach ball painted yellow is climbing slowly into the sky? What an entrance that will be ... "

"He can walk next to the damned cornstalks ... "

"Oh yeah, there ya go. A cowboy WALKING along. Like he got his license taken away after some drunken horse driving after a big barn dance?"

"We can work around it." Chloe huffed.

"There are so many scenes that require a horse in this play.  He sells the damned horse near the end of it. You think people are going to believe that some cowboy is going to bid good money to buy something that looks like two high school sophomores in a Mr. Ed suit?" Marcy was right. And she knew it, and was being smug about it.

I hate her when she's right.  "All right then, we'll both start putting out some feelers about a horse. But if it gets complicated, I'm pulling the plug on this thing."  Chloe scratched her chin thoughtfully. "You sure a pony won't do?"

"Oh, yeah, Nelson is what, six foot two?  His knees will be dragging on the floor, and someone will call the humane society on us... "

So the horse, wherever and if they could find one, seemed now to be part of the play. If that horse takes even one crap on the stage floor during a performance, I am personally going to make Marcy go out there and shovel it up. Now there's a thought. I hope it DOES do it's business during every performance and twice during a matinee.

Chloe remained at the front desk, working, until noon, when Mrs. Cellone, one of the senior volunteers for the library arrived. Chloe chitchatted with her a little bit, and then went back into her office to make some phone calls.  She found some cowboy hats and boots at one of the larger high schools in Erie, and even some of the longer dresses she needed for the girls.  She could go pick them up this weekend and have them for the kids to try on when they came in on Tuesday.  Well, I could go pick this stuff up if my car is ready.  She made a decision, opened up her little address book and dialed a number.  She felt a little nervous as she heard the phone ringing.  A little nervous bloomed right into a lot nervous when she heard the phone answered.


"Hey, Sara. How are you doing today?"  She has such a wonderful voice.

Sara, who normally hated answering the phone, brightened when she realized it was Chloe. "Hey there. I was just going to call you. Car's all done."

"Really? That would be great. I need to get into Erie to pick a few things up for the play this weekend. Cowboy hats and such." Chloe switched the phone from one hand to the other, and wiped her free hand on her pants. My palms get sweaty just from talking to her on the phone.

"When did you want to come get it? This afternoon?"  Sara said, not disguising the hopefulness in her voice. Steady girl. Whoa.

"I probably can get Marcy to run me by after she gets done with school. Would that be alright?"

"That would be more than alright."  And then some.

"Are you going to be there when we swing by, or... "

"Sure, I'll be here." Where else would I be? "See you then."

"'Til then."

It had only taken Sara about a half hour to put the rebuilt starter into the car this morning. She had ordered the part on Thursday.  It hadn't arrived until this morning, so she had used the time in the last day or so to do some maintenance work on the old Subaru. She even patched some of the more troubling of rust spots.  Chloe and Marcy probably won't get here until after five or so ... so, maybe I could do some of that spit shining Chloe wanted done ... it will be a nice surprise for her.  I want to do nice things for her.  I don't know when I'll see her again. I suppose I could just ask her, but ...

Sara's mind flashed back to Wednesday morning, when she awoke on the couch next to Chloe. Nelson was gently nudging her shoulder.  The living room was dimly lit by the light coming from the kitchen. She opened her eyes to see Nelson grinning at her, and pointing to the couch beside her. There was Chloe,  a fist under her cheek for a pillow, and her other hand resting on Sara's hip in a bit of a vise grip.  Sara's hand was touching hers. She looked at the soft red hair, and the peaceful expression Chloe wore in her sleep.  Sara sheepishly looked back up at Nelson.  Nelson nodded at her, and whispered, "Does she need a ride? " When Sara nodded in the affirmative, Nelson continued in a hushed tone "I'm going to have to get her out there now, then, because I need to do some stuff around here, and then go pick up Jeanette for school."  Sara again nodded, and returned her gaze to the snoozing Chloe.

"Chloe?" Sara softly stroked the hand that was holding onto her leg. "Chloe?"

A small rustle and a "don' wanna."  Chloe's hand involuntarily gripped Sara's thigh harder, and ended up goosing her.

"Chloe!" Sara squeaked. "Wake up. Nelson needs to take you home now."

The hand that Chloe had resting under her cheek snaked out and slid under Sara's thigh. Way  up high on the inside of Sara's thigh. The hand on top of her thigh reached farther northward and her fingers interlaced. Chloe pulled her head towards her new cushion, and settled in there, her head  much more comfortable and her hands ... so much warmer now.  "Inna minute."

Sara was feeling quite warm herself as Chloe's clasped hands twitched gently in her sleep.  She would be enjoying all of this if Nelson hadn't been hovering there with a huge grin on his face, taking in the show.  Sara trained an evil eye on Nelson, and lowly growled, "Give me a minute here, Nelson,  if you don't mind ..."

Nelson whispered back, "I don't mind. Not a bit." He sauntered up the hallway and into his bedroom to continue dressing.

With a bit more gentle encouragement from Sara, a half awake and totally mortified Chloe finally realized where she was and WHAT she had been doing ... sort of. To cover, Chloe feigned terminal drowsiness and and an inability to form words, which actually wasn't far from the truth.  She put on her boots, and allowed Sara to help her into her coat. She nodded a sleepy farewell to Sara, and followed Nelson out to his truck, which thankfully was pulled close to the house, so she didn't have to navigate any near pond-size puddles. Sara watched from the darkened porch door, and grinned when she saw Chloe make several unsuccessful attempts to step up onto the high running board to get into the truck. She really needs to make a running start to make it. Nelson, ever the gentleman and patiently holding the door open for her, took pity on her and boosted her on her third try. Sara wistfully watched the truck pull out in the early morning darkness, and waved a small goodbye even though she knew no one could see her.

"Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry ..."  Sara was singing at the top of her lungs, and rubbing a smudge off the hood of the Subaru with a chamois.

"When I take you out in the surrey ..."  She stepped back and surveyed her work.  Not bad, not bad at all.

"When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe ...  on top."  She gave a final polish to the windshield, and wiped her hands on her coveralls.

When Nelson towed the car home on Wednesday, it took Sara only two turns of the ignition and a quick peek under the hood to know that the starter was shot, and needed to be replaced. A rather simple job, but probably pretty expensive if Chloe had sent the car to the dealership to be repaired. It was too late in the day to call and order the part she needed, so she waited and called  first thing on Thursday morning.  The rebuilt part was overnighted to her, and with shipping, came to only just a little over $50.  And I changed the oil and air filter for her too, and checked the plugs and did some adjustments. I figure I saved her a couple of hundred dollars.  So, maybe I can't cook as a way to get to Chloe's heart, maybe I can give her beloved big Subaru some extra TLC as a way of showing ... whatever I am trying to show.  She took one last walk around the car, dragged the rag once more over the "Girls Kick Ass" bumpersticker on the rear bumper, and grinned a satisfied smile.  She looked at her watch. Four o'clock. Probably about an hour before she gets here. I can sit and take a load off a few minutes, then go get cleaned up. She took a quick glance of her face in the dirty mirror on the worktable, and smiled again when she saw the streaks of grease and oil across her face. Yup, gotta get cleaned up. I look like some kind of ... warrior.

She heard Nelson's truck stop in the driveway, and ducked her head out of the garage to wave at him. To her chagrin, it looked like he had a smallish passenger with him.  Chloe!!  I thought she was coming with Marcy later.  Determined to look unfazed, she decided to hold her ground and fight back the desire to duck back into the garage. Move your feet, Sara. She strode over to the passenger side of Nelson's truck, and opened the door for Chloe. She lifted a chivalrous hand out to a smiling Chloe,  who took hold of her hand, and hopped down.

"Easier for you to get out of Nelson's truck than get into it, huh, Chloe? " said Sara with a tease in her low voice.

When did she see me struggle to get into ... oh, no,  the other morning. She was watching?  Chloe stood next to Sara and playfully gave her a nudge with her elbow. " I really need a pole vault to get into this thing. God, I hate heights."

"Um, you're a tad early, aren't you?", said Sara, as they watched Nelson come around the truck towards them.

"I stopped at the library to see her, and she mentioned she was coming out here to get her car, so ... " Nelson interjected.

"...he gallantly suggested I come with him.  I was dying to get out of there today so, naturally, I said 'Hell yeah!'."  Chloe nudged Sara again and scanned her face. "You look a little like Daniel Day-Lewis in 'The Last of the Mohicans'".

"I'll take that as a compliment, " Sara said as she self consciously wiped at her face, but only made things worse. She now had large smears across her cheeks. "C'mon into the garage, I've got a rag in there, I can get some of this wiped off. "

Nelson waved off Chloe's words of thanks, and headed on into the house.  Sara put out her arm for Chloe to hold and said, "Allow me to escort you around the mine field." Chloe put a light hand on Sara's bicep, and Sara consciously made her steps smaller to accommodate Chloe's shorter legs.

"Ohmygod! She looks WONDERFUL!" , crowed Chloe, when she saw the gleaming automobile in front of her. "She could pass for an '89 or even a '90!!"  She looked up at Sara, whose blushes were only minimally camouflaged by the grease and dirt on her face.  "Thank you so much!  I haven't seen her look this good in years!"  She looked thoughtfully at the car, and then turned to look up at Sara. "Maybe now would be the time to trade her in, while she's running and has had a bit of a makeover."

Sara, teeth showing in all their glory, answered back, "Nah, she has another 100, 000 miles on her, especially if you keep taking care of her." Especially if you let ME take care of her.

"And you really went through with the spit shine!"  She laughed again at the dirt on Sara's face. "And speaking of spit shine, why don't you sit on that stool over there, and let me get that war paint off of your face. You look kind of scary."

Sara grabbed a clean rag, and let Chloe lead her over to the low stool.  The low height of the stool put Sara's eyes just about at Chloe's chin level. Chloe took the rag, and gently began dabbing at the spots on Sara's face.  Chloe lifted and held Sara's chin in her left hand, and their eyes met. Chloe, gently caressing Sara's face with the soft rag, murmured, " So how is my baby today?"  Sara, totally on her way to heaven, was unsure if Chloe meant ... her, or the car.

"Um, she's OK, she's ... glad you're here.  I think she was missing you."

"You do, huh? "  Chloe was glad that Sara had caught on to her little double meaning. "Well, the feeling is mutual."  She daubed one more time at Sara's almost clean face and gently smiled. "I'm afraid that's the best I can do.  A hot shower will probably do the rest.

A cold shower is what I need right now. "Uh, yeah. I thought I had time before you showed up ..."

"Sorry I was the early bird. I just really wanted to get out of there today. I had absolutely no patience today, for some odd reason.  And Nelson and I got to talk about the play, and our search for a horse ..."

"You're looking for a horse?  For the play?" Sara shook her head in bemusement. "You really like trouble, don't you?" It was her turn for a little double meaning.

"Oh yeah, can't seem to stay away from it." Chloe could give as good as she got. So she decided to give it all she had. "I think I absolutely crave it."  She drew out the word 'crave' so it nearly had three syllables to it.

Sara grabbed the edges of the stool just to keep herself from falling off of it. Alright, already, anymore of this teasing and I'm going to toss her into the big back seat of that Subaru and ... make her refold all my maps. Hehe. Oh baby!!

Chloe decided that since she had Sara at a bit of a mushed out, pile of quivering goo disadvantage, she would take a chance and bring up the idea that she had been mulling over in her head most of the afternoon. I gotta try.

"Um, Sara, I have to leave pretty shortly," Chloe stepped away from her, not wanting to see the expression on Sara's face when she asked her, "I was wondering if you would go with me to Erie tomorrow to pick up the costumes from Tech High..."  Chloe kept her back to Sara, not wanting to put any pressure on her.

Sara's autonomic nervous system shouted out an immediate internal NO! I never go anywhere, unless it's with Dave or Nelson. They know me, they know what to do.  Sara didn't answer; she just watched Chloe, who still wasn't looking at her, and was walking around her car instead, checking it out.

Chloe stopped at looked at a newly patched rust spot and smiled. I'm not going to look at her, I'm just going to take her not saying anything as a good sign.  " Listen, Sara. I probably shouldn't be saying this but ..."  Chloe took a big swallow and continued. " I know you have ... some difficulties.  My guess is that you have a problem with your nerves, and maybe this is simplifying things too much, you let me know, but that problem you might have with ... anxiety ... maybe you don't feel like leaving here very often."  Chloe finally looked at Sara, who was sitting stiffly on the stool, and Sara's blank face simply nodded at Chloe. "You can tell me if I'm wrong, or way off base here, Sara. But you have to excuse me. And I have to apologize in advance for Marcy.  Marcy told me about the day she met you."  Chloe saw a quick stricken look cross Sara's features and then her face returned to it's former passive state. "I'm probably making you very uncomfortable right now, just talking about it.  But Sara,  again, you have to excuse me, well, I tried to guess what you ... what your ... what you were going through that day that you met Marcy, and well, hell, I work in a library, Sara.  I read everything I could about what I thought might be ...  am I even close here?  Give me a sign."

Sara  swallowed hard and nodded.

Chloe,  unable to gauge how Sara was reacting to this line of conversation, bravely went forward. "Sara,  I did the reading because ... I hoped we could become friends.  Not because I was being nosey,  but I have to admit, the day I asked Marcy how she met you,  well, that day I was being extremely nosey. I guess I'm just as nebby as the next person.  I guess I just don't want you to get mad at me now,  for the combination of my curiosity, and well, my interest in you.  I was just hoping ... to spend some time with you, Sara. To get to know you better, and if I'm going about it the wrong way, by asking you to go somewhere with me,  let me know now, and I won't bring it up again until you do."

Sara looked down at the garage floor, and didn't answer Chloe.  She felt her heart race increasing, and a multitude of emotions flowing through her.  Her mind formed many thoughts, none of which reached her lips in reply to the waiting Chloe. NoIt's none of your business,  I don't WANT to go anywhere with you,  I'm perfectly happy the way I am.  I don't want to scare you away. Wait 'til I see that Marcy again. Take your goddamned Subaru,  and get off the property.  And don't come back.  She closed her eyes, and tried to still her thoughts.  In, out. In, out.

Chloe just couldn't hold it in any longer. I am not the most patient of souls, even though I know this is the time for me to be extra patient. "Sara, what I am saying here is ... whatever you need, whatever you need me to do to make you feel comfortable with me,  I'd like to try and do it.  Just let me know,  Sara.  Give me a chance."  She tried to lighten what was a very tense time with a very lame joke. "Unless of course, it involves some kind of weird voodoo rituals involving live chickens ... that's where I draw the line."  She smiled so hopefully at Sara, that Sara couldn't help but feel some of her tension dissipate and scatter in the light of Chloe's earnestness.

Chloe felt her own anxiety level raising. Damn, she's just staring at me. Even after that stupid joke. Why did I open my big fat mouth? Chloe dejectedly stuffed her hands into her coat pockets, hung her head and sighed.  I just ruined everything.

Sara pushed her shoulders back and stretched. She slowly stood up, and chewed on the inside of her cheek.  She smiled a little ruefully at Chloe, who looked up and Sara could see the uncertainty in her eyes.  In a voice as rusted as the Subaru's front bumper, Sara said, "You are a brave soul, Chloe." She cleared her throat and continued. "You're right ... I do have difficulties ... and I would like to ... trust you with them. I don't want to go into all the details right here, right now, but I'll tell you this : if you can live with a couple of unbreakable ground rules, then , yeah,  I think I'd like to go to Erie with you tomorrow." Although you might have your hands full. I hope not.

Chloe, relieved, but not sure as yet if she had done the right thing, said seriously, "Can I ask what those ground rules might be?"

Sara's mind went into automatic, she knew her rules so well. "You have to do what I ask, when I ask, no questions asked.  Chloe, when I get an ... attack ... I feel very out of control. So the person that I am with ... has to be able to just give control over to me.  It helps me feel ... more in control when I feel out of control.  It's really pretty simple.  If I feel an attack coming on,  and I ask you to pull the car over, you don't question me, you just do it. If I tell you not to talk to me, not to touch me, you don't do it.  If I ask to leave wherever we are, we do it.  Right away.  If I feel like walking away or being by myself, you give me my space until I get back.  You have to understand, it's not me trying to tell you what to do, I'm not trying to control you, I'm just doing what it takes for me ...  to get through what can be a very lousy time for me."  Sara looked carefully into Chloe's eyes, searching for some understanding, some acceptance of what she had said.

She found it there.

"I think I understand.  You need to feel safe with me.  I want you to feel that way with me, Sara." Chloe vowed, and then tried to bring a smile to obviously tense woman. "And the live chickens?"

"Nope. None of those."  Sara suddenly felt exhausted from the conversation, the honesty it took, and the fear of what may occur tomorrow. I can do this.  Well,  at least I want to try. That's got to count for something, doesn't it? "No more live chickens.  The meds I take took all the fun out of that..."

Chloe couldn't stop her feet from crossing the garage, nor could she stop her arms from wrapping around Sara in a tight hug. She felt Sara's arms around her, returning the hug.  They stood like that for a long time.

Nelson heard Ms. Donahue's Subaru leave the driveway. He tossed on a hooded sweatshirt, and wandered out to the garage. Sara looked a little shell shocked, like she had just fought a long battle with some unknown enemy.  She barely noticed him enter, and gave him a weak smile of acknowledgment.

"I'm going to Erie tomorrow, Nelson. To get a Stetson hat to fit that big fat head of yours so you can make an ass out of yourself in that play."

Nelson wasn't quite clueing in to what Sara was saying. "I'm taking you to Erie tomorrow?" Sara shook her head, no. "Dad's taking you to Erie tomorrow?" Again,  no.

"One more strike, Nelson, and you're out."

"Uh," said Nelson. Huh, not me, not Dad, then who or how?

Finally, the lights went on in Nelson's icebox. "Ms. Donahue? "

She gave him a sheepish shrug in acknowledgment.

Nelson couldn't quite believe it. "Really?"

Neither could Sara. "Yeah, really."

"Well, well, well." This is cool. I really like Chlo ... er,  Ms. Donahue.

"That's a deep subject there, Nelson. And hey, Nelson, when's the last time you were on a horse?"

"Me? Never. Unless you count the merry-go-round at the county fair about 10 years ago."

Sara clapped a hand on Nelson's shoulder.  "Well, home boy, it's time for you to saddle up."

"So I've heard.  Not only do I have to sing, and dance, I have to try and not fall off a horse."

"I think the falling off the horse part is the least of your problems.

Nelson knew where this was leading.  "We still have to tell Dad."

"Yup. YOU do."

"But I thought you were going to help me tell him?  I think he might take it better if you're there." And I'm in the next county at the time.

"Since when has your father ever been on his best behavior in front of me?  Not gonna happen."

"Yeah, but I may have been a little kid at the time, but I remember his reaction to finding out you were acting ..."  'My sister the THESPIAN.'


"And it wasn't pretty, let me tell you."

"Probably as pretty as when I told him I was gay.  I think it broke his heart."

"But he seems so good about it now ..."

"That's now. I think he wanted me to marry his best friend, Stan ... so he would have someone to buddy around with all his life. Man, was he pissed."

"Stan, of Stan's Bar and Grill?"

"That's the one.  Just think of it, I could be happily grilling kielbasa and emptying the jukebox of quarters every Saturday night ..."

"Sounds like you're really disappointed."

"Oh, I am. Damned genes that made me this way." She cracked a sarcastic smile. "But you're right, he REALLY gave me an earful when I was doing that little cop show on cable. And I had to wear those little skimpy outfits, remember?  They had me playing an undercover whore every week.  He was upset that all these men were pawing his little sister on national TV!"  She shook her head at the memory.

"I remember. He wouldn't even let me watch that show.  Said I shouldn't be seeing my Aunt Sara 'running around half naked'."  Nelson scowled. "See what I mean?  He's such a control freak!  He's going to go ballistic about this acting thing ..."

Sara put a consoling arm around his shoulder. "I'll be there for you Nelson, when you want to tell him.  I'll be hiding under a table, but I'll be there for you."

"Aunt Sara?"


"I wish I was gay. At least I know he'd take that better."

Sara and Nelson were in the kitchen, tossing containers from the fridge into the garbage can.  They were just finishing up when Dave walked in, a bottle of wine in his hand.

"Hello, my dear little family!" Dave practically was oozing happiness from every pore.

"Nelson, go to your room.  Your dad has got his 'Love Groove' face on, and you're still to young to witness it. As a matter of fact, I'm too young to have to live through it ."

"Got a date tonight, Dad?"

"How'd you guess?" Dave felt like tap dancing.

"It's either that, or you're going to kill off that bottle watching 'The Brady Brunch' reruns on cable tonight." Sara quipped.

"Maybe next time. This time, I am going to go spend a lovely evening with Marcy. Dinner, dancing, and then we head back to her place for ..."

Sara jumped in. "... a marathon SCRABBLE tournament!"

Dave harrumphed and opened the fridge to put the bottle in to chill. "Hey, the fridge is practically empty.  What are we doing for food this weekend?"

"We were just going to ask you the same thing.  Nelson and I were just going to throw together a little supper consisting of dill pickles and Cheez Whiz." Sara cocked an eye at him.  "Don't look so upset, there's enough for all of us."

"I told you, I'm eating out tonight. Sorry I can't share in the feast. I suppose I can stop on my way back from Marcy's tomorrow  and pick a few things up." Or Sunday.

Sara leaned up and clapped two hands over Nelson's ears, but not so tightly so he couldn't hear her say "TOMORROW?  You're not planning on coming back until tomorrow? What will your sweet, naive child think you are doing if you don't come back until tomorrow?" She tsked at him through her teeth.

"He'll think that his dad is having one hell of ... an all night Scrabble game.", said Nelson, with a sweet, naive look plastered on his face.

Dave cuffed his son and said, "Watch it there, sonny.  You're not so big that I can't still tie you up and sell you off at some roadside stand to some retired couple driving a Winnebago.  Like I did that one summer ..."  Dave got a beatific glow on his face. "Now if you don't mind, the 'Love Man' has got to go shower and shave for his Scrabble tournament." He sauntered past them and headed for the bathroom.

Nelson took another look into the fridge, and then slammed the door. "Pizza tonight?"

"No date tonight?"

"Nope,  Jeanette's doing the 'girl thing' tonight. Whatever that is."

I'm not gonna comment on that. I wish I was doing the girl thing tonight.

Nelson was just getting off the kitchen phone after ordering  pizzas, when he turned and froze. Sara, who was sitting at the kitchen table, sipping some iced tea, saw the look on his face and then she froze, too. They heard a strange sound wafting through the living room, from the bathroom.  Dave was singing in the shower. " O----KLA-HOMA, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain ..."

Nelson's eyes looked like he'd just taken his fifth ride in a row on the world's biggest roller coaster.

"And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet  ... when the wind comes right behind the rain!..."



They heard the shower stop, but the singing continued, louder now. "O-KLA-HOMA, ev'ry night my honey lamb and I ..."

Honey lamb?

The singing got progressively louder.  "... Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk making lazy circles in the .... What?"

Dave was now standing before them, towel wrapped around his middle, and using another towel rub his hair dry.

"I know my singing is overpowering, jeez, give a guy a break ..." Both Nelson and Sara were staring at him, open mouthed.

He grabbed a beer out of the fridge, popped it open, and strolled back out of the room.

Nelson pinched himself, it was the only thing he could think of to do to make sure he wasn't in some sort of a twilight zone. Sara saw him do this, and attuned to what he was thinking, stretched out an arm for him to pinch, too. He did.


"OK, then, how do you explain this then, Aunt Sara?"

"Alternate universe?", queried Sara. When she saw that Nelson wasn't buying that explanation, she tried another. "Marcy?"

"Nah, I think Ms. Donahue told her not to tell. I least I told her to tell her not to tell. It's hard to tell you think Ms. Donahue told her not to tell and she told anyways?"

"Nelson, you are making me dizzy with all these 'tells' and 'tolds' . No, there has to be another explanation."

Both of them crinkled their foreheads in thought.  Just when they thought they might be hurting themselves from thinking so hard, Nelson blurted,
"I know!!"

Sara was relieved, and her face showed it. Another thirty seconds of that, and the blood would have stopped flowing to my brain permanently. "So, what is it?"

"I used Dad's truck to tow Chl ... Ms. Donahue's car the other day. I left my 'Oklahoma' CD in the player. He's been listening to it for a couple of days now, I bet."

Sara was inordinately relieved not to be living in an alternate universe. This one is tough enough to deal with. "Well, Nels, since he seems to have 'Oklahoma' on the brain, what say we go for it before he leaves for his date?"  I can hunker down under the kitchen table when the canisters start flying across the room. Nelson's face showed his trepidation. "Don't worry, I won't leave you." You can duck under the table with me.

Nelson briefly considered asking if maybe he could just move in with her, and then figured that his dad could just hunt him down there, too.
"Alright. Enough avoiding this, I guess."  He hitched his hands in his belt loops, and straightened up. "Let's do it."

A nattily dressed Dave came back into the kitchen, stinking of after shave and a self satisfied grin on his face. He grabbed the bottle of wine out of the refrigerator and noticed that both Nelson and Sara were staring at him intently. "What? Does my hair look funny or something?"

"Well, other than the fact that you overdosed on your 'Stud Muffin' cologne yet one more time, yeah, there is something your son here wanted to discuss with you."  She pointed at Nelson. "Speak now, or forever hold your peace."

Dave looked expectantly at Nelson, who looked like he had lost the power of speech. "Well, what is it?"

"Well, listen, Dad. I do need you to listen to what I have to say here. Without interruption. Can you do that?" Nelson wanted this guarantee because he knew he would never get through it otherwise.

Oh great. I'm going to be a grandfather at the ripe old age of 40. "OK, sure. What?" said Dave, putting on his 'Mr. Patient' face.

"Alright. Here's the thing. You know you were just singing 'Oklahoma' in the shower right? Anyway, that's what the senior class play is this year. 'Oklahoma'.  Aunt Sara and I were practicing it, she was helping ," Nelson thought it best to spread the blame around, right at the very start, "and I tried out for the lead in it.  Chlo ... Ms. Donahue is directing. I tried out for the lead, and got the part. I'm going to be Curly, and Jeanette is going to be Laurey.  I'm going to act. I have to ride a horse too, if we can find one. Otherwise, I'll just have to stroll along or something."  Nelson stopped, because he totally had lost his train of thought. "Or something," he repeated.

Dave looked at him doubtfully. "And you're telling me this because you think getting the lead in a school play is a bad thing?"

Nelson shook his head, and did his best to clarify his jumbled thinking. "Well, it's not just that Dad, it's this acting thing, and the football thing, too.  I mean, I like playing football, I really do, but I think I might like pursuing this acting thing too. In college I mean. Depending on how well I do in this play.  Aunt Sara  thinks I'm pretty good ... " he turned his attention to Sara, who was edging closer to the kitchen table, "and she's been helping me alot and I've been thinking for quite awhile about this acting and college and football and ..."

Dave brusquely interrupted by placing a hand on Nelson's shoulder.

Nelson flinched. Here it comes.

"Nelson," Dave began quietly, " Who's to say you can't do both in college?  You've got four years there. Quit being such a worrywart. Try 'em both."

"Huh?" said Nelson.  But that makes such perfect sense.

Dave straightened his tie, looked at his watch and said, "The lead, huh? Way to go. Can't wait to see you dancing. That should be one for the memory book."  He hugged Nelson around the shoulders and then waved his watch at the both of them. "Gotta fly.  See you both tomorrow." He winked broadly, and went out the door, whistling.

Sara turned to a dumbstruck Nelson and stuck out her arm.  "Pinch me again. I'm still not sure about the alternate universe theory."

Continued in Part VI

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