Between A Memory and A Dream

by LA Tucker © 2002

Part II:  She Don't Give a Damn For Me


Weekends at The Duck Inn were getting way out of hand. Friday nights meant payday, payday meant no one wanted to make dinner so they wanted to eat out, eating out meant they were coming to Duck's place to get the Friday or Saturday dinner special.  The meatloaf was great for Thursdays, the chicken and biscuits went over well on Wednesdays, Tuesdays meant Swiss steak, Friday was fried fish and fries day, but Saturday's special went over especially well with the neighborhood. Marie and Garrett had fussed and experimented secretively to get the Saturday special just right.  It was an Italian sampler platter, with lasagna, spinach and cheese ravioli, a meatball, stuffed shell, with a salad and bread on the side and a dessert cup of spumoni on the side. Duck had to order an emergency supply of styrofoam take home containers for the enthusiastic throngs who were filling the place from 4 PM until 8 PM, when they stopped serving dinner.

The first time she'd tasted the sampler, Duck eyes widened in surprise, and she couldn't help but wonder how Garrett had learned to make such a wide variety of homemade Italian foods in such a short time.  It was not if Garrett was of Italian heritage, if he were going to make foods suited to his ethnic background, it would certainly be something along the lines of kielbasa and pierogies. And Bach was not exactly an Old Country name either.

Garrett sat across the table from her as she tried a forkful of each food, chewing and carefully considering the flavors of each.

Finally she took a cleansing sip of water and peered at him with just a hint of confusion on her face. "OK, I give up. You guys -- I mean, Marie taught you how to make sauce, meatballs, stuffed shells, lasagna and ravioli?"

He chuckled, and played with a snake hoop in his earlobe with a look of sneaky satisfaction. "Nope. The only thing we made here was the lasagna. The rest we got from Cerrone's."

Duck recognized that name. "The people who deliver our Italian bread?"

He chuckled gleefully. "They also deliver gallon buckets of homemade sauce, meatballs, the shells and the ravioli. In these great big pans that fit great into the ovens back there. The lasagna though, that's partially my mom's recipe and partially Marie's.  Marie likes to put a little thin layer of pepperoni in the bottom, she says it gives it a bit of a kick."

"So if we're ordering everything from Cerrone's, is it cost effective?"

"It's gotta be, Marie said Cerrone's Italian wholesale has been what's kept Marchini's so popular for the last twenty years,"  Garrett said in a hushed voice, as if there might be spies lurking about.

"No..." Duck breathed. Marchini's was practically a landmark Italian restaurant on the west side of town. And here they were, conniving frauds! "Really?" She could hardly believe it. "Now my the last of my innocence is truly gone. I can never be a virgin again."  She burped, and aftertasted that kicker pepperoni again. " 'Scuse me. Marie's right, the pepperoni stays with you - probably for hours afterward. I'd better order more Alka Seltzer for the back of the bar," she kidded, then realized it wasn't a bad idea. "So, there's no Italian grandma in the back of Marchini's slaving over a hot stove all day?"

"Uh uh. Marie said this one will put us over the top, and that I should mention to you that maybe you might want to start looking for a waitress for Friday and Saturday nights."

"She did huh?"  Why didn't she tell me that?  Oh wait, we don't really talk to each other, except through Garrett. "Well, maybe I'll do that.  But the lasagna, isn't that going to be pretty labor intensive?"

"Marie and I figured it out.  I'll put it together, big pans of it, on Fridays in the afternoons and toss it in the fridge. Since Friday night is fish fry night, all I have to do there is keep deep frying the fish and fries. And maybe a burger or two. Good thing everybody mostly orders the specials, or the leftovers of the specials from the days before, or you're going to have to get me an assistant for back there. I only have two hands, and I'm going to have a reputation to keep up." He was only half teasing. The time he had spent learning from Marie had instilled a new sense of culinary adventure in him that hadn't existed before. Just spending time with her, discussing the possibilities that some basic, well made food could bring to the bar gave him a sense of direction and accomplishment that making tuna melts hadn't supplied him before.

Duck rubbed her forehead tiredly. In the space of three months, the bar had gone from sleepy to steadily busy. The wait help was a good idea, she couldn't continue to ignore the rising pandemonium in the bar and the kitchen any longer. She was having to pour drinks, bus tables and haul food all night. As it was, she made customers come up to the bar to order their food, and it was getting way too tiresome, and she felt as though she was running cross country half the night. Plus, it made it difficult for her to duck out at four to have dinner with her father for a scant hour. And on the bright side, it might be nice to have a cute young waitress around the place..

She was just about to say something about that very point to Garrett, but he beat her to it. His variation on it, at least.  He had a very eager look on his wispy bearded face when he snuck up on her with his opinion,  "And, I was thinking, if you did want to hire, you know, serving help, I know someone that would love to do it.  Lots of experience, needs the money, available after class everyday, trustworthy, great looking...."

Duck's eyebrows rose in speculation. It would save putting an ad in the paper, and she really hated to think she had to interview people.. "OK, have them come in and talk to me."

Garrett hopped up from the table excitedly. "Thanks! You won't regret it!"

Duck didn't end up regretting it, although she winced the first twenty or so times she heard her new hire, resplendent in black pants, starched white shirt and neatly groomed, Elmered green hair say, "Greetings, I'm Warner, and I'll be your server tonight," with just the slightest pierced tongue lisp.

Duck not only hired Warner, but she ended up giving Garrett more hours, too, something he'd been begging for long months now.  And Warner was a great help, coming in immediately after his classes at the local junior college, and hanging around to help clean up the kitchen and even draw draft beers behind the bar.  Duck adamantly refused to plan a special for Monday nights so only the core regulars would bother them for a meal -- the two employees really needed a day off, and Duck was happy to warm up a leftover meatball and ravioli to placate the most insistent customers.

Marie's job teaching Garrett the basic menu had tapered off too; since  there was a basic menu in place, and it was easier to keep the faire simple and straightforward. She was very busy teaching the extra class at the Y, grooming and walking dogs, landscaping and she was thinking about putting together a recital in the fall with her banjo students.

She still kept her distance from Duck, but found she didn't have to try very hard to avoid her, because it seemed as though Duck had completely forgotten about her tenant's existence. Marie was inwardly pleased to see to see how busy the bar had become, at least during the dinner hours.  And it was natural for bars to attract more customers in the summer, seeking a reprieve from the oppressive heat of their houses.  Garrett and the new waiter, Warner, went out of  their way to chat with her, or simply greeted her warmly and that made her feel welcome and she enjoyed their goofy good humor. She concentrated on little else than keeping up with her self inflicted demanding schedule. That's the way she preferred it because it gave her little time to think of anything else, such as actually having a life.

She bought a small used air conditioner from a fellow groomer at the shop, and Garrett and Warner helped her install it in a window near the futon.  In a week's time, she would be traveling a hundred miles to spend three days at a medieval fair, to show off her designs and hopefully drum up some business for her custom order costume business. This last year had been good, she'd made innumerable wench and waitress costumes, a strolling minstrel or two, some fair maidens, and the always popular court jester outfits. The costumes worn by the performers were the best advertisement for her talents, detailed and well researched, using the best and most appropriate material. She was achieving great word of mouth among the medieval performers, and each year she attended the festivals she found she was being sought out for orders. This winter she would spend many long wintry nights at her sewing machine, sewing heavy velvets and the lightest silks and chiffon, making the kind of magic she would never think of wearing herself.  But she loved seeing the outrageous outcomes of her labors on her clients, and  basked in the attention and notoriety it brought her, if only for the short days of the large fairs she'd attended the last five years.  Marie was a living contradiction - a free spirit in appearance only. Inside, Marie's spirit was carefully harnessed and carefully hidden away.

The last time she had approached Duck with a rent check, Duck had quietly taken the envelope from her, shrugged and ripped it in half, and handed it back to her. "For the lasagna -- and our terrific sampler Saturday nights," her landlady simply said, and went back to attending her customers at the bar.  Marie just stared after her, wanted to say more, but couldn't think of exactly what she wanted to say. Some nights Marie would come in after midnight, and Duck would be sitting at the bar, a few customers playing the arcade game or talking quietly in a corner, and they'd only nodded at each other. Marie had stopped herself, several times, from going over to speak to her, just to make some light conversation, but she never saw an approachable hello shining in Duck's eyes, so she'd pass on by, and go up to the salving refuge of her small apartment.

Frequently she would sit on her futon, strumming her banjo, and think about Duck, sitting alone just one floor below in the nearly empty bar, occupying the late hours with the sole company of a book. She'd think about how she just would like to get close long enough to see if Duck was getting enough sleep, to check for telltale circles under the bartender's eyes, to see if any happiness was lurking below the carefully maintained aloof surface. Some mornings she would be leaving out the door of the bar on her way to the groomers, and she would see Duck and her father sitting on the porch across the street, sharing the ritual of morning coffee. The old man would wave at her, and she'd wave back, but Duck would do no more than merely acknowledge her  She never saw the old man away from the porch, never saw him in the bar, which Marie thought was sadly telling of the depth of grief he must be experiencing. Perhaps too many memories lived in the deepest recesses of the bar for the old man to want to dredge them up and live through them again.

Marie was all too familiar with the need to bury and escape grim memories, and she experienced a strange feeling of kinship with an old man she'd never even met.

"Hey Duck!" Garrett called through the swinging door of the kitchen. Duck was inside, taking inventory of the backstock bar snacks and mixers.

"What?" Duck said, rather sharply. Garrett was scheduled to leave in another half hour; she wanted to get this done before she had to get out and attend the bar again.

Garrett grimaced.  He'd been the target of Duck's perpetual foul mood for weeks.  He couldn't figure it out, the business was running smoothly, attracting a wider customer base, and tuna melts were no longer on the menu.  She withdrew from the people she usually treated the best, the regulars and even from him, and he'd been working with her side by side for the last few years.  It was almost as if a new business had sprung up from within that worn old corner bar, and Garrett felt proud that he was contributing to the new success. But Duck looked and acted drawn and tired, and she rarely smiled other than the false one she displayed for the benefit of the customers. But lately she wasn't even endeavoring to be the least bit pleasant with him.  There was something bothering her, he was sure, but Duck wasn't the kind of person to approach and confront her with questions about her recent bouts of moodiness.

He took a deep breath and blew it out. "There's somebody out here looking for Marie.  Do you know if she's around?"

Duck looked up from the two cases of Rolling Rock she was sitting on. "Do they have a banjo case?  Probably a student."

"Nope, no banjo case. The woman said she heard Marie lived here.  So I'm thinking Marie doesn't know she was coming."

Duck tapped her pen on her clipboard. "I'll  take care of it."  She got up, and came out into the bar, and Garrett pointed the woman out to her.  She was sitting at a table in the far corner, a glass in her hand.

Duck strode over, checking the woman out as she went. Dark, short hair, thin features, a mouth that seemed too large for her long face. There was something quite attractive about her, the long neck, the sleek arms extending from muscular shoulders that looked like they pushed her body through a hundred laps a day in a pool.

The woman remained seated as Duck stopped in front of her, and asked politely, "Hi, can I help you?"

The woman returned a polite half smile to Duck and seemed nervous as she spoke. "I was looking for Marie Bach.  She .. she's an old friend of mine, I was told she lived here, up above the bar, but I couldn't find an outside entrance to an apartment. Does she live here?"

Duck wasn't sure how to respond to this inquiry, if the woman had been a banjo student, she would have to know that Marie lived here. Marie had never had just 'old friends' stopping by, never, in the time that she'd lived here. So Duck didn't know where to go with this. She didn't want to appear to be too suspicious, so she decided to get more information before she made a decision. "Who told you she lived here?"

"Oh, Caroline from Mason's.  She knows me, that's why she told me Marie lived here."


"The dog groomers where Marie works?"  Who is this woman, her body guard?  She doesn't even know where Marie works, and she's giving me the third degree?  She kept her mild irritation from showing in her voice. "Caroline and Marie and I go way back. I just moved back here, Marie doesn't know I'm in town. I wanted to surprise her."

"Oh."  Duck felt a little embarrassed, and yet a little overprotective of Marie's privacy. "Well, I .. . uh ... "

But Duck was saved from her bout of indecision, for Marie was standing next to her, fresh from walking a departing banjo student downstairs.

It was if Duck no longer existed.  The two women were exchanging long, silent looks, and then a small smile broke across the seated woman's face. "Hi, Marie.  You look great. It's been a long time."

Duck glanced sideways at Marie, who was lightly gripping the back of the chair in front of her. "Colleen," she murmured, and then took a quick look at Duck. "Thanks Duck, I can handle it from here on out."  Her voice was direct and firm, and there was an undercurrent of tension weaving through it.

"Sure, sure ..."  Duck retreated, sure that the two women hadn't even heard her reply.

Duck walked back behind the bar, and stuck out the order clipboard to Garrett, who was pouring someone a shot. "Here, go finish the order."

Garrett's eyes widened. "But you never let me do the order, you've always said I'd screw ..."

Duck poked him with the clipboard again, trying to drive home her point. He handed her the schnapps bottle in exchange.  She wasn't looking at him, she was pushing the shot over to the waiting customer, and her eyes were drawn into the back corner of the bar. Garrett looked there too, and saw Marie, with her back to the counter, sitting across from the woman who had asked about her earlier.

"Everything OK, Duck?"

She snapped her head around, flustered to be caught staring at Marie. "Sure. What are you waiting for, go do the order, will ya?" She grabbed a bar towel, and starting wiping surfaces that were perfectly clean.

"But ..."  Garrett could see the tightness in the set of Duck's jaw, and the narrowing of her eyes. "Is it Marie?"

"No!" She slapped the bar towel against the counter. "Now go do the order will you?"

He clutched the clipboard to his chest, and studied his boss' face a little longer. Oh well, I can always find another job where I can watch MTV all day long. "It's Marie, isn't it?"  Duck moved away from him and his probing questions, farther down the bar, emptying ashtrays as she went.  He risked keeping his head on his shoulders, but he gamely followed after her. Not knowing what else to say to make his question any more clear, he had her pinned with no place to go without either answering his question or ripping his heart out. "It's Marie, isn't it?"

She answered him without giving him any answers. "It's that woman who just showed up out of nowhere. I'm not sure what there is about her, I just want to keep an eye out."

Garrett knew where he wanted this conversation to go, but the destination was going to take a little patience on his part. "But she said she's an old friend of hers, that's what she told me.  They sure look like they know each other."  They peered back at the corner table again; the woman was talking quietly to Marie. It was impossible to see anything but the back of Marie's head, and it was very still, as though she was just listening.

"Colleen." Duck said, just saying it out loud, seeing how it felt rolling over her lips. It made her lips curl downward into a frown. "Marie didn't exactly jump for joy when she saw her." She tried to shrug in an offhanded manner, but she was too tense, and the motion appeared more of a jerk.  She turned to Garrett again. "Now would you please go finish the order?"

Garrett stood his ground, concerned with his boss who was acting even more out of sorts than she had been of late.  His eyes darted to Duck, then over to Marie, and then back to Duck again. "It's Marie, isn't it?" The question was rife with unstated implications. Why you're so unhappy, why you insist on closing every night, why you're always here when Marie might stroll through the bar.

Duck's jaw locked in place, and she looked down at her feet.  The last thing she wanted to do was to admit it, out loud or otherwise. What good will it do?

She lifted her shoulders, and sighed. Not able to look him in the eye, she made her terrifying, freeing confession. "Yeah, Garrett. It's Marie."

"How long now?" he asked gently.

Duck shook her head and tried to calculate the answer. "How long?  Maybe since the first time I looked at her?  Since I found out she teaches banjo and ballroom dancing to dogs?"  She smiled sheepishly to herself, trying to make light of the reasons that made her feel like her heart was tightly bound, making it hard for it to beat. "Since the day she treated me like dirt just because I wanted to help her move in?  Or maybe it's her meatloaf," she laughed with self contempt, "that's always the way to a woman's heart, isn't it?  Or maybe it's because she won't give me a second glance.  Or maybe it's because she's straight, and doesn't want an old bulldozer of a dyke bartender to talk to or spend time with. Hell, what's the point?  I've got nothing, no life to offer her. She's going, going, gone all the time, and here I am, sitting at this bar six days a week, hanging out with my dad seven days. She's like a spectator sport for me, I can watch, but I can't play."

Garrett wanted to help find a solution. "I could close the bar for you some night, me and Warner, we'd be happy to guys could go somewhere, a date, you know?"  He had already known the answers to his questions before he'd asked them. But it wasn't until tonight, right now, that he saw the cause of Duck's irritability written so clearly on her face when she looked Marie's way. "I think Marie is lonely.  I spend a lot of time with her, she's really funny and sweet and she tells the funniest stories about the places she's worked." He paused. "Did you know she used to tend bar?"

"What?!"  Duck's eyes were large, and then she saw someone at the other end of the bar waving a five dollar bill at them, trying to get their attention. She held her hand up to placate the guy, with no real intention of getting down there anytime soon.  She looked over, and it seemed as if Marie was talking, and that Colleen woman was listening intently. She turned her attention fully to Garrett. "She was a bartender?"

"Yup, for two years, full time.  She didn't say where, just that it was a place like this.  I asked her if maybe she'd like to fill in here some nights, figuring you could use a back up. She shot me down so fast on that ...."

"I didn't even think she liked bars," Duck replied incredulously.

"Well, I got the feeling she doesn't .... anymore. But she never said why."

The five dollar bill waved a little more insistently. "Wait, I gotta get this guy down at the end. Don't go away."

Garrett leaned against the back of the counter, and surreptitiously spied on Marie and Colleen while Duck took care of the customer.  She tossed the money into the register, and saw what he had noticed.  Colleen had moved from the chair across from Marie, and was now in the chair kitty corner from her, leaning towards her, speaking low and intensely.

Duck turned away, and her stomach clenched. "So she doesn't like bars, huh?  Can't say I blame her, this is not exactly what I'd like to be doing with my life," she said defensively. She couldn't help feeling a little snubbed, a bit insulted.  "But with Dad not ... not ever improving, just slipping farther away .... to where ever he goes, this is the only place I feel safe in being right now. But I wish ..."  She beat that thought back down, she had too many responsibilities, to family, to business, to allow herself the luxury of wishing. She fixed Garrett with a scowl and quietly snorted. "And this is stupid, I'm too old to have a crush on a straight woman. It just goes to show I don't get out to much huh, and ..."

Garrett reached and softly tapped on her elbow, to stop her defeatist flow of words. "Uh, Duck ... I'm thinking ...  she might not be as straight as you think. Look."

Duck totally forgot that she was trying to be stealthy in her surveillance of Marie and Colleen, and did as Garrett asked. She swallowed hard and her heartbeat skipped in reaction to what she was witnessing.  Colleen had captured Marie's hand in hers and was softly stroking the back of it with her thumb.

"Garrett." Duck said, almost too low to be heard, "Friends don't hold friend's hands like that, do they?"

Garrett was sorry to say it. "No, not in my neighborhood, at least."

"Mine either."  She took the clipboard from him. and without another word, strode to the entrance of the kitchen, and pushed her way through the door.


 The fingers around Marie's hand felt familiar in their warmth, their size, and the rhythm of the circular rub on the back of her hand.  But Marie's brain was barely registering the soft contact, her brain was too busy trying to decipher a multitude of feelings, none of which were making a lasting impact. Surprised, angry, intrigued, pleased, irritated, confused, panicky, flattered, curious, relieved, powerful yet powerless, sentimental, immature, nauseous, decided, self conscious, challenged. With every word that was coming out of Colleen's mouth, every smile she imparted, Marie was at a loss to pick a reaction and stick to it. Seconds to minutes, the emotions waned and crested. Right now, for these few moments in time, she was merely numb to the caresses on her hand, deaf to the words crossing the barrier of her eardrums and being transformed into things she wasn't ready or willing to hear. But her resolve had lessened along with her long held righteous anger, and she was riveted to her seat, unable to make a move or find the words that would encourage Colleen to leave. She didn't really want her to leave -- or did she?  Everything she had learned in the last three years urged her to get up and walk away. And yet she sat, she listened, she allowed her hand to be stroked along with her fragile ego.

"Marie, things have changed." Colleen said again, sounding as sincere as the Dalai Lama. "I've changed.  I know that's hard to believe, but it's true. Things could be good for us again. None of it was your fault, it was all me. Do you hate me that much?"

Marie didn't know what to say, so she just answered honestly. She was too exasperated to take the time to find the right measured words. "That's wrong. It was my fault. My fault for letting you get away with all the shit you pulled for so long.  Why would you think I'd want to go through that again?"

"Because, at the beginning, it was really good between us. I know you know that, you used to throw that in my face all the time, how good it was, and then it went bad."  Colleen squirmed uncomfortably in remembrance.  It wasn't easy for her to come, heart in hand, and face Marie this way. "We had it so good, and we let it all slip away."

"We?  We had it good? We let it slip away? How about you had it good?"  Marie said quietly, emphasizing her disagreement in the inflection of her words.

That was one thing Colleen hadn't missed about Marie, her ability to fight, argue, yell and dispute in the most constrained and controlled tones. Marie was not verbally demonstrative, the force of her anger was in carefully restrained, clipped sentences that felt like razor blades cutting at exposed sores.  It was not that Marie was not capable of being mean, or demeaning, she just had the ability to make you feel small with an accusing glance or an extended silence. This silence could feel as weighty as a raised  voice full of expletives and terse incriminations.  As many times as Colleen had lost her temper, and let loose a stream of raging nonsensical verbal attacks, she'd always felt the loser when faced with Marie's painstakingly guarded, closemouthed non- reaction. The madder and more bombastic Colleen got, the result was always the same. Marie would reply to it all in that passive, maddeningly composed way of hers. It was a terrible cycle, going round and round -- Marie's stolid silence provoked the volatile, verbal Colleen. She escalated the heat of her tirades in a futile attempt to break through the wall of Marie's determined mute refusal to engage in heated communication or retaliation. These arguments, as differently handled as they were, had become more frequent over time, and they unfortunately took these traits to an extreme because they'd never been able to find an approach to their problems in any other way. These extremes led them to display the very worst attributes of their personalities, and they frequently were just as upset with themselves as they were with each other for achieving such low standards in personal self esteem and action.

"I did have it good. Until the lying started." Colleen said,  her resolution to remain calm faltering for a moment.. She'd had plenty of time to think this through, many years now, and it was time to reiterate her good intentions.

"Are you talking about my lying or yours?" Marie said, watching Colleen's eyes.

Colleen took a sip from her glass. "Both. But you started lying first."  Oh, hell, I didn't want to say that.

But Marie surprised her by agreeing with her.. "You're right. I lied first. I lied a good long time, too, until it seemed everything I was doing was a lie."

"We don't have to lie any more, Marie. We could start out fresh. I ..I'm so sorry for the way things turned out."

"I am too," Marie said evenly, and then her voice dropped, and for the first time, she seemed to notice Colleen's hand in hers. She looked to their entwined hands, once again searching  for but not finding the strength she needed to turn Colleen away. She'd long got over blaming Colleen for the all the events that had driven them apart.  But she still blamed herself for her own part in the demise of their relationship, That failure still nagged at her, still haunting her life to this day, feeding her reluctance to let her heart mend and go on.

The temptation was great to try and rebuild their crumbled house of cards to its once grand and compelling stature. To repair a good love gone horribly, violently bad. Many fools had attempted this course, and some had succeeded, but too many had failed.  But being the fools that they were, they thought they might be the ones to overcome the odds against them.

They talked deeper into the evening at that table in the corner, and Marie never noticed Duck slipping quietly from the bar after finally accepting Garrett's repeated offer to close that night.

"You couldn't pay me a million dollars to go to Vegas."

Duck cringed, she couldn't remember how many times she'd heard that phrase lately. You couldn't pay me a million dollars.  It seemed her father prefaced every sentence with it, and it was getting to her. He was getting to her.  Her evening wasn't getting better since she'd left the bar early.  Her dad was feeling chatty and his disconnection with reality was more pronounced in the evening after sundown. She knew it was a bad idea for her to be around him right now; she had no patience for his innocuous rambling, and his negativity lately was grinding on her, making the time she spent with him unpleasant for the both of them. That was the last thing she wanted to do, make his already depressed existence any more difficult for him.  She felt it her job to keep a smile on his face, a laugh just a joke away. It was her mission, she believed she owed him that much, to devote herself to making his last years tolerable and less lonely. But the converse was happening, the more she gave to him, the less she felt she was allowing herself, and although he demanded just part of her time, she'd already resigned her future to doing her daughterly duty on his behalf.

In her years of nursing, she'd met many women in her present situation, that of being caregiver to an elderly parent. She hated looking at it as though it was a burden, she preferred to think that she was doing something noble, loving and selfless, suppressing her own dreams and desires so her father could be properly cared for in his declining years.  He was no where near needing the care of a even a part time nurse, he still performed his daily activities without supervision or help, he still wrote out his own checks, paid the utilities and bills, did their laundry and picked up after himself. There was no telling when he would need outside services, and Duck was not eagerly looking forward to that day.

Today she let herself feel resentful, today it came bubbling to the surface with the extra disappointment of seeing Marie holding hands with another woman. Tonight she hated everything about her life, she wanted to find a way to extricate herself from this impossible situation and live the life she used to live.  Dating, mating and sex. Hanging around with a lesbian or two, feeling a part of the gay community she'd left behind. She was hard pressed to identify herself in any particular way any more other than a celibate, caregiver/bartender. Her wants, needs and desires in regard to having a love life were so submerged that it was difficult for her to muster up any pretense she required that in her life any more.

Until Marie moved in. And she'd felt the quiet rebirth of emotions that she didn't realize she still possessed. So long had she repressed these notions, she didn't recognize them when they resurfaced. She'd skillfully and quietly buried her own needs to the point that they'd become non-existent. Selfless and ascetic became her new mottoes, determined to sacrifice a few years of her life to the parents who had given her so many years of their own. Any other thought or recourse seemed disloyal and selfish to her.

Until Marie.

Her father disturbed her reverie. "Did I tell you I got a letter from your Uncle Butt today?  He invited me to go to Vegas with him, I wouldn't go to Vegas if you paid me a million dollars. Why would I want to go to Vegas? All gaudy, buncha crooks running all those casinos. If I wanted to sit around in a bar and lose money, I'd go over to the Inn and play poker. I'm perfectly happy right where I am. Why would he even think I'd want to go to Vegas of all places?"

Duck frowned, and mentally beat her head against the wall. She dearly and deeply loved her father but sometimes it was just too much. "Pop, Uncle Butt was just trying to be nice. You and mom used to go places. I thought you liked to travel. I know Mom did."

"Your mother got to go everywhere she really wanted to go. She never wanted to go much of anywhere anyway.  We never had the time and money to go traveling about," her father replied, his voice filled with resentment over something Duck hadn't said or meant. "And then she got sick."

"I know, Pop. But don't put Uncle Butt down for making a nice offer like that ..."

"Well, he should know better. Just because he runs all over hell in that RV of his, he thinks everybody else should want to do that too. Well, I don't. And he should know that."

Duck's ire was rising, and she spoke harshly to her elderly father, something she prided herself on rarely doing, even in her most impatient and frustrated moments. "Pop, don't!! Don't you dare turn a nice invitation into a bad thing!  I'm sure Uncle Butt didn't invite you to go along just because he wanted to torture the crap out of you. He probably just figured maybe you had some free time now ..."

"Bullshit. He's just trying to lord that fancy RV over me. And I have things to do here, what does he think I'm doing?  And I have that problem, I can't get on any goddamned RV."

"I know, I know. Irritable bowel."  This was her father's reason for not leaving the neighborhood. It was true, he did suffer from the occasional symptoms of it, but his doctor had given him medication to keep it under control. But he tended to overuse it as an excuse not to go anywhere.

"Well, I do, and it's goddamned embarrassing. He's just thinking of himself. So what he can go gallivanting around the country, does that mean the rest of us want to do it?"

That broke Ducks tenuous hold on anything resembling patience. "POP! Would you please quit being so negative about everything?!"

Albert growled. "You just wait, young lady. Just wait 'til you get old and can't do anything."

Duck took a deep breath, and said quietly enough that he couldn't hear, "I'm already there, Pop. I'm already there."

She summoned up a small apologetic smile, and went out to the front porch to be alone.  She got up after a while, and began walking. The neon signs glowing across the street were colorfully blurring through her tears, and she couldn't bear to stare at them any longer.  She wiped at her eyes, and followed the path of the streetlamp lit sidewalk until she was far enough away to temporarily forget what awaited behind her.


Continued in Part III

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