Monday, August 20, 2007

Chapter 2: An Odd Greeting, Part II

He threaded his way through the kitchen and into one of the two bedrooms that took up the rest of the house. Alexis' twin bed had been set up and made, the pink comforter with its yellow flowers nearly blinding him as he walked by. A pale nightlight glowed in the wall. A short dresser stood in one corner, and her small, pink table and chairs in another. Boxes covered both.

A doorway led to his room, which was even more cluttered. He couldn't see the bed for all the clothing, and a haphazard stack of boxes nearly obscured the window. Shaking his head, he walked back into the living room and outside.

Ray slept in his mother's arms when Vernon walked out onto the porch. Cheryl, finally covered, had leaned over and was inspecting the brittle square tiles that covered the outside walls. "What kind of siding is this?"

Vernon bent down next to her. "Asbestos," he said after a moment. Running a finger across its surface, he added: "I think it's covered in lead paint."

"What?" she shouted. Raymond stirred, whined and fell back to sleep.

"It's fine," he said, pumping his hands in a calming gesture. "There's no danger as long as you don't start breaking it off." He glanced at the baby. Ray's likely to start crawling soon. "Or try to eat it. We'll need to keep an eye on him."

"Are you sure?" He nodded. She sighed. "Any more surprises?"

"Don't spend any more time than you have to in the bathroom," he said. "The water heater's not venting right. I'll call the landlord tomorrow."

"Wonderful." She shook her head, leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes.

He scratched his neck. "Look, Cheryl, it was real nice of your brothers to load our stuff up and move it for us, but don't you think they could have been a little more careful about putting it up? And they ate everything we had in the fridge."

"We've already been over this, Vern, and you're right," she replied sharply. "It was nice of them. They didn't ask for any money, and if they want to take a little food, well, I think…"

What she thought remained a mystery as the bang of an opening door and a babble of voices cut her off. He glanced at his watch, which showed a few minutes past six.

"Church dismissed," he said. "You want to go meet the neighbors?"

"You go ahead, Vern. I'm tired, and I don't want to wake Ray up. I can meet them later."

"It's all right. I understand – neither one of us has gotten much sleep lately. I'll join you in a little bit." He walked down the gravel driveway and glanced over his shoulder. Cheryl had resumed rocking. He walked to the tree where Alexis was still swinging, hair and red skirt flying as she moved through the air. The white hose she refused to take off gleamed in the dying light.

"Hi, Daddy!" she called. "Watch me!"

He stood for a moment, arms folded. "I'm watching, sweetie. You're going high, aren't you?"

"I sure am." She leaned back. Rope creaked as she moved.

Vernon laughed. "Be careful. Make sure you don't throw yourself over the house."

"Oh, Daddy." She gave him one of Cheryl's favorite looks, head cocked to one side and an expression that assured him of his own idiocy. Her lips twitched and broke into a smile. "Push me!"

"Are you sure? Looks to me like you're going too fast already."

"Push me!"

"OK, OK. But just a minute." He walked behind her, ducking to avoid getting brained by the plank. Vernon backed up a step and reached out. His hands gently grasped the sides of the wood and heaved, sending the swing hurtling in its arc.

Alexis squealed and laughed. "Higher!"

He gave her another shove and stepped back. "That's all for now."

"Awww, man. I wanted you to push me more." Her voice grew and fell as she moved toward and away from him.

"I know, sweetie, but Daddy's got to go talk to some people. Tell you what, I'll push you first thing in the morning, OK?"ProTools 6.2 serial

"OK. Love you!"

"You, too." He blew her a kiss and smiled.

As he moved on, Vernon saw the congregation hadn't wasted any time in dispersing. A few stood silhouetted in the church doorway, but most had moved on. What cars had been in the parking lot were already gone. Some people had already passed his house by the time he reached the road. He watched the people as they headed home. Senior citizens looked to account for a little more than half of Jennings Grove's residents, with younger couples making up the rest. Regardless of age, everyone moved with the same brisk stride while eyeing the setting sun.

Part III coming Friday!


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At August 20, 2007 6:21 PM , Blogger Bret Jordan said...

I've been looking forward to this all day, Jeff! Seeing the story unfold was worth the wait though. Looking forward to Friday's posting.ProTools 6.2 serial  

At August 20, 2007 10:11 PM , Blogger Jeff Parish said...

I flew into California today and I've been going all day.ProTools 6.2 serial  

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