Dog Days

Chapter 3



The next day was Friday and we were free until the rehearsal at four o’clock.  The town of Lee is loaded with outlet shops that a lot of people seem to gravitate to as if they were vacation destinations in their own right.  Not this kid, even though I knew Lisa would have liked to go there, and it was on almost everyone’s agenda.  Alana wasn’t interested, and if Dan had even considered going he didn’t mention it.


It took Gretchen a while at breakfast to even grasp the concept, which she found peculiar.  She did want to bring gifts home with her so she and Dana decided to go shopping for a while.  They were spending the day with Rhod and he had a car, so they had some flexibility and we talked about getting together for lunch somewhere.


Lisa and I decided to visit the nearby village of Stockbridge, which is also very touristy but in a more traditional sense.  The Norman Rockwell museum is there and the downtown area is populated with galleries, boutiques and antique shops.  It’s a picturesque town, especially at Christmas time.  Main Street in the nineteen-fifties is the subject of a famous Rockwell painting, and the town has had the wisdom to leave it pretty much alone.  When all the shops and restaurants are decorated with wreaths, lights and bows it’s a very pleasant place to spend a day.


After breakfast when everyone had decided on where they were going, Hector borrowed Bernie’s Lincoln and drove me, Dan, Lisa and Alana toward Stockbridge.  I didn’t even try to keep track of where everyone else was going.  The hotel was running a shuttle back and forth to the outlet stores in Lee.  A second bus had been hired to run a sightseeing tour of the area, and people with their own cars headed out in a lot of directions, their seats full of friends or relatives.  A good number of people stayed at the hotel to take advantage of the spa or just goof off.


We were walking toward the car when Patrick came running up and asked, “Can I go with you?”


There were already five of us, but it was a big car so I’d be able to squeeze in back with Lisa.  That turned out to be unnecessary because the car was a six-seater with a front seat that went the width of the car just like the back seat.  I hadn’t seen one like that before, but even with Hector driving there was plenty of room for Lisa and me up front.


I was glad we decided to go to Stockbridge.  I hadn’t given a bit of thought to the fact that it was the busiest shopping day of the year.  Nobody mentioned it, either, but the traffic in the little town of Lee was as bad as downtown Boston.  It took us nearly thirty minutes to reach the road to Stockbridge.


Stockbridge was crowded too, and we drove out to the Rockwell museum first.  We had to wait a few minutes for the place to open, so we walked to the studio where the artist worked, which is on the same property.  It’s not open in the cold months, and it looked like any number of outbuildings in New England: small, plain and red.


I’d been to the museum before, and it turned out that Alana had too.  That didn’t really matter because the exhibits were always changing, and there were usually some non-Rockwell groupings to enjoy as well.


We walked around the grounds until we saw people entering the museum, and we went to the end of the line.  Patrick asked what the admission fee was and I asked, “Do you need some dollars?”


He smiled, “I have dollars.  How many do I need here?”


I pointed to the sign and said, “You’re a student, so it’s five dollars.”


Pat snickered, “That’s what I should have asked, then.  I saw the sign and didn’t know if I would qualify as a student here.”


I said, “I don’t think they’ll even ask where you’re from.  Just hold out five dollars.”


Two minutes later we were in, and the main exhibit was a grouping of Rockwell’s wartime paintings.  A handful of them were of a patriotic nature, but most were scenes of people in the States in everyday situations that were impacted in one way or another by the war effort.


We spent an hour looking at the displays and another half-hour in the gift shop.  I bought some prints that I liked for my new bedroom, while Lisa, Dan and Alana bought things for gifts.  Patrick and Hector looked around but didn’t buy anything.


After the museum, we decided it would be fun to just wander through town and stop wherever we saw something that looked interesting.  Hector found parking at the town hall and we joined the thin crowd of people doing the same thing we were.  We were walking into a chilly breeze when my phone rang, and I ducked out of the wind to answer it. 


It was Dana.  “Where are you at?  This place is crazy.”


“You’re in Lee?” I asked.


“I guess so.  I just want to be out of here.  I never saw so many rude people.”


“We’re in Stockbridge,” I said.  It’s just a few miles down the road … if you can find the road.  We’re right on the main drag if you want to do some window shopping with us.”


“Let me ask,” he said, and came back after a minute.  “Can you tell Rhod how to get there?”


I said, “Wait a minute.  I’ll get Hector to tell him.  I didn’t pay attention to the road we were on.”


I held my phone out to Hector and said, “Rhod needs directions.”


Hector nodded and took the phone.  Patrick said, “I have to ask you something.  I don’t want you to think I’m complaining because I’m not.  It’s about the food here.  It’s good, but …but …”


Patrick hesitated some more and I said, “Come on, spill it!  It’s what?”


Patrick said almost sadly, “It’s kind of bland.  I expected spicier food.”


“When you say spicy, do you mean the hurt-your-mouth kind of spicy, or just more flavorful?”


Hector held my phone out to me and I interrupted Pat’s response to ask, “Are they coming?”


Hector nodded and I turned back to Patrick.  “Sorry.  You were saying?”


He shrugged, “I don’t know.  I guess I’m used to fish, and that usually has more than salt and pepper on it.  Like I said, I’m not complaining.”


I grinned, “We’ll find you something, don’t worry.  The place we’re staying is trying to keep two hundred people happy, so the food is kind of generic.  Check the menus here in town and see if something sounds good.”


I noticed that Hector was on his phone again, speaking Spanish this time.  When he noticed me looking I thought he had a pretty icy expression on his face, and he turned his back to me right away.  I didn’t know what that was about, but Dan and Alana had started walking and Lisa nudged me to get moving.  We left Hector behind and started paying attention to the menus posted in windows until he caught up.


I asked, “What was that about?”


Hector didn’t smile, but said, “That, amigo, was Ovidio.  Wait until we’re together with Dana and Tom and I’ll fill you in.”


“I have to wait?” I whined.  “Who knows when we’ll see Tommy.”


Hector said, “Don’t fuss.  He’s coming with Dana.”


I said, “Oh.  Well that’s different then.”  I turned to Lisa and said, “Tom’s with Dana.  I feel better now, don’t you?”


Lisa rolled her eyes and said, “You’ll be better after you’ve had your medication.  Can we keep going?”


I said, “We’ve been going.  Don’t you want to go inside any of these places?”


Lisa took my hand, looked in the window we were passing, and said, “Oh, look.  Let’s go in here.”


It looked like an arts and crafts store with the window on one side full of ceramics, and the other full of wooden and blown-glass items.


I followed Lisa in, and only Patrick came in after me.  I didn’t think it mattered that nobody else came in; we’d all catch up at some point.


One wall had shelves full of ceramic animals, and there was one of a kitty with similar markings to Lisa’s cat.  I pointed it out and said, “That looks like Archie.”


She said, “Oh, it does!  I should get that for my mother for Christmas.  She’ll love it.”  She picked it up and looked at the price on the bottom, which I saw over her shoulder.  It was twenty-four bucks, so not bad.


There was a youngish lady hovering close by and Lisa asked, “Did you make this?”


The lady said, “No, but these are done by a local woman.  They’re some of our best sellers.”


Lisa asked, “Do you gift wrap?”


A man behind me asked, “Are you looking for something in particular?”


Patrick replied, “No, I’m just waiting.”


The man said in a snooty voice, “Well, why don’t you just wait outside?  We have customers who need this space.”


I turned around quickly.  Poor Patrick looked stricken, and the guy who asked him to leave was a fat blob in a stained shirt.


I said, “Excuse me, but that’s my cousin.  I guess if you don’t want him in here you don’t want us, either.  Come on Lisa; we’ll find a store where they know what century it is.  Let’s get out of here, Pat.”  I pointed to the guy and said, “Your shirt’s dirty.  If you take it home and ask your mommy to wash it maybe you can play businessman instead of bigot.”


With that we walked out.  On the sidewalk I said, “I’m sorry, man.  There are still some of those types on the loose in this country.  Don’t take it to heart; he’s just a caveman in a dirty shirt.”


Pat said, “But Lisa wanted something in there.  I can wait out here while you shop.”


Lisa put her hand on Patrick’s arm and said, “There’s nothing I want from that store, believe me.”


As if to prove that there was only one bigot in town, the people in the next several shops we entered went out of their way to engage Patrick after hearing his accent.  Most people had never heard of Turks and Caicos, and the few that had weren’t able to place the islands.  He didn’t tire of talking about his country, and by the time we ran into the others he seemed to have forgotten the guy in the first store and was enjoying himself.


Tom saw us approaching and waited with a broad grin on his face.  When I was close enough to hear he said, “This is nice here.  Those outlets were insane.  Some lady recognized Rhod and it almost turned into a riot.”


“Is everyone okay?” I asked.


Tom said, “We’re okay, but it took the police to get us out of there.  People really got crazy.”


I said, “Wow.  We went to an art museum.  That’s always a thrill for me.”


Tom gave me a look that suggested there might be three of me, so I asked, “Did Hector tell you he has news for us?”  I asked.


Tom looked toward Hector and back to me, “He said he wanted to talk to us.  It’s news?”


I said, “Let’s find out,” and went up to Hector, who was looking at a menu in a restaurant window.


I saw by his reflection that he knew I was beside him, and I asked, “Does the menu look good?  We should probably eat before these places all fill up.”


“It looks okay to me.  They have a little of everything.”


Everyone was agreeable when Hector suggested eating there, so we worked our way inside where the host had us wait while they pulled some tables together.  We paired off where we could, which left Hector, Rhod and Patrick at one end of the table.  Hector was too far away for us to talk comfortably and everyone was hungry, so we’d wait until after our meal to hear his news.


I looked at the menu and the specials.  Hector was right; they had some good choices.  I made sure to give Patrick my thoughts on things I thought would be flavorful, and ordered the same for myself: an appetizer of coconut shrimp with horseradish flavored marmalade for dipping, and an entrée of seafood chiles rellenos.  Lisa ordered eggplant lasagna and everyone else got what they wanted.


Patrick related his story about being ejected from a gift shop because he’s black, and the other guys wanted to go and break their windows.  Hector nixed that idea, and the talk turned to the shopping mobs at the outlet stores.  I didn’t know Gretchen’s shopping habits but Bridgette had a reputation, so it was a surprise to hear that she left the outlet mall peacefully and under her own power.


Lunch was the way it should have been.  The food was good and the conversation was light.  After we ordered dessert Tom, Dana and I hustled Hector outside onto the sidewalk where he told us the mystery of Dana’s tampered skis had been solved.  Oscar had been exactly right when he suspected his new competitor of sabotage, and it was computer records off the Internet that caught up with the guy.  He would go to trial and could be fined for the fraud and possibly jailed for creating a dangerous situation.  He might also have to pay restitution to the two shops he harmed.


Enough time had gone by that it didn’t seem that important to us any longer.  Hector didn’t have news about Detective Silva or Freddie Ramirez as their trial dates had yet to be announced.  I didn’t really care that much about Silva being punished, but I was very interested in Freddie’s fate.  He’s the guy who had been causing genuine harm to people for a long time, and I thought prison was probably too good for him.  It was the most I could hope for within the law, but it would serve him right if he ran into a fan club of his victims somewhere along the way.


We went back inside for our desserts and Rhod picked up the tab.  There were people in the restaurant who clearly recognized him.  Several women kept glancing his way, but nobody made a move to disturb him.  I could tell he appreciated that, and when we stood to leave he smiled and said hello to each of them.


It was almost two o’clock when we left the restaurant, so we started walking back toward the cars.  We didn’t have to hurry, but the rehearsal started at four and it seemed like a good idea to be on time.


Patrick pointed out the store he’d been kicked out of, and the door flew open when we were passing.  It was the woman who had been waiting on us, and she cried anxiously, “Oh, please stop!  I want to apologize for my husband’s cousin.  He doesn’t work here and he had no business speaking with any customers.  Believe me, his attitude is his alone.  He’s on the bus back to Schenectady and won’t be visiting here again.  Please come in for a moment.  I finished wrapping your kitty cat and want to give it to you to ease any hard feelings.”


Lisa said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that.  Let me pay for it and you can offer something to Patrick if you want to.”


Patrick took a step back and said, “Oh no, ma’am, I couldn’t take anything.”  He smiled, “Who knows better than me that you can’t choose your relatives?”


I eyed him, “Meaning?”


Pat turned his surprise to me, “Not you!  I’m related to the whole country in TCI:  bankers, thieves: the whole lot.”


Lisa held some cash out to the woman and asked, “Is there any tax on this?”


The woman said, “Thank you.  I’ll take care of the tax.  Please feel free to look around some more.”


Lisa said, “I’d love to but we have to get back to the hotel for a wedding rehearsal.”


“A wedding!  How wonderful.  Yes, you’d better hurry along.  You can’t be late to a wedding.”


+ + + + + + + +


The rehearsal didn’t take much more than an hour, and we didn’t even have to change clothes.  For some reason I had it in my head that Bernie would be leading the whole thing, but a lady from the hotel had that honor.  That made perfect sense, of course, because Bernie didn’t know the room any more than I did.  The woman was very professional and very clear with her directions.  She wasn’t unsettled by the fact that it was a double wedding or because one of the couples was gay.


She was a choreographer as much as anything; she showed us our positions at the front of the room and then walked everyone through the procession.  I thought she’d teach the ushers how to ush, but instead she showed them how to escort people to their seats, and how to make small talk when they took the ladies’ arms.  The only thing they had to go through more than once was getting the ushers together with their proper maidens on the way out.


When we were finished with the rehearsal we had over an hour before the rehearsal dinner, and used that to get cleaned up and changed.  We spent the rest of the time with the people who weren’t in the wedding party and wouldn’t have dinner with us.  None of them seemed jealous.


The dinner was held in yet another dining room near the hall where the rehearsal had been.  The meal was pork roast with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.  The pork was the best I’d ever had; it was juicy, tender and delicious.  I had a big serving and still asked for seconds.  That didn’t leave me much room for dessert so they served Peach Melba which is my favorite food ever.  I couldn’t pass it up, and everyone at our table kidded me about my appetite.


My father stood and thanked us all for being there and for participating in the wedding.  Then he and Elenora came around with gift boxes for everyone.  The boxes for the guys were fairly large and quite heavy, while the gifts for the ladies were small and light looking.  The boxes were all blue with silver ribbons and emblazoned with the Tiffany & Co. insignia.


I opened mine and it was a gorgeous copper mug with an attached gold plaque engraved with my name and the occasion.  The thing was heavy because, according to the enclosed leaflet, it was milled from a solid block of phosphor bronze and the handle was a polished bronze casting.  It was beautiful, and heavy enough that a pair of them would make serviceable bookends.


Lisa had her little box open by then, and there was a jewelry box inside.  She gasped when she lifted the lid to reveal a golden chain bracelet with a small flat piece at the front of it.  There was some tiny engraving on it, and right in the middle was a beautiful little emerald.  She lifted it out of the box and I helped her put it on.


Girls are funny.  They had identical gifts, but they spent fifteen minutes admiring each other’s bracelets.


Ally stood and said much the same thing as my father had, and then came around with my mother to distribute their gifts for everyone.  This time all the boxes were one size and wrapped in elegant paper tied with gold ribbon.  These were also heavy boxes, and Gary managed to get his open first.  We all looked while he pulled out a crystal pyramid.  His eyes bugged out, and when he held it up we could see why.  I could only wonder about how it was made, but there was a world globe inside the pyramid, and the various reflections made it seem like it was shot through with light.


When I had mine out I was even more puzzled.  I couldn’t tell if the globe was solid or a hollowed out section of the pyramid.  On the globe, or maybe in the globe, was a little ruby, and it was located on the world map right where we were sitting.  I held it up to the light trying to figure out what I had in my hands, and when the light caught the ruby just right from behind it flashed a red beam that resembled a laser.  It made me smile, and given its lack of function, that’s probably just what it was made to do.


The party started to break up then, and we spent the half hour before we left mingling with the people we hadn’t been near during the meal.


It wasn’t late, but I was tired.  When I told Lisa, she admitted that she was feeling worn out herself.  We said goodnight to everyone and I walked her to her door.  Nobody was in the room, so we made out for several minutes.  When I left I looked for her parents in the castle to let them know Lisa was in the room.


I explained that Lisa was in their room getting ready for bed, and then went around telling people that I was heading to bed myself.


+ + + + + + + +


I was in bed when Dan came to the room after walking Alana to her room.  He asked, “How’s the bed holding up under all that extra weight?”


“Don’t start,” I warned.  “You were packing it away pretty well yourself.  Better than pretty well; I’d say you looked damned professional.”


Dan snickered and said, “I’ll be right out,” as the bathroom door closed behind him.  While he was in there I heard the toilet flush three times.  I was pretty sure he was doing that for effect and not from necessity, so when he came out I didn’t mention it.


Instead, I asked, “Are you having a good time?”


Dan snuggled into his own bed and asked, “Want the light out?”




“I am having a good time.  I’m having a great time.  I’m getting jealous of you, too.”


Expecting a wisecrack, I asked, “Why jealous?”


“It’s the people around you, mostly.  They’re an interesting bunch, and they’re really a lot of fun to be around.  I think my world is full of clones, and we’re all being programmed for the same future.  You, I mean look at you: you have a friend who’s a bull farmer.  I didn’t know there was such a thing.  I don’t know any kind of farmer, and being a bull farmer sounds awful.  If I never met Gary I’d think he had a weird life, but I did meet him and I’m missing out not knowing people like him.  I just don’t meet people like that, and now I wish I could.”


I said, “I thought you’d be talking about Alana.”


“I am.  I will.  I want to.  Alana is totally different than any girl I ever met.  I mean, there are some really good looking girls in the group I hang around with, and some of them are probably pretty smart.  They just don’t think about anything but our little world out there, and I doubt they’d change anything if they could.”


“So nothing changes in the suburbs of Detroit?” I asked.


“Oh, I guess things change in time, but I don’t think many people really want them to.  They like the status-quo and think it’s their right, or maybe their duty, to be their parents all over again.”


I snickered, “And Alana?  Do you think she’ll maintain the status-quo?”


My eyes were closed, but I somehow knew Dan smiled when he said, “Not in my lifetime.  Alana has a different outlook than anyone else I know, and I like her ideas.  She knows things, too; I mean, like about politics and the way society works.  I’d bet that none of the girls I know could name the Vice President and half of them would have trouble with the President.  Not Alana.  She knows all the players and a lot about them, like who’s working to get things done and the ones who just want to build their own stash.  She wants to change things, too.  She knows she’s up against a stone wall there, but I don’t want to be the guy who gets in her way.”


“There might be a little revolution in your future then?”


Dan sighed, “Alana’s not violent; that’s not what she wants to see happen.  Heh, she just wants to tilt the world’s axis a little bit so some new people find themselves on top.”


“What happens to the people on top now?” I asked.


“Not much.  They fall off, meaning out of power, but they all have big green cushions to land on.”


I chuckled at that.  “How does Alana know things won’t get worse?”


“Well, her thought is that things couldn’t get much worse to begin with, but once people know they’ve turned the world on end there’s nothing to stop them from doing it again.”


“I get it.  We’re going to keep going over this until we get it right; it’s just like learning the alphabet.”


We talked for a long time, and I’m not sure who fell asleep first.


I woke up early to use the bathroom.  Dan was still asleep, but I decided to stay up and take my time getting ready.  I started some coffee brewing while I took my shower and sipped at it while I was shaving.


I cursed my hair for the half hour it took me to get it to stay in place.  I should have put my undershirt on first, because it messed up my hair in no time at all when I pulled it over my head.  It was back into the bathroom for me, but not so difficult the second time around.


I was finishing my third cup of coffee when Dan woke up.  He was worried at first thinking it was late and he’d have to hurry, but he calmed down when I told him he had plenty of time.  He had less than me because he was an usher and had to be ready an hour before the wedding started.  Dana and I could get there at the last minute and still be okay.


I opened the drapes to look outside, and a heavy fog had settled in.  I was disappointed at first, but it lent a mystical aura to the grounds and I found myself hoping it would stay at least until the wedding got going.


I thought about calling Lisa but it was still early, so I stood like a dummy looking at the fog and thinking about the English atmosphere it was creating.  It was my phone that rang, and it was Gil calling.


“Hi, Gil.  What’s up?”


Gil sounded nervous.  “I’m not interrupting the wedding am I?”


“No.  It doesn’t start until eleven.  I haven’t even had breakfast yet.”


“Guess what?”


“It’s too early to guess, Gil.  Tell me you didn’t have nuclear powered Wheaties for breakfast.”


“No, I had Count Chocula.  I found a dog.  We found a dog.  My dad took me to the pound and I picked out a dog … a nice, big dog.”


“Really?  What breed, or is it like mixed?”


“He’s really mixed.  He’s smart, too, and really, really cute.”


I said, “Neat.  Do you know anything about him?”


“I know everything, I think.  He’s not a stray; a family had him, but they had to give him up because of the economy.  He’s two years old … well, two and a half, all housebroken and that.  He went to obedience school, but the lady at the pound thinks he flunked out.  You should have seen him.  I walked past the cage and it looked like he was asleep, but he knew I was looking at him because the tip of his tail started going … just the tip until I laughed.  Then he got up and took a look at me and went woof and I said woof back and now he wants to come home with me.”


“That’s what he said?”


“Yup!” Gil said proudly.  “We’re going to go pay for him today, and Mom’s picking him up on Monday.  We have to put him in a kennel until we do something here to keep him away from the road.”


I smiled, “Does this guy have a name?”


“Yeah, he has a name.  Wait till you see him.  He’s got these long legs and ears that look like wings.  He’s mostly white with brown and black spots, and half his face is brown.  Well, almost half.”


“Aren’t you going to tell me his name?”


“Yeah, well … it’s, um, it’s crazy.”


I said, “Oh.  Well, that’s kind of different, isn’t it?”


“What’s different?”


“His name.  You said it’s Crazy.”


“It is crazy!  I would have called him Spot or something, not …”


“Not Crazy?  I think Spot’s been taken.”


Gil sounded confused, “I don’t think I know what you’re talking about.  My father thinks his name is funny and that worries me.  Dad has a bent sense of humor sometimes.”


“He thinks Crazy is a funny name?”


“Crazy would be a funny name.  The dog’s name isn’t crazy, it’s a crazy name.”


I should have slapped my own head.  I laughed, “I get it.  When you said the dog’s name is crazy I thought you meant his name is Crazy.  So what is his name?”




Hoo boy!  “And he’s a boy dog?  That is kind of crazy, for sure.”


“That’s what I said.  The lady at the pound thinks he got the name because of his spots.  There’s one pattern on his side that looks kind of like a tattoo of a daisy.  I thought I could change his name, but she said that might confuse him.  I guess it’s gonna stay Daisy.”


I said, “I have to go to breakfast.  See if your mother knows any fence companies.  Is she does, ask her to get someone to come over Monday afternoon to take a look and tell us the best thing to do.  If she doesn’t know someone herself she can call Mr. Jenks at Jenks Construction and get a recommendation.  We have to get this going if you want Daisy to come home while he still remembers you.”


“Hold on, I’m writing that down.  Is Jenks j-e-n-k-s?”


“That’s right.  If I get a chance I’ll call you later.  Else I’ll be home tomorrow around five.”


We hung up and I called Lisa.  There was no answer in the room so I tried her cell.  She was at breakfast with her family and I said I’d see her there.  Dan wasn’t ready and told me to go ahead without him, which is what I did.


I was dressed casually in chinos and a plain shirt, and felt kind of glad about the whole kilt thing.  It would be a lot more comfortable than a tuxedo and all the nonsense that goes with one, and I could go to breakfast in something comfortable as well.


Lisa was sitting alone.  She was dressed casually too, wearing jeans and a sweat shirt.  Lisa looks good in anything, and I could tell she was nervous because she eats when she’s nervous.  She had a plate with a giant Belgian waffle in front of her, and empty dishes in a semi-circle around her.  I grinned when I sat down, and asked, “Are you a little nervous?”


“Of course I’m nervous.  What makes you ask?”


“Oh, nothing.  There’s no rush, you know.”


She put a fork that was piled high with waffle, strawberries and whipped cream in her mouth and ate that before she responded.  “You don’t have to hurry; all you have to do is roll yourself up in that rug and do whatever it is you do with that pouch.  I have to get my hair done.”


I looked at her in surprise.  “What?  Your hair is beautiful just the way it is.”


Lisa gave me a pitying look, “Paul, this is a wedding, not the blessing of the spring calves.  I can wear my hair like this for the cow parade, but not for your father’s wedding, or your mother … what’s the plural possessive of mothers?  You’re working with three of them here, aren’t you?”  She giggled, “This is not my wedding hair.  Period.  End of sentence.”  She pushed her plate to me and said, “Eat this waffle.  I don’t want to get fat while I’m still a maiden.”


I asked, “Where is everyone?”


“I don’t know.  I thought we came late, but a lot of tables were already empty.  Other people came and left.”  She looked past me and said, “Here comes another bunch,” and she waved them over.


I turned to see who was coming.  Gary was with Joan, while Tom and Dana were alone.  Lisa jumped to her feet when Joan got to the table.  “You had your hair done already?  Oh, I love it.  Are we all going to get the same?”


Joanie smiled, seeming as eager as Lisa.  “We’re all getting similar, but it depends on how our hair is already.”  She looked at the table and took a strawberry from my waffle.  “Oh, that’s good.  Do we sit and order, or is there a buffet?”


Lisa said, “There’s a buffet, but you can order something if you want to.  I have to get my hair done.  She kissed me quickly and said, “I’ll see you at the wedding.  Don’t be late.”


I sat down with everyone and a waitress came right over with coffee and tea.  We all said we’d get the buffet.  When I looked at my waffle again the berries were all gone and Joanie was totally embarrassed.  “That was yours?  Oh, I’m sorry; I thought Lisa left it behind.”


“It was Lisa’s,” I said.  “Don’t worry about it.”


A busboy cleared and re-set Lisa’s place and we all headed to the buffet.  I was a little leery on the way, not knowing how long things had been sitting in the warming bins.  I shouldn’t have given it a thought.  Everything looked and smelled just-made.  I didn’t take a lot, just a fruit salad, some scrambled eggs, toast and a couple of small sausages.  Dan came in just when I was sitting down, and went scurrying over to the buffet.


Tom came back with even less than I had, but Dana and Gary made up for our small appetites.  I was actually hungry myself, but I didn’t want to yawn my way through the wedding, and I knew full well that the reception would be a Mom and Ally style feast.  That would be the time to be hungry. 


Alana showed up shortly after Dan sat down with his breakfast, so when Tom, Dana and I finished eating we left the two couples at the table and started back toward our rooms.  It was still foggy outside, and when the guys weren’t looking I pulled my coat way up and ran off into the trees where I knew I’d be seen as a silhouette.  I laughed when Tom and Dana noticed I was gone and looked around for me.  I was behind a tree, and when they started to turn away I scooted ahead to the next tree hoping they’d get a peripheral impression of my movement.


There was a small cemetery adjacent to the grounds at Barents Academy where I used to go to school.  Nobody had been buried there since the Eighteen-hundreds, but the place was taken care of.  There were benches along the paths there, and I sometimes took a book over to sit and read.  The trees were few and far between, but they were huge old things and it didn’t take many to provide nice shade.


That cemetery was spooky after dark, though, and even during the day when it was foggy.  A few of us used to go there at those times to have fun scaring each other doing just what I was with Tom and Dana.  The trick was to make people think they saw or heard something without being overt about it.  A quick movement behind a tree or a gravestone was good.  There was a gravel path that wound through the cemetery, and some heavy footsteps crossing the path at the right distance was a good effect.  I used my belt a lot, too.  I’d take it off and drag it on the path for a foot or so, or simply swing it at a gravestone to make a single sharp ‘clink’ in the dark.


I think Tom and Dana were too much into their conversation because I wasn’t doing a good job of frightening them.  I let them get well ahead of me, went back to the walkway, and ran after them.  I called when I was close enough, and ran up when they stopped and turned.  I pretended to be out of breath and asked, “What happened?  How did you do that?”


Dana looked confused while Tom seemed suspicious.  Dana asked, “How did we do what?”


I tried to look confused myself.  “I was right there with you back there, and then you disappeared.  I only stopped for a second to tie my shoe and you were gone.  Didn’t you hear me calling you?”


Dana shook his head, clearly bewildered.  I said, “You were way back there.  I only stopped for a second and now you’re … here!  It’s like you took a quantum leap forward.  You should be glowing or something.”


Tom said, “Don’t pay any attention, Dana.  Paul had breakfast with Lisa and he’s all bewitched.”


“Bewitched my ass.  Your brain inhaled some of this fog and you can’t see out…”


Dana looked around and said, “It is pretty foggy!”


“There you go,” I said.  “Now you made me walk right past my door.”


I dumped them there and went to my room feeling dumb, but only a little.  I’d have to be on good behavior for the rest of the day and a little nonsense took the edge off of things.


+ + + + + + + +


The wedding went off with nary a hitch.  The guys looked great in their kilt outfits and the girls were beautiful in their silk gowns and tartans.  The little Luellens were cute as ring bearer and flower girl.  Dad was fantastic in his full-dress kilted outfit.  His jacket looked like a trimmed down tux with gold stripes on the cuffs.  His sporran was an elaborate thing with gold filigree over beautiful leather, with little gold tassels fringing the outside of it and the flap.  If he had bagpipes and a long gun nobody would have noticed them.


Elenora was gorgeous in her gown.  It looked like satin in an off-white color and was a simple design.  The train was edged with some of the blue Italian tartan.  She wore her hair free and had a pretty spectacular looking bejeweled gold necklace that struggled to outsparkle her smile.  The Senator accompanied her, of course, and the guy looked so comfortable in his monkey suit you’d think he was born in a tuxedo.


I was surprised when Ally and Mom were escorted by all of their parents.  Both of their fathers seemed embarrassed in their tuxedos, or maybe they were just uncomfortable.  Mom and Ally wore almost matching dresses, which were modern looking in several shades of white and off-white.  The only difference was that Mom’s dress had the colors in the reverse order of Ally’s.  Their mothers’ dresses were simpler and shorter, but made of the same material in the same colors.  The little flower girl was dancing along just ahead of them making sure that all the ladies had plenty of petals to soften their way.  Her brother was the picture of serenity as he proudly marched behind them with his pillow full of rings.


Bernie did a really masterful job with the ceremony, and made the unconventional event seem as normal as apple pie.  To the extent possible, he wove the two weddings together.  He asked of Elenora, “Who supports this couple in their marriage?”


The Senator puffed himself up and said proudly, “I do.”


Bernie then turned to Mom and Ally and asked the same thing.  Their parents all chimed in, “We do,” to a few cheers from attendees, and that resulted in some gentle applause.


The only drama, if you can call it that, came when the ring bearer couldn’t remember which rings were which and looked like he was about to cry.  I looked at Mom and she whispered, “Ours are plain.  Theirs have a little ridge on them.”


I knelt in front of Liam, pulling Dana down with me.  I saw the ridges on two rings and pointed them out to Dana, as I took the other two.  I patted Liam on the shoulder and whispered, “Good Job,” when I stood up, and he smiled somewhat doubtfully.


The vows were simplified but somehow all-encompassing, and Bernie pronounced both couples to be married and partners in life.  Then he said, “You may kiss the … I mean, um … oh, I’ve got it.  He pointed at Dad and Elenora and said, “You two can kiss each other.”  He turned to Mom and Ally and said the same, adding, “This is the last time you’ll need my permission, by the way.  Now turn around to face everyone.”


They turned their beaming faces to the guests and Bernie said, “It’s a new and beautiful day, and I’d like to present our newlyweds for the first time:  Franklin and Elenora Dunn, and Necia Dunn with Allison Phillips.  Let’s hear some noise!”


The ceremony hadn’t been somber, and it was anything but during the recessional.  Mom and Ally led, and I met Lisa to follow them, then it was Dad and Elenora followed by Dana and Gretchen, the rest of the bridesmaids and ushers, and finally the little Luellens.


I’d heard the song the pianist was playing but couldn’t put a name to it, although I later learned it was ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’.  I only mention it because when we were only about one-third of the way down the aisle, Ally let out a whoop and she and Mom started dancing down the aisle.  Lisa and I looked at them with our jaws dropped when Dad said, “Excuse us.  Coming through!” and he danced Elenora right past us. 


Lisa and I looked at each other and shrugged.  I didn’t know that dance, but I took her hand and said, “Let’s march!”  We started swinging our arms and high-kicked our way out of there.  We met up with Mom, Dad, Ally and Elenora, who were all laughing, and turned to watch the others as they danced and marched down the aisle to the cheers and laughter of the guests.


Little Catherine Luellen danced along by herself while tossing what remained of her flower petals in her wake.  Liam rode Bernie Sutton’s shoulders triumphantly as he waved his velvet pillow with one hand and just waved with the other.


We formed the reception line and the next half-hour was spent shaking hands, hugging, kissing, and introducing ourselves to the people we didn’t already know.  People walked outside after going through the line, and it was finally our turn to leave.  The door led out to descending terraces instead of simple steps, and the guests were to the left and right of the center, kept back by big pots of flowers.


I was well back inside when Dad and Elenora led the way out, and a loud cheer came up.  It continued while Mom and Ally followed them, and then the rest of us came out.  Two things struck me right away.  First, the fog had intensified where I thought it would burn off.  Secondly, there seemed to be an endless supply of glittery confetti coming at us from a lot of directions at once.  We must have looked stupid when every one of us ducked as if the confetti could somehow cause harm to us.  Well, Liam didn’t duck.  The last I saw of him he was running around using his velvet pillow to catch as much confetti as he could.


I knew there would be horse-drawn carriages for the newlyweds, and there was one built for four passengers.  Lined up behind it was a string of carriages that resembled the ones you see in New York’s Central Park.  The bridal carriage was something to behold.  It was huge for one thing, painted a dark wine-red with black fenders and gold piping.  The interior was creamy white.  It had a team of four Percherons, a driver, a footman, and an outrider.  The horses were decked out with enough plumage to challenge Ally on karaoke night, while the driver and footman were dressed in black jackets with gray pants, and they wore top hats.  The outrider wore what I think was a hunting outfit with a red jacket and tan pants.


The footman helped everyone into their seats and then led the rest of us to our own carriages.  The other carriages came in many different colors and each held one couple.  I asked my grandfather if he knew where we were going and he said, “Pictures.”


That was enough for me.  As we passed carriages the man leading us called off the names of who belonged in each one.  Lisa and I were in the second carriage, right behind Dana and Gretchen.  We had just settled in when the driver said, “Here we go,” and he put the horse to work.


It was the best part of the whole wedding for me.  The drive we were on was paved with brick, and the sound of the horses and carriage wheels combined with the fog to make the ride almost mystical.


We stopped at the bottom of a small hill at a spot where several hills descended into a pond.  The pond was fed by a stream, and there was an arched bridge over the inlet end.  There was a gazebo on the far side of the water, and it was all decked out with white flowers.  I don’t think anyone could have predicted the fog, but the scene was a good imitation of black and white.  Once we were in the scenes, people would probably claim the pictures were all modified in Photo Shop.


The photographers had been nearly invisible during the ceremony.  Now there were three men and a lady there bossing us around.  They wanted us to stay in the carriages while they went down the line and took pictures from either side, while another guy made sure they had everyone’s names right.  After that we went across the bridge as couples and stopped in the middle for more pictures.  Most of the pictures, of course, were of the brides and groom, and I thought they’d wear out their smiles.


After a while the photographers gave us a break while they had a little meeting.  I think they were looking for something to do that would take advantage of the weather because they kept looking around and one or another would point at something.  When they broke up the lady came over to us and said, “I need to speak with just the boys for a moment, but stay right here girls.”  She looked around at us and said, “Yes.  Alright, we want to take advantage of this weather.  Your kilts have just the look to add some drama here.  What I’d like you to do,” she turned and swept her arm out toward the hills, “is to go up into the hills.  Don’t go together as a group.  Spread out, with a few of you on the hilltops and the rest of you in closer, but staggered.  As for a pose, find spots for yourselves and let us know when you’re ready.  We may want to move you around a bit, but when we tell you to pose I want you to take a proud stance.  I want you to look fierce, but not by making faces.  Just stare at the cameras.  Okay?  Does everyone understand?”  On our agreement she said, “Go ahead out there.”


We hadn’t gone two steps when she cried, “Oh, wait!”  When we turned back around she said, “When we have some good shots I’ll signal you to come back down.  Don’t come running in.  Walk like you have a purpose and group together about twenty feet before the gazebo.  I’ll have the ladies meet you there.  Go ahead now, and I’ll explain what I want to them.”


“You’re sure now?” I asked.


She smiled, “I hope so.  We didn’t expect this fog, but we do want to make use of it.”


“Just checking,” I said.  “I would have questioned your artistry if you tried to ignore the fog.”


Tom added, “He might have questioned your ancestry too.”


That earned Tom an elbow from me and I said, “Okay, men.  Let’s move out.”


They all shouted, “Yes sir, yes sir!” and someone added, “Three bags full.”


Tom muttered, “You got that right,” as we started toward the hills.


Dana asked, “How do I look fierce if I’m standing there?”


“Watch Gary,” I replied.  “That’s what I’ll be doing.”


Gary chuckled and asked, “You think I look fierce?”


“Not really; I think you look slick, actually, but from a distance nobody will know the difference.”


Shea asked, “Where should I stand?”


“Good question.  Why don’t you and Dana stop nearest to here, me and Dan can find some middle ground, and Tom and Gary can go up on the hills?  That way the bigger guys will be the farthest away and still show up in the pictures.”


That’s what we did, and if we didn’t actually look fierce we at least earned points for effort.  I was sure that no matter what we did the still thickening fog would make for memorable pictures.


We all spent another half hour with the photographers, and might still be there if my father hadn’t said, “Let’s cut this out.  There are two hundred people waiting for us so join the party.”


When we got to the hall a cheer rose up and, for the most part, the formalities were over.  Guests were everywhere, most with drinks in their hands, and waiters were going around refilling wine glasses while others went around offering hors d’oeuvres.  We went right to the head table to find our places and leave our things before the girls left for the ‘powder room’ and the guys went to use the toilets.


The reception party was great, if a bit overwhelming.  Everyone was dancing when they weren’t eating, and as sons of the newlyweds Dana and I were expected to dance with about half of the women there.


The music was provided by a ten-piece band that was very good, not to mention extremely versatile.  They played styles that ranged from ballroom to big-band to rock and did justice to them all.


Dana and I proposed simple toasts before dinner, and the meal was spectacular enough to bring a general halt to conversation after the oohs and ahs that followed first tastes.  There had been a lot of choices:  prime rib of beef and rack of lamb for the meat eaters, Maine lobsters and Alaskan salmon for seafood, roasted goose or pheasant, as well as some vegetarian and vegan options.  I had ordered the roast beef unaware that it would be Wagyu beef, which is supposed to be the finest in the world.  I will never argue that claim.  I was served a great slab of meat, and ate every delicious bit of it.  Everyone seemed to love their meals, and afterward it was back to dancing.


I was glad that they didn’t do any of the hokey things like dollar dances, flinging garters, or any other modern rituals, and there wasn’t a single line dance.  Lisa and I at least started most dances together, but there was a lot of cutting-in so we again danced with a lot of people.


Not long after the cake cutting the band announced the last dance.  That brought almost everyone to the dance floor making it extremely difficult to do any dancing.  When the dancing stopped and the band packed up, I spent the better part of an hour thanking people for coming, and saying goodbye to the ones who were leaving that day.


To my surprise and horror, we were invited to some ‘little get-togethers’ in different function rooms.  One was being hosted by Dad’s and Elenora’s parents, and the other by Mom’s and Ally’s folks.  We all looked kind of disheveled, and I was tired.  I looked around and said, “I guess I have to drop in at the other things.  Dana should too, but the rest of you can skip it if you want.”


Shea turned a suspicious look to me and said, “The parties after the party are the best part.  I’ll take your place if you want.”


Tom added, “Count me in.  I just have to change clothes first.  I’m tired of making sure my knees are together.”


I looked at Lisa and asked, “What do you think?”


She smiled, “I’ll go too, but I want to take a shower and change first.  What time do they start?”


I shrugged, “I don’t know, but pretty soon probably.  So, are we all going?”


We were all going, so we agreed to meet again in the hotel lobby in about an hour.  We split up to go to our rooms, and I said a silent prayer of thanks when Lisa said she’d walk with the other girls.  My feet hurt, and I didn’t think I had a whole lot of steps left in me with the sandals on.  I walked with Dan, Dana, Gary and Hector to the building we were in. 


When we turned in to our room I expected I’d have to fight Dan for dibs on the shower, but he plopped in a chair and turned the television on.  He was dozing when I finished in the bathroom, but he woke right up when I spoke to him.  I found some clean clothes and put them on while Dan was cleaning up, and then I took out clean socks and underwear for the next day and started tossing dirty clothes in the bag.  We had to bring Dan back to the train station the next afternoon and I didn’t want to have to rush in the morning, but if I sat in that chair to watch television I knew I wouldn’t wake up as politely as Dan.


When Dan was almost ready I called Lisa to find out where she was.  The girls were all together in the apartments, and since the parties were at this end of the complex we’d just wait for them, and then we’d all go together.


When they came for us the other guys were already with them.  I spoke briefly with Dana and then told the others, “Dana was Dad’s best man, so he’s going to the Dunn’s party first, while Lisa and I go to the Philips’ party.  The rest of you can take your pick, and after a while we can go to the other party, or even back and forth.  Okay?”


Everyone agreed, so I took Lisa’s hand and led her down the hallway.  Gary, Joan, Tom and Bridgette followed us and the others went off in a different direction.


Lisa asked, “Do we have to stay a long time?”


“I don’t know,” I replied.  “Are you tired?”


She leaned into me and said, “I’m not that tired.  It’s just that some people were already kind of drunk at the wedding.  I don’t want to listen to people bragging and telling dirty jokes all night.”


“It won’t be that bad,” I lied.  I could already hear loud voices coming from the door we were headed for.  It got louder, but it wasn’t really that bad.  There were a lot of people in the room, most standing in small groups, and all of them were in separate conversations.  Those conversations came to an abrupt end when Ally’s mother literally shrieked, “There they are!  Oh Paul, do come over here and say hello.”


As we passed him, I heard her husband say to the guys he was with, “Keep your eyes on that one.  He’s a real prankster.”


I nudged Lisa and grinned at her, content that my reputation was still secure in some quarters.  When we reached Ally’s mother, Mom’s mother was with her, as were most of the older ladies who were their friends.  They fussed over me and Lisa as if we’d just invented a self-cleaning kitchen and they’d each be getting one as a parting gift.  They were all complimentary, of course, but with so many women talking at once it came out as a lot of yak-yak-yak, gab-gab-gab, and blah-blah-blah.


That was until they got to the point.  Ally’s mother said, “Oh, Paul, before I forget again, can you remind me when your mom and Al are coming back from their honeymoon?  I hate to keep asking them the same question, and this time I’ll write it down.”


A glance at the women let me know that every one of them was listening carefully.  “Um,” I said, “I don’t think they ever told me.  I’m sure they didn’t.”


She gave me a little dismissive wave, “Of course we’re all forgetful about things like that.  Where is it that they’re going again?  That seems to have slipped my mind, too.”


I edged back a little and mumbled, “They didn’t tell me anything.  Oh, I bet I know why.  This is the first time I’ve seen them since they moved back to Boston.  They’ve been busy planning this and I’ve been busy at school.  It must have slipped their minds.”


Give Mrs. Philips credit for being a good bird dog.  She looked puzzled for a moment, then thoughtful.  She said to nobody in particular, “Hmm.  I thought a double wedding was a bit unusual.  Do you suppose they’ve planned a double honeymoon too?”  She focused on me, “Where are your father and Elenora going?”


I was getting nervous and my voice cracked when I said, “Are they going on a honeymoon too?  I didn’t know that.”


My rescue came in the form of a pineapple.  A man was walking by with chunks of it on a plate and I said, “Look, Lisa.  Pineapple!  Excuse me, sir?”


I heard Lisa say meekly, “Paul just adores pineapple,” as I pulled her away to ask the guy where the food was.


She came a few steps with me and then resisted.  I looked at her and she said, “That was rude.  What’s the big secret about the honeymoon?  Why didn’t you just tell them?”


“Tell them what, Lisa?  I told them everything I know, which is that I don’t know.”


Lisa eyed me suspiciously, “You really don’t know?  Your own parents didn’t tell you where they’re going for their honeymoons?”


“Honest,” I said.  “For all I know they’re not going anywhere.  They haven’t said anything either way.”


Lisa seemed surprised, which was natural enough.  “Oh; excuse me then.  I guess an honest answer wasn’t rude at all.”


We didn’t go on because a cheer arose right then, and we turned to see Mom and Ally already in the room.  They were both smiling, but Mom had a somewhat bewildered look in her eyes.  I think she may have been surprised at the number of people who hadn’t headed home after the wedding.  A good number of the guests lived within easy driving distance and I thought they would leave after the wedding, but that didn’t seem to be the case.  Maybe the fog made driving dangerous; it didn’t matter to me.


I held Lisa’s hand and we made our way over to Mom and Ally, who were happily busy with a bunch of concurrent conversations.  I put my hand on Mom’s shoulder and she kept talking to her mother.  I increased the pressure on her until she spun around and said, “What!” and her expression immediately mellowed into a smile.  “Oh Paul, you gave me a start.  Why are you glaring at me?”


“I’m not glaring.”


Mom frowned, “I’m your mother, and I know that expression.  You are glaring.”


I gave her a tiger’s smile that revealed every tooth in my mouth and she took a step backwards.  “Now you look like a shark at a surfer’s convention.  Is something wrong?”


“Nothing’s wrong, except nobody believed me when I said I didn’t know anything about a honeymoon.  Please tell them that you never told me about your plans.”


My mother stared at me.  “Of course we told you, Paul.  Al, didn’t we discuss our plans with Paul?”


“What?” Ally asked.  “What plans?”


I turned to face Ally squarely and crossed my arms.  “Give me a break.  You know what plans.  The plans you never told me about.”


Ally seemed to be honestly confused.  “There are many things I’ve never told you, so please try to be specific.”


“I’ll give you a hint.  Where in the hell are you going on your honeymoon?”  I gestured around and added, “All these people have been asking me.  They want to know, and I don’t think they believe me when I tell them I don’t have a clue.”


Ally looked at my mother and then back at me.  “Honeymoon.  I guess I thought we told you.  Has your father told you his plans?”


I shook my head and she smiled, “Well, at least we’re consistent.  We’ve gotten this far, so I can’t think why we should change course.”  She patted my shoulder and said, “Just stay out of trouble.  We’ll send you a postcard.”


“If you remember,” I growled, and Lisa pulled me away.


“What’s up?” I asked.


Lisa smiled, “Let’s go to your father’s party and see if you can avoid embarrassment there.”


I laughed, “Good idea.  Think we should say goodbye?”


Lisa looked around and then shook her head.  I asked, “Are we in a hurry?”


“Not really,” she replied.  “It’s just that as members of the wedding party we are duty bound to go to these parties.  Once we’ve been to them our duties are over, and we can do something for ourselves.”


I liked the sound of that.  “Why didn’t you say so?  Let’s go.”


We turned out into the hallway and Lisa said, “I did say so.”


“Sure, just now.  If you said so before we could already be somewhere by ourselves.”


“Paul, we had to spend some time there.  The argument was perfect.  It took just long enough, and you had a good reason to leave.”


“Lisa …” I started.


“Think quickly.  What can you argue with your father about?”


“I can’t argue with my father.  What if he smacks me?”


“Stop it, Paul.  Has your father ever hit you?”


I shook my head, “Not yet, but I never acted up at one of his weddings before.”  Lisa was getting flustered and I made it worse by laughing.


“Are you making fun of me?” Lisa asked kind of petulantly, which made me try to choke back my laugh.


“I’m not making fun of you.  I just think it’s funny that you want me to start a fight with my father so we can get out of there.”


Lisa snuggled up close to me as we walked.  “That’s probably not a good idea.  Why don’t you just behave yourself and be boring.  That’s a sure way to be left alone.”


I snickered, “Ah!  That’s my natural state: quiet and boring.  We’ll be out of here in no time.”


As we walked down the hall Lisa said, “This has been a very strange conversation.  I’ve never known you to be quiet.”


“What about boring?”


Lisa stopped and struck a little pose, “Boring?  Let me think.  Actually, I should keep my mouth shut.”


I laughed, “What are you saying?”


“I said I’m keeping my mouth shut … starting now.”


I looked around and said, “Now isn’t a good time for that.  We haven’t passed a soul, and I don’t hear any party sounds.  Do you think they broke up already?”


“No, I think we went the wrong way.  This is an exit door.”


We did find the other party, and arrived when my father and Elenora were getting ready to leave.  There was no real reason for us to stay after they left, but we were having fun talking to people we didn’t know well and stayed for an hour anyhow.  By that time the long day was showing on most of us, although a bunch of men were keeping the bartender busy.  They included Bernie and the fathers of my friends.  I would have stayed to listen to their stories, but Lisa was embarrassed that her father was telling a lot of those stories so we decided to go.  Before we reached the door, Gary and Dan waved us over.  They were blocking a little cache of unopened wine bottles with their bodies, and when the bartender was occupied we slipped out with a bottle wrapped in each of our coats.


We converged on Gary and Dana’s rooms since they were staying across the hall from each other in good sized rooms with single beds.  We had wine, but no wine glasses.  Shea and Patrick went to see what they could find, and when I asked about an opener Tom proudly produced a nice, shiny one from his inside pocket.  When Shea and Patrick came back, Patrick was carrying a carton of crystal wine glasses while Shea had napkins, towels and coasters.  They’d only been gone for about ten minutes, and I suspected a bit of prior planning had taken place.


We all found places to sit and relaxed into the party after the parties after the party.  The wine was good but we weren’t drinking much of it.  It felt good to sit down, and we just talked quietly about things going on in our lives and our various plans for the upcoming holidays.  Lisa and I were sharing a small sofa with Dan and Alana, so we were tight against each other and I was stroking her back.  It wasn’t a particularly comfortable position, but I was happy to finally be so close to Lisa.


It wasn’t to last, though.  She took my free hand in hers and whispered, “I’m really tired.  Will you take me to my room?”


A dozen arguments raced through my mind but I didn’t voice any of them.  Instead, I kissed her cheek and said, “Sure.”


We got to our feet and I said, “Lisa’s tired.  I’m walking her to her room and I’ll be back.”


Lisa said, “I’ll see you all in the morning,” and spent five minutes saying individual good-nights while I found our coats.


I walked Lisa home in relative silence, and I liked that we didn’t have to be talking all the time to enjoy our time together.  Her parents hadn’t come back to the room yet, but I didn’t stay after our kiss.  I was tired myself, although the walk in the chilly air had brought me around a bit.  We said goodnight and I started back, but it seemed like things were breaking up.  I ran into Dana as he walked Gretchen back to her unit, and a minute later Tom and Shea came by with the Fournier sisters.


There were just a few people back in the rooms, and only Alana and Joan were of the female variety.  I figured that Dan and Gary would like some time alone so I told them I was heading to bed and went to my own room.  It was one of those times when bed looked like the place to be so I shucked off my clothes, turned off the light and got under the covers.  I left the light between the beds on for Dan, turned my back to it and went to sleep.


I didn’t wake up until I heard Dan stirring in the morning.  When I lifted my head he said, “Go back to sleep.  I’m not awake; I just went to the bathroom.”


That was an excellent suggestion, and I was surprised to see that it was after nine when I looked at the clock.  I’d told Lisa that I would call about breakfast around ten, and I felt pretty well rested so I decided to stay up.


Dan was up when I was finished in the bathroom and he said, “Your cell phone rang but I couldn’t find it before it stopped.”


I said, “Call me from yours, will you?  I don’t know what I did with it.”


Dan dialed and I could hear the phone ringing somewhere in my pile of clothes.  He had to call a second time before I found it in my coat pocket.  I expected to see the message light on, and there were other calls as well as Dan’s.


He disappeared into the bathroom and I checked them out.  My father had called at five, which seemed kind of masochistic, but he said they were leaving shortly after that and would be home in two weeks.  He wasn’t calling to tell me that, but to let me know that there was a package of uncooked beef roasts that the hotel had frozen for us.  He wanted me to make sure that Dana got one to give to the Glovers, and there were two others I could take to Brattleboro and either keep for ourselves or give to friends.


My immediate reaction was that I didn’t have any friends I liked that much, but I was sure I’d back away from that idea before I got home.


Mom and Ally had also called.  Ally said they were going to New Zealand and Mom added that they’d be back in Boston in two weeks.  Two calls from two sets of parents and not a single admonishment between them.  What’s a boy to do?


Lisa and I went to the brunch a bit after ten and there were quite a few people there.  It struck me that most of them were women and I deduced that Lisa’s father probably wasn’t the only guy with a hangover.  That was confirmed when I saw Mrs. Luellen sitting at a table with her two little ones and Mrs. Timek.  Elenora’s mother was sitting with her other daughter and the grandchildren, but no Senator or son-in-law.


I asked Lisa, “Isn’t your father going to eat?”


“Oh, Mom will bring him something.  He had me buy some Alka-Seltzer from the vending machine.”


“They have a pill dispenser?” I asked in amusement.  “Is he in bad shape?”


Lisa nodded and said, “From the looks of this room he’s not alone, so my mother won’t be the only pissed off woman here.”


I smiled, “Hey, they had a good time.  It’s not like they get snockered every day.”


“I know, and I’m not upset about it.  Let’s get something to eat.”


It was another buffet breakfast, so we chose a table with room for others to join us and went to help ourselves.  We had nothing planned after breakfast except to leave and go home.  Hector and I had to hang around until the afternoon to take Dan to his train, which didn’t leave until around three.  I never figured hangovers into the equation, and thought the three of us would have several hours to kick back by ourselves after everyone else left.  It looked like we’d have some company after all.


Our group came together while we were eating, and other than some rude comments about grouchy fathers everyone seemed to be in high spirits.  I wasn’t very hungry but everyone else ate like they’d been on bread and water for the past four days.


Patrick stopped at the table dressed in his outdoor clothes.  They were leaving for Boston to fly home, so I said goodbye and we promised to stay in touch and exchange pictures.  He invited us all to visit in Turks and Caicos, but not all at once.


Everyone stood and said goodbye, and I walked with him to say goodbye to his waiting parents.


Most of the morning passed that way.  We hung around the buffet, and people coming in to eat stopped to say hello.  They stopped again when they were leaving, most asking me to tell my parents what a wonderful time they had.


Lisa’s father showed up after awhile looking better than I expected.  We talked for a minute before he told Lisa they had to leave.  I was disappointed but understood when he explained that he had to get the kiln fired up so it would be ready for tile making the next morning.  Lisa and I found a few minutes to say goodbye properly and I told her I’d call when I got home.


Rhod came looking for Gretchen next.  Her flight wasn’t till eight that night, but he expected traffic to be heavy most of the way and didn’t want her to be late.  Gary, Joan and the Fourniers hustled out when the driver from their car service came looking for them, and so it went until I was alone with Dan, Dana and Hector with an hour to kill.


Dana went back to the buffet while the rest of us brought our things out to the Jeep.  I’d sent my bags along with Tom, but it would still be very crowded on the way to the train station, which was thankfully only a short drive away.


I stopped at the desk to ask if there was anything I needed to do.


The man there smiled brightly, “No, Mr. Dunn; everything has been taken care of.  There is a parcel for you in the kitchen.  If you will give me a moment I’ll have them bring it out.”  He picked up a phone and spoke into it briefly.  When he hung it up he asked, “Was everything to your liking?”


“Everything was perfect,” I said as I nodded my thanks to the guy who brought our package from the kitchen.  “We all had a great time.”


“I’m happy to hear that, and I must say that for a large party we had no complaints at all.”  He lowered his voice, “That is unheard of in this business.  There are certain people who seem to take delight in complaining loudly about the very things that most please other people.  Your family and friends are really marvelous people.”


“They are,” I agreed, “but if none of them complained about anything I think that means you people really nailed it this time.”


He puffed right up, smiling, “We nailed it?  Oh, I like that expression.  I’m going to put out a memo.  Two hundred people for the better part of five days, almost one hundred percent occupancy, a double wedding, thousands of meals served and not a single complaint.  Yes!  Yes, I’d say we nailed it.”  He reached his hand over the counter and I shook it.  “Thank you again, Mr. Dunn, and do have a safe trip home.”


I picked up the package of meat and walked over to the guys.  “Got everything?”


They assured me we did, and I said, “Let’s get out of here.”



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