He returned to the den, dropped into a comfortable old chair, tilted his hat over his eyes and said nothing, just chuckled lightly.
Gramps…, Gramps…, what’s going on? C’mon, say something. What happened out there?
Well…, ok. Y’all might as well know. When I said we’d like some time to ourselves out here, the roof caved in. Jen said that if we were gonna be talkin’ about what she thought we’d be talkin’ about then she had a right to be there too…, then your Gram piped up, sayin’ since this sounded like family business then she wasn’t gonna be left on the sidelines either. So, there ya have it son….
About that time Jen came into the room with a platter of cake and cookies large enough to feed an army, closely followed by Ellie with a coffee maker.
Back in the city another scenario was unfolding…
Eva: “What’s this deplorable, despicable, flea bit town got to offer? You have your hunting and fishing, and your club and, sure, there’s golf, and skiing in the winter, but what else. The local theatre…, that’s so amateur it stinks. And then there’s the cowtown philharmonic ! I hate it here. Why don’t you want to go east where there is quality theatre with Broadway shows, and an orchestra that is world renowned, and art, and civilized life? Why are you so tied to this remote, godforsaken place? Not to mention the kids… They’ll never amount to anything with the kind of education they’ll get here. There are no prestigious schools, or universities.”
Sam: “You really want to know? OK. Here’s why…. I grew up here, went to school here, based my life here, my work is here, my family is here, or at least close enough. I’m an outdoor person. I like fishing, and hunting, and hiking in the hills, and rodeos, and yeah, I like that “cowtown philharmonic” too. It’s not blue blood, or fine old names, it’s blue collar and comfortable. There… Are you happy now?”
He turned and stomped from the room, slamming the door on his way out. She heard the garage door go up and the squeal of tires as he accelerated out the driveway.
Hmmph !, she thought… I really don’t need this…, or him. I’ll just take the kids and go back to Philadelphia…, back to the civilized world. He can be a frontier idiot if that’s what he chooses. Damn! The kids are out there in the wilds again with that damned old man and the old witch, getting their heads filled with all kinds of stupidity. No wonder they’re so rebellious. No discipline. No structure. I’ll take them and give them a decent education.
He was at the club and already well into his second drink before he started to cool down and think. Dammit! I let her get to me again. East…, like it’s some kind of paradise…, why can’t she be satisfied with the life we have here. It isn’t like she doesn’t have a decent life, a nice, large comfortable house, friends…, and she can fly out east anytime she wants.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
Ellie and Jen came down the hallway with a plate of cookies, coffee, and cups. It was beginning to look like they were gearing up for a long night.
Ellie looked at the other faces in the room…, “Well, who’s gonna start this out? There’s something serious goin’ on and your Gramps ‘n’ I aren’t privy to all of it. We can only guess…, and that’s, most times, not a good thing. Jim…, Jen…, one of you, both of you have to tell us about what you’re feeling, seeing at home, and what’s happening with Sam and Eva. We can’t help you it you don’t trust us enough to give us the whole story, so we can understand the situation.”
Both Jim and Jen squirmed in their chairs and looked at each other. After a moment, Jen stood up and went slowly over to the fireplace. She turned and was in tears..
. “OK, I’m afraid. Dad and Mom are fighting all the time now. They try to do it when they think we’re not around. Jim’s gone a lot so he doesn’t see or hear as much as I do. I’m afraid they’re gonna get a divorce. Mom will go back to her East. And then what will happen to us? I don’t want to ever go east. Even if we stay here, Dad will surely move somewhere else and I don’t want to go anywhere… Jim too. We have our friends, our schools, and…, and our dreams are here. Gram…, Grandpa…, I’m scared !” And with that, the tears flowed freely.
Jim sat quietly in the corner with his head down. After hearing Jen he felt shamed. Shamed that he wasn’t there for Jen when she obviously needed someone. He had taken the cowards way out and stayed away from the house as much as possible. Jen didn’t have a way to escape without him. He went over to the fireplace and put his arms around her. “I’m sorry, Jen. I didn’t realize how bad it’s been for you. I should have been there with you…, or took you with me.”
The discussion continued from evening into the wee hours of the morning. The coffee and cookies had been replenished a couple of times. At some point even Jim had admitted to being really apprehensive about his future…, and Jen’s. He only had to finish high school and start into trade school. Jen had two more years of high school…, and then she had wanted to go to college. Things were looking grim for both of them.
The old man stood and stretched. Tired faces turned to him from all around the room. ” Well, I think it’s about time we wrap this up for a while and get some sleep. Better to face this again with a bit of a rest and the light of a fresh day. C’mon, lets everybody give it up for the night and go to bed”. That said, he took Ellie’s hand and led her to the stairs.
As they started up the steps, he noticed that Jennie had stayed in the den, sitting on the hearth. He could see that she was crying again. “Ellie, darlin’, you ‘n’ Jim go on up. I’ll be along shortly…, soon as I have a little conversation with my granddaughter. Lookin’ like this whole mess is really getting to her and she needs someone to talk to for a while”. He turned and quietly strolled back into the den.
Back in town the next day:
Eva had packed several suitcases of her clothing and personal posessions, along with some clothing for the kids, in the van. She left a note on the kitchen counter…
When you find this I will have picked up the kids and we are on our way. You know where we will be…, if you really care. I’m finished with this one-horse town, one-horse state, and, if you decide not to come east, I guess I’m finished with you too. You know where we’ll be…..
She hated going out to the ranch, two-lane roads twisting around the hills and then the flat and boring prairie land, then, when she got there she’d have to face the old man and his witch wife. She hated it. She tried to regain her composure as she pulled up in front of the house and went to the door.
“Howdy, Eva. Weren’t expecting you, what with the kids driving out here on their own this time. Anything wrong? Sam ok?”
I’m not staying long. I’m going east with the kids. Can you tell them I’m here and they need to get to the car?
“Well, now, Eva, I can’t do that. Sam know about this? What about the kids…, they know about it? Something seems really wrong about all this and I think I need to talk with Sam before those kids go anywhere”.
“They’re my kids, and I’ll take them when and where I please. Now get them out here!”
“Right after I talk with Sam, Missy. So just cool your heels. No one’s goin’ anywhere.”
He went back into the house without bothering to invite her in. Ellie was standing behind the door and had heard everything. He went to the phone and called Sam’s cell phone, knowing he’d answer it before anything else.
“Sam, Eva is here…”
“I know Dad. She left a note here and….., She still there? She hasn’t taken the kids has she?”
“Nope…, wouldn’t let her have them til I talked with you.”
“Good, Dad. Just keep them there. Don’t let her get near them or take them with her. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Ok, boy. They’ll be here…, and you better be tellin’ Ellie ‘n’ me what’s going on. We’ve already heard enough from the kids so don’t be tryin’ to gloss anything over. See you soon.”
“Ok, Dad…, bye now.”