Setting the stage now…for a little beach music.
(Yes\\And You And I)
Part III: The House With No Windows
Beverly Hills, California August 1999
“So, what’s this going to be? Your twenty-first?”
“Yessir,” William replied. “I started school a year early.”
“I think because I was so tall.”
Ted Sorensen looked up from his Wall Street Journal and nodded. “Understandable. Heard you went over to Fox on a class project. Did you meet Lucas?”
“And…what did you think…?” Ted added, returning his attention to the newspaper.
“He’s kind of like a genius, if you know what I mean. He’s got this vision…”
“Yes, yes, I think I understand that, but personally…how did he strike you.”
“Down to earth, very low key.”
“Compare him to Coppola. What are the key differences in their approach to making movies…?”
“They’re really pretty similar, sir, only Coppola should have been a farmer. Be’s basically not real happy unless his hands are in the dirt.”
“The dirt?” Sorensen said, looking up from the paper again. “What does that mean?”
“Just that, sir. I think at heart he’s a farmer. Making movies was a means to an end for him.”
“And farming is his end?”
“I think so, sir.”
Sorensen nodded, filing that little tidbit away – for the time being, anyway. “What time does your brother’s flight get in?”
“Four-thirty, at LAX.”
“And you’re going to take him up to The Chart House tonight?”
“Yessir. I was kind of hoping you could make it.”
Sorensen nodded. “We’ll see. I’ve got a meeting up in the city tomorrow morning.”
“I heard a couple of scouts from the Forty Niners were looking you over. That true?”
“Yessir. Two days this week, and their team orthopedic surgeon looked at my knee.”
“And that means what, exactly…?” Yet Ted already had already read their report, and he’d talked to the coach already, too.
“They usually don’t do that unless they’re serious.”
“Oh? Well, how’d the exam go?”
“You still running? Did I hear ten miles a day?”
“We run from Venice up to Sunset, then back down to the breakwater at the marina before turning back for Venice. It’s about ten miles, I think.”
“You run on the boardwalk down there?”
“Some, but more out on the beach. It helps the knee, sir.”
“You said we. Who do you run with?”
“With? Oh, with Deb, sir, and we’ve got a regular group from the team that joins us.”
“Deb is running ten miles a day? Seriously?”
“Oh, yes sir. She’s got better wind than me now, too. She could easily do a marathon, sir.”
Sorensen looked up when he heard that, because the Kid had his full attention now. Debra had been plagued with respiratory issues her first five years, from asthma to chronic bronchitis, and he remembered her ENT telling Kat she might always have issues…so this was another new development, a new and quite unexpected wrinkle in the continuing repercussions of her “visits” by the feathered creatures. Like the unexplained stretch marks on her belly, and her Ob-Gyn calling to ask why she’d been nursing an infant recently.
Too many questions. And no answers.
And now this. She was ready to run marathons now, too?
Nothing was adding up. Nothing at all, and these days even his mother was a little use. She’d retired and sold the house in Brentwood and moved up to an assisted living facility in Ojai, and some days were definitely better than others where her mental acuity was concerned. They rarely spoke anymore…
He shook his head at that. “Marathons, you say? Why don’t you run the hills up above Sunset. Probably get a better workout that way.”
The Kid nodded. “I’ll mention that to her, sir, but Venice is so convenient.”
Sorensen had bought a little bungalow down there for her, because – or so she’d said at the time – she needed some more space. Whatever the hell that meant, other than she needed a place to screw the Kid? Their little love shack was cheap enough, that much was certain, so he’d demurred. Besides, one of the security heads at the studio lived nearby and he’d been fine with keeping an eye on her…well…them. Anyway, he’d sell it in January, after the breakup, and he’d turn a tidy profit so what the hell. It just didn’t matter now, one way or another.
Because while Taylor still officially lived on campus he was for all intents and purposes living with Deb now, and while that complicated matters somewhat Sorensen had anticipated that development. Still, he had planned this ‘inevitable’ breakup, and he knew that when it came it would shake up his daughter, probably seriously so. But that couldn’t be helped, Sorensen knew. The Kid just wasn’t right for her. Never had been, never would be. Redneck white-trash…that’s what he was and probably all he’d ever been…
But he knew better, and he had ever since that night in Haifa.
‘Leonidas…Leonidas…and so the boy-king ascended to the throne on the shoulders of his brother, his brother the deposed king. And that would be…me? Leonidas deposed…me? What the Hell is going on? What does it mean that William is here, now, lurking in the shadows? My shadow?”
Yes, Sorensen was becoming more and more like his father. Madness had been programmed into the sequence, had it not? Madness could be so useful.
A blue sphere in the room, no larger than a mote of dust, glowed briefly before it pulsed once, then disappeared.
Frank’s grades had never been good, and so college had never really been an option, at least not by way of academic merit, anyway. Perhaps if he’d been even half as good a football player as his brother some school might have tried him out, but no, that was not the case either, and so college was never meant to be. Frank was, however, a good enough hand on the ranch. He was decent with horses and could handle most of the routine physical chores that went with running cattle in north central Montana…which is, by the bye, one of the coldest, if not the coldest environments in the lower 48 states.
Bookkeeping? He was not so good there. Running a combine? No, not really, but then again these days wheat harvests were increasingly being outsourced to large operations that started in the far north then worked their way south through the Great Plains, with just a few dozen large operators harvesting most of the wheat in the country.
And yet William knew their father understood all that. Frank would never be able to handle the ranch, so it was time to think about letting one of his other brothers take the reins for a while. Such a move would hurt Frank, and deeply, but then again Bill Sr. recalled that his father had made it clear he expected William to take over when the time came.
But no one had never expected his firstborn to be such a jock. And a good one, as it happened.
Yet there had been one other bump along the way, a bump during his junior year in high school.
Montana is a peculiar place. Fierce independence born of relentless isolation is certainly a defining characteristic of life there, but so too is a deep, abiding thirst for knowledge. Montana has produced more than its fair share of writers, and a bunch of those writers started out as teachers. Most of them go back east to school, to places like Harvard and Dartmouth, yet almost all these souls end up back in Montana. Maybe it’s the mountains. Maybe it’s because the sky really is bigger there. Who knows? And one of those souls ended up teaching at the high school where William Taylor was a student.
She taught History, and she saw something in the hulking boy. Something almost gifted, but a gift grounded in a real desire to work hard at whatever he put his mind to. William was in her US History class during his junior year, and with a nudge here and a little encouragement there he started to turn in excellent work, so much so that she invited him to join her Advanced Placement US History course in his last year there. And this proved pivotal.
Most jocks don’t take AP classes, and fewer still ace the national AP exam – yet Taylor did. And taking that class, let alone doing as well as he did on the exam, made the admissions office at USC sit up and take note of the hulking jock from Nowhere, Montana. Taylor won a full-ride scholarship on the merits of that achievement, and he had done so well at USC that he would have been admitted to the film school even without Ted Sorensen’s intercessions. And now that it looked like he was headed to the pros he was fast becoming one of the biggest names on campus.
Yet, and Sorensen had checked on this more than once, Taylor remained steadfastly loyal to Debra. He professed undying love for her, and Sorensen knew the Kid wanted to marry her. The trouble with that, as far as he was concerned, was the boy’s parents. His father was way out there on the lunatic fringe, a born again neo-Nazi right out of some kind of perverse comic book, while his mother was a born again sky pilot who saw Jesus in cloud formations. And now she was painting these visions, too…on black velvet canvases. Sheesh!
Even Debra was a little concerned about meeting William’s parents.
She’d told her father about the things William had said on that dive trip to Catalina. That even he was ashamed of them…
Maybe that was the key to the whole dilemma, Ted had thought, at least for a while. Maybe the Kid would, in effect, renounce his parents, but then what? Could he then drop his objections to the Kid marrying Debra?
So…Ted had picked up all these tidbits long before Frank Taylor flew down to LA for his big brother’s 21st birthday, and sitting beside Debra looking out at the sea he was really only half aware of the conversation going on between the three of them.
“So…you make movies?” he heard a voice saying, and he turned to see this strange looking boy staring at him.
“Me?” Ted replied. “Well, you might say that.”
“Bill says you were the one behind the Star Force movies. Those are my favorite!”
“Bill said that? Really?”
“Yeah. I just wanted to tell you how much I admire your work,” the boy said, holding out his right hand.
And Ted took it. “Well, thank you so much. That means the world to me.” He tried not to flinch when Deb kicked him under the table, though he did turn and give her “The Look.” The look that said ‘Don’t you ever do that to me again or I’ll disown you…’
But she’d already turned away by then.
“Will you be able to come with us to Disneyland tomorrow?”
“Sadly, no. I have to be in San Francisco.”
“Oh. This is good beer, ya know?”
“I’m glad you like it. Why don’t you kids head on up to the salad bar and rustle up some rabbit food?”
“Rabbit food!” Frank cried, slapping the table – and quite loudly, too. “I love it!”
Ted smiled. “Have all you want, my boy!”
He cringed after they left for the salad bar, and he cursed the day Debra had met that fucking oaf.
Billings, Montana 23 December 1999
She was a little miffed that her dad hadn’t let them come up in the Gulfstream, but he’d only shrugged her anger away. “Don’t pout,” he’d then goaded her, “it will spoil the lines of your face.”
So they’d flown to Salt Lake City and now they were crammed in some kind of Canadian ‘regional jet’ – a euphemism for cramped and uncomfortable if ever there was one – and to make matter worse the weather was truly horrendous, with nothing but blowing snow everywhere she looked…
She was sitting next to the window in 1A, her left knee pressed into the boarding stairs, and William was grinning like a fool. The bottom dropped and the left wing jerked up then the jet yawed hard and the power came on suddenly, and quite powerfully, and Debra was just about sure this was the end. The she looked at the flight attendant sitting just ahead, the woman facing her too, and yet the woman was yawning and filling a fingernail.
Then it felt like something huge had just kicked the bottom out from under the little jet and even the stewardess looked up at that, just in time for her meal cart – now loaded with cans of soda pop – to spew it’s contents all over the galley. And about that time some unfortunate soul spewed the contents of her stomach all over the cabin, and the stench hit everyone at about the same time; Deb reached for her barf-bag and opened it wide, feeling the bile rising in her throat just before the sweats began, only in earnest now. An invisible hand shoved the aircraft down again, and hard, then the power came on hard, again, only to come off a little, and she turned and looked out the nauseatingly small window, hoping her death would come quickly and wouldn’t be too painful…
But no, she saw city lights, and pretty close, too, then she felt the bump-bump-chirping sound of the main gears kissing the earth again and she did what everyone else on the little jet did…she broke out into wild, teary-eyed applause…
“Woo-hoo! Man, that was great!” William shouted. “That was almost better than Space Mountain, darlin’!”
She smiled, then brought the barf bag to her face.
Too late, as it happened.
She walked up the Jetway, her head down, and she’d never felt so embarrassed.
Here she was, about to meet her future in-laws – with barf on her breath! And then she saw bits of barf on her sweater and wanted to run away…
But no…there was Frank. Standing next to two of the most ordinary looking people ever. She’d been expecting they’d be holding pitchforks maybe, or that they’d have red skin, horns and split tails… But no…for some reason William’s father reminded her of Glenn Ford. Steel-gray crew-cut hair, genial smile and fit as a fiddle. Pressed jeans and Reeboks…not cowboy boots? He was wearing a green John Deere ball cap, but that was hardly unexpected, and he came forward and gave her a little hug, too.
“Hi there,” he said – genially. “I’m Bill Taylor, and this is Wanda, my better half.”
And Wanda stepped forward, almost shyly, and she gave Debra a polite little hug.
“I’m so pleased to finally meet you both,” Deb said, now acutely aware that her breath just had to smell almost as nice as the urinals in a busy truck-stop – and that was precisely when Wanda took out a tissue and picked a couple of chunky bits of barf off Deb’s brand new cable-knit cashmere sweater.
“Must’ve been a nice flight,” Bill Sr said, grinning. “About half the folks coming off this plane look green.”
“Oh, Dad, it was a kick in the ass! You’d’ve loved it!”
“Watch it, son. You’re in polite company,” Bill said, his sudden deep scowl hard and final.
“We thought we’d make a night of it,” Bill continued. “Whenever we come in for a special occasion like this we like to head over to Outback. Anyone feel like steak tonight?”
“Sure!” Deb said, her stomach doing another barrel roll. “That sounds great!”
She sat in the back, between Wanda and Frank, while the two Bills sat up front, with Bill Jr. doing the driving…
“I got cataracts,” he explained. “Gonna have ‘em fixed this winter, so meantime I don’t drive much at night.”
“I hear it’s an easy operation,” Deb said helpfully.
“Hope so,” Bill Sr said, and that was about all he said for the rest of the evening.
After they were seated at the restaurant she waited to see what they ordered to drink – both parents opted for ice-water, but both Frank and Bill Jr went for iced tea, so she went with an iced tea as well.
The boys ordered huge ribeyes while the obviously frugal parents ordered chopped steak – hamburger patties – off the seniors menu, so she ordered a salad topped with slices of steak, and Wanda appeared to approve of her just then. Point scored!
When they left the restaurant they had to backtrack into the main part of Billings and Bill Sr made sure they stopped and topped-off the Suburban’s main fuel tank, “because you never know when you’ll need the extra gas,” then it was up a long incline and they passed the airport as they left town…and then, within the span of a quarter mile, they were out on an endless expanse of snow-capped prairie. The way ahead was lit by two inadequate headlights, and as far as she could tell there wasn’t another living human being in sight…in any direction. Not even a streetlight pierced the snowy gloom…
“You know,” she said to Frank, “this is the exact opposite of Los Angeles.”
“I told ya!” he cried. “Remember when we was driving down to Disneyland? I think I said pretty much the exact same thing…like that was the exact opposite of home…and it is, too! There’s nothing but people everywhere you look down there, and here…”
“I don’t see anyone out there,” Deb sighed.
“Not much out there this time of year,” Bill Sr said. “We winter most of our herd down in Texas or New Mexico, then bring ‘em back here for the summer grass, to fatten ‘em up before market. Only thing out there right now is prairie dogs and rattlesnakes, and they’re all deep in the ground, sleeping ’til the ground warms up again.”
“So there aren’t any snakes around here right now?” Deb asked, which prompted laughs all around.
“Snakes dip into their holes whenever the temps fall below fifty-five. Lay their eggs down there too, then they all come up in June, hungry and mean as can be.”
“You cold, dear?” Wanda chided.
“A little, yes.”
“Bill, turn up the heat back here, please,” Wanda added.
“Yes, mother,” Bill Sr replied. “Supposed to get about a foot tonight. I think you two were flying through it on your way here.”
“A foot?” Deb asked. “Of what? Snow?”
“Yup. But that forecast is for Billings. We’ll get more up here.”
“More?” she said incredulously. “How much more?”
“Don’t much matter,” Bill Sr sighed. “William, I’d appreciate the help while you’re around.”
“Yessir. You got the plow on the F-150?”
“Yes, of course, but I picked up a new F-350, a dually. And yes, I’ve already got the chains on her.”
“Just the main drive and the barn?”
“Yes, well, but I’d like you to go down and do Walter’s driveway. He just had prostate surgery and the doc don’t want him on his feet just yet.”
About ten miles out of Billings the snow really started to come down at a steady clip, and by the time they made it out to the ranch there was already six inches on the highway, and to make matters more interesting the power was out.
“Frank? Go see why the generator didn’t kick in. William, you and I will need to check the cows, and you might as well take a pass with the plow.”
“Debra and I will take care of the bags, Bill,” Wanda added.
William parked the Suburban after he helped get the bags out of the back, then he walked out to the dairy barn to help his dad.
“Generator didn’t kick in out here, too.”
“How old is the fuel, Dad?”
“Got it last winter.”
“Did you put the stabilizer in, like I told you?”
“Yeah, pops, to keep algae from growing…”
“Don’t call me that, son.”
William ignored him, for the time being anyway, and then he turned and walked to the storeroom and found two new fuel filters. He made his way out to the main generator first and changed the filter in the driving snow, then he primed the diesel and turned on the main unit, the generator that powered the house at times like this, then he made his way back out to the dairy barn and got that unit up and running, too.
His dad was waiting for him in the main part of the barn.
“Milk didn’t freeze so I think we’ll be okay here. The keys are in the -350 if you want to get a start on the driveway.”
He looked at his father, at the bare-faced emptiness within the dry shell of the man, then he just shook his head and made his way through the drifting knee-deep snow to the new Ford and got it going. He found the controls for the snowplow while the engine warmed up, then he started in on the area between the main house and the dairy barn, the deeply ingrained rhythms of the daily grind here coming back to him without any real conscious thought on his part. He finished the main drive then made his way down to his Uncle Walter’s place and did that one too.
By the time he made it back to the house it was long past midnight, and he realized he’d been at it for almost five hours. He felt a little chill and looked at his clothes, at the flimsy shit he’d put on back in LA., and he shook his head. But his mom was, like she had been since he’d been old enough to tie his own shoes, waiting for him in the kitchen with hot cocoa and some fresh oatmeal raisin cookies, and right out of the oven, too. He came into the kitchen and plopped down into his usual chair and put his hands around the mug of cocoa, warming his hands before he took his first long pull.
“Thanks, Mom. You’re the best,” he sighed…
…and she smiled, then looked away. “Your father told me about the filters.”
“Is he forgetting stuff like that a lot, Mom?”
She looked at him again but then hesitated and simply shook her head. “Oh, not so much, really. Little stuff. You know, not the big things.”
“Great cookies. I love ‘em when they’re still warm like this.”
“I put some of those tiny chocolate chips in this batch. Can you tell the difference?”
“Yeah, I thought I tasted something new. I like ‘em.”
“Are you really going to stay down there with all those Jews and those…those negroes?”
William sucked in a deep breath but decided to let this one slide. “I’m happy there, Mom.”
“And you’re needed here, son.”
“Frank can handle it, Mom.”
But she vehemently shook her head: “No, he can’t. He’s stupid, Bill, and you know it.”
He’d never heard her talk about Frank like this before, and especially not so crudely, so he was a little shocked when he heard that. “Stupid, Mom? Why…what’s this all about? What did he do?”
“You belong here, William. You’re needed here. We built this up for you, and now you’re turning your back on everything we did…”
“It was that Jew-girl, wasn’t it? That History teacher? She infected you! Can’t you see that? Ever since you took that class of hers you been different. Real different…”
“Miss Eisenstadt? Mom? Are you serious?”
“They ran that Jew out of here a year or so ago. She’s over in Bozeman now, over there with all the other filthy Jew-lovers.”
He took another sip of cocoa and finished his second cookie, then he smiled at his mother and went up to his room.
Debra was, of course, not there…so he went up to the guest bedroom on the third floor, in what was, really, the attic; she woke when he came up the steps and opened the door. She sat up and rubbed her eyes while he sat on the edge of her bed, then she looked at her watch and sighed.
“It’s almost one in the morning!” she whispered.
“And I gotta get up at 5:30. Tomorrow is going to be a real ball-buster,” he sighed.
“Can I come with you?”
“Sure. Just dress warm, ‘cause its gonna be a cold one.”
“Like how cold is cold around here?”
“The high is gonna be like 15 below.”
“Shit! Are you fucking serious?”
“Serious as a heart attack, babe. Montana don’t much suffer city folk or sissies, ya know?”
“Sweet Jesus…” Deb sighed. “Fifteen below?”
“And don’t talk like that around mother – or world war three might just break out…”
“Right. I forgot.”
“Breakfast is at five-forty five. What time do you want me to get you up?”
“I don’t know. What do I need to wear?”
“Everything,” he said, grinning like a madman, and she thought he looked just like his father.
Breakfast was eggs and freshly baked bread, bread made from wheat grown on Taylor land, eggs from the laying chickens in Taylor coops. Hands were held all ‘round the table as prayers were said and the meal was eaten quickly and in utter silence – until Bill Sr handed out his marching orders, anyway.
“Frank, you’d better ride the east fence. I can see a couple steers out there; try to fix the fence right this time. William…Aunt Ducey called and she can’t even get to her plow so after you get ours done go out and get hers before you…”
“Got it, Dad.”
“Now Debra, can you stay here and help Mother get lunch ready?”
Deb looked at William, who spoke up then: “Actually, Dad, I was hoping she could ride with me today…”
“She’s not needed out there, boy, and your mother could use the help getting ready for Christmas Eve. We’re going to have family here tonight, remember?”
William nodded. “Yessir. Sorry Deb, but he’s right.”
She felt a little uneasy just then, more of an outsider than she’d ever thought possible, and the idea of helping prepare some kind of Christmas Eve dinner simply didn’t ring true. No, she felt like she was being maneuvered, pushed aside and shunted under a microscope – like something to be examined once before it was discarded.
“Dad?” Frank said. “That’s not exactly fair, ya know?”
“I don’t recall asking you, Frank,” his father said, quietly, calmly, menacingly. “Now I think you boys need to get to work. Company’s coming at five o’clock,” he said, looking down at his wristwatch, “and we’re burning daylight.”
She watched William driving the Ford around all the driveways for a moment, then he made a couple of passes out the driveway before turning north on the highway and he disappeared in the driving snow.
“Can you help with the stuffing?” Wanda said.
“The stuffing. You do know how to cook, don’t you?”
“No, not really.”
Mrs. Taylor stopped in her tracks and stared at Debra for a long time, apparently not sure what to say next. “You do eat, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Well then, who cooks the food around your house?”
“We have two people, a chef and an assistant cook. And I…”
Mrs. Taylor’s eyes blinked in confused incomprehension. “You…what?”
“My father has two people to do the cooking at the house, as well as two housekeepers who cook, too. I’ve never really cooked anything in my life.”
“Do you know how to run a vacuum cleaner? Dust a table?”
Debra shook her head.
“I’m sorry, but just what can you do?”
But Debra just smiled, refusing to be drawn into any kind of argument with this woman. “If you’ll show me what you need me to do I’ll be more than happy to lend a hand,” she said – though quietly, calmly, and menacingly.
Wanda Taylor knew that look, understood the people who wielded that kind of inner strength, so just looked down and nodded. “Is this the kind of life you think you’ll have with my boy?”
“And what kind of life would that be, Mrs. Taylor?”
“Cooks, servants, that kind of stuff?”
“I would imagine we’ll lead the kind of life we want to, Mrs. Taylor.”
“I wonder. Do you?”
“He’s a good boy, you know. And you’re going to ruin him, take all this away from him,” she said, holding her arms wide, indicating this house and all the prairies and mountains around their home.
“Yes, he is a good man, and he’s bigger than all this. And I think that scares you. It always has, hasn’t it?”
And then Wanda Taylor exhaled deeply, deflating as she sat down in a chair by the kitchen table. “I’m so tired of worrying about him. Both of us are. Maybe because there’s nothing we can do, I suppose.”
“But you must know…he’s already leading a kind of magical life, a life already full of meaningful accomplishments. It looks like he’s going to be playing in the NFL, and he already has good contacts in the entertainment business. The sky really is the limit as far as William is concerned, and I love him. I want to be a part of that life, to help him achieve all those things he never could here…”
“Your children. They’ll be Jews, won’t they?”
Debra looked at this woman and all the tumblers fell into place. “Oh, don’t worry, Mrs. Taylor. We stopped eating our children years ago.”
Maybe her little jab was undeserved, but in that instant Wanda Taylor’s heart filled with an immeasurable Hate. She stood and went to her bedroom, slamming the door shut behind her as she went – leaving Debra alone in the kitchen.
“My, my,” she sighed, “but that went well.” And with that she went upstairs and found a telephone. She spoke with her father for almost an hour then went to the third floor attic to pack her suitcase.
When the boys came in the boys were greeted by stone cold silence.
Wanda was still in her bedroom. Debra wasn’t helping make dinner for Christmas Eve. Lunch wasn’t on the kitchen table, and Bill Sr marched off to his bedroom to see what had gone wrong with his little world.
William walked upstairs. Quietly, gently, menacingly, and not at all sure what to feel. This was Christmas. This was supposed to be a quiet night together with family, and he had wanted to make a special announcement this night, of all nights, because Christmas Eve had always been a special kind of time. And asking Deb to marry him in front of all his family was the most special thing he could imagine…
The first thing he saw when he went inside the little attic guest room was her packed suitcase, and he sighed in utter defeat.
She was in the bathroom, presently blow-drying her hair, and he sat in the little room, deciding to wait for her, to wait for the confrontation he knew was coming.
‘Maybe I should have told her more. Maybe I should have told her more about mother,’ he thought, his confusion now complete. A few minutes later she stepped out of the tiny bathroom and she even seemed surprised to see him, yet she finished putting on her clothes in absolute silence, then she came and sat on the edge of the bed.
“I don’t belong here, William. I never have, and I never will.”
“But I do. Is that what you’re saying?”
“You’re wrong, Deb. I belong with you, we belong together, and you know that’s true.”
She nodded. “I did, yes, until this morning. But William, this is who you are, where you belong. Can’t you see that?”
He shook his head. “No. No, I can’t. I can’t wait to get back to LA. I can’t wait to get away from this place, from her…”
“Who? From your mother?”
He nodded. “Yes. And everything she stands for, the hatred, the narrow-mindedness, her walled-off view of the world…”
“Don’t you think she needed all those walls simply in order to survive out here? To keep all those things out of her mind, walled off, so they wouldn’t drive her mad? Everything seems so out of reach here…”
He shook his head. “No, not in the least. Don’t glamorize that hatred, Deb. Her world is inside one little book, her Book of Numbers, and nothing else matters to her. Everything that doesn’t fit inside that little world is something to be put down, to be shunned and derided…”
She nodded. “You can’t see it yet, can you?”
“We’re too far apart. From two different worlds, close…but not touching.”
“What do you want to do, Deb?”
“Take me to the airport, please. Dad’s coming to pick me up.”
“Oh? So…Daddy’s coming to rescue his little princess? And where does that leave me, I wonder? Some garbage to be tossed out along the side of the road? Just drive off, fly away I mean, and just like that, be done with it? With me?”
“This isn’t really all that complicated, William? At least it doesn’t have to be. Dad has plans for you, so don’t worry about all that.”
“You two must have had a lot to talk about while I was out there pushing snow around.”
“Can you carry my bag down, please?”
“Can I at least pack my stuff? I’m coming with you.”
“Bring your airline ticket.”
“I see. So that’s it, then?”
“You should stay here, William. Be with your family.”
“You are my family, Debra.”
She just shook her head, picked up her bag and headed down the creaky stairs. She found Frank down there and asked him to drive her into the airport.
“What about William?” he asked, and when she shook her head Frank groaned inside. “Okay. Let me get the keys.”
By the time William came running down the stairs with his suitcase the old white Suburban was out the driveway and turning onto the highway. “Goddamnit!” he yelled.
“What’s going on, son,” his father said, coming out of his bedroom.
“Deb’s gone, on her way to the airport…”
“Something happened with Mom. She packed her bags – and she just broke up with me.”
Bill nodded. “I’ll get the keys to the old 150. We can catch them before they get to the airport.”
They ran out to the truck and started for Billings.
And still the blizzard only picked up strength…
Bill Sr expected to find the Suburban at the FBO on the east end of the airport in Billings, at the Edwards Jet Center, and he was correct. He drove into the parking lot and they found Frank and Debra sitting in the truck, with the engine still running. Debra’s face was a wreck, her eyes bloodshot from the nonstop tears that had been running down her face since she’d left the house, and when the old Ford pulled in next to her she seemed almost happy to see William.
Then William came to her door and she rolled the window down.
“What are you doing here?” she said to him, trying to hide the relief she felt.
“Trying to stop you from doing something really dumb,” he said, trying to smile but still very confused.
“Yeah, dumb. Your dad’s trying to break us apart, Deb. He has been for a while. Can’t you see that?”
“He wouldn’t do that, William. Really, he just wouldn’t…”
“Deb…don’t let him do this to us. Don’t throw what we have away. We, you and I, we can make this work.”
They heard a jet land through the snow and everyone turned to look…but it was a Delta CRJ landing and turning for the commercial terminal…and Bill Sr stepped close then and looked at Debra.
“Little lady, I know we’re a little rough around the edges out here but William is a good boy and he loves you. I just spent an hour listening to him go on and on about you and how much he loves you, and I’d sure hate to see something as silly as Wanda spouting off about God and all that stuff she’s into come between you two.”
She looked at Bill Sr and nodded. “I understand, Mr. Taylor, really I do, but…”
“No buts, Debra,” Bill Sr said. “You two need to go sit somewhere and talk. This is big stuff and no one needs to go off half-cocked. William? You two go on inside and wait for her father. Frank and I will be right here if you need us.”
Another jet landed, and this time William could see Ted’s Gulfstream slowing on the runway, the thrust reversers kicking up a dense flurry of snow on the runway before it turned onto a taxiway and headed for the FBO.
“Dad, Frank, would you come with me, please. I’d like you to at least meet Mr. Sorensen. Deb? Are you okay with that?”
She nodded and followed the boys into the base, walking up to the ramp door to wait for her father. And it didn’t take long for the Gulfstream to taxi up to the business jet terminal and park. A fuel truck pulled up to the jet and quickly began refueling the aircraft, then the main airstair opened and the co-pilot came down to the ramp and jogged to the door.
“Miss Sorensen, you’re to come with me please. Now.”
“I’m bringing William,” she replied.
“I’m sorry, but he is not invited.”
She nodded then turned to William, and then she handed him her purse. “Buy a ticket and come straight to L.A.; I’ll pick you up at LAX as soon as I can. If you don’t hear from me, go to the beach house and wait for me there.”
He took her purse and kissed her on the lips, and then she turned and walked out to the waiting jet. As soon as she was aboard the airstair closed, but the jet remained there while the refueling operation continued, then the engines started and the jet taxied out to the runway. A minute later he and his brother and father watched the jet take off and climb into the snow-filled clouds, and William felt a sudden shattering emptiness, like everything he’d expected his life to be had just come undone. Now completely overcome, the man-child looked down and started to cry.
And his kid brother came over and grabbed him by the shirt collar and shook him. “What the hell is the matter with you, bro? Let’s get you over to the terminal and on your way…”
“But…it’s Christmas,” he whispered, “and Mom will be so disappointed…”
“Fuck her and the horse she rode in on,” Bill Sr said. “Get your shit together, son. You’ve got your work cut out for you, so let’s get you to it.”
William nodded, but he was looking at the clouds now, and wondering if the sun would ever come out again.
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.
John Denver \\ season suite: Late Winter Early Spring