The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.3

88 mind drive SM

A brief walk in the woods, as one storm clears.

[Mr Blue Sky \\ ELO]

Chapter 64.3

Sumner and Henry decided to walk to the steak place, and while Dana chose to ride on her father’s shoulders, she had grown so much over the last couple of hours that he was having quite a time of it. But handling her steadily increasing weight wasn’t the only problem, so when Tracy and the Old Man passed in a taxi, and as Sumner had just about decided that automobiles weren’t so bad after all, the burdens of fatherhood took on a whole new patina to Henry Taggart. After a half hour walk he was now well and truly tired.

But eating animal flesh was, however, a step too far for Dana. When Henry described what a steak was to her, and more to the point where steaks came from, she shrieked in terror and ran from the restaurant, Henry in hot pursuit. He talked her into trying the salad bar at a nearby seafood restaurant, and she seemed mollified by his sudden change of heart.

“Who told you it was bad to eat meat?” he asked her as she fumbled with her fork — yet another ‘new’ experience that evening.

“Isn’t that self-evident, Father?” she replied, the tone of her chiding retort at once admonishing and pedantic, and which Henry thought sounded an awful lot like Brendan Geddes — with a nice melange of Debra tossed on top just for good measure.

“Well, maybe, but human evolved over time to be omnivores, not herbivores. By the way, do you know the difference between those two words?”

And he watched her closely just then, because he’d had a sneaking suspicion, a hunch that just wouldn’t go away, and as he watched her formulating a response that answer seemed to fall into place.

Because she paused, almost like a computer seeking out the allotted space on a drive where certain bits of knowledge were stored, and within that pause she almost seemed closed off to the external world.

And only after a few moments did her reply take shape. “Yes, Father, I think so. A herbivore eats grasses and foliage, whereas an omnivore eats everything.”

“That’s correct. Can you tell me where you learned that information?”

“I’m not sure, Father.”

“Can you tell me if this knowledge came from outside of yourself?”

“I’m not sure, Father, but I think that may be true.”

He held up a piece of smoked salmon, then he looked her in the eye: “Would you try this for me, please?”

“What is it, Father?”

“It’s called salmon. It’s a fish that lives in the sea.”

“I cannot eat that, Father.”

“Okay. Do you like your salad?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Which things do you like the most?”

She pointed at pickled beets and asparagus spears, foods with a high mineral content, and he nodded. “Why do you ask, Father?”

“Well, when I go to the store to buy food for you to eat, now I’ll know what to buy.”

“But I don’t need to eat, Father.”

“Really? What about fluids? Do you need to drink things like water, or…milk?”

“I need complex carbohydrates.”

He looked around the table and all he had to choose from was water, orange juice, and his beer, a Budweiser in a frosty long-necked bottle. “Try the orange juice,” he said, moving the glass close to her. 

She took a sip and put the glass down. “What do you call this flavor?”

“The main flavor you taste is a simple sugar we call glucose, and the molecular formula is C6H12O6. And yes, Dana, this is a complex carbohydrate. Do you know why it’s called that?”

Again the pause, again the cycling through knowledge stored…somewhere.

“Yes, because of the photosynthetic interaction of oxygen and carbon dioxide during the formation of cellulose.”

“Alright. Now try this,” he said, pouring a little Budweiser into an empty glass and pushing it across the table to her. She picked it up and took a sip, then she smiled and studied the liquid before finishing the glass.

“What is this called, Father?”

“This is called Budweiser, Dana, and Budweiser is a type of beer.”

“Is this a complex carbohydrate, Father?”

“Oh yes, it’s very complex indeed.”

“I like this, Father. Budweiser is a very good thing.”

“Yes,” he sighed, “Budweiser is a very good…thing.” 

+++++

As the CAT Huey settled on the ramp Callahan slid the door open and let the fresh sea breeze roll through the stuffy cabin, then he stepped out onto the skid and turned to help Deborah down to the ground. Brendan was focused on a problem in the beyond, his fingers working through solutions as they came to him, yet Didi looked at him with something akin to reverence in her eyes. She watched until he came to a pause and then she reached out, put a hand on his shoulder.

“Can you come with me now?” Didi asked him politely, almost gently.

Brendan seemed to struggle for a moment, and Callahan had trouble understanding what the boy was going through. There were moments when the boy almost seemed ‘normal’ – but then he’d see something up there beyond the far side of the sky and he was off again. To wherever he went inside those moments, but now he watched as the boy respond to Didi, to really take note of who was reaching out to him, and this time he seemed to listen, and respond – to her.

“Right,” he said, taking her hand and stepping out of the Huey, shielding his eyes from the midday sun with an awkward salute. The rotors were still winding down, the wilting wings still making a faint whooshing sound as they acred by just overhead, and Brendan instinctively ducked a little as he followed Didi over to Harry and Deborah. After the pilot carried their luggage over he climbed back into the Huey and restarted the turbines, and Harry stood there watching as the helicopter lifted slowly from the ramp and turned to the south, towards San Francisco, and Didi could only imagine the anguish he must’ve felt. He’d been a pilot, after all, and pilots never ever stop being pilots. Pilots never stopped remembering, too — and she was the one who had taken all that from him.

She’d felt, at one point during the flight, that he really was going to open the door and toss her into the sea — and yet she understood him. In a way she even agreed with his reasoning, even with the locus of his rage, but she hoped one day he might take the leap and see what she’d been trying to do. She’d never really loved him, not really, even though she’d hooked up with one of Callahan’s pilots once, even though that had been little more than a veiled attempt to stay close to him. Even if that brief union had ultimately proven to be a disastrous mistake, she’d stayed true to him, helped secure his economic future, and she’d begun to feel something like a duty to protect him. But she watched him closely now, watched him watching Brendan, then looking at Deborah, and she kept focusing on his eyes as he swept in the scene. He was, in the end, a predator. Dangerous. Yet she had held him once, almost as a falconer holds a falcon… 

But no, that too was an illusion. Callahan was a killer, true, and he always would be, but there was nothing she could do to change that. No falconer’s hood would obscure his way of seeing the world, no enticing treats would tether him to anything beyond the moment – so she would have to hold him in the moment, somehow earn his trust in order to keep him close again. She knew she had to try, and right now, or she would lose him forever. And then she saw Callahan looking at the boy again, still confused, still wary of the hidden power the boy seemed to grasp, and then, in a flash, she saw the way ahead…

‘Yes,’ she replied to the coaxing little voice inside, ‘I have to try…’

+++++

Dana climbed up on her father’s shoulders again, for the walk back to the boat, and once again she felt heavier to him. Her legs were a little longer than just an hour ago, and even her hands were taking on a more slender form. A more adult form. And Taggart found these rapid metamorphic bursts more than a little unnerving; no, they were almost inhumanly spooky.

But everyone was waiting for them as the two of them marched along Banyan Drive, heading back to Hilo’s tiny harbor. The rain had stopped completely and he wondered if the hurricane’s eye had arrived, and then he felt her in his head, roaming through his thoughts.

“The storm has passed to the east-northeast, Father,” she said. “It will be of no consequence to us now.”

He took a deep breath, tried to clear his mind — but he knew it was useless. She had full, unfettered access to anything in his mind, at any time, and he realized it was his duty – as her father, even her chosen father — to help her understand the world. In a way, he felt this very well might be the most important thing he would ever do in this life.

‘Just like any father,’ he sighed as he took in another deep breath, inhaling the heavy, storm-tossed air, taking in the flowering plants and freshly mown grass just a few yards away.

“You never wanted to be a father, did you?” she asked him — out of the blue.

“Oh, I don’t know, Spud. I think it’s more like I never expected to be a father. I never expected to run into anyone I’d fall in love with.”

“But you don’t love Debra. I can feel that, Father.”

“Can you? Well, maybe there’s a difference between knowing something is true and feeling something may be true.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.”

“Yes you do. They chose you, Father, and they never make mistakes.”

He felt the icy grip of the unknown once again. ‘They’ must be where, or to whom, she went to find answers to the things she didn’t know — yet. And so, as he’d seen them under the sea in the lagoon at Bora-Bora, ‘They’ had to reside in the spheres he’d seen there…

“Well,” he continued, “you discovered a feeling you thought I had for Debra, but feelings are often fleet-footed things, Dana, something born of the moment — so they are often ethereal little etchings of Time that can fade away as easily as this storm.”

“How is that different from knowing?”

“Well, when you know you love somebody, I mean when you really deep down inside know that you do, that’s more than a feeling, Dana. That’s real love.”

“So real love doesn’t go away?”

“No, Honey, I don’t think that it does. In fact, I don’t think it can go away, even if we want it to.”

“So the way you feel about Mother is the kind of feeling that fades away?”

“I’m not really sure, Spud.”

“Why do you call me that?”

“Spud? Oh, it’s just something I want to share just between us, between you and me.”

“Isn’t a spud a potato?” 

“Or something little that’s growing really fast. Like you.”

“How can you not be sure how you feel, Father?”

“I think it has something to do with being human, Dana. Sometimes we just have a really hard time deciding how we feel about some things. And maybe there are times when we can never really know what we feel about certain things. And sometimes things happen that change our mind for us.”

“So there are things you can never understand?”

“Yes. Maybe so.”

“What about me? Do you love me?” He shuddered to a stop and lifted her up and over his head, then he gently placed her her feet on the pavement. “Why did you do that, Daddy?”

He paused and thought about that — just as the Old Man and Tracy drove past — so Henry turned and saw Sumner jogging along to catch up to them while he thought about the best way to handle Dana’s question. Knowing full well, of course, that she was still in his mind…

“There are lots of different kinds of love, Dana. There’s the kind of love you’re talking about, the love between friends or between parents and their children. But we can also ‘love’ a photograph or a painting or a piece of music, too, and in a way it’s still a kind of love — just not the same kind of love I have for your mother, or even for you.”

“So you’re saying you love me?”

“I am, Dana, because I do. What about you? Do you love me?”

“There was a certain way of feeling I began to understand when Mother was taking care of me on the first boat, and she told me this feeling is called love.”

“That’s a part of it, yes.”

“So, love has many…parts?”

“Oh, yes,” he said — just as Sumner caught up to them. “You look seriously out of breath, Amigo,” he said to the cop. “Too much salad, perhaps?”

“I had a porterhouse about the size of Memphis,” Sumner said, stifling a magmatic belch as he grinned at Taggart. “No rabbit food for me.”

“You ate a piece of dead cow the size of a city?” Dana said, her eyes watering in fear.

“Maybe two cities,” Sumner sighed, rubbing his distended belly. “Damn, that was some good grazin’, Hank. Sorry you missed out.”

“Oh, we found a nice salad bar, didn’t we, Spud?”

“Yes, we did. I especially liked the Budweiser,” Dana added, grinning at her father.

Sumner looked at Henry, an arched left eyebrow vaulting skyward. “Budweiser, huh. And you are how old, Young Lady? Two weeks, or is it three now?”

But when Sumner realized the imbecility of his statement he seemed to pull away from the puritanical admonishments he was readying for Taggart, then he just shrugged and fell in beside the two of them as they resumed their march back to the boat.

A taxi pulled up to the little quay just as Henry and his little troupe arrived, and Tracy ran over and gave Dana Richardson a hug — before she reached out and shook Ralph’s hand.

“Who’s that, Father?” his Dana asked.

But Henry couldn’t answer that question, because he had no idea what the future held in store for him now.

Curiously enough, however, his Dana seemed very interested in the new arrivals.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

[Goodbye Blue Sky \\ Pink Floyd]

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