Yoharie: Because Society (part four)
“Nice when you don’t have to punch the clock.”
He rummaged the tote he’d taken, which was Cathlyn’s, logoed NCBHS over a tree half-leaved…behavioral affliction in allegory. Cathlyn had packed them her spotting scope and tripod, her guidebooks; and, in her completist way, A Cumberland Valley Calendar, some woman’s living-off-the-land memoir.
“So what’s the plan?”
“Just walking in the woods.”
“With Royce, you mean. Wedding bells?”
The end of the cul-de-sac wasn’t far to walk. Too far, though, to let preparing-to-knock body language imply not-quite-hearing-the-question. Giarma thought, people who marry are good at dating…that is, they’ve mastered it, they want no more than this chance, this transaction. You make your personal life your career; you earn your Normal Status badge by having a spouse. And if you could buy that at the store, you wouldn’t bother.
The mystery of Tristanne’s being so nice, and yet…
The gossipy post-mortem, what’d she see in him, explained. Because marriage was a move. Once played, move again.
“It takes ages to get to know someone,” she told Mat.
No one was parked, and where to park wasn’t quite…but, pulling in they saw concrete bumpers grassed over and a little worse for collision. A humpy hill blocked sight of any vista, bathroom stalls feet away from the car weltered ripely…
“I’ve got to pick up some of this trash.” Giarma grabbed a cat food bag from Trevor’s recycling. “What’s the name of the trail?”
“Alison Brown Milpas Wildflower Walk.”
“Just a walk…”
“One point two miles.” He bent for a plastic bottle. “We’ll get better at hiking. Might as well start with something unpopular.”
She felt clairvoyant. “Cathlyn will know. Who Alison was, I mean.”
“Spiritual friends.” Trevor matched her smirk. Sharing a joke on a person you truly liked was an intimate thing. They broke, Giarma leaning in her door and Trevor the hatch, deciding together only now that they would go ahead and bring the food.
In her pack she had phone, wallet, tissues, socks…in case stickery brush made sockless tennies problematic…pop tarts and a can of Diet Coke, just for extra, sunglasses and a ball-cap, gum and Tylenol. The wildflower book should come along. Maybe bars were thin here…maybe they weren’t. Cathlyn had something against ID websites: “They never load with all the ads. And you don’t want photos, you want illustrations.”
A book was fittable…the first aid…binoculars round the neck…
Trevor stood pack half-slung, rubbing on sunscreen. He picked up the cooler. “So let’s see what they got.”
The path was of a sand-duney, dusty texture. The view unfolded to reveal a creek, shallow, cutting a field shaped like the leftover corner of a pie crust, truncated (about 1.2 miles ahead) by a road and bridge, and a farmstand, selling nothing…a cornfield backdropping. These things to the left, some thin-trunked trees skirting the path to the right.
Another sign: U6 Wetland Laboratory
“No picnic table, you think?”
“Maybe we’ll walk up to that bridge and see if it’s okay to get down under.”
They walked for a minute. They exchanged a sigh, shifting their loads, that seemed a tacit agreement—they’d got it wrong, this following of advice. They ought to have chanced not bringing every last thing…
“All right…stop me if you spot a wildflower…I wanted to tell you about my Mom. I guess, about Dad. I had an older brother…well, me and Val. He died in a car wreck. Sixteen. I never met anyone from that family…I think he would have been about seven when Dad and Mom got married. They were for five years, so I was four when they split. And if you knew them both, you’d ask yourself, how was it possible? I don’t mean the divorce. My mother’s family are not academic…Grandpa and Grandma ran a video store back in the day. Middle class, but you know, working class middle class. Not—it matters—first generation. Tejanos are old-timers…I mean, assimilated isn’t the question. They are Texas, basically… Oh, that’s butterfly weed.”
“Stump you next time. Texas…”
“Without getting into the culture. What makes my Mom mad is being treated like a minority hire. So, she met him at one of these places with a Tex-Mex band, which is different from just a roadhouse. He was in the oilfields, you know that…um… Long story short, her politics told her don’t snub this guy. Dad thought pretty much the same thing, from his side. Grad student, last name Alverez. Don’t rule people out, he likes to say. So it was weirdly having to be married before they could give themselves permission to not like each other. Anyway, it didn’t last. I’m going to put my pack down and have a drink of water.”
“You don’t appreciate the sun this time of year. Til you get halfway through a bog and an empty field.”
She heard in this quip something flat. They stood and sucked at their bottles.
“What’s this little blue?” He pointed to the trail margin, a cluster of pale flowers edging the foot of a lockbox…just there and unexplained, the box, made of brown-painted wood, padlocked.
“What if I did something evil, and picked one and pressed it in the book for later?”
“Best not. You wanted to tell me about your mother.”
(2020, Stephanie Foster)