Yoharie: Because Society (part six)
“Is your brother still living at home?”
“Where do people live, if they don’t live at home?”
She knew the point was weak…while, the day she moved in fulltime with Trevor, she would of course be at home.
“I still see him go out of your garage on his bike.”
“So, okay, Mr. Todwillow,” Trevor said. “Is there a thing you want to know? We can help you with?”
“I’m making conversation. Since we happen to have run into each other. Your brother keeps your Dad company.”
“I usually see your Dad by himself. On that porch.”
She elbowed Trevor, shifting at her side, wanting to get more combative with Todwillow than seemed wise. Her mind, in the background, was finding this being stuck, having to answer questions Todwillow had no authority to ask, curious…educational…
Easier for him to play this trick than it ought to be. To be polite…no, normal, burden of proof, hers…meant carrying on the conversation. He wasn’t going to say why, other than bigotry, he was proxy-harassing Val. She couldn’t let herself get mad, feared Trevor’s getting mad, because Todwillow could decide anger confirmed something. He could sit there with that something tucked away in disguise, leave them after she’d yelled at him, “We’re all fine! Val is fine, I’m fine, Dad is fine! What’s your problem, you freakshow?”, and tell himself he’d won this round. Giarma Yoharie had all but confessed.
“I hope the Hibblers get over it, whatever. We were just going back.” She turned, caught Trevor’s pack-strap and tugged.
She was bursting with post-analysis commentary, but without daring to look, knew Todwillow tracked them. A solo hiker appeared at the trailhead. The three converged in the anxious silence of sharing space with strangers.
“Nice day,” the hiker said.
“Is that car still there? Up at the bridge…can you see from here?”
The stranger craned his neck. “I got a phone. Is there someone I should call?”
“No. Nothing’s wrong. Is he there?”
“I don’t see anyone.”
Insanely bright, she told him, “Oh, fine! Thanks!”
“Maybe…” Trevor said this, after not involving himself…flinching a little if anything… “It’s safe to talk now? I think you scared that guy.”
“Alison’s reputation could use some intrigue. He’ll go post about it, and drum up traffic.”
They had put up the hatch, and sat eating in the back of Trevor’s car, a problem-solver that felt smart and cozy when rain started pattering the sunroof.
“So we’re pretty much guaranteed to find the best picnic spot around the next bend.”
“Sure. Trev, who is Todwillow?”
“Local asshole, pretends to be some kind of cop.”
“Why is he seeing Dad on the back porch?”
Sensible. “But, did you get the impression he wasn’t… Actually there. I’m sorry. I feel accused, and I don’t know why…or I do…but I don’t…”
Her father said: “I see Hibbler now and then. He likes helping me with the gadgets.”
“You all set with everything?” Trevor asked. “While we’re here.”
Emphatic nod. “One time he wanted to show me how to print off my phone. Which, by the way, I can’t do. Don’t want to.”
“And Todwillow, never?”
“Now, I can picture Todwillow… Honest, sweetheart, I don’t remember I ever talked to him.”
They heard the garage door go up. Val trailed Dawn; together, with buckets of chicken and paper bags, they climbed the porch steps.
Fried chicken, exactly lunch.
“Oh, great! You guys! I think there’s plenty…” Saying other things, Dawn hustled past, hallooed to her mother, switching on lights above the kitchen island. The rain was steady now. Camaraderie, being a family…being boring people watching CNN on Dad’s TV, packing arteries with carryout cholesterol…
Even Val, today’s mood non-gloomy. Giarma left the men, and tried Dawn. “What’s wrong with the Hibblers?”
“Something about their kids, I think. How many do they have?”
“No idea. Who said?”
“Wow, I’m thinking… Roberta? I don’t really see the Witticombes that often. Or, no…” Dawn made a face. “No, it was Mat. Some stupid thing about Val dating their daughter.”
(2020, Stephanie Foster)