Cindy was going home. A break from the brown brick and mortar buildings that had been suffocating her these past weeks. It was not a school holiday nor any ‘name’ officially stamped on a calendar to state “special day.” It was just a Friday. A fried out Friday crumpled on the back end of a white, damp week. She had closed her laptop, leaving it on the table, grabbed her purse and, trialing her winter scarf as she shouldered her coat, slipped through the snow and headed out to Alice, the 1999 red Alero that served as a motorized go cart of transportation. She hated ‘her,’ but was thankful. Alice started, cold weather be damned. Like a dog one would walk around with a quick touch to the top of head, she always found time for a quick pat on the dash when turning the key to start and heard the … er,er,er,er,er,er, hrumppppppppppp -p -peeeeeeepppuuuuuurrrr. Ugly, beastly, cold…dependable.
The drive home took about an hour. She texted her departure from the ‘ghetto’ saying she should be home around dinner time. Cindy had that presence to occupy people’s interest in many capacities, an endearing catalog of patented characteristics from which she delighted many. None more than her mother. Sandra ‘bounced’ with the news.
Sandra had slipped into the tide waters of life with her daughter’s absence. She took each and every occasion to sift a normal day in casual loneliness. She chose not to artificially introduce activities but became more engrossed with her agronomic activities. She had five acres to produce as desired within a tight budget. She had entrusted Cindy (during the ‘home’ years) to be of assistance, but the germination of endearing quaintness to such activities never solidified. The City was where Cindy felt her vibe. Sandra had not just ‘lost’ her to college! She would never be back for good.
Being together for these quick getaways always brought an uptick to the norm. Such did this ‘Text.’ Sandra cast about to fix something that fell in the ‘like’ menu for her daughter. Her phone buzzed. “On the road.”
Jacob had become dispirited. Nine, he lived with his father in a four season cabin which sat near a small lake. He could not remember a time when there had been a dock. A canoe paralleled the shore. Jacob used it as a bench, his “wonder” seat. He would sit as the elders “in the gate,” responsible for the direction of his world. His mind was shaping around thought and cognizant definition of this world. Experience had not been kind. His mother had lit out when he was five, the reason(s) never really explained. He took it that she was just gone. When she had “rung up,” those occasions were muffled in a false acceptance. Or so it seemed. He dismissed them as one discards an unwanted ‘catch’ back into the water, not to be thought of again. That is what ‘she’ was, a fishing outing once, maybe twice a year, with the memories tossed back.
There had not been a second. His father sought companionship with the bottle. He was a hard crusted individual who took to serving himself. He had ‘ladyships,’ but nothing beyond flesh. Jake watched them come and go. He found ways to accelerate disappearance on those occasions. They became infrequent. The bottle became more preeminent. Jake ‘cast’ about for companionship.
He had persuaded to obtain a pound dog. Actually, he just brought one home, Jubilee. He kept him out of sight for as long as he could. The persuasion came when Jube was discovered. A black eye and slurred curse were the means. Jube took up residence in a clapboard house Jacob built outside his bedroom window. A strong chain was insisted upon. Jacob cringed whenever he locked Jube up.
He slept on Jacob’s bed. The bottle the silencer.
Jube was clusters of brown patches flecked upon a white background. He aged out around one. Small to midsize, he lapped up fun. The pedigree was one from the working stock breed. Which was hard to guess. He was Jacobs from the start and the two hung together in the constant.
Cindy was in eleventh grade at the time, had a boyfriend and played three sports. In the summer she worked at the Dairy Queen. Her life was full as was her relationship with Sandra. They, too, were a twosome, Sandy having lost her husband to some illness that Jacob never could remember. Figured it was cancer and left it there.
He met the Charais ladies as he walked home from school. Detention confined transportation to one’s family and being picked up by Dad never was an option. Sandra had been outside weeding when the brown hair crown bumped its way past the curved drive. She had seen him before, but never had entered any type of connection. Now she lifted up from her kneeling position and whipped her brow with the back of a gloved hand.
Jacob heard the call and gave a sideways glance.
“Hi, my name is Sandra.”
He stopped and looked up the slight hill toward the house where the kneeling lady was trying to catch his attention. Motion stopped.
Sandra had gotten up to her full length and moved down slowly to administer the greeting in total. Jacob waited. They shook hands. He followed her to the house and there he had some homemade cookies, pop, and met Cindy.
That was the beginning of Jacob and Jube becoming fixtures around the Charais home. The canoe became remote to visits. The next few years found a slightly sulky introverted boy hanging around a middle aged woman and her daughter, when and if one were to be found at home. Jacob immersed himself in their lives. And they enjoyed him. One could have factored in a “puppy love” connection, but it never was of that nature. Encouraged friendship developed love in each’s paradigm. And the truth or what each felt was timeless.
When Cindy left for college, Jacob was less visible. But as Sandra worked a full job, he found that the time he was there, making himself useful to her was interesting if not fun. He began helping with chores, mostly outside, but an inside one thrown in here and there.
There were shadows in him that missed Cindy.
Cindy rolled up the drive, Alice spitting black juice out the exhaust Sandra whipped her hands with a dish towel and leaned against the counter preparing to meet her daughter. The wait was short. Her two dogs lit up the night with barks of delight. The princess was home.
“Hi sweetheart.” They embraced. The next couple of hours were spent over chicken fettuccine, cable comedy and cards.
“What are the plans for tomorrow?” asked her daughter as she counted 15/2, 15/4….
“The temp is supposed to be almost forty, and here it is February! I hoped to get some of the vines cut away so I can get at that big Elm to cut down in the Spring.”
Cindy was not an agronomist and never pretended to be. Gardens? Buy what you need. But she came out with an almost explosive “I’ll give you a hand.”
They finished the evening with Sandra clocking out shortly after nine and Cindy greeting the new day. Sandra had made pancakes, completed animal chores and was setting up the equipment for the task ahead when Cindy emerged from her darkened room.
“mmmmmm….pancakes. Thanks Mom.”
“What time are you going out to that tree?”
“After lunch. Breakfast for you. Take your time. I am going to head out and get set up and start hacking at those vines. You come on out when you are ready.”
“Sure, ah, ….”
“Honey, just come when you want,” Sandra laughing said. She knew her daughter.
Jacob started up the gravel road, Jube scenting the day. It was half past 1:00. He had been moseying about the cabin for much of the morning. Actually did some homework. Mrs. Charais had harbored on him he the fact that education was important. He took to heart her instructive ways and had begun to apply himself. A “B” average welcomed the effort.
Sandra Charais was a lady. Jacob felt good being around her. Cindy was fun, their interaction over the last three and a half years was combined with Sandra. A silhouetted family! Jube loved hanging around. All the animals. He was even allowed in the house. .
Even when they just sat on the couch watching the screen and chatting, Jacob felt at peace. It was as common as the sun rising that Jacob would check out the Charais house when the availability of time allowed. Sandra did not always let Jacob stay when he came down. He understood, mostly.
Cindy was a product of her times, completely arrayed to use any of the digital opportunities that existed. She now was into videoing events. Not at great length, but snippets that could be either kept and shown to a friend or posted in the social media.
She emerged from the house decked out in cast off outdoor wear of Sandra’s’. Laughing as to what her mother thought she sauntered down to the area her mother was beginning to employ her hatchet.
“Mom, let me do that.’
“Yeah, let me smack away at those vines and you can pull them away once cut.”
“Are you well??”
“I am well, alive, and I would like to do this.”
Cindy loved being with her mother. She came home to do just that. And the idea of helping her made her feel warm inside. She was happy.
Jacob appeared about the time Cindy cut through a third vine. He stopped and surveyed the scene.
Jube ran up to Sandra and jumped on her legs.
“Hey stranger,” called out Cindy, “How you been?”
Sandra let out a short giggle at Jube and looked up at Jacob.
“Jacob. Just in time to help us with all these vines!!”
Jacob looked at the intertwined group of barked vines extending from the elm. He never had really noticed them before accepting how the mass blocked an immediate view of the Charais house. Now he surveyed them for what they proposed. A natural mess of nature.
“Why don’t you grab the hand saw and you and Cindy cut while I drag. That sound good?”
“Sure.” Jacob moved to the tool bucket and grabbed the saw. He looked at the ladies. Both were geared for outside work, but one looked natural and the other had attributes of a scarecrow. He smiled.
“Nice clothes Cindy. How those gloves working for you?”
“Shut up and get over her Jacob,” Cindy exclaimed.
He did, bringing the saw. He looked at Jube and commanded him to hang around. It was a command that was so generic but Jube had come to understand…stay in eye contact of Jacob. He was a pleasing dog.
For about two hours the college freshman and the sixth grader hacked, sawed and pulled at the vines. Mom kept dragging the cuttings away from the area and piled them in the low area to the north of the property. Bantering occurred but they put most of there effort to the task. Then Jacob looked at something ‘different.’
A singular vine hung from a stout branch. It had developed a natural loop at the bottom, about three feet off the ground. He went and pulled on the vine. He held tight. He pulled again, afterward placing his foot in the loop. He put all his weight on the vine. It held. Pulling the vine back from the lip of the small rock wall that fringed the front lawn there by the elm, next to the drive, Jacob walked as far as the vine would let him. He held it out, taunt, and then jumped in the air placing one foot in the loop. The barked rope swung out over the edge and when it had lengthened ‘out’ receded back to the starting point. Jacob stayed with it and after returning a second time he extracted himself to the ground.
“Oh! Neat, let me give it a go, Jacob.”
Cindy grabbed hold and let her self be airborne. She laughed out loud.
The took turns and Sandra came back from a trip to the pile to watch.
“Why don’t you push each other,” she asked.
“Great idea Mom. Jacob, get ready!
He did, holding on to the vine and speeding off. As he returned, Cindy renewed the speed by grabbing hold of him and running toward the lip. He went even faster as she let go and smiled.
Then, as they took turns pushing and riding, Cindy got got her over-sized glove caught between the vine and Jacob’s foot. As she went to release him, the speeding Tarzan pulled her along until she tripped over the wall into a pile of wet snow. Jacob saw her fall. The return trip would be right where Cindy was.
“Stay down he yelled.” Cindy remained in the wetness, giggling delightfully as the vine with Jacob swung back over head. He jumped off awkwardly and landed butt end in the start zone. Cindy was emerging over the wall, laughing.
“let me go get my phone and video us!”
Sandra was standing, hands on hips, mirth spread her length and her smile wide. “That sounds like a good idea,” she offered.
“No.” Jacob had stood and “jollied” the whole up. “Let’s make memories.”
Cindy looked at him. Not quite knowing how to respond, she let out an “okay,” and then, “It’s my turn.” She pulled herself up over the stone wall and grabbed the vine. “That sounds good. Give me a memory!”
Jacob pushed her hard.
Sandra looked at Jacob. Her smile increased. What an expression she thought. She took in the two of them for a few more minutes and then suggested that they complete the work.
The vines were gone in four hours, with three very tired workers. They went in the house, all three, and began recovering with beverage and eats. The sofa and fluff chair never felt so good. They watched T.V., the talk minimal. Then Jacob said he had to go.
He left to thankful goodbyes.
Cindy had no idea that that would be the last time she would see him. Sandra was the last one. When Jacob and his father were foreclosed on and headed to the cities, Jacob asked if Jube could stay with her. Of course. That was concurred with immediately. She had given him a big hug and with tears in her eyes watched him walk home for the last time. She had implored him to call and stay in contact, but it did not happen. When she tried to find out there whereabouts, she hit dead ends.
The years went by. Cindy became a Physical Therapist, married, and had moved to the west suburbs. Sandra remained on the five acres, with her animals. Jubilee had passed at the age of nine. Sandra buried him in the special animal plot and marked it with his name. She thought of Jacob. He might want to see it someday. When she finished, a memory came to her…a young woman and a boy swinging on a vine. She so prayed that Jacob had found joy in his life somewhere.
Cindy and her husband were passing through a small town which ran parallel to the great Mississippi, known for its artists and artisans. They had stopped to get a bite, and while concluding with a homemade ice cream cone and coffee, they browsed a few of the shops. One had varied prints of pastoral and rural life. As she moved to her left, her eyes followed. She stopped, quietly. The print stared back at her. It was a winter scene, by a large tree. In front was a small stone wall. A young lady was stirrup-ed in a wooded vine, pulled back to its farthest point. A boy held her, as if in a state of tranquility, poised to give her a great running push. The girl was looking down at the boy, and he at the ground. No face could be made out. But she knew.
The print was named, “making memories.”