Monday, August 29, 2005

Part Fifty-One

(Note: This is the first of a multi-part episode.)

Peggy got the call from Raoul at 3 p.m. last Wednesday afternoon. Sunlight was pouring in her office window. It was a spectacular day in Seattle and she was thinking of what she wanted to do over the coming weekend. Mostly she was wondering if she should propose doing something with Raoul, something simple, like a walk in the woods.

"I have to go to New Orleans," he said.


"Tonight, if possible. Fran's best friend is in the hospital and not doing well. I've agreed to take her down there."

Fran was Raoul's sister. Peggy got to know her when they spent a traumatic weekend of rain and flooding at her beach house in Westport, WA. Peggy reflected on how that single weekend had led to so many things: a new closeness between her and Raoul; the coastal task force that she and Raoul had been appointed to; the trip to Washington, D.C., to testify before a House subcommittee on the outcome of the task force's findings; the subsequent road trip to Philadelphia, New York and Maine; the apparent budding romance between Peggy's son, Taylor, and Raoul's daughter, Deidre; the cooling off of Peggy's romance with Raoul following an unfortunate incident in Maine. She thought of all this in the tiny fraction of time that passed after Raoul spoke Fran's name. Peggy had visited with Fran a couple of times since the beach weekend and had found her to be enjoyable company. Like Peggy, she was a widow who missed her late husband dearly.

"I see," said Peggy. "Well, that's good of you to do that. Please give my regards to Fran. Should I call her?"

"I'd like you to do more than call her," he said. "I would like you to come with us, if you can get away."

Peggy hesitated. She knew it wouldn't be a problem as far as her job was concerned. The real question was whether she wanted to go. It was one thing to propose a walk in the woods with Raoul, but a weekend in New Orleans was quite another matter. On the other hand she felt bad for Fran.

"Is this Agnes, the friend she's mentioned often?" asked Peggy, stalling for time.

"Yes. They were college roommates at Tulane University and they've been best friends ever since."

"I didn't realize Fran went to Tulane," said Peggy.

"Agnes's family is a riot. I met several of them when Fran took me down there for Agnes's wedding. Seems like a lifetime ago."

Peggy sighed. She couldn't think of a way to back out gracefully. "I suppose I can get away," she said.

"Thanks. Fran will be very happy to hear that."

"What about you? Are you happy to hear it?"

"Yes. Very much so," he said.

Peggy felt a wave of warmth wash through her.

She broke the news to her boss and then returned to Bainbridge Island on the next ferry. By the time she was packed, Raoul called and said the next flight they could get was at 6 a.m. Thursday morning.

"I've made reservations for all three of us. We should stay at Fran's tonight and take a taxi to the airport in the morning."

"Okay," said Peggy.

When they greeted Fran a few hours later Peggy instantly knew that agreeing to come was the right thing. She was very distraught.

"I don't think I'll get to talk to her again," said Fran, sobbing. "When they got Agnes to the hospital she lost consciousness and now her brain's not working at all."

Peggy hugged Fran.

Raoul said, "We'll get there as soon as we can."

They boarded their flight the next morning, still half asleep following a 3:30 a.m. wake up. After changing planes in Dallas they arrived in New Orleans at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Peggy walked out of the terminal and was almost knocked over by the intensity of the air: the heat and humidity overwhelmed her like a sauna. She felt her clothes instantly cling to every part of her body.

"Wow," said Raoul.

"Reminds me of Agnes," said Fran. "She flourished in this weather. She used to say it 'envelopes you like your mother.'"

Peggy could appreciate the metaphor, but suspected one could only experience that after a lifetime of living in the climate.

The sky was blue and the sun was bright and overpowering as Raoul drove their rental car straight to the hospital. Peggy saw drive-thru daiquiri shops and snow ball stands and signs for strip clubs on Bourbon Street. As soon as they stepped out of the air conditioned car Peggy again felt the heavy, moist air and intense heat. She could not imagine living in it. The concrete sidewalk radiated heat like a furnace, and there was no relief in the shade of a large crepe myrtle tree as they walked under it. Peggy mentally inventoried her luggage to determine whether or not she brought enough of the right clothing.

As they rode an elevator up to the intensive care unit Fran was twisting a handkerchief around her fingers. She trembled visibly. Peggy dreaded the scene that was to come. Fran was pale and quiet. Raoul stood close to his sister, looking as though he were ready to catch her if she fainted. Fran and Agnes were obviously closer than Peggy had realized.

Peggy felt a sense of something all to familiar come over her as she walked down the brightly lit corridors with walls made of shiny ceramic tiles. Her husband was taken to an intensive care unit in Seattle after his stroke and Peggy and her children spent a long anxious night at his side watching him pass away.

They entered a large crowded waiting room. Peggy sensed that an ordeal was beginning.

What she could not possibly imagine at that time was the way in which it would unfold over the next few days.


I am presently writing from Atlanta, GA. Postings could be sporadic this week. This story is still happening.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Part Fifty

Peggy was a little saddened to discover that the soft light illuminating her front yard when she stepped outside was moonlight. At 5:10 in the morning it was dark enough for a half moon to light up the landscape. Gone, she realized, were the brightly lit mornings with blue skies overhead and brilliant orange skies in the east. Winter, and short days, were approaching fast.

But as the ferry departed and made the turn into Puget Sound, Peggy was relieved to see a smudge of reddish brown, like rusty chalk, in the eastern sky, and a jagged line marking the Cascade Range. At least she would get to see some hint of morning on her way to work.

"Paula, that blouse looks familiar," said Peggy as she poured tea from her Thermos and noted Paula's beige top with the distinctive geometric pattern. She also noticed Luke was more attentive toward Paula; the lunch outing must have melted away some of the frostiness that had lingered from the party.

"I bought this cloth after we had lunch at Pike Place Market," said Paula, holding open her jacket so that Peggy and Florence could get a better look at the blouse. Luke turned his head so sharply that Peggy thought he was going to fall out of his seat.

"But that was yesterday," said Florence. "You made it in one night?"

Paula looked embarrassed. "I get obsessed with these projects."

"That's really impressive," said Luke.

"Thanks," said Paula

"I'm surprised Kelly hasn't gotten a picture of it," said Raoul. "He's going nuts with his new camera."

"As a matter of fact I got some great shots of the market," said Kelly. "Here's one of the old produce stands."

"Those stands have been there forever," said Peggy.

"And check out this produce. It's perfect," said Kelly.

"When did you start going to the market?" asked Paula, looking at Peggy.

"We moved here when I was in my twenties, about your age," said Peggy. "In fact, I remember when the first Starbucks opened at Pike Place Market in 1971. It was just a little coffee shop."

"That one still is a little coffee shop," said Kelly.

"But I'm annoyed that they don't sell the lavender Earl Grey tea anymore," said Peggy.

"Where did your family move from?" asked Paula. "I hope I'm not asking too many questions. I'm always fascinated with how people get where they are."

"I like the way you put that. I guess we're all trying to figure out how we got where we are. My family moved to Ballard from California."

"I didn't know you were one of those California transplants," said Florence.

"I try to keep it a secret."

"Where did your family live in California?" asked Paula.

"Sonoma County, near Sebastopol. My father was a chicken farmer, and he grew some grapes, too. My mother was a photographer."

"Peggy showed me some of her mother's pictures," said Raoul. "They're quite interesting."

"What sort of photography did she do?" asked Kelly.

"Nudes," answered Peggy.

"No," said Florence, raising a hand to her mouth.

"It was quite a sensation, even by California standards. She did all of the shooting right on the farm, so I never knew what to expect when I took my friends over to my house."

"Did you, uh, appear in her pictures?" asked Florence.

"No. In fact the few pictures of me that I have were taken by my father. That was because my mother refused to take snapshots. She had an elaborate camera for art photography and a dark room which I was never allowed to enter until I was about fifteen. That didn't bother me, I didn't like the smell of the chemicals anyway."

"I couldn't resist this shot," said Kelly.

They all laughed. "One never knows when such a service might be required," said Raoul.

"Raoul, how did you end up in Seattle?" asked Paula.

"My parents moved to Seattle from Connecticut. My father was in banking and my mother was a Spanish teacher. My father got transferred here when I was a teenager. I was in high school and I remember having a very hard time with the move. You know, leaving friends and all that. I think big events like that have a lasting effect on you."

"I agree," said Paula. "My father was in the Army and we moved all over the place. I wanted so badly just to settle down and make friends in one place."

"Of course, I can't go to the market without getting a photo of the local musical talent," said Kelly.

"I remember him," said Paula. "He was singing a real sad folk song about itinerant farm workers. It was so timeless."

"Maybe we're all itinerant to an extent," said Raoul.

"And if we could we would retrace our steps to figure out how we got where we are," said Peggy.

"Our how we became what we are," said Kelly.

"You're giving me a headache," said Florence.

"I'm still trying to figure out where I'm going," said Luke.

"Or, do you mean, what you're becoming?" said Paula.

"That's too scary," said Luke.

"This requires significantly more coffee, or something stronger," said Florence.

"Is anyone taping this conversation?" said Peggy.

"What happens when Fate brings people together?" said Raoul. "Do you ever get the feeling that your path and someone else's were destined to cross?"

"But the timing matters," said Peggy. She felt him doing it again. He loved to operate at different levels at the same time. Saying one thing to the group, but saying something silently to her.

"Of course," he said. "Think of someone you've crossed paths with. A year earlier or a year later might have resulted in a different outcome. Because your circumstances might have been different. But when it happens at precisely the right time…Bang. It clicks into place."

"I know exactly what you mean," said Florence.

"Yes, so do I," said Peggy. "But sometimes it takes a certain perspective to see it. It's like the forest and tree problem. You have to take a step back to see what's really there."

They looked at each other and then Peggy looked past him and the city looming into view. The sky had brightened considerably and now it was a hot, burning orange color.

They had just reached a silent understanding, she realized. They were taking a step back to see what was really there. And what, she wondered, did she hope she would find?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Part Forty-Nine

"Kelly, have you finished your new bumper sticker?" asked Raoul as they gathered on the morning ferry.

"Still working on it," said Kelly.

"I must have missed that," said Luke. "What bumper sticker?"

"It reads…God Created Evolution," said Kelly.

"You were distracted," Florence said to Luke. "We understand. It's natural among the younger members of the male species when confronted with lovely females." She lightly touched the back of her new hairdo to make sure it was still intact. "Isn't that what they mean by natural selection?"

"It happens among the older males as well," said Peggy, looking up from a pad of paper on which she was writing.

"I thought we said that was natural rejection?" said Florence with a hysterical laugh.

"I hope we aren't going to rehash that one," said Raoul, opening his newspaper with a rattle.

"I thought it was a great party," said Paula.

"How would you know?" said Florence. "I seem to recall that Luke gave you a tour of the beach that lasted an hour. Did you find any new species of evolving life?"

"We were looking for firewood," said Luke.

Florence sighed. "I have many fond memories of searching for firewood on the beach. Seems like the best pieces were hidden in some cozy little alcove. But then I always got sand in my panty hose."

They laughed. Peggy looked up from her writing just as the ferry was making the turn out of Eagle Harbor. The lights of Seattle glistened like jewels against the dark morning sky, and Puget Sound was so calm that the outline of the city was reflected on the water's surface.

"Sounds like you're weighing in on the evolution debate," said Luke to Kelly.

"Since when does Kelly Flinn not weigh in on any debate?" said Raoul.

"Speaking of things evolving, Peggy's turning me into a chef," said Florence. "Are you writing down that blackberry cobbler recipe for me?"

Peggy scribbled on her pad while halfway listening to the conversation. "Yes. With photographs and step-by-step instructions."

"Ooh, let's see," said Florence. She sat between Peggy and Paula; across from them sat Raoul, Kelly and Luke. It was how Raoul's party had ended: the women arranged opposite the men. It was not what Peggy had expected.

"I began the day by picking the blackberries in my backyard," said Peggy to Florence and Paula, who was also listening eagerly.

"I think it's key to pick them the day you use them. Don't you agree?" said Peggy.

"Oh by all means, that's what I always do," said Florence with a giggle. She turned to Paula, "I don't think Peggy understood what she was getting into when she agreed to teach me how to actually bake something."

"Perhaps the mint juleps clouded her judgment," said Paula.

Raoul cleared his throat proudly. "They've been known to do that."

Florence looked at him. "But only to an extent. I would say Peggy and I showed remarkably clear judgment by the end of the evening, especially when it came to selecting things. Or not."

The women laughed while Raoul rolled his eyes. Peggy continued quickly with her narrative.

"I picked berries until I had about two pounds," said Peggy. "They were very plump. Look."

"Ripe and juicy-looking," said Florence.

"These practically fell into the bowl when you touched the bush," said Peggy. "Afterwards I cut up some ripe peaches and combined them with the blackberries until I had about two-and-a-half pounds of fruit. Then I tossed that with a quarter cup of sugar," said Peggy.

"Mmm," said Florence. "It's looking more delicious with each step."

"Let that stand for half an hour, then strain it through a colander. Reserve a quarter-cup of the juice and whisk in a teaspoon of corn starch and a tablespoon of juice from a lemon."

"You don't use lemon juice from a bottle?" said Florence.

"Never. That would be like choosing second best," said Peggy.

"Second best has a low selection rate. Haven't you noticed?" said Florence with a wink.

Peggy sneaked a glance at Raoul, but his attention seemed to be focused on his newspaper. She wasn't comfortable with the way Florence was rubbing it in. The whole incident was nothing really, just a quirky twist of events. At Raoul's party, Peggy found herself competing with Florence for Raoul's attention. Peggy knew it was going to happen, even though she didn't want it to, even though she ordered herself not to fall into that trap. Yet, as she put on her swishy black skirt and the clingy peach-colored top at the beginning of the evening she knew she was dressing for combat. Raoul, meanwhile, seemed to bask in the attention all evening, which Peggy did not find attractive. After all, if two women are going to compete for a man's attention, at least he could act surprised and flattered, instead of smug and confident. Then Raoul stepped on his own foot when he told a sexist joke at which the men had a good laugh while Peggy and Florence looked at each other with revulsion. It addition to being tasteless, it wasn't even funny. Paula, to her credit, joined them out of camaraderie and the evening disintegrated into women and men chatting separately. When they were saying their goodbyes Florence couldn't resist poking fun at Raoul with dumb jokes about "survival of the unfittest." Now, as she was trying to let the whole episode pass, it seemed Peggy had a new bosom buddy in Florence.

"So what happens next?" asked Florence.

"You bake the fruit in a dish for ten minutes. While it's in the oven you make a batch of biscuit dough, but using plain low-fat yogurt instead of milk. Also, these biscuits have extra sugar so they're kind of sweet and buttery."

"There's something about sweet and buttery that's so much more appealing than dry and ornery, don't you agree?" said Florence.

"It's a well known fact," said Paula, "that sweet and buttery members of the species have a higher probability of selection."

Peggy pressed on while Florence and Paula giggled. "When the fruit is hot and bubbly you take the dish out and plop six clumps of biscuit dough on top of the hot fruit. Then you put it back in the oven for about sixteen minutes."

"That's awesome," said Paula. "It sure was tasty."

"Yes, Peggy, it was quite good," said Raoul.

"I like how everything bonds together at the end," said Florence. "It must be the chemistry. I'll bet one dash of the wrong ingredient could uncobble the whole cobbler."

Raoul looked at Kelly and Luke. "You get the feeling they're milking this for all it's worth?"

Luke's face brightened. "There's only one solution."

They all looked at Luke.

"We take them to lunch," he said.

"Now you're talking," said Florence. "You've just increased your chances of being selected."

"Can we go to Pike Place Market?" said Paula.

"That's an excellent selection," said Peggy.

"Okay, lunch it is," Raoul grumbled good-naturedly.

Florence nudged Peggy. "I knew we could wrangle something out of this deal."

Peggy smiled quietly. This was a game to Florence, and she was much better at playing it than Peggy. But Peggy was slowly realizing that it wasn't the kind of game she wanted to play at all. She wanted to be herself and let things fall as they may. She didn't see the point of "landing" a relationship like it was a business deal. She thought, if Raoul falls for these kinds of antics then he's not someone I want to spend time with. It's really up to him, in the long run.

Satisfied that she had clarified her own position, Peggy turned the page of her pad and began a letter to Marjorie. She wondered to herself which was better: selecting, or being selected?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Part Forty-Eight

The call from Taylor came last night while she was washing dishes. Peggy had been dreading it, but she scolded herself because she knew she was thinking only of how Taylor's actions affected her.

"I went to Philadelphia," Taylor had said. Peggy replayed the conversation in her mind as she walked slowly to the ferry.

"Did you have a good time?" she asked, realizing the question had multiple meanings.

"Uh, yeah. It was great. Did Marjorie tell you about it?"

"She mentioned it."

"What did she say?"

"Why don't you tell me about it, Taylor?"

"I went to an art exhibit. And I saw Deidre."

"At the art exhibit?"

"Yes. Well we went together."

"How is her roommate?"

"Fine. She's over the chicken pox."

"Sounds like you have a nice visit."

"Yes. We had fun."

Peggy had the feeling that her son wanted her to know about it and didn't especially want to discuss it. There was nothing to discuss, really, after all, it was only a weekend visit.

"She's coming to Brooklyn next weekend," said Taylor.

Peggy was jolted out of her thoughts. Why is this so difficult, she wondered? What's wrong with me? "I see," she said.

"I'm taking her to an art exhibit."

"I suppose after you've seen all the art exhibits in Philly you would naturally go to Brooklyn. What's next, Chicago?"

"You don't like this, do you?"

"It's not a question of whether I like it. If you two get along then that's great. Who am I to object?"

"You don't like it a bit, I can tell."

"She's a nice young lady, and smart. I'm sure she'll be a great corporate C.E.O. one day and make millions of dollars."

"Mom, I know your voice. You don't like it. I would like to know why."

Peggy was stumped. That was the question: why? "I don't know," she answered. "I have a funny feeling about you and Deidre. I can't put my finger on it. Besides, since when do sons listen to advice from their mothers regarding girlfriends?"

"I didn't say I would follow your advice. I just want to hear it."

"I'm glad we got that straight."

"I mean, it's not serious or anything. She likes it when I explain art to her."

"I didn't know art needed to be explained. I thought you simply experienced it."

"That's the ideal, of course. But some people like to know the historical context and something about the technique."

"Okay so you're bonding at museums and chatting about Vermeer over Thai food. Then what? You know she's on a pretty serious career track. I see her marrying somebody with a Porsche and a really good golf swing."

"I like Porsches."

"Very funny. But you know what I mean. I don't want you to get hurt."

"People don't always think of the future when they like someone. They just do it, and see where it goes."

Peggy had been putting away a tea mug when Taylor said that and she almost dropped it. Maybe I'm too analytical, she thought. I'm analyzing my relationship with Raoul, sizing it up like real estate and trying to make an optimal decision. Maybe it's not that way. But she wondered why she was just figuring that out at age fifty-eight. Perhaps she had been in such a cocoon with her late husband for thirty years that she forgot how to deal with the opposite sex in dating situations. If only Taylor, Sr., were still around. Life would be so much simpler.

"Perhaps you're right, Taylor. I certainly don't have a crystal ball."

"By the way, the other thing I wanted to mention is that I thought Raoul was a lot of fun."

"But you didn't like him at first?"

"I didn't like him based on your descriptions. But when I met him I thought he was pretty neat. With him, you have to get past his sense of humor. He comes across like he has an attitude about everything, but actually I think he's very tolerant and understanding."

"Wow. You got all that in a week?"

"We had a few good chats."

Peggy was perplexed, and a tiny bit elated.

When she joined the others on the ferry she kept silent for a while, listening to the chatter about Raoul's party. Florence was threatening to make something called white lightening punch. Peggy's mind was on Raoul. Maybe I'm the one who has to be more tolerant and understanding, she thought.

"I know what I would like Peggy to bring," said Raoul. They all looked at her. With her eyes on Raoul and had the eerie sensation that he was having a silent conversation with her, a line of unspoken dialogue floated across the space between them.

"Let me guess, blackberry cobbler," said Peggy aloud. And then she sent him a silent reply.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Part Forty-Seven

"Ferdinand, good to see you again," said Peggy.

It was a full house among Peggy's group on the 5:20 a.m. ferry. Ferdinand had returned from teaching at a jazz camp in Idaho Falls. Peggy sat between him and Kelly Flinn. Facing them were Raoul, Florence and Luke. In addition, Luke brought a new person.

"This is Paula," said Luke.

Paula appeared to be in her late-twenties. She glowed with youth and beamed a bright smile at the group, accompanied by a polite wave. They all introduced themselves.

"Paula just joined our company and she lives in a condo on Bainbridge Island," said Luke.

"Welcome to the neighborhood," said Florence as her eyes gave Paula a quick once-over.

"Where did you move from?" asked Peggy.

"I was living in the Bay Area, where I went to grad school," said Paula.

"Paula's our newest engineer," said Luke. "She just graduated from Stanford."

"A lot of girls are going into that, I hear," said Florence. "The current generation isn't satisfied with making coffee for the boss and typing memos."

"Thank goodness," said Peggy.

"Florence, I don't remember you making coffee when you worked at our firm," said Raoul, lowering his newspaper.

"That's because you weren't the boss," said Florence.

Peggy looked across the Sound. The city looked like it did at night: a cluster of lights glowing against a dark sky. She wondered if it was still raining. There had been a refreshing drizzle when she walked to the ferry.

"...the company's growing, but we can't find local people to fill the jobs," Luke was explaining. "We're having to hire from all over the country." Peggy noticed that Paula gazed at Luke in an admiring way. Peggy had always thought he was handsome and smart, and it appeared that Paula saw the same thing.

"I thought the streets were crawling with technical people out of work," said Kelly.

"That's a myth. Lots of jobs are going unfilled right now," said Luke.

"Not music jobs, that's for sure," said Ferdinand.

"How was your jazz camp?" asked Raoul.

"Awesome. I had some great kids. I was thinking of doing one here next Summer," said Ferdinand.

While the others talked, Peggy noticed that Florence was watching Paula carefully, and she, too, saw the admiring gaze directed at Luke and noted Paula's elegant posture as she sat upright on the edge of her seat, like a new employee trying to make a good impression. She was making an impression on Florence.

"Are we giving you enough room, sweetie," said Florence. "I can scoot over." Without waiting for an answer, Florence shifted closer to Raoul, until her bare knees were almost against his legs. Peggy felt the hairs rise on the back of her neck.

Paula adjusted her position and let her bright plaid skirt drape over her knees.

"Your skirt has a unique design," said Peggy. "Who makes that?"

"I made it myself," said Paula. "I took a design for a kilt and adapted it into a skirt." She looked at Luke with an expression of concern. "I hope it's not too loud for the office."

"It's very nice," he said with a glance of approval in the general direction of her legs.

"But it's got all those pleats," said Florence. "Surely you didn't do that."

"It took a lot of time, believe me," Paula said. Then she turned to Peggy. "The cloth came from Scotland; these are my family's colors."

"That's so impressive," said Peggy.

Florence turned to Raoul and leaned against him. "She's a computer engineer who makes her own clothes. I think the younger generation is leaving us in the dust."

Peggy then had the feeling she understood Florence as a woman who can't stand the thought of being alone. She fears losing Luke to someone younger and prettier and her first instinct is to throw herself at Raoul. Florence must be thinking how convenient it is that Raoul is apparently 'up for grabs.'

Peggy congratulated herself on being stronger and more independent. I don't need a man, she thought. I have too many things to keep me busy as it is, books to read, a garden to tend, a kitchen that needs painting. Maybe I'll do wallpaper.

Then Peggy blurted out, "Raoul and I are taking a cooking class."

They looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language. Raoul couldn't wipe the grin off his face. Technically, they hadn't actually agreed to take the class, Peggy had only recently mentioned to him that it was coming up and he had said, 'sounds like fun.'

Florence looked at Peggy through eyes that said, 'you must be kidding me.'

"Raoul made great brownies in Maine," said Peggy, trying to make it sound as though she and Raoul had been kitchen partners for years.

Florence sat up and laid her hand on Raoul's arm. "Really? Why don't you come teach me one day? I have some brownie mix."

"These were from scratch," said Peggy.

"Oh heck, we'll hide the box. That's what I always do."

Raoul laughed. "I've been thinking. We need to have a party. How would everyone like to come to my house this Saturday? You, too, Paula; you're invited."

"She's just getting moved in…" said Florence.

"I'd love to come," said Paula with her winning bright smile.

"Sounds good to me," said Ferdinand.

"Me too," said Kelly.

Luke, Florence and Peggy also agreed.

"Great. I'll give you directions tomorrow," said Raoul. He winked at Peggy. She had the sick feeling that she fell into a trap of her own design.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Part Forty-Six

"I'm still waiting to hear about your Congressional testimony," said Kelly Flinn with a mouthful of currant scone.

Raoul rolled his eyes. "Oh, that."

"Did you meet any important people?" asked Florence, nibbling on the edge of her scone.

"No, but we sure met a lot of unimportant ones," said Raoul.

"Raoul almost got into a fight with a guy from the Sierra Club," said Peggy.

"He was full of this grandiose self-importance that made you want to take a tree branch and clobber him," said Raoul.

"That's one way to get attention," said Luke. He took half of his scone in one bite.

"Unfortunately it was the wrong kind of attention. Raoul almost got us kicked out," said Peggy.

They were on the 5:20 a.m. ferry. Peggy, feeling unexpectedly upbeat, had made scones the night before and brought them in for everyone.

"Okay, I'm getting all that. But what did you actually say?" said Kelly.

Peggy took a sip of her tea. "We each spoke from different parts of the research paper that we had prepared. I talked about multiple uses of land, such as recreation and development, and Raoul talked about legal precedents for converting private land to public land."

"And how was your testimony received?" asked Kelly.

Raoul laughed. "We're not even sure they heard it. We were all in a conference room down the street, speaking to the subcommittee via video teleconference. At the end, some sweaty-looking guy came on camera and thanked us for speaking. Frankly, I think they had the sound turned off."

"Raoul expected more of a dialogue with the elected officials," said Peggy.

"And besides, our issue was a moot point by the time of our testimony," said Raoul.

"You mean, because of the Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain?" asked Kelly.

"The what?" asked Florence.

"Exactly," said Raoul. "They have basically said it is okay to take land from one private owner and give it to another private owner if it can be shown that the transfer benefits the public. Fairly shocking if you ask me."

"But what did that have to do with the flooding here in Washington?" asked Kelly.

"You see," said Peggy. "One argument was that private development never should have been allowed along certain parts of the Washington coast. The property losses people have suffered due to flooding were avoidable, according to that reasoning. So the question is, should the state take that land back, and is that the same as taking land for, say, an energy right of way."

"Hmm," said Kelly. "That's a tough one. I'm always in favor of preserving natural lands. On the other hand, out in the rural areas there are many people barely getting by because all the jobs have moved overseas or to the cities, and small family farms just aren't viable any more. Seems to me the last thing you'd want to do is take their land away to boot."

"I agree," said Peggy.

"On the other hand, once a law is in place, then people with the right knowledge and money can use it to their advantage," said Raoul.

"That would be the business you are in," said Kelly to Raoul.

"That would be the business I'm getting out of," said Raoul. "I made a decision a few weeks ago to leave the world of corporate law and set up a small practice advising nonprofits."

"Is that so?" said Florence, suddenly alert. "Raoul, I simply can't imagine you trading your pin-stripe suit for a pair of khakis and hanging up a little shingle in your driveway."

"As a matter of fact I can't wait to do just that. Within a few weeks I won't be commuting on the ferry any more. I'll be working full time out of my house on Bainbridge Island."

The others reacted with surprise, but not Peggy. Raoul had phoned her to say that he was finished reading a book that she wanted to borrow and he'd bring it in the morning. It struck her that the call was not entirely necessary. She suspected he just wanted to talk. While they were on the phone he mentioned the news about working full time on the island. It was not entirely unexpected: she was with him in D.C. when he first announced his intended career change.

Peggy's reaction was to make scones. She didn't know why she should feel elated about Raoul's news, but she felt a refreshing sense of lightness. Maybe it was because she thought she could be more objective about him when she didn't see him every day. They would have to make an effort to see each other. It would be a test. She welcomed a test.

"And before I forget, here's the book," said Raoul, pulling his copy of 'The Bear Went Over the Mountain' out of his bag and handing it to Peggy. Their eyes met briefly as she took the book. His expression was open and smiling. "It contains some surprising observations about male-female behavior from the point of view of a bear."

"One can never learn too much," said Peggy. And she realized how much she missed his company.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Part Forty-Five

The morning was not completely dark: in the east a dull glow of purple and crimson stretched across the sky. As the ferry eased out into Puget Sound the outlines of the Cascade Range became visible, and the taller buildings of the city skyline gradually emerged.

Peggy stood on the deck watching the first light of day, sipping tea and waiting for her phone to ring. She had played phone tag all weekend with Marjorie. Down below, in the cabin, Raoul and Kelly laughed over a book Raoul was reading. Every other page left Raoul shaking with laughter and saying, 'Listen to this...' Peggy was amused, but she was a little irritated that Raoul was in such a jolly mood.

Her phone vibrated. "Good morning, Marj," said Peggy.

"Finally. It seems like forever since we spoke."

"How's the pregnancy going?"

"I'm settling into it, but I get depressed when I think of the time I have left."

"And then you get to raise the child," said Peggy.

"I'm counting on having a surge of motherly adrenalin to get me through it."

"That plus a couple of good naps," said Peggy.

Then Marjorie changed the subject abruptly. "I've been wanting to ask you what happened in Maine."

"Lot's of things happened," said Peggy quietly.

"I talked to Taylor and he's kind of worried about you. He said you played a trick on someone and the person almost drowned."

"I was only trying to help Taylor," said Peggy. She then told the story of the man who followed them and the incident in which he fell out of his canoe while spying on the house.

"I agree it's kind of scary to be followed, but what were you hoping to accomplish?" asked Marjorie.

"I was angry at the stupidity of it all. Imagine paying good money for someone to follow a kid like Taylor all the way from New York to Maine. Meanwhile there are probably dozen rapists prowling the streets of Brooklyn. Who's following them?"

"Taylor's not a kid, Mom."

"I hardly think that's the point," said Peggy. "I don't like our government spying on its own citizens."

"Taylor's a grown man."

Peggy rubbed her eyes. Five-thirty on a Monday morning was not the time to argue with your adult daughter three thousand miles away. "If he's so grown up then why did he look so stressed out about being questioned by the police?"

"Anyone would be. I didn't see him myself, so I don't know how he looked. But he could have been simply tired. He's doing his art stuff and holding down a job; and maybe he was seeing someone."

"He can't even find his shoes in that apartment of his. How's he going to have a girlfriend?"

"Mom, you're treating him like a kid. Before I got married I was a lot messier than he is, by a long shot. Did you think the same way about me?"

"You're different. You've always been the smart one."

"I have news for you. Taylor is ten times smarter and more creative than I am. We just prioritize things differently. I was into getting good grades. He didn't care about grades, but he did care passionately about the things that interested him."

"So what if I am an overprotective mother? How does that change anything? I still don't approve of my son being followed."

"I know you don't. The real issue is that I don't want you to do something that you might regret. Let's face it, how would you have felt if that man had drowned?"

A thought nagged at Peggy: was she using Taylor as a means of getting angry with Raoul? Was she subconsciously searching for an obstacle to come between them?

"So why are we discussing this on a Monday morning?" Peggy asked.

"Because Taylor is going to call you to tell you something and I don't want you to be shocked. He's an adult, Mom. Don't freak out."

Peggy tensed. She wasn't in the mood for bad news. "What is it?"

"He spent the weekend in Philadelphia."

"What's the big deal about…" Then it hit her. "No. You mean, Deidre?"


"He went to see Deidre?"


"But I hope he realizes that I'm not getting along with Raoul."

"Why should he care about that? That's your business. If he likes Deidre then that's his business."

The sky had grown much lighter and the city was upon them. Peggy traced the city skyline with her eyes from the Space Needle over to downtown.

View of Seattle from ferry at 5:50 a.m. this morning.

Peggy took a calming breath. Best not to rush to any judgments. "Thanks for telling me, Marj. I'll try to behave."

"Okay, Mom. Call me any time."

Peggy returned to the cabin and rejoined Kelly and Raoul. Raoul had tears in his eyes from laughing. He was explaining a scene from 'The Bear Went Over The Mountain,' by William Kotzwinkle. "…you see this bear is hanging around New York City, trying to learn how to act human, and he's with this woman who gets mad at him, and then, listen to this, …' The bear heard the dangerous female sound and reminded himself that male bears who ignore that warning can wind up minus a large patch of fur and skin. So he did what male bears do in such circumstances: he pretended he was looking the other way. ' "

Peggy laughed as she took her seat. She wondered if she had been sending the dangerous female signal. Raoul had, in a sense, been looking the other way for a week.

"How was your call?" said Raoul.

"Oh, just got caught up on things," said Peggy. "Do you think I could borrow that book when you're finished?"

"Sure. In fact, why don't you come to our book club meeting and discuss it with us?"

Peggy was shocked it was the first invitation she had received from him since returning from Maine. "Why, uh, okay, if I finish it in time."

"Knowing you it will be finished in two nights," said Raoul with a friendly smile.

Peggy wondered if Raoul already knew about Deidre and Taylor.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Part Forty-Four

"I always get those bridges confused," said Florence.

"This is the Manhattan Bridge," said Raoul, holding up a photo. "See the tower, toward the right?"

Florence leaned over Raoul's arm more than she needed to, Peggy noticed from the opposite seat on the 5:20 ferry. She felt strangely unconcerned.

"And here's the Brooklyn. The towers are made of granite," said Raoul.

"Which one was built first?" asked Kelly. Peggy looked passed him at the lights of Seattle twinkling in the distance across Puget Sound. It was going to be dark every morning now, she realized. Maybe it was time to start taking a different ferry.

"The Brooklyn Bridge was completed first, in 1883," said Raoul. "It was truly amazing because the East River is really not a river. It's actually tidal sea water, and at the time it was one of the busiest patches of salt water on the planet due to the shipping activity in and out of New York. From the outset the bridge builders believed that what was needed was a great big arch over the river. No drawbridges or anything like that. Sailing ships had to be able to go under it."

Peggy smiled to herself. She remembered Raoul sitting up half the night reading a book about the bridge, and remembered being charmed by his youthful enthusiasm.

"Sounds extremely challenging for the period," said Kelly.

Peggy looked at him. "Fortunately, a woman was in charge."

"Really?" said Florence.

"Yes," said Peggy. "The chief engineer was a man named Roebling. But during early construction the working conditions left him paralyzed. They had been working in large pressurized containers, underwater, to build the foundations of the towers. A lot of men died, and many more got sick, including Roebling. His wife, Emily, took over his duties. She studied mathematics and engineering and directed the construction of the bridge. When it was finished there was a dedication ceremony with the president and the governor, and Emily Roebling was the first person to ride across, with a rooster on her lap."

"A rooster?" said Florence. "I hope she was dressed appropriately."

"Apparently the rooster was some kind of symbol of victory," said Peggy.

"I have an early photo of the Brooklyn Bridge," said Raoul. "You can see how it completely dwarfed everything around it."

(Photo from Library of Congress. Taken in 1900.)

"Where do you walk on the bridge?" said Florence.

"There's a boardwalk. It runs above the roadways, and between them," said Raoul.

Florence squinted through her glasses to see the picture, using that as an excuse to throw her body over Raoul's lap. It was amazing to Peggy how interesting bridges could be. She fumed. It was the audacity of it that got her.

Peggy had made a pact with herself the previous evening: she was not going to do anything about Raoul. It was up to him to salvage the relationship. She enjoyed having her time back, and was relieved to find the solitude so comforting. She visited Eagle Harbor Books ( and found several things she liked, including an outrageously funny novel by Terry Pratchett called Mort. In her current cynical mood, his brand of snappy satire appealed to her. She was also thinking of getting a dog. Someone had suggested a Miniature Schnauzer.

"...I was amazed when I read the cost of the bridge," Raoul was saying. "Fifteen million dollars. Today that wouldn't even buy the worker's compensation insurance."

"I'll bet the workers at the time wished they had had it," said Peggy. "They got paid $2 dollars an hour and worked in horrible conditions."

"Two dollars might have been a good wage at the time," said Raoul.

"I'm sure they didn't have much choice. There were certainly no unions going to bat for them."

"In the age of unions that bridge wouldn't have been built."

"I disagree. It would simply require more time and creativity."

"And money. Unions seem to think it grows on trees."

"You mean it doesn't? When you read in the paper about the board of directors of a company giving a departing executive more than a hundred million dollars even though he didn't do anything but help the company lose money, then you must conclude that money does, in fact, grow on trees."

Kelly and Florence looked like they were watching a tennis match, swiveling their heads to follow the exchange between Peggy and Raoul.

"I thought we were talking about bridges," said Raoul.

"Perhaps we are. You can burn them or build them," said Peggy.

Florence and Kelly turned their heads back to Raoul and waited for the next volley. Raoul sighed. "I think we're at an impass."

"I think I have whiplash," said Florence, rubbing the back of her neck.

"Makes the ferry ride go faster," said Kelly, standing up.

They all stood as Peggy felt the bump of the ferry docking at the Seattle terminal. "Have a good day everybody," Florence said with a grin as she walked away.

"Maybe I'll see you folks at the farmer's market on Saturday," said Kelly to Peggy and Raoul.

Peggy avoided Raoul's gaze as she put her tea Thermos in her bag. "I plan to go early. I want to make sure I get eggs," she said. "I'll look for you."

Then she walked away without looking back.

I found a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge dated 2000 that looks in the same direction as the one above.

Can you spot the difference?


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Part Forty-Three

Peggy could not believe how dark it was at 5:10 in the morning as she walked to the ferry. What had been blue, orange or purple sky before she left for her trip was now black except for an almost imperceptible glow from the East. A very light mist fell on her shoulders as she stepped onto the boat.

Raoul was already in his seat, leaning with his back against the window, dressed in his motorcycle leathers and reading the paper, just as Peggy had first seen him. Kelly Flinn sat across from him. They both looked up as Peggy approached.

"Morning," said Raoul.

"We thought you decided to stay on the other coast," said Kelly.

"Good morning," said Peggy, not to anyone in particular.

Peggy took the seat across from Raoul, next to Kelly. "Not a chance. I went in late on Monday and Tuesday. How are you?"

"I'm fine, thank you. I want to hear all about your congressional testimony."

Raoul looked up from his paper. "They put us two blocks away so they could turn off the sound if they didn't want to listen to us."

"Of course; you wouldn't want facts to get in the way of partisan politics, would you?" said Kelly.

"Hello. Our jet setters are back." Florence entered with a flourish of clicking high heels and bangly things on her wrists. Her hair was a slightly different shade than Peggy had remembered. Jake was in tow, handsome in a dapper suit, seemingly content in his role as a fashion accessory. Raoul shifted his position to make room for them. Florence sat next to him and crossed her legs. It seemed to Peggy that her skirt had gotten even shorter, if that was possible. "I'm dying to hear about your trip," she said.

"Raoul was giving us a first-hand account of our national political process," said Kelly.

"Who cares about politics. Let's see some pictures of Maine. Did you catch a lobster?"

"You don't actually catch them yourself," said Raoul. "They have people who come by in boats and get them out of the water for you. It's really quite civilized."

"I have a picture of the lobsters we ate," said Peggy.

Florence shuddered. "They look like they're still wet."

"Did you do any boating?" asked Jake.

"Most evenings we went out in the canoe," said Peggy. She glanced quickly at Raoul. His eyes met hers briefly. They had especially enjoyed canoeing in the evenings, when the water was often as calm as a pond.

"I see three people in the boat," said Florence.

"As it turned out, my son and Raoul's daughter both joined us for the trip," said Peggy.

"Hmm, how cozy."

"Were you right on the water?" asked Jake.

"My brother got us a deal. I can't wait to thank him by dropping a bowling ball on his foot," said Raoul.

"It was a charming, rustic cabin," said Peggy. "You liked it once you stopped complaining about it."

Raoul looked at Florence. "It had no electricity, no showers and no toilet."

Florence's jaw dropped. "Was it condemned?"

"It had bath tubs. Look, here's a picture of them," said Peggy.

"You bathed in those little things?"

"Actually, we took sun showers," said Peggy. "The house had plastic bags that you fill with water and leave out in the sun to get warm. Then you hang them up in an outdoor shower stall that is very private and protected from the wind. It's a great way to shower."

"Sounds quite reasonable," said Kelly. "I supposed it had an outhouse as well."


"I wouldn't last a day," said Florence. "What if you have to get up in the middle of the night? Do you bring a bow and arrow with you to protect yourself?"

"It's much simpler than that. You have a chamber pot in your room," said Peggy.

"Here we are in the land of flush toilets and you find the one place that doesn't have them," said Florence.

Peggy fished through her pictures. "Actually, we did see one… here."

Florence laughed. "Now I've seen it all. I imagine you called your brother and gave him a piece of your mind," said Florence to Raoul.

"The house didn't have a phone," said Raoul. "You had to take your cell phone down to the beach and climb up on Laughing Lizard rock to make a call."

Florence bent over and held her stomach while she laughed hysterically. She leaned against Raoul. "This is sounding like the vacation from Hell. You guys must have been at each other's throats after a week of that."

Peggy and Raoul looked at each other. There was a sudden lull in the conversation. Florence studied their faces with a shrewd look.

"We had some great sunsets," said Peggy, fishing for a picture.

A chorus of oohs and aahs rose from the group.

"Who's that dancing?" asked Jake.

"A large extended family owned the house next to us," said Florence. "They've been staying there for a hundred years."

"I saw a handwritten blueberry cake recipe tacked to a wall and it was dated 1941," said Raoul.

"They showed us how to roast mackerel over a fire on the beach," said Peggy.

"It all sounds like fun to me," said Kelly.

Florence sighed. "Sounds like an episode of Survivor. Sorry, I'll take a Marriott in New York City any day."

"Now you're talking," said Raoul. "Tomorrow I'll show you some nice pictures I took on the Brooklyn Bridge."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Synopsis (Parts 31-42)

We have come to a major milestone in the story of Peggy and Raoul, and now it's time to get serious about the Writing Contest. What are we going to do with these two? Is their relationship one that can flourish like the proverbial fruit on the vine, or will it whither away into a damp heap of old rhododendron blossoms?

Before we tackle these questions, let's consider where we are in the story. The last 12 parts have dealt mostly with The Trip. It began with a cloud hanging over Peggy: there was an indication that Raoul's daughter, Deidre, regarded Peggy as an unwelcome intrusion into their lives. With that in mind, they set out for Washington, D.C., and had some up and down moments in the nation's capitol, mostly due to Raoul behaving like the bad boy on a school field trip. Their main purpose for going to D.C. was to testify before a House energy subcommittee on issues related to private property rights. Incidentally, although their hearing was fictitious, the context for it was the Energy Bill that was just signed into law this week. Some of the hearings for that bill, which was called H.R. 6 in the House, were going on while Peggy and Raoul were in D.C. In future episodes I will cover some of the substance of their testimony.

While in the D.C. area they enjoyed some nice visiting with Peggy's daughter, Marjorie, who seems so wise for a young mother-to-be. Maybe that's just Peggy's perception. There were some nice episodes in Old Town Alexandria and at the Tabard Inn in downtown D.C. They also went to a Washington Nationals game, at which Raoul was physically ejected for annoying the Director of Homeland Security. However, the D.C. visit ended on a happy note when Raoul 'fessed up to the error of his ways. Also, a very important development happens with Raoul: he has given notice with his law firm and is planning to set up a small practice doing legal work for nonprofits. He is especially interested in the arts community. This is something that Peggy has dreamed of, and she is very excited.

Next stop on their journey was Philadelphia, where they visited Deidre. Peggy was on pins and needles, but as it turned out Deidre was really just looking out for her father and wanted to make sure Peggy wasn't some kind of gold-digging hussy out to hurt poor old Raoul. They had a nice stay at a B-and-B and a wonderful evening with Deidre and her roommate, Dirksy. Peggy bonded with them pretty well once they opened up and had some good conversation while Raoul was doing a good job of wandering around and being absent from the table.

(Just an aside… I'm back on the 5:20 a.m. ferry and the view of Seattle is eerie. A very dense fog hovers about a hundred feet above the water. Below that it's clear. I can see the bottom of the space needle, and the lower stories of several office buildings, but above a certain point the city disappears into the fog.)

In Brooklyn they visit Peggy's son, Taylor. This is where a series of events begins that seriously impacts the relationship between Peggy and Raoul. It turns out that some of Taylor's art work has attracted the attention of the police department because one of his subjects is a Pakistani immigrant who is suspected of having ties to terrorist groups. Peggy is very worried about her son and talks Raoul into letting Taylor accompany them on their trip to Maine. Then Raoul gets a call from Deidre. Turns out her roommate has chicken pox. In the end, Peggy and Raoul are accompanied on their "romantic getaway" to New England by Taylor and Deidre. In addition they have a third, uninvited guest: a mystery character wearing a Yankees baseball cap follows them from Brooklyn all the way to Maine.

The final three parts take place in Maine in a fictitious location called Osprey Island, which looks out on a fictitious body of water called Indian Cove. All other locations mentioned are real, such as Blue Hill, Stonington, Penobscot Bay, Camden, and so on. I have many nice pictures but I could not work them into the story line. However, you will see them when Peggy recounts her Maine adventures with the old gang on the ferry: Kelly Flinn, Ferdinand, Florence and Jake.

The most important outcome of the Maine episode is the confrontation between Peggy and Raoul over the mystery character who followed them to Maine. Please read the episode to understand what happened. What is important is that Peggy and Raoul are at a point where either one of them could potentially take or leave the relationship.

Now we're back on Bainbridge Island, commuting to Seattle. We're in the home stretch of the story. I am planning to publish the final episode during the last week in September, 2005, which is about eight weeks away. However, I would like input from you, the reader, and I'm offering a $100 gift certificate for the best suggestion, as determined by a "blind" process. If you think Peggy and Raoul should end up "together" in some way, then how does it happen? If you think they should end up "apart" in some way, then how does that happen? If your answer is "apart" then they can't simply stop talking to each other. Peggy, especially, must find some internal peace with herself. Actually, she must find peace with herself either way! She is the main character. We must understand why she does what she does. With Raoul we are mostly concerned with things we can see and hear: his actions and words. We don't know his thoughts unless he vocalizes them. Therefore it's not as critical that we learn Raoul's innermost needs and desires. His actions are only important in terms of how they are perceived by Peggy.

Here's a tip: the title of the story is Peggy Finds A Friend, but that friend might not be Raoul, it could be herself.

Simple, isn't it? So get writing!

Please visit the following links to learn more.

The Writing Contest page will be posted here. At the moment it doesn't say much, but very soon it will contain detailed instructions on how to submit your entry for the contest. Please join the mailing list and you will receive more information.

To get more background on the story, please read Synopsis (Parts 21-30) followed by Parts Thirty-One through Forty-Two in order. That will take you through the Maine episode in a logical sequence.

If you wish to read the entire story from the beginning, the easiest way to do it is here, where all the parts are available on one page so you don't have to click the mouse so many times.

I would like to thank all of you who have provided comments and emails about Peggy Finds A Friend. Your thoughts and suggestions have been extremely valuable. I am amazed and grateful at how carefully you are following the story. Thanks.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Part Forty-Two

(Continued from Part Forty-One. This concludes the Maine episode and the trip to the East Coast.)

It was a quiet morning on Osprey Island in Maine. Taylor was in the shade of an ancient elderberry tree, busy with his sketch pad and charcoal pencils, producing a drawing of Raoul. He was doing this from memory, because Raoul himself was in the kitchen making blueberry brownies. Deidre was also in the yard, tackling the screen door project. She had propped the door on two carpenter's horses behind the house and was carefully lifting the thin strips of old wood so she could tack down a fresh piece of screen. She occasionally looked over at Taylor, absorbed in his drawing, and she wondered what his interpretation of her father would be. She almost didn't want to know. She had discovered that Taylor had a sardonic sense of humor that she found jarring but refreshing compared to her stuffy routine at The Wharton School.

Peggy, meanwhile, was hidden in a patch of spruce forest near the shore. She had a battery-operated music player with relatively large speakers; it was capable of significant volume when turned up loud enough. She also had a pair of binoculars.

She looked at her watch. It was almost time. She heard footsteps behind her. Raoul came down the path.

"Brownies are in the oven," he said.

"Our friend is due at any moment," said Peggy.

"This guy must be a real amateur," said Raoul. "He's been paddling in front of our house several times a day. Does he imagine for a moment that we would mistake him for a lobsterman?"

"Who knows. We're dealing with the government here." Peggy saw a movement on the water, then the bow of a canoe was visible through the trees. She raised the binoculars to her eyes. "That's him. Right on schedule."

The man wore a hat. Peggy studied him through the glasses, and noticed that the hat was new. It had Eaton's Lobster Pool stitched on the front. He had been hatless for a few days after the incident on the roadway with the Crannies.

Peggy lowered the glasses. "Here we go," she said.

The music player was mounted on a sturdy tree branch, facing the water. She pushed a button. The sound that filled the air was unlike anything that anyone vacationing on Osprey Island was likely to hear on a typical summer morning.

Click here to listen.

It was Athan, an Islamic call to prayer. Even though the hour was well past sunrise, Peggy had chosen the first prayer because it sounded more dramatic to her. She figured the man in the boat would not know the difference anyway.

The man's reaction was instantaneous. The moment the eerie chant reached his ears he sat up like someone had called his name on a loudspeaker. Then he stood, causing his canoe to rock. He had a pair of binoculars, which he raised quickly to his eyes and scanned the shoreline and the house while trying to maintain his balance. Peggy had anticipated as much: the plan was for him to see nothing but an empty-looking house and yard.

Peggy looked at Raoul. He had his camera raised and was firing off picture after picture. She giggled. "I wonder what's going through his mind. Maybe he thinks we're holding the first annual Osprey Island Jihad Conference."

Raoul looked at her. "Now I know where Taylor gets it. You have a rebellious streak in you, don't you? You like to challenge the system."

"The system needs to be challenged, it was designed by men. Women can't play nice if they want to be noticed."

Raoul lowered his camera, as though struck by a thought. "Can I ask you a very personal question?"


"What did your late husband think of your views?"

"He was very supportive of them," said Peggy.

Then they heard a commotion on the cove. They both turned and saw the man trying to talk into a cell phone while looking through the binos. But meanwhile the canoe had drifted into the outer tip of Laughing Lizard rock. The collision was just enough to through the man off balance. He cried out as he fell into the water.

Raoul tossed his camera down. "I'd better check on him." He rushed down to the shore. Peggy followed.

The man waved his arms frantically, trying to grip the edge of the canoe. He managed to shove it away from him. Peggy saw fear in his face. The cold water must have shocked him, she thought.

Raoul scrambled over the rock and down the other side. The tide was halfway up the face of the rock.

"Can you reach my hand?" Raoul called out, stretching.

"My legs won't move," said the man, gasping.

Raoul crawled down the rock. The man was going under. Raoul leaped into the water and grabbed one of the man's arms. He dragged him toward the rock. Peggy was there waiting. Raoul got a foothold and climbed onto the rock, dragging the man with him.

"Give me your other hand," said Peggy.

Together Raoul and Peggy pulled the man onto the rock. By this time Deidre and Taylor were on the shore.

"The tide's coming in fast," yelled Deidre.

"Taylor, take the kayak and see if you can retrieve that canoe," said Raoul.

Taylor ran off toward the spot where the kayaks were beached.

"We have to get off this rock," said Raoul. "It's going to be underwater in a little while. Can you walk to shore?"

The man nodded. They helped him down the shore-side of the rock and onto the beach, above the tide line. He sunk to his knees and took deep breaths.

Peggy waited a moment, then said, "What were you doing out there? Why have you been following us around?"

"What makes you think I was following you?"

"Because we saw you in Camden, then again in Searsport, and our neighbors helped you get your car unstuck at the bridge, and you've been paddling your canoe past our house everyday."

"You saw me in Camden? And Searsport?" The man had a dejected look on his face. "I had no idea."

Peggy felt herself grow hot with anger. "Well?"

"I'm doing a favor for my brother-in-law. He owns a private investigative service and he has a contract to check up on people who might have ties to terrorism. But he has more work than he can handle, so he asked me if I want to make a few hundred bucks following that guy right out there." He pointed to Taylor, who was towing the canoe.

"Who is your brother-in-law working for?" asked Peggy.

"I don't know. He never says who his clients are," said the man.

When the canoe was ashore, Peggy said, "I want you to get in that canoe and go away and not come back. Or else I'm going to call the police."

The man shrugged. "Sorry. It was a lousy job anyway." He climbed into his canoe and paddled away quickly.

Raoul looked at Peggy. "He could have drowned."

"He should have thought of that ahead of time," said Peggy.

"You were playing a dangerous game in my opinion," said Raoul.

"What would you have done?"

"My suggestion was to simply go out and wave him in and ask him what he was doing?" said Raoul.

Deidre turned to go. "I think there's something in the oven." Taylor followed her back to the house.

"I didn't like that suggestion," said Peggy. "I thought he needed to be taught a lesson."

"Sounds like an emotional reaction to me," said Raoul.

"I didn't stop to analyze it."

"Sometimes that kind of confrontational approach can work against you," said Raoul.

"Don't start lecturing to me. My son's being hounded by the police and I'm angry. And this is my way of getting even."

"I can't say I'm a fan of your methods," said Raoul.

"That's perfectly fine with me. I don't need a fan club."

The brownies were burned.

The next day the party said goodbye to the Crannies and drove to Portland, Maine, where they boarded trains and planes for points south and west. Peggy and Raoul hardly said a word on the long flight to Seattle. They took a taxi from the airport to the ferry terminal and then walked onto the Bainbridge Island ferry. It was evening. Peggy gazed at a full sky of stars over Puget Sound and it reminded her of the clear nights in Maine. She was happy to have a place like Bainbridge to come back to.

When the ferry docked Peggy and Raoul walked down the ramp. Raoul got a taxi and offered to take Peggy home, but Peggy said that she was okay lugging her suitcase-on-wheels up the road to her house. They said goodbye.

She opened all the windows of her house when she got inside and then walked barefoot in the backyard to look at her garden, even though it was dark. The dry grass crackled and crunched beneath her feet. Fortunately, her neighbor had watered the flowers and plants, and Peggy could see that her tomato plants were heavy with small yellow fruit.

In the kitchen she made red herb tea and sat at the table, and enjoyed the silence of the house.

She breathed a sigh of relief, happy to be alone.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Part Forty-One

(Continued from Part Forty)

Peggy felt her heart beat slightly faster with each step. The trail up Cadillac Mountain in the Acadia National Forest had been kind in some spots: easy walking over flat expanses of granite, or pleasant strolling beneath shaded groves of birch trees. But those stretches would quickly give way to steep inclines studded with boulders and rocks of different sizes. Peggy had to choose her steps carefully to avoid twisting an ankle. When the trail was exposed they felt a brilliant sun beating down on them, even though it was only seven o'clock in the morning.

But they were also treated to spectacular views.

"We haven't lost the trail, have we?" said Raoul behind her.

Since Peggy happened to be in the lead it was her job to watch out for the blue blazes and cairns of rock that marked the trail.

"I wouldn't be too concerned," said Peggy. "If we get lost we can live on blueberries."

They had been stopping frequently to eat wild blueberries that grew along the trail. It provided a welcome excuse to rest. "As a matter of fact, there's a lovely patch of berries right here," said Peggy as she plopped down on a flat rock and picked at the low bushes. Raoul, Deidre and Taylor gladly followed her example.

"Mmm, these are so sweet," said Deidre. "I can't believe they're just growing wild along the trail."


"Didn't I promise to take you blueberry picking?" said Raoul to Peggy.

"This doesn't count. I want a couple of quarts so I can make a pie and some muffins," said Peggy.

"Not to mention blueberry brownies," said Raoul.

After several minutes Deidre stood up. "I'm ready. If I sit down any longer I'll never get up."

"First one to the top gets to take a shower," said Peggy.

They laughed, and Peggy was glad to hear some cheer in their voices. As they continued their ascent to the summit of Cadillac, Peggy realized that a challenging walk was just what the group needed after a stressful couple of days.

It had started with the house. Moments after arriving on Osprey Island, Raoul unlocked the front door to the vacation house that Dale, his brother, had arranged for them. Peggy, Deidre and Taylor followed him in.

The front rooms, facing Indian Cove, were filled with light and painted in soft colors. Comfortable-looking chairs and sofas had been arranged around broad picture windows. They explored the main floor and the upstairs bedrooms and the kitchen and dining room.

"I can't find any light switches," said Raoul.

"I think we're supposed use these gas lamps," said Peggy, pointing to a lamp that consisted of a glass bulb with a cloth mantle in it.

"And there's a gas stove in the kitchen," said Taylor.

Raoul prowled on the floor behind chairs and bookcases. "I can't find a single electrical outlet."

"The refrigerator works," said Deidre. "I hear it humming."

Raoul looked behind the refrigerator. "But it's not plugged into anything. All I see are copper tubes."

Taylor opened the refrigerator, which contained, among other things, several bottles of Geary's pale ale, a local Maine beer. Taylor peered at some printed information near the bottom of the unit. "It's gas powered," he said.

"Look, I found the instructions to the house," said Deidre holding up a three-ring binder. She opened it up and read the first page. "Everything is gas powered."

"I can't believe this. I'm calling Dale," said Raoul. He took out his cell phone and looked at it with disbelief. "No cell service! Guess I'll have to use his phone. Serves him right anyway."

"Good luck finding one," said Taylor.

Deidre pointed to a spot on the page she was reading. "Says here there's no phone in the house. But if you walk out to Laughing Lizard rock at low tide you can get a cell phone signal."

"How considerate of him."

"Come on, dear, let's go see what the tide is doing," said Peggy.

They walked out onto the grassy bluff in front of the house and then down a path to a rocky beach. Peggy noticed wet clumps of seaweed strewn over great granite boulders. She pointed to an odd rock formation.

"That looks like a lizard," said Peggy.

"And it's laughing at us," said Raoul. "Must be Dale's little joke."

The lizard was wet and dark. Peggy guessed that at high tide the rock would be completely submerged. Raoul walked over the beach and climbed to the top of the rock, grunting a bit as he did so.

"Whew," he said. "I'm not ten years old anymore."

He looked at his cell phone. "Got a signal!"

Peggy watched Raoul balance himself on the rock while he dialed his phone. She tried to imagine him stranded on a desert island. It made her laugh. She walked closer to the water's edge and slipped out of her shoes and dipped her toe into the clear, greenish water.

"Ooh," she gasped. It was frigid. So much for swimming.

"What do you mean you don't stay here..." Raoul was saying.

Peggy heard someone shouting; she looked up. Several children down the beach were trying to skip stones on the surface of the water. A dog jumped after the stones, hopelessly trying to fetch them.

"Come back, Bug," the child called to the swimming dog.

Raoul came down from the rock. "Are you ready for this? Dale has only stayed here one time in three years."

"Then why is he a part-owner of it?"

"He said he got a good deal on the house and he keeps it rented constantly, and I'm quoting here, 'to those little-house-on-the-prairie types.' It's strictly an investment."

"I see. We can't complain. He's letting us stay for free," said Peggy.

"It's not due to brotherly love, trust me. People pay a large non-refundable deposit when they book the place. So he really wasn't losing too much." Raoul looked down the beach at the children. "That's probably the Crannie family. Dale says if we have any questions about rustic country living just ask them. They've been coming here for a hundred years."

"Must be a lot of history on that spot," said Peggy.

Later they sat on the porch drinking the Geary's and discussing dinner. They heard a car pull up. It was the old Volvo station wagon that they had seen on the one-lane bridge. A regal-looking, white-haired woman in a sun dress and straw hat approached the porch. She was accompanied by a stooped man with a walking stick.

"I'm Bunny Crannie," said the woman. "This is my husband, Roland Hadley. We stay in the next house over. I understand one of you is a relative of Dale Stein's?"

"That would be me," said Raoul. He introduced the members of the group, then said, "Did you say your name was Bunny?"

She laughed a small delicate laugh that reminded Peggy of a fancy tea party. Peggy noticed that Bunny had an embroidered lace handkerchief protruding from the pocket of her sun dress. "Bunatine is the full name. It was my mother's name. My father was Horace Crannie, who held the Ernestine Tubby chair of economics at Williams College."

Bunny squinted her eyes and looked at them all very carefully as though she were trying to sort out who goes with who, then she smiled brightly. "We sometimes pick up things for Dale."

"Got some screen in the car," said Roland, clearing his throat loudly.

"Screen?" said Raoul.

"For the back door. The last family had a dog that poked his head through it. Dale said you were going to patch it up."

"Oh? He did?"

"Of course we'll patch it up," said Peggy.

"Noticed your friend got stuck," said Roland.

"What friend?" said Peggy.

"Fellow came in behind you back there at the bridge. I was pulling over to make room for him and he went off the road. Had plenty of room if you ask me."

"He certainly wasn't very courteous," said Bunny.

"I'm afraid I don't know who you mean?" said Peggy. "This is our entire party."

"Roland, didn't the man say he was with the group in the blue car?"

"Yes, Bunny. Sure did. Because we know everybody staying on the island and he couldn't tell us which house he was going to."

Peggy's mind raced. Then an idea popped into her head. "Was the man wearing a baseball cap?"

"As a matter of fact he was," said Roland.

Peggy and Deidre looked at each other. They were thinking the same thing. "Was it a Yankees hat?" asked Peggy.

"Being a Red Sox fan I naturally thought it was a matter of course that a Yankees fan would drive his car into a swamp. The hat fell off his head while we were getting the car out, and then he ran over it. Guess I would do the same thing if I had a Yankees hat."

Then Bunny looked at the sun that was getting lower in the sky. "We'd better get back, Roland. I wanted to get a blueberry cake in the oven before dinner."

Peggy said, "Could you tell us where to pick blueberries?"

"Sure," said Bunny. "I'll write down a couple of places for you."

They left. Then Peggy turned immediately to Taylor. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"What are you thinking, Mom?"

"It's too much of a coincidence that we would see a man with a Yankees hat in Camden, and then in Searsport, and now on a tiny one-lane bridge leading to Osprey Island."

Raoul slapped his forehead. "Of course. Why didn't I think of that?"

"Do you mean we're being followed?" said Taylor.

Peggy nodded solemnly. Deidre looked disgusted. "You'd think they have better things to do."

Raoul said, "On the other hand, what can they do here? It's not like the guy can hang out by the drugstore and wait for us to walk by. He's going to arouse suspicion. The Crannies have already noticed him. He must be very inept."

"Let's not worry about it," said Peggy. "I'm here for a vacation and I intend to have one. And if the Department of Homeland Security wants to join me, they can go right ahead."


"I can see the summit," said Peggy excitedly.

Fifteen minutes later they took their final steps onto the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Peggy whirled around: she could see a striking vista of ocean and forests and mountains in almost every direction. The day was stunningly clear. She noticed a family had arrived ahead of them. Peggy pointed out a young girl sleeping on a rock.

"Looks like we're not the only tired ones," Peggy said.

Raoul gave Peggy a hug. "This was a great idea. I'm so happy that you talked us into it."

"Thanks for being a good sport. Are you having fun?"

"I am," said Raoul. "I'm starting to get the hang of rustic living. If only we didn't have to put up with that Homeland Security guy paddling his canoe past our house."

Peggy narrowed her eyes. "I've been thinking of how we might have a little fun with him..."


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Part Forty

(Continued from Part Thirty-Nine)

"Could someone please explain what a crab roll is?" said Taylor.

They were driving north on U.S. 1 in Maine, along Penobscot Bay.

"It's kind of like a crab salad on a hot dog bun," said Deidre.

"What a perfect day," said Peggy. "Look how blue the water is."

"It's perfect all right, we're getting a tour of all the scenic traffic jams between Brunswick and Bar Harbor," grumbled Raoul.

"Actually, I think we missed one when we got lost in Camden," said Taylor.

"But at least we found the refrigerator magnet that Dale's wife wanted," said Peggy.

"She only has two hundred of them, poor thing," said Raoul.

"That crab roll sounds pretty good," said Taylor.

"I wonder if we can get it on toasted whole wheat," said Peggy.

"I think it's a against the law," said Deidre.

When they crossed the bridge at Belfast Peggy snapped a picture of the harbor.

"How charming," said Peggy. "I wonder what people do here."

"I think they all work in a credit card processing center," said Taylor. "I read that some company put one here because there was an abundance of cheap labor, and the people sound friendly on the phone."

When they got to Searsport Raoul stopped at a small restaurant. "Lunch, folks."

They found seats with a view of the water. Peggy noticed a large old house nearby that had been converted into an attractive bed-and-breakfast and was about to comment on it when Deidre said in a low voice, "What a small world."

"What do you mean?" asked Peggy.

"There's a man sitting at a table over there who was also in the souvenir shop where we bought the refrigerator magnet," Deidre said.

Peggy pretended to reach for her purse and glanced over her shoulder at a man wearing a Yankees baseball cap. "Of course," Peggy whispered. "He knocked over a display of plastic lobsters that sang an Elvis tune when you squeezed their claws."

"I thought I was being tortured," said Raoul.

Deidre grinned. "Then the lady fussed at him for taking too many free samples of maple candy."

"My, you two are certainly observant," said Raoul.

"I love watching people," said Deidre.

"I like drawing pictures of them," said Taylor.

Deidre looked at Taylor. "Do you think you draw a picture of my Dad while we're in Maine?"

"Um, sure. I brought my supplies with me."

Raoul frowned, "I've noticed how some portrait artists specialize in bringing out a person's least flattering qualities."

Peggy patted him on the arm. "Fortunately, you don't have any unflattering qualities."

"At least not the kind you can draw," said Raoul.

After lunch they continued their journey around Penobscot Bay. They crossed another high bridge at Bucksport and then drove south to the town of Blue Hill.

"I've always wanted to come to Blue Hill," said Raoul.

"Oh. What's here?" asked Peggy.

"A very famous chamber music festival."

"You must mean Kneisel Hall. Dirksy has been to it," said Deidre. "She says we should go to a concert if we have time."

"Let's see what's on the radio," said Raoul, reaching for the dial. "Speaking of chamber music...aah, nothing like a little Haydn with my Maine coastal landscape."

Click here to listen.

They passed through the picturesque town of Blue Hill and then over rolling hills with slopes of granite boulders and spruce forests that stretched south toward Stonington. Peggy saw signs for art galleries, blueberries, pottery shops, stone yards, jams and jellies, and homemade pies. She began a mental list of things that she wanted to do while in Maine.

"I hope we have time to pick blueberries," said Peggy.

"I'm going to need some directions," said Raoul. "Are we almost to Oyster Island?"

"It's called Osprey Island," said Peggy.

She took out a page of scribbled directions that they had received from Raoul's brother, Dale. Dale was part owner of a vacation house that happened to be vacant because the family that was scheduled to use it had to cancel. 'You'll love the view,' Dale had said.

Peggy gave directions while Raoul negotiated a series of winding roads, each one narrower and more rural than the one before it.

"When's this going to end?" asked Raoul.

Finally they approached a one-lane bridge with a stop sign. Raoul waited while an old Volvo station wagon came across from the opposite direction. The occupants waved as they passed.

"I wonder if that's the Crannies," said Peggy.

"Who?" said Taylor.

"The Crannies have the house next to Uncle Dale's house," said Deidre.

"I heard they have about thirty children," said Raoul.

"It's several different families, all related, I believe," said Peggy.

Raoul crossed the bridge and then drove onto a narrow black-top road. "We're officially on Oyster Island."

"It's Osprey Island," Peggy said. "Don't start making fun of things." After half a mile, Peggy held up her hand. "Okay turn right onto this driveway."

"What driveway?"

"Right there. See the little dirt road."

"I think that's a footpath."

"It's a driveway."

Raoul sighed as he eased the car onto the dirt-and-gravel surface and then drove slowly down a long one-lane driveway. Rocks crunched under the wheels as they glided beneath a dark canopy of spruce trees broken up occasionally by brilliant shafts of sunlight.

"It's like an enchanted forest," said Deidre.

The driveway split in several directions, and Peggy directed Raoul down the middle road. They drove passed moss-covered boulders, tall green ferns and fallen logs. After several more turns, they came upon a house perched on a bluff overlooking a body of blue water.

"That must be Indian Cove," said Peggy.

"Wow. We're actually staying here?" said Taylor.

"Awesome," said Deidre.

They got out of the car and walked across a grassy yard toward the house and the water.

"The only sound I hear is the lapping of the water against the rocks," said Peggy dreamily. She breathed deeply and closed her eyes.

"And a slight breeze through the trees," said Taylor.

Raoul shook his head. "I can't believe my brother would even consider a place like this. It has no tee-shirt shops and bad restaurants."

"Actually," said Deidre. "I heard Uncle Dale got it for dirt cheap."

"That figures," said Raoul. "Wouldn't it be funny if it didn't have electricity or running water?"

"He would've told us that," said Deidre.

"Look," said Peggy, "a lobster boat."

"Perfect timing," said Raoul. "I'm ready for dinner. Let's go investigate the house."


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Part Thirty-Nine

"At last, a real hotel," said Raoul as they steered into the driveway of a Marriott in Brooklyn, New York.

"Admit it, you've enjoyed all of our lodgings thus far," said Peggy.

"True, but now we get an indoor pool, and a bar, and people racing to see who gets to serve us first."

Peggy rolled her eyes. "You're going to be impossible after this."

A uniformed attendant opened Raoul's car door. Another opened Peggy's.

"What time do we meet Taylor?" asked Raoul as they were riding up an escalator.

"Around six-thirty," said Peggy. "In the Park Slope area."

"Great. We have time for a swim."

Once they were shown to their room, Peggy and Raoul changed into swimsuits and went to the pool.

"Aah, I've been waiting for this since we left D.C.," said Raoul after plunging into the clear water and coming up with rivulets trailing down his hair and beard.

Peggy smiled as she treaded water with gentle strokes. She was happy to see him having a good time; she hoped it lasted until he met Taylor. She never knew what her son's mood might be, and she had imagined the worst scenarios, like Taylor and Raoul getting into a fight over politics.

A couple of hours later a taxi dropped them off at the intersection of Seventh Ave and Third St. Taylor was waiting for them in front of a playground that was crowded with children and parents and strollers.

"Hello, Taylor," said Peggy. They hugged each other warmly. He stood almost a head taller. She looked up at him carefully and decided he wasn't getting enough sleep. She also thought he looked worried about something. "Taylor this is Raoul Stein. Raoul, Taylor."

They shook hands. "Good to meet you, Taylor," said Raoul.

"Um, likewise."

"I love your neighborhood," said Peggy. "I wasn't expecting so many families."

"Brooklyn has really become the in place to live," said Taylor. "But of course that drives up the rent."

They walked down Seventh Ave and then turned down a side street toward Prospect Park. Peggy was impressed with the tree-lined streets and the elegant-looking brownstones.

"I'm ashamed to say I haven't visited Taylor since he moved here," said Peggy.

"You've had a busy year, Mom."

They stopped in front of a brownstone with a small garden in the front. "I have a basement apartment here," said Taylor.

"Are we going in?" asked Raoul.

"I thought we would eat first, but don't eat too much or we won't fit into the apartment."

They laughed and continued toward the park, where a music festival was gearing up, and then back toward Seventh Ave via Second St, finally stopping at a pizza place called Two Boots. (

"Best pizza in Brooklyn," said Taylor.

"Exactly what I had in mind," said Raoul. Peggy looked at him with surprise; she knew he really wanted a steak dinner at the hotel restaurant. She gave him a point for being a good sport.

"I would love to hear more about your art projects," said Raoul after they had ordered pizza.

"Are you sure?"

"Why wouldn't I be sure?"

"My work is becoming notorious in, uh, some circles."

"Taylor, what do you mean?" asked Peggy.

"I'm working on what I call the Melting Pot series. It's kind of a documentary in the form of sketches. I focus on immigrants."

Raoul shrugged. "Sounds like a worthwhile venture. I'm descended from German and Spanish immigrants. I suppose we all are in some way."

"That was one wave of immigration, mostly European. The country needed people for manufacturing and farming. We wanted them to come. Now we have another wave of immigrants. A lot of Muslims, for example, and people from Bolivia and Nicaragua. We don't want them as much. We don't have jobs for them because we are moving so many jobs out of the country."

"So they're stuck driving cabs and mopping floors," said Peggy.

"Those are the lucky ones," said Taylor.

"I still don't see why that would make your work controversial," said Raoul.

"Unfortunately, one of my subjects has been arrested for being a suspected terrorist," said Taylor.

Peggy involuntarily raised a hand to her mouth. "You didn't tell me that. No wonder you're not getting any sleep."

"How did you know I wasn't getting any sleep?"

"I'm your mother. It's my job to know these things."

"How well did you know the person?" asked Raoul.

"I didn't know him personally. I started hanging around neighborhoods with lots of immigrants, and doing sketches and stuff, and pretty soon I had a nice series going about a family that was looking for work. And then the cops came to my apartment and they had a photograph of me drawing a picture of a man sitting on a park bench. They wanted to know if I knew the man. I said I didn't know him, other than that he was from Pakistan and was looking for work. I saw his picture in the paper a few days later and it said he was arrested for having ties to a terrorist group."

"Do you think he did?" asked Raoul.

Taylor shrugged. "There's no way of knowing. How can you tell? How can anybody tell? The police are grasping at straws if you ask me."

"This Patriot Act stuff is getting completely out of hand," said Peggy with a worried expression.

"Are the police still talking to you?" asked Raoul.

"They came back a second time and showed me some pictures of other people, wanted to know if I knew any of them. I didn't." Taylor cleared his throat and looked at them hesitantly. "But, uh, I was thinking this might be a good time to take a little break from the city. You know. Maybe leave town for a little while until things calm town."

The pizza came and they all dived in hungrily. Peggy deliberately changed the subject and told Taylor about their trip to Washington, D.C., and visiting Marjorie. In the back of her mind she was forming a plan. When they were finished eating, Taylor excused himself from the table. Peggy immediately turned to Raoul.

"I think Taylor's right. He should leave town for a while," said Peggy.

"I'm not so sure. Might send the wrong signal."

"I can't stand the thought of him being hounded by the police. Raoul, I think we should invite Taylor to go with us to New England."


"He would enjoy the fresh air."

"Fresh air! He might get us arrested."

"He doesn't look well."

"What about us? We won't look well when we're in jail."

"You're exaggerating. He's just an art student trying to get a start. But I'm worried that all of this is putting too much stress on him."

"What about stress on us? I thought we were going to have a romantic week in a little cabin on some lake that my brother told me about."

"It wasn't a lake, it was a bay."

"Whatever. I'm sure the F.B.I. will find it."

"Now you're paranoid. What's wrong with taking my son on a little vacation?"

Raoul slumped in his seat. "I'm not going to win this argument am I?"

Taylor returned to the table and took a large sip of his beer.

"It's all settled," said Peggy. "Raoul and I would love it if you came to New England with us."

"Really?" He looked at Raoul with skepticism written all over his face.

"What she said."

"Where are you going?"

"We're going to make a quick stop Connecticut to visit Raoul's brother…"

"Very quick," said Raoul, "he threatened to take us to Hooter's for dinner."

"...and then we were going to some kind of beach house in Maine that Raoul's brother knows about."

"If we make it pass the state line," said Raoul.

"Would you stop being so negative?"

At that moment, Raoul's cell phone rang. "Excuse me." He left the table to answer the phone.

"I don't think he's too crazy about the idea," said Taylor.

"He'll get over it. Besides I want you two to get to know each other. This is perfect."

"After this he'll hate my guts."

"Nonsense. You guys will eat a lobster and drink some wine and you'll be like old buddies."

Raoul returned to the table. "There's a conspiracy going on. That was Deidre. Her roommate Dirksy has the chicken pox and Deidre doesn't want to stay in the apartment. She wants to know if she can come to New England with us."

"Wonderful!" said Peggy.

"Wonderful? Didn't you ever dream of having a romantic vacation when your kids were all grown up and on their own?"

"That's so old fashioned. I think Deidre and Taylor would make wonderful company, as long as we treat them like adults."

"Who's Deidre?" said Taylor, looking like the conversation had left him.

"Raoul's daughter. Very smart, and beautiful. Of course, at the moment she hates men because she just broke up with a creep, but she'll get over it."

Taylor groaned. "I don't like the sound of this."

"Finally, someone's talking sense," said Raoul.

"All I hear is a lot of negativism," said Peggy. "I think men become set in their ways beginning at birth. Honestly. Now, who wants ice cream? I saw a nice little ice cream place along Seventh Ave."

Raoul turned to Taylor and spoke softly. "Take my advice: just go with the flow and say yes to everything."

"I heard that," said Peggy over her shoulder as she walked away from the table. She winked at Raoul.

What she didn't see, however, was a casually dressed man in a Yankees baseball cap sipping red wine at the bar. As soon as Peggy, Raoul and Taylor left the restaurant, he paid his bill in cash and left in a hurry.