What follows is the first part of a novel I published a few years back. It is my favorite of the ones I have written. A word of warning, the breaks between scenes didn’t come through when I copied it over. I hope that doesn’t make it too distracting to read. If you would like to read part 2 please let me know in the comments and I will post it. If you rather not wait to read it for free, the novel can be purchased from Amazon.Sam Pirtle
Casey leaned back against the taxi’s seat, glad that he could relax, knowing that the traffic was all he had to worry about. There would be no roadside attacks, no IEDs, no checkpoints manned by nervous youths with twitchy fingers hovering over well worn triggers, and no snipers poised to make headlines from the rooftops of nearby buildings. As the countryside rolled past, leaving the city even further behind, Casey found his relaxed state slowly ebbing away as the battle before him began to take shape in his mind.
Lindsy should have insisted on meeting him at the airport when he called from New York. She hadn’t; it was just one more straw. It wasn’t the last straw. The last straw had snapped the back of their marriage weeks before, when his wife of ten years had rushed him off the phone so she could return to a fundraiser she was speaking at. His anger built as he remembered the sense of abandonment he felt in the hotel room in Jeddah. His fingers dug into his knees as he remembered.
He sat staring at the phone, wondering if he would ever come back to that room, wondering whether he would ever see his wife and home again. Hearing the tap on the door, knowing it was the guide who would take him to meet with someone claiming to know who was responsible for the attack on the American Consulate, he slipped on his jacket with the sinking feeling that it would be the jacket he died in.
Now with the dangers passed, the story filed, and a few days before his editor would be demanding a long form article about obtaining the story, for publication in the weekend magazine, he had time to let his resentment grow. He had always been there for Lindsy. He had supported her through law school. He had given up his beloved freelancing to take a position with a newspaper, so that his wife could make her mark in Washington, DC. Time and time again he went to his editor embarrassed to recuse himself from a juicy story because of conflict of interest with Lindsy’s political activities. There were more and more conflicts of interest, as Lindsy made her way up the party hierarchy.
When it was time for his wife to run for office he gave up the job at the newspaper, which he had learned to love, and followed her out to the square state they both hailed from. He supported her all along the campaign trail. He turned his back on his journalistic career to play the dutiful spouse standing behind the candidate.
While she was serving in the state senate, he found that once he recused himself from political stories, the only beat left to him, which he found interesting, was technology. He deeply missed traveling to cover international and hard news stories, but found the tech world full of interesting stories and people. He tried not to resent when he had to decline an invitation to a tech conference to be at Lindsy’s side for some boring political fundraiser.
After all her hard work and his sacrifices, he was shocked when she declined to run for a second term in the statehouse and returned to Washington to work for a political action organization. He continued to support her. He was glad to get back to hard reporting and resumed his travels to the hot spots around the world.
Her salary was good, allowing him the time to build up a clientele for his freelance work, and not worry about getting his job with the newspaper back. Casey found not much was different from having a staff job. He still did most of his work for the same newspaper. Though he was a freelancer, the assignments came steadily and his take home pay was actually a bit better since he wasn’t exclusive to the newspaper and wrote for a variety of publications. In spite of their nearly equal footing financially, Lindsy took on the irritating habit of mentioning that it was she who had a real job. Her remarks were always made in a teasing way, with her laughing, and Casey doing his best to laugh along, hiding how the barbs hurt him.
Casey shifted uncomfortably, leaning over the front seat he said, “Take a right at that next stop sign.”
“Sure thing mister; this is quite a drive. Not that I am complaining. I will be able to call it a night after this one,” the driver said, happily.
“That is good,” Casey said, and settled back, letting his mind drift back to the violence in Jeddah, finding it preferable to what lay ahead.
Casey stood in the fresh snow, looking at the house he had never wanted to buy, delaying going in. His jacket was more suited to meeting with terrorist in Saudi than standing in this little town in Virginia on New Year’s Day. “A New Year, a new life,” he thought bitterly to himself.
A split-level ranch, two-car garage, 2.5 acres, the American dream, but not Casey’s dream. Casey’s dream was an efficiency apartment in some bustling city, with nights marking the hours with sirens, bar girls fighting in the street after the bars had closed, and the approaching day heralded by the thunder of garbage trucks flipping dumpsters.
With a shiver he looked at Lindsy’s dream home. Even now he halfway expected her to open the door and welcome him home with the long gone love of their early marriage.
His body shook him from his reverie with a vigorous shiver. Though his mind reveled in the cold, his body had had enough. The tail lights of the taxi blinked out of sight where the long strait road turned toward the exit of the gated community. Heaving a sigh, which spoke of a weariness of the soul, he left his mark in the new snow towards his own front door.
Lindsy Kahn had heard the taxi pull up. She waited in the front hall wondering if she should go out to meet him at the taxi. Looking down at her slippered feet, she vetoed the idea. She was uncomfortable; making a step towards the living room with the idea of sitting to wait for him, then taking a small step back towards the kitchen thinking that maybe she should be making him a snack when he came in. Another change of mind and another small step indicated a flight up to the bedroom, or maybe even to the safety of the most private room in the house.
She was nervously dancing with indecision when the door opened, revealing her husband dressed for hot weather, brushing snow from his jacket.
“Hello, so you are here.”
“Yes, how was your trip?”
“The same old, same old,” Casey replied, as he edged past his wife careful not to touch her or make eye contact, slipping through the door of his office. Inside he dropped a small duffel bag on a chair, and more carefully laid his laptop bag on the desk. Turning towards his wife he realized that the wingback chair was forming a comforting barrier between them. Forcing himself to make eye contact Casey said, “Lindsy, I want a divorce.”
“I was afraid this was coming,” she said, coldly and pivoted on her heels.
Casey stood surprised at her reaction. He heard her steps as she made her way up the staircase and through the upper hall. He heard the master bedroom door close softly with the greatest decorum.
How he hated those high-heeled slippers! He never understood why she wore them in the house. Silly foolish shoes, only good for lounging lingerie models to pose in.
Early in their marriage he made the mistake thinking that the sexy shoes were a come-on. He made that mistake many times, before it finally got through to him that the foolish shoes meant something else to his wife.
Over the years new house slippers came and the old ones were sent off to Goodwill, where less affluent women had the honor of having their feet and body contorted into shapes nature never intended. But always the shoes were much the same, satin with improbably high-heels. They were edged with something fuzzy; feathers, fur, or some sort of chemical based fluff. Casey didn’t know. Oh, how he hated those noisy lying shoes for stoking his libido when his attentions were neither wanted nor needed.
He was disappointed. Her response wasn’t what he expected. He wasn’t sure what he had expected but he was sure this wasn’t it. Had he beaten her to the draw? Had she been waiting in her modest peignoir and those ridiculous shoes to ask him for a divorce? During the thirty-six hours it had taken him to get home he rehearsed the scene in his mind, planning how he would respond to her reactions. At the end of each scenario his whole body flooded with relief, a lightness, a tingling of freedom.
It hadn’t turned out that way. He felt tired. He looked at the travel worn duffle. He thought about how simple life was living with the few carefully chosen things stowed in that bag. Glancing at his computer bag, he realized that the laptop, camera, and the other tools of his trade weighed more than all the “personal” stuff. He paused for a moment and thought that in a fire he would grab the laptop bag and not the other. The so-called personal stuff could be easily replaced, but not the impersonal items. Realizing that his mind was trying to get him to write by focusing on the computer bag, he fished his laptop out of the bag and sat down at the desk to work.
As the damned birds began their morning song, Casey pressed the send button, sure that the addressed publication would snap up the 6,000 words on traveling light. No matter what sort of reporting he did over the years, he had found time to write travel pieces. Those articles always sold well since even people, who will never travel, like to dream of being the perfect nomad.
“You are up early,” Lindsy stated as she stood at the office door.
“Uh … yeah,” he responded not wanting to admit that he had worked through the night, again.
“I am making breakfast. Do you want any?” Lindsy asked, trying to sound as if the night before had never happened.
“Yes, please,” Casey said, finding the conversation strangely civil to the point of being eerie.
He was still setting at the breakfast table sipping at a cold glass of orange juice, when the front door closed behind Lindsy. He wondered if she assumed that he was so out of touch with the real world that he wouldn’t notice that she was going into her office on a Sunday. It was apparent that she was just going into the office to get away from him and his request.
He waited just long enough to be sure she wouldn’t be returning for a forgotten file or something, before heading to his room with every intention of sleeping the rest of the day. It wasn’t much of a room; it was more of an alcove off of his office. He often wondered why the people who built the house thought the room needed an alcove. The windowless alcove reminded Casey of and alcove in an English gentleman’s club’s reading room. It was if you should expect that at any moment the dapper detective would step out after unintentionally overhearing the clue that would solve his mystery.
Casey moved a twin bed into the alcove the year before when Lindsy began complaining bitterly that between his nightmares and his coming to bed at random hours, she never was able to get a good night’s sleep. The narrow bed left enough room for a small chest and a footlocker. It reminded him of the small garret room set aside for visiting grandchildren at his grandfather’s house, where he had spent many happy holidays. Not bothering to strip out of his clothes or shower, he lay down on the made-up bed and shook out the folded comforter and drew it over his exhausted body. No sooner than the soft cotton was tucked under his chin he was in blissful sleep.
Casey woke with a start. Sitting up in bed, his skin clammy, and his heart pounding, he reassured himself that it was just the damned cake dream again.
In the dream his dream-self spent a great deal of time preparing something for the oven; a roast, a pie, lasagna, bread, or a cake; but usually a cake. When it was time to preheat the oven, his dream-self with no memory of the horror to come, checked the oven as his mother had taught him.
Casey’s mother throughout her life had a habit of storing cookware in the oven where it was easier for her to reach than a low cabinet. She instilled in her son that he must always make sure there was nothing in the oven before turning it on, least he melt the handles of the pots. Casey never got over the training to check the oven before preheating, even though he never used ovens for storage. Of course in his dreams he always checked and always, to his horror, found his mother’s body brutally folded and stuffed in the tight space. Though all he could see of the body was the arch of the back, he knew it was her because she was always dressed in the same blouse.
He hated that blouse almost as much as his wife’s foolish shoes. It was a youthful peasant blouse with a wide gathered circular neckline. The neckline was gathered with elastic threads stitched in a pattern to mimic Native American designs. He thought the cut of the blouse was unflattering on teenagers, and hated the way it made his elegant mother look sad and dumpy. She loved that damned blouse so much; he never told her how much he hated it.
Every time after the dream and he had calmed himself down, he laughed at his dream-self for being more horrified that his mother died wearing that blouse than the fact that she had been brutally murdered. Of course his real life Mother hadn’t been murdered. She died of breast cancer, heavily sedated, surrounded by all her children, her oldest daughter wearing that horrible blouse, which had been her mother’s last gift.
“You’ve been napping?”
“Yes,” he lied, surprised to see Lindsy home. Glancing down at himself, he realized that he was still dressed in his “uniform”. The good thing about wearing identical long-sleeved tee-shirts and cargo pants all the time was that Lindsy had no idea he was still in the clothes from the night before, or that he had slept through the day.
Noticing his damp skin she said, in an accusatory tone, “You had a nightmare.”
“Oh Casey,” she said with exasperation, as if he could stop the dreams if he wanted. “I ordered in Chinese.” She turned sharply on her high-heels, which were just shy of being as tall as the house slippers, which Casey hated so much. She forced herself to bite off the words that threatened to tumble out. She knew it was no use to argue with Casey again, that his dreams were far from normal and he should see a professional about them. She was positive that therapy would take care of the dreams and was just as positive that Casey was wrong in thinking that the dreams would go away with time.
He watched her leave fighting back all the funny jabs he would have made if they were not being so courteous to each other. There was something about the way she said, “Ordered in Chinese” that always gave him the mental image that soon a troop of Chinese acrobats would appear to entertain her. She never found the joke funny; any more than Casey had been able to stop making the joke, until now.
For the next three days they exchanged pleases and thank-yous. One night they even went to friends’ house for cards, acting as if they were still the perfect modern couple, married to their careers and unburdened by children. It was three brittle courteous days.
On the fourth day Casey found himself at loose ends. He had just finished dealing with his email, including one of his occasional fan letters. He enjoyed answering the fan, as much as he enjoyed emailing one of his editors, accepting the proposed payment for the packing-light story.
Peering into his coffee cup he padded into the kitchen for a refill.
“I didn’t know you were up,” he said. Looking down he saw why he hadn’t heard her come downstairs; her long carefully pedicured feet were curled up under her chair. Gone were the silly shoes. Gone was the modestly elegant peignoir. Lindsy was wearing blue flannel pajamas printed all over with fluffy white sheep. She only wore those when she was sick. She looked sick. Her eyes and nose were red and her normally orderly braids were pulled back into a haphazard hank.
“You look sick.”
“I feel sick. Casey, why didn’t you talk to me? Why didn’t you tell me that something was wrong? Why did you let it get this far?”
“Oh Lindsy, I’ve been talking for years. You just weren’t hearing.”
Like a damn broken by summer floods the courtesy came down. There followed three days of tears and recriminations. Lindsy stayed home from work to better vent her bile. After three days of his wife dragging up every slight and misstep of the past ten years, and his responding in kind, Casey wanted to run away and hide in some South American bar.
He hated himself for being a coward. Retreating to his office he sat at his computer playing ceaseless games of solitaire. Knowing that sooner of later Lindsy would stop crying in her bed and come looking for him with fresh recriminations. Sitting waiting for the conflict to start again he realized that three days were enough, that it was time for him to make good his escape. He couldn’t face a fourth day of the tempest. He had weathered enough of the storm that he couldn’t call himself a coward for running now.
He was checking prices for flights when he heard his wife’s stilettos in the upper hall. When she arrived in his doorway it wasn’t the ridiculous shoes she was wearing. She was in her office shoes, stylish gray pinstriped suit, and her no nonsense black framed glasses. Her thick black hair, in a multitude of tiny ropes, cascaded neatly over her rigid shoulders.
“I will be late coming home tonight. I am going to have to work late for a while to make up for the time I took off. You will have to fend for yourself for supper.”
Casey’s mouth stood open with surprise for a few moments, before he thought to close it. Her sudden change, from angry to cool, caused him to rethink his escape plans. He decided to wait, and see if his wife’s new calmness would last, before he canceled his travel plans. He knew it would be better if he could tough it out and work through the divorce without distance and too many other lawyers coming between them.
With the house to himself, he wandered around remembering the good times the two of them had there, in spite of the fact he had never liked living in the suburbs. The suburbs never suited him, though it really didn’t matter were he lived. Even when he was on staff at the paper, he rarely showed his face around the office, preferring to work anywhere else.
He idly wondered how many of his published pieces had been written in airports around the world. Quickly bored with the past, he retrieved his camera from his office and set out walking, heading to the community park to photograph squirrels.
He was glad it was so cold. It was unlikely that there would be children in the park whose hovering mothers would be nervously eyeing his camera. It always worried him when he saw the mothers looking at him, and whispering to each other. He was sure they were trying to work up the courage to call the cops and tell them that a funny looking middle-aged man was trying to take photos of their kids.
He didn’t blame the women. He knew that he presented a stereotypical image of the middle-aged white male up to no good. If he had a child, he would have eyed someone like himself with suspicion as well.
He loved walking in the cold whenever he returned from the Middle East. Every hour in the winter air seemed to draw the oppressive heat of the desert out of his mind. After so many days in the unrelenting heat, it seemed to have permeated him, raising his body temperature. Only these wintery walks could draw the heat out and let him return to some sense of normal.
With his camera filled with cute photos of inquisitive squirrels, Casey headed home, just as he was beginning to feel the cold. Relaxed and almost feeling happy, Casey returned to the house for a nap. The heat was waiting for him in his dreams.
His dream-self was kneeling. The hot sand was burning his knees through the thin fabric of the thobe he was wearing. He was holding a newspaper up for the camera to prove he was alive that day. In words that were not his own he begged for the US government to give into the terrorist and save his life. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the flash of a sword and awoke before the edge bit into his neck.
“Yes,” he said, surprised to find Lindsy standing in the near darkness, of his room.
“I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“Good,” she said, brusquely turning away. “I brought pizza home.”
It might have been his imagination, but it seemed that at the mention of pizza there was a catch in her voice. When he got to the kitchen, where she was already eating, he found as he suspected from the emotion in her voice that the pizza was from the joint where they ate every Friday night when they were both in town since moving out of the city.
“I bought a couple of books today … for both of us,” Lindsy said, crushing her napkin and taking another sip of beer.
Casey looked up from the article he was proofing between bites. “Humm,” he grunted around a mouthful of pizza, which was still the best pizza in the world in spite of the chill between the diners.
Lindsy set the books on the table close enough for him to read the titles but far enough away to prevent him from touching them with his greasy hands.
Casey read, “Divorce with Dignity” and “Divorce for Dummies.”
“Really?” he remarked, almost inhaling a largish chunk of pepperoni. Coughing to dislodge the choking hazard, he thought that it might have been better to have married a doctor than a lawyer. “Can’t you handle it yourself?”
“I am a corporate attorney. I deal with corporate issues, not divorce,” she snapped, and began sawing at another slice of pizza she had viciously anchored with her fork.
“Sorry!” Casey responded, his teeth on edge at the sound the fork tines made on Lindsy’s plate. He looked over the table at the woman he once loved and all he could hear was the click, as the call disconnected leaving him to face his fate without a farewell.
“Oh, I am sorry, Casey. If you wouldn’t mind reading them with me, we can get our ducks in a row before having to get the divorce attorneys in on it,” she said, not seeing the hate in his eyes.
They ate in silence, each lost in their memories of happier times. Silently they cleaned up and each took another beer and went off to their respective bedrooms without breaking the silence.
Casey was forewarned of Lindsy’s arrival by the noise of the front door closing and her heels clattering across the tiles of the hall, breaking the silence they had lived with since dinner the night before. The sound made Casey jump, causing his fingers to become misaligned on the keys and type a string of cartoon profanity.
Seeing Casey sitting at his desk, one of the books sitting at some distance, she stopped and told herself not to assume anything.
“Did you read any of the book?”
“Yes, I got quite a lot read. I am working on a list of things we need to come to some agreement on.”
“Well, I guess the main one is how to divide up our assets.”
Over the next few weeks the two worked together reading, making notes, swapping books, and reading and taking notes again. Once they were finished with the books they took their lists and began working through them carefully dividing their lives, proud of themselves for being so mature.
Finally Casey and Lindsy signed a separation agreement and he began to look for a short-term rental to move into. He felt it was best to stay in the Washington area until the divorce was finalized, but as soon as it was over he was going to move far away. He could feel the call of the road, and the freedom of not needing to let anyone know where you were or what you were doing. Even the loneliness of life on the road appealed to him, after the stress of the last few years.
In his spare time he relived in his mind all the cities he ever lived in, and dreamed about the cities yet to come, wondering which would be his fancy once he ran out of time and had to decide where he would land next. What made him happiest most of all was that he would never ever have to see Lindsy again.
he was he was It was that happy thought, which Casey went to bed with one night, only to be woken rudely by another dream. As far as Casey’s dreams went, it wasn’t a bad one. It was strangely calm. The dream Casey was working grading papers in his office back at the university. It was if he was viewing himself through a fixed camera at one side of the office. He watched with admiration as his dream-self gracefully laid down the paper he was grading, and extracted a pipe from the saggy pocket of his corduroy jacket, before lighting it.
The scene seemed very real and familiar, though Casey knew it was just a dream, and that he had never spent the morning grading papers like that. He had never graded papers at his office, always taking them home, to work on them with a cocktail in one hand. He never had smoked a pipe, nor been able to gracefully light it as if he was Bing Crosby, preparing to croon.
Though he was watching his dream-self from across the room he could feel the sun from the paned-glass window on his shoulders, and smell the tobacco of the pipe just under his nose. He breathed deeply, amazed that the smoke didn’t cause the spasms of coughing, which smoke would have cause in his waking state.
Casey woke with a start. The dream slipped away, leaving him with a sense of emptiness, but no memory of having dreamt. Something was wrong. The air was cold. The bed was too soft. There was the smell of cooking bacon in the air. He dragged himself up to sit on the edge of the bed, blinking his eyes rapidly. He knew that he was in the alcove off his office, in his makeshift bedroom. He could remember clearly how this small room became his bedroom, but he was filled with an eerie sense that he had never seen the room before.
Carefully he got to his feet, as if he was afraid that his legs would break from the effort, and made his way to the office, which he knew would be there. Standing in the office he looked at the desk and the file cabinets. He knew when he had installed both, and what was in each drawer of each, but his mind rejected what he was seeing as familiar and discounted what his mind knew as being most improbable.
His train of thought was interrupted, and the feeling of unfamiliarity was driven away by Lindsy’s voice at the office door.
“Oh, you are up. I made some breakfast. Would you like to join me,” she said coolly, as if she were extending an invitation to the gardener.
“Yes, I will be right there,” Casey said, glad that she had broken the spell he was under. He was glad to have breakfast with her, finding the strain of their relationship less upsetting than the strange feeling he had awoken with.
“Casey, can I speak with you for a moment?” Lindsy broke into his reverie one evening.”
“Sure what is up?” He responded, cordially. She had left him to his work all day without interruption, leaving him in a generous mood.
“Well, it is about your moving out?” She started with a slight hesitation in her voice.
“Never fear, Lindsy,” he said, crushing the desire to say, my dear. “I’ve found three places that I think will do. I am going to go check them out this weekend.”
“Oh, I don’t mean to hurry you. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that you would do me a really big favor and not move out, not completely, anyway.”
“What are you talking about woman?” he snapped, his good mood dissipating quickly.
Lindsy smothered her reaction to being called woman in that tone of voice. “Well, you see, I’ve been asked to run for office again, and … well, being divorced wouldn’t go so well back home.”
“Oh no, I am not moving out to the Midwest to be set-dressing for your campaign.”
“You don’t have to move out there, a visit or two during the campaign will be enough. Unlike a wife, a husband isn’t expected to give up their career for the wife.”
“So now I have a career?” he asked bitterly.
Blushing slightly she ignored his remark and continued, “I was thinking that if you moved into the apartment over the garage no one would even know that we are separated.”
“Separation papers are public record.”
“Oh … I haven’t filed them yet.”
“You haven’t filed them?” Casey felt his neck tightening and knew that his face was becoming that unattractive purple Lindsy hated.
“No, please don’t get mad. I meant to, but I was so busy with working on the South Carolina issue that I forgot. I was hoping we could just keep it between us for now. I tell you what; I will give you the papers to keep. They are up in my room. If you insist you can go file them tomorrow. Please don’t, not until after the special election. You can keep the papers and file them whenever you want.”
“Special election? So I don’t have to wait for November 2006?”
“Oh no, this should be all over and done with before summer. I am not expecting there to be a run off.”
Casey had the urge to yell at her, to make her understand how much he was hurting, and how much he needed to get away. Before he could say things that couldn’t be unsaid, he reminded himself that he needed her cooperation during their divorce. If she were to get mad and bring in an adversarial divorce attorney, they might dig up his hidden assets. Casey promised his father to always keep certain assets hidden from Lindsy. The promise was the only way he was able to obtain his father’s blessing to marry a woman who was so much younger, and not of their social class. Facing the divorce proceedings Casey realized the wisdom of his father’s insistence on the ruse. Managing to conceal his feelings, he composed his face into a winning smile.
“Well, okay, but why do I have to move out to the apartment if you are heading back west to live? Why can’t I just keep on living in the house?”
“I am sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear. I am not moving back to run for the state government again, I am running for the US House of Representatives!”
“Really, that is impressive,” Casey said, as he leaned back in his chair, looking up into Lindsy’s strange slanted green eyes. Leaning over him like she was about to pounce, she looked like a cat more than ever.
After Casey assured Lindsy that he would not stand in the way of her political career, she rushed off to meet with her new campaign manager, leaving Casey to contemplate just why he had so readily made the sacrifice of his freedom.
Couldn’t he have found a way to refuse, while still keeping her calm and pliable in the divorce? A more cynical man would have accused himself of biding for time to try to win her back after the hastily demanded divorce. Casey’s mind didn’t stray in that direction.
After a long time thinking and dispatching the last beer left over from pizza night, he came to the conclusion that he was just a sap, ready to roll over for Lindsy, because he was so worried that he had ruined her life by marrying her in the first place.
Here he was, agreeing to the hardships of a campaign, without getting any of the benefits of being married. “And speaking of lacking benefits, I had better go look at that apartment,” he said, to the empty kitchen.
When they bought the house, Lindsy pointed out that the apartment over the garage would come in handy when his family came to visit. It was just like Lindsy to overlook his family’s change in feelings about her, and imagine happy family holidays at the house, which was too big for just the two of them.
In the years since they moved to Virginia, the apartment over the garage had become a catch-all for things they would never use again, but weren’t able to part with, since no one ever came to visit. Not wanting to draw the neighbors’ attention to his moving into the garage, Casey loaded the SUV inside, leaving in the early hours of darkness to various distant Goodwill drop-offs. He found the subterfuge to be rather entertaining as he pretended he was a spy on some covert mission.
While the apartment renovation was taking place, Lindsy was out West. On the campaign trail she quickly forgot her husband, only remembering whenever her campaign manager reminded her it was time for Casey to put in another appearance. Casey thought they called for him too often. Adding to his dissatisfaction during the campaign was how long it was taking to make the apartment habitable. He was worried that Lindsy would return to the house before he was moved out, leading to more stilted encounters as they shared the same space.
Finally he made his last appearance in the square state before the election, and returned home. He was happy to supervise, and get in the way of, the electrician hired to give the long unused kitchenette its last safety inspection. As soon as the new wiring was given a clean bill of health, and the electrician shoed off with vague stories about the apartment being for Casey’s father, Casey moved in under the cover of darkness.
He was settled into his new home just in time to dash out West to stand next to his pretty wife as she gave her acceptance speech. The photographs showed a seated Casey gazing up in apparent admiration at his tall wife at the podium. Her eyes sparkling as she looked up into the lights, as if envisioning all the good she would do for the people cheering below the level of her sight.
It had been an exceptionally narrow victory, but you wouldn’t have known it from the celebrations Lindsy’s camp held as the last precincts were reported. When her opponent finally conceded, and Champaign was passed around, Casey found himself drifting to the edge of the crowded campaign headquarters to watch the party from a dispassionate distance.
Though he had freely agreed to help her campaign, resentment over the sacrifices he made for a woman who was no longer truly his wife had been growing. Over the three months of the campaign he turned down assignments in Baghdad, Kyushu, and Sumatra to be available for the campaign’s constant demands on his time. It had seemed increasingly harder to keep a friendly smile pasted on his face for the cameras, as he watched what he considered to be lesser reporters handle the stories. That they were handling them, at least as well if not better than him, made him even more dissatisfied with his position.
As he stood off to one side watching, as the crowd loved her, he remembered the days when he loved her too. Remembering the shy college girl he had encouraged to get a jurisprudence degree, which brought her to this night, he let go of his resentment and owned his responsibility over how she’d changed. He accepted a glass of Champaign from a passing aid, and held it up in a silent toast to Lindsy. He was surprised when she caught the gesture, and rewarded him with lifting her glass toward him from the other side of the room.
“This place is nice,” Lindsy said, looking over her husband’s handiwork, wondering why she had never been able to get him to do any such work around the house before. “It does seem strange to see your office empty. I guess I thought you would live up here and work over there.”
“Madam representative, you need your own home office now. Working at the dining table wouldn’t be suitable for a woman of your stature,” Casey said with an air of mock gravity, wondering why she bothered coming up to his apartment.
“I guess you are right. I will have to order in some furniture,” she said, leaving him to hope it wouldn’t be Chinese. It sure sounded like she thought she could buy furniture as easily as ordering out for delivery food. Casey was determined not to be involved in Lindsy’s interior decorating this time. It was about time she saw how much he did in their marriage to make things easier for her.
Time passed as they lived so close, but so far apart. Lindsy was constantly aware as she passed the days in the empty house, that companionship was being denied her so close at hand.
She was happiest when she was out of the house and inside the beltway. As the newest freshmen representative she worked diligently at her job, forming alliances and learning the complicated structure of favors and counter favors that made the House of Representatives function.
Casey was rarely in residence above the garage. Free from the campaign trail, he readily accepted assignments ranging over the world. Feeling more at home in random hotel rooms than in any house or apartment he had ever lived, he often didn’t return to Virginia between jobs. He just allowed one assignment to run into the next, often filing his stories from airport lounges.
He didn’t mind being home, now that he had the tiny apartment to himself. Surrounded by the things he loved, with his computer bringing the world in to entertain him, he didn’t find the separation from his wife as lonely as she was feeling down in the main house.
Though Lindsy hated the emptiness of the house, she found that having an absent husband with an exciting career gave her much social cachet. If he had been an average husband, who was present at social and political events, he would be ignored along with the other political spouses. His absences often let her take the spotlight away from a more senior politician, by a casual mention of her husband being on the ground in one of the worlds current hot spots. She let it be assumed that Casey’s activities gave her special insight to the region.
One night as his wife made the rounds of a toothpick reception for a venerable senator’s birthday, Casey sat in a Singapore seaman’s bar, listening to a bosun’s mate telling one tall tale after another, about pirates on the South China Sea, and the storms he had weathered. Casey had just wrapped up an assignment, and was enjoying playing tourist in Singapore, dragging his feet before returning to Washington. He would have laughed had he heard the congresswoman saying, with a knowing expression, “Oh, where is my husband? I am afraid he is out on assignment. It is all very hush-hush. I can’t talk about it. We will all have to wait until his story is published.”
Even in their happier days Casey never told Lindsy what he was working on. It wasn’t just wanting to keep his sources safe and his stories under wraps until publication. Very early in their marriage, he realized that his wife had no interest in his work beyond the pay check. It would have amused him to see her preen over her supposed insider status in the world of international journalism.
As the regular election approached and Lindsy prepared to defend her seat in the house, Casey dutifully cut back on his travel, only taking assignments with set schedules, for the convenience of Lindsy’s campaign staff. He enjoyed comfortable stays, in what he had taken to call his Lair, over the garage between his out of town assignments and campaign appearances.
He was often seen on the campaign trail showing support for his wife, but he was never heard, as Lindsy’s staff didn’t trust him. Whether or not his limited participation helped, Lindsy handily won the regular election nineteen months after first taking office, cementing her standing as an incumbent.
As soon as the election was over, Casey dashed off to Luzon, happy to put a lot of distance between him and his wife again. He was determined to uncover the personal face of the destruction left behind by Typhoon Durian. It was just the sort of story he liked to cover. First a series of short news-breaking articles, followed by an in depth long-form piece for a national magazine, or the Sunday supplement of the Post.
The first phase of his plan went off without a hitch. His news pieces were picked up on the AP and were widely quoted. When he started collecting fodder to illustrate the human side of the disaster, things took a turn for the worse. He was compelled to flee the Philippines in fear for his life after an incident, where a bereaved family took umbrage at his seeming exploitation of their personal tragedy.
Burdened with a new nightmare, he headed to Chicago to do a profile on the SWAT team who took out a skyscraper sniper. He managed to make it back to his little apartment shortly after the New Year, thankful that he hadn’t had to make the round of holiday parties as if he and Lindsy were still a happy couple.
Whenever he was in residence over the garage, Lindsy always invited him to attend events with her. Usually he pleaded deadline to get out of putting on his overly snug tux, and parade around as if he was actually her husband. When he broke down and attended events with her, he was usually tasked with driving and even worse … parking. He felt like a chauffeur dropping off and picking Lindsy up at the door of the venue.
Because of the parking situation in the nation’s capital, he often caught up with her quite late and left her quite early to retrieve the car, missing most of the event. Whenever he found himself talking to people about plays, which everyone who was anyone in DC had seen, he often found that he was only familiar with the middle acts.
Occasionally he would refuse to go out unless she hired a car, freeing him of the odious driving responsibilities. When she agreed, he donned his tux to promenade down the drive to the hired car with her. As much as he resisted going, he often found that he had a good time in spite of himself; being deft at drifting away from her and finding his own entertainment.
He had to admit that access to people he was interested in was a nice perk of being a political spouse. Lindsy insisted that he not exploit her position for his journalism. He bit his tongue at her insistence, angry that she didn’t understand that he would never have thought about such exploitation if she hadn’t brought it up.
After she made it clear that she thought it would be a struggle for him to act honorably, it became a struggle. He managed to honor their agreement for the most part, but he skirted the arrangement closely as possible, gaining important deep background information.
Opportunities to meet people of journalistic importance were scarce. Usually when Casey consented to attend an event, it was because he was a fan of someone, who would also be in attendance.
Many nights as he said good night to his wife in the foyer of their home, after watching to make sure the driver didn’t see him heading to the garage, he was proud of himself for acting sophisticated all evening. He imagined how horrified Lindsy would be if he was to give into his baser instincts and rush up to some celebrity and babble on about what an influence they were on his life and beg them for an autograph. He knew better than to do such a thing. Though he wanted to so many times.
As time passed Casey got over his disappointment at not being able to flee soon after their split. He now liked how their lives had settled out. He expected nothing much of her now. He was getting better at not being hurt or disappointed when she ignored him or took him for granted. If anything, she seemed to be more concerned about him now, that before their separation. Not concerned as if he was still really her husband, but concerned that he remained a good political asset.
Most of the time, there was no compelling reason for him to break down and go as her escort. He often used the excuse of a looming deadline to beg off. Usually the deadline was just his creation, knowing that Lindsy had no way of checking on him. She never developed any friendships with his fellow journalist or their spouses, so his writing life was opaque to her.
One of the nights he manufactured a deadline, he found himself looking out the window of his lair. Comfortably dressed in his old bathrobe, he enjoyed watching as Lindsy made her solo way down the drive. She was dressed to the nines, and required the help of the driver to maneuver herself and her elaborate dress into the car. Watching as she repeatedly caught her improbably high-heels in the hem of her dress, he felt even more comfortable in his robe and slippers.
Finally when the driver got his charge and all her yardage stuffed into the SUV they drove away. With Lindsy safely out of his hair Casey planned to spend the evening alone, tending to his extensive comic book collection. Later he planned on mixing himself a pitcher of martinis, making some popcorn, and settle down to play unending games on his Play Station.
As he sorted through a box of plastic sheathed comics, carefully entering information into a computer spreadsheet, he chuckled remembering the day, not long after he moved above the garage, before they had the long talk about her respecting his privacy. Lindsy walked in on him unexpectedly and found him perusing his comic collection, which she thought he had gotten rid of after their marriage. She had been livid. She accused him of lying, and he accused her of assuming.
Why she thought that the locked filing cabinets in his office were full of reporter’s secrets was beyond him. Ever since he bought his first laptop, he didn’t keep hard copies of his work. The cabinets, which had once been filled with research for never written novels, became a good place to hide the things that embarrassed his young wife.
Sometimes Casey felt old as dirt, especially when he tried to run, but inside he didn’t feel much different from that kid who mowed lawns to buy the latest DC or Marvel comic. Lindsy’s disdain for his comics caused her to seem very old in his eyes. In so many ways she seemed so serious and old, though she was five years away from her 40th birthday.
Looking in the mirror he saw a face looking back at him that seemed much older than his forty-nine years. Balding on top, only a persistent shadow of hair in the very middle of the top of his head kept him from looking like a tonsured monk. Though the face was old from too many restless nights and unsheltered days, he could still see the boy peeking out merrily from eyes reflected in the mirror.
Casey was surprised at how easily he slipped into his new life style and living arrangement. More than half the year sped by, leaving him wondering where the time went. If he took time to look over his saved email, he would have seen that the mass of correspondence about one story after another accounted for the passage of time. There was talk around the Post of his returning as a staff reporter, but they had waited too late to float their trial balloon. Casey had moved on and become quite comfortable freelancing again.
He liked being in command of his journalistic life. He was glad to know that if one editor turned him down, he could just offer his piece to another. It was a very happy time for him. Chasing stories had kept him away from Lindsy for more time than not. The less time he spent around her, the happier he was. As July began to wind down, he found himself above the garage again, planning only to spend a few days there before heading out.
Casey looked over the items arranged neatly on his bed one final time, making sure that he was all set to shove them into the well-worn duffle and head out again. This time he was not on assignment, not that he told his wife. She wouldn’t have appreciated his refusing to go to Canada with her for the 140th Anniversary celebrations just to go have fun by himself. She wouldn’t have understood why he was so honored to be asked to moderate a panel at Comic-Con.
It was his chance to be a small part of the world he loved, to be something more than just a fan. Of course he would still be a fan. He carefully checked his wallet, making sure the list of editions that were missing from his collection, was where it would be ready to pull out if he saw a comic he suspected he might want.
Checking his camera bag, he made sure it was all in order. He was looking forward to photographing the costumes of the super fans. As much as he loved the comic world, he had never had any inclination to dress in costume himself. He enjoyed seeing the results of the work and dedication of the super fans, as they paraded around the Con dressed as their favorite characters.
This Con was going to be huge. He would spend only one morning moderating the panel, leaving the rest of the day to enjoy the Con. He was glad that he was being paid for his appearance, but knew he would have appeared for free, for the right to wear the badge that let him walk past the fans who had slept the night on the sidewalk.
He was ready to enjoy the experience to the fullest, not knowing if he would ever get to attend a Con like this again. He wrote out his battle plan just as carefully as if he were going on an in-country assignment. He knew that trying to get autographs from the biggest name artists and writers would take up too much of his precious time. He was determined to get the autographs and perhaps buy some original artwork from several artist, who he thought were the up and comers.
“Casey, where are you? I expected you to be home when I got here. Are you still in San Diego?”
“No, I am in Boston. I ran into a lead while I was in California, which I really needed to follow up,” he lied, grinning over his beer at Ike McGuire, one of the up and coming artist he met at the Con. He continued to lie to his wife as he made animated faces for Ike’s entertainment.
“Well, do you know how long you are going to be? There is a reception this week at the Lincoln Center, which I really would like you to attend with me.”
“Oh, I am so sorry kiddo, but I don’t know how long this is going to take. I am in this rundown old hotel room, just waiting. This guy I know is trying to arrange for me to talk to someone who … who doesn’t want to talk to anyone.”
“Okay, I understand. I will see you when I see you.”
“I can’t believe she swallows that guff,” Ike said, topping off Casey’s beer.
“She doesn’t really hear what I say, so I can say just about anything I want. Now lets get back to business,” Casey said, as he and Ike huddled over papers strewn across the table in Ike’s cozy sunlit kitchen.
The window of Casey’s combination living room, office, and kitchen was open in spite of the morning chill. A squirrel was sitting in the window eating the peanuts Casey had placed on the windowsill, like he did every morning he was home. Casey sat bundled up in his fisherman’s sweater drinking from a steaming mug, while his little companion ate. Looking through his email, he hoped that one of the story ideas he had submitted to various publications had stirred some interest. He really wanted a paying excuse to leave town, to be gone before Lindsy roped him into her summer frenzy of visiting her constituents.
“KC!” Lindsy’s voice rang out causing Casey to cringe, and causing the squirrel to leap for the nearest tree. He knew that when she pronounced his name as if it were letters, he was in for a reaming out.
As he listened to her stilettos clattering though the garage and up the stairs, he ran his recent private activities through his mind wondering which one had gotten back to her. By the time she decorously knocked on his door he had decided that she must have found out that he was seeing the wife of a Georgetown doctor when the physician was on rounds. How she could have found out he didn’t know, but Washington gossip never ceased to amaze him.
“Come in,” he called out, bracing himself for the onslaught.
“KC I want to know what you think you are doing!”
“Settle down, I can explain everything,” he started knowing that he could explain nothing.
“I would like to see you try to explain this!” She nearly shouted, barely managing to control her volume on realizing that his window, which overlooked the next yard, was open. Her eyes flashed when she saw the half eaten pile of peanuts and realized that Casey had been feeding the squirrels again, against her expressed wishes. She was sure he was attracting more squirrels to raid her bird feeders, and perhaps even worse vermin.
Seeing what she had slapped down on his desk, Casey’s face brightened and he was all smiles as he picked up the offending publication. “I didn’t know that it was out!” he remarked holding it lovingly, admiring the cover art.
“It isn’t out yet. This copy was sent to my office on The Hill for me to comment before it is released. I want you to make sure that it never sees the light of day!”
“I can’t believe that you would do this to me!”
“I am not doing anything to you. This is my life.”
“I never thought I would live to see the day my husband betrayed me this way!”
“Hold it right there! Your constituency back in that place mat of a state that elected you may be laboring under the impression that I am your husband, but don’t you make that mistake.”
“We haven’t even filed the separation papers.”
“That can be taken care of tomorrow,” he retorted.
“Casey, a comic book?” she asked urgently, but softly. “Why have you let them make your life into a comic book?”
“It is not just a comic book. It is a graphic serial. This is just the first edition. If you had bothered to read the cover you might have noticed that I wrote it!”
“You wrote it? But you are not an artist.”
“That is right. I wrote the story. A friend of mine who is a graphics artist did the artwork, and a college pal of his did the lettering. Graphic works are not done by one person.” Casey sat looking at the cover of the first edition; glad to see that the finished cover was just as dramatic as the mockups he had last seen in his Ike’s Boston home. The image looked like it might have been based on Casey, on his last very best day, before gravity and the years of beer began to take their toll. The two dimensional Casey, an improbably large camera around his neck, was back handing a menacing turbaned man as the reporter was escaping into a cab driven by a man who looked as if his greatest joy in life was helping American reporters escape life threatening situations.
“I can see you are really happy about this thing, but don’t you see that it could damage my career?”
“I doubt that your constituency is made up of comic fans. Anyway the story covers the years before I met you. Plus it is highly fictionalized. We may never let KC Kahn, Ace Reporter, marry,” Casey said, wondering if he should have ever married himself.
Lindsey opened her mouth as if to speak, and stopped. She realized that she no longer held any sway over Casey. “Okay, I guess I will just have my people draft up a response, saying that I am proud of you.”
“I will be surprised if any one of importance asks you. I bet that it was the publisher who sent that to you for comment,” Casey said, watching her turn slowly away and softly close the door behind her.
He was impressed. He knew that she really wanted to slam that door, and that the only thing that kept her from doing it was the realization that she on longer welded any power over him, especially while he had the separation agreement ready to file.
Casey didn’t know what he had expected to see when he opened his eyes. All he knew was that what he was seeing was strange. He knew that this was where he lived since moving out of the house he had shared with Lindsy, but he felt like he had been jerked forward in time and that he was not ready for this stage in his life.
Rationally he knew every step that had lead him from the day he ran into his wife for the first time, to now laying on sheets from Wal-Mart. His less rational brain cells prompted him to blink his eyes rapidly trying to return to a world that was familiar.
Shaking himself free of this feeling of being out of place and time, he realized that the spookiness of the feeling reminded him of the times when he had been sure that he had done the exact same motions in the exact same order, in a familiar place, though he knew that he had never been that pace doing those things before.
The fist time he had woken this way, he had discounted it as just a strange dream-state, caused by the stress he was under. Now it had happened enough to cause Casey some concern. He wondered if it was normal.
He rolled out of bed and made his way into his office. Opening up his laptop he typed in the search for the Opposite of Déjà Vu. Finding the entry for Jamais Vu, he read it with interest. Finishing several articles about Jamais Vu, he sat back sure that it was the sensation he had experienced. He wished that the last article had not mentioned that Jamais Vu could be associated with mental illness.
He needed something to get his mind off the idea that he might have problems that were deeper than his frequent nightmares. Looking at the clock, he debated whether it was likely that Ike would be up and about, ready to get to work on the next edition of their comic.
The pale morning light filled the brightly painted kitchen. Casey looked out the bay window over the snow-covered backyard, wondering why if the squirrels didn’t hibernate there were so few to be seen in the back yard. He hoped that when spring came lots squirrels would be scampering from tree to tree, scolding the dog, which was now curled up on the mat in front of the kitchen sink. He missed the abundance of squirrels in Virginia.
A borrowed house and a borrowed dog, but the squirrels always seemed to be his, no matter where he roamed. He missed the little beast in Australia, but forgave the continent since there were so many other cute animals to keep his camera busy.
The phone rang; Casey looked at the clock and knew who was calling.
“Casey, is that you?”
“Yes, good morning, Lindsy, how are things going out in the heartland?”
“I won,” she said briefly, sad that Casey hadn’t watched the election results.
“Well, that isn’t too terribly surprising, since you were running unopposed. I told you that you didn’t have to worry about that last minute write-in candidate. Someone that liberal didn’t have a chance.”
“Yes, you were right. Casey, when are you coming home? How much longer does your friend want you to housesit for him? You have been in Boston for over six months.”
There was something plaintive in her voice, which tugged at his heart for a moment, before he remembered that click on the line when she hung up on him, leaving him to face his fate in the Middle East without a goodbye. Casey wanted to make a very bitter comment about the house in Virginia not being his home. He managed to keep the commented to himself, though he clinched his teeth in the manner his dentist said he needed to stop of the sake of his dental health.
The last real home he ever lived in was their tiny apartment when they first set up housekeeping. He remembered what a joy it was to bound up the stairs to surprise Lindsy when she didn’t expect him to be coming home. Choking back the pain that filled his chest and threatened to crush his lungs, gave him the time he needed to steady himself and sound almost dispassionate.
“Lindsy, I guess I really can’t put this off any longer. I will be back soon, but only to pack up my things. I am moving here to Boston. Ike is remaining in Paris. I am going to rent his house. Maybe one day I will find a place of my own, but right now renting is just fine for me.”
“Oh, I see, well, I must be going.”
Casey put down the phone and stood looking at it for a long time. Maybe he had waited too long to put some distance between Lindsy and himself. It was so easy just to let things ride. He might have still been down in Virginia had Ike not asked him to housesit. Had it been unfair to Lindsy? He shook his head and pushed her out of his mind. He had more pressing things to do than worry about her. Arrangements had to be made to move Ike’s things into storage and make the rented house his home.
He looked down at the large dog, and remembering that the larger breeds tended to have shorter lifespans, he realized that it was unlikely that the old dog would live to see Ike come back, if he ever did. The dog looked up at Casey expectantly.
“I guess you are my dog now.”
“Good morning, Casey, how are you doing today?”
“Good morning, to you; I am fine,” Casey responded somewhat formally, glad to hear her voice sounding less fragile than it had the day before. When she ended the phone call so abruptly, Casey had feared that she would lose control and do something he wouldn’t like.
“I talked to my people. We have decided that if you are making this move permanent, we need to file the separation agreement and my office will issue a statement.”
“That is agreeable to me.” Casey spoke with what his friends called “his radio” voice, making sure his relief didn’t announce itself.
“I am just so worried that it will hurt my next election,” she said, her voice beginning to waver.
Casey wanted to remind her that there were two people involved in their relationship. He wanted to yell at her to notice him, to see that he needed to get out of their strange living arrangement before it crushed him. He knew that he couldn’t vent. He knew that he had to keep her as a willing partner in resolving the breakup.
“You know, now that you have weathered a special election and two regular ones, don’t you think you are pretty well set? The voters know how good you are. Anyway they will have almost two years to get used to the idea of us being apart before the next election,” he said reassuringly.
“I hope so, it was just that, well I was planning on running for The Senate next time around. A divorce would be so unfortunate,” she said, quite sadly.
“There is no reason for us to get divorced. We have separated our financial arrangements … and our lives. Unless one of us suddenly wants to remarry I really don’t think divorce is needed,” Casey said, knowing he would promise her just about anything to get the legal separation filed. He suspected that she was building up debts to live in the style she considered appropriate. Between her office, the way she dressed, and her constant use of hired cars, he didn’t see how her salary would cover it all. He didn’t want to find himself responsible for her debts, and his attorney had assured him that the wording of the separation agreement would protect his finances.
“Casey, you are a rock!” Lindsy said, oblivious to the resentment Casey felt.
After making arrangements to cooperate in dividing up their personal effects, Casey cradled the phone, ruefully noting that Lindsy seemed to have much more respect for him at a distance than she had for him when he lived over the garage.
Casey had settled into his bachelor lifestyle well before they made the separation finial, he found that his lifelong restlessness was slipping away. The house was an easy walk from the MBTA station, where frequent trains left and arrived to and from downtown Boston. He found himself heading into the city frequently with different objectives in mind.
Often when he boarded a train heading in, leaving his laptop behind, his goal was to spend the day at the public library, writing with pencil and paper. He thought that Boston’s library was one of the best in the world, and he liked to sit in one of the many reading rooms to write, assured that any reference material he might want was at hand, without the overwhelming distraction of the Internet.
Sometimes his forays into Boston were more artistic in manner. Rather than taking his ever-present reporter’s notebook with him to write words, he carried small notebooks of rough surfaced paper, which took the scratchings of his number 2B pencil well. He liked to sit and draw, especially in places and at times that his cameras would have been intrusive or forbad. He knew that he wasn’t much of an artist, but the habit of sketching had rewarded him with many little notebooks, which gave him a personal history that he liked to revisit from time to time.
Many days he walked around Boston with one or more cameras hung around his neck. He found that one camera caused him to be frequently mistaken for a tourist, but two or more made people assume he was a professional photographer.
Often when he returned home from his trips into the city, he found himself compelled to write of his adventures. As the stories piled up with no outlet, he began to look around for someone, anyone, to publish these articles that were so far from his stock in trade.
On one of his walks he picked up a local weekly alternative magazine, to read lunch since he wasn’t carrying a paperback like he normally did. He was surprised to find that he enjoyed the magazine’s mocking and ironic tone so much he ordered desert as rent to keep his table longer during the lunch rush, allowing him to finish reading. The next day he mailed the first of many submissions to the magazine’s editor.
His writings for the magazine were fun and enjoyable to write, but hardly contributed to his income. He found himself comfortable in Boston, and didn’t want to take any overseas assignments. Several editors he worked with in the past had emailed, asking if he was working on something, which they might be interested in. They just assumed that the prolific reporter was busy, and they wanted to have first pick of whatever had caught his fancy this time.
As Casey reviewed his local articles, quickly dismissing them from consideration, the increasing clutter of technology on his desk caught his eye. In place of honor was his new MacBook Air, which he had treated himself with as a Christmas present.
He sat down to write about his experiences with the new computer, which he had coveted since seeing Steve Job’s introduce it at MacWorld the January before. Casey had submitted the article to one of the editors before the dog came looking for dinner.
Not long after his long valentine to his new computer was published he was offered a position as tech columnist at the least tech-forward of all the publications he routinely wrote for. At first he refused, feeling that he would make a fool of himself from a lack of any real tech knowledge. The paper’s editor assured him that the publication was in need of a consumer’s view of tech, and that Casey really didn’t need to know much about how the gadgets worked under the hood. When the salary was mentioned he accepted very quickly. He was sure that he would never see the pay for tech journalism so high again as more young people, who grew up tech-savvy, entered journalism.
Casey didn’t wake up one day and announce that he was no longer a hard news reporter. Things just changed quickly without conscious thought. He wrote more and more technology articles in addition to his column and less and less about world events.
Then one day he was surprised to be assigned to cover Macworld in San Francisco, all expenses paid. His resulting articles solidified him as a tech journalist to be reckoned with.
Becoming a tech journalist allowed him to limit how much he traveled, and to spend his days mainly at home developing almost cozy habits. All his life he had been an early riser; now living alone made sure that no one was there to object to his habit. Not that he was early getting to work each day in his new office, which had once been Ian’s studio.
An hour or two every morning was spent in his coffee ritual. He hand-ground and French-pressed exactly two cups of coffee every morning. Toasted, buttered, white bread, with marmalade was his breakfast of choice, except when cold pizza beckoned from the fridge.
At first his coffee time was spent gazing out the window, watching the changing seasons unfold in the back yard. He would let the dog out and watch it doing its business in the back yard as he carefully conducted his coffee ritual.
The special coffee beans, which were shipped in from California, were ground in a hand powered ceramic burr grinder, before being placed in his favorite French-press, and being doused with water at exactly 195 degrees Fahrenheit. As the coffee seeped for exactly four minutes, he toasted his white bread over the open flame of the gas stove and placed it on a toast rack, which he found at a small antique store last time he passed through London. He pressed the coffee before getting a jar of French marmalade out of the refrigerator.
With his breakfast laid out and the dog returned and enjoying its kibble, Casey sat down to pour his coffee in the cup that once graced his desk when he was a staff reporter. Almost as soon as the ritual seemed to be set in stone, it changed.
The change started when Casey and Lindsy began dividing up the marital goods. One Sunday Lindsy called and began asking him about what things he wanted to take, just as he let the dog out. She wore a wireless headset and walked about the Virginia house as they talked. Casey put her on speakerphone and propped the phone up as he made his coffee and toast. Once the dog was back in and both their breakfast were eaten, Casey took his phone in one hand and the second cup off coffee in the other and walked back and forth as if he was down there in Virginia with her walking around and discussing the division of their property.
Though he needed to work hard at keeping any bitter thoughts to himself, he was motivated by the idea, that the sooner the job was taken care of, the sooner he could get on with his life. He would finally be able to cut off contact with Lindsy. There would be no more phone calls asking her to send him things he needed, but forgot to pack. There would be no more phone calls from Lindsy asking him were something was.
The job of dividing their life up wasn’t as odious as he expected. He was surprised that whenever she mentioned wanting to keep some item, it was more often than not something he wasn’t interested in having. When he wanted to take possession of something else she seemed quite happy to be rid of it, with a few exceptions. As discussions continued she moved the things he wanted into the dining room, since the dining room furniture, sliver set, and formal dishes had been his mother’s, and he would be taking everything in the room. When the movers came, all they would need to do was empty the garage apartment and the dining room.
Over their ten years of marriage the two had collected many things, far more than could be discussed in a few short hours. Lindsy called every day, before leaving for her office, becoming part of his breakfast ritual. As they cooperated on the job, Casey found it to be less of a struggle to put the past behind him and even began enjoying swapping bittersweet memories of the good times they had together. It was almost as if they were eulogizing the dead union.
Finally there was nothing left to sort out, and he made the trip down to Virginia to supervise the movers. Almost everything was separated and ready to be packed into the moving van. The things that neither wanted were gone, sent of to Goodwill. All that remained was a few items they both desired to keep.
“Well, what do we do with these?” Lindsy asked, worried.
“Rock, paper, scissors?” Casey suggested.
As he drove away, following the moving van, he glanced back into the rearview, seeing her standing there in her jeans and ponytail, looking like the girl he married. He was profoundly sad. He was so sad that the always-simmering anger at Lindsy was kept at bay. He had expected to feel elated at making this break, but thirteen years is a long time, and he was having a hard time of thinking of himself as not being one half a couple with Lindsy.
The sadness weighed heavy on him all the way back to Boston and still haunted him in the morning. As he went through the motions he glanced balefully at the phone, angry that it didn’t ring. He was surprised at how much their conversations had meant to him, though they had simply been utilitarian. He knew that he shouldn’t be hanging on to this vestige of their relationship. He knew that he should move on and build a life without her. He felt so strangely alone.
In the waning days of their marriage, mornings were when they fought about all the little things that chaffed between them. Even when he was in residence over the garage, Lindsy came up to disturb his breakfast to air her grievances. He knew that he should be glad to be out of her line of fire, but couldn’t help feeling that even an argument would have been better than the loneliness of the quite house.
He had to laugh at himself, thinking about how the child-Casey dreamed of living alone. Sleeping in a room with three of his brothers, across the hall from a room filled with the other four, he could often hear his parents fighting in their suite of rooms, which acted a buffer between the boys’ rooms and the girl’s rooms. Even when most of the kids had grown up and moved on, leaving each of the rooms the sole domain of a remaining adult sibling, there still were not enough bathrooms to keep the mornings quite.
As the dog walked lazily across the kitchen linoleum, its toenails making little clicking sounds, to slip nearly silently through the dog-door, Casey wondered if getting a rambunctious puppy might help make the big house feel more lived in. Maybe it would even make the old dog feel younger.
He thought about calling his father to fill the loneliness, but he knew that when his father was free to talk he would call. Though Casey greatly enjoyed the phone calls from his father, he was never the one to call, because far too often the layers of gate keepers around the older man would direct his call to one of his siblings, subjecting Casey to a harangue from someone who didn’t see the reporter as courageous, but a foolhardy embarrassment to the family.
It was very rare that his father called in the mornings. When he did it tended to be a harbinger of bad news. His father seemed to have a second sense as to when Casey was free to talk. When Casey found himself finished with his work and settling into his recliner to read, the phone rang.
His father fell into the habit of twice-weekly phone calls began after Casey’s mother died, and his father deeply missed having someone to bounce his ideas off of. Though his parents’ arguments had scared Casey as a child, he later learned that they were more loud legal discussions than arguments. The combatants always retired from battle with their laurels and their marriage intact.
Casey was glad that his father had begun to call even more often after Casey asked Lindsy for the divorce. They talked about everything except Lindsy. The elder Kahn made his opinions know early on in Casey’s marriage. Since then he saw no need to re-plow the ground. Though Casey hadn’t practiced law in many years, his education had been good enough that he could give his father enough argument to keep the old man happy.
As the days passed Casey’s anger with the uncooperative phone passed away and he stopped bringing it into the kitchen, so that he wouldn’t have to gaze at it wistfully. He found he began to shorten his coffee time and return to his computer earlier every morning, much to the consternation of the dog, which liked things to stay the same, and having only just gotten over Ike’s abandonment, and accepted his new owner.
As fall speed into winter, Casey found himself looking forward to Christmas, in spite of it looking as if he was going to spend it alone.
Growing up in the big house filled with his extended family Casey watched sadly as all his friends celebrated Christmas with enthusiasm. Somewhere in the Kahn family’s past a marriage to wealthy Catholic woman was deemed necessary for the family’s progress in the new world. Though generations were born and died since the conversion, the family never developed any joy in their new religion. They did their duty. Church was attended on all major holidays, and on whatever saint-days, which were reflected in the children’s baptismal names. Heads were bowed humbly during public invocations.
Only properly vetted Catholics were allowed to marry into the fold, until every trace of the family’s Germanic roots were blended into a pallid Midwest uniformity. Holidays were observed if not celebrated. Not that the family had any lingering habits left from their ancestors’ religion. That was all left behind with very little replacing it.
Each year, the day after thanksgiving a crew arrived with a fresh tree, which was set up in the reception hall. Every year Casey asked his father if they couldn’t go out into the woods and find their own tree. Every year, the elder Kahn said, “maybe next year.” Next year never came for Casey’s dreams of a wintery hike through the woods with his father.
Every year Casey watched the tree being decorated and longed to help decorate it. His mother hired the man who decorated the windows of the largest department store downtown, to come do the honors. With an eye to his pay check the man every year shooed the young Casey away.
None of the gaily wrapped boxes under the tree held actual presents, they were simply the set dressing for face the family presented to guests. One year Casey sunk down early on Christmas morning to open one. He had expected that they had all the presents he should have gotten over the years, but that no one wanted him to have. Staring into the empty box he was so shocked that he nearly didn’t hear the servants stirring, and just made it to the cubbyhole under the stairs to hide the offending box before getting caught.
On Christmas Eve the family gathered in the library for eggnog and shortbread. His father presented each of the children with a plain white envelope, containing a cash gift. As he gave them to each member of the family and household staff, he encouraged them to use the money for something indulgent and frivolous. That was the extent of the Kahn family celebration.
Casey loved visiting his friends, houses during the holidays. He carefully inspected each inexpertly decorated tree and questioned the family about each ornament. He loved how each one had its own story. Ornaments bought on vacations, ornaments bought to celebrate a new life, ornaments lovingly made by children for their elders, and ornaments made by grandparents for the children.
His best friend’s mother, through gentile questioning, discovered the lack of attention Casey’s family gave the holiday and did her best to include the boy in as many of the festivities as she could. She even made sure that a stocking was hung for little Casey, even if he wasn’t expected for the holiday. It would be given to him ceremoniously the next time he came to visit after the day was passed.
Every year at Casey’s house, on the second day of January the decorator and his helpers came to the house and removed all vestige of Christmas. Casey envied his friends who could wonder up to attics or down to basements to stare wistfully at the boxes of Christmas decorations carefully stowed away for the next season.
Casey loved the old movies, which showed on television each Christmas season ad nauseum. His best friend and he spent long hours watching them. After his best friend died in the best Midwest tradition of a football injury, Casey used his Christmas money to buy a small TV for his room. He didn’t watch it often, only retreating to his room to watch shows no one else in the family wanted to watch, like the Christmas movies. When VCR tapes became popular Casey hunted down all his old favorites. When VCR’s replaced with DVD players, he bought them all again in the new format.
Christmas was always a sad time for Casey, even when Lindsy and he tried their best to establish their own Christmas traditions. Each year of their long engagement and their marriage they carefully shopped for an ornament to add to their tree. Other ornaments were gathered to celebrate their travels together and major milestones in their lives, with the idea that when they were old, they could sit by the tree and reminisce over each memory.
When Casey moved out he purposely didn’t remind Lindsy of the Christmas decorations that were secreted behind a false panel under the stairs. He didn’t want to sort through the happy memories. He wondered if Lindsy ever brought them out to decorate her home or if she had forgotten them. He could imagine one day when the bulldozers came to level the house to replace it with an even more extravagant ego driven home, someone finding the stash and wondering.
Since all his carefully selected ornaments were unattainable, Casey decided to be humorous about his Christmas decorations in his new home. He made sure that the face it presented to the street was festooned with lights. Inside was the most pitifully scraggly Christmas tree he could find at the local lot, in homage to Charlie Brown. He suspected that the lot had a stash of pitiful trees and replaced the ones he bought with fresh ones to cater to the adults who grew up on the video. He filled his house with the best baked-goods from his favorite bakery; enjoying the humor of the best Christmas cookies he could find being kosher.
He found himself buying presents for the dog, wrapping them carefully and hiding them in the top of a closet. Not that he thought that the animal would enjoy the element of surprise, but because he wouldn’t have left the presents unmolested under the tree, since wrapping couldn’t hide the tantalizing smells of dog bones and rawhide.
Christmas Day at Casey’s house started with a breakfast. Watching his housemate enjoying the bounty, Casey washed down a generous portion of Christmas Stollen with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, which had been a gift from his father. The old man must have been worried about Casey spending Christmas alone, for the normal Christmas card with a check, the old man had sent a large crate, that when opened revealed several gaily wrapped presents.
His Christmas dinner, which he cooked for lunch and snacked on for the next couple of days, had been delivered in a Styrofoam box complete with heating directions, as a welcome present from Lindsy. She knew that if he wasn’t prodded, his Christmas dinner was likely to be corn chips and bean dip.
The rest of the day was given over to lounging in his recliner, wearing his gifts from his father, pajamas, robe, and slippers. The old dog contentedly slept next to the chair, his head cradled on a huge beef bone, which was his favorite present. Casey watched movie after movie, sometimes dozing off from the effects of the store-bought eggnog, which was carefully dosed with three spirits.
When he full awoke it was well past midnight.
“Well, you have to admit, it wasn’t too bad as Christmases go,” he addressed the dog, whose eyes could be seen sparkling in the soft lights of the tree.
Though Casey spent most of his time in the Boston area, did some traveling, and had the opportunity to meet and correspond with many interesting people, he didn’t have a local social group in his new life. The one constant in his life were phone calls with his father. Whenever his father knew how to get in touch with Casey, he called.
There had been times before Casey moved to Massachusetts when the phone rang in some musty hotel room in some strange land. Casey had always been amazed that his father was able to track him down, even though Casey hadn’t been able to get word through to his father about his location.
Of everyone in his family, his father was the only person who seemed to be able to forgive Casey for his life choices. In the beginning the elder Kahn had been angry and disappointed at his son for throwing up a promising career at the bar for what he thought of as a childish fantasy. Over time his father had gotten over his anger, and learned to be proud of his son’s courage. He was impressed with his son for going into places to get stories, which were so bad that it was hard to even read the resulting prose. He couldn’t imagine that if it were so bad to read about, how bad it must have been for his son to see it all first hand.
Casey, in paranoid moments, wondered if perhaps his father kept the rest of the family stirred up against the wayward son to keep his favorite boy to himself. Casey tried not to think of such things, but sometimes when he had gone one drink too far the thoughts cropped up. In spite of these ungenerous moments, Casey eventually found that his father was the only person who he could tell about his nightmares who didn’t uncomfortably cut him short after listening to one or two. He had kept the nightmares a secret from his father for many years, afraid that if the older man knew about them, he would lose his father’s hard won respect.
Not long after he returned to Boston from removing his things from what was now totally Lindsy’s home, Casey was surprised with a call from his father just as he had woken up from a nap. He was still in the grips of unreasonable fear when he answered the phone. He was momentarily disoriented as the images of the Philippines receded from his mind and he found himself looking at a confusion of boxes filling the living room.
Hearing the fear in his son’s voice, the elder Kahn, pressed until Casey told him about the dream he just woke from. Under his father’s careful guidance he told the whole story, like a witness on the stand. From that dream he went from one to another, remembering when each one started and admitting that they each seemed to have a trigger. He told his father about the events in Luzon, which triggered the latest dream.
His father, though he should have been heading to court, stayed on the phone until Casey had talked himself out. He told his father that the long hours of introspection alone in his rented house made him see that he had a real problem. Like a child he simply asked his father to help. Casey was ready to hear it when his father suggested that it sounded like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and encouraged Casey to get into therapy.
As soon as he broke off the connection to his father, Casey called a Gulf War vet, whose platoon he had been imbedded with during the Gulf War, and asked him the name of his therapist. His friend asked no questions, to Casey’s great relief and gave him the name of a doctor at Mass General.
He was surprised at how quickly he was given an appointment and found himself in the doctor’s office before he had a chance to convince himself again that his nightmares were no where nearly as bad as the problems his friend had suffered when the vet returned home. He found the doctor and his staff very comforting, and felt better than he had in years when he boarded the train back home.
As he rode, looking at the window at the passing backyards, he thought about what the doctor had told him. Labels weren’t important. He had explained that there was a large spectrum of PTSD, and that Casey shouldn’t feel guilty that his didn’t fit a preconceived definition. What was important was that the dreams were causing him distress and help was available.
Casey felt guilty remembering how mad he got at Lindsy for suggesting he had PTSD years before. He vowed that he would never tell her that she was right. He didn’t want to hear that smug tone she got when she one-upped him on something. He didn’t know that therapy would get him past this vow.
Casey tried to schedule his regular appointments in the morning, but his doctor held him strictly to an afternoon schedule. In a way it worked out well since he was able to talk to his father, about his session with the therapist, not long after getting home. His father never pressed him, but was ready to listen if his son needed to talk. Sometimes when the time between calls from his father stretched out, due to some case the firm was involved in, Casey found himself profoundly lonely.
Sometimes when he got that lonely he called Lindsy at the house assuming that if she were really busy she wouldn’t be home. After a while he stopped trying to come up with a real reason to call and pretended that he was worried about her, due to something he read about her in the newspapers or the gossip rags.
One day when she was having trouble proofing a document she didn’t want in the hands of her staff, she asked him to proof it. He was flattered that she asked. He was flattered that she trusted him with some grave political issue, until he got the document and realized that she trusted him because she knew he was ambivalent to the paper’s subject. Once the precedence had been established Lindsy leaned on his proofreading skills even when her staff could have done it as well.
He felt quite guilty that the frequent phone calls made him feel so much better. It was the guilt of an addict, not able to stop himself from just going for one more fix to feel better. He knew that he shouldn’t depend on her for conversation, that he should try making some friends locally. Most of the time she was happy to talk, but sometimes she cut him short making him feel worse than before he called.
“Guess what I found in my kitchen when I went in to get my second cup of coffee yesterday,” Casey started one day, assured that Lindsy was up for a long chatty call.
“A squirrel? Oh no, the dog didn’t bring you a dead squirrel; did he?”
“No-no, it was a cat!”
“Oh, that is horrible Casey! Why do you have to tell me things like that?”
“It wasn’t a dead cat! The dog didn’t bring in anything. It was a cat that just moved into my house sometime after I opened the dog’s door this morning. You should see it sitting on the counter like I am the one that is invading its space. It is the most beautiful gray with blue-green eyes. It looks like a Weimaraner cat.”
“Sounds pretty, but your allergies must be going crazy!”
“I must have grown out of my allergies. I am not sure when. I haven’t been this close to a cat since I as a boy.”
“You had better not touch it. That might give you a reaction.”
“No, chance of that; the cat doesn’t want me any were near it.” Casey avowed, as the cat turned its back on him to wash the base of its tale.
“Well that is good,” Lindsy said, as Casey settled in to happily listen to another installment of As the House of Representatives Turns.
Later in the day Lindsy was proven wrong when Casey, who had dozed off reading in his shapeless recliner, woke with a start to find a heavy weight on his chest. Fearing the onset of a heart attack, he slowly opened his eyes, halfway expecting to see paramedics hovering over him. What he saw was a gray triangle of fur, inches from his nose, sporting two slanted strangely human eyes and a small pink triangle of nose. The weight disappeared from his chest as the cat lightly hopped to the floor.
Rubbing his wet nose he saw the cat walking toward the kitchen, looking over her shoulder. Realizing that the hungry cat must have been licking his nose to wake him, and his only reaction was a roughed up nose tip, he was sure that he had indeed outgrown his childhood allergies.
Following the cat, he knew that Lindsy would be ticked off, if she were to know. All those years he wouldn’t let her have a cat and there probably wasn’t any reason. Now living alone, with all her travel she couldn’t have pets, other than the lovebirds, which she dropped off at the boarders to be tended when she was gone. She had voiced her envy, more than once, at the dog that came with his rental. He idly wondered if his childhood allergy to cats had been caused by his hatred of his sisters rather than their cats’ dander.
Nearly two weeks had passed since the cat slipped through the dog’s door, ate the dog’s food, and made herself at home sunning in the kitchen window. Casey sat down to watch it eat the new cat-food, hoping that she liked this brand better than the dog’s food, which Casey assumed wasn’t good for her. He had already lost count of the various brands of cat food that went into the bellies of the squirrels in the yard after being rejected by the cat.
The dog sat at attention alongside Casey’s chair, also riveted by the actions of the new edition to his home. Though he enjoyed watching the cat, Casey was no more taken with the idea of sharing the house with a cat than the dog was.
Every day for a week he called the number on the cat’s collar and left a message. He was beginning to believe that the cat was now his. His last message to the answering machine was, “Okay, I give up. This is the last time I am going to call. If you don’t return my call by next Monday, I am going to go buy a new collar and give the cat a new name.”
Casey spent the week continuing to observe the cat, as the cat observed him, each keeping their distance from one another. They often gazed at each other over the back of the alert dog. The dog seemed to think it was his duty to protect Casey from the interloper, and was distressed at night when the baby gate that kept the arthritic animal outside the bedroom, did nothing to stop the cat, which hopped right over and spent the night doing its best to smother Casey.
One morning cat was lounging on a high windowsill, enjoying a thorough wash up after breakfast, as Casey’s attempted to get it to react to tentative names. The cat just wasn’t interested. Casey and the dog looked quickly toward the phone, while the cat ignored the ringing. With an expectation that at that time of day it would be Lindsy, wanting him to proofread a document for her, he reached over and picked up the handset.
He found himself listening to a rapidly speaking woman with a distinct Boston Brahmin accent. When her flow of words stopped, Casey looked at the cat and asked, “Boudica?” The cat snapped around and stared at him with her tongue hanging out, like a limp pink tab.
It was few days later before Lindsy called to avail herself of Casey’s proofreading once again. After they had gone over the document she had emailed, they shifted into a more personal conversation.
“Well, have you named the cat?” Lindsy asked, bemused that her infamously cat-hating husband would be sharing his house with such an animal.
“No, the cat has gone home, but the woman she owns told me that her name is Boudica,” Kasey responded.
“The woman or the cat?” Lindsy asked, sounding more like Casey than herself.
“The cat; though Boudica would be a much better name for the woman than Bunny. I went out to dinner with Bunny, by the way of her thanking me for returning her cat.”
“What took her so long to get in touch with you?” she asked, pointedly ignoring the milestone of Casey’s date.
“I misread the phone number on Boudica’s collar. After getting tired of my messages about a cat that wasn’t theirs, the people I was pestering remembered that they sometimes received calls for someone with the same number that ended with a nine rather than a four. The called Bunny and passed the messages along. She lives way over in Marblehead, so I didn’t see the wanted posters.”
“Don’t you mean Missing Posters?”
“Nope, she showed me one. She did it up like a wanted poster. The photo showed Boudica with her tongue stuck right onto the end of her nose, like she always does when anyone seems to be admiring her beauty. Bunny was hopping that the humor of the Wanted Poster would get more attention than the normal tug-at-the-heart-strings ones you usually see.”
“How do think she got over to where you live?” Lindsy was vaguely aware that Marblehead was on the coast and Casey lived northwest of Boston.
”One of Bunny’s neighbors said that they had to toss Boudica out of a delivery truck the day the cat went missing. Bunny thinks that the Boudica must have managed to get back in the truck and took a ride over to my area. I remember that the folks across the street got a delivery around the time Boudica showed up.”
“Well, all is well that ends well.”
“True, I miss her though. Maybe I will get a cat. Bunny volunteers at the shelter, where she got Boudica. She told me that if I wanted a cat or three she could set me up.”
Casey was surprised a couple of weeks later when Boudica’s person called him and asked him over to her home for lunch. He took special care in dressing that day, making sure that he was far more presentable than he was when he went wondering around Boston looking for images to record.
Casey hadn’t renewed the lease on his car when it expired, since the MTA station was so convent to his home, and Boston had everything he could ever need. He rode the train to as close to Bunny’s address as he could get and called a taxi to fetch him the rest of the way.
The Marblehead house matched Bunny’s stately elegance. Dressed in vintage Asian-inspired lounging pajamas, Bunny could have stepped out of an Ida Lupino film. She presided over an elegant lunch, which reminded him of the spreads his father’s country club could manage if given enough notice. Assuring himself that women liked to see men with healthy appetite, he pushed away all worry over his middle-aged waist and tucked into the food, complementing her as if he didn’t realized that hidden in the dumpster on the service road behind the house was the packaging from whatever upscale caterer she used.
They were finishing their meal as the sun’s angle changed enough to make the veranda uncomfortable. Casey helped her carry the dishes back into her very orderly kitchen, were Bunny made up a bag for Casey to take to the dog. While she was busy arranging the food she knew would never get near the dog’s maul, she asked Casey to mix some drinks, telling him that she would have whatever he was having. Long ago, Bunny’s mother had taught her that men liked it when you drank as they did. Her mother also taught her the art of ditching drinks, in potted plants or flowerbeds, if she didn’t care to actually drink them.
“So you are married?” Bunny asked, as she peered over the edge of her gin and tonic, sipping, awaiting his answer, though she knew the answer from seeing a gossip magazine at her doctor’s office.
“Yes, but it is complicated.”
“What could be so complicated about it? You are either married or you are not.”
“Bunny you aren’t a reporter or anything, are you? I mean I’ve never heard of you if you are. I am sorry if I should know who you are.”
“No,” she said coldly. “I am not a reporter.”
He noticed the she didn’t enlighten him to what she did, besides spending lavishly on her lovely home overlooking the ocean.
“Well, you see, my wife and I have separated, but we haven’t divorced yet.”
“Your wife is a politician right?”
“Yes, and she ran on a family-values platform. Apparently being separated is not as odious to her constituents as divorce.”
“Politicians are strange. Look here comes Boudica. She remembers you,” Bunny said, as the cat hopped into Casey’s lap and proceed to lick the condensation off his glass.
“It is funny, but in the two weeks she lived with me she never got in my lap.”
“She is strange that way. She is a strange cat. She was adopted twice before I took her. People kept bringing her back say she spooked them. I think it was the tongue thing.”
“I was thinking about what you said; about my getting a cat. You are right. I don’t travel very much any more, but when I do I’ve a pet sitting service that comes to look after the dog. They take care of cats too. I’ve really been pleased with them. They make sure the house looks lived in while I am gone, visiting twice a day to turn the lights on and off, taking in the mail, and playing with the dog.”
“That sounds like a good service. One of the girls at the shelter is looking for a new business to start. I think I will suggest one like it to her. Of course she will have to get bonded.” At that statement, Casey wondered if perhaps Bunny might be an attorney. He hopped not, but he didn’t ask. If she was he really didn’t want to know since he was enjoying her company.
Later as the sun began to dip to the horizon, Casey realized he was probably overstaying his welcome. “I hate to say it, but I really have to be going. I hope you will let me take you out to dinner to repay you for giving me such a magical afternoon.”
“I would love to visit you at your house, and have you come to visit here again, but I hope you won’t be offended that I really can’t be seen in public with a married man.”
“That would be wonderful. I am not much of a cook, but I would love to show off my barbecuing skills,” he said, biting back the comment that being seen at each other’s houses might be more scandalous than being seen in public. He really wanted to see her again, and figured it was worth passing up a cynical remark.
When Lindsy called next she got the answering machine. She left Casey a message that she needed his help, but there was no hurry. After he got home and settled in he mixed himself a drink and got comfortable in front of his computer before returning Lindsy’s call. He was surprised when she didn’t want him to read over something she emailed, but wanted to read a speech to him for his opinion.
“Well, I think your audience will be very impressed. I am impressed, it is not every member of congress who gets invited to give an address at a Press Club Luncheon. The one thing I would caution you on is keeping the Q and A short and light. If they get their teeth into you it could get messy.”
“Thanks Casey, I will keep that in mind. Did your lady friend talk you into three cats?”
“No, not three; I got two. I thought three might qualify me for being a Crazy Cat Man. After all, I already spend most of my day dressed in pajamas and a bathrobe. … I love working from home.”
“I envy you and your lifestyle, but I guess I should be happy to have the birds. What did you name the cats?”
“They are litter mates that look almost like twins. One I named Maisa. That means graceful, and she sure is. The other one I named Asiam,” he said, pronouncing it as As-I-Am.
“That is an unusual name for a cat.”
“Asiam is a little on the chunky side, and isn’t anywhere near as graceful as her sister,” Casey said, wondering if Lindsy would ever notice that Maisa back wards was Asiam.
“What do they look like?”
“They almost look like Siamese, but they are dusky looking. Bunny said she thinks that they might be Burmese, but no one knows for sure, they were found abandoned. The vet at the shelter says that they are several years old, but that is about it.”
“How is the dog getting along with them?”
“He tried to show them who was boss, but they tag teamed him and showed him that theirs is the new regime. He seems to have already gotten over it.”
“That is good. Oh, before I go, I wanted to tell you that after the Press Club thing I will be going out of town for a while. I will call when I can.”
Leaning back watching the condensation drip from his drink, Casey wondered if Lindsy was really going out of town where she couldn’t call, or if she was just miffed at him for mentioning Bunny too often. He smiled at himself for hoping that he could still make his wife jealous. He ignored the fact that he was jealous of whatever it was that would be depriving him of his almost regular morning entertainment.
Casey would often look back on these late summer days as nearly idyllic. Lindsy filling the role of making him feel needed, his father and his doctor helping him to work through his demons, and Bunny making him feel more charming and debonair than he had in years. With his life stabilized Casey began making the trek into Boston once a week to a friend’s studio to do a podcast about writing and journalism.
After his podcast surprised him by becoming a popular download, he found himself occasionally solicited by advertisers wanting him to do advertisement spots in exchange for much needed cash. Most of these potential clients he refused because the products were the type he normally reviewed. He didn’t want his readers to think he was altering his reviews in exchange for ad revenue. Other products, which passed the critical ethical hurdle, didn’t meet his personal tastes. He refused to advertise a product he couldn’t or wouldn’t use.
For a while one of his sponsors was a local coffee company, which sold custom roasted beans from their website, shipping them all over the US. While the company was his sponsor he got up every morning and used their coffee in his French-press, recording his comments and all the background noise to be played later as an ad on the podcast. When the day came that he thought their beans were no longer up to scratch he let them go as sponsors and banned their coffee from his kitchen.
He was very disappointed when the company expanded to the point where they were no longer able to keep tight control over sourcing and roasting of the beans. Coffee was one of the few things Casey could make that he did very well. He wasn’t about to mess that up with substandard beans.
As the summer heat was passing off and the wind began giving hints that fall would soon be turning the leaves pantone colors, he found himself enjoying testing the latest potential advertiser’s offering, which Bunny had dropped off at his house the week before. He had asked Bunny to buy the product under her name. He wanted to compare it to the sample product that the perspective advertiser had made up special for Casey.
The company sold gourmet food baskets delivered to your door on your schedule, with your taste and dietary restrictions accounted for. You could request that everything in the basket be non-perishable, all perishable, or a mix of the two. Casey asked that they send a general mixed basket, and instructed Bunny to do the same, without concern for shelf life or dietary restrictions.
The premise of the service was that you received your basket at whatever interval you chose. Each item in the basket came with a shopping list and recipe cards so that you could include the gourmet item in a dish or even a whole meal. You could chose how often you wanted the baskets to be delivered, with the idea that you space your consumption out so that the gourmet treats lasted until the next shipment.
Casey had already polished off the perishables from the first two baskets and had been suitably impressed with the food. He was also impressed that the basket Bunny ordered was just as good as the one sent to his door.
Though he had never been much of a cook, he faithfully trekked to the market and bought the items on the shopping list. Following the beautifully illustrated recipe cards, he was proud of the meals he was able to cook. He was sure that when the trial was over he would be able to take the delivery service on as his new sponsor. He was already writing the advertising copy in his mind about how the service could teach you to cook.
Finally after two weeks of hitting the baskets for almost every meal, Casey was ready to finish one remaining can. The intriguing canned lobster came with a card encouraging you to make it into a fresh green salad. It sounded like a foolproof dish to Casey and he decided to invite Bunny over for dinner. Disappointed when Bunny wasn’t able to come, he was determined to make his solitary meal special anyway. He picked up a bottle of wine at the market, taken in by its elegant label, which promised a crisp white wine perfect for seafood and salads.
Following the directions he mixed up fresh blue-cheese dressing and put it in the refrigerator to chill. He assembled the salad and had it ready before opening and draining the can of lobster. He was surprised that it seemed to be made up of his favorite parts of the mudbug, claws and knuckles. He tasted a bit of it and found it had a nice taste and texture. He wondered what Lindsy would think of him eating a canned lobster. He had to laugh envisioning the look of horror on her face.
When Casey woke he was surprised to see Bunny leaning over him. “Another nightmare!” he thought.
“Casey, good you are awake. How are you feeling?”
Casey looked at Bunny blankly.
“Do you know where you are?”
“No,” he said, his voice horse from acid, causing him to remember spending hours in the bathroom vomiting. He eyed her white coat and stammered, “You’re a doctor?”
“Yes, I am. I hope that is better than you feared?” she said, having picked up on his worry over her occupation.
“Don’t worry, I am not your doctor. I just saw your name on the overnight admissions, and ran over to check on you. I am a baby doc.”
“Oh okay, how did I get here?”
“You managed to call 911, though from what I see from your chart, you were very sick.”
“The cats, the dog?”
“I called your sitters. They will take care of everything while you are here.”
“Thanks, Bunny, why have you never told me you were a doctor?”
“Don’t you have reasons that you don’t tell people you have just met socially that you are a journalist? Yes … well, doctors have their reasons too. Our reasons are just as benign and valid as yours.”
“I am I really going to live?” Casey asked weakly feeling as if his insides must have been outside recently.
“You are going to be okay, but I am not going to be able to come visit you again.”
“Why?” Casey asked, weakly.
“There are reporters lurking around, wanting to see you. Your being sick, while your estranged wife is out of the country on a rather controversial junket, is a hot story for them. It wouldn’t be good for my practice if my name got linked to yours.”
“I guess I should have never eaten that canned lobster.”
“Oh, it wasn’t the lobster that got you. You ate fresh spinach from a tainted shipment. The bag I found in your trash had the same lot number. There are several other people around the state, who ate from that tainted shipment. Of course, that is another reason the media has noticed you.”
“Oh, and I thought salad was supposed to be good for you.” Casey said, drifting off.
Casey was glad to finally be out of the hospital. After years of trying to lose weight, he had lost twenty pounds, and never looked worse. Bunny assured him that he would return to his normal self as soon as he got back into his old routine. He wouldn’t mind if the weight didn’t come back, but he hoped the haggard looked would dissipate soon.
Grinding the coffee one morning, not long after he came home, he heard a phone ring. A moment after feeling a rush of pleasure hopping it would be Bunny or Lindsy, he realized that it was the Blackberry he used for business, not the house phone. He finished his breakfast ritual, slowing it down enough to please the dog, which hated it when Casey rushed around in the morning. The cats, having finished their breakfast, were sitting in the kitchen window, looking like mirror images while barking insults at a squirrel hanging on a nearby branch.
Irritated that anyone would try to call him at that hour of the morning on business, Casey was determined not to attended to whatever message they left until his normal working hours. He put the call out of his mind and contemplated whether or not it was worth his while to get his camera and try to take a photo of the confrontation between the cats and the squirrel. Just as he convinced himself to retrieve the camera, the two cats, seeming to read his mind, flip quickly into washing their neither regions, spoiling the shot.
Giving up on photography for the morning, he picked up his cup of coffee and left the kitchen. Wandering unhurriedly into his office he picked up the offending phone. He was surprised that there was no voice message. The caller had instead texted a brief message, “Dad is dead.”
Casey dropped down into a chair, shocked to realize that at fifty-two he was an orphan. All the strength he had regained after his illness seemed to ebb away. He sat feeling numb, running through his mind the last time he had seen his father, the last Christmas card, and the last phone call.
He jumped up and dashed into the living room. Opening a box on the mantel he assured himself that the last Christmas card was still there. Inside the card was a check for fifty dollars that Casey had never cashed, and never would cash. He ran his finger over the handwriting, deeply etched into the paper by his father’s arthritic hand. Carefully he replaced the check back into the card, and the card into the box. Returning to the kitchen, he sat down and accepted the dog’s attention as the beast tried to comfort him, and the two cats continued being cats.
“Yes,” he said, his voice wavering.
“What is the matter? You sound like you have been crying.”
“I guess, I have, I hadn’t noticed.”
“You hadn’t noticed? What on earth has happened to you?”
“Dad is dead. My father is dead, and my brother just sent me a text to tell me.”
“A text, the bastard!”
“I guess it is his last lick on me,” Casey said. “He knows now that with Dad gone he has no hold over me.” Casey knew that of all people, Lindsy understood his problems with his family, though they had met well after the estrangement had begun.
She knew of the trouble there had been when he drifted away from the family’s legal firm and began working as a journalist. They had all approved when he was first published, since he was writing a nearly scholarly column in a law review. They even understood when he returned to his alma mater and began to teach.
When he left his teaching job, and began traveling around the planet with his new young wife, the majority of his family soundly rejected him. After the initial shock of Casey’s defection, only his father was supportive. Even his mother, an appellate judge, never got over her anger at his leaving what she considered his calling, though she once called him her favorite child. Even on her deathbed, just before sipping into the arms of Morpheus, she begged him to grow up and return to the fold.
“Well, I have to admit that I didn’t pick up the phone when he called.”
“Oh, you didn’t want to talk to him?”
“No, it wasn’t that. He called my work phone. I don’t answer it outside of work hours. I am not a doctor. No one is going to die if I don’t pick up.”
“I am sorry that you had to find out that way.”
“In a way, I guess it was better. I was able to grieve privately without my brother making stupid comments about what bad a son I am … was. I got a bunch of pretty nasty emails from the rest of them.”
“How did it happen? I mean I hadn’t heard that he was ill again. Was it his heart,” Lindsy asked, wondering if she were going to find an article about the passing of the esteemed councilor, from her home state, in her clip file on Monday morning.
“Yes, Dad died running to the courtroom. He had got the notice that the jury was coming back in. He shouldn’t have been running at his age. No one knew CPR. Of course one of my sisters pointed out that I know CPR and if I had been with him he wouldn’t have died.”
“You don’t even have to tell me which one wrote that. She is such a bitch! I am so sorry Casey. Do you want me to go to the funeral with you?” Lindsy asked, remembering how when they were married, she took on the job running interference against his family. She could easily imagine Casey’s family jumping on him in front of his father’s casket, and imploring him to stop embarrassing them and return to the family firm.
“No, I am not going. Now don’t tell me that I should. Dad is gone. My going will not help him any. It won’t really help me either. I would rather remember him the way he was the last time I saw him, not in a box. All it would accomplish is let the siblings take potshots at me. You know that when Dad moved in with my brother after the first heart attack, that I wasn’t allowed to talk to him on the phone? They just wanted to get me back there and pressure me to conform to their standards. It was so good when he moved back out on his own again, and we began our phone calls again. I so missed talking to him. Boy, I really am going to miss him!”
“When was the last time you saw him?” she asked, knowing that she should know.
“A while back, he called me and said he was through with a big case. It had dragged out for years, keeping him from having a real vacation. It was the patent infringement one, I told you about. He figured that the client would want to start up appeals soon, so he had better take a vacation while he could. We went up to the Kispiox River, fishing for steelheads. It was nice, we managed to dodge the rains. Even if I had know it would be the last time I saw him, I couldn’t have planned a better time.”
“It is nice you have such a good memory of him.”
“It is better than good. As we parted at the airport he told me he loved me. That was the first time he said that since I was a little boy.”
Casey remembered that day so well. The crowd had been very loud. Their voices were elevated as they were saying their goodbyes. In that way that sometimes happens in crowds, silence fell, just as his father boomed out, “I love you, son!”
His father had looked quite embarrassed as people turned to stare.
Thinking quickly Casey boomed back, “I love you too, Dad,” and hugged his normally taciturn father. As they hugged someone in the crowd began to clap, strong and slow, until the rest of the crowd joined in and the clapping swelled into a regular ovation. Disengaging the rather embarrassed men took a bow to their audience and parted. Casey considered telling Lindsy about the parting, but stopped himself from sharing something so very personal with a woman he no longer considered his wife.
“Casey if you want to go to the funeral, I can go with you. My security detail will be happy to stretch around you and protect you from your family,” Lindsy offered again.
“Security detail? You are only in congress,” Casey commented, having only just noticed her mention of a security detail.
“I only have it when I go out west. I acquired protection after that damned nutcase back home made treats towards me and then disappeared. They are sure he is still somewhere around the northern part of the state hiding out, so I’ve a security detail when I am back home.”
Casey thought for a moment. He was sure that Lindsy just wanted to attend the funeral for the good press it would garner her, but still if he could go pay his respects to his father, and not have to put up with his family. The image of the pack of his siblings glaring at him across the broad shoulders of Lindsy’s security men, filled him with an anxiety he didn’t want to face for real.
“You are a good girl, Lin, but I really can’t take the stress right now. I will go to visit his grave in about six months, you know, after the grass has grown and the stone is in place,” he said, hoping that six months was long enough for those two things to have taken place.
“Okay Casey, if that is what you really want,” Lindsy said doubtfully.
“It is. Your offer is tempting. Lin, you could go alone and take flowers for me. You could tell them that I am too sick to travel,” Casey said, offering her the chance at the good PR even if he couldn’t or wouldn’t go.
“Of course I can, but you are not too sick are you? Did they let you go from the hospital too soon?”
“No, I am going to be okay, but I am exhausted. You won’t be fetching the truth very far.”
After they exchanged their normal lingering goodbyes, feeling strangely comforted that Lindsy would take care of everything, Casey replaced the phone in its charger.
His father died on a Sunday. The funeral was delayed until the following Saturday, so the extended family could be gathered. Phone calls and emails, went unanswered since Casey had blocked their numbers and assigned their email addresses to the spam filter. He kept abreast of the family’s activities through daily phone calls from Lindsy. She took the opportunity to schedule some town-hall meetings in her district, which kept her busy and in front of the press for the days leading up to the church services.
Casey was pleased at how she deflected questions about why Casey hadn’t joined his family. He almost felt guilty that he was feeing better and better each day as his wife was informing the press that his condition had been severely set back by his grief.
Had anyone seen him going to Mass General every day for his therapy, they probably would have assumed he was still receiving treatment for his illness. Even Bunny at seeing one of Lindsy’s press conferences dropped in to make sure he was okay. She stayed to make him a nice lunch, while the old dog retreated to the back yard. The two cats supervised the preparation, accepting from time to time tasty bribes from Bunny.
Though she didn’t remark on it, Casey got the distinct impression that Bunny was none too happy with Lindsy representing him at his father’s funeral. He didn’t understand why Bunny was bothered. After all, Lindsy had known his family for eighteen years and had been a part of it for ten, fourteen if he was to count the years of their separation. In spite of their marriage not working out, Casey trusted Lindsy to stand in for him. He was bothered that Bunny seemed not to trust his judgment when it came to his estranged wife.
Casey wished he could have trusted Lindsy with the new dream as easily as he trusted her with defending him from his toxic siblings. His relationship with Bunny was too new for him to confide in her about the dreams. He knew one day that he would have to tell her. One day she would expect them to spend their nights together. He would have to tell her. It would be unfair to let her wake up to one of his dreams without some warning first. If only he could call his father and talk the dream over with him.
Sunday morning Lindsy called to let him know how the funeral had gone, assuring him that it was the big sendoff that his father would have liked.
“Lin, I miss him so much. I found myself marking a passage in a book yesterday to talk to him about. When I realized what I was doing I looked up at the clock and realized that you must have been at the cemetery at that time.”
“It has only been a week since you lost him, Casey. You have to give yourself some time. It will take some time to get used to him not being there.” Lindsy tried to keep her voice pitched to convey sadness and concern.
She had a wonderful time on Saturday, watching her father-in-law being buried. Oh, how she hated the old man. She wanted to tell Casey what she knew of his father, but knew that if she did she would kill their friendship. He would never believe her, plus he was sure to retaliate by damaging her political future. She needed him right now to be the happy, though estranged husband.
Someday, she vowed, when she no longer needed Casey to behave himself she would tell him how his father had tried to buy her off before and after their marriage. She would tell him how the old man tried to blackmail her and how she successful blackmailed the old man in return. She would tell Casey how she searched his father’s office late one night when she was interning at the firm, and found enough on the old man to put him in prison for a good long time.
The discovery had been just in time to take the wind out of the old man’s sails, when he confronted her with her past; a past Casey didn’t know about. The old man had called her into his office and told her to break off the engagement or he would air her dirty laundry. She coolly sat in the uncomfortable chair, in front of his intimidating desk, and began to recite what she knew of him. Informing him that the evidence was safely locked away in a safety deposit box, she relaxed and watched him rush to open a hidden panel his desk, which he previously thought was more secure than the his wall safe.
Someday was not now. Now was time to bind Casey closer to her so that he would feel a vested interest in making sure things went smoothly for her.
By the Monday after his father’s funeral, Casey was just too tired to drag himself over to the hospital to see his therapist. He had yet to be able to talk to him about his father’s passing, changing the subject each time the doctor mentioned it. He wished he could have kept it from the doctor, but the therapist actually read the gossip magazines before they were well aged and placed in the waiting room.
On Tuesday Morning he awoke to find himself huddled alongside his bed sobbing and gasping for breath. His skin was burning as if spectral hands had been ripping at his flesh. As his breathing slowed his hiccups began. He staggered to the phone and told the woman who answered that he would be there on time for his appointment with the therapist.
He was still exhausted, though his need to talk about the nightmare, which he could no longer ignore, motivated him to make it to his doctor’s office with time to spare. While he rode the train and the subway keeping his eyes averted from the people, who stared at his continuing hiccups, he mulled the dream over in his head, wondering what his therapist would make of it.
In the dream, his dream-self said goodbye to his father in the airport and began to run to catch his plane. As he ran the air thickened and his breath came more labored. It was like he was running at the bottom of a river with the current against him, and the pressure of the water crushing his already belabored lungs. Suddenly his dream-self was no longer running for a plane. He was running in the hallway of the courthouse. He knew that passage so well. Unlike his father’s last moments, Casey was running away from the courtroom. The hallway was lined with people, their mouths moving as if they were yelling at him to go back. Their voices were caught fast in the ever-thickening air.
A crushing pain in his chest took him down. The crowed moved in on him their mouths still moving and their hands reaching out. As they began to rip his flesh off his bones, their faces morphed into the faces of his sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and strangers that the dream-Casey knew were the long line of attorneys and barristers he was descended from.
When he returned from the session, still hiccuping, he tried the various methods the doctor suggested to get rid of them, as well as all the folk remedies he could think of without success. He sat down and wrote a column about how hard it was to type with the hiccups. When he finished the article and posted it on his personal blog, he realized that sometime while he was working the hiccups had disappeared.
The next night he slept well, without being visited by the new dream, though he had so feared its return. The dream had taken him by surprise. He worried that its arrival was an indication that all the dreams would come back again. With therapy the dreams had tapered off until he began to hope they were gone. That this new one had come on as suddenly as the first one all those years ago worried him.
The morning he knew Lindsy would be back from her travels out west and resuming her routine in DC, Casey carried the phone into the kitchen and set it in its usual place to wait, hoping Lindsy would call at her regular time. He delayed grinding coffee, so that if she did call she could hear the grinder as always. The phone rang.
“Hey Casey, how are you doing today?”
“I am doing much better,” he lied happily, not wanting to tell her that he had been sleeping only sporadically. Every time he drifted off he found his dream-self in a funeral parlor, which seemed more like a set from Six Feet Under, than any funeral parlor he had ever seen in life. He awoke far too early each time as his dream-self was being forced into the casket, face to face, not with his dead father, buy his many bothers and sisters.
His therapist told him that he couldn’t expect the dreams to go away until his mind and heart could find peace with the loss of his father. The doctor reminded him, that the traumas, which had triggered for his other dreams, were well past before he started therapy. The doctor cautioned that Casey’s loss was so fresh that it would take time for him to obtain the same distance. He had nodded in agreement, but hopped that if he could banish the old dreams, he wound banish the new ones just as fast.
“I am glad to hear that. I am stuck in traffic again. I swear, traffic in DC seems to get worse by the day,” Lindsy complained, blithely unaware of Casey’s enter turmoil.
“I have to admit that it is pretty much the same here in Boston. At least you don’t have to do the driving,” he said, assuming that she was in a hired car as usual, and glad to steer the conversation away from his personal issues.
“That is true. I read your article about how someday there would be automatous cars. It seems really farfetched to me, though it would be wonderful.”
“You read one of my column?” he asked with surprise.
“Why of course! You are the best tech writer I know,” she said, refraining from mentioning that he was the only tech writer she knew and the article had been included in her daily briefing file. The intern who compiled the file so that the congresswoman would be up to date on the latest news, had no idea that Casey Kahn was her husband. If the young man had noticed the last name of the author, he would have likely brushed it off as a coincidence.
“I am flattered. I am sure that automatous cars are decades off, but the people I interviewed noted that there is more than one company tinkering with technology that could be used in that sort of thing, and even more hiring people who are experts in remote control.”
“I can’t wait. How is the com… graphic serial coming?”
“It is going really well. I don’t suppose you read them?” he asked, hoping against hope that she never did.
“No, sorry Casey, but I will never bring myself to get into that sort of thing, but I am glad that you are having a lot of fun,” Lindsy commented, smiling to herself at the idea of a man of Casey’s age still reading comics. She supposed it was better that he was writing one now, but she knew very well that he still read comic voraciously.
“I really am. All this has come at a very good time for me. I might as well tell you now. I’ve gone into therapy.”
The moment he said the words, he wished that his therapist hadn’t convinced him that he needed to tell the people he was close to. In the moment he decided that he would see how Lindsy took it before he breached the subject with Bunny.
“For your dreams?” she asked, feeling some hope that he was finally taking the night terrors seriously. She felt a little guilty for not ever letting him talk to her about them, after he flatly refused to get professional help.
“Yes, and of course you were right. I really needed help,” Casey said, remembering the long arguments they once had when his wife tried to convince him that his horrible violent dreams were not natural.
“Oh Casey, I am so happy for you! But how does the graphic serial figure in?”
“I need to stay put where I can see my therapist on a schedule and work through my problems. The graphic serial, the column, and the podcast, all are great for keeping me in one place, busy, and gainfully employed. I tell you Lin, every day when I get up to face the morning, I just can’t believe how much better I feel. I just can’t believe that anything can get any better, then suddenly, bang, it is better.”
“It makes me so happy to hear you talk like this Casey. It is strange, it wasn’t until you moved away, that I realized how unhappy you had become. I am sorry that I didn’t see it soon enough for us to do something about it and save our marriage.”
“Oh Lin, things just run their course. Our marriage lasted for ten good years. That is a lot more than many of our friends’ marriages. We should just be happy about that and not treat it as a contest where we try to rack up as many years as possible.”
They continued talking about everything and nothing, until her car finally made it to the restaurant where she was meeting a lobbyist for brunch before heading over to the house to vote on a bill the lobbyist’s clients were very interested in.
He was glad she called. He felt almost joyful as he went to work. He wondered what his mother would have thought about his day’s work being to play with a new tech gadget. It wasn’t all play of course. He stopped from time to time to make notes for his review, as he put the high tech toy through its paces.
After a quick break in the kitchen to microwave a burrito and get a can of beer, he had fun going through his email and emptying the spam folder of his bothers’ and sisters’ missives. Now that his father was gone, he saw no reason to keep touch with any of them. He felt lost without his father, but he felt strangely free. He had never realized how much a drag the distance presence of his siblings and extended family had been on his daily life. He felt that he could simply forget their existence now.
Casey was glad that Lindsy resumed her habit of daily calls. He had been afraid that with the crises past she would drift off in to her own world again, like she had, when the work of separating was over. He knew he was just using her to replace the human contact that he lost with his father’s passing. He knew that he should be forming new relationships, but he clung to the old. Every day as he sat down with his first cup of coffee, he waited for the phone to ring. On the rare days that she didn’t call, he found himself going on the Internet to find out what the Honorable Lindsey Khan was doing that day. Reassured that she was okay, he went on with his day a little more lonely and quite disappointed.
Aware that he no longer wrote hard news articles, she began telling him things about her activities, always prefacing confidence with, “This is just between you and me.” It was far more information that she had ever reveled to him in the papers he proofed for her or the speeches she read to him. She told him things that she would never commit to writing nor whisper in the House’s ladies room.
He reveled in her trust. Often he wasn’t actually listening to what she was saying, as he had never truly been interested in Washington politics, except when they intersected with international events. He liked the sound of her voice and enjoyed her wry humor. He was honored by her trust in him, and he knew that she needed to use him as a sounding board for her ideas. Though he knew that most of his ideas and suggestions were ridiculous in her eyes, they often caused her train of thought to veer off into a fresh and interesting direction.
He was just as sure that she really didn’t listen to him as he waxed poetical about some new gadget he was reviewing, or the plot of the next edition of KC Kahn, Ace Reporter.
Each phone call was a passage for Casey, it marked the point in each day where his private morning ended and his workday began. When he cradled the phone and headed to another room to work it was just as effective, in dividing work from home, as if he was to commute into a distant office building. The phone calls easily became a comfortable and expected part of his day.
Christmas Day was unexpectedly hard for Casey. He hadn’t expected it to be. He was surprised to find himself choking up as he sat looking at the tree Bunny had put up for him the weekend after Thanksgiving. It was a nice enough tree, tastefully decorated in ornaments Bunny bought at the hospital fundraiser that year. The ornaments were the type made by crafty housewives who decked their family’s home with handmade accoutrement to match each holiday season. Rather than giving Casey a warm and cozy feeling, they drove home that he had never had a mother, wife, or girlfriend, who gave a rat’s ass about the atmosphere of their homes at the holidays. He felt it would have been better not to have the house decorated.
He sat drinking commercial eggnog, cut with milk and liberally dosed with spirits, while eating sticks of short bread from a red tartan patterned box. Though his mother would have never had a homey looking tree like the one he was staring at, the eggnog and short bread brought back a warm memory of smuggling the forbidden items into his mother’s hospital room once. It had been a wonderful day, as an unexpected snow-storm had left his mother isolated on Christmas Day, except from the son staying in a hotel close enough to walk from.
Feeling a little better from the memory, Casey tried and failed to keep his mind off his father. His mother had been sick for so very long, that when she finally passed, he was only able to be happy for her, since she was realized from the pain. Losing his father so suddenly was much harder. He had thought that the surgery after the first heart attack had assured his father of many more years. Perhaps the doctors thought that five years qualified as many more, but for Casey it was hardly enough.
Looking at the box of shortbread he decided that he better put them away if he was to have any on hand when Bunny came by that evening to open her present. She had spent Christmas Eve and was spending Christmas Day at the hospital with her little charges, who were too sick to go home for Christmas. He felt very guilty when he caught himself wishing that she had spent the night at his house, and been snowed in, so that he could have her all to himself.
He jumped when the phone rang. His heart leaped, then crashed, as the momentary thought that it was his father was born and died. The phone informed him in coldly illuminated letters that it was Lindsy on the line.
“Hello?” he asked, tentatively, worried that the unexpected call from Lindsy would be bad news.
“Merry Xmas! I bet you weren’t expecting to hear from me,” she responded brightly, hoping that he would be glad she was calling.
“I am surprised. I thought you were going to be in New York with your friends.”
“That was the plan, but three of the other five have the flu so we called it off. Those three were my friends, the other two were just friends of friends, and it would have been awkward.”
“I can understand that, but what are you doing to keep busy today. I am keeping busy with the Christmas present I bought myself.”
“Oh, what was that?” Casey asked, imagining his ex parading around her lonely bedroom giving herself a fashion show in the mirror.
“Puppies? I thought if you were going to get pets you would get cats.”
“So I thought too, but I saw these little things in the pet shop window and I just couldn’t help myself.”
“Lindsy, I am really surprised that you bought puppies. With your lifestyle, it is going to be hard for you to take care of them,” Casey said, worried for the poor animals.
“I just couldn’t help it. They are so cute. Anyway when I am on the road, I can contract for a sitter, just like you,” she said brightly.
“Even so, Lin, when I am at home I spend a lot of time with the dog and the cats,” he said, thinking about the many mornings when Lindsy had told him that she slept the night in her office. He hoped that having the puppies at home would give her a reason to go home at the end of the day.
“I know, and I am sure, that now that the house isn’t so empty, I will spend more time at home. How can I not pay attention to them, they are so adorable!”
As Lindsy chattered on about various charming aspects of her new pets, Casey began to relax, remembering that his relationship with the old dog hadn’t been anywhere near that warm to start.
Early morning snowplows could be heard at a distance clearing the main road out of town. Casey knew that it would be much later before the plows made their way down his residential street, pushing up a berm of snow that would blockade him in his house until he paid a neighborhood teen to dig him out. He didn’t care. His house was well stocked, and the fuel tanks for the generator and the heater were full, in case of a black out. With the Northeast in the grips of the storm, no one would really expect him to be working New Years Day. He was happy just to be under the covers with the two cats sealing the small gaps between the comforter and his neck.
The night before Bunny and he went downtown to the New Years Celebration. The crowds were so large Bunny had no fear that they would be seen together and be recognized. The two drifted among the festivities, drinking hot buttered rum, as they watched the ice-carvers and the laser show, before heading off to the waterside to join the crowd watching the always-impressive fireworks show over Boston Harbor.
In the wee hours of the morning as they walked to the subway, the city seems unnaturally quite as most of the revelers had gone inside to one of the many parties or headed out of the city. They walked slowly toward the train hoping that the crowds wouldn’t be so bad when they got there.
Suddenly as they walked along a street, which Casey had walked many times at all times of day since he moved north, became strange to him. It took him off guard for a moment. Until then, the instances of Jamais Vu had only occurred in the morning when he first awoke. For one to come in the middle of a normal night out caused a slight feeling of panic to grip his chest. Maybe Bunny picked up that something was wrong with him. She let her conversation trail off awkwardly. He thought for a moment to tell her about the Jamais Vu, but found himself embarrassed, as if he would be admitting to an unforgivable weakness.
As they walked, Casey raked his mind for something to say, something to take the awkwardness away. He casually remarked that the next day was the five-year anniversary of when he asked his wife for a divorce. He thought that Bunny would find that funny, but she hadn’t.
Bunny said she thought that Casey and Lindsy were being quite foolish to remain married. Bunny began talking about how dissatisfied she was with her relation relationship with Casey. She wanted to be able to go out in normal social situations with him. She wanted to introduce him to her friends and be introduced to his. Casey didn’t point out that he had no friends to introduce her to. The rest of the walk was conducted in a chill that made the ambient temperature feel warm.
Laying in his warm bed he knew he should call Bunny to make sure she got home before the storm hit, but he just couldn’t make himself put his bare feet on the cold hardwood floor. Anyway, the cats were buzzing so delightfully. The baby gate that had once kept the old dog out of the bedroom at night was long gone. The old dog, having learned to use the set of steps Casey build for him at the end of the bed, was warming Casey’s feet, keeping as far away from the cats as he could while still remaining on the soft bed.
Casey thought back to the summer before when Bunny and he first became involved. He was a little old for a summer romance, but it had been delightful. Their need to keep their relationship a secret kept it cozy, as they didn’t have to share each other. One particular day they were lounging on her deep white sofa watching the sailboats in the distance through the wide-open veranda doors when Casey broke off telling a funny story about Lindsy, and looked at Bunny to see if she was bothered by his talking about his wife.
“I think you like it that I am married,” he said.
“Yes, I do.”
“And why is that?”
“You are the one man I am sure isn’t a gold digger,” Bunny responded.
“Even if I was single I still wouldn’t be a gold digger.”
“I don’t believe that you would, but still, I am most comfortable with married men.”
He wondered what had changed. Why was she so suddenly pressing him to get divorced? Was it because she now felt sure of him? At least she didn’t express any desire to marry him, which was a great relief. Looking around his cozy home, he realized that he liked it there, and hoped that Ike wouldn’t take it in his head to return from France. Thinking about Bunny’s house, he shivered. The idea of living there made him feel physically cold.
At first he had been impressed by the home, its wide open rooms filled with salt-air breezes, which caused the gauzy curtains to float lazily away from the windows. It had seemed perfect, like it had been her family’s summer home for years before she decided to live there full time. After a while he began to notice that everything was too perfect, like a movie set. It was Hollywood’s idea of what a Marblehead home of an old moneyed family should be. Even Boudica’s gray fur seemed to be selected by a topnotch interior designer to set just the right mood of affluent relaxation.
He still enjoyed socializing with Bunny, but he preferred to meet away from that house. She seemed to like visiting his house, even though there were several rooms she disdained to enter and the dog and she didn’t see eye to eye. At least his cats tolerated her. He couldn’t imagine Boudica living in peace with his highly territorial twins. He hoped his responsibility to the dog and the incompatibility of cats, would excuse him from setting up housekeeping with Bunny. He wouldn’t want her to try to make his home into the perfect set for a fictional journalist.
Casey lingered in his bed knowing that he would have to get up and call Bunny, and then make the dreaded call to his wife. Not long after he heard the snowplow pass outside his house, his head began to ache, and he realized that he had put off his morning coffee for way too long.
“Unhappy anniversary dear!” Lindsy said, brightly, as she did every January 1st since they split, first in bitterness and now in jest.
“It is five years since we split!” he responded as usual.
“Where did the past five years go?” she asked, not expecting an answer.
“Lindsy, I hope you won’t be mad at me,” Casey said, an unusual third cup of coffee in his hand.
“Oh Casey, how I hate it when you start a conversation like that.”
“I am sorry.”
“Well, spit it out!”
“You know that I’ve been dating Bunny, the woman that Boudica owns?”
“Yes, of course, I am aware of that,” Lindsy said, more than a little irritated that her political position prevented her from dating.
“I really like her, but she doesn’t want to date a married man any more. It was okay with her to begin with, but now she wants to go public with our relationship,” he said in a rush.
“Oh,” she said, taken aback.
“I am sorry, d… , Lindsy. I know that I told you that I wouldn’t press for divorce until after your senate run, but this unending separation is getting to me. I really want to move on with my life.”
“I understand, I really do. You won’t believe this, but we were talking about it at the office yesterday. My new campaign manager thinks that it would actually be better for me to be divorced than to be separated like this,” she said, refraining from mentioning that the campaign manager thought that her being married to a liberal, comic-book writer, who was seen as a Silicon Valley apologist wouldn’t play to the heartland. The occasional liberal rants Casey got into on his podcast had the manager worried as well.
“I am glad this is okay with you. I can fly down and sign the papers as soon as you have them ready for me,” he said, sipping his coffee contentedly.
“No, that’s not necessary, I am going to be coming to Boston next week. I will have the papers ready then. If you will arrange to have an attorney to review them before you sign, we should get it all taken care of.”
“Oh, I trust you. I don’t need an attorney.”
“Casey, you are going to get an attorney! Do you understand me? If it got out that I had you sign papers without attorney review, the tabloids would have a field day. It has been too long since you were actively in practice for them to admit that you might be able to understand a divorce agreement.”
“Okay, you are the expert.”
With that taken care of the two continued on with their normal easy conversation, about everything and nothing. For some reason they spent an inordinate amount of time talking about Neolithic cannibalism. Casey was always amazed at the things that the two found interesting in common.
“Well, that is all taken care of,” Lindsy said, as Casey opened the door for her.
Out on the sidewalk outside the attorney’s office, they stood for a moment, as if they were unsure what to do next when Casey said, “Getting divorced makes for hungry work. Do you want to go have lunch? There is a place not too far from here that has a killer lunch menu.”
“That sounds really good, Casey. Let’s go,” Lindsy said, slipping her arm through his, by long habit.
Casey found himself to be strangely happy as he walked beside Lindsy, his left hand resting lightly on her forearm, resting on top of his steadying arm. Here he was, after what could have been a very messy situation, walking away from the broken marriage with his friend. It only seemed right that he would be giving her the extra support she needed to cross a cobbled street to the restaurant, in her ridiculously high-heels.
Seated at his favorite table where he loved to sit and watch the crowd walk by as drank coffee and worked on his laptop, Casey smiled at his soon to be ex-wife and said, “I think you will really like the food here.”
“I am sure I will. There is one thing that no one could dispute about us, is that we have much the same taste in food.”
Casey smiled at Lindsy, fondly, not wanting to ruin her good mood by informing her, that he rarely ever liked the same food she did. All those years, he went along with her choices. At first it had been out of love, and later out of habit and a desire not to have an argument.
“Mr. Kahn, it is so good to see you, … and your guest. I take it that today is not a working lunch.” His normal server handed him a menu noticing that not only was the generous tipper with a pretty woman, he didn’t have his cameras, and wasn’t carrying his laptop bag.
“Yes, dear, for once it is just a pleasant meal,” Casey responded, thinking about all the unpleasant meals he had with Lindsy.
“Well, let me tell you about the off menu items we have today.”
Lindsy waited until the perky young woman departed with their order before she spoke, “She seems to know you rather well.”
“I come here often when the weather is nice. I like dining outside. That girl is really into photography. I’ve been giving her advice.”
“Woman, Casey, not girl.”
“Sorry,” he responded, sheepishly realizing that his isolated lifestyle had allowed him to slip back into a rather politically incorrect mindset.
“I am the one who should be sorry, it is not my place to be scolding you any more. I will leave that job to your Bunny,” Lindsy said, smiling a sweet smile she didn’t feel.
“Don’t worry, we will get used to the change, sooner or later. Here is our food.”
As the server retreated again, Casey held up his glass of wine and said, “Here is to a job well done, and a job well finished.”
“Cheers!” She shad shortly and clicked her wine glass to his, causing her to have a sudden flash of their clicking champagne glasses at their long ago wedding.
They addressed themselves to the meal for a while without speaking, until Lindsy broke the silence.
“Casey, I am sorry how long it took me to get the papers drawn up,” Lindsy said, referring to the fact she had promised a week and it had taken three.
“Don’t worry about it. It is all taken care of. Let us just enjoy our meal.”
“Okay, tell me all about the latest adventures of KC,” she said, feeling generous, after he had told her the lunch was on him.
They ate, laughed, and talked, through their meal, desert and coffee. When all excuses for still calling it lunch had passed, Casey called the server over from across the nearly empty dinning patio and said, “I think we could both stand a cocktail. Bring us two Tom Collins.”
Two more rounds of drinks filled in the time until Lindsy needed to head to the airport, and the server brought their finial bill. As she picked up the payment folder, the server could no longer contain herself and said, “It is so nice to see two people so much in love. You two are so cute!”
“Actually we are celebrating signing our divorce papers,” Lindsy said, harshly, causing Casey to wince.
“Oh, I am so sorry … I mean, well … sorry!”
The embarrassed girl scampered off, and Casey parted from Lindsy on the sidewalk, without offering to escort her to the airport. As he headed for the subway he reminded himself to over-tip the poor server next time, and was glad to have such a clear reminder of why he had left Lindsy in the first place.
“Well, did you tell your girlfriend that we filed the divorce papers?” Lindsy asked, distracted, watching emergency crews responding to the wreck that had caused the traffic jam, which she had been stuck in for the last hour. The SUV’s darkened windows isolated her from the sound and smell of the burning vehicles. It was as if she were watching a television with the sound turned off.
“Yes, she was quite happy about it. She still won’t be seen in public with me until it is final. She said you are too famous for her to be seen with your husband. It would hurt her career,” Casey said, stopping short of providing any real information about Bunny.
“Oh, is that so,” Lindsy asked, watching as a battered bleeding woman was carried to a waiting ambulance not more that fifty feet from the SUV. The woman was fighting with her saviors and seemed to be trying to return to her ruined car. Lindsy wondered what loved one had been left in the wreckage. She wondered if the other person or perhaps pet was dead or alive. It all seemed so much more interesting than her soon to be ex-husband’s love life.
Realizing that Lindsy wasn’t going to pump him for information about Bunny, Casey continued, “I saw in the Globe that you are resigning your seat to run for the senate.”
“Yes, but it won’t be effect until six months before the election. I have people who will be doing the campaigning for me while I am pretending to be busy with my house duties. I’ve been endorsed by the retiring senator, and I am running against a very liberal candidate, so it really shouldn’t be much of a contest.”
Casey smiled at her confidence, remembering her need for constant reassurance on the eve of her first election. “A globe reporter called me up and asked me how I felt about your bid for the senate.”
“Well, did you tell him that your soon to be ex was a complete witch, and you hoped I failed miserably?” she joked.
“Oh, should I have? I am afraid all I said was that you were a fine woman and that the state couldn’t do better,” he joked back. “But seriously, I did keep to the party line that our fundamental political views drove us apart.”
“Thank you Casey. Even the staunchest conservatives back home understands why I couldn’t have stayed with a pink-o like you. By the way I never thanked you for that delightful piece you wrote about a socialist utopia on Mars. You wouldn’t believe who came up to me at one of those deadly boring cocktail parties to tell me how lucky I was to be getting rid of you.”
“Not old granite-head himself?”
“It sure was!” she assured him. Sinking back into the seat she was glad that the driver had worked his way around the accident and was now speeding for the beltway.
“Well, I am happy to hear that. He can really help you get elected. Oh wow, look at the time. Shouldn’t you have gotten to your office by now?” Casey asked, glancing at the watch he insisted on wearing while his tech friends were relying on their iPhones for the time.
“Oh, there was a traffic jam, but we are almost at the office, so I have to go now; have a good day.”
The SUV was nowhere near the office, but Lindsy wanted to think. She wondered about this Bunny, Casey was dating. What sort of career is she worried about? Was she younger and prettier? Bunny sounded like a stripper’s name, or worse yet a Bryn Mawr girl.
Casey could have hopped on one of the frequent buses, but he was so irritated with Bunny, he just wanted to walk. At that time of night there were few people on the streets. It seemed that those few knew who should be out on the streets late at night and were casting worried looks at Casey as he strolled by.
Their looks irritated him. Did they think that he was some sort of short, over weight, middle-aged ruffian, looking to break into their cars or houses?
As he approached the subway station, the proximity of mass transit seemed to validate his presences and the other pedestrians doggedly concentrated on not looking up from the ground as they hurried to and from the station.
By the time he was inside the station he was cooled off and glad to be out of the cold wind. The weather forecast said the night was above freezing, but the strong wind seemed to make a liar of the forecast.
By the time he transferred from the subway to the train he was warmed up enough to reflect on the night’s events. He knew that the fight with Bunny had been his fault. It had been foolish to prattle on about his recent conversation with Lindsy. He should have just been happy that Bunny had consented to go out in public with him, now that the news of the congresswoman’s pending divorce had long ago slipped from the news.
Bunny always assured him that she was okay with his friendship with Lindsy. Tonight she had seemed surprisingly cool towards his mentioning Lindsy. He knew that Bunny had only ever complained if he talked about Lindsy on their private time. Before she was happy he apologized and changed the subject, when he slipped up and mentioned Lindsy. He didn’t know what had made him go on and on tonight about Lindsy’s career.
He had been wrong, but he felt that her reaction to his chatter was equally wrong. How dare she accuse him of still being in love with Lindsy? When he angrily denied it, Bunny countered by saying his anger was proof positive that he was still in love with his ex-wife.
When he let it slip that the phone calls had become daily after his father’s death, Bunny’s anger matched his own. He damned himself for slipping up that way. He had never meant to let Bunny know about the depth of his friendship with Lindsy. It was one of the reasons he had hoped Bunny would never suggest that they move in together. It would be hard to hide such a thing over breakfast.
They spent quite some time arguing, each talking without listening. Sitting in a corner of the restaurant, they carried on the argument in low well-bred voices, breaking off when the waiter approached, only to resume as soon as he retreated.
Acknowledging that the argument wasn’t getting them anywhere, Bunny called for the check and asked the waiter to divide it between them as is she were trying to retroactively deny that they were on a date.
As they walked out Casey saw the other diners casting relieved looks at them, giving lie to the idea that their fight had gone unobserved. There was a moment of hesitation when they exited the restaurant, as Bunny looked uncomfortably toward her car.
Casey informed her that he would find his own way home, and walked away before she could respond. He tried to tell himself that she would have insisted on driving him had he not gone so quickly, though he knew, she was too mad to be courteous.
Allowing the movement of the train to sooth him, Casey kept going back over all the times he had been with Bunny since her runaway cat had introduced them. Try as he might, he couldn’t see what he had ever done or said, which could have given Bunny the wrong headed idea that he was still in love with his wife, his ex-wife. There was no way he could be in love with Lindsy. He had only seen her in person once since he moved to Massachusetts. How could he possible be in love with her at such a distance?
By the time Casey rolled out of bed the next morning, his irritation with Bunny had blossomed into a full-fledged anger at not only her but Lindsy as well. He blamed Bunny for being so unreasonable about Lindsy. He blamed Lindsy for stringing out the divorce for so long. He was sure that the delay caused Bunny to get such a ridiculous idea.
Days passed; Casey didn’t call Bunny and Bunny didn’t call Casey. Things he had refused to listen to at the restaurant were slowly resurfacing in his mind, popping up at the most inconvenient times.
Like now, as he sat in the library reading room, staring blankly at his laptop’s screen, which kept giving up on him and going blank. He had come to the library to work because the two cats had decided he would do no work that day at the house.
He had tried working at the kitchen table jotting his thoughts down in his reporters’ notebook but the two cats took turns batting at the end of his pencil. He switched to a mechanical pencil in hopes that removing the long waving object would cause the two cats to lose interest. The little beast sat quietly on the table in front of him as he wrote. After a while he realized that the two cats’ heads were panning back and forth in unison with the travel of the pencil across the paper. Casey began to worry that any moment the two cats would pounce in unison.
They didn’t pounce. Unnerved Casey lay his pencil down and went to the fridge, to get a cold can of Pepsi. Popping the tab he turned back to the table surprised at how fast the two cats had disappeared. Then he noticed that his pencil was missing. On closer inspection he saw two sets of holes punched into the edges of his notebook. As he was pondering how the two cats had managed to lift up a few pages and bite through them at almost the same point on each side of the notebook, he heard a slow thumping. It looked as if the old dog had woken up just in time to enjoy the brats’ antics.
Casey took the notebook to his office and began to transcribe what little he had written into the word processor. Suddenly as they had vanished, the two cats were back, pressing in from each side of the computer’s screen, both trying to lie on the keyboard, trapping his hands.
“Okay, you two, I’ve had about enough of this!” Casey addressed the two as he scooped them up and deposited them on the floor. Not waiting for the their next assault, Casey closed the computer and detached the power cord before placing both computer and cord into his shoulder bag. Wondering why he had spent so many years wanting cats, Casey headed off to the library to work in a cat free environment.
Besides a few workers gliding silently about, shelving books, Case was alone in the quite place, but still his mind refused to focus. He should have been writing. The reading room at the library was a perfect place to work at that time of day. It was too early for the school children to be in and the scattered college students were quietly bent over their studies. His mind wondered off again to a place were he acted out what he would say and do if he had access to the two women who he felt were the source of all that was going wrong in his life.
Shaking himself free of his daydreams, he woke the laptop and reread what he had managed to write that day, in spite of the interruptions. It was garbage. All the anger he felt over the Bunny situation had bleed into his writing, making it sound as if he had taken personal affront to Samsung’s latest offerings.
He had a very unpleasant time, hammering the article into an evenhanded review. When he finally had a product that could be published, he packed up for the journey home and gave himself over to the anger he had been holding at bay all afternoon.
Casey found himself very busy over the next week. With sentencing of hacker Albert Gonzalez, Casey was able to finish the two-year series of articles following Gonzalez’s arrest and prosecution, with a thoughtful article in which he tried to make clear to the general reading public the various levels morals practiced in the world of hackers.
He couldn’t help, but from time to time, make a few quick notes for a storyline for KC. When they had last worked together, Ike suggested that Casey add a time travel element to KC’s bag of tricks. He toyed with the idea of having his erstwhile reporter help a time traveling cop find a fugitive hacker. He thought it would be fun to juxtapose his gritty fedora-wearing reporter with a cyber punk cop.
With the long-standing article out of the way, he found himself with enough time to catch up on product reviews. Deadlines for his editor were met with increasing enthusiasm, as his anger at Bunny and Lindsy lessened until he was left with just a trace of irritation.
One morning when he was on the crux of finishing of the final draft of his another tarty review, he found himself idle at his computer again, tossing cat toys across the room as his mind became absorbed with his female situation again.
At the restaurant he had refused to acknowledge what Bunny said, pretending that he wasn’t hearing her, but now her words were haunting him.
Was he still in love with Lindsy?
No, he couldn’t be. What in his relationship with Lindsy had made Bunny to become so suddenly jealous? Maybe it was the phone calls. Maybe if he made himself less available for Lindsy’s phone calls, Bunny would accept that he wasn’t in love with his ex-wife. Maybe he should just stop talking about Lindsy, and Bunny would assume the calls were fewer. Maybe if he just lied and said he had stopped the calls because he didn’t want to see Bunny upset. What would it matter if the calls continued if Bunny believed they had stopped?
Feeling that he had lit on a perfect solution, he was determined to get back to work, knowing that soon the calls from his editor would start, if he didn’t file the article soon.
Ignoring the keyboard, and staring across the room at the cat toys, which the cats had abandoned as soon as they were sure he wanted to play, he made a concerted effort to put his thoughts about the women to one side and focus on the notes he made while testing the last gadget.
Casey had never been good at compartmentalizing his life, but there was always a first time for everything. It was a perfect solution. He could still be Lindsy’s sounding board, and Bunny would get over this foolish idea that he was in love with Lindsy.
With his mind clear he tapped the space bar to wake up his computer.
With his writing out of the way and well before he needed to settle down for his bicoastal podcast, Casey made himself a light lunch, before calling Bunny.
When he heard her voice on the other end, Casey hesitated a moment before saying, “Hi Bun, it is Casey.” Feeling foolish, knowing that her phone would have informed her of the caller, he waited for her response, afraid that she would want to pick up the argument where they had left off.
“Hello Casey, how are things going? Have you been busy with your writing?”
“Yes, I have. And yourself, have you been busy at the hospital?”
“Oh, yes, it has been quite busy.”
There was a moment of polite silence while the two tried to figure out how to move on from the cold point they had left their relationship at when they were last together.
“Are you free for dinner?”
“Yes, I am sorry that it is so last minute, but I just filed a story I’ve been working on for a long time and I would really love just to go out and not be a writer for a few hours.”
“That sounds very nice. I need a break myself.”
“Heard anything from Lindsy lately,” Bunny finally asked, weeks into Casey’s plan, as they spent quite afternoon at her house.
After they began seeing each other again, the two tried to pretend the argument at the restaurant had never taken place, and that the weeks of their estrangement had never taken place.
“No, she seems to be too busy to call nowadays. From what I read on the Internet she is doing everything in her power, while she is in the house, to set up her platform for the next election.” Casey said, remembering the nice long talk he had with Lindsy that morning, about the machinations of early campaigning.
“You seem out of sorts. Do you miss your talks with her?”
“I really don’t want to talk about it.” Casey stood up and walked to the window, unconsciously reassuring himself that his car was still in the drive. If Bunny started up about his being in love with Lindsy he could just leave, and drive home.
Bunny observed his reaction and dropped the subject, sure that his reaction was clear confirmation that Casey was indeed still in love with the striking younger woman.
Back home that night Casey sat in the darkened living room too awake to go to bed, but too tired to want to do anything, even turn on the lights. He had no deadlines coming up, and he found himself turning down new assignments. The bank balance was too healthy to motivate him. He was tempted to go down to Washington and surprise Lindsy. He wondered how she would react if he just showed up like that.
Casey remembered how much fun it was to be seen in the company of the handsome young woman. He knew that other men looked at him with respect for his conquest and women looked at him with disgust. He knew he always had looked older than he was and that his wife looked young than her calendar years, but he was still entertained by the reaction they got.
On the rare occasions he was in public with Bunny the two of them looked of an age. Bunny was five years older than him, but people tended to think that he was the older of the two, though not by much.
Thinking about his happy past with Lindsy made him depressed. What if had stuck around? What if they had worked out their differences? What would Lindsy do if he was to tell her that he still loved her? Would she be happy? Would she take him back? He was afraid that she would never take him back after the way he broke up their life, but he was even more afraid that she would take him back if he asked.
He assured himself that he didn’t want her back. He wanted to be happy. He had tried to be happy living the life she wanted. It hadn’t worked. Nor did it seem that his life with Bunny was shaping up to be anything better.
Earlier that day at Bunny’s house, he had his tablet out skimming trough pornography, ostensibly researching a piece about porno and the Internet, but actually he was just interested in the sight. When he realized Bunny was returning from taking a call, he flipped the tablet away from her line of sight and slid his finger over the power button. He knew from the look on her face that she suspected what he had been looking at.
What sort of relationship was he in, where he had to lie over and over again to keep her happy? It made him profoundly sad. Say what you might about his marriage with Lindsy, they hadn’t made a habit of lying to each other. Most of their fights had been set off by too much honesty if anything. He had lied to Lindsy many more times over their five years apart than he ever had during their marriage.
He felt the darkness pressing in on him. It was as if he was asleep and ready to tumble into a nightmare, but he was sure he was awake. He wished that he could pick up the phone and call someone. He had no one to call. He couldn’t talk to Bunny about Lindsy nor to Lindsy about Bunny. He would have been embarrassed to talk to his therapist. To him the therapist was there for more important subjects. He didn’t see that his trouble with women could have anything to do with his PTSD.
For the first time in years he wished he could talk to his mom. As irritated as he was with her before she died, he wished he could talk to her one more time. When she was not bugging him about returning to the law, her wry sense of humor never failed to lift his sprits.
As the week morning light filtered into the living room, Casey awoke to find himself still in the recliner where he had sat in pondering his fate the night before. His back and the back of his legs were hot and sweaty against the worn leather, while his front was rather chilled. He was surprised that the chill of the room hadn’t woken him up. Perhaps the pool of heat over his belly had dampened his primitive survival instincts enough to let him sleep.
“Hey brats, wake up. Why did you let me sleep here?”
Soon Casey, the two cats, and the old dog were sporting full stomachs and getting on with their morning routine. The dog was out in the yard puttering around looking for the perfect spot to fertilize, while the cats were following Casey around getting under feet as he set up for a podcast.
The phone rang.
“Hello, Lin, I didn’t think you were going to call today.”
“Well, I didn’t think I would have time, but one of my morning meetings got pushed back to this afternoon, so I thought I would call. I am not disturbing you?”
“Not at all,” Casey said, casting an eye at the clock to make sure he had time before he needed to Skype in with his co-host.
Placing the phone back into its charger, Casey was highly entertained by Lindsy’s comments. He thought about how much he enjoyed their talks. Talking to her almost always made him happy nowadays.
He laughed knowing that if Bunny knew what he was feeling, she would say that he was in love with Lindsy, for sure.
“Well, so what if I am?” he addressed the two cats and the old dog, which was back in from his morning rounds. “We are friends. Shouldn’t friends love each other?”
The two cats in unison squeezed their eyes closed giving them a strangely extraterrestrial look, while the dog thumped his tail strongly. Casey took their actions to be agreement with his assessment of his situation with his ex-wife.
Accepting that Bunny thought he was still in love with his wife in a romantic way, and dismissing it as Bunny’s personal problem, Casey found his life falling into a quite comfortable routine again. He was sure he only loved Lindsy like any friend would love a lovely and charming woman. He liked talking to her regularly, as much as he liked doing all the things with Bunny that Lindsy had never wanted to do. But still there were parts of his life that neither woman wanted to participate in; comics and technology.
Both women were completely underwhelmed when Casey excited told them each that he had received one of the coveted press invitations to World Wide Developers Conference. He packed for WWDC, with the care of a general going into battle, hoping that he wouldn’t encounter more expenses than his current publisher would reimburse him for.
“I am glad you are back. I missed our calls. Did you get some good material for your column?”
“Yes, I did. It was very interesting,” Casey launched into a long detailed description of the event including who was there, who he got to speak to, and who he just missed getting to talk to.
Lindsy, working on proofing a speech her speechwriter had apparently written with some other politician in mind, made occasional remarks. She skillfully made sure that Casey didn’t realize she had no idea who any of the people were except Steve Jobs, as Casey excitedly talked away.
Though they had been separated for five years and legally separated for over a year, it still took six months for the divorce to become final. During the wait, Casey’s life didn’t change at all. Nearly every morning Lindsy called. More and more their conversations consisted of her blowing off steam from the pressure of running for higher office, and less about him. He was easily able to refrain from talking about his relationship with Bunny.
Casey had thought that Bunny would be happy now that the divorce was in the works. He wasn’t able to convince her go in public with him unless they went so far out in the boondocks, no one knew or cared what happened in Washington, DC, or Boston. The long drives necessitated refraining from alcohol, making such excursions less than enjoyable for Casey. After a while he stopped proposing that they have dinner out.
Though he considered the divorce to be just formality, Bunny feared that the tabloids would cast her as the other woman. She didn’t want anyone to think that she broke up the popular congresswoman’s marriage.
As they waited for the final decree, Bunny seemed to spend less time at his house, and he definitely wanted to spend less at hers. Things had become quite strained between them by the time Casey received the final divorce papers.
Despite Bunny’s fears, only a few discreet mentions of the marriage’s end showed up in some respectable media outlets. There was no fanfare, but still Casey waited a week before asking Bunny out on a real date. Perhaps he was a bit to eager to have the world know he was carrying on without Lindsy just fine, and it caused him to pick a venue that was a little too high profile for their coming out as a couple.
Later he would claim, with great dishonesty that he had no idea that a Kennedy would be at the event and that everyone exiting their cars in front of the museum would be photographed in hopes that they just might be someone. Even then Casey and Bunny might have gone unnoticed had one of the photographers not known Casey personally, and knew that his divorce was fresh.
Casey thought the event had gone off splendidly, not knowing that the photographer was taking time to find out who Casey’s date was before trying to sell the photos to the gossip magazines.
The photographer was quite pleased that the new woman in Casey’s life was the direct opposite of the young congresswoman physically, though they were both driven career women.
Bunny was stately though a little short, while Mrs. Kahn was elegantly tall and a little prone to being too thin. The doctor’s bright blonde hair was styled in a sensible short cut, well suited to being covered in the operating theater, while Mrs. Kahn’s profusion of tiny braids was often photographed fanning out behind her, like a cape, as she rushed from her car into whatever the pressing meeting of the day was.
She was intrigued at the physical difference between the two women, thinking it would make the tabloids buy not only the photos taken at the museum, but photos she later took of the congresswoman in DC. She was more than pleased that the other woman in Casey’s life was a well-known pediatric surgeon. Another factor, which would up the payout from the tabloids, was that the doctor was almost 20-years older than the congresswoman.
Casey wasn’t upset when he saw the photo credit. He knew that the woman had to make her living just as he did. He knew that the delay in publication indicated that the photographer had shopped the photo around for the highest dollar, even though she risked that she would be scooped. He hoped she took the rag that published it for all she could get.
He wasn’t looking forward to Bunny’s reaction to the article. He couldn’t imagine how she was going to react to being called “an aging femme fatale”. He really wasn’t looking forward to Lindsy’s reaction to being replaced by an older woman.
Casey was lucky to be miles from both women when the article came out. Lindsy was in the Midwest attending town-hall meetings, while Bunny was in London. Casey was angry at Bunny for heading off to London after having refused to go with him to the conference about Comics and Medicine at the University of London back in June. He thought it would have been a great experience for both of them to share their passions, but she was afraid that even in London, someone might see them.
Now he was glad that she was so far away. He turned off his phones after changing his voice mail message to a brief “No Comment” statement. He really wasn’t dodging the press as much as he was dogging the women. He closed his email app so that he wouldn’t be bothered by the constant beeping, announcing new mail.
It wasn’t long before the cabin fever set in and the summer day beckoned. He had a sudden desire to photograph squirrels where no one would ever think of looking for him. He packed up his old battered duffle, camera bag and the laptop. He fed the animals, and made a quick phone call to the sitter to arrange for their care. He gave the sitter the number to his long unused burner phone, cautioning her not to share it with anyone. Soon he was rolling down Highway 90 for the very long drive to the Manassas National Battlefield.
Once the dust had settled, and the nation moved on to the next minor scandal, Casey ended his tour of National Monuments and returned home. He heard that Lindsy had issued a terse statement to the effect that the differences in their ages had been a factor in the failure of their marriage, and she wished him much happiness in his new relationship.
Not long after Casey was settled down back at home, he took the short walk down to his local bar, to have lunch. Taking a seat facing the television, he assured himself that that watching TV at a bar, wasn’t quite as bad as owning a TV. If he only watched TV there, he wasn’t really watching.
“Hey, Mr. Kahn, isn’t that the politician you used to be married to?” The barkeeper asked, sweeping away Casey’s empty glass and placing a fresh beer in its place.
“That’s her,” Casey responded, and began to read the closed captioning scrolling under the image of Lindsy as she was being chased from an official looking building to a waiting car.
“Ms. Kahn, Ms. Kahn,” read the scrolling letters. “What is your reaction to your husband cheating on you with an older woman.
Lindsy stopped and turned.
“Casey didn’t meet Bunny until well after our marriage was over!”
Casey smiled, noting that his ex hadn’t said that the two had meet after the divorce. No one could ever say she was lying. The marriage was well over by the time that Boudica wondered through the dog door.
The next morning Casey called Lindsy, in an unusual reversal of roles, to check and make sure she wasn’t being too bothered by the media. Before he could question her, she changed the subject. She wanted to pick his brain about his experiences in Kosovo a decade ago, to help her prepare for a meeting with a Serbian delegation, who some of the members of the House were meeting with.
When they hung up neither one had mentioned the unfortunate dust up. The nearly daily phone calls resumed, causing Casey to assume that he was forgiven. Casey chose not to admit to Lindsy that Bunny wasn’t being as forgiving.
Bunny was sure that Casey had wanted to be outed in his new relationship in a spectacular manner. She couldn’t help but notice that every article, which mentioned Casey, labeled him as the writer of the popular comic KC Kahn, Ace Reporter. She knew that the comic’s sales were down and suspected Casey of trying to drum up publicity to reverse lagging sales.
Casey found his phone calls with Bunny rather terse, as they both managed to keep their schedules in conflict while Bunny was getting over her ire. When Casey thought the foolishness had gone on long enough, he began pressing Bunny to go out, with no success. Occasionally he felt guilty about preferring to have conversations with his ex-wife over his girlfriend, but he didn’t let it bother him for very long.
“Well, next week I won’t available to talk so much,” Casey said, as they started their goodbyes one morning.
“Why is that, Casey?” Lindsy asked, assuming that Casey would be busy with that Bunny person.
“You won’t believe it but my nephew Hi, dropped out of college.”
“That is too bad.”
“It isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. Granted he should have stayed at his current college until the end of this term, but he has already been accepted to study pre-law at Northeastern. He won’t be starting classes there until next term.”
“That’s not too bad, but is he going to be moving in with you?”
“Not for the long term, but he will stay with me until we find him a place to live. We are going to spend the week together while I show him around the city. So I will be getting out of the house before our normal talk time every day.”
“I am surprised that your family is letting the black sheep have access to the next generation.”
“Well, they won’t know a thing about it. Hi is really the black sheep of his own generation. He looked me up because he knows it would just kill my sister if she were to find out. He really wants to be in a band. Boston is a great place to get into the music scene while pretending to conform to the family values, attending college.”
“So you are going to give him guidance on how to escape the firm before entering it?”
“That about sums it up.”
“Well, let me know when we are back on schedule. If you want to call outside of our normal times, you can. When I am busy I silence my phone, so you would never be disturbing me when you call.”
“Sure thing,” Casey said, hanging up the phone, knowing that he wasn’t likely call her like that. He would never admit it to her, but every time he called her and he got shunted off to voice mail, he felt rejected, and he really wasn’t up to any rejection at the moment. He was getting enough rejection from Bunny. He was glad that have Hiram in town would give him an excuse not to ask Bunny out. She had turned down so many invitations lately that it would feel good to turn her down if she relented and asked him out.
As Casey worked that day he found himself idle from time to time thinking about Hiram. Casey wondered if Hiram Shea, named for Hiram V. Willson, who was supposedly an ancestor of the honorable John Marshall Shea, Hi’s father, only hated his parents because they named him Hiram. Whatever had caused it, Casey benefited from it. Ever since he was a small boy Hiram singled out his uncle Casey for all his attention at family events. Casey felt quite guilty about practically abandoning the boy to the family, when he made the move to Virginia, though he realized that there was nothing he could have done, short of stealing Hiram and living on the run. With his family’s connections he might have lasted on the run for an hour, if that long.
It had been many years since the last time Hi had crawled up on Casey’s Lap begging his uncle to read the latest Savage Dragon comic. Those pleasant interludes ended when the honorable John Marshall Shea realized that his bother-in-law was reading comics to Hiram, which were not the same as the banal DC comics that John had read as a child. Casey found his comic books banned from the house after that, but was glad that his brother-in-law didn’t ban him along with the offending material.
Casey had missed much of the boy’s growing up. He tried to see him whenever he went to see his own father, but that was not always possible. When Hiram was old enough Casey’s father was always amenable to act as post office and telephone exchange between Hiram and the black sheep. Casey treasured every phone call and every childishly scrawled letter. He still carried one, which he had received in worn and torn condition in a backwater town during a guerrilla uprising, next to his most important papers. It was a miracle it got through to him in the war zone.
More than once Casey found himself reunited with the letter when he thought he had lost it. It became a talisman, assuring him that he would make it out of whatever sticky situation he had gotten himself into, if the letter managed to get through.
He was surprised that the boy and he had developed such a close relationship in spite of the everything, When he got the email from Hiram asking to come visit, he was shocked to realize at how long it had been since he had actually laid eyes on the boy. He wondered what Hiram was like. Was he anything like the person who was reflected in the phone calls and letters, or was that just a self-constructed fantasy?
“How did your visit with Hi go?” Lindsy asked, who hadn’t seen Casey’s beloved nephew for many years, but felt that she knew him very well from Casey’s tales.
“It was great. He was so excited to be here. I had it all the planed out. I knew what I wanted to show him, where to go, where we would eat; but he had his visit all planned. I just got swept a long with him. He showed me parts of the city I didn’t know a thing about. He even wanted to walk with me on the in the garden and see the things in person that I write about in my blog. I was so flattered that he reads my blog. Not many people do.”
“I read it when ever I can, Casey,” Lindsy said, knowing that Casey wasn’t fooled by her statement. “Did you look at apartments with him?”
“Yes, we a place. He will be coming back and moving in a few weeks before the next term starts, so we will be spending Christmas together.”
“No, Bunny is going to be taking a girl’s only vacation to Cancun this year.” Quickly changing the subject, Casey continued. “We did a little bar hopping, and at one place the band let Hi sit in on a set. I have to say, I was blown away. He is really good.”
“Lin, Hi is twenty-one.”
“You are kidding me, it seems like just yesterday that you were giving him piggy back rides down the hall of the office, getting into trouble with your sister.”
“We haven’t been in that office together for fifteen years, Lin.”
“Oh, goodness!” she exclaimed. Silence stretched across the distance before she finally asked, “What sort of music does he play?”
“I hate to say it, but the boy is as big of a geek as me. He sees music as the intersection of science and art. He can play just about instrument or genre you can think of. He is a natural, but the real magic comes in post production when he puts his music through his computer, adding effects and video.”
Casey tried and failed to describe in words the effect of Hiram’s music, and when he finally gave up, he promised to send Lindsy a DVD when Hiram had one ready to share.
Bunny and Casey drifted back into their old habits of diner at each other’s houses. Now that Casey was single in the eyes of the world, or at least the small world of Boston, the routine was punctuated by nights out on the town. As a couple they were old news, just another middle-aged duo enjoying each other’s company. Casey was very careful not to mention Lindsy, and after a while, receiving vague responses to her questions, Bunny stopped asking him about his ex-wife.
Though it was October, the weather in Massachusetts was more summery than fall like that year. It was a particularly fine day when Casey found himself very upset with Bunny. He was standing glowering at himself in the bedroom mirror thinking about just how upset he was. He was so upset he had sent her an email saying that he couldn’t meet her for their planned lunch that day. He didn’t even bother to lie saying he was sick.
Grabbing one mutton chop in each hand he fluffed the facial hair out admiring how full they had become in such a short while. He had been so eager for her to return from her Doctors Across Boarders trip, so she could admire them. It smarted when she took one look at his new adornment and said sharply, “Lose them.”
“Well, we are not married. If she doesn’t like them she can just lump it.” He hadn’t gone through all the trouble of divorcing Lindsy, just to let another woman run his life.
Thinking of Lindsy, he rummaged around in his desk to find his glasses before heading to the bathroom to remove the contacts Lindsy always insisted he wear, saying that his glasses made him look too old and scholarly. Slipping on his glasses he admired how they seemed to go with his new facial hair. Turning his head to and fro he wasn’t sure if the look was more professional or bohemian.
Either way he was pleased that he no longer looked like the old photo, which ran next to his column back before Lindsy drug him back out to the Midwest with her first political foray. He felt he would fit right in with the other geeks he would see at The Flea at MIT. With the flea market’s season coming to a close, he knew it was his last chance to buy cheep stuff to set up the spare bedroom as a podcasting studio, so he wouldn’t have to travel into to town to record his podcasts. The last time he had Skyped in as cohost on the bicoastal podcast from his laptop in his office, the show’s producer had called him afterwards and asked him to at least get a good microphone before the next cast.
Heading toward the front door he grabbed the hat he wore to let his remaining hair masquerade as a full head of hair, and planted it firmly on his head. He came to an abrupt stop at the sight of himself in the hall mirror. He recognized the man with his slouch hat, muttonchops, and dark-framed glasses; it wasn’t Casey Kahn. Returning to the hat rack he placed his hat on a hook and retraced his steps to the bathroom.
As he wiped a stray bit of shaving cream off his face, he laughed at himself, “To think that I almost went to the Flea looking like I am the ultimate Andy Ihnatko fan boy!”
Though Casey had never seen the reporter at the Flea, he had learned about the Flea through the Ihnatko’s Almanac podcast. He figured that had he arrived looking as he had that morning, he could have been mistaken for the Sun writer, or worse, he could have run into Ihnatko himself. Shivering at the thought of such embarrassment, Casey headed off to the Flea.
The next day when Lindsy called, Casey was in the former bedroom sorting through his flea market finds, and making a list of components he would need to buy to get the studio up and running.
“Hi, Lin, you just caught me at setting up my new studio.”
“I guess you got some good stuff at the flea market? I was following your tweets about what you were finding, up until I had to go into a meeting. Did you manage to get that camera that you were on the hunt for?”
“I did. I am going to set up the camera on a tripod in front of my desk rather than use a camera close to my computer. I thought it would look more professional. I’ve also arranged interesting things around on my desk for the viewer to look at when they get tired of seeing my old mug.”
“I am sure you are going to look just fine. Are you going to use makeup?” Lindsy asked, thinking about how much makeup she had to use before TV appearances.
“No, the resolution of the video is too low for makeup to be needed. I am sure that one day when cheap cameras get better, I will have to use some. Don’t tell anyone, though.”
“I won’t. Are you going to use a backdrop?”
“Sort of; the wall of the room is covered with built in bookcases. I thought I would arrange a bunch of my memorabilia on them and use some of the smaller lights I got at the Flea to illuminate them to best advantage.”
“What sort of memorabilia?”
“My old manual typewriter, my first laptop, old cameras, and other stuff like that.”
“That sounds nice, but are you going to have some books too?”
“Of course, Lin, I wouldn’t be me without books.”
When it was Lindsy’s turn to talk she launched into making all the observations and comments about political life, which she wouldn’t have dared spoken around anyone in DC, not even her staff. When she had run out of things to vent she turned her attention back to the concerns of her ex husband.
“I did see your tweet about shaving off your muttonchops, before I had to put my phone away.”
Casey was about to tell her the humorous story about how he had suddenly realized he was unconsciously aping a tech reporter he admired very much, who cohosted on one of his favorite podcasts.
“I am glad you realized how silly you looked.”
“I thought that I looked rather dashing, but Bunny didn’t like them,” Casey said, spitefully, keeping the humorous story to himself.
After Lindsy’s hurried goodbye, which always followed any mention of Bunny, Casey sat thinking about why he felt compelled to rub it into Lindsy’s nose that he had moved on and had a girl friend. Did she resent that no one really cared about what he did in his private life so long as he met his deadlines, while her every move was reported and analyzed? He wondered if it would have been easier for her if she had been older, less attractive, Caucasian or … or what? He didn’t know.
Bunny was so pleased with the removal of the muttonchops Casey felt compelled to wear a baseball cap to dinner, just to see her irritation when the hostess informed him he would have to remove it before entering the restaurant.
He was amused as Bunny dressed the hostess down about a person’s right to express their personality in their clothes. Bunny didn’t see his smirk as he followed the person, who had demanded he shave off an expression of his individuality, to their table leaving the castigated hostess behind.
“Happy Halloween, to you as well,” Casey said, more softly than his ex-wife. “How is everything in the Capital?”
“Everything is going great! We are really amping up the campaign. Casey, I’ve never been more assured of success.”
“I am sure that it won’t be long before I will be calling you Senator Kahn.”
“Thanks Casey, your support means a lot to me. I mean, most men would be trying to undercut me and get even for our marriage not working.”
“Lindsy, it takes two to break a marriage. I did my part.”
“Oh, I ran into Dr. Jones and his wife. Can you believe that they didn’t even know that we were not married any more?” Lindsy said, hoping that the humor of the situation would draw Casey back away from a more serious discussion of their past marriage.
“They must only read the New York Times and listen to NPR.”
“Well, not NPR. You remember when I was interviewed about the Homeless Bill, they really harped on my being divorced and pointed out how hard it is for most women, who are less powerful positions.”
“I had forgotten about that,” Kasey said, covering the best he could for not having listened to the program, in spite of several emails from Lindsy reminding him.
“I am not surprised. I about fell asleep doing the interview. The hosts’ voices are so droning. I can just imagine how deadly boring it must have been for you to listen to it. Well, anyway, Mrs. Jones said to send you her best wishes, and to tell you she misses you. I didn’t know that you knew them that well.”
“I wouldn’t say I knew her well, but you know she was so much younger than Dr. Jones, I am sure she liked talking to me when we socialized with them.”
Casey shifted uncomfortably, though he was sitting in his soft recliner, wondering if Lindsy knew about his past relationship with Dr. Jones young third wife. He was sure that he had covered his tracks well enough, but what if Mrs. Jones had dropped some hints to Lindsy?
“You know, I had really never noticed that you and Mrs. Jones were about the same age. I guess you both did grow up listening to the same music and all that,” Lindsy said, thinking back over their marriage, amused at how many arguments they had over music. “I feel sorry for her though, Dr. Jones comes with such baggage.”
“Oh, you mean his first wife’s suicide?” Casey said, remembering an awkward dinner party where the doctor decided to dissect his late wife’s mental problems over dinner. It wasn’t long after that Casey ran into a depressed Mrs. Jones III and tried to cheer her up.
“That and that the second Mrs. Jones was a baby factory; something that Dr. Jones seemed to like to through up into her face all the time.”
“It makes you wonder why they are still married,” Casey commented.
“Money,” Lindsy said shortly, glad that she had always had an income and had never felt compelled to save her marriage out of survival instinct. Tiring of the depressing subject she asked, “How is your new studio going?”
“I have it all finished. It looks nice. I’ve done some test podcasts. They turned out very well, except that the cats were running all over the desk while I was filming. I have a large TV next to me where the Skype call from my cohost will be displayed. You know, so that it will sort of look like we are in the studio together.”
“That sounds very ingenious.”
“It is. The guy I stole the idea from is the best podcaster around. I guess when Ike and I do a show for real, we will have to pin our cats up. While my cats were looking for their close-up over here, his Parisian beauties were stomping all over his laptop.”
“Oh, I think you should let the cats roam around during the podcast. People like cats; especially people on the Internet. I didn’t know Ike was your cohost.”
“You are thinking of the old podcast. I am going to keep doing it, but it is still only going to be audio. Just me talking, about writing and journalism, doesn’t really need video. For video I am starting a whole new podcast. This one is about comics, that is why Ike is a must-have cohost for it.”
“Two podcast? Won’t that be too much work?”
“No, it really doesn’t take that much of my time. I really enjoy doing them and the sponsors more than make it worth my while.”
Gazing at the slim phone in her hand, after they had said their good byes, Lindsy heard a slight sound coming from the phone and realized that the connection wasn’t broken. She raised the phone back to her ear and heard:
“Asiam, Maisa, how do you two feel about becoming Internet stars?”
Smiling Lindsy broke the connection. She gazed around her office feeling very alone. She remembered all the nights she hadn’t gone home, having slept in her office again. Though she missed working on quite mornings while it was too early for the staff to be in, she was glad she rarely slept there anymore. Suddenly she felt glad that the dogs had pressed their noses on the front glass that morning as she headed off to the office and were at home waiting and concerned about her.
She imagined what it would be like if there were to be a loving man waiting with the dogs. The dogs wouldn’t greet her with such lonely desperation as they normally did, if they weren’t alone all day. Maybe she would rush home with joy in her heart rather than guilt.
She was happy that Casey was moving on with his life. She was happy that she was moving on with hers, but for a moment she wished that she was at that little house, having breakfast with Casey, watching the cats, dogs, and even the squirrels.
Shaking her head, she assured herself that she was just feeling the stress of the upcoming election.
It was Casey’s third Christmas in his new home. It was the first he wouldn’t be alone on Christmas Eve. He invited Bunny to join him and Hiram in the celebration, but she declined. She was going on a vacation with her girlfriends that had been planned well before she met Casey. He understood that she had to keep her word to her friends, and he was more than a little happy not to have to make the social rounds with her. He was looking forward to seeing the holiday through Hiram’s eyes.
This third Christmas started much later than the previous years. Casey was amazed at all the things one could do in Boston on Christmas Eve. He was equally amazed that Hiram knew about them. He had technically been Christmas Day when they returned in a costly taxi to the house and fell into bed. After their night out Hiram was happy to fall into his uncle’s Christmas routine, of getting up late and leisurely enjoying the day.
Casey felt a little guilty that he hadn’t felt up to having a celebration, and including the pets, the year before when he was still missing his father so much. This was the first year that he had bought presents for the two cats, which were carefully stowed in the top of the closet alone with the dog’s new bone. Unlike the dog, which seemed oblivious to the bone in hiding, the two cats frequently patrolled the area around the closet hoping to find the source of the tantalizing sent of catnip. It was fun this year to place presents for Hiram under the tree, with assurance that the pets wouldn’t touch them.
Casey set his best camera up on a tripod and focused it on the space in front of the Christmas tree, he and his nephew had decorated. He set up a wireless shutter release, so that he could take photos without it being apparent in the images, that he was carrying a trigger.
As the two opened their presents and assisted the animals open their own, Casey periodically triggered the camera. Hiram and the pets jumped the first few times, but quickly got used to the flash. The pets ignored it, but Hiram periodically made jokes about his uncle being worse than an old Auntie.
Once the gifts were exposed to the air, the two men, two cats, and one old dog retired to the kitchen for a very late breakfast.
Though his father was no longer around to send Casey Christmas Stollen and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, the gifts had mysteriously appeared under the tree that morning. When questioned, Hiram admitted that he had helped his grandfather pick out the presents for Casey’s first Christmas in his new home.
The dog dined on an excellent beef stew from Casey’s favorite diner, which Casey bought him on special occasions. The cats enjoyed a decadent meal of salmon roe and fresh tuna, which Casey thought was suitable for a cat celebration.
Leaving the cats to ignore their toys and play in the boxes, Casey retired to the back yard to throw the large rawhide bone for the dog, while Hiram went to living room make the duty phone calls to his parents, who were not very happy about his not coming home for the break.
It didn’t take long to tire the old dog out. As soon as the dog was settled into his new cedar stuffed bed, Casey returned outside and placed a pile of mixed nuts for the squirrels.
This year there was no pity-box containing a meal from Lindsy, since she was assured that Casey had plans for a proper meal with his nephew. She would have been horrified had she know that the two bachelors had decided to order in a Chinese feast from a restaurant, contently run by Buddhists, which did a good business delivering Peking Duck to fans of the movie A Christmas Story.
“How is the New Year treating you?” Casey asked, rather than saying hello into the phone.
“Hectic, just hectic, you should see what a production it is to move offices. The senator I am replacing, hadn’t done one damned thing to move out, though he announced his retirement more than a year ago.”
“Maybe he has forgotten. He is hold as dirt.”
“You could be right. Most everything here is packed up and ready to move. It is such a pain in the ass. Every time I turn around I need something, only to realize that it has been packed in a box. I can’t believe what a bunch of junk I’ve accumulated in such a short time.”
“Oh yes I would. When I set up my podcasting studio in the spare room, I was shocked at how much stuff had landed in there. You know how you put something out of the way meaning to get back to it and you never do? I had so much junk I thought about going to the Flea and setting up a booth of my own.”
“Like you would ever get rid of your tech toys.”
“I can do it! I swear,” Casey said, mockingly. “How was your holiday, I haven’t heard from you since the election.”
“It wasn’t much of a holiday, I have to say.”
“Busy getting your letter head changed?”
“Come now, you know there are people to do those things. How is Hi settling in? Did you give him my present?”
“He is right at home here, but not for long. He will be moving into his place with his roommates tomorrow. The place is furnished, so it won’t be much of a production. He loved the t-shirt. It took me a moment to realize that you didn’t have it made for him. With the four HI’s placed in a pattern on the front, that was my first reaction, until I saw that the sleeve had the outline of the Hawaiian Islands printed on the edge. I am afraid that he will wear it out. It has become his favorite shirt. He even wore it out last night with a suit.”
“I am glad that he likes it. If I ever get back to Hawaii I will get him another one. Did you guys go out together for New Years?”
“No, I went to an old folks party, and Hi went out with his girlfriend.”
“He already has a girlfriend! He has been there, what, two weeks?”
“Less, the mystery about his changing schools so suddenly is revealed. It wasn’t just music that got him over here. It was his girl. She came here for graduate school, and the smitten youth followed.”
“Imagine a man turning his life upside down for a woman!” Lindsy said, remembering how she upended Casey’s life.
Casey bristled at the remark and quickly brought the call to a close. Sitting in his empty house, wondering where Hi and the girl had gotten off to, Casey felt far more alone that before Hi’s visit. He thought about calling Bunny, but instead called a friend was included at the last minute in via phone on a podcast conversation about how tablets, video, and social media would become more important in the business sector in the upcoming year.
Lindsy looked around her office sourly. She would be so glad to move into the larger office that would come with her move to the Senate. Though she was glad that there was no hurry to move out of her office until the new freshman representative needed moved in. She would be glad to be gone soon, and was still angry at the outgoing Senator for being so slow to get out of the her new office, delaying her plans.
This office had seemed so large when she first moved in. It was large, when she compared it with her office at the non-profit. Having a reception room and an interior office had seemed so luxurious then. Over time she found that a small office, which was yours alone, could be much lager than a suite filled with a staff. There was no place to put a desk in the outer office for her long desired intern, so the eager young aid was ensconced in a corner of her personal office.
Normally she respected the intern’s privacy, but today she really needed to find a highlighter and didn’t want to open the office door to ask an aid to dig one out of the omnipresent packing boxes. She was trapped in her office, having received warning that a lobbyist was ensconced in the outer office, despite the clutter, whom she didn’t want to see.
Of course she could exit her office though the private door that led off to another hallway, but it would be quite a hike to a store, which might or might not have highlighters in stock. After a few moments of hesitation she began riffling the intern’s desk. Finding what she was looking for, she was about to close the desk drawer, when she saw a stack of garishly colored magazines.
Moving a pad of paper to one side she read, “KC Kahn, Ace Reporter.” Lindsy flipped through the stack and saw that all the comics were the production of her estranged husband.
Going to the door she very quietly slid the deadbolt into place. Glancing to make sure that the back exit was bolted as normal, she sat down at the interns’ desk to read Casey’s comics.
Casey had kept the edition she confronted him with years before, so she had never actually read one. Quickly flipping through, looking more at the images than the words, she was amused at how unnaturally muscled the cartoon-Casey was. It seemed to her that this Casey, or more properly, KC, seemed to spend half his downtime lounging in humorously bulging briefs. When an action scene ended KC was quite likely to only be wearing shreds of the clothes he started with, showing off the tattoos Casey always wanted, but vetoed because of his career.
She saw that Casey was telling the truth about leaving her and their marriage out of the storyline. Lindsy wondered if the ridiculously proportioned television journalist, Sina Enro, who was always racing KC to the next story was based on a real person. She vaguely wondered what the elderly Bunny thought about the high-breasted Sina.
Lindsy flipped back to the first page and began to read the text, since it was what Casey contributed to the work. She sat at the intern’s desk reading and while still enjoying the richly rendered but over the top illustrations.
She quickly caught on that the print journalist and television personality, only pretended to be enemies in public. Unbeknownst to their friends and colleagues, they shared a bed at night. She thought that the banter between the two reporters sounded like Casey and herself. The night sounding like the early years and the day like the tempestuous later years.
Beyond the banter there was nothing that would make people think the character was based on her. She felt just a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of her in the graphic woman. Somehow Lindsy managed to overlook the character’s improbably high-heels.
She was reading deep in a scene where KC sees that there is something wrong with how a guard at a military base is acting, and begins investigating, when there was a rap on the door.
“Ma’am, I was just wanted to let you know that she gave up and went. Do you need anything?”
“No, I am okay, you can go home. I am going to stay working late,” Lindsy said, as she opened the door.
“I am going to dinner nearby. Would you like me to pick up a meal for you and drop it off on my way home?”
“Yes, please do. When you come back call me to get you in. I am not going to answer the door. Call my cell; I am turning the office phone to the machine.”
After conferring over the restaurant’s menu, Lindsy locked the door behind him, before returning to retrieve the comics from the drawer where she shoved them when she was startled by the knock on the door.
Lindsy was fascinated reading KC’s adventures. She recognized Casey’s family in KC’s arch enemies; a family of publishers who were in cahoots with the enemies of the Untied States to bring democracy down. She smiled at how, at the end of each adventure the story ended with KC announcing that, “Things are safe for Mom, Apple Pie, and the American Way.”
Each edition of the comic told one story, but a second continuing story line ran from edition to edition underlying the adventures lending them a tension that kept her reading.
Early on she called the car company she used and informed them that she would not be requiring a car that night. She decided that when she was finished reading she would bed down on her office sofa. She also took a moment to call the pet sitter and arranged for them to visit the dogs that night and again in the morning.
Since it wasn’t the first time she found sleeping on the roomy couch convenient, she had everything she needed for an overnight stay. She would get up early for her workout at the gym. Though she had a fresh change of clothes in her office she went ahead and changed into her pajamas to keep her suit fresher.
The underlying story of the graphic magazines, which Casey planned to release as a graphic novel one day, was KC’s ladylove’s digging into his past, even though he warned her more than once not to, causing the reader to reference the tale of Blue Beard.
When Sina Enro uncovers the murder of KC’s mother, which changed him from a hack reporter to a crime-fighting journalist, Lindsy realized that Casey was taking his nightmares and using them as storylines for his comics. Grabbing one of the earlier editions she flipped through and found a story line she had passed over without recognizing it as one of Casey’s nightmares.
It was the dream he began to have after he was held hostage by extremists in Serbia, not long after they were married. Though in his real life all the hostages were released trough negotiations, in Casey’s recurring nightmare he is the last to die as the extremist killed them one by one, while Casey tried and failed to save them.
Lindsy never understood why, since Casey and the others weren’t even hurt, he should have such vivid dreams about it all. She was better able to understand the ones that came after he had been shot by a source, who suddenly decided that Casey was a cop. She was sure that some of his nightmares came from poor sleep habits and his drinking, rather than his PTSD.
In the graphic telling of his nightmare, KC outwits the captors and leads the group to safety, showing up late one rainy night at the American embassy. He interrupts a meeting where a group of diplomats was in conference negotiating the return of the hostages, who were trailing after Casey.
Long after she had carefully put the comics back in order and replaced them in the intern’s desk, she lay unsleeping on the sofa, alternately worrying that the intern might see some sort of damage that taking the comics in and out of the drawer when her aid first came in and returned later with her meal, and worrying about what the stories told her about Casey.
She had washed her hands before touching the magazines after dinner, and was sure that she had handled them carefully. Accepting that if she had damaged the comics it was too late to do anything about it, she turned her mind toward Casey. As she slipped into slumber she realized that she understood even less about him than she thought.
Casey was happy when the worst of winter was over and he could resume his ramblings around Boston, when he wasn’t tied up with his other activities. He had spent so much time ensconced in his house during the winter, that the least bit of a reprieve was welcome. Checking to make sure he wasn’t expected to be available to Hi or Bunny, he walked to the train station and boarded a train to into the city. He completely missed seeing the signs informing riders that the station was soon to be pulled down.
Casey found himself hungry as he sat on the bench watching the unending stream of tourist gliding around the pond in the Public Garden. It was a battle between his mind, which wanted to sit and enjoy the stunning beauty of the garden, and his stomach, which was demanding that he fill it at once with the appropriate amounts of grease and carbs.
Sitting on the edge of the bench, he swiveled around, looking at the scene he had looked at so many times before, and was sure that if he just took a few more photographs he would get a perfect one, which would put all his past photography to shame. Somehow every time he was at the garden, it seemed that the light was shining in a way that he had never seen before.
Laughing at himself, he carefully checked to see that his camera bag and laptop case were repacked and secured before vacating the bench. He made his way to the Charles Street exit, resisting an urge to go watch the children around the Make Way For Ducklings statue. Crossing Charles Street, Casey made his way across the Boston Common. His stomach forcing him to resist the urge to stop and take more photos he exited the commons on Park Street and made his way to Marliave for a late lunch.
Once he ordered his meal, he got out the paper he picked up at a small newsstand to entertain himself during lunch, and settled in to read something that wasn’t backlit for once. He was enjoying his second cup of coffee, and resisting ordering a sweet, when he refolded the paper to the National News page.
A small headline, Senator Kahn appointed to the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, caught his eye. Laughing, he grabbed his nose in a vain attempt to keep coffee from filling his nostrils. Dabbing at his nose with a napkin he was glad that he managed not to spray coffee over the table, though his nose smarted from its encounter with the hot surgery coffee.
“Something funny in the paper, Mr. Kahn?” The solicitous waiter asked, placing the check folder near enough for Casey to reach it, but not so close that it seemed he was trying to hurry Casey out.
“Washington politics are always so funny, though often sad, Walter,” Casey responded, knowing that the friendly waiter didn’t remember him from is many visits to the establishment, but had taken his cue from Casey’s credit card. Of course, Casey only remembered the waiter’s name from his greeting that day, not from previous meetings.
After exchanging a few more impersonal observations, Casey returned to reading the article amused that Lindsy, who had never cared for Commerce, Science, or Transportation would be appointed to that committee.
“Lin, I was reading the other day that you were appointed to the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee,” Casey said, enjoying the way the words rolled richly off his tongue.
“That is true, and don’t try to hide it, I can hear you laughing behind your not laughing.”
“Ah, you would think you know me well. You know you can count on me to get you up to speed on anything tech related that you might encounter.”
“Thanks Casey, you know I am going to take you up on that.”
Casey woke early that morning. Realizing that trying to get back to sleep was futile since the cats were aware of his waken state, he made his way out to the kitchen. It was so early that the dog didn’t bother to get out of his bed, knowing that Casey wouldn’t feed him until the sunlight came through the kitchen window. The cats, who also knew that Casey wouldn’t feed them that early, began their futile negotiations.
As Casey puttered around preheating the oven to receive a pan of frozen cinnamon rolls, making coffee, and reviewing his the email, which had accumulated over night, he noticed that it had been some time since Lindsy had called. Once or twice he had ended his call with Lindsy when the call waiting announced a call from Bunny. He assumed that Lindsy was punishing him for those times by not calling.
Perhaps he shouldn’t have told her that it was the other woman on the phone. But, no, they were just friends, he didn’t need to hide his relationship with Bunny, like he had to conceal his friendship with his ex-wife from his girl friend. He considered calling her, but putting that to one side he decided that when he went to his desk he would check up on her via the Internet and her social media accounts.
Casey wanted to have someone to talk to that morning. It was too early to work on one of his many blogs. He really wanted to talk, not just express ideas, something that blogging didn’t satisfy. Being Saturday, he had no business calls to make, and there were no podcasts scheduled until much latter in the day. The dog was too sleepy to sit next to Casey and pretend to care about the noises the man made. The cats were too busy with telepathically attempting to control his brain and force it to operate the can opener, to listen to him.
“I wish Bunny would call, but it way too early for that,” Casey addressed a disinterested cat. “I wish Lindsy would call. I miss talking to Lindsy.” Pausing for a moment and remembering one of his favorite movies, he sat her name out loud for the third time, “Lindsy!”
“I’ll be damned!” Casey exclaimed as the phone rang. Looking at the caller ID he laughed and answered, “Well, good morning, how are you doing?”
“You sound very chipper this morning, but I have to say that I am not doing to well, Casey.”
“What is the matter, Lindsy? Are you having a hard time fitting into the new committee position?”
“No, the committee is going well. Today is going well, but tomorrow is a very different story.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I called to warn you that some news, which you might find rather upsetting, will be out on the Monday news cycle, maybe even sooner. I was just called by a reporter back home asking me some very well informed questions about my past,” she said, with her voice shaking somewhat.
“Before you start, I have to tell you that there is something, someone, in my past that you have never known about,” Lindsy cut in quickly.
“I don’t understand? What have old boyfriends have to do with who you are today?” Casey asked, confusion sounding in his voice.
“I was married before I met you.”
The line went silent as Casey tried to absorb the news and Lindsy held her breath awaiting his response. Sensing a change in the man, the dog crawled out of its bed and laid a comforting head on the man’s knee. The cats broke off their attempts at mind control and looked irritated for a moment before shifting their attention to tracking a mote of dust in the air.
“You were only twenty-one when we met,” he finally spit out.
“I was married when we met. I had two children, twin girls.”
“You left a husband and your children for me?”
“No, not exactly, when I met you, I was alone. My husband, Bill, didn’t want me going to college. He wanted me to follow him to the base he was going to be stationed at. When I enrolled he just packed up and left. He took the girls. I tried to find them, but I couldn’t find where he had left the girls while he was in basic training. When the divorce papers came, his family pressed me to let him and the girls go. They thought I was too young to be raising children. Bill was young too. He gave guardianship of the girls over to his young aunt and uncle who took responsibility for the girls while he was in the military. I was all on my own. They convinced me that Bill, with the help of his aunt and uncle, would do a better job of raising the girls.”
“How old where you when you got married?”
“Dear God, how old was he?”
“So he was about the age of guy you should have been married too,” Casey said, with a touch of bitterness in his voice.
“No, not really, I like older men; so sue me.”
“I think I can see your problem; you are a twice divorced woman who let a man take her children away from her. That isn’t going to look too good to your public in the heartland. I am sorry, Lindsy. I know how much the Senate means to you, but try not to worry too much. Keep in mind that your butt is in the chair, and you’re an incumbent, over five years away from reelection. Even with this revelation it will be hard for any one to budge you. Can’t your spin doctors do something for you?”
“They sure are going to try. They have put too much work into me to give up now. My ex mother-in-law is going to do a tearful interview about how she pressured me to let the girls go for their own good, and how proud she is of me for putting the girl’s wellbeing first.”
“Well, that does seem like it will make a good soundbite.”
“It should play well. It is going to be spun as sort of a right-to-live issue. You know the sort of thing; I was too young to raise kids but I could bring myself to kill my babies.”
“That sounds about right.” Right he thought, right when you take in account the sector of the GOP she was aligned with. He tried not to let his mind judge her and asked, “What about the ex and the daughter’s? They should be women now, right?”
“I don’t know where they are. She claims not to know were Bill and the girls are these days. My team is going to try to tack Bill and the girls down. They are sure that he is still in the military, so there are clear channels to go through. Once we know how they are doing and how they feel about me, then we can get started on a policy to defuse my opponents. The thing that worries me is: What if they suddenly pop up and start giving interviews painting me as a monster?”
“Well, you have to think positively. It is going to be a long time before you come up for reelection. It will give you time to handle this. The girls might have been raised thinking that you gave them up so that they could have a better life. Maybe they have had a great life and are thankful for it,” he said softly.
Wandering around the kitchen, Casey spot cleaned, while he listened to Lindsy expound on the theme, occasionally interjecting and opinion or response. When the sun made its way into the back yard, he put a scoop of kibble in the dog’s dish, and carefully balancing the phone between his head and shoulder, opened a can of fancy wet food for the cats to share.
“I hate to cut this short, but I have to be getting my breakfast now,” he said, though it was far too late to be cutting the call short.
“You are a brick, Casey. I always feel better after I talk to you.”
Putting the phone down, Casey wondered at how exceptionally self-centered his ex wife was. She had just spent an hour on the phone agonizing over what this news could do to her career, but never wondered what it was doing to him, her ex mother-in-law, or the other ex and his children. She seemed to assume that this Bill was the most likely person to have outed her.
It didn’t seem likely to Casey, that a father would expose his daughters to a political scandal, even if they were grown women now. It almost amused him that something that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow in most circumstances, was a scandal as soon as a politician was added to the mix.
Casey wondered if the mother-in-law was savvy enough to know she had some power over Lindsy, now. He wondered if Lindsy was paying her to make the statement to the press. What if it was the ex-mother-in-law who tipped off the reporters? Did she actually not know where her son and grandchildren were?
If this Bill took the children away from their grandmother as well as their mother, what sort of woman was the grandmother? If she didn’t know where her son was, maybe he didn’t want her to know for some good reason. What if he never told his daughters about their birth mother? What if their lives were about to be turned upside-down by some enterprising reporter? Sometimes he hated his fellow journalist.
As that thought passed through his mind he was suddenly back in Luzon, being stared down by the family who thought he was upsetting their lives even further by reporting so intrusively on their lost loved-ones.
Casey went through his day, continuing some belated spring-cleaning, before sitting down to do his part to add witty repartee to the podcast he was guesting on. It was the fist time he appeared on that podcast since the producer scolded him about in home podcasting. He was pleased when the producer called afterward and complemented him on his set and the quality of his camera and microphone.
When his tasks for the day were over and he was back from a quick dinner and drinks with Bunny, he settled down for a quite evening of listening to some of his LP collection. Getting comfortable in his shabby recliner, a shaker of martinis on the side table and a blanket of warm cats across his lap, he turned his mind to Lindsy’s problem.
If he was still Lindsy’s husband he might have been wounded that she had never told him about her first marriage until circumstances forced her to. In his new role as friend he couldn’t really say that he had any right to be disappointed or angry. He left all those rights behind when he singed the final papers. Even so it was very hard for him to wrap his head around the news. It didn’t fit into the image of his wife that he had constructed over the fourteen years they were together.