No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 20

 

Monday morning Kathleen tripped into work, wearing the same peach short set that she had donned on her first day of work back in June.  Her hair was again swept back in a loose ponytail held by a peach scarf, and her nails were again exactly three shades lighter than her outfit.

"Did they get off all right?" Jack asked as Kathleen stowed her purse and turned on her monitor.

"Harry left at six-thirty. I have no idea how he and Maggie are going to pack in all of the stuff that he took. They'll need sherpas just to haul all their gear and food to their base camp."

Jack smiled indulgently at his sister-in-law. "Better get used to it, kid. Harry has been climbing since he was a rugrat."

"He told me to give you this," Kathleen handed Jack the map Harry had marked. "He said you would want his flight plan."

"Did he do a weather check?"

Kathleen nodded. "Harry said there's a high pressure system coming in from the west, but since it's summer it'll dissipate before it reaches us. He said they should have great weather all week." Kathleen's voice went low, "Are the hammocks they sleep in really safe?"

Harry had shown her pictures of the cocoons in which he and Maggie would sleep overnight, halfway up their second climb. Kathleen didn't believe that anyone could actually fall asleep suspended from a cliff, dangling next to a sheer rock face.

"Not to worry, Kath. Harry and Maggie are both very experienced. He and I have been doing technical climbs like this for years. He's fit, strong, healthy, and smart. Plus he loves it out there--counting the stars and dreaming that he's flying."

"I'm sorry you didn't get to go this year, Jack." Kathleen could tell that Jack wanted to be counting and dreaming along with his brother.

He shrugged. "Colleen needs me home. But it's okay. She's having a baby and the least I can do is hang around the house and annoy her."

#

Monday dragged by slowly. Harry wouldn't be calling until the evening, and only if he could get a good connection. Kathleen worked sporadically.  When she wasn’t thinking about Harry she daydreamed about the benefit and how well it had come off.

Most of Juniper Hills, and not just the country clubbers, had been extremely generous, buying up the various and sundry items Kathleen and Dorie Eastman had put together for the silent auction. The weekend for two at Denver ’s posh Brown Palace Hotel had gone for eight-hundred. The spa experience at Della and Dirk's "Buff and Shine" had gone for one-fifty. The ski packages sold for double their face value, and on and on until Kathleen was able to pay back Harry for the money he had fronted her to put on the event, pay for the grassy playground, and still have enough left over to refinish the gym floor.

Kathleen smiled serenely into space remembering the lavish compliments she had received for the food, drink, music, and especially the decorations. Eveline Dixon told her that she ought to go into the party planning business, and Veronica Heidelberg told her that she had a future in PR. The party had been abuzz with her stories of the thousand-cranes-for-peace-and-luck, and Harry’s gigantic wire crane that floated above the deck had stayed aloft. Matthew Dixon had dryly commented that Harry was opening himself up to massive lawsuits by swinging the contraption over the heads of his guests, and Mike Eastman added that that was nothing to the liability Harry was taking on just having Joanna Bridges in the same room with Kathleen Kavenaugh. Kathleen smoothly answered that Joanna was a very elegant woman and a pretty good pitcher too.

Joanna and Phil were at the party, laboring to repair their tarnished images.

"And Veronica thinks I have a future in PR!" Kathleen whispered to Harry while watching the pair working the crowd.

Juniper Hills had been at fever pitch as the news of Phil's firing from Dixon , Dabney, and Colfax coupled with Joanna's firing from Campbell modeling pushed the more prosaic coupling of Harry and Kathleen into the background.

Most residents of Juniper Hills had long seen Harry Kinsley and Kathleen Kavenaugh as destined for the altar and so the fact that they actually saw the light of day and were getting on with it was more anticlimactic than Kathleen had anticipated. Only the most spiteful whispered that he was much too old for her, and only the most jealous whispered that she was much too self-absorbed for him.

Only Kathleen’s father was surprised by her announcement that she and Harry were seeing each other. She had had to explain the phrase "seeing each other" to Byron Kavenaugh when he gave her a blank gaze, but then he had been on the brink of a major breakthrough in the fabrication of an artificial hand when she told him her news so she really couldn’t expect that he would get the full picture on the first go-round. Nevertheless, he wished her joy and asked her whether she thought the movement of the fingers was convincingly real. Kathleen preferred not to give an opinion.

Byron had escorted Gramma Bridges to the gala, he in a tuxedo and she in her best crocheted shawl.  He was pleased to see that the macrobiotic cookbook he had donated to the fundraiser and for which he had an editorial credit, was bid on by several people who, he believed, “really might find their lives enhanced by following it closely.”  Maggie Obermann ended up with the winning bid on the cookbook, and Kathleen smiled indulgently as she watched her father happily autograph it for her.

Maggie had been beaming all evening as word of her imminent departure to Florida spread through the crowd.  She was planning to drive a U-Haul with all her worldly possessions from Juniper Hills to Pensacola after Labor Day, and Bob Martin was going along for company and moral support.

It occurred to Kathleen that there just might be something going on between Maggie and Bob, and she wondered, if that were the case, whether surly, hot-tempered little Bob suffered any qualms about Maggie going camping with Harry.   If he did, she would just have to sit him down and have a little talk about trust.  She had learned a lot this summer, she decided, and felt a warm, self-satisfied glow in recognizing how well she had turned out after all.

Feeling full herself and flush with the triumph of a thorough rout, Kathleen was on her way to the kitchen to check on whether the chocolate fondue was ready when she came upon Lettie having yet another heart-to-heart with Maggie.  They were sitting alone in Harry's living room, the party having moved out onto the deck and into the yard where the food and music tents were set up. Kathleen  paused and looked at the pair on the couch, suddenly aware that theirs seemed an oddly intense friendship. Lettie was in tears and Maggie was wiping the tears and talking low and earnestly. And then Kathleen watched in amazement as Lettie took Maggie’s face in her hands and kissed her passionately on the mouth.

Kathleen blinked fast, her jaw agape, and then ran from the room in confusion straight into Harry. She tried to talk, but her hands covered her mouth. He took her to one side. "What is it, Kath?" 

"Lettie...Lettie's kissing Maggie. Is Maggie...?" She choked on the words.

"Is Maggie gay?" he completed her sentence for her.

She nodded.

He shook his head indulgently. "Kathleen, Maggie's been out for years. That's why it was so laughable that you would be worried about her and me. Don't you ever pay attention to anyone other than yourself, my love?"

"But that's so gross!" The words were out of Kathleen's mouth before she could stop them.

The look on Harry's face was a mixture of disappointment, resignation and, Kathleen feared, disgust.

"So you and I can be happy together but Maggie and Lettie aren't allowed? Is that the way it is?"

"It's not that." Kathleen struggled to figure out what it was. She stumbled on, "It's just that I've never known anybody who's gay before."

"You've known Maggie and Lettie for years."

"Apparently I didn't."

Harry paused and then took Kathleen's hand and stroked it, "I think Lettie's just starting to get to know herself. Give her a break, Kath. Life isn't so straightforward for everyone. Look at Joanna--yeah she's a messed up beauty queen, but geez, her parents dumped her on Lettie when she was five while they went off to work for the State department. She only saw them a few times a year during her whole childhood. And Lettie's father was a tyrant.  He destroyed her self confidence before it had a chance to develop. And Gramma Bridges literally turned a blind eye to her dysfunctional family years ago. If Maggie can help Lettie find herself, who are you to pass judgment?"

"Well, my life hasn't always been easy, you know," Kathleen protested, her eyes filling with tears. "My mother died when I was in high school, and my father..." Her voice trailed off as she covered her face with her hands.

Harry took her in his arms and then held her face in his hands and looked deeply and gently into the eyes he loved, "This isn't about you, Kath, not this time."

He went on, "Now I want you to go out to your party and do your own thing. And don't gossip about this with Dorie or Colleen or anyone, okay? Let Lettie stay in control of her life--we owe her that much. She's our friend."

Kathleen, who was by now dying to share the news with both Dorie and Colleen, reluctantly agreed to be discreet. Hard as it was, she kept her promise to Harry and didn't breathe a word of the kiss she had witnessed, and even refrained from looking sly and knowing when Lettie bought a weekend for two at the Redstone Inn, one of Colorado's most romantic hideaways. Harry, however, caught Kathleen's eye as she worked at looking nonchalant and mouthed the words "Well done."

#  

Monday night was lonely. Harry called shortly after seven. The trip was going well. The drive had been uneventful, and the hike to base camp easy. The weather was gorgeous, and Maggie was making cheesecake for dessert. They were ready for their warm up climb on Tuesday. He would call again Tuesday night and then not again until Thursday because tomorrow night he would sleeping in a cocoon halfway up the Crestone Needle . He loved her. They said goodnight.

Tuesday the wind blew. It blew cold for August, and it blew all day. That night when Harry called, he asked Kathleen whether she had been watching the Weather Channel. She told him that Jack didn't like the way the high pressure from the coast was merging with a cold front. The storm wasn't dissipating. It was building. Harry said he would call Jack. Kathleen told Harry to be careful. Harry said that he was always careful.

Wednesday was beautiful. The wind died Tuesday night and all of Colorado awoke to deep blue skies laced with wispy pink clouds flecked with gold. Harry thought it the most beautiful morning of his life. He crawled out of his sleeping bag, unzipped the tent, and saluted the sunrays just spilling over the edge of the mountains. The great stillness of the morning was broken only by an occasional slap of beaver tail on water and the splash of rising fish as the inhabitants of the little mountain lake in front of the tents went about their daily chores. A mist rose off the lake and lingered in the tops of the trees.  Harry watched a doe and fawn, across the lake, pause from drinking to gaze at him in silent wonder.

Wednesday night the rain began. It woke up Kathleen just before two. She peeked out the window to see sheets of rain pummeling the earth. She lay in the dark and thought of Harry wrapped in a cocoon, strapped to a rock cliff, with the rain beating on his face and running down his neck and into his sleeping bag. She wondered how slippery rock was when wet. She wondered how thoroughly Maggie had checked all the climbing gear. She prayed.

Thursday Jack sent her home from work at three in the afternoon. The rain hadn't abated and Kathleen wasn't getting anything done anyway. "Watch a movie and snuggle up with Belle," he had said. Then he hugged her, "Don't worry, Kathleen. Harry is all right. He'll call tonight.”

Kathleen didn't watch a movie--she watched the Weather Channel. She watched the huge cloud over Colorado swirl and grow and she listened to the excited chatter of the TV anchors as they compared it to the storms of '78 and '65.

Harry didn't call. Not Thursday afternoon, not Thursday night. Finally Kathleen started trying to call him, but she couldn't get his cell phone to ring. About nine o'clock, Jack called her to tell her that the sheriff was evacuating the St. Dupre canyon because the river was rising fast and they were worried about flash floods. He told her get her and Belle in the car and head down to Juniper Hills.

Kathleen took Belle to the garage and got in her car. She backed out into absolute darkness. Even with her headlights on, Kathleen couldn't see the road. She knew that she would have to cross the river three times before she was out of the canyon. If the road was flooded anywhere she would be trapped--unable to go further and unable to get back to Harry’s. She sat in the car shaking and crying, unwilling to drive, afraid to stay. But stay she must. Harry had asked her to hold down the fort, to look after Belle, to be here when he returned. He had built his house on a rock, it was high over the river.

Kathleen knew she would be safer at Kenwood than anywhere else in the world. And she had to be here when Harry came back...if he came back. Too late Kathleen tried to catch the thought before it formed, and then she pounded her fists against the steering wheel in frustration, tearing streaming down her cheeks. She couldn't believe she had let herself think that horrible thought. If you don't say it, it won't happen; if you don't think it, it can't happen. And now she had unleashed the thought and Pandora's box was open, the genie was out of the bottle, and clouds of free electrons were spinning madly out of control.

She put the car back in the garage. She called Jack and Colleen and told them she couldn't leave Kenwood.  She asked whether they'd heard from Harry.  They hadn't but told Kathleen not to worry. Harry was fit and strong and smart, they said.

She didn't tell them fit and strong and smart mean nothing once all the sand has run out of the hourglass.

 

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