No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 21

 

On Friday the storm was gone.  The sky was brilliant blue again, and the river birds were boisterous as they relieved their pent-up tension trying to out-sing each other.

Kathleen with a lump in her throat and a pain in her stomach stood on Harry's deck and looked across the St. Dupre valley.  The river was brown with mud and was roiling under her feet, but at least it was back in its banks.  The road below Harry’s house was washed out.  The flowery meadow where the children had played a week before was drenched and bedraggled, splotched with pools and caked with debris.

But no matter, Kathleen assured herself, nature always healed herself.  The valley was damaged but in no time at all there would be new grass in the meadow and Harry’s house was as solid as ever on its rock above the tumult below.  The road would be repaired, and life would go on.

She poured herself a glass of juice and nibbled at a bagel.  She held her cell phone in her hand, and checked it repeatedly to ensure that it was fully powered and able to receive a signal.  When she hadn’t heard from Harry by nine, she called her father.  He told her that Colleen had dropped the kids off and she and Jack were at the police station trying to locate Harry.  Byron wished Kathleen could come down the mountain and help him with the kids—they were too wild for him.  Kathleen told him to call Lettie if he needed help.  The road wasn’t passable, at least not without four wheel drive, so she was stuck at Kenwood for the time being.

She hung up.  She didn’t mind being at Kenwood—lately it had seemed like heaven on earth to her, but that was when Harry was there too.  She felt Belle’s cold, wet nose on her hand.  She reached down and petted Harry’s dog, then she knelt beside her and laid her cheek on the dog’s back and willed herself not to cry.

At ten Kathleen's cell phone rang.  It was Jack.  His voice was distant and hollow as he told Kathleen that the Boulder Sheriff Department had found Harry's car.  It had gone off the road in Clear Creek Canyon , not thirty miles from Juniper Hills.  Harry and Maggie must have been on their way home.  Harry’s car had skidded down the steep embankment and had turned upside down in the water.  It had come to rest between two boulders about a hundred yards downstream from where it had slid off the road.  Rocks in the road just before the skid marks told why the car had swerved.  Both doors to the car were open.  No bodies were found.  Everything in the car had been washed away.  The Sheriffs Department was searching the river, but it was so high from all the rain...

Kathleen quietly dropped the phone into the river below her, went into the house, walked upstairs, and closed herself inside Harry’s bedroom clothes closet. She turned off the light and buried herself in the fabric that was Harry.  She felt him and smelled in the flannel shirts he wore fishing in the fall.  She lost herself in the  cotton t-shirts he wore to softball practice and to the gym.  She rubbed her hands over his wool sweaters, scratchy and knobby, and pressed them against her cheek.  She held to her chest the silk pajamas she had gleefully discovered on the second night they spent together.  She cried into his tuxedo and sobbed into his leather jacket.  She made a bed of gabardine and gortex and felt him kiss her and love her as she stroked his suede and caressed his cashmere.  She fell asleep in the arms of his sweatshirts and basked in his love as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

A scratching on the door followed by a meek whimper brought her back to reality and she climbed out of the tumble of clothes that had shrouded her grief.  She was awake and Belle was hungry.

Kathleen opened the closet door, and Belle licked her hand again and looked up at Kathleen with mournful eyes.  Kathleen fed her and then she stopped and stupidly looked about the kitchen, disoriented.  She saw Harry’s phone by the refrigerator.  She picked it up.  It was dead.  Of course, it was dead.  The storm had knocked out the phone lines . Only cell phones were still working in the St. Dupre valley. 

She looked around for her cell phone and then dully remembered that she had dropped it into the river.  She wished she had dropped herself into the river along with the phone.  She leaned against the kitchen counter, her stomach churning and her now dry eyes hot and burning as she stared into an empty future, a world without Harry, a life without end, an existence without joy.  She wanted nothing more than to join the mad river below the rock that held Harry’s house aloft over it and search for him in the ravines and along the muddy banks of the waters that had claimed him.  She knew that her spirit would find his, would seek his out, and once together they would travel as one on the currents around the world, and up into the clouds, and back into the lakes.  They would fall as snow.  They would be mist and steam and thunderclouds and showers.  They would pelt the rain forests and drown the forest fires.  They would live forever.

She pushed herself away from the counter and staggered outside onto the deck.  She knew that Belle was following her, nudging her hand, begging for affection, but Kathleen had no room in her emptiness for Harry’s dog.  Jack had given Belle to Harry three Christmases ago, but she had dropped Jack’s words into the river.  She had hung up on him.

Kathleen wanted to talk to Jack now.  She wanted to tell him how it felt to be dying inside, knowing that he was dying inside too.  She wanted to hold him and feel him shake with grief so that she could too.  She thought about driving down to Jack and Colleen’s house and she started to go inside to find her keys but was stopped by the sight of a blue heron flying up the valley.  It was absolutely beautiful, a question mark against the sky, an arched, elongated elegant spirit.  Harry had told her that herons were harbingers and river guides and she must look for visitors whenever one came up the valley.

 Kathleen decided to wait for Jack.  She knew he would come and tell her when he had found Harry.  And find Harry Jack would.  Jack would never let Search and Rescue leave Harry at the bottom of Clear Creek, his strong, tanned, beautiful body broken and drowned.  She went in to the bathroom and quietly vomited into the sink.  Then she wiped her mouth and rinsed.  She wanted Harry to be proud of her, even like this.

Kathleen went back out onto the deck and looked across the river to the battered road.  She looked up at Ruby Mountain , its forest fresh-washed and glistening in the sun.  How could Nature kill her favorite son?  Surely Ruby should be crying that her champion, the one who loved her best, was no more.  How often had Harry climbed the mountain that rose up out of his front yard—a dozen times or more, at least? 

Was Harry up there now, looking down on her, waiting for her, sending her kisses, and making sure she behaved herself and wasn't selfish or arrogant or mean or lazy?  At the thought, she collapsed again in tears, and sank to the deck, and lay there bathed in the warm August sun until Belle came once more and licked her face.  Then she sat up, and this time when she looked across the river and down the road, she saw a car—a red car—Jack's  red Jeep was creeping up the road, picking its way over the ruts and through the gullies.  The time had come.  Jack had come to tell her the worst.

She watched him pull into mud pit that had been Harry’s driveway.  She watched him get out of the car and watched as he ran his fingers through his shock of black hair, making it stand on end.  He looked up at the house and saw her on the deck.  He raised his arm and saluted her in the same friendly, bantering way that Harry had.  

For an instant, Kathleen thought that Jack was Harry.  They looked so much alike.  The same black hair.  The same body.  The same steady gaze.  She wondered, watching Jack walk toward her, the grief on his face mirroring that in her heart, whether they would ever be able to love the sun again.  Surely it should be raining.  Surely Harry should be raining down on them.  She walked down the deck stairs and folded Jack in her arms and cradled him as he crumpled in grief.  Colorado Search and Rescue had found his beloved brother, two miles downriver from where his car had skidded in a rockslide and slid into eternity.

#  

By week’s end, Kathleen and Jack had buried Harry atop Ruby Mountain .  Now and forever he would be able to look down over the valley he loved and watch over his house, the one he had jauntily built on a rock, cocksure that  no river would ever sweep it away. 

Kathleen and Bob Martin buried an urn containing Maggie’s ashes under home plate at the Juniper Hills ball field where Maggie had soared to glory in the Park-n-Rec slow pitch league.  Kathleen wrote to the umpire school in Pensacola explaining that Maggie wouldn’t be fulfilling her dream of becoming a major league official after all, and she sent a donation on behalf of the K-B-K Trojans for their scholarship fund.

At the end of August, Kathleen left Juniper Hills for Albuquerque .  She took Belle with her as well as her softball glove.  She figured that she might hook up with a slow pitch team on campus.  She wondered whether there might be someplace in Albuquerque where she could play night golf.  She knew that she would need to howl at the moon for years, maybe forever.

 

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