The warm exhale of summer is starting to invade Carding, Vermont. Tonight, one hundred and two seniors will graduate from Carding Regional High School.
In two weeks, best friends Wil Bennett and Dave Muzzy leave for Costa Rica and a month of volunteering at a wildlife rescue center.
Wil’s sister Faye is uncertain what this means for her. And she’s not very good at uncertainty.
Most of us aren’t.
And Harry Brown is grappling with too many changes in his life. He handles most of his anxiety by complaining which, of course, accomplishes nothing.
This is the fourth segment in a Carding Chronicle that’s about change and uncertainty. We’ll finish up next week.
In the meantime, have a lovely 4th!
Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.
“There are a great number of questions in life for which the only right answer is ‘I don’t know.’”
—Reverend Gordon Lloyd, pastor of Our Lady of Assumption church in Carding, Vermont
Neither Diana nor Stephen Bennett mentioned it but they had both noticed how much more time their son and daughter were spending together nowadays. Sure the siblings never missed a chance to tease one another but their barbs were softer. In fact, they shouldn’t be considered barbs at all.
“I think Faye has realized she’s going to miss Wil when he leaves for Costa Rica,” Stephen said.
“She’s not the only one,” Diana sighed. “I knew this was going to be hard but I had no idea how hard. Our little family is changing. Nothing is going to be the same again. I already miss our old life.”
They stood together, listening to Faye and Wil laugh as they tried to get Wil’s mortarboard to stay on his head.
“I suppose we could glue it on,” Faye said as she fussed. “I still have some spirit gum left from Halloween.”
When Wil turned to look in his mirror, the hat slid off once again. “We may have to do that. I guess you’d better get it.”
Faye got to her feet. “I’ll be right back.”
Wil’s best friend, Dave Muzzy, showed up while the spirit gum was being applied to Wil’s forehead. Ever since the river raft race back in May, Dave had had two reasons to visit the Bennett household. Even though he and Faye had agreed to keep their budding relationship on the private side, their growing warmth and interest in one another was visible to everyone around them.
Wil watched them duck their heads shyly at one another for a couple of minutes before he finally asked: “So how serious are you two about one another?”
Wil laughed as Dave blushed all the way from his chin to his eyebrows. “Wow, you are red, man. Really red.”
“How long have you known?” Faye asked.
“Hmmm, you’re my baby sister…”
“Not a baby any more, Wil.”
Wil pointed at Dave. “And you’ve been my best friend since forever. You two have never looked at one another like you do now or have gotten all shy around one another. Heck, I remember getting between you two on the town beach when Dave said something that ticked you off, Faye. You had him pinned to the sand.”
Now it was Faye’s turn to blush. “We really like one another…”
“…but we’re trying not to tie one another up,” Dave said, glancing at Faye for her approval of his words. “Costa Rica, college…”
“…for both of us,” Faye said. She squinted up at her brother. “You’d better be okay with this.”
Wil grinned. “Well, I can guarantee I won’t get in the middle if you two get into a fight on the town beach again.”
Faye reached over and took Dave’s hand. “I think we’re good on that.”
“Does Brian know?” Wil asked.
“Well, we haven’t said anything to him, that’s for sure,” Dave said.
“And I don’t think we owe him an explanation,” Faye added. “I’m sorry that he’s isolated himself but neither Dave nor I are the people to fix that.”
“Yeah, that’s on him,” Wil agreed. “Okay, let’s get on this spirit gum thing. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know how I’m going to keep this funky hat on long enough to graduate.”
“How’s Harry doing this morning?” Louisa asked when Connie called her from the grocery store.
“Oh, I think he’s edging around to the idea that this divorce is really going to happen. He said this morning that he’s going to buy the house from you. But selling Brown & Sons is going to be a sticking point. That’s who he is, how he sees himself,” Connie said.
Once again, Louisa silently thanked the gods for helping her find Connie Lindfors—cook, housekeeper and now understanding friend.
“Yeah, I know. But how in the world would he run the business if Gideon isn’t there? And Gideon has the right to make up his own mind about what he wants to do with his life.” Louisa sighed. “I’m trying to free my son.”
“I know. I know. I’m just saying this isn’t going to be easy,” Connie said. “Harry came shopping with me again today. He likes sitting on a bench on the green. And I did get him to agree to go to the baseball game at the high school tonight. We probably won’t stay long. But at least he’ll get out.”
“Is anybody stopping to talk to him while he’s on the green?” Louisa asked then immediately regretted her question. Harry’s relationships or lack of them were no longer any of her business.
But old habits die hard.
“No, not that I’ve seen.” Connie paid for her groceries then slid the straps of her cloth shopping bag over her shoulder. Cooper’s had been out of the thick bacon that Harry liked but she’d bought his favorite sausage. The man was more carnivore than herbivore, that’s for sure.
She stopped suddenly when she stepped through the exit door, her phone pressed to her ear. From Connie’s angle, she could see Harry and at least half of the town green. “Wait a minute. I think Gideon’s here.”
“Really? Are he and Harry talking?”
“No, Gideon’s behind him, just looking at his father.”
“Probably trying to make up his mind what to say,” Louisa said.
“Or what not to say,” Connie added.
For his part, Harry had just started to wonder where Bonnie…no, that’s not right…where Connie was. He felt tired and the sun, welcome at first, was getting warm. He set his cup down on the bench so he could reach up to pull the brim of his hat down.
But it wasn’t there. He’d forgotten his hat. Strange. He’d been wearing something on his head for years now to protect it from the sun and shield his eyes from glare. When you worked outside as much as he did, you learned to wear a hat.
As soon as he dropped his hand back into his lap, he spotted her across the street. She was such a pretty woman what with her bouncing step and her hair flouncing about her shoulders. He loved the way the sun brought out its coppery sheen.
Harry had been watching Edie Wolfe from this spot for years. She didn’t know it yet, of course she didn’t, but he was going to marry her. All he had to do was work up the courage to ask her out and the rest would follow just as surely as night follows day.
Yep, she would become Mrs. Harry Brown and he’d not only gain a pretty wife, he’d gain a father-in-law who was a Senator in Washington, D.C.
Not bad for a boy who drove truck for his father.
But then Harry had never been content to just work for his father. He had plans, big plans.
He watched her closely, drinking in every detail of her walk. What a great shape she had, firm and soft in all the right places.
Today would be the day. He could feel it. Today would be the day that she’d notice him. He straightened up his shoulders to relieve a sudden pain in his neck. He must have slept wrong.
Gideon reached out to jiggle Harry’s shoulder. Something about the set of his father’s head wasn’t right.
“Dad? Are you all right?”
Harry started to pitch forward but Gideon grabbed him before he rolled off the bench. People started to rush toward him.
There were voices.
Connie appeared on Harry’s other side and together they laid Harry down on the bench. Faye Bennett raced across the street, Wil and Dave in her wake, her hair ablaze in the sun.
“I saw what happened. I called for an ambulance,” she said as the sound of a siren split the peace of Carding’s main street.
Harry’s eyelids fluttered and he made a waving motion toward Faye with his hand.
“Pretty hair,” he said.
Thanks for stopping by.