Details, Details: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Watercolor paintsHarry Brown is a fourth generation Carding-ite. The males in his family—Harry very much included—have always been hard men, expecting to get their way in all matters of life, business and love.

While that attitude and perspective may have served them in generations past, it sure doesn’t now.

The change in attitude of the male line in the Brown family began with Harry’s eldest son, Gideon. That story is recounted in detail in my first novel, The Road Unsalted.

Gideon’s missteps started an avalanche of change in the Brown family. Over the course of my four Carding novels, doors opened and closed for Gideon and his ex-wife Chloe, Harry and his soon-to-be ex-wife Louisa as well as their two younger sons, Noah and Jacob. And now a lot of those issues are coming to resolution.

In the grand scheme of things, life is actually an accumulation of details, isn’t it? How we treat one another, the words we say, the actions and interactions of daily life, that is what we remember.

That is what matters.

We’re continuing our exploration of this family’s evolution this week. You can catch up here and here.

And finally, we’ll settle in with our popcorn next week to watch the unexpected ways that change keeps flowing through Carding.

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.

———————————-

“What do you mean Harry was sitting in a car with his new aide watching the house with a pair of binoculars?” Gideon’s eyebrows were halfway up his forehead.

“Yes, sitting right up the road as plain as could be,” Louisa said. “Jacob even waved at him.”

“I bet that didn’t go over well. Dad always needs to be in control,” Gideon said. “He’s going to push back against the divorce, you know. He raged at Edie for years after she left him.”

“Oh, I know,” Louisa said. “I had to listen to it all the time.”

Gideon glanced up, his face sharp. “I don’t remember that.”

“It was at night, after you boys were in bed,” Louisa said, her face shuttered by past pain. “He hated Edie because she got out of their marriage. He and his father never forgave her for that.”

“And then when she came back from Europe with Diana and Daniel…”

Louisa snorted. “Harry tried to tell people those kids were his. He made such a fool of himself. Edie been gone for more than three years and the twins were barely a year old when she returned. People were laughing at him and making jokes about how he couldn’t count to nine. It was so embarrassing.”

Gideon reached out to take his mother’s hands in his. “That new aide that Dad has now…”

“Connie Lindfors. What about her?”

“I don’t like the fact that she drove him up here so he could watch the house,” Gideon said.

“I thought it was a risk worth taking,” Louisa said.

“You thought…?”

Louisa grinned. “I’ve been your father’s legal guardian since he had his stroke so I can make decisions about his care. I’m the one who made the arrangements with Connie, not your father. My lawyer helped me set up an an investment account that earns enough to pay her so your father can’t fire her like he has everyone else. He has to accept that I’m not going back.”

Gideon squeezed her hands. “Do you know, that’s the first time you’ve admitted that.”

“Well, you can thank the girls for that,” Louisa said.

“You mean your coffee group?”

“Yep. Last time we got together, Ruth told me to stop dithering and imagine what life would be like if I went back to Harry.” Louisa smiled, an expression that was at once tired and triumphant. “Once I admitted that it would be more awful than awful, divorce was an easy choice. I’ve wasted too many years on your father. I’m not wasting another day.”

Now it was her turn to squeeze her son’s hands. “I think you need to do the same.”

“What do you mean?”

“Chloe’s not coming back, Gideon, and you need to accept that.”

His cheeks flushed and Louisa heard the incipient tears in his voice. “I know. It’s just that…I keep thinking that…”

Louisa squeezed tighter. “I saw her yesterday, at Edie’s. She sorting through her stuff, deciding what to keep, what to donate and what to throw away. She swears that when she leaves Carding, the only thing she’s taking is her traveling watercolor set.”

“I thought if I could just talk to her I could get her to come back.” Gideon shook his head. “But the truth is, I treated her like Dad treated you and Edie. I like to think that I‘ve changed, that I would never cheat again but I don’t trust myself to keep that promise.”

Louisa hunched forward. “Why do you focus on just that promise? If you define yourself as nothing more than a cheating man, that is all you’ll ever be.”

Gideon’s head whipped up and Louisa knew her words had struck home so she hurried on. “When you were a little boy, you begged me for a globe to put on the desk in your room. Do you remember that?”

“Yeah. I loved to dream about going around the world. I used to mark the places I wanted to see most,” he said. “After a while, the whole globe was covered with dots.”

“Traveling around the world, that’s a dream you could be true to, Gideon,” Louisa said. “I think you need to get away from Carding, away from your father and even from me. You’ve been stuck on the treadmill we created in your childhood for far too long.”

“But the business…”

“Your father is going to sell it,” Louisa said. “He doesn’t know that yet but I’ve made it clear in the divorce papers I sent to him that I want half of everything and that includes Brown & Sons. Gideon, if you don’t free yourself from him now, then when?”

Gideon stared at her and Louisa realized her words had reached him. She was silently exultant. “You need to shed this life, Gideon. All of it. Carding will be here if you decide to come back. And I’ll be around for a while longer.”

A sharp yip made her look down. Her new puppy was trying to gnaw his way through her slipper. She reached down to lift the little one up, nuzzling him. 

“I think someone needs to get on with his day.” She kissed the top of her son’s head. “And I  don’t mean the puppy.”

Gideon laughed as he stood up. He felt lighter and recognized the sensation as the release of a burden. “Does Dad know he’s selling the business?”

Louisa glanced at the clock. “I think he does by now. I put the divorce papers in the mail yesterday. They should have arrived at the house about an hour ago.”

She gave her son a thorough look. “I would be careful about answering your phone for the next few days. This is going to unnerve him and you know how mean he can get.”

“Yeah. I have to admit it’s unnerving me a little bit as well. Did you talk to anyone about this?”

“Just my lawyer. He’s been urging me to make a clean break for months now. Once I made up my mind, Edie helped me put together a plan to make sure your father gets the care he needs. That will make the divorce easier for him to accept,” Louisa said.

“So what’s this plan?”

“I’ve hired Connie to be his full-time housekeeper, and she’s going to live in the apartment you and Jacob built for me when I divided the house in two,” Louisa said. “Who knows? He may even marry her. Connie’s not adverse to that. Marrying your father would give her a nice retirement, if she can put up with him.”

Gideon spluttered. “Marry him? How in the world…?”

Louisa shook her head to stop his questions. “You just set your mind to the task of taking care of Gideon, all right? Leave taking care of Harry to me. I’ve had a lot of practice doing that.”

Gideon stood by the back door looking for all the world like a sail that had lost its wind. “I honestly don’t know what to do next.”

His mother gave him a little shove toward the door. “I would suggest going to buy a globe.”


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Details, Details

Harry Brown is a fourth generation Carding-ite. The men in his family—Harry very much included—have always been hard men, expecting to get their way in all matters of life, business and love.

While that attitude and perspective may have served them in generations past, it sure doesn’t now.

The change in attitude of the male line in the Brown family began with Harry’s eldest son, Gideon. That story is recounted in detail in my first novel, The Road Unsalted.

Gideon’s missteps started an avalanche of change in the Brown family. Over the course of my four Carding novels, doors opened and closed for Gideon and his ex-wife Chloe, Harry and his soon-to-be ex-wife Louisa as well as their two younger sons, Noah and Jacob. And now a lot of those issues are coming to resolution.

In the grand scheme of things, life is actually an accumulation of details, isn’t it? How we treat one another, the words we say, the actions and interactions of daily life, that is what we remember.

That is what matters.

We’re continuing our exploration of this family’s evolution tomorrow. You can catch up here and here.

And finally, we’ll settle in with our popcorn next week to watch the unexpected ways that change is flowing through Carding.

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.

SH-Watercolor paints

Operation Harry Brown: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Purple irisPoor Harry Brown. Between his health issues and the fact that his wife Louisa has left him, life seems…well…a little out of control.

It’s time to reassert himself, take charge like the man he is.

Right?

Well…maybe not so much.

Last week, Louisa finally decided to file for divorce. And with the help of her friend Edie Wolfe, she’s got plans for Harry as well.

Let’s check in to see how it’s going, shall we?

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.

————————————————————

Nowadays, Harry Brown couldn’t decide whether it was worthwhile to open his eyes in the morning or not so he’d worked out a compromise, slitting them open the merest fraction just to ascertain whether the sun had decided to come up or not.

You can never tell about these things.

He heard a rattle in the kitchen and his heart gave an involuntary flutter before he remembered that Louisa—his wife—no longer lived in her proper home. She had abandoned him. Just like their three sons.

Harry pressed his eyelids together, straining to remember the name of the aide that was with him now. He dredged up a vague image of her—brown hair fading to gray, watery blue eyes, more waist than hips. In other words, she looked like all the other aides that the agency sent to his house.

The last aide had lasted two weeks, something of a record in Harry’s new life as he coped with the results of his near-fatal stroke. If Louisa would just come home where she belonged, Harry wouldn’t have to put up with strangers in his kitchen.

But Louisa had stopped answering his phone calls and she wouldn’t return his messages. He’d even resorted to begging her to come back, something that Harry now regretted.

He groaned, rolled over on his back and then pushed himself upright. As he did, his bedroom door popped open.

“Do we need help with the toilet?” the aide asked.

Harry felt his tongue sharpen for a reply but then thought better of it. “No, that’s all right,” he said. “My canes are here. I can manage, thank you.”

“Would you like eggs for breakfast this morning?”

“Yes, scrambled with some toast. Is there any sausage in the freezer?”

“I’ll look.” The aide, whose name was Connie by the way, bit back her admonishment about eating a healthier diet. Let the old codger eat whatever he wanted, that was her attitude. He hadn’t got much time left, did he? Might as well enjoy it. “How many would you like if there are any?”

“Three,” Harry said and added a please because she didn’t lecture him. She was the first aide who hadn’t done that.

Connie, as it turned out, was a good cook. Breakfast was nothing fancy but her eggs were tasty and the sausage were cooked perfectly—nice and brown—and she didn’t skimp on the butter when it came to his toast.

“More coffee, hon?” A steaming pot hovered over his cup.

Harry smiled. “Sure. Why not? And could I have another piece of toast?” He let his smile extend further. “Please?”

The two of them existed in companionable silence while Connie cleaned up and Harry sipped and chewed. She would do, he thought. She would do well enough until Louisa came back.

“I was planning to do some grocery shopping this morning,” Connie said as she wiped down the stove. “Anything in particular you want for supper?”

“Hmm, will you be here as well?”

“Oh yes, I’m scheduled for the next three days and nights,” Connie said.

“Well, how would you feel about a pork roast? You do eat pork, right? So many people have different ways of eating nowadays.”

“Huh, don’t I know it. I’ve got a granddaughter who won’t touch meat at all. Claims that killing animals for eating is wrong. When she makes a BLT, she only uses lettuce and tomato. What kind of a sandwich is that?” Connie complained. 

“Hmph, no bacon?”

Connie turned to face him, a sponge in her hand. “No bacon. No steak. No burgers. I tell ya, where would this country be without meat?”

This time, Harry’s smile was genuine. Yes, this one would do nicely. “Would you mind if I went with you?” he asked.

“To the grocery store?”

“Yeah. I don’t get out much and I could do with a change of scenery.” He smiled again. One of his many lady friends had told him he had a charming smile so Harry figured he could always get what he wanted if he just turned up the wattage.

Harry knew that aides from the agency were not supposed to drive their clients in their personal vehicles but Connie had been given a lot of leeway in her care of this patient. “Sure thing,” she said. “Why not? Probably do you some good. And with everything in bloom right now, we could even take a bit of a scenic ride.” 

Harry couldn’t believe his luck. “I know a road where you can see the whole valley.”

“Sounds lovely,” Connie reached behind to untie her apron. “I should be ready in about half an hour.”

In Vermont, the hills and trees and flowers and gardens spend so much time in the deep freeze of winter that spring isn’t so much a season as it is an explosion. Change is rapid, as if the natural world is afraid that the warming sun will be taken away if it doesn’t hurry up. If you’d been spending a lot of time indoors—like Harry Brown—the speed of the outdoor transformation could catch you unawares.

The old crabapple in his front yard was the first thing to catch his eye. Most years, it bore only a vague sprinkling of white blossoms. This year, it was covered with a veritable snow of fragrant petals and it hummed with bees. When Harry stopped to take it in, Connie heard a muted “wow” escape his lips.

Next he looked down the street toward his neighbors’ yard. Mr. and Mrs. Cummings had been puttering about their “heavenly acre” (as they liked to call it) ever since they’d moved to Carding many years ago. Harry considered gardens as nothing more than obstacles to a mowing machine so he paid little attention to the Cummings’ efforts. Connie saw his jaw drop as he took in the purples and reds and yellows in his neighbors’ yard. He could barely see their house.

“It’s been quite a spring,” Connie commented as she stowed Harry’s canes in the back seat of her SUV. “A lot of rain and clouds and cool weather and the flowers are just loving it.”

“So I see,” Harry murmured as he examined a hedge of purple iris. Their petals were so dark, they were almost black. Unnatural, that was.

“Where would you like to go?” Connie asked.

“Up Belmont Hill, toward the Tennyson place.” Harry smiled again even though his face was starting to hurt from the effort and indicated the binoculars he’d looped around his neck. “It’s amazing what you can see from up there.”

“Okay, just give me directions.”

Harry began to relax as they drove along. Connie took directions well and listened as he pointed out the roads built by Brown & Sons and explained how the company worked with the state after Hurricane Irene on Carding’s bridge and culverts.

“You sound proud of the business you built,” Connie observed as they started up Belmont Hill. 

Harry’s chest puffed out a bit. He couldn’t help it. A man was his work, after all.

Harry leaned forward eagerly the higher they climbed and Connie caught his involuntary gasp of breath when he spotted a small new house sunning itself in the middle of an emerald field. She pointed out the structure.

“That looks like a modular to me,” she said. “My brother and sister-in-law live downstate in one that’s similar to that.”

Harry merely grunted, his eyes fixed on the structure he knew his sons had built for their mother. “Could you pull in just up there? And then turn around so we can see the valley?”

Harry trained his binoculars on the structure, sucking up every detail. It was sided with cedar shingles. Its doorway and window frames were painted a dark sapphire blue and there were solar panels on the roof. Under other circumstances, he would have been proud of his sons’ work.

But instead, he searched for something to criticize. “Hmph, solar panels,” he huffed aloud. “Bet the roof leaks under ’em in winter.”

Connie said nothing. Edie Wolfe had told her who lived in the new house.

Harry grew still as a pickup truck turned into the yard and his youngest son, Jacob, hopped out.

He had a big grin on his face as the front door opened and a black-and-white border collie launched itself into the front yard. Then Louisa stepped into the sunlight, a huge smile on her own face and a squirming puppy in her arms.

“Dogs.” Harry’s voice was weighted down with his disgust. Louisa would have to get rid of them when she came home. He hated dogs. A waste of time and money, in his opinion. 

“This is going to end right now,” he muttered as he pulled his phone from his pocket and angrily stabbed the speed-dial button for Louisa’s number.

Louisa jumped at the sound of her ring tone. Still chattering to Jacob, she gently placed the pup on the grass in order to pull her phone from her jacket pocket. As Harry watched, Louisa glanced at her screen then clicked the phone off. At the same time, Jacob looked up the hill at the car where his father sat with Connie.

He waved. Louisa turned around to see what had caught her son’s attention. When she saw Harry, she pointedly plunged her phone back into her pocket.

Harry shrank in his seat. “Take me home,” he growled. “Now.”

Connie did as he wished. Operation Harry Brown had begun and so far, it was all going according to plan.


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.