Tag Archives: carding vermont

Sitting on a Bench on Carding Green on a Sunny Day: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Baseball playerEveryone seems to be in a state of flux in Carding these days. What with high school and college graduations, weddings, the advent of summer, and vacations, everyone seems to be coming or going.

But underneath all the bustle, there are threads of anxiety, especially in Harry Brown’s family.

Especially for Harry Brown.

This is the fourth part of a family saga, a family evolving into tomorrow. Here’s where you can go to catch up: one, two and three.

We’ll wind it all up after the 4th of July. Wow, that’s next week!! How did we get here so fast?

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.

——————————-

When you gaze at the calendar, there’s arguably no month that’s more pregnant with change than June.

It’s the month of graduations from high school and college. It’s the most popular month for weddings. The heat of summer settles in, dissipating the anxiety that accompanies the cold-weather months.

One one level, the changes rippling through Carding are normal for this time of years. Wil Bennett and his friend Dave Muzzy are struggling to master their impatience at the slow pace that high schools consider necessary for Pomp and Circumstance while wondering why it’s so important. 

They’re not the only ones sleepwalking through Carding High’s graduation exercises. Nothing has turned out the way their erstwhile friend, Brian Lambert, had hoped. The Carding girlfriend that he dropped (Wil’s sister Faye) continues to ignore him and the former girlfriend from Martha’s Vineyard whose acquaintance he renewed won’t return his calls. He’s so embarrassed by the way he treated Faye that he can’t look Wil or Dave in the eye.

Worst of all, his father cornered him into accepting a basketball scholarship from a college he’s sure he’ll despise. He hates playing basketball.

So it wouldn’t be out of line to say that Brian Lambert is one big ball of hurt, resentment, and pain.

For that matter, so is Harry Brown. 

To his surprise, none of Harry’s standard emotional manipulating strategies have worked since his stroke. The fact that they are based on an out-of-date image of himself as a tough guy has never occurred to Harry. In his mind, he’s still the same ruthless businessman and lover that he’s always been.

“Love ’em and leave ’em, I always say,” he used to brag to his golfing buddies. “There’s always another chump or woman around the next corner.”

Until there isn’t.

His first wife—Edie Wolfe—came to despise Harry and his attitude, eventually running away from him in the middle of the night.

But Edie’s faithlessness was nothing in comparison to wife-number-two’s duplicity.

It all started when Louisa took control of his personal and business affairs while Harry was incapacitated with his stroke. Then she divided their home in two while he was in rehab, building a wall right through the middle of the house with her on one side and him on the other. Then she deserted him entirely, moving into a dinky modular home put together by their traitorous sons.

But her latest breach of trust was the worst. Louisa had had the audacity to file for a divorce, demanding half of the value of their house and half the value of his trucking business, Brown & Sons.

“A man works his whole life for his family and what thanks does he get?” Harry grumped every morning over the breakfast table.

His new cook and housekeeper, Connie Lindfors, didn’t bother to comment because she knew that Harry preferred to answer his own questions.

“Would you like bacon or sausage with your eggs this morning?” she asked as she watched a pat of butter transform itself from solid to liquid in the bottom of her frying pan. Harry preferred his three scrambled eggs cooked in butter.

“Have we got any more of that thick-sliced bacon?” he asked. “That’s the way bacon’s supposed to be, not that thin namby-pamby stuff.”

When Connie leaned into the open refrigerator to take a look, Harry took a moment to appreciate the fact that her middle-age girth was not as ample as he had at first assumed. When she emerged triumphantly with a package in her hand, she ignored his ogle.

He’s nothing but an old codger with a dinky ticker, she told herself. Who does he think he is?

“This is the last of it,” she said as she slid the bacon into the pan beside the eggs. “I’ll have to get over to Cooper’s to get some more.”

Harry turned to look out the window. The morning clouds were dissipating fast. “I’ll think I’ll go with you, maybe sit on a bench on the green with a coffee, watch the world go by a little bit while you do the shopping,” he said. “Would that be all right?”

Ever since Harry discovered that Connie would cook him whatever he asked for without lecturing him about diet, he figured he’d better be nice to her so she’d stay.

“I think that would be a lovely idea,” Connie said. “It’s a gorgeous day. And maybe tonight we can catch some of the baseball game over at the high school. It’s the last game of the season.”

Harry actually grinned. “Sure. I haven’t been to a game all year.”

Even though she’d been taking care of Harry for only a couple of weeks, Connie was already quite proficient when it came to handling the grumpy old man. Louisa had been very thorough in her description of Harry when she hired Connie, which had helped. But after a lifetime spent as a cook in difficult households, Connie had learned a thing or two about finessing the fusspots of the world.

In her opinion, men were easier to cajole than women, especially those of a certain age. You just needed to pretend to cater to their every whim. After that, they became quite pliable.

“Which side of the green would you prefer to sit on?” she asked as they drove down Meetinghouse Road.

He pointed toward the southeast corner of Carding’s common. “You can see a lot of what’s going on in town from there.”

Connie pulled up close to a bench. “Does this one suit?”

Harry had the car door open before she got around to the passenger side and was already rising to his feet. Across the green, his oldest son, Gideon, watched his father’s arrival with an unexpected tug of guilt. He’d been avoiding Harry because he knew the divorce would make any conversation between them very difficult

To his son, Harry looked smaller than normal, his white hair thinner and more whispy, his shoulders stooped. His clothes hung loose on his body. Connie was obviously quite competent, assisting Harry to the sidewalk and the few steps to the bench. 

When Harry sat down, he turned his face toward the sun with obvious pleasure.

“Are you going to talk to him?” Edie Wolfe’s voice made Gideon jump.

He sighed. “I should. I know I should. But I don’t know what to say.”

“He’s looking mighty frail,” Edie observed.

“Yeah. He’s changed a lot since the stroke. It’s just that…he’s going to ask me about the divorce, about selling the business…”

“So you haven’t made up your mind about whether you’re going to leave or not. I thought that might be the case.”

Gideon looked at her, sharpish. “How do you do that? Understand what people are thinking without them saying anything?”

Edie shrugged. “I just put myself in their place and try to figure out how I would feel. For example, you’ve always taken your responsibilities to Brown & Sons seriously. In fact, you’ve been the bedrock of that business for quite a while, guiding it into the future. That’s hard to walk away from.”

Gideon nodded. “Yeah, it is. But Harry won’t sell unless I go, and Mom wants to be shut of him and everything about him.”

Edie laid a hand on his arm. “And what, pray tell, does Gideon want? Travel? A permanent life in Carding? Something in between or something entirely different?”

“To be truthful, I have no idea, Edie. If I was still married to Chloe, I’d tell you that I wanted nothing more than to take over Brown & Sons and run it the way I see fit. Dad has no idea about what’s changing in our industry, the new regulations coming down the pike or how to adapt to them. If he talks about running the business at all, he talks about stuff that happened ten, twenty years ago.”

“What about your brothers?”

Gideon smiled, the first expression with real pleasure in it that Edie had seen on his face in a long time. “They’re amazing, really good at what they do. Jacob’s an absolute whiz at the newer machines. All that digital stuff just baffles me but he plunges right in up to his elbows. And Noah takes after Mom. He’s not only a great accountant, he’s a good strategic thinker. He was up here last weekend with a whole five-year plan for Brown & Sons all mapped out for us.”

Then Gideon stopped cold. “It’s too bad we’ll never get to see how it turns out.”

They stood in companionable silence, gazing across the green to where Harry sat, the sun creeping up on him, the expression on his face less grumpy than usual. Every so often, he’d raise the coffee cup in his hand at a passing car or in the direction of someone on the sidewalk across the street. Edie and Gideon noticed that no one raised a hand in response.

“It’s hard to forgive him until you see him like this,” Edie said softly.

“Yeah.” Gideon smiled down at Edie. Harry had raised him to hate this woman but Gideon never had understood the sense in that. Edie had always held her hand out in friendship to him. 

“I think I’d better go and say hello to Harry while I have the chance,” Gideon said with a sigh. “Thanks for listening to me, Edie.”

She watched the young man go in silence, his walk betraying the sadness he carried. Ordinarily, their conversation would have sparked an idea, a glimpse of a way forward. But for some strange reason, Edie knew that standing still was her wisest choice at the moment. 

The air felt as charged as it did in those moments before a thunderstorm breaks. Gideon had nearly reached the bench where his father sat alone.


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: 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