Monday, July 6, 2009

For One Night Of Love (Part 2)

SHORT STORY MONDAY

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: `It might have been!`" ~Whittier

For One Night Of Love
(Part 2)

His co-workers at the country club used to tease him about a nine year old daughter of the florist who often played in the kitchen while her parents set up displays for parties. The little girl genuinely liked him because he'd shown an interest in her, and sometimes sought him out to show him some new necklace or bracelet. Jeremy, being sensitive to the others' jests, always regretted it afterwards. Some of the waitresses teased him, too, though on one occasion Hellen, one of the older waitresses, publically reproached Kathy, the worst of the offenders, for her heartlessness. While Jeremy appreciated Hellen's thoughtfulness, it also embarrassed him. He was ashamed that he could not speak up in his own defense.

In a certain sense, none of these tribulations really affected him deeply, for Jeremy knew that at the end of each day he had a refuge -- he could go home. There, alone with himself, he breathed freely, could be himself. And in his very heart of hearts, he was happy.

Jeremy's interest in drawing began from earliest childhood when he would sit on his grandfather's lap and watch him draw pictures of farm animals. There seemed no end to the variety of funny pictures grandpa could make -- talking pigs, talking cows, dancing horses, two-headed dogs, snakes with legs. Jeremy, too, took pencil in hand and began making pictures, crude, but recognizable as chickens, ducks and the like. Then one day Jeremy learned how to create the illusion of depth and perspective by drawing an infinity point and having things diminish in size in relation to the foreground. He always considered this discovery to be the real beginning of his serious attraction to making pictures.

Jeremy's skill with a pen was basically self-taught. He once heard someone say that it takes a thousand bad drawings to make a good one, and he set out to do just that. After his thousand drawings, he recognized a fluidity in his pencil strokes that made his lines unusually expressive. He learned a dozen ways to create shading, and learned to appreciate the nuances that could be created through sharper and softer edges on objects. He was aware of his limitations and through constant practice set about to conquer them. He also learned that there was an elusiveness about certain kinds of beauty that made it difficult to capture on paper.

At one time the Tanner farm was the only plot of land with a house on it in that stretch of Helmsboro Road, the nearest neighbor being the Gundersons nearly a quarter mile away. In the early eighties, the heavily wooded tract of land across the way was put up for sale. A developer came in, struck a road through it and built a dozen $200,000 homes out of sight from the main thoroughfare. The homes were sold to younger families who mostly kept to themselves. There were some joggers, kids on bicycles, school buses, and a little ore traffic, but nothing to alter Jereemy's routines. He was not offended by their proximity.

Then one day, the narrow tract of land that lay wedged between his own property and the main road was put up for sale. The strip had once been farmed by his dad; his father leased the land from the county. Allison Creek, which formed the easternmost border of his property, tickled the four acre piece of property the full length of its backside. The Helmsboro Road bounded the property on the other side. It was disturbing enough that the property bordering his favorite walking place should now be occupied. When he saw where they determined to locate the house, on the end nearest his own, it alarmed him immensely.

During one of his morning walks, Jeremy plucked up the courage to discuss the matter with one of the carpenters who was framing what would soon be a very large home. The carpenter said the man was a former prosecuting attorney in the from the Chicago area by the name of Frank Martin. "He's a real bastard," the carpenter said and Jeremy was disheartened.

Over the summer, the house took form, shape, substance and color. Although it proved not to be as enormous as he originally feared, its gables and terraces, cornices and a half dozen columns gave the house a feeling of grandeur. Occasionally, an important looking man would arrive in a large expensive car to inspect the progress. Jeremy surmised this to be Mr. Martin. From his bearing, while Mr. Martin did not appear to be a large man he seemed excessively stern. Jeremy decided he had no inclination to meet him.

One morning, Mrs. Martin arrived with him. They stayed for a long time in the house. When they came back outside, Mrs. Martin walked lethargically to the back of the house, her head tottering idly from side to side as she walked. Her hands were balled fists. She faced away from the house and walked aimlessly across the newly seeded yard until she reached the half-stagnant little creek, not more than a hundred feet from the door. She seemed surprised by the boundary and stood looking past it as if perplexed, scanning the overgrown fields, farmhouse, dilapidated barn and outbuildings that belonged to the man next door who's property curled about theirs. The blare of a car horn beckoned her and she returned to Mr. Martin with hurried gait. By the following month the Martins had taken up residence in their new home.

Mr. and Mrs. Martin took no interest in meeting their neighbor and Jeremy likewise felt no compulsion to welcome them. If called upon to say hello, he would do the right thing, but in nearly two years he was never in a situation that required it, which suited him fine.

Frequently, during his morning walks, Jeremy studied the house. There was a bleakness about the place. Mr. Martin would leave quite early in the day, often before dawn. He left alone. The middle door of their three-car garage would open and his midnight blue Lincoln Continental would slide out to be coerced into heading out toward the road. During the day the drapes remained perpetually drawn. Jeremy thought it strange the way Mrs. Martin kept herself shut in all the time. At night as well, whatever light there was in the house was kept tightly shut in. Though the grass was occasionally tended by a boy who came from somewhere to use Mr. Martin's ride-around mower, there were no other efforts on the part of the Martin's in this regard. There were no flowers; there was no garden. He began to surmise that there was illness about the place.

Then one afternoon everything changed. It was a Thursday -- Jeremy worked six days a week with Tuesdays or Thursdays being his day off -- and a hot one at that, hot for early May. Jeremy decided to walk the full length of Allison's Creek to Hunter's Pond, which was down on the other side of the Pendleton Road. He was carrying a sketchbook, as he often did, leaving the house in a rather absent minded way, caught up more or less in his own thoughts when the unusual sight of a young woman sunbathing in the Martin's back yard caused him to hesitate for a moment. She was lying face down on a large white beach towel, her legs extended, her arms up so that her elbows pointed out away from her, her honey colored hair cascading over her forearms. Though she had on a pair of blue denim cut-offs, her back was bared, her green cotton halter having been unclasped. Jeremy, temporarily immobile, studied her uncertainly until he decided to proceed with his walk and pretend he didn't notice her. As he was passing where she lay Jeremy took a sideways glance hoping to find she had not observed him. To his dismay she had turned her head around, facing him, so that it was apparent she was following him with her eye, half-concealed by tresses and shadows. She was less than forty feet away from him and by her slenderness and the tautness of her skin it seemed the woman was but a youth, perhaps no more than eighteen or twenty. It so surprised him that he could think of nothing else for the rest of his walk, regretting only that he had not clearly seen her face.

CONTINUED

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