The Summer of '62; Episode 4
“I’m going to kill us all,” Mrs. Larsen cried out as if that were the final solution. The car accelerated and she steered it toward a tree. “I can’t take it. I can’t take it anymore. I just can‘t take it!”
“No, Mom!” Rich saw the tree in the headlights. “Don’t let him do this to you!”
Mr. Larsen grabbed the wheel and they wrestled with it. The car was slowed by the ditch and the impact with the tree was slight. The car rested in the mud. All was quiet except for the sobs of Mrs. Larsen and Rich.
“What’s wrong with you two?” Mr. Larsen said. “Are you crazy?”
A tow truck was called from a nearby home.
Rich's sister’s husband, Chuck, picked up Mrs. Larsen and Mr. Larsen and drove them to the garage. Rich rode to the garage in the tow truck. At the garage Mr. Larsen told the owner that a dog ran out in front of the car.
Rich liked Chuck. He always had an earnest look on his face. He smiled and joked with Rich. He gave Rich advice on growing up - not long talks, but just snippets now and then. There was about fifteen years difference in their ages. Rich liked being around him and was glad he was the one that came to get them.
Chuck’s eyes and Rich's met as they stood beside the damaged car. He chewed as on his gum as if not effected. Rich knew he did not accept the dog story. He knew and understood what might have really happened, but how Rich wondered? He had to have been in Rich's place at one time also. Chuck laid his arm around Rich's shoulder. “I’m going to get you home. Let’s go Richard. Everything ’s going to be okay.”
It was a quiet ride home with Mr. Larsen trying to make it seem as if everything was normal. Rich went to sleep quickly that night and awakened late in the morning .
It was Sunday. Mrs. Larsen and Mr. Larsen had to work. Rich slogged down the stairs at 11:30 AM. Uncle Bob sat in the living room rocker reading the Sunday paper.
Uncle Bob lived with the Larsens. He was Mrs. Larsen’s brother. He was a quiet diminutive in thought and stature, a devious man with a mumbling speech impediment that made him difficult to understand at times.
Rich sat on the couch.
Uncle Bob seemed mesmerized by the paper, because there was not the slightest indication that he was aware of Rich's presence.
“There must be a lot of pictures,” Rich thought.
Uncle Bob dropped one side of the paper. His fingers dug into his wire gray hair and scratched. His eyes never left the page.
“Can I see the sports section?” Rich asked.
He fingered through the paper and handed the sports section to Rich. He looked at the box scores, but soon thoughts gravitated to the previous evening and wondering what it all meant. Rich wondered if Mrs. Larsen and Mr. Larsen would stay together.
“Mom and Dad use your car today?” Rich asked.
“Mom swerved to miss a dog,” Rich said.
“That’s what she said,” Uncle Bob said.
“Hit a tree.”
“Very much damage?”
“Banged in the front right finder,” Rich said. “They said it will be ready by Friday.”
Rich really wanted to talk and was willing to talk to anyone - even Uncle Bob. “You want some eggs?” Rich said. “I’ll fix ‘em.”
“Yup, I’ll take some.”
“All I fix is scrambled. You want toast with that.”
Rich paused to see if he might display some sort of gratitude.
"Scramble three," Rich heard a muffled voice from behind the paper.
They sat at the kitchen table eating the bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. Uncle Bob said nothing to Rich. He chewed like a cow and stared into infinity without blinking as if a robot. When done eating he left a dirty plate, knife, and fork at the table.
“Excuse me,” Rich said as he exited the kitchen.
Puzzled, Uncle Bob said, “I didn’t say nuttin’."
“Oh, I thought I heard you say thanks.”
“Nope,” Uncle Bob said unaffected and went back to the Sunday paper in the living room.
Rich was alone. He didn’t know for how long, but it was for some time.
He went back to his room and leafed through volume 'S' of the World Book Encyclopedia. He was nearing the end of his goal to read the entire set of encyclopedias.
He read about Spain. There was an aerial photo of a bull fighting arena in Cadiz. He imagined walking the streets of Cadiz. He heard Spanish guitar music and polite people greeting him. “That is where my royal Spanish parents lived who lost me at birth and I was taken to the United States by anti-Franco sympathizers for safety sake. I was not Rich Larsen, but Juan Gomez.” The room began to warm from the sun and no breeze was coming through the window. Rich decided to go to a place that was always cool and refreshing, a place to relax and dream - the meadow.
The meadow was a mile from the farm. About a hundred sheep grazed there in serenity. It was bordered on the west by Interstate 75, on the south by old State Route 25, to the north by State Road, and to the south by a farm. The meadow was sixty acres of low laying pasture, good only for grazing. A stream split the meadow in half. Two creeks converged just before old State Route 25 to form one and then passed under a bridge and into the meadow. The water moves fast until mid summer, then it slows to a trickle. The stream pours over rocks and lazily winds through the meadow. Two willows about a third of the way into the meadow forms an arch over the steam. It was cool there. It was a place where troubles are discharged and diluted into the waters and carried into a river and far away. Beneath the willows was shade.
Rich once stayed there to shelter himself from the rain. One time he laid there and went to sleep.
The willow branches hung so low they were like a drape that hid anyone from the rest of the world. On the hottest day it was cool beneath its shade. The sheep kept the grass trim like a manicured lawn of a royal estate.
Rich thought of it as a kingdom and he the sovereign. He was a good king and it was a model land.
There was not one inch of that meadow that needed change or improvement. It was perfect.
Sheep have a way of gracing the landscape, they give it balance, completeness, and an acuity of security. Sheep can’t dwell in danger.
Beneath the willow Rich laid with his head resting against the trunk musing the activities of the previous evening.
A cool breeze excited the small willow leaves and they shimmered and tinkled like tiny wind chimes. Flowing water from the stream splattered and trickled over smooth speckled rocks near his feet. A twig navigated the small rapids and floated hurriedly away until it lodged against a small patch of grass that stood alone like an island in the middle stream. In the distance was the occasional soothing bleat of gentle restful sheep.
A tear slowly rolled from Rich's eye. “How will Dad redeem himself? Will it be kind words? Will it be a gift? Will it be a promise? Never with an apology - never. Two men in my life, one with the inability to say, thank you, and the other with the inability to say, I’m sorry. If I come to be known for any extraordinary measure in my life it will be for nothing if I am not known for saying “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.” But what about now? A cord has been severed - a sacred trust broken. How can I make sense of the dichotomy of thought in my mind. I know the man really loves me, but how can he act in such a shameful and repulsive manner? Is it evil? Even evil, men have a huge capacity for compassion and love. Is it insanity? If so it can’t be helped; it is a disease of the mind. One thing is for certain, it is not normal. It is destructive. Why can’t he see what he is doing to Mom and me and change or just go away?”
Rich looked up through the maze of branches and caught an occasional peek of the sky as the breezes parted the tiny slivers of willow leaves. Clouds hypnotically floated by to places beyond the horizon. “Can God see me? Is he looking down as I am looking up? Does he see my pain and sorrow.”
“Dear God please help me,” Rich muttered and fell asleep.