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Negative Space VIII
Continuation of our Tuesday serial
from the fountain pen of Myra Love
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 Chapter VIII

Morning came too soon. When I awoke my head was swimming, and I couldn't remember what it was I thought I needed to remember. Then it all came to me in a rush, Jason and Diana, how much Amanda knew, my brother Donald and the drugs, and I just pulled the covers over my head and moaned. I wished I had the option of just staying in bed, but I didn't, so I got up and put on some work clothes and rubber boots for chores. Usually when I went outside, dad was already down in the field out of sight of the barn, but this morning he was standing by the side of the barn looking pained.
"Good morning, dad," I said as I pushed past him into the barn.
"G'morning," he replied, following me.
I was surprised when he pulled out a stool and sat down to watch me milk. He used to work on a dairy farm when he was younger. That was in addition to helping his father on this farm. I always felt as if he were judging the way I milked whenever he watched me, which wasn't very often.
He cleared his throat. "Uhh…you mother said I should talk with you."
"What about?" I asked, not stopping in mid-task.
"About Mike and the future."
"There's not much to talk about as far as Mike is concerned," I replied. "I don't want to marry him."
I looked up at him, and he grinned. "Good," he replied. "I have nothing against the boy, but I'm glad you know your mind."
"Yes," I said emphatically. "As far as that is concerned, I certainly do." I went back to my milking.
"But on other matters…?" he said softly, as if he wasn't sure he really wanted to know.
"I want to go to college," I said, surprised at the certainty I felt. "I want to study psychology and art. I have artistic talent, but not enough to make it as an artist, I'm afraid. And I don't have the competitive edge I'd need to succeed in art. I'm interested in becoming an art therapist."
"A what?"
"An art therapist," I repeated. "Someone who uses art to help people deal with their psychological problems."
He snorted. "Never heard of such a thing."
I said nothing.
"Well, we don't have money to send you to school. And we need your income," he said firmly.
"I'm well aware of that," I said to him. That's where the uncertainty comes in. I don't want to leave you in the lurch."
"What do you mean?" he asked, sounding very confused.
I'd finished milking, so I stood up and turned to face him. "There are children who leave home when they don't get to do what they want. I'd never do that." I spoke just as firmly as he had a few moments earlier. "I'd like to find a middle ground. I want to stay home and work and help you with the farm, but I also need to get an education. How I do all that is going to be the question, but however I manage, I'd like it to be with your blessing."
He stared at me. "What about marriage and children?" he asked, seemingly bewildered.
"What about them? There's no reason that my going to college would prevent me from marrying, once I find the right man."
He smiled at me. "So you haven't found him yet," he said, sounding inordinately relieved.
I looked at him as if he were crazy. "Of course not."
His smile grew bigger. "I thought maybe you were thinking of marrying that Jason fellow. You know, the cartoonist's boy."
I shook my head. "No," I said calmly. "I liked Jason a lot and enjoyed his company, but I'm not ready to marry anyone yet." I noticed that I was speaking about Jason in the past tense. That surprised me, and I felt a mixture of sadness and relief.
He took a deep breath. "Well, I'll think about what you said, Lisa. I don't see as I can be much help. I don't have money to send you to school and I can't spare your income."
"If I can see my way clear to working fewer hours for higher pay, I'll be able to take more classes as the community college," I said to him. "I think the bank is ready to put me behind a desk instead of at a teller's window. If that happens, I'm going to quit Hightower's."
He winced. "Jobs are hard to come by, Lisa."
"I know. But the sooner I can get enough courses at the community college to start at State, the sooner I can get my degree and start working as a professional. That would mean some real money."
He shook his head. "That's a ways down the line."
"I know that too," I said softly. "In the meantime though I'll be making as much as I make now."
"But you could be making more if you kept the job at the drugstore and had the better job at the bank," he insisted. "Maybe you could even have a career in banking."
I shook my head. For a moment he seemed to want to say more. Then he stood up and smiled. "All right. If you keep bringing home as much as you do now, you can do whatever you want to do. I trust you. I feel like I'm a lucky man to be able to trust my kids."
I thought of Donald and sighed, surprised that dad had made such a blanket statement after Donald's arrest. If he knew what I know, I thought, he'd not be so sure. I was tempted to say something, but by the time I had gotten so far as to begin to formulate what I wanted to say, dad had already left the barn and walked down towards the field. So I went to the chicken house and gathered eggs.

I'd have been on cloud nine that day after my conversation with dad, except for all the other stuff I had hanging over my head. The biggest problem, it seemed to me, was that I didn't know what to do about Donald. I knew I had to do something, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what. My threat to turn him in to the police had been a bluff, as he well knew. But the more I thought about what he was doing, the more scared I got, not only for his sake, but because I remembered reading something that indicated we could lose the farm if he lived here and dealt drugs. So I was almost ready to break dad's heart by telling him what I'd found and let him break Donald's head if he had a mind to, but then I remembered the scene with Mark when I was little girl, and that no longer seemed like an option. It wasn't that I was afraid of being taken away as I was certainly old enough to fend for myself. And if Donald continued down the road he'd chosen, he'd be taken away from home to jail. It was just that I remembered Miss Carswell's threat to see that dad went to jail if he ever hurt any of us again, and she didn't seem like someone to make idle threats or to forget what she'd said once she'd said it.
I was on my afternoon break before it occurred to me that I could talk to Miss Carswell about what was happening. At the very least I could get her to reconsider what she'd said about sending dad to jail, if it came to that, but I suspected that she might have a better idea than just telling dad what Donald was doing. I was amazed that it had taken me that long to come upon the idea of consulting her. I guess I had my worries compartmentalized in my mind, and she was in the compartment labeled "Jason" and maybe the one labeled "college and future" as well. It also occurred to me that she might tell me it was my obligation to turn Donald in to the police, but I thought that unlikely. Miss Carswell was not officially an officer of the court even though she was the town's mediator. She had no legal obligation to report what I told her, and I was sure that if I told her what I had to say in confidence, she'd respect that. I knew that since she wasn't my lawyer, she'd have to tell the police or the court what I told her if called upon to do so, but if it came to that, I'd be obligated to do that myself.
Although I was getting myself more and more confused the longer I thought about what could happen, I knew I needed to talk to someone. Miss Carswell seemed like the most likely person because I needed help and I trusted her.
The break ended before I had a chance to get to a phone, but as soon as I got off work at the bank I raced over to Hightower's Drugs and got there with a few minutes to spare before my shift. I went right over to the pay phone outside the front door and dialed Miss Carswell's number. I nearly hung up though when the voice that answered was male. If it had been Mr. Harmon's voice or that of any other male pen club member, I'd not have been so taken aback, but this was the beautifully modulated, deep voice of someone who either was or should have been an actor or a singer. No one I knew sounded like that.
"Uh, I think I have the wrong number," I mumbled before I could register that the exquisite voice had said, "Carswell residence."
"Oh," I squeaked. "I'd like to talk to Miss Carswell."
I heard a soft chuckle and then that voice said, "Anita, you have a call."
"Well, of course I have a call, Stew," I heard Miss Carswell say. "Did you bother to find out who's calling?"
"May I ask who's calling?" the voice asked me, and I took a deep breath and said as evenly as I could, "This is Lisa Dunn."
"Lisa Dunn would like to speak with you, Anita," I heard the voice say, and soon Miss Carswell was on the phone saying, "Hello, Lisa. How are you?"
I could tell from her tone of voice that she didn't mind my calling when she had company, but I apologized anyway. I was glad when she said, "Oh, Stew is just here showing me a couple of pens he recently acquired. He's a real show-off when it comes to pens. If you're not busy after work, you could come by and meet him. Bob and Betsy got sick of him, so he's spending the day with me."
I could hear Stew chuckling in the background, so I knew he knew she was kidding. I was surprised at her tone though. Miss Carswell didn't usually go in for rough teasing, as far as I knew, and that teasing sounded a bit harsh to me. Unless, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Harmon really had gotten sick of him. That seemed unlikely though, as he couldn't have been there for very long. Mr. Harmon hadn't even mentioned him when he gave me a lift home. I didn't know what to think, but fortunately it wasn't really my business.
"It there something I can help you with, Lisa?" Miss Carswell's voice brought my out of my mental meanderings.
"I think so," I replied, "I called because I need your advice. This time," I added quickly, "it's not about Jason or college. I think Donald is in big trouble."
"Bigger trouble than getting arrested?" she asked.
I hesitated, then blurted out, "Yes, I think so."
"Then it's probably not something we should discuss over the phone," she said decisively. "I have an idea. Why don't Stew and I come to get you after work? We can all come back here and then he can drive you home on his way back to Bob's house."
"I have to be home to get dinner on the table," I replied quickly.
"This is something your parents don't know about?" she asked, but I think she knew the answer.
"I don't think thy know. Donald says they do, but I don't believe him."
"So you spoke with him about this issue?"
"Yes. It didn't help though. At least I don't think it did."
She sighed. "All right then. We'll pick you up and drive you home. We can talk in the car."
"Uh," I hesitated. "I don't think Stew needs to know about this. I'm not even sure I should talk with you about it. But I'm desperate."
"I don't see well enough to drive at night anymore, Lisa," she explained calmly. "If your problem can wait until tomorrow, I can come into town and meet you during one of your breaks."
I felt let down by her response, and that made me feel stupid and ungrateful. "I guess it will have to wait until tomorrow."
There was silence on the other end of the phone line.
"I really appreciate your putting yourself out in order to help me, Miss Carswell," I said, thinking that very lame that sounded..
"I never put myself out, Lisa," she said very gently. "If I were unwilling to speak with you, I would tell you so."
There was another brief silence and then she said, "Very well then. I'll come to the bank tomorrow. What time is your lunch break?"
"Eleven-forty-five," I replied. Then we hung up.

 


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