Read All Your Pretty Dreams Online

Authors: Lise McClendon

Tags: #romance, #coming of age, #humor, #young adult, #minnesota, #jane austen, #bees, #college and love, #polka, #college age, #lise mcclendon, #rory tate, #new adult fiction, #college age romance, #anne tyler

All Your Pretty Dreams (9 page)

BOOK: All Your Pretty Dreams
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Kate sighed as if the world
were about to end.


So what’s the
problem?”


She likes Jonny,” Kate
said as if Isabel was dense. “She didn’t even go to that stupid
church thing. She just talked to him in the bar.”


The accordion
player?”


You know I like him. She
is such a bitch.”

Maybe this
was
Melrose Place,
bleach blondes on the make. Isabel sat back and fixed the girl with
her stare.


We’re here on a
scientific field study. To count bees. Not to hook up with locals.
Besides isn’t he married?”


Separated. That midget
person who was here yesterday? His wife. But they’re separated.
That’s what they said at the bar.”


You were in the
bar?”


Oh, don’t get in a huff.
I’ll be 21 in four months. There is absolutely nothing else to do
here, really, Izzie. Where are we going to meet people?”

If Isabel was going to
survive four more weeks here and keep the field crew happy, there
might be things she had to overlook. She frowned at Kate. “Try not
to get arrested.”


They don’t even card us.
Anyway Jonny left the midget, like, months ago. That’s what
everybody says.”

Talk about your one-track
mind. Isabel shook her head then realized she was mildly interested
in the locals too, at least for the entertainment value. “They
looked pretty married yesterday.”

Kate perked up, leaning in
conspiratorially. “She wants him back, they say. I mean, yeah, who
wouldn’t? But he’s not taking her. And Alison doesn’t have a chance
in hell. He didn’t look twice at her at the bar last night. And he
asked me for a napkin.”

Isabel frowned, trying to
follow her logic. “Maybe not taking his wife back means he’s got
somebody back home. Men usually have somebody else lined
up.”
In my personal experience.

Kate’s mouth dropped open.
“Oh, my God! I bet you’re right. I have to tell Alison.” She ran
out. “She will be so pissed!”

Isabel lay back on the bed,
feeling the ache in her shoulders. She should finish logging the
spreadsheet, check for patterns, but she was beat. The pesticide
talk couldn’t have gone worse. She hadn’t convinced any of those
old farts to quit spraying and dusting everything that crawled. The
sex life of teenagers was way more fascinating than the sex life of
bees. How did Jonathan— that’s what he’d said his name was— fit
into that group? Would he be giggling on that sofa, fat and boring,
someday?

Not
married
. She closed her eyes and saw that
funny, disarming grin on his face, then sat up.
Don’t be silly.

A phone was ringing. Isabel
extracted the University’s cell phone from her backpack. Her
supervisor sometimes called to check up on her. But it wasn’t
Professor Mendel.

She took a deep breath.
“Daria?”

Part Two

In and Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents are sometimes a bit
of a disappointment

to their
children.

They don’t fulfill the
promise of their early years.


Anthony Powell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

 

 

The Twins were
losing.

Hardly a news flash. Artie
had convinced Jonny to make the drive back to Minneapolis for the
game, and now that the drive was over, Jonny was glad he had. Not
that baseball was his favorite pastime. It was just good to get out
of Red Vine. Being back in the city reminded him of his old life
though. Things he was neglecting, like his job, his future, not to
mention his divorce.

Artie had gotten tickets
from somebody at his law firm back in March, before everything
changed. The Cleveland Indians were on the field and Jonny was on
his third beer. The evening was warm, the stars were out, the hot
dogs were steamy. Life was— momentarily— pretty damn
good.

The bottom of the sixth.
Seven to nothing. Twins were up, one out. The tension was, well,
not palpable.


So,” Artie said. “What’s
happening in good old Vine Town?”


Thought you’d never ask.”
Jonny set his cup by his feet. “Big controversy. Huge. Should they
move the dump.”


Oh my.”


Galvanizing the town.
Turning brother against brother. Lenny is running for mayor.
Thunder Rhodes, he calls himself. On the ‘move the dump and love
the Boss’ platform. There’s a thing tomorrow night. I have to
entertain the Lenny-ites. Everybody has missed the Jonster’s
squeeze box.”

Artie choked on his beer.
“Exchanging one form of pollution for another?” Jonny punched him
on the shoulder. Everybody had an accordion joke.

They watched the game in
beery silence until the Twins had three outs, no runs, and took the
field. Jonny slumped in his seat. “Cuppie came down for the polka
mass.”

Artie glanced over. “How’d
that go?”


How did I last this
long?”


Don’t beat yourself
up.”


It’s been three months
since I’ve seen her and I couldn’t wait to get away. There’s
nothing left between us. And you know what? I feel good about that.
Then I feel bad about feeling good.”

Artie slapped his knee,
about as close to brotherly love as he ever got. But that was fine.
Artie was the doing type, not the talking type. For a lawyer he had
no taste for argument. He made himself available, without asking
any questions or trying to persuade Jonny of anything. Artie never
said a bad word about Cuppie but Jonny knew exactly how he felt.
Artie had seen through her saccharine charm long ago. A month
before he’d left the card of a divorce lawyer on the kitchen table.
Jonny watched the game then said, “I’m looking for a place to live.
I’ll be out of your hair soon.”


No rush.”


Come down for Lenny’s
bash tomorrow night. He’d love to see you.”

Artie raised one eyebrow.
Despite being completely different in every way he looked more like
Ozzie every year, dark hair and bluish bags under his eyes. He
wouldn’t come. Jonny knew he hated the old hometown.


I’ll talk to Sonya,”
Artie said.

On the drive back through
the countryside the next morning there were grain bins everywhere,
tucked into groves of maples, along stream bottoms, cozied up to
barns. Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, squat ones. Jonny’s
sketching had slowed but he’d been driving around the farmland
around Red Vine for a couple days, taking pictures of grain bins
and getting ideas. One tiny burg near Red Vine had been hit hard by
a tornado three years before. Jonny had forgotten. It never
recovered, its businesses boarded up, its people gone.

Could you use new grain
bins as temporary housing, like FEMA trailers? Or refurbish old
ones as vacation cottages or fishing shacks? You’d have to do a lot
to them: insulate, put in windows and doors, run plumbing and
electricity, but nothing that was impossible. The bins were a basic
shell. It was like having the aluminum siding before the house was
built. He had an itch to actually do something,
build
something after years of
drawing other people’s ideas. An itch to find a bin to refurbish.
To decorate it, to design it, to furnish it, to
own
it.

Crazy
shit
. Reality pushed back. How was he
going to do that? How much would it cost? It was a screwy idea. A
project without a practical basis. Plus Artie had warned him
divorce lawyers were expensive.

The edge of Red Vine
appeared over the slight rise in the highway. A cluster of
weather-beaten buildings, brick crumbling, sinking into the earth.
A place of the past, not the future. He should be finding a new
apartment in Minneapolis. He should be talking to that divorce
lawyer and getting Cuppie out of his head and his life. He should
have called his boss at the architecture firm while he was in town.
He was just stalling, squatting in Red Vine until a bolt of
lightning streaked out of the sky to remind him that his life was
waiting.

The Spoon River Retirement
Home hugged the lake, low and comforting against the onslaught of
weather and time. Jonny hadn’t seen his grandfather since the polka
mass. He parked, shaking off the doldrums of Artie and Sonya’s
basement and the unknown future.

Reinholt was eating lunch
from a tray. He looked more fragile, as if he’d shrunk in the last
week, grown paler and thinner. When Jonny appeared at the door the
aide at his bedside stood up. “Would you like to?” She handed Jonny
a spoon and disappeared.

As he spooned applesauce
into the old man’s beaklike mouth, Jonny talked about the
accordion, about Artie, about the Twins, about the concert that
night, about the music he would be playing. That Ozzie had decided
to play the drums after all. Reinholt finished his sandwich,
humming with pleasure but not responding to Jonny’s
chatter.

A nice visit, until Jonny
stood up to take the empty tray away and Reinholt grabbed his arm.
“Where are you taking my food?”

Jonny lowered the tray.
“I’ll see you later, Grandpa.” The whole thing was unbearably sad.
As he passed the recreation room he saw a familiar figure at the
window. Claude was playing solitaire, his walker next to
him.


I haven’t had my
critique,” Jonny said, stepping closer. “For the polka
mass.”

Claude looked up. “Come,
sit.”


We can skip the
critique.” Jonny winced, laughing as he pulled out a
chair.


You did a very good job.”
The Frenchman looked sharp today, his blue eyes clear as the lake.
“And handled all the difficult bits.”

Jonny shrugged. “Polka
music isn’t all that difficult.”


I was not speaking of the
music.” Claude looked over Jonny’s shoulder and his face
brightened. It was his grandmother, bringing food. “Blueberry
muffins again,
mon
chèrie
?”

Nora wore another track
suit, this one pumpkin orange. She smiled at Claude then stumbled,
as if startled that Jonny was here.


Apple pockets.” She set
down the foil package and gripped her elbows. Claude kicked out a
chair for her opposite her grandson but she didn’t seem to notice.
Jonny stood up and hugged her. She felt stiff.


I was down to see Holti
and spotted Claude here,” he explained.

Nora frowned at the chair.
“I’m on my way.” She picked up the foil packet again. “He loves
apple pockets. They’re still warm.” She turned quickly. Odd. She
was usually so— so grandmotherly.

Claude shook his head.
“Hard for her to see him like that. They were so devoted. Now there
are days he doesn’t even know her name.” He tapped his skull with a
gnarled finger. “Thank the good Lord I still have all my eggs in
the basket.”


And that she has you as a
friend,” Jonny said.

Claude tipped his chin, a
twinkle in his eye. Jonny sat back as the old man licked his lips.
“We have become close.” The white eyebrows wiggled. “Very
close.”

BOOK: All Your Pretty Dreams
3.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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