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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Trip of a Lifetime

Three Sisters

By Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest

A Note to the Reader

The gang's Schoharie shake-down trip turned out to be an "Unlucky Friday" for Ken Grimes. Now he's laid up with a broken leg, and things don't look good for Ed and Brenna's Trip of a Lifetime. The story continues….

May 1, 2001

Chapter Fifteen

Night was falling. Thickening fog drifted heavily in the cool evening air, and the roadside thickets had already taken on the appearance of black walls. To the west, distant hills loomed dark against smoldering, red-orange clouds.

Ed drove slowly, his gaze sweeping the shoulders of the road. From time to time, pairs of eyes glowed red or yellow in the glare of the high beams, then vanished. Each time, Ed braked. Each time, the large stockpot at Brenna's feet sloshed dangerously. A disembodied voice pulsed from the speakers under the dash. Sharp-edged and sibilant, it cut through the buzz of the tires and the rush of the wind. All Things Considered Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg was interviewing a California artist who made collages from discarded gum wrappers. When she repeated "How absolutely fabulous!" for the fourth time, Ed turned the radio off and rolled down his window, hoping the fresh air would dispel the fog that was now creeping into his brain. Only a few miles to go to Ken's place, he thought.

The sky was a tapestry of unfamiliar stars. "Someday we'll live in the country," Ed said to Brenna without preamble or explanation. "Somewhere where there are no street lights…." His voice trailed away, as his inward eye conjured up a picture of an old house tucked away in the hills—a house with a gray slate roof and a barn crammed to the rafters with boats. A near-by river would be nice, too, he thought. Or a lake.

Brenna's mind was elsewhere. Melancholy had tickled at the edge of her consciousness all day long, for no reason that she could identify. She stared at the gathering darkness. She sighed. Maybe she was just tired.

"Hey, Bren!" Ed lifted off on the accelerator and looked over at his wife. In the green light from the dash, her features took on a disturbing hue.

"Hmmm?" Brenna turned her head toward him. "What?"

"Everything OK?"

"Yeah. Fine. Just wool-gathering. Nothing particularly relevant." She shrugged.

"Nothing particularly relevant?" Ed echoed Brenna's words. For no apparent reason, he thought of Susan Stamberg. "Nothing Particularly Relevant," he repeated. "NPR…." He laughed. "Get it?" he asked Brenna. "Nothing particularly relevant? NPR? National Public Radio? It's perfect!"

Brenna got the joke at last. Her laughter joined his. "That is perfect!" she sputtered.

Still chuckling, Ed gestured to the stockpot at Brenna's feet. "Hope I didn't make it slop over when I braked back there. Don't want to hit anything in the road." When Brenna nodded reassuringly, he went on: "Ken'll like it, I'm sure. Homemade soup's gotta seem good after fours days of hospital food. I don't think any of us expected him to stay in so long. Too damn bad about the break, too. He was really looking forward to the trip. He likes being out on the water and seeing new places."

"I know." Brenna agreed. "Things are a bit of a shambles, aren't they? The trip, I mean."

"Well…" Ed hesitated. "Not necessarily. There's still Pete and Karin." Ed rubbed his fingers along the line of his jaw. It was a new habit, begun just since starting a beard. Then he caught sight of a pair of luminous amber eyes glowing in the headlights. He braked gently, and the animal—a raccoon, he thought—shambled out of the road and into a corn field. Neither of them spoke for a few minutes, then Ed said, "Days are longer now. Even though it's almost eight, it's still not completely dark."

Brenna nodded, then giggled, "Did you know that Jack won't set his watch forward for Daylight Savings Time? Says it's unnatural." She mimicked Jack's deep, rasping voice: "'Noon's when the sun's right overhead and not when some damn bureaucrat says it is! I'm keepin' my watch on God's time.'"

"No, I didn't know that," Ed said. "It's just like him, though, isn't it? He's got a mind of his own. They're not too many left like that."

Just then they rounded a bend and saw Ken's clapboard house about half a mile further down the road, nestled into a hollow at the foot of a gentle hill. Out back was a swaybacked barn and a tumble-down chicken coop. Ed smelled wood smoke. The truck's headlights picked out a deer, silhouetted against a thorn hedge bordering an alfalfa field.

Light spilled from the farmhouse windows. Ed brought the truck to a stop in the wide driveway beside Ken's van and a Nissan pickup. He and Brenna got out and walked toward the house. Suddenly, the porch light winked on and the front door opened. A husky man with a neat moustache and a mop of thick black curls filled the entrance. "Hi, there!" he called out. "You must be Brenna and Ed. I'm Sonny Marco, Ken's housemate. Come on in." Then he called over his shoulder, "Ken! Your friends are here!"

"Hi, Sonny," said Brenna. She held the stock pot out. "We brought some chicken soup, bread, and fruit. We thought it would be welcome after all that hospital food." Then she added, "Sorry we missed you when we brought back the van."

"Must've passed you on the road when I was on the way to the hospital," Sonny said, as he took the pot from Brenna. "Ken's in the living room. I know he'll appreciate the soup. Didja know his big sisters got here a coupla days ago? They're pampering the bejeezus outta him! But even they didn't think of chicken soup."

Ed and Brenna followed Sonny into the living room. The BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! of a shotgun erupted from the TV. Ken, looking pale, and with a large spike of black hair sticking up from one side of his head, lay stretched out on a sofa amongst a tangle of pillows and blankets. He'd cut off the left leg of his sweatpants, exposing a heavy cast. Magazines and books were spread out on the floor in a wide arc around the sofa. A straightened-out wire clothes hanger was propped against the end table.

"Hey, Ed! Brenna!" Ken smiled a greeting and lifted himself up on his elbows. A small avalanche of magazines spilled off his belly onto the floor. He pointed the remote at the TV. The sound of gunfire stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Then he noticed Ed staring at the now-silent screen, where a couple of guys in head-to-toe camouflage were firing at a flock of doves. The camera zoomed in to track a single bird, flying furiously away from the gunners. There was another salvo of gunfire. The dove staggered in mid-flight and dropped to the ground. One wing beat frantically against the packed earth. The camera panned away. The two camouflaged figures were exchanging high fives.

Ed looked quizzically at Ken. "Didn't know you were …," he began, but Ken interrupted him. "Show's called Backcountry. Local program. PBS. The host is some guy called Bobby Raiffe the Fifth, I think. Anyway, they call him 'Bustin' Bobby.' It fits. Backcountry, right? I thought it'd be about canoeing, camping, snowshoeing—that sorta thing. Nope. It's a whole 'nother scene altogether. This week Bustin' Bobby and a buddy are dove-hunting someplace down South. Texas, I think. Don't think I'm going to see any canoeing." He paused, and then added, "In fact, I've seen enough."

Ken pointed the remote at the TV again. On the screen, a youngish man with lank, shoulder-length blonde hair was holding a limp bird out toward the camera. He was grinning. Ken pressed the power key on the remote. The picture shrank to a single point of light, centered on the dove's lolling, lifeless head. Then the point of light, too, died.

Ken put the remote control down on the end-table. Turning back to Ed and Brenna, he said, "Thanks for everything, guys. I coulda drowned back there on the Schoharie. That sure would've spoiled my day."

"No problem, Ken," Brenna replied. "It was our pleasure. So how's the leg? Did a job on it, didn't you? Has it started to itch yet?"

"Yeah, it is a nasty break, and that's a fact," said Ken, ruefully. "And itch!? It sure does! That's what I use this for…." Ken twisted around and grabbed the straightened clothes-hanger. He held it up to show the loop bent in the end of the wire. Then he threaded it down inside the cast and pumped it back and forth. His face assumed an expression of pure bliss. Ed and Brenna chuckled.

Just at that moment, Sonny came into the living room with a tray of beer bottles, each one glistening with condensation. He handed bottles to Ed and Brenna and passed them a large bowl of corn chips. Ken got a mug of Brenna's soup and a thick slab of buttered bread.

Ken blew in the mug to cool the contents and then took a sip. "Great stuff!" he exclaimed. He smiled at Brenna, but then his face turned serious. "I hear Brick's dropped out, right? He stopped by yesterday and told me about a job he's taken. It's only just over the ridge from here." Ken pointed toward the back of the house.

Ed shrugged, looking none too happy. "Yeah. It's the sort of job he's always wanted to work on, he said. Restoring a big old stone farmhouse. Anyway, Linda's left for Santa Fe." He made a wry face. "She says she's, quote, getting into exploring her energies, unquote."

"More of that Feng Shui nonsense, or whatever it was?" Ken sniffed. "No loss there, in my opinion." He paused. "And what about Pete and Karin? They still up for the trip?"

Ed shrugged, and looked down at Ken. "I think so. We haven't talked to Pete since the Schoharie. Karin called yesterday and talked to Brenna, but I was out."

"She asked after you, Ken," Brenna interjected, struggling to sit upright in an ancient leather-covered bean-bag chair. "She wanted to know if you were on the mend."

"She sent me a card," said Ken. "Oh, yeah—your SAM splint's on the table in the hall. They were going to throw it away in the hospital, but I thought you'd want it back." He continued: "So, it's just the Nearys going with you now. Damn! Friday the thirteenth! Jeeze. Wish I'd never agreed to paddle with Pete last week. I really wanted to go North again this summer." He paused, chuckled, and looked impishly at Ed. "Maybe we'd have found old Henry Hudson's last will and testament. Oh, well. The 'best laid plans,' and all that. How's the food planning going?"

"OK," Brenna replied. "We've gotten some catalogs. Freeze-dried foods, that sort of thing. The stuff's expensive! I think we'll buy as much as we can from the co-op. I'm going to stop there this week to check prices."

"Well, maybe I can help," said Ken. "I made a few pounds of beef jerky to take on the trip. It's pretty good, if I say so myself, but I'm not going to need it now, am I?"

"That's good of you, Ken," said Brenna. "You're sure you don't want it?"

Ken nodded emphatically. "Nope. It's the least I can do. You saved my life, after all. That oughta be worth at least as much as a few pounds of sirloin, don't you think? In fact, I bought a dozen one-pound cans of Danish bacon down in Troy. You might as well take them, too."

Ed looked at Brenna. She took the hint. "Uh, Ken, if it's all the same to you, we'll pass on the bacon. Ed hasn't been too keen on bacon for quite a while."

"That a fact?"

"Yep. He had a bad experience with bacon when he was in the Army."

"Oh," said Ken, not sure he understood, but not wanting to pry. "Still, if you cook it right…."

"No, thanks, Ken—really." Ed had emptied his bottle of beer in a single swig and rejoined the conversation. He spoke in a tone that made it clear he'd made up his mind. "It's awfully generous of you, and I appreciate your offer, I really do, but no. Just keep the bacon."

Sonny, sensing that this was a good time to change the subject, mentioned that his parents kept a replica Adirondack guideboat at their summer home on Lake George. Ed seized the opportunity and made the most of it. Soon they were all discussing the merits of different boats.

Then the talk turned to gear. When Ken said he was thinking about trading in his old Optimus 111B for one of the new MSR stoves, Brenna's heart leapt with joy. The old Svea that had proved so fussy during their earlier try-out wasn't responding well to her tinkering. She'd had a 111B herself once, and she really coveted Ken's. Now she saw her chance. She made Ken an offer then and there, and after a few minutes of good-natured haggling they'd done a deal. Brenna couldn't believe her luck.

The sound of a car in the driveway brought the conversation to a halt. Ken made a face and said, "Bet that's my big sisters. They went out to do some food shopping. They weren't happy with anything I had in the house."

Sonny winked at Brenna. "Listen to him!" he said. "He loves being mothered, but will he admit it? No way!"

Ken's face went red. "Well, OK. Yeah. It's nice to know people care about you. Sure it is. But my sisters…well, they're a little weird, you know what I mean? I used to call them the Twisted Sisters."

"Weird?" said Sonny. "Hell, no! And as for 'twisted'…. They're just, how do ya say it, unique. And they're fun." Sonny laughed, and looked at Ken. "If you weren't such an old stick-in-the-mud…."

The door banged and laughter echoed in the hall. A tall, stocky woman appeared. Her wide mouth opened into a smile that emphasized her square jaw. Silver-streaked black hair cascaded in soft waves to her broad shoulders.

Ken did the honors: "Ed, Brenna, this is my big sister, Zoe Grimes Hatch Zelinsky."

The big woman's voice had the husky rasp of a long-time smoker. "Pleased to meetcha. Forget the Hatch and the Zelinsky. Just Zoe Grimes now. Call me Zoe." She shook hands with Ed and Brenna, then gestured with her thumb in the direction of her sister, who'd just entered the room. "No, you're not seeing double. We're twins. This is Abby." She slapped Abby on the back.

"Don't worry," said Abby, seeing the look of consternation on Ed's face. "You can tell us apart easy. I'm the right-handed one. And Zoe, well, she's sinister!" Abby laughed. Her laughter was loud and booming. It made Ed think of Bustin' Bobby's shotgun.

"And of course you chopped off your mane," Ken broke it, pointing at Abby's close-cropped hair. Abby thumbed her nose at Ken, and then turned to Brenna. "Ken said you like cooking. Have you seen the kitchen here?" she asked. When Brenna shook her head, Abby and Zoe each took one of Brenna's arms and lifted her bodily from the embrace of the bean-bag chair. Before she knew what was happening, Brenna found herself being half led and half carried down the hall and into the largest home kitchen she'd ever seen.

"Wow!" Brenna said, as she stood in the doorway gaping. The room was about as big as the apartment over the Book Locker.

"Like it?" Zoe asked, with a twinkle in her eye.

"Like it?" Brenna said. "I love it!" She wandered around, getting the feel of the room—the large casement windows open to the night air, and the play of light and shadow on the textured surfaces. She took in the undulating brick floor, the deep porcelain double sink with a cast-iron hand pump bolted onto the counter, the heavy wooden tables—their surfaces polished smooth with years of use—even the rough slabwood shelving. The ceiling was low, with exposed beams and bundles of drying herbs dangling from nails. Brenna thought she'd never seen anything so lovely. It looked like a picture in a European cooking magazine.

And the most beautiful thing of all was the hearth. At its heart was a fireplace large enough to roast a bullock. A fragrant fire crackled on the iron grate. Other than two dim wall sconces near the hall door, the fire cast the only light in the room.

Abby took on the role of critical hostess."These ugly '50's appliances look out of place here," she intoned, tapping her finger on an ancient chrome and white mixer. "And so does that old, inefficient refrigerator. It's probably the reason we've got an ozone hole. And look at this countertop, and those light fixtures." She paused for breath, before concluding confidently: "But we'll soon set everything to rights. You just wait and see."

"You betcha," said Zoe, from the sink, where she was filling a huge enamel coffee-pot. "We've got big plans for this kitchen. It's the best room in the house. Dad didn't like cooking, and neither does Ken, really. Sonny's not much better. Damn good thing we brought along some dried herbs. Makes the place smell real nice, don't you think?" She carried the heavy pot to the hearth and hooked the bail on a pivoting iron crane, then swung it over the flames. She prodded the coals with an iron poker, finishing up by tossing another slab of seasoned maple on the fire.

Left to themselves in the living room, the men were talking loudly. Meanwhile, Brenna helped unpack a succession of grocery bags that the two sisters brought in, while the coffee perked merrily over the flames. Abby carried three short, unsplit lengths of maple over to the hearth, setting them on their cut ends so they could double as stools. Zoe swung the coffee-pot out and poured the thick, fragrant brew into pint ceramic mugs. Then the three women settled down on the make-shift stools only a couple of feet from the fire.

Zoe reached out and poured generous tots from a big flask into each mug—"Canadian whiskey, dear," she said in answer to Brenna's unspoken question—then placed her mug on the brick floor. She pulled out a leather pouch of tobacco and rolled a cigarette, offering the pouch to Brenna. Brenna shook her head. Zoe seized a coal from the fire with the tongs and lit the twisted end of her cigarette. For awhile, all three women sat quietly, staring into the dancing flames.

Abby was the first to break the silence. "We really appreciate what you guys did. Ken's a bit of a wimp, but he's our little brother. We wouldn't want to lose him."

"Right," continued Zoe. "He said he couldn't have hadda better doctor, that you did all the right things." Zoe threw her arm around Brenna's shoulders and gave them a powerful squeeze.

Brenna blushed. "Any paramedic would have done the same thing," she said. Then, after a pause, she added, "I was pre-med in college. Wanted to be a doctor."

"Why'd you give it up?" Abby asked.

"I didn't really," Brenna replied. "Give it up, I mean. I don't score high on multiple-choice tests. And, of course, I wasn't rich. Two strikes and you're out, if you know what I mean." No one had anything to say to that, so they all resumed staring into at the fire.

As the fire and the whiskey did their work, Brenna's face and hands felt pleasantly warm. Her head began to nod, but Abby and Zoe weren't about to let her doze off. They were both delighted to have someone new to talk to, someone who didn't yet know all their anecdotes and life stories. Soon Brenna was caught up in the flood-tide of their rememberings. The twins had lived a rootless life, traveling around the country together, never remaining in any one place for long. They'd had three kids and four ex-husbands between them, and they'd nothing good to say about any of them. They raked Ken's ex-wife over the coals for leaving him and moving to Oregon with their son, while praising Sonny Marco, a furniture maker and old pal of theirs.

Now they were back in their parents' old house, and they were thinking about staying on.

"Dad's gaga," Abby said matter-of-factly, as Zoe refilled their mugs from the enamel coffee-pot and added a generous splash of whiskey to each. "After his last stroke—well, you know how it is. If he were a horse, he'd have been put down. He couldn't take care of himself, and he was so far gone that we couldn't take care of him, either. So we packed him off to a nice home. Back when Mom got sick, she and Dad signed the house over to the three of us. Then she died a few years ago. Dad wasn't the same after that. I think he just got tired of life."

"So here we are," she continued. "We're going to grow organic vegetables and raise free-range chickens and sell them to some trendy restaurants in Albany, for ridiculously high prices." She giggled.

Brenna listened to the twins' stories, while her thoughts followed their own channels. "A 'nice home.'" Brenna had heard that before. She'd seen a lot of "nice homes" during her years as a paramedic. That's when she'd met Molly Saunders. Suddenly, Jack Van Dorn's face appeared in her mind's eye. It was really good that Molly and Jack had found each other. They both deserved all the happiness they could find.

Brenna and Molly went back a long way. Brenna shook her head when she realized just how long. They'd got to know each other thirty years ago, back when Brenna was a wet-behind-the-ears paramedic and Molly was a veteran ER nurse. And despite the difference in their ages, they'd hit it right off. All those late nights, all that caffeine circulating through their blood, all the broken bodies…. They'd been through a lot together.

Brenna remembered the times she'd scraped young people from cars wrapped around trees or smashed against bridge abutments. The lucky ones, mostly, were dead. The unlucky ones…? Well, she'd seen a lot of them end up in "nice homes."

The paramedics and ER nurses had developed a black humor to cope with it all. It had almost worked, too. But not quite. Yet she couldn't quit. Not until Ed came back home. If he came back. Brenna remembered the constant anxiety of that terrible year, so long ago now. Ed's letters—the few he wrote, that is; he wasn't the world's greatest letter writer—seemed to be written in some kind of code, a code she didn't have the key for. And sometimes there was a smear of blood on a page. She never knew if it was just a mosquito bite that he'd scratched raw, or something else. She didn't even know if it was his blood. She found herself praying, day and night, that it wasn't his—praying that people she didn't even know, people she certainly didn't have any grudge against, would be killed before they could kill her Ed. She hated herself for that, but she kept praying.

Molly had been a friend to Brenna all through that long, dark year. She'd always been ready with a shoulder to cry on. She'd always had sensible advice to offer. Without Molly, Brenna was convinced she'd never have weathered that terrible time.

But Molly had had her own crosses to bear. She would work full-time in the ER, and then go home to her parents' house to tend to the endless needs of a mother who'd been hit by two strokes. Molly's father—a big, bullying man with a lame leg, outlived her mother by ten years. A heart attack finally claimed him, striking him down when he was working himself up into a paroxysm of rage over a plan to teach a sex-education class at the local high school.

For the five years that followed, Molly lived alone, unmarried and without children. Her father's death had set her free, but by then it was too late for romance. Or so she thought. Then she met Jack Van Dorn in the library where she had a part-time job. Brenna smiled when she thought about their budding romance.

Firelight played on the walls of the huge kitchen. The two sisters droned on, telling each other stories that each had heard hundreds of times before, and not minding that no one was listening. Brenna's face was flushed, and the whiskey had left her light-headed. She flexed her left hand to relieve a cramp. Her wedding band flashed in the firelight. She remembered her wedding day, and recalled the hurried ceremony. There had been no time for a honeymoon. Ed had shipped out only three days later.

She stared at the ring, burnished and worn by the passage of three decades. Then she remembered her joy when Ed came home, scarred and angry but alive. Alive. That was the important thing. The scars had healed. The anger had cooled. And their love had taken root and grown. It was easy to forget the really important things. Easy to let worries fill your world and squeeze all the life out. Here she was, listening to two women who'd never found a man whom they could love, or who could love them, while she and Ed had found their love early, while each was surrounded by other people's tragedies. What amazing luck! So much sadness in the world, and yet….

Suddenly Brenna realized that the drone of voices had stopped. She turned her head to left and right, looking first at Abby and then at Zoe. They were smiling crookedly at her. A cigarette hung limp in the corner of Zoe's mouth. When she spoke, it moved up and down like a semaphore. "Looks like you need some cheering up, girl," she said. Then Zoe stood, throwing her cigarette into the fire. "You need a healing ritual." Abby joined her, and the two women walked across the kitchen, pulling at the bundles of herbs hanging from the rafters. Soon they'd filled a wooden bowl. They returned to Brenna, still seated on her log. Then the two sisters began to chant as they tossed herbs onto the fire.

"Roil, boil, toil and trouble…. No, no that's not it!" Abby giggled, her voice noticeably slurred.

"Boil, boil, soil this trouble…," Zoe began, but she, too, collapsed in laughter. Then she put the flask to her lips and took a long swig.

Brenna smiled, not feeling so melancholy now. "It's 'Double, double, toil and trouble…," she said.

"That's it! Do you know it all?" Zoe asked, stooping over Brenna and twisting her broad features into a good imitation of a hag's likeness. Abby pulled a straw broom down from the hearth and straddled the broomstick. Zoe dipped her fingers into her spiked coffee and flicked droplets into the fire. They hissed and flared.

Brenna laughed despite herself, the painful memories forgotten for the moment. She squinted into the fire, trying to recall the once-familiar words. "Something about poisoned entrails, I think," she said.

"'Poisoned entrails'! Love it!" Zoe cackled.

Brenna thought she had it: "'Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble….'" She paused.

"Something about eye of newt," said Abby. She reached into a hearth-side basket, chose a pine cone, and tossed it onto the fire. Zoe poked the coals. Sparks flew up the chimney.

"'Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,'" Zoe said suddenly.

"Nothing from a mouse, though," said Abby, straightening up. "I like mice."

"Me, too," Brenna agreed.

"Me three!" Zoe affirmed in a newly shrill voice.

"OK," said Abby. "I've got it: "'Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog.….'" She stopped. "Hark! 'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!'" Abby held her hands like claws and turned toward the hall door. Even Brenna had gotten into the act now. She stood crouched, her face contorted into a grotesque mask.

Ed appeared in the doorway, bathed with a yellow reflection from the fire. He looked bemused, but he'd heard enough to recognize the scene. "'How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!'" he challenged.

All three women burst into laughter. Ed walked over to Brenna, took her arm gently and continued, improvising on the text: "Are such things real as I do see about me? Or have I eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?" Then, speaking directly to Brenna, he urged, "Alright, alright. It's late. We've got a business to run, remember? Come on, hag of my heart, your cat-drawn carriage awaits you." And he led Brenna out of the kitchen, stopping in the hall to collect their jackets, the package of jerky, the SAM splint, and the bulky Optimus stove.

Their farewells made, Ed and Brenna strolled hand in hand to the truck under a sky full of stars. A faded orange Volkswagen Vanagan was parked next to the Ford.

"I always wanted one of those!" Ed exclaimed, walking around the van.

Brenna, somewhat unsteady on her feet in the crisp night air, leaned on Ed's arm, while he played the beam of his key-chain flashlight over a whole library of bumper stickers, recounting every twist and turn in popular culture. "Think Globally, Act Locally" said one. Another proclaimed "Honk For Hemp." Still another announced "My Karma Ran Over My Dogma." There were more—many more. "Arms Are For Hugging." "Give Peace a Chance." "Make Love Not War." "Keep Your Laws Off My Body." "Save the Whales." "Ralph Nader for President." One even warned "This Car Protected by Smith & Wesson."

"They didn't miss much, did they?" Ed mused.

Brenna only smiled silently up at him. Her head was buzzing pleasantly. She folded her arms around his neck and kissed him. When he had a chance to speak, he asked, "What's that for?"

"Nothing," Brenna answered. Then a shadow passed across her face. When she spoke again, her voice was steadier and more serious. "For surviving. For coming home to me."

Ed stood silently, his wife in his arms, looking up at a spring sky strewn with stars, a sliver of the old moon just rising to the east. Then he guided Brenna in the direction of the pickup. When he felt it safe to speak, he only said, "Let's go. It's time we both went home."

To be continued…


Copyright 2001 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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