Sixteen

[p.217]The office hadn’t changed. He still had a pile of art boards that needed attention, a list of deadlines tacked up on his wall, messages to call people, papers on his desk that needed organizing, several sheets of copy back from the typesetter, bluelines back from the printer, thumbnails that were late, and a couple of friendly notes from Ross in his box.

He missed Miles. Ross had already started interviewing applicants for the opening, and they all looked like conformists.  “If you really want to insult me,” Miles would say, “call me a conformist.”

Four raps at the door.

“Come in.”

“Excuse me, Ryan,” said Ross, holding his yellow, legal-sized notepad, “but could you tell me the status of the SMD troubleshooting flowchart?”

‘‘I’m trying to get to that,” said Ryan.

“Oh.”

“I’ve got to complete the dummy on the technician’s reference set.”

“Oh,” Ross said again.

[p.218]“I hope to start on the flowchart sometime tomorrow.”

“’Kay,” said Ross. “I’ll check with you tomorrow.”

“All right.”

Ross left, and Ryan looked back to the Mil-standards on his desk. He had specifications to review before he could start on a flowchart . And he didn’t have time to do that.

Another knock at the door. It was Shirleen.

“Excuse me,” she said, “but I thought you’d be interested in this. You know how the managers have all been meeting with this consultant from California?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, they’ve received some results on tests they took.  Here’s the one on Ross.”

Ryan glanced at the report.

MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR
REPORT FOR
ROSS CALDWELL
MAESER COMMUNICATIONS

According to your MBTI results, you are an INTP. You share this personality type with about 1% of the population, which means that 99% of the world sees things differently. You tend to be relatively unemotional and uninterested in personal matters. This appears in your decision-making process, where you decide impersonally, sometimes ignoring people’s wishes. You are more concerned with ideas and things than with human relationships and you find it difficult to express your feelings.  Your type can also be disciplinarian, reprimanding people freely when necessary.

Ryan looked up from the report. “Very interesting,” he said.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it,” said Shirleen. “Looks like the test is pretty accurate.”

[p.219]“Yeah, and I suppose it explains a few things. By the way, I need to take a long lunch break; I’ll be gone for a couple of hours.”

“Okay,” said Shirleen.

Ryan stopped by the state liquor store and purchased a bottle of Catherine’s favorite wine. Then he drove to Hickory Farms and filled a basket with cheese, bread, and apples.

 

Catherine was surprised to see him. Wearing a sweatshirt and an old pair of jeans, she was on her knees scrubbing the kitchen floor.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, when Ryan appeared at the door.

“I took a couple of hours for lunch. Wanted to come home.  Where are the kids?”

“Allison’s down the street. Tyler’s taking a nap, thank heavens.”

“Doesn’t look like you’ve had much time to study history this morning.”

“No. What’s in the sack?”

“Here, I’ll show you.”

She laughed as he pulled out the wine. “Great,” she said.

“We haven’t done this for a while.”

“We sure haven’t,” he said, slicing the cheese while she got some glasses for the wine.

“I used to love these Hemingway lunches.”

“Me too. We’ll do it more often. I got an interesting call this morning.”

“From who?”

“Linda Milton,” he said.

“I think about her sometimes. How’s she doing?”

“Fine. She works up at the ‘U’ now.”

“That’s one thing you can say about your job. You’ve met a lot of good people.”

[p.220]“That’s true,” he said. “Anyway, she told me that Van Collier is forming a small business and is looking for a business manager, a writer, and a couple of artists.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah. He’s already got a lot of good clients: the State of Utah, the Chamber of Commerce, and a couple of banks.”

“Did you call him?”

“Yes. He remembered some things I’d done for Maeser and said he liked them. I’m going in to talk to him on Wednesday.”

“Oh, that’s exciting. You’d be perfect at something like that.”

“It sounds good, but it’s not going to kill me if I don’t get it, either.”

“Someday Ross is going to regret losing you,” she said.

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“When are your dad and Eleanor supposed to be here?”

“They’re flying down from Idaho Falls tomorrow afternoon.  I’ll pick them up at the airport.”

“I’m glad they’re coming. The kids hardly know them.”

“Yeah, well, they may not stay long. You know how Dad is.”

“Maybe we can persuade him, she said.

 

Henning came into his office when he got back to work.

“Miles called for you while you were out,” said Henning.

“He wants you to give him a call over at Deseret Mutual. Here’s the number.”

“What’s he doing over there?”

“He just got a job. Senior writer.”

“No kidding! That’s good news.”

He called Miles and told him he would be there at 5:00.

At Deseret Mutual the receptionist showed him to Miles’s office.

“Hey, nice office,” said Ryan.

[p.221]They shook hands. “Good to see you,” said Miles. “Yeah, this is a little nicer than my cubby hole back at Maeser, isn’t it?”

“Sure is. How’d you pull this off?”

“Luck. A couple of days after I quit I was moping around thinking I had really blown it. Didn’t feel like looking for a job, but I knew they had writers over here, so I kicked myself in the rear and came over to see if they had anything. Well, they were looking for someone with experience in technical writing, magazine writing, copy writing, editing. They offered me the job on the spot.”

“That’s fantastic,” said Ryan.

“Yeah,” said Miles, smiling. “And I started at thirty-five.”

“What? That’s ridiculous. You’re not worth that much.”

“I know,” laughed Miles.

“Thirty-five. That’s as much as I would have made as a manager, maybe more. What a killer.”

“That’s the way it goes,” said Miles. “You draw an ace once in a while.”

“I’d call this a full house,” said Ryan. “See if you can find me a job over here.”

“I’ll keep my eyes open,” said Miles.

“Just shows you never know what’s going to happen.”

“That’s right. I thought all my good luck had run out a long time ago. Mindy and the kids will be leaving for Georgia pretty soon. That’s really had me depressed.”

“Now you’ll have a little extra money,” said Ryan. “You can make it to Atlanta once in a while.”

“I hope so.”

“Oh, I brought you something from the office,” said Ryan.

“It’s a little report some consultants did from analyzing your work there.”

“Sure,” said Miles taking the sheet. He smiled as he started to read it. “What is this? Oh, Ryan Masterson Type Indicator [p.222]for Miles Asher. What type am I? Oh, very good, F-L-U-NK-Y.  ‘According to your RMTI results, you are a FLUNKY. The nickname for this type is ‘dope.’ You share this personality type with 75% of petty criminals.’”

Laughing, Miles scanned the report. “Great, ‘You take lunch breaks with a great deal of conceptual gusto … If you do not have new challenges to solve, you become bored. If you do have new challenges, you ignore them … You have little interest in people, details, or complex issues—you are basically interested in sleep … Your gifts allow you to do well in working five-hour days, missing deadlines, and getting on people’s nerves.’ Oh, and here’s a good one—‘Your associates often think of you as a cross between Slim Whitman and Rodney Dangerfield.’”

Miles put the report in his desk. “Well,” he said, “good thing my new boss didn’t see that before I got hired.”

“Good thing.”

“C’mon, let’s walk through the mall and I’ll buy you a Coke.”

“You’re on,” said Ryan.

 

The plane arrived on time. Ryan hugged Eleanor and shook hands with Clark, his gait and expression reminding Ryan of Neal as they walked the concourse.

“How’s Aunt Norma doing?” asked Ryan.

“It’s going to be hard for her,” said Clark. “Susan’s staying for a week; then she’ll be alone.  That’s when it gets difficult.”

“That’s right,” said Eleanor. “Clark and I were able to talk with her because we both know what it’s like to lose a spouse.”

“I didn’t think of that,” said Ryan. “That’s true.”

“That’s probably one reason Clark and I understand each other,” she said, taking his hand. “Now it’s hard to believe we’ve been together twenty years.”

“It is hard to believe,” said Ryan. “I was only eighteen.”

[p.223]This was the first time Ryan had realized his father had been married to Eleanor longer than he was to April.

He helped them get their luggage. “Glad you decided to stay with us,” he said.

“Well,” said Clark, “we don’t want it to be too much trouble for Catherine.”

“She wants you for a visit as much as I do. It’s been three years.”

“Has it really?” said Eleanor. “You’ve got a good memory.”

“How was your trip to Alpine?” asked Clark.

“Good. I had lunch at the Snowball.”

“Is that right? I haven’t thought of that place in years.”

“What’s the Snowball?” asked Eleanor.

“A little cafe in Palisades,” said Clark. “Neal and I used to take Ryan there a lot.”

“I bet that’s beautiful country,” she said. “Sometimes Florida can get so boring.”

“There’s no place on earth like Wyoming,” said Clark.

“How come you’ve never taken me there?” she asked.

“I didn’t think you’d be interested.”

“I’d love to see it.”

“When do you have to be back in Orlando?” asked Ryan.

“Right away,” said Clark.

“Don’t let him fool you,” said Eleanor. “He can stay away as long as he wants. Steve’s perfectly capable of handling the shop.”

“I’ve got an idea,” said Ryan. “I could take Friday off and we could all go up to Wyoming. I know the kids would love it. We can rent a cabin in Alpine.”

“I don’t know,” said Clark.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” said Eleanor.

“Well,” said Clark, “I would enjoy seeing Alpine again.”

“Good,” said Ryan.

[p.224]“On one condition,” said Eleanor. “You let us pay for the cabin.”

“Well, thank you very much,” said Ryan.

 

Catherine liked the idea of going to Wyoming. “I want the kids to get to know your dad and Eleanor.”

“Yeah so do I.”

They went into the living room. Eleanor was listening to Allison read, and Clark was trying to get Tyler to sit on his lap. The TV was on.

“A Salt Lake City man gets a burning bush from heaven,” said the newscaster. “That story coming up next on the Eyewitness News.”

“We’ve got to listen to this,” said Ryan. He told Clark and Eleanor about the fire.

The report came on, with footage of the burned shrubs and an interview with the neighbor.

“I was just sitting in my living room watching television when I happened to look out the window. I’ve got a large picture window, you know, and I saw—well, something on fire coming down from the sky. It landed right in the shrubs.”

“The shrubs really took off,” said the man who owned the house.

“Yes,” added his wife, “we were quite worried for a minute there.”

“Can you believe that?” said Ryan. “They’re not going to tell about the hero who put out the fire.”

“In the week since the fire,” said the newscaster, “the rocks found at the scene have been analyzed, and preliminary findings show them to be genuine meteorite fragments. They will now be sent to a laboratory in California for further analysis.”

“Oh, no,” laughed Ryan. “That’s too much. A kid down [p.225]the street told me it was probably one of those hot-air balloons.  They tie a candle to a dry cleaning bag and light it. He says they do it here all the time.”

When Catherine had dinner ready, Ryan took Tyler to the bathroom to help him wash his hands.

“Daddy, when can I get a bike?”

“Maybe when you turn five. That won’t be long.”

“Allison has a bike.”

“I know she does.”

“Why can’t I have one?”

“You will, pretty soon.”

“Daddy, can we go get an ice cream cone?”

“Yeah, and maybe Grandpa and Grandma would like to go with us.”

“I don’t want them to.”

“They’re your friends.”

“Where are the other Grandpa and Grandma?”

“They’re in Idaho.”

“Why are they in Idaho?”

“That’s where they live.”

“Why don’t they live in Salt Lake?”

“Let’s go eat, okay.”

“Okay.”

“Do me a favor, Tyler. Be nice to Grandpa Masterson.”

“Okay.”

“Thank you. I like it when you’re nice to my daddy.”

Tyler laughed. “Is he really your daddy?”

“Yes.”

“That’s funny, Daddy.”

 

With everyone else asleep, Ryan sat on the couch and looked at the photocopy he had made of Neal’s history. He wanted to remember his grandfather’s farm and imagine what it had been like for Clark and Neal when they were kids—hiking to the [p.226]south pasture to camp, fish, and hunt. In the summer the trees were strong and brilliant green, the streams clear and cool. They would pitch their tent near one of the streams and watch for falling stars, shout into the night, with no one in the world but themselves to hear their voices.

Those days sixty years ago—full of youth and curiosity and friendship—were gone forever. Brothers Clark and Neal would never again skip stones on the river, shoot at magpies in the trees, or run through the pasture with the sun fading in the west.

If you could live after death, what could be better than to be young in a world without time, to live with Clark and Neal and their folks, no one ever aging, and spend your endless days milking cows, raising crops, and shearing sheep, working hard and playing hard on the farm, a world in and of itself.

He wanted to remember the last trip he and Neal had made to the Wind River Mountains, sometime after Clark left for Florida and before Ryan met Catherine. They left the pickup at the trailhead at Elk Hart Park and hiked to Fremont Peak, 13,774 feet above sea level. They camped next at Eklund Lake, not a soul in sight, the water unbelievably blue, and caught golden trout twenty inches long. Then up above the timber line, through the rocks and wild flowers, to the top of Fremont Peak.

Neal poured some water out of his canteen. “That way to the Atlantic and that to the Pacific,” he said.

To the southeast you could see the Wyoming plains, to the northwest the Teton Mountain Range.

 

Ryan turned on the TV at midnight. He had seen in the paper that Channel 20 was running reruns of The Fugitive.

After several commercials, it started—the train moving through the darkness, then the reflections of two men in the window.  It was The Fugitive, all right. He waited for William [p.227]Conrad’s fine narration, which he still remembered virtually word-for-word.

“Richard Kimball … on his way to die … a one-armed man … the hand of fate … ”

The Fugitive. A Q/M Production, starring David Janssen as the Fugitive.

From the start, his mother was taken with the story of an innocent man wrongly accused. She would have some popcorn ready, with a couple of bottles of7-Up, she and Ryan not leaving the living room the entire hour. Clark would be outside working on a car or doing something in the shop.

His mother loved the show but had only seen the first few episodes when she died. Ryan remembered the sadness that fell over him the night the show ended. It was a year before he and Catherine got married. He was living in a studio apartment in Pocatello and wanted to be able to call his mother and talk about how Gerrard had shot the one-armed man.

Now David Janssen was also gone. Like April, he had died in his forties, and news of his death a few years ago had left Ryan lonely, missing his mother.

Still, here was David Janssen on the screen as Richard Kimball, young and very much alive. This episode had brought Kimball back to his hometown in search of the one-armed man.  He saw his dying father. Ryan knew he had seen it before but too much time had passed. He couldn’t remember it at all. It was an early episode, still in black and white. He may have seen it with his mother, or with Rose.
His alarm went off at 6:00, and he went in to see if it had waked Tyler. Tyler was still asleep, with his arm around his teddy bear. Ryan pulled the blanket up around his shoulders and kissed him on the forehead.

It was just a matter of time before Tyler would be the middle-aged man trying to hold his life together, and Ryan  [p.228]the seventy-year-old not far from death. And there would be a new child asleep with a teddy bear. It never ended. And you couldn’t know if that were cause for hope or despair, because with each new child there was a dying old man, the hope and despair both double-edged.

Catherine tapped at the door while he was shaving.

“Want some coffee?” she asked.

“That sounds good.”

He finished shaving and put some lotion on his face. When you were sixteen you yearned for a reason to shave every day, loving the ritual of hot water, lather, and new blades. You loved the sound of the razor on your skin and the sting of the aftershave.  Shaving made you feel like a man.

You couldn’t pinpoint when it happened, but at some point your attitude took a 180-degree turn. Now shaving was drudgery.

Catherine was sitting at the table, and for a fraction of a second she reminded him of his mother, sitting there with a cup of coffee in her hand.

She stood to pour him a cup.

“No, I’ll get it,” he said.

“Tired?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“You should get to bed early tonight.”

“I’ll try. You know how it is.”

“Do you think you can get off work to go to Wyoming?”

“I think so,” he said.

She poured herself some more coffee. “Ryan, remember how we used to have breakfast together every morning before we went to work?”

“Yeah. We did that for six years. I can’t believe we were in Pocatello that long. Seems more like six months.”

“Well, we didn’t have kids.”

“Maybe that’s why I don’t remember very much.”

[p.229]“Speaking of kids, look who’s up.”

Tyler walked into the room rubbing his eyes.

“Hello there, Ty.”

“Hi, Daddy.”

“Wanna sit on my lap?”

He nodded his head and walked to Ryan. Catherine asked if he wanted a piece of toast. He nodded again.

“Daddy, are you going to work today?”

“Yeah, sorry, but I have to go to work.”

“Why, Daddy?”

Ryan looked at Catherine, standing at the toaster watching Tyler. She had her arms folded and seemed to have forgotten the toast, forgotten everything but Tyler, her head turned slightly.

“I’ll play with you tonight, okay, Buddy?”

“Okay.”

She was staring at him now.

“Guess I’d better be going,” he said.

He got his jacket and briefcase. Tyler started to cry.

“We’ll have fun tonight, okay, Tyler?”

Crying, Tyler managed to say okay.

He put his hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “Sorry, but I’ve got to go to work. See you later.”

He kissed him on the cheek. Then he kissed Catherine and walked out the door to the car, still able to hear Tyler crying.

That was what you needed in life: more people to love you the way your children loved you.

 

He left the office a few minutes before five, stopping in the parking lot to check the address he had written down.

4718 Woodland Avenue.

It was a small, one-story brick home in Holladay. He didn’t wait, just got out of the car and started up the sidewalk. He [p.230]heard a stirring inside when he rang the bell, and then the door opened.

It was her. She was in her sixties instead of her forties, but it was definitely her. She looked at him the way one looks at the mailman or the Fuller Brush salesman.

“Yes?”

“Mrs. Richards?”

“Yes—” then she recognized him— “Ryan?”

He felt a huge smile coming to his face. “Yes—I wasn’t sure if you would recognize me.”

“Oh, Ryan, I’m so glad to see you. Please come in.”

The way she opened the door and the intonations in her voice were just as they had been in 1963. He was ready to believe that an eighteen-year-old Rose would walk into the living room with a tennis racket in her hand.

“Ryan, please sit down.”

“Thank you.”

The grand piano Rose used to play was in the corner, the same portrait of Jesus on the wall, and the statue of a woman holding a child on the coffee table.

“What a wonderful surprise,” she said.

“I’m sorry to barge in unannounced like this. I happened to find out you lived in Salt Lake.”

“Are you here on business?”

“No, I live in Cottonwood Heights.”

“What a coincidence.” She looked at his ring. “I see you’re married.”

“Yes. I got married in 1968 to a girl from Boise.”

“And how many children do you have?”

“A girl seven and a boy four.”

“That’s wonderful. They’re lucky to have you for a father.”

“Oh, no.”

“I mean it.”

“Well, thank you.”

[p.231]“Your children will be grown before you know it.”

“Yes, it’s amazing how time passes.”

“It is,” she said, turning silent. “Refresh my memory, Ryan.

How long has it been?”

“Twenty years.”

“I guess it has. My family was still young then.”

He asked about her sons.

“They’re doing fine. They both served missions, Steve to Australia and George to Canada. They’re both married and have children. Steve’s a doctor, a pediatrician. He lives in Houston.”

“Steve’s a doctor?  Little Steve?”

“Yes,” she said. “Hard to believe, isn’t it?”

“Yes. I remember when I taught him to juggle. He must have been nine or ten.”

She laughed. “Ryan, I remember that like it was yesterday.  He was very determined. He spent hours practicing with rolled up socks.”

“Yeah. He was a good kid. And where is George living?”

“He’s in Seattle,” she said. “He went into real estate, like his father.”

“That’s good.”

“How did you happen to know I lived in Salt Lake?” she asked.

“Well, my Uncle Neal died last week.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I remember him. He was your father’s brother, wasn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“And your father—is he still living?”

“Yes. He’s doing fine.”

“He remarried, as I remember.”

“That’s right. He and his second wife live in Florida. Well, when I was up for the funeral, my aunt told me that Rose’s daughter had … passed away.”

She nodded but didn’t say anything.

[p.232]“I saw in the obituary that you lived in Salt Lake City.”

Tears came to her eyes. “That girl was such a joy. She was born just a few months after Stayner died, and she filled an empty space for me. That girl was a light.”

She picked up a framed picture from the coffee table.

“Little Tiffany. This was right before her cancer struck.”

It was the photo they’d run with the obituary.

“I was very sad to hear about it. How is Rose doing?”

“She’s bearing it, but I’m afraid she’s acting out of resignation rather than hope. I worry for her.”

She took the picture and then walked to the end of the room and picked up another one.

“Would you like to see a picture of Rose?”

“Yes,” he said.

She handed it to him, and he stared down at the middle-aged Rose, who had the same smile but short hair and a serious stance and lines in the face that were unknown in 1963.

Rose stood next to her husband, a handsome, athletic type, and their son and daughters stood next to them.

“She has a fine family,” Ryan said. “I’m sorry she lost her daughter.”

“The Lord tests us all.”

“I guess he does.”

Ryan wanted to stare at the picture long enough to understand what had happened to Rose since that Sunday afternoon in 1964, long enough to convince himself this was the same person who kissed him so imaginatively in the car across from the temple. He wanted to study her eyes and understand what her life had been like. He wanted to know how often she had thought of him, and he wanted to know why one of his tests had been losing her. But he couldn’t understand anything, and when he finally took his eyes away, Rose’s image had grown distant, the face of someone who happened to resemble a girl he had once known.

[p.233]Rose’s mother put the picture back and started into trivial questions about his job. He answered them politely and then stood.

“I guess I’d better be going.”

“Ryan, I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you. I was feeling blue this afternoon. Nothing could have cheered me up more.”

“I’ve wanted to see you for a long time. I’m glad I finally did. I’ve never forgotten your kindness when my mother died.”

Her eyes watered, his also.

“Thank you very much, Ryan.”

They stepped out onto the porch.

“I think I still know you well enough to know that you don’t want me to tell Rose I saw you.”

He smiled. “Well, I think I would prefer it that way.”

“Okay, it’s our secret.”

She walked with him to the car, showing him her flowers, which reminded him of the house on 14th Street.

“It gets lonely,” she said. “But I have a couple of sisters here in Salt Lake. And Relief Society keeps me busy.”

“I’m glad things are going well for you.”

“Thank you. And I’m glad they’re going well for you. I always knew you’d be successful.”

“Oh, well, thanks.”

“Thanks so much for stopping,” she said.

“You’re welcome. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye. God bless you, Ry.”

He waved to her and started down the street. Then he turned back, to see her standing there near her flowers, waving goodbye to him.