A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).
When Evelyn enters Patrick’s former bedroom a few hours later, she has the hint of an agenda. And while she has yet to study the quilting book, she figures it is a bit early for that step. She doesn’t need to read a book to know that quilts—the ones she’s seen, anyway—are made up of pieces of fabric that are all the same size. (As her grandchildren would say, “DUH!”)
She already knows she will go with squares, as she is least likely to make mistakes that way. And she figures each square will be about one foot by one foot (smaller, when the stuffing and sewing processes are complete). So, between now and the time when she’s actually looked at the book and has the best possible sense of the piecing-together process, all she really needs to do is select squares.
Which means, for the moment, she must select a child.
She already knows she will include a square from Marilyn’s blue and white liberty print dress, and she doesn’t need to retrieve that tonight. And while she also knows there will be many more Marilyn clothes contributing to the quilt, she doesn’t feel like opening a Marilyn box. It’s never just a box with Marilyn, Evelyn muses. More like opening a can of worms.
Evelyn wishes immediately that she hadn’t had that thought, and she is relieved that she had it alone.
Because Patrick was born first, she decides to start there. She chooses a box marked PATRICK, AGE 11-14 and returns to the wooden chair. She sits back for a moment, enjoys a sip of wine. Then, placing her glass on the table, she leans over to open the box. Here we go, Patrick, Evelyn thinks. Let’s re-live the Seventies, shall we?
Anticipating boy’s clothing, Evelyn does not expect to see any particularly swirly prints, and when she glances at the entry at the top of the box’s contents, she does a double-take. She wonders if she might have erred in her “filing” process. But then, it comes back to her. The era of Saturday Night Fever and disco, when boys wore polyester prints. Not a tasteful time for fashion.
And as she unfolds and holds before her the lime, navy, and brown long-sleeved “dress shirt” that she probably thought was nice-looking at the time, she remembers the night of the big junior high dance.
“Davy, you have got to talk to Patrick!” Evelyn whispered firmly to her husband, while helping Adam off his booster seat and wiping her younger son’s mouth. “He thinks he’s going to some party after the dance, and I don’t want him to!”
“Where is the party?”
“Some kid’s house.”
“Well,” Davy asked, in an even tone, “does the kid have parents? Won’t they be there?”
“Mommie,” Adam whined, tugging at her skirt, “ I gotta go potty – ”
“Okay, sweetheart. Let’s go.”
Evelyn took Adam to the bathroom off the pantry, and while monitoring her younger son’s progress at the toilet, she kept one ear to the kitchen. As timing would have it, Patrick’s entrance occurred on the heels of her exit.
“You look dashing, son,” Davy enthused. “All ready to sweep the gals off their feet?”
“Sure,” replied Patrick, a gawky but remarkably confident ninth-grader. “Check out this dance move.”
Evelyn heard a bit of foot-sliding, followed by her husband’s capacity for fatherly love. “Very impressive!” said Davy. “ No one can say you have two left feet when they’re both clearly doing the right thing!”
“Oh, Dad, that’s rich! Anything else from your vaudeville act?”
“Nope. That’s all I got.” Davy then paused for a moment, but didn’t change his light tone. “So, what’s the plan tonight? A friend picking you up?”
“Darryl’s brother. They should get here any minute. Then, we head to the dance and—”
“Is Darryl’s brother picking you up after the dance?”
“Not sure. I think he has a party to go to, and as a matter of fact—I, uh, was telling Mom earlier, me and Darryl have been invited to a party as well.”
“Darryl and I,” Evelyn interjected, having returned with Adam to the kitchen.
“Oh, cool, Mom. You going, too?”
Evelyn’s countenance told Patrick that she didn’t appreciate his facetiousness. Then, she turned to her husband. “Davy: are we going to let him go to this party we don’t know anything about?”
“Well, what do we need to know? Where is it? Whose house?”
“Over at Hathaway. Jim Woodsley’s house.”
“Will his parents be there?”
“Yes. I mean, I think so, anyway. The party’s in the basement. They have a really cool basement. Pool table. Ping pong. Anyway, it’s nothing to worry about. We’ll just hang out for a while and then we’ll come home.”
“How?” Evelyn jumped in, taking over the questioning. “How are you going to get home?”
“I don’t know.” Patrick answered, not sounding at all defensive. “There’ll be some older kids there. You know, kids who drive. We’ll get a ride! Don’t worry!”
Evelyn then directed a look at Davy, a look that begged him to take the reins. Make some firm statements. Set some rules. Take charge!
“Okay, Patrick,” Davy began. “Here’s the deal. You are to call us when you get to the party, and you can stay until midnight. And when you are ready to come home, if you need a ride, then call us again. Do not, under any circumstances, ride with a driver who has been drinking or doing drugs. Do you understand?”
“Right,” Patrick responded, rolling his eyes. “Or I’ll turn into a pumpkin.”
“Patrick!” Evelyn exclaimed, clearly upset. “This is not a matter that calls for sarcasm!”
“Okay, Mom, okay. Jeez! You’d think I was going to some commune for the weekend or something. It’s just a stupid party.”
“It is what it is,” Davy said, essentially to both of them. Then, directing a comment specifically to his son: “ Just don’t do anything stupid at or after the party. And be home no later than twelve-fifteen. Okay?”
The sound of a honking horn answered Davy’s final question and provided Patrick with a quick exit.
“Have fun, son!” Davy called to the back of Patrick’s fashionable polyester shirt. He then turned and looked at Evelyn, and reading the concern she couldn’t hide, he offered his belief in as few words possible: “Honey, he’ll be okay. He’s a good boy.”
Examining the polyester shirt and studying its backside for the perfectly composed square foot, Evelyn realizes how correct Davy had been. Patrick was a “good boy.” He had his share of difficulties and challenges, and probably, Evelyn guesses, he still does. But getting into trouble never seemed to be of interest to him. In retrospect, Evelyn realizes that Patrick was always a bit of a nerd. But because he was so confident, she never noticed it. And what she understands now is that the confidence he displayed came from his father. Davy had confidence in Patrick, and so Patrick had confidence in himself.
* * *
to be continued on October 9th.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.