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David Hockey

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2017 David Hockey

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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Also by David Hockey:

Developing a Universal Religion

Bob of Small End

The Round Loaf

Sam’s Dream


Table of Contents

Chapter One. March, 2005

Chapter Two. Spring and Summer. 1999

Chapter Three. Fall and Winter. 1999-2000

Chapter Four. Spring and Summer, 2000

Chapter Five. October, 2000

Chapter Six. Winter and Spring. 2001

Chapter Seven. Spring. 2001

Chapter Eight. Summer, 2001

Chapter Nine. Fall. 2001

Chapter Ten. Winter. 2002

Chapter Eleven. Spring. 2002

Chapter Twelve. Summer. 2002

Chapter Thirteen. Fall. 2002

Chapter Fourteen. Winter and Spring. 2003

Chapter Fifteen. Summer. 2003

Chapter Sixteen. Fall. 2003

Chapter Seventeen. Winter. 2004

Chapter Eighteen. Spring. 2004

Chapter Nineteen. Summer. 2004

Chapter Twenty. Summer. 2004

Chapter Twenty One. School Year. 2004-2005

Chapter Twenty Two. 2005.

Chapter Twenty Three. 2005.

Chapter Twenty Four. 2005.

Chapter Twenty Five. 2005.

Chapter Twenty Six. 2005.

Chapter Twenty Seven. 2005.

Chapter Twenty Eight. 2005.

Chapter Twenty Nine. 2005.

Chapter Thirty. 2005.

Chapter Thirty One. 2006.

Chapter Thirty Two. 2006

Chapter Thirty Three. 2006

Chapter Thirty Four. 2006

Chapter Thirty Five. 2006

Chapter Thirty Six. 2006

Chapter Thirty Seven. 2007



Chapter One. March, 2005

“Are you ready, dad?”

“Yes. It went well, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I think so. They’ve given me two boxes of leftovers, mostly sandwiches and cookies. You won’t have to cook tomorrow.”

“What about the flowers and the photographs?”

“Stella took some of the flowers. Do you want any?”

“Oh, I’ll take the vase of roses. That’s all I want. I’ll collect the photos then we can leave.”

“I told them we’d get them tomorrow, dad. It’s past five and I think they want to close up.”

“All right. I’ll just take the flowers,” said Tom, as he picked up the vase. “We’ll bring the vase back tomorrow,” he told the lady who was hovering at the side of the large memorial hall.

“Don’t forget Granny’s ashes, dad,” said Steven.

“Oh, yes,” and Tom walked over to the small, cloth-covered table that stood in the bow window. He picked up the velvet bag that held his mother’s remains and walked back to Steven.

“We’ll collect the photographs first thing tomorrow morning. There’ll be someone here at nine?” Steven asked the lady.

“The receptionist will have them ready for you. Good night, Mr. Alwen.”

“Goodnight. And thank you.”

Once in the car Tom asked Steven if he’d seen his mother recently.

“Not since the New Year. We spent the weekend with them, remember?”

“Oh, yes, of course.”

“She was all right then, looking forward to a big party they would be attending at the embassy.”

“Yes, that’s your mom. I never enjoyed all those events.”

“You’re introspective, dad. Mom’s just the opposite.”

“Yes, I know. That’s why we were attracted to each other, at least for the first few years. It changed when she started working at Foreign Affairs.”

Steven, not wanting to talk about what happened after that, changed the subject.

“Can we stay with you at the bungalow this summer dad?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good. Lilly’s really looking forward to it. Can we go on her birthday week?”

“Of course.”


Arriving at his condo Tom opened the garage door with the remote, drove in and parked. Stella was giving Lilly a bath when they entered his unit. Steven cleared one of the shelves in the refrigerator and slid in the two boxes of food. Tom used the kitchen scissors to shorten the rose stems and put them in one of his own vases, finally placing them on the table underneath the television. He placed the bag containing his mother’s ashes next to the flower vase.

“I’m having a scotch, Steven. Want one?”

“Yes please, dad,” he called from the bathroom where he was helping to dry Lilly.

“Gin and tonic for me,” said Stella.

Once Lilly was in her pyjamas they sat in the living room. Tom took a story book from the pocket that hung on the arm of his easy chair. Lilly left her mother and ran over to her grandfather and climbed onto his lap.

“Which one should I read?” he asked. “How about Little Red Riding Hood?”

“No, grandpa, mom read that one to me last week.”

“Jack and the Beanstalk? Have you heard that?”


“All right. We’ll read it together,” and they gradually worked their way through the story, Tom sounding out the more complicated words and waiting for Lilly to guess words he thought she would know it.

“Time for bed now, Lilly,” said Stella. “Kiss grandpa goodnight.”

They ate breakfast early on Sunday morning for Steven and his family had to return to Toronto. While eating Tom told them he was going to sell his mother’s house.

“There’s no point in keeping it. Do you want to look through your Gran’s home Steven? There might be some things you’d like to keep.”

“What do you think, Stella?”

“Yes, okay. Let’s pack the car first.”

“In that case you take the keys to her home and I’ll meet you there. I have to return the vase and collect the photos.”

Hilda Alwen’s home was on Pleasant Park Road, a pleasant road in the Alta Vista area of Ottawa, a house that was likely to fetch between three and four hundred thousand dollars when Tom sold it. Her husband, Peter Alwen, died in 1999 and Tom had been looking after the maintenance of the house and garden ever since. Hilda had had a bad bout of flu in November, then pneumonia. She had moved to a retirement home in January to get the care she needed and the house had been empty ever since.

Lilly was wandering in the back garden when Tom arrived at his mother’s house.

“Hi, grandpa. Mom and dad are inside, looking at things. Will you give me a swing?”

“Of course, get on and hold tight.”

Lilly climbed onto the seat of a swing that hung from the arm of an old tree, one that Steven had swung from some twenty five years ago. Tom gave the swing a few pushes.

“Higher, grandpa, higher!”

“That’s high enough,” shouted Stella, who had just come out of the kitchen door. “You’ll fall off if you go any higher. Anyway, we’re leaving now. Get into the car.”

“Did you find anything you want?” asked Tom.

“Just this, dad,” said Steven who joined Stella and he held out the old clock that had stood on the sideboard for fifty or more years.

“Can I have it?”

“Yes, of course. There’s nothing else you’d like? Any of the paintings?”

“No, thanks dad. We prefer something more modern.”

“All right.”

“Here’s the keys to the house, dad. We’ll be off now.”

He hugged his dad and climbed into the driving seat. Tom kissed Stella and Lilly then watched as they drove away. He wouldn’t see them until July, when they would spend a week on the lake. ‘Well,’ he told himself, consolingly, ‘that’s less than four months away.’

Tom took the bag holding the box in which his mother’s ashes lay and carried it to the tiny garden patch at the base of the tree from which the swing hung, a space where daffodils would grow each spring. Standing still for a moment he thought of his dad then spread his mother’s ashes carefully over the ground. They lay where he, his mother, Steven and Stella had scattered his father’s ashes six years ago. ‘United again,’ he thought. That’s where they both wished their ashes to lie although everyone knew that no one could visit them once the house had been sold. There was no grave stone or marker, of course, and eventually nobody would know where their ashes had been placed.

He entered the house and walked slowly through the rooms. He had to decide what he would keep soon then arrange for the rest and the house to be sold. ‘I might as well start now,’ he told himself and he collected a pad of paper from his father’s old desk, a hard-backed book from the nearby shelves to rest the paper on and a pen. ‘I’ll start upstairs and check each room.’

Half-an-hour later he had completed the bedrooms, bathroom, closets and poked his head into the attic. He didn’t need anything for his condominium but listed things like sheets, pillows, blankets and towels that he would take to the bungalow.

Tom made himself a mug of coffee before looking through the downstairs rooms. Without milk it wasn’t the way he liked it but two cream cookies, stale and soft, eased it down.

He didn’t finish listing what he’d keep until twelve thirty, deciding to take several of the paintings, the family albums and photographs of course, most of the kitchen cutlery, the good chinaware and some of the small appliances. The microwave would be useful. It was a small one and he could use it in the caravan. Things like vases and the lean-back swivel arm chair his father bought a year before he died he’d also take. That would go to his study in the bungalow basement. A few garden tools from the garage and his dad’s tool box finished his list.

Buying the cottage lot had been a stroke of genius, he thought, although it must have been another mark against him when Patricia learned what he’d done. He told her he wanted to build a cottage there and they would spend their summers by the lake. Pat loved Ottawa and the thought of spending months beside Big Rideau Lake appalled her. “You can go, but I’m not going to spend my summers in the wilderness,” she said.

Tom bought the lot because he wanted to live in the country when he retired. He liked Ottawa, enjoyed going to the theatre and concerts, going to new exhibitions in the museums and loved its many restaurants. That’s where he and Patricia met, when one year they had season tickets in adjacent seats at one of the NAC’s symphony series, but he missed the quietness, peace and solitude the countryside offered.

He had lived all his early life in the country, close to Westport, a small town on the west end of Upper Rideau Lake until he went to Carleton to take a mathematics degree. His parents, fearing that his mother’s cancer would reoccur, sold their Westport home and bought the Pleasant Park house. That way, they would be close to the hospitals and it wouldn’t cost so much to send Tom to university for he could continue living with them.

He had found the cottage lot by accident. Jim, a club member, told him when they were having a beer after a game of tennis early August, 1998, that one of his friends had recently died and his wife was selling the cottage lot they bought several years ago.

“Do you know anyone that wants one?” he asked Tom. “She’d like to sell it without going through a real estate agent if she could. To save fees, of course. I think she’s rather short of money.”

“Where is it?” Tom asked.

“About twenty minutes from Portland. It’s off of the Old Kingston Road.”

“Portland? That’s more than an hour from here.”

“Yes, but that’s not too far to drive if you’re going to a cottage.”

“What’s she want for it?”

“Seventy five thousand. It’s just over two acres. It’s already got hydro and a well. They put those in about four years ago because they have a motor home which they park there in the summer. It also has an old, restored boathouse.”

All this greatly interested Tom. His dream of owning a country place could be a lot closer than he thought.

“How do I get there? Do you know the way?”

“No, never seen it, but you can have one of these,” and he pulled several pages out of his jacket pocket. “She’s handed these out to most of her friends, hoping we would find someone who might buy the place. It’s described on here and there’s a map of how to find it on the back.”

“Thanks.” Tom read quickly over both pages underneath the map were some instructions; ‘Follow the Old Kingston Road to Baker Road, follow that then turn on Ironwood Lane or R29. Take the right fork where R29 divides and look for K54.’

“Ah, I know where it’ll be and I’m interested. I’ll go there right now. When did she give you these?”

“Last weekend.”

“I hope nobody has bought it already, it sounds just like the place for me. Thanks for telling me about it, Jim. I’ll let you know what I find out.”

“Okay. Good luck Tom.”

Tom knew where Portland was of course, for Westport and his early home were less than half-an-hour’s drive from there. A friend, who could use his father’s boat, had taken him there several times, to buy ice cream and, later, beer, in the marina’s small pub. They also passed Portland when they drove from Westport to Ottawa and he’d driven past it several times since then, when Steven was young to see Fort Henry in Kingston and when he and Pat went to Toronto for weekend getaways. He’d never taken the Old Kingston Road but he knew where it was; it joined highway sixteen just before one entered Portland.

It took him just under an hour and a half to get where the road began and he followed it, driving past the garbage dump and occasional house until he came to the wide turn-off where Baker’s Road began. Following Baker’s, which shortly became R29, he followed that then took the right branch towards the lake and looked for K54. Trees were abundant and hid most of the houses and cottages but posts with K-numbers marked each entrance.

The K54 post marked a gap between the bushes and trees. He entered slowly, not sure if his Volkswagen would clear the stones that he saw pushing their way through the track in various places. He continued for fifty yards or so, through trees and bushes, up the rising ground, until he came to the top. There he stopped and got out of the car. A large patch of grass lay before him.

The track he was on continued down the slope on the left side of the clearing and ended at the rear doors of a large boathouse. It was made of barn board, stood on a tapering wall of cemented stones and it had a green-coloured metal roof.

One third of the way towards the boathouse another track, wider this time, turned to the right and led to a large level space cut into the clearing. A hydro pole stood ten yards above the cutting and a box was fastened to the pole about six feet above the ground. A capped metal pipe stood close to the hydro pole. ‘That must be the top of the well,’ Tom guessed, ‘and the hydro outlets must be in the box.’ Trees and bushes covered much of the space above and to the far side of the cutting. The land had been cleared towards the lake in front of the cutting. ‘That must give a good view of the water,’ he assumed.

‘What a lovely place,’ Tom thought. ‘It’s just what I want.’ He walked down the track to where the road towards the cutting began and walked along it, looking towards the lake. An arm of land prevented him from seeing far across the water and trees hid the view to the right but he could see that the water on the left opened on the Big Rideau lake. A small boat moved slowly past one of the small islands that lay in front of him. A man was steering and holding a fishing rod, and another was standing and casting. ‘That’s something I’ll do if I buy this place, I’ll start fishing again.’

Wondering where the property began Tom continued, past the clearing where the motor home must have stood, through some bushes and small trees and found an old barbed wire fence running directly towards the water. He checked the sketch drawn on the paper Jim had given him. ‘This must be the northern boundary. The lake marks the west, the track to the boathouse must be close to the south side and R29’s on the east. Well, I want to buy it but there’s no point in doing anything more until I find out if it’s still for sale.’ He walked quickly back to his car and drove to Portland to use the telephone that stood next to the Post Office. Inserting some money he dialled the number listed on the page. He let the phone ring for several seconds but no one answered. When a voice asked if he wanted to leave a message he said, “Mrs. Derwent, my name’s Tom Alwen. James Symonds gave me a copy of the description you made of your cottage lot and I’ve just been there. I’m very interested in the place. I’m driving back to Ottawa now and I’ll call later to ask if it’s still for sale.”

He spotted a phone box when passing a gas station where Hwy 16 joined Hwy 7, parked his car and phoned Mrs. Derwent again. This time the phone was picked up.

“Hello, Mrs. Derwent. This is Tom Alwen.”

“Hello, Mr. Alwen. You called me about the cottage lot just now, right?”

“Yes, I did. I’m very interested in the lot. Have you sold it yet?”

“Not quite. I was offered seventy two thousand yesterday and I said I’d think about it. I’m going to call him back tonight.”

‘Damn,’ thought Tom, ‘looks like I’ve lost it.’

“Are you open to other offers? I would pay seventy five thousand and I could give you a cheque for five thousands immediately, or at least as soon as I get to Ottawa. You live there?”

“Yes, I do. All right, I’ll accept that if you can get here by six o’clock. That’s when I said I’d call him.”

“Where do you live exactly?”

“In the Hillside apartments off Montreal Road. Do you know where they are?”

“Yes. I’ll drive straight there.” Tom told her where he was now and added, “I should be at your place by five thirty. I just hope the traffic along the Queensway isn’t too bad.”

It was rush-hour and there were several places where the traffic slowed to a crawl. It was just after six when he turned off the 417 and joined St. Laurent Boulevard. He thought about stopping and calling Mrs. Derwent but feared that would make him even later. He pressed the buzzer to her apartment at six fifteen, hoping she had given him a little more time.

“It was worth my waiting,” Mrs. Derwent said as Tom entered her apartment. “As soon as you said where you were I decided to give you until six thirty before calling about the other offer. Three thousand is nothing to sneeze about. Do you have a cheque?”

“I can give you a bank draft, Mrs. Derwent. That’s safer than a cheque and you’ll get the money quicker, but we’ll have to go to a branch of my bank to do that. Isn’t there something we should sign before I do that?”

“Oh, yes, there is. Sit down Mr. Alwen and I’ll get it.” She left him in the kitchen while she went to her bedroom and returned with some legal-sized papers.

“These are Agreements of Purchase and Sale. A friend, a lawyer, gave them to me. It describes the property. Have a look at it and sign it if you think it’s okay.”

Tom took the form and read it carefully. It looked okay to him although he wished he could take it to his own lawyer before signing.

“It looks fine, Mrs. Derwent. We should fill in the details then sign, I suppose.”

“That’s right. You agree to pay the full price on closing and you’ll give me a deposit of five thousand. How soon can we close the sale?”

“Hmm, how about in two, no, three weeks. I want my lawyer to look at this first. He’ll have to check that you do actually own the property.”

“Well I do. Just a minute, I’ll get the deeds.”

She left the room then returned with an envelope. The deed to the land was inside.

“Can I borrow this, Mrs. Derwent?” Tom asked, thinking his lawyer would certainly need to see it.

“It’s the only one I’ve got. You can’t have this.”

‘I can’t just sign these papers without more checking,’ Tom thought, ‘though this must be genuine and she is James’ friend.’

“Ah, my bank would make a copy,” Tom exclaimed.

“All right. Then let’s go. I should be calling the man about his offer soon.”

Tom knew that the nearest branch of his bank, TD Canada Trust, was in the St. Laurent Centre and, like most of their branches, would be open until eight.

“My car’s outside,” Tom said.

Tom used his Access Card to buy the bank draft and paid cash for a copy of the deed remembering as they walked back to the car to ask Mrs. Derwent for the name and address of her lawyer. They wrote each lawyer’s name on paper Tom had in the car then drove back to her apartment.

“Come in again, Mr. Alwen. Let’s have a drink to celebrate.”

“All right,” he said, although he was beginning to regret how quickly the agreement had been reached and the fact that he hadn’t first discussed it with Pat. ‘Oh, well, if I’d done that it would have been sold to someone else,’ he told himself.

“Have a seat, I’ll just phone the man about his offer.” She called him and said she’d just sold the place, ending, “I got the full amount for it.”

His reply upset her a little for she replied, “Then why didn’t you offer that in the first place? If you had, you’d have bought it. Don’t blame me, I told you I’d accept yours if nothing better came in. Goodbye,” and she rammed the phone into it’s holder.

“It’s his fault so let’s forget him. Now, what do you drink? I’ve beer, rye and gin.”

“A beer would be fine, thanks.”

Mrs. Derwent took two Carlings out of the fridge and opened them. “Glasses are in the cupboard behind you. If you have any questions about the place now is a good time to ask. We’ve had it about ten years and so I know many of the people who live there and where to get things.”

“Jim told me your husband just died. I’m sorry.”

“Thank you. We thought it might happen and it did. Bob had a stroke two years ago and was partly paralysed afterwards. That changed all our plans. When we first bought the place we were going to build a cottage to live in when he retired. He sold insurance. For the first two years we stayed in a tent. You’ll see the place where we pitched it if you go past the motor home clearing. It’s the level spot within the trees and bushes. There’s an outhouse to the side of the clump of trees above it, that’s what we used when camping. We can’t use the place in the winter so we bought a used RV, a small one, a twenty-three footer, but perfect for us. We used that as soon as Bob retired five years ago and found a contractor to build the cottage. He cleared the site but then we had a disagreement. He said he’d underestimated how much it would cost and wanted another fifty thousand. We said no and started looking for another builder. We later learned that he’d done the same thing to another couple. They paid the extra and their place was built but they had many problems with it later—a leaking roof, their basement floor cracked, wind blowing through holes around the windows. His name’s Jamison, don’t use him. Well, after Bob’s stroke we sold the RV and stayed here, close to Montfort. He died, quickly, the next time he had a stroke. Three months ago. I’ve no use for the cottage lot now that he’s gone.”

“Yes, I understand. Are you still working?”

“No, I retired when Bob did. I worked at Montfort, in administration. I’m moving to Sherbrooke next month. My daughter lives there. She’s got two children, both girls. There’s a photo of them on the fridge.” She stood up, took it off and handed it to Tom.

“They’re very pretty,” he said.

“Seven and nine. It’ll be nice to be with them as they grow up. Would you like another beer?”

“No, thanks, Mrs. Derwent. I’ll have to go, it’s nearly eight. My wife will be wondering what’s happened to me. Thanks for the beer. If we don’t meet again I hope everything goes well for you.”

“Thanks. Well, goodbye Mr. Alwen. Good luck to you, too.”

As anticipated, Pat wasn’t at all pleased with what he had done. She also told Tom that he’d have to pay for everything out of his own money. “I don’t want any part of it.”

Paying for it himself wasn’t hard, they’d had separate bank accounts ever since she’d started working at Foreign Affairs in 1987. She enjoyed her job, worked hard and was promoted several times. For the past four years, when her salary became more than Tom’s, they had shared all expenses. Tom bought mutual funds with most of his savings and would have to sell some to buy the cottage lot. He decided to wait until his lawyer told him everything was okay before selling any.

Approval didn’t take long, the survey was recent, the property was clear of all liens and Tom sold enough funds to buy it without taking out a mortgage. It became his on August 31st, 1998.

He drove there the following Saturday to take a more careful look at the place and to take some photographs. He hoped that once Pat had seen the pictures she’d become more interested. That didn’t happen although she did look at them. “I’m sure you’ll be very happy there,” she said, “but I don’t want to drive all that way to look at it.” His mother was more excited, she knew that Tom loved the countryside. He took her there two Sundays later and she loved the place.

Chapter Two. Spring and Summer. 1999

Tom visited the lot twice more in 1998 but school work, tennis club commitments, rain and then snow stopped him from going more often. Over the winter he dreamed about living there. He bought a tent, large enough for two, even though he knew that Pat would never sleep there, a propane stove and lamp, and a ground sheet and sleeping bag when Canadian Tire had a sale in the spring. One glorious Saturday in May he stuffed them all into the back of his Volks, drove to the lot, found where Mrs. Derwent and her husband had camped and pitched the tent. After a sandwich lunch and water from a bottle, for he had forgotten to bring a saucepan or a kettle and couldn’t make tea, he found the outhouse then strolled around the lot taking photographs.

When he reached the boathouse he unlocked the side door using one of the two keys he was given when taking possession; the other key opened the padlock that fastened the chain across the entrance. Mrs. Derwent had not used the chain after deciding to sell the place and it was curled up next to the post to which it was fastened. The boathouse was big enough to hold a twenty or twenty-four foot boat. There was nothing inside it except a few shelves that ran along the wall facing the side door. A levelled ten-foot-wide space lay between him and the shelves. ‘Plenty of room to hold a lawnmower and garden tools,’ he thought.

He drove to Portland that evening to have supper at the water-side pub, the one he went to so many years ago. It had been enlarged since then and he enjoyed two pints of beer with his hamburger and chips. It was dark when he returned to his tent and he used the sidelights of the car to unroll the sleeping bag and undress to his underclothes. Before lying down he added a few more things to the list of things to bring next time he came; a flashlight, saucepan, kettle, mugs, cutlery, pyjamas, toothbrush and two large garbage bins. He’d store everything that mice might chew in the bins and keep them in the boathouse.

One sunny Sunday in June Tom took his mother to the cottage lot for another visit. He wanted to show her where he stayed when he slept over. They had a coffee at the new Tim Hortons in Smiths Falls and arrived at the lot about eleven. He showed his mother where he pitched his tent and the outhouse, the robin’s nest in the bushes just next to it and the inside of the boathouse.

“Are you going to buy a boat?” Tom she asked.

“I think so mom. I’ll probably take up fishing again.”

“Remember the big bass you caught at the dock when you were ten?”

“Yes. I loved living near Westport. Want to have lunch there?”

“Yes, that would be nice.”

After lunch they drove slowly along the road to where their old home stood and stopped the car by the side of the road opposite it. A big tree and bushes in the front yard hid most of the front of the house.

“I wonder who planted the tree,” Tom commented.

“It must have been the Evertons,” his mother replied. “It’s at least thirty years old. Hardly recognise the place with that in front.”

“I wonder if Lenny’s parents still live next-door.”

“Why not knock and find out.”

“I will. It’d be nice to see him again. If he’s not there they might know where he lives now.”

Tom got out and went to the front door. A lady answered his knock but she wasn’t Lenny’s mother.

“They moved to the Perth retirement home four years ago,” she told him/

“Do you know if Lenny, their son, still lives around here?”

“No, sorry.”

“Too bad, Tom,” said his mother as they drove away. “He was your best friend.”

“Yes, he was. I’m going to call at the post office. They’d know if he lives here.”

“You could look at the phone directory too.”

“Yes. I’ll do that, too.”

Tom learnt that a Mr. L. Jackson did live near Westport, on the road they had just driven along so he got his phone number and address from the telephone directory and they drove to his house. No one was in when Tom knocked on the door so he wrote a note and left it in the mail box.

“I’ll call him tonight and tell him about the place I’ve bought. I’d be nice to see him again.”

Tom phoned after supper and found out that it wasn’t Lenny, his friend. A Mr. Leopard Jackson owned the house. He’d never heard of Lenny.

Tom spent two more weekends at the cottage lot and was about to drive there one Saturday morning in late July when his mother phoned him. She told him his father had had a severe heart attack and that she was now with him at the General Hospital. She didn’t know if he’d recover and could he come immediately. He drove straight there and arrived just after his father had died.

An hour later Tom drove his mother home and stayed with her until noon when he left so she could have a nap, promising to return at supper time. Pat wasn’t at the condo when he arrived and she didn’t return until three o’clock.

“Where have you been, Pat?” Tom asked. “I didn’t know how to reach you. My dad has just died.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Tom. I spent the night with a friend, with Mary. We went to a show then a club and drank for a while so she said I should stay with her.”

Two weeks later he saw Mary in the library and told her that his father had died the night that Pat had stayed with her. “When?” she asked. “Oh, yes. That was, um, three weeks ago, wasn’t it?”

Tom said it was actually just two weeks ago and wondered why she didn’t remember how recent it was. Walking home he wondered if Pat really had stayed with Mary for she had been very quiet for several months and they never talked together as they formerly did.

Pat wasn’t home when he returned from Portland the following weekend. Her clothes and belongings were gone and there was a letter on the kitchen table.


I’m leaving you. Our marriage is not what it used to be. You spend most of your weekends at your Portland place, we seldom go to the theatre or to concerts and we haven’t eaten out for over a month. I don’t want to live like that.

Over the past few months I’ve realised I don’t love you any more and have fallen in love with someone else and I am going to live with him.

You should know his name. It’s Harry Taltson. He works at Foreign Affairs and you met him two or three times. He’s been posted to the United Nations and is shortly moving to New York. I’ll send you our address when we have moved there and you can tell Steven where we live.

I hope we can still be friends and I’m sure you’ll find someone else, perhaps someone who enjoys the countryside as much as you do.


P.S. you can have my interest in the condo. I don’t want any money (Harry has millions) but I do want a divorce. I will contact Harry’s lawyer and he’ll arrange everything. Please don’t make the process difficult.

Tom read the letter again then walked to the sideboard and poured himself a brandy. He sat and thought about what he’d just read. ‘Pat’s right, we’ve stopped doing things together. I spend evenings preparing lessons and many weekends at the cottage lot. I have been neglecting her. But I still love her, surely she knows that.’

After a second brandy and more thought, ‘I guess I’m not going to change her mind. She wouldn’t have removed everything if she thought we could stay together. She’s probably been seeing Taltson every weekend I’ve been away, maybe during the day when I’ve been working as well.’

After a third brandy, ‘What am I going to do? Fight Taltson for Pat? No, of course not. Refuse to give a divorce? I don’t think I’d want to do that, it’d be messy and upset everybody. Just let her go?’

A fourth brandy came and he stopped thinking about Pat and started wondering how his life would change from now on.

Tom phoned Foreign Affairs Monday lunchtime and discovered that they wouldn’t give him Mr. Taltson’s phone number or address. “If you tell me your name and phone number I’ll pass it on to him,” he was told. He decided not to do that, finally accepting that Pat was gone and he’d have to wait for her to contact him. She did, two weeks later. Tom listened, did not argue, copied down her address and telephone number, said he’d not contest the divorce and asked if she would be coming to Steven’s marriage. She said she would and they parted more-or-less as friends.

Tom, who had told his mother what had happened a week after Pat had left, phoned Steven that evening and told him what had happened. Steven was upset, although he had guessed his parents’ marriage wasn’t all it should have been and worried that it would spoil his marriage to Stella which was to occur the following month. It didn’t do that, although Tom and Pat were quiet and reserved throughout the whole event.

Chapter Three. Fall and Winter. 1999-2000

September came and Tom returned to Hillson High School where he taught mathematics. A stroke of luck fell his way the last weekend of September. He was at the cottage, mowing the grass one last time, when Jack Higgins, who owned the cottage next to him, walked over.

“Hi, Tom. Getting ready for the winter, I suppose. I did the same thing three days ago. Want to come for supper tonight?”

“Hi, Jack. I’d like to but I can’t stay long, it’ll be too cold to sleep here tonight.”

“Yes, I guess so. Hey, are you interested in buying a caravan? Bob Knowles has one he never uses. I bet he’d sell it to you. If you’re interested I’ll call him. He’s here, I saw him this morning when I was walking.”

“A caravan, that’d be useful. What’s it like?”

“Don’t really know, I’ve just seen it parked on his lot. I’ll call him then?”

“Yes, please.”

Ten minutes later Jack was back. “He said he’d sell it. He didn’t know what to ask for it though. You can go over right now to have a look if you like.”

“Okay, I will. What’s his number?”

“K62. I’ll come with you. Oh, I told Betty you’d come for supper. Six o’clock.”

Bob was pulling weeds from the side of the caravan when they arrived. Jack introduced Tom.

“Hi, Tom. This is it. Not much but it should be all right if you just want to sleep in it. As you can see, the tires are flat. They’d probably hold up long enough to tow it to your place. Let’s look inside. We haven’t used it for six or seven years so I don’t know what it’s like in there.”

He pulled a ring of keys from his trouser pocket, unlocked and opened the caravan door.

“There’s a step you can pull down but we’ll not need it today. I’ll go in first to be sure it’s okay.”

He entered then said, “Ah, the roof leaked,” and he pointed to the front corner besides the door. Light brown stains ran from the ceiling’s edge to the top of a small cupboard and disappeared inside.

“Ah, that’s bad. Be careful where you walk, the floor might be rotten around the cupboard. The rest of the roof seems okay. I’ll get out so you can come in and take a look, Tom.”

The bed, covered with a dusty cover lay across the back of the caravan. A closet and a tiny washroom stood next to it. A table and two bench seats were besides that. On the other side of the caravan was a cupboard, shelves, a stove and a sink. Everything was dusty and Tom knew that everything in the place would be damp and probably mouldy.

“I know, it doesn’t look like much,” said Bob. “It needs a good clean and, if I was going to use it I’d change the mattress. Water pipes will be okay, I drain all of them each fall after using it. There might be propane in the tanks, but I don’t know. You can buy it at the garage in Portland. What do you think? Interested?”

“I don’t know. How much do you want for it?”

“How about a thousand? It’s probably worth more, a lot more if it’s cleaned up.”

“Do you think the floor will have rotted? And how would I stop the roof from leaking?”

“We can check the floor and find out. As for the roof, there’s a special sealant for that. You can buy it from the caravan and motor home company in Kingston or at the crossroads, where sixteen joins highway seven. I used to seal the roof every couple of years and that’s where I bought it. Let’s have a look at the floor.”

Tom stepped out and Bob opened the door to the cupboard and took a knife from one of the drawers by the sink and started jabbing the lino.

“It’s soft,” he said. “We’ll have to look at it from underneath to find out how bad it is. It’s hard to do that here. How about I say nine hundred, as is. Want to buy it?”

Tom, who had already been thinking he’d pay the full thousand for it said, “All right. Yes, I’ll buy it,” and they shook hands.

“Come inside and have a coffee. Jane will be glad it’s gone, I can tell you that.”

Over coffee Bob told Tom he’d blow up the tires and pull the caravan to his cottage next time he came down. “You’ll have a cheque for me then?”

“Yes. And you’ll have the ownership papers?”

“Right. But if you’re not using it on the roads you won’t have to licence it.”

“What about when you bring it to me, won’t you need to licence for that trip?”

“I’ll not bother. The police don’t come around here very often.”

They arranged to move the caravan the next Saturday, if it wasn’t raining or snowing. If it was, Tom would call and they’d set up another date.

The following Saturday was clear and Tom arrived early at his cottage lot so he could check that the place where he’d been pitching his tent was large enough for the caravan. It was, almost, but it would be better if he widened the patch but he didn’t want to put gas in the mower just to do that so he trod the grass down and left it like that. He parked his car next to the boathouse then walked to Bob’s place. The caravan was already hitched to the back of Bob’s station wagon. It looked cleaner than before, ‘He must have washed it,’ Tom thought. He knocked on the cottage door.

“Hi, Tom. Looks better now, right? Jane has tidied the inside and she says you should change the mattress. If you want I’ll take it to the dump for you. It’ll be easier for me to do it than you with your Volks. I’ll just tie it to the top of my wagon. Come in and we’ll do the paperwork.”

They exchanged cheque for ownership papers and drank a mug of coffee with Jane who said, “I’m sorry about the cutlery, plates and mugs. They’re not very good, chipped and bent. We should have got new ones but never bothered.”

“No problem, Jane. I can get new ones if needed.”

“Are you going to come in the winter now?” asked Bob. “The propane tanks are half full. There’s a heater in it too, I forgot to mention that. It’ll keep you warm. But don’t put water in the tank, it’ll freeze and the water pipes will burst. Oh, there’s antifreeze in the toilet and sink drains. You’ll have to replace that if you run water through them but if you use the toilet it’ll be a problem emptying the soil tank. It’d be better to use your outhouse.”

“Ah, yes, of course. I will, and no, I’ll not be staying there until next year. I want to fix the floor and the roof first.”

“Oh, I’ve an old tarpaulin you can borrow. We’ll cover the roof with it and it’ll keep the water out this winter. And I’ve got some two-by-sixes to put underneath the jacks. That’ll take the weight off the tires, raise the floor and you’ll have more room underneath to work on it.”

“Ah, thanks, Bob.”

“Okay, then let’s move it.”

They climbed into the station wagon and slowly drove to Toms cottage. Once there they followed the track to the cleared land where the cottage would be eventually built. There they reversed and pushed the caravan into the level patch where Tom had put his tent.

“You’ll have a good view when you’re washing the dishes,” chuckled Bob. “Now, lets put the boards under the jacks and cover the roof. I’ve got lots of rope.”

An hour later the caravan stood, ready for the winter. They eased the mattress out the door and tied it onto the top of Bob’s station wagon.

“I think I should buy a car like this, Bob. It’s very handy. How’s it been for you?”

“The Subaru? It’s a very good car. It’s all wheel drive so you never get stuck and that’s very useful around here, or anywhere else, in the winter. It’s an Outback, plenty of room inside as you can see. How old’s your Volks?”

“Seven years. I’ve been thinking it’s time to buy a new one but now I think I should get a station wagon next time.”

“Lots of people use Subaru wagons. This is my third and I’ve never had any trouble with them.”

Tom spent the afternoon checking around the caravan. There were several manuals inside one of the drawers; how to light the heater, how to drain the water pipes, instructions for the stove. He lay on his back and eased under the caravan beside the door and found that water coming from the roof had emerged from the floor in the same corner. ‘The caravan must have sloped this way, so, maybe the rot won’t have spread very far. I’ll check first thing next spring.’

He took the cutlery, china, saucepans and frying pan and the manuals home and stopped at the motor home lot on his way. They knew exactly what he wanted and sold him a can and a brush. “Don’t put it on now, it’s too cold,” the man said. “Wait until it’s warm and dry. Read the directions and follow them.”

Tom had been thinking about going to Florida over Christmas. He knew that Steven wouldn’t mind because they would be staying with Stella’s parents. Stella was pregnant and, although not due until July, there were many things she wanted to discuss with her mother. However, he needed to save money if he was going to buy a wagon instead of another Volks. Another ten thousand, he guessed, if he bought a Subaru wagon. So he helped his mother cook the Christmas turkey and ate at her place several times during the school holidays.

He had many things to think about, the first being how he should repair the caravan. He knew he’d have to remove some of the floor and added a jig saw to the things he’d have to buy. He read the manuals, discovering how to light the furnace and how to drain the water pipes. He made a list of the pans, saucepans, dishes and cutlery he should buy, for he had thrown out the old pans, china and knives and forks. He also visited several car dealers, saw and collected brochures on the various station wagons they had and found out how much they cost. Finally, after trying three kinds, he decided to buy the same as Bob, a Subaru Outback. He chose the colour and options, going for automatic, which would be nice to have, adding a trailer hitch, thinking he might have to tow the caravan one day, found out that they’d give him four thousand for his Volks and placed an order. It arrived at the end of January.

Chapter Four. Spring and Summer, 2000

Tom went to the cottage lot twice over the school’s March break, choosing days when the clouds were few. The first time he cleaned the inside of the caravan, washing the walls, cupboards, washroom, shower, windows and door with warm, bleach-laced, soapy water wearing rubber gloves. He took the water from a five gallon container at first, then switched to melting icicles in a big pot when he only had enough water left to make a pot of tea. It was cold doing this, for he kept the door open but the place smelt much better when he’d finished. He ate his sandwich sitting on a lawn chair near to the door, watching a few small birds pecking at seeds or insects in the bushes.

After lunch he unscrewed the corner cabinet that water from the roof had drained into, flattened a large cardboard box and put it on the plywood the bed mattress lay on then laid the cupboard on top. Then he removed the quarter round from either side of the cupboard and removed the linoleum that lay in the cabinet’s corner. A pointed knife quickly showed him where the floor was soft. Thankfully the caravan walls seemed to be solid. He used his new jigsaw to cut around the soft area and a flat crowbar to force the plywood floor away from the frost-covered wooden joists. The thin layer of insulating fibreglass that lay between the wooden floor and the caravan’s outside was frozen and he pulled out all he could move. The metal floor underneath had a thin layer of ice over it. ‘No point in doing any more now. I’ll do the rest when the snow’s gone and the ice has melted.’

He used the knife to find where the floor joists became hard then measured the size of the replacement pieces he’d need, writing the details in a notebook. He’d buy the wood in Ottawa and cut or plane it to size in his condo locker, his normal workplace. That way it’d be ready to install when he removed the floor in the spring.

His new station wagon with its all-season tires was marvellous. He loved the way its all wheel drive allowed it to climb icy inclines that caused other drivers to slip and slide. The snow was only a few inches high the next time he went to the cottage lot and he drove along the track to the cleared opening because two weeks earlier he had bought a mattress, two sets of sheets, blankets and pillows. The mattress was roped tightly onto the car’s roof rack.

After moving it onto the bed frame and storing the sheets, blankets and pillows in three of the caravan’s cupboards he stamped his way through the snow to the propane tanks and turned them on. Then he went to the far side of the caravan and opened the metal door to the furnace controls. Having re-read the manual over breakfast that morning he knew exactly what to do and, after pulling the gas valve backwards and forwards a few times to loosen it, he left it open and lit the burner. He left the door open and went inside. After a little while a fan began and a current of warm air blew out of the nearest heater outlet. ‘Ah, perfect! That’s great.’

Tom checked that the replacement joists he had brought with him were the correct size and long enough to fasten to the solid part of the existing joists. ‘It’ll be tricky to fasten them together. I can’t use the electric screwdriver until I get some kind of attachment that will let me screw sideways. I hope there is such a thing.’

Bob Knowles was sitting on a stool ice-fishing when Tom looked out of the window as he ate his sandwiches. After drinking the last of his hot chocolate, he made his way through the snow and joined him.

He was holding a fishing rod about two feet long and moving it up and down. The line disappeared into the water through a six-inch wide hole in the ice.

“Hi Tom. It’s not too bad today. I’ve already got five,” and he pointed to the plastic bag which lay at the side of the stool.

“What are you catching?” asked Tom.

“Perch. There’s usually some around here. Ever eaten them?”

“A few times. I prefer bass or trout.”

“Well I want another one then you can have a go. Six is enough for Jane and me. Oh! There’s another,” and he pulled the line up, through the thin layer of ice that had already formed over the top of the water in the hole. A seven inch perch wiggled for a short time then lay still on the ice. Bob opened the bag and put the fish inside then baited the hook with what looked like a small piece of bread dough.

“Is that just bread you’re using?” asked Tom.

“Bread with a little bit of bacon fat. They seem to like that. You could use almost anything in the winter.”

Bob stood up and gave Tom a metal scoop. “Use this to skim off the ice coat. No, it’s easier if you sit down first. Yes, that’s good. Okay, here’s the rod. Let the bait hit the floor then raise it about six inches and jog it slowly up and down. That’s right. Hey! You’ve already got one. Quick pull it up, right up and out of the water, fast. Yes, a beaut. Must be eight inches. Well, that’s yours, Tom. Put it on the ice and have another go.”

“Wow,” exclaimed Tom. “There must be a lot of them around here!”

“It’s not always this good. In the summer I’ve spent two or three hours sitting in a boat and not caught a thing. But I enjoy it and Jane likes me to get out of the house now and again. Here’s the bait, catch another.”

It took a quarter of an hour before Tom caught the next fish. Five minutes later he caught a third. Bob placed it besides the other two then said, “That should be enough for a good meal Tom. I’ll have to go now, we’re going back to Perth tonight. Are you staying the night?”

“No, it’s time I left too. I’ll have them for supper when I get home. Thanks, Bob.”

“If you want to try trolling or casting with me let me know. No, I’ll come and see you after the season’s open. You’re not sixty-five are you?”

“Not yet,” said Tom. “Why do you ask?”

“You don’t need a fishing licence if you’re sixty-five. Well, there’s a store in Portland where you can get one, the bait shop. It’s by the lake, on the Smiths Falls side of the village.”

“Okay, I’ll buy one. Thanks. Safe trip home.”

“Same to you. Bye.”

Tom carried the frozen fish to the caravan and put them in a plastic bag which he laid on the snow. He pulled several icicles from the caravan’s window and put them in the small ice box and added the bag of fish. Finally, he turned off the heater and closed the valve on the propane tank and locked the caravan’s door. He drove the wagon back to the road, dragged the chain across the entrance, locked it in place then headed home. The perch would make a great supper; it would be nice to eat fish he’d caught and that were so fresh.

Teaching maths, preparing and marking tests, playing tennis and the June exams filled Tom’s days and many of his evenings. He cut his mother’s grass and the grass at the cottage, took his mother to dinner two or three times each month and usually went to her place for lunch on the Sunday’s he stayed in Ottawa. He went to the National Arts Centre twice and the National Gallery once, to see a special exhibition of European Modernists. In what spare time he had he drew, then redrew, plans for the cottage, drafting a guideline to show an architect what he wanted and how big it should be. Two bedrooms. A big lounge which had to face the water and a kitchen, also facing the lake. ‘It’s a pity the bedrooms can’t also face that way.’

During the summer he played tennis three or four times each week and often went to the cottage lot, staying three or four nights each time. He continued using the outhouse but dug a dry well to take water from the caravan’s sink. Bob came over the first time he was there in July and asked him if he wanted to go fishing.

“Sure. When?”

“Tomorrow morning, for lake trout. Have you done that before? Have you got the rod and tackle to do that?”

“No. you need a strong one, don’t you?”

“Yes. Well you can use Jane’s. Did you get your licence?”

“Not yet. I’ll get one this afternoon.”

“Get a dozen minnows from the shop too. About four inches long is best, I find. Come over and I’ll give you the pail.”

They trolled along the north shore of Big Rideau, where parts of the lake were over two hundred feet deep. Bob’s fish finder showed trout about fifty feet down. The heavy ball weight quickly pulled the gang troll and it’s minnow down to that depth and they cruised slowly along the areas where the fish were.

It was slow going but Bob caught one after about an hour on the water. They fished for another hour then Bob said they’d have to stop for he and Jane had to go to Kingston that afternoon.

“You’ll get one next time Tom. In fact, you can have this one if you like.”

“No, thanks. I’ll wait until I catch one. Thanks for taking me, Bob.”

“Are you going to buy a rod and equipment?”

“Don’t know. Not yet, I think. I’ll wait until I’ve tasted the fish. I might not like them.”

“Oh, I think you will, especially the wild ones. This one started in the hatchery. See, this fin has been removed. I don’t think these taste as good as those bred in the lake.”

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