Lavinia M. Hughes Word Count: 1,733
775 East Falmouth Highway
East Falmouth, MA 02536
By Lavinia M. Hughes
Another 10-hour day, Kate fussed to herself as she put away the vacuum cleaner, pulled the files for the next work day’s patients, gathered her things, and headed for the door of the dental office. She locked it behind her and walked to her 10-year old car, parked in front. I suppose that he should hire more help, but then I’d have to be the one to train her. The hygienist tries to help out but every office I’ve been in, she’s treated like visiting royalty, she groused to herself.
She worked Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Weekdays never finished before 6:00 pm. Saturdays were supposed to be the easy day—8:00 am to Noon. She never got out at noon, more like 2:00 pm what with all the dental emergencies that took precedence over the regularly scheduled patients. She ruminated that these people neglect their teeth big time, then when they start to ache, demand to be seen immediately. Oh well, that’s what we do here—try to alleviate pain.
The small town in which she worked thought of itself as a classy town, with bucolic pastures, expensive homes, nice little restaurants, and golf courses. It was where residents of the city next door aimed to be in life, someplace quiet and peaceful. Then, of course, you had the real country people who were long-time residents of the town and had a different outlook on work and keeping up their properties. They were the ones who were usually the emergency patients. The eccentric patients made it fun in Kate’s estimation. Like the woman who always had dental emergencies with her crowns falling off but routinely showed up in a black negligee and slippers. The fur coat she wore over this getup didn’t really hide that fact.
Kate drove back to her small apartment and made herself a simple supper usually consisting of one veal patty and some string beans. For some reason this limited diet didn’t result in model-like thinness but at least she tried and most of her clothes still fit. She was exhausted from the long 10-hour days and her legs were killing her from all the standing, despite the sturdy nurse’s shoes she wore. She decided that she needed to get away and planned to call her parents to see if she could stay at the cottage for the long weekend, since Monday was a holiday and, for once, she had Saturday off.
“Hi, Mom. Is anyone staying there this weekend? I need to decompress.”
“Hi, honey. Just your brothers. You can have the better guest room if you get here first.”
“I think I will. If you don’t mind, I’ll bring my laundry. We can hang out while it’s washing.”
“That’s fine. But pick up some laundry soap, as I’m just about out. By the way, Dad’s friend, Bob, just dropped off a half dozen live lobsters. We can boil those up. I have plenty of butter, potatoes, and corn-on-cob to have with it.”
“Ooh, that sounds great. But you cook the lobsters. Lobsters waving their claws around freak me out.”
“No problem. You always were a bit skittish.”
“OK, see you, Mom.
She filled up her old but trusty car with gas and headed down to the cottage, a half-hour trip, making a few stops to pick up the laundry soap, then at a bakery that sold French Apple Squares, an apple pie square with raisins and topped with icing and declared the most awesome dessert by Kate and her brothers. Kate loved driving the back roads, as they were scenic and dotted with dairy farms, antique diners that were there so long her mom ate there with her own dad as a child, a candy kitchen that she was pretty sure was staffed by a distant cousin, and old colonial buildings that were a few hundred years old. There was little traffic on the winding country road except a few RVs and ice cream trucks. Veering off at a fork in the road off the main road, she drove through a densely wooded area, then took a right, drove over an old bridge, then another left at the liquor store, then a right down a creepy road—where she remembered four of her high school classmates ran off the road and all died in a car crash—past an abandoned house that the local kids were sure was haunted, then another left and finally the last mile to “The Cottage” as it was simply termed by the family.
The Cottage used to be a barn on a lake in a nearby town. Kate’s grandfather bought it, disassembled it, and brought it to a big lot on “the Point” as the peninsula was called and rebuilt it. It had an outhouse (“not charming,” said Kate to people who thought it was charming. “Not charming at all.”) The house also used to have a pump in the kitchen next to a big farmhouse sink. After priming it in the morning by pumping it up and down a few times, a gush of water came out. One pump would fill up a stockpot. Kate’s parents finally got running water and a proper bathroom when she was in high school, which made things much better, at least in Kate’s finicky opinion.
Kate laughed to herself when she thought about their first attempt to install an indoor toilet. The family had visited the World’s Fair and bought a “Destroylet” supposedly the latest thing in waste management. It was like lighting waste on fire and blasting it noisily to an outside vent. The noise was horrific, like an airplane taking off, and the smell was worse. Her family thought the short-lived incident was hilarious, in retrospect. Any one of them could just say the word “Destroylet” and they’d all burst out laughing. Luckily the neighbors on that side of the house had a sense of humor. Or did they?
But for all the quirks of The Cottage, it was a place of peace for the family. Knotty pine walls, a giant kitchen newly added, an enclosed porch across the front that gave one a view of the brackish river on which it sat, antique furniture—the kind you could sit on with a wet bathing suit and no one cared—a hammock suspended from the ceiling, a big lawn that swept down to the river, which did smell strongly of low tide when the tide went out . . . it was the perfect place to decompress, hang with the family, and read a book. One could watch the boats go by as well as the swans that lived there.
Kate’s two brothers, whom she hadn’t seen for a while, showed up shortly after she arrived. They began to catch up on work, relationships, and college courses, all talking excitedly at once as was their wont, as Kate’s mom boiled up the lobsters.
Kate’s younger brother Mickey, just home from the Navy, regaled them with tales of being assigned to fly admirals in his plane from Japan to his base in the Philippines. Mickey had, after completing survival training in California, traveled all over the Pacific, including Japan (“very clean and organized with little crime”), Australia—where he saw kangaroos on the beach—Tasmania, and Oman in the Middle East—where he was briefly blindfolded and detained as he was gassing up the plane (now you tell us, Kate said). He then decided to tell his siblings about the crash landing when the plane’s brakes failed. Somehow Mickey made it seem adventurous and not frightening. He now worked as an auto-body mechanic and was in the Naval Reserve, repairing helicopters.
Kate’s older brother, Evan, had driven from Massachusetts to Florida to work in drywall with a friend. After a falling out with his friend, he decided to drive across country, ending up in Colorado and living in a dorm for the summer, then traveling to California, then Mexico, with a friend. His friend had the audacity to ask a Mexican sitting in front of a bar, “Hey, why are Mexicans so short?” To which the Mexican narrowed his eyes at him and replied “We may be short, Signor, but our knives are long.” Evan had enrolled in college when he returned from Mexico and was already halfway to his business degree.
Kate had just gotten back from a trip to Florida with a friend. They had visited Disney World, then drove to Miami, staying in a hotel on the beach, then drove to Ft. Lauderdale to visit all the night clubs they were specifically told by some male friends NOT to visit. After visiting a few of these places, they knew why, as the inhabitants seemed sinister.
On Sunday, a few of Kate’s mother’s cousins arrived for a mini-family reunion. Kate liked to hear the story of how her cousin met his British wife. She always addressed them as Aunt and Uncle.
“Uncle Ralph, tell me again how you met Aunt Julie.”
“Well, I was an Army Captain and stationed in London. In WWII they used to billet the officers with families. Your Aunt Julie’s house was my assigned quarters. Once I met her and enjoyed her sparkling personality, we just clicked.”
Aunt Julie replied, “Yes, a big American got me out of my doldrums. The war was so hard on everyone—the bombs, the injuries, the food shortages. Your Uncle Ralph took me away from that, like a fairy tale where the prince marries Cinderella.”
“Do you miss England, Aunt Julie?”
“Not really. America is my home now.”
Even though she’d heard the stories before, Kate then peppered them with questions about traveling to Europe on ocean liners for vacation trips to China and Sweden.
Aunt Lil and Uncle Hubert arrived as they were discussing trips and joined in the discussion, detailing their cross country trip decades before. The trip to California took them through the desert; it was the trip of a lifetime for them.
So far all of the travel to exotic places, on which all of them had embarked, with more trips planned, they all agreed, it just doesn’t get any better than this, as they sat together on old lawn chairs on a scruffy, sandy, poor excuse for a lawn, and watched the swans swim by adding elegance to a simple cottage on a brackish river.
# END #