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River of Heaven by Lee Martin

River of Heaven by Lee Martin

Author:Lee Martin
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780307407337
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Published: 2008-04-15T04:00:00+00:00


11

VERA CALLS TO MAKE SURE ARTHUR GOT TO MY HOUSE ALL right. “Just between you and me and the doorpost,” she says, “he had a little bit to drink.”

I tell her yes, he got here just fine and we’ve had a good talk and we’ve decided some things. I’m in the kitchen on the phone, and Arthur and Cal and Maddie are in the living room, playing with Stump. I hear Maddie toss the rubber horseshoe and tell him, “Get it, get it boy, fetch.”

“You two really hit it off,” Cal says to Maddie, and I can tell from the tone of his voice that he’s pleased.

Even Arthur has something to say. “He’s a good dog, but good Lord, look at that sailor suit he’s wearing. We ought to make Sammy walk the plank for putting that on him.”

Then everyone laughs, and why wouldn’t they? A basset hound in a French sailor’s suit, a rubber horseshoe hanging from his mouth.

“Looks like he’s drunk on shore leave,” Arthur says, and the laughs get louder.

I tell Vera that Maddie will be living here with me for a while. There’s a long silence. Then Vera says, “Isn’t your brother still there? Two old bachelors and a teenage girl? You know, Sam, people might talk.”

“There’s no reason.”

“Oh, there hardly ever is. Still, people in this town, well, you know.”

I don’t want to think about people and the fools we are more often than not. Instead I want to linger on the image of Stump and that French sailor’s suit and that horseshoe; I want to listen to the har-de-har-har coming from my front room. I try to make my feelings as plain as I can to Vera. “I’ve spent years living too much inside my head. Just me and my dogs. Now there’s this girl, Maddie. Having her in my house means something to me, something I can hardly put into words. She lights things up. Just having her in the house tonight makes everything different.”

“But what about Arthur? He lost his dear Bess and now this? Sam, do you really want to be in the way of him and Maddie? Don’t you think she should be living with him?”

“Eventually she will.” I feel the truth of this slice through my heart. “I just mean to smooth the way. Provide a buffer zone so the two of them can get comfortable with each other. But sooner or later, well, of course, she’ll go back to Arthur. I know that, Vera. But for now…well, now is now. That’s as far as I can see.”

Vera sighs. I hear ice cubes rattling in a glass, and I figure she’s having some Christmas Eve cheer of her own. “Have you thought as far as Christmas?” she wants to know. “You and your makeshift family? What will you do tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?”

“Just like I figured. You’ve got no idea, do you, Sam?”

“I guess not.”

“You’ll all come to my house for dinner. There, how about that, ducky?”

“All of us?”

“The whole gang. Now say good night.



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