The day after the kids left, I filled a couple cardboard boxes with my stuff. The school year had been draining, with ‘no child left behind’ forced down our administrators’ throats and ejected through us, the teachers’. I blamed ‘Dubya’ when simultaneously, I knew it wasn’t entirely his fault.
But the new security gates at the entrances? Every-kid-texting-nonsense? And test upon test, feeling as if I was the one, ultimately, who’d failed. Was it all worth it?
Surely, my burn-out would be sufficiently remedied during my summer sojourn. I spent every July and August at our family home in the Adirondacks. Fly fishing was among my favorite activities. There was a calming affect in the repeated cast of the line. A lovely nod to my father and uncles in creating new flies to entice the trout. It didn’t matter if I caught anything or not, just being beside Round Pond Stream felt like home. I’d been spending summers there since I was born.
The night before I left, my ex-wife Hazel stopped by. We were on okay terms, it had been over a year since she split, and no kids to make it a messier transition. She looked fantastic in a tight gray V-neck tee, and tennis skirt. Her firm ass still beckoned, her sleek muscular legs screamed ‘touch me.’ I am much more a legs and butt guy.
“Still playing, I see?” Tried not to stare.
“Yep. Had a doubles match with Len. And the Harters.’ Remember them from the club?”
“Sure.” Len used to be my best friend. Nuff said.
She patted her hand against her thigh. “Got a beer?”
“Of course. Beck’s or Lowenbrau?”
“You pick,” she said.
Normally she’d only pop by for a quick check-in. Take Zeke, our Bloodhound, to Flanders Park. I pulled a Lowenbrau from the mini-fridge in our pantry. Well, my pantry.
“Want some pretzels with that?” I asked.
“No thanks,” Hazel said, petting Zeke. His tail wagged, as usual, to have her calm hands on his silky ears. I envied him.
We sat in the living room, she took a swig of beer. “So, how’re you doing, Hank?”
I shrugged. “Good. Glad school’s out. And I’m off to the Adirondacks next week.”
She smiled, nodded. “Nice. Anyone else joining you this year?”
“We’ll see. Sister Kate expressed some interest coming her birthday weekend in August. If so, Uncle Tony’ll probably drive her. But until then, it’ll just be me. And Zeke, of course.”
She looked around the room, still bare since she’d left. My parent’s roll-top desk and a beat-up sofa. A worn arm chair I’d rescued from St. Marks yard sale. The tree rack that Mrs. Lincoln, our school librarian loaned to me when she took pity. Hazel crossed her legs. “Hank, I miss you.”
I was shocked. This was the first sign of vulnerability Hazel showed. But what did she mean?
Zeke circled, then plopped at my feet. “I don’t know what to say.”