Friday, May 16, 2014

Emerald City



   After the stop at the falls, Mary and Sean drove south, then back on the other side of the Hood Canal—ending up on Bainbridge Island. The town was crowded on a Sunday afternoon, filled with both locals and day trippers.

   “Sean, I’m hungry… ”

   “A piece of cold toast isn’t enough for you to make it through the day?” Sean laughed.

   “Hitchcock is a good place to eat. It’s down at the end of the block.”

   “It’s a little past four. They won’t start serving until five. What do you want to do till then? There is a museum, a museum about the island, on the other block. Here’s a good bakery here… ”

   “No, I don’t need any of those empty calories. Let’s check out that museum, how bad could it be?”

   The museum was nearly empty.  There was a small theater where a DVD player was playing a documentary about the Japanese-Americans who had been sent to concentration camps during World War II.  Mary and Sean watched it for a while until Mary whispered: “Now I know how bad it can be, this is really depressing, even if Ansel Adams did the photography.” They left the theater and went into the main part of the museum; it was filled with lumbering and fishing artifacts, tools of the trade for the industries which had built the island.

   “I wonder how much of our ‘stuff’ will be in museums a hundred years from now?” Sean said,. “Do you think anyone will be interested in a keyboard, or a laptop, or, heaven help us, a server?  The people who lived here worked with their hands, made things, caught food to eat. What we do seems awfully abstract.”

   “I doubt if our ‘stuff’ will have any value ten years from now, much less one hundred,” said Mary. “I wonder if what I have done for a living so far will retain any of its appeal?  Spying on philanderers and cheats isn’t the most fulfilling use of one’s time. It’s kind of pervy.”

   “Only if you enjoy it. Thinking of cashing out? What would you do? You’re too young to retire. I’ve never seen you golf.” Sean was serious, not in the least bit glib.

   “I’ve been thinking about it, Sean. What do regular people do to fill their time?  Watch cable TV, do crafts, drink?  It all gets pretty old.”

   They stopped in front of two framed pictures. Each frame contained individual pictures of the Senior Class of Bainbridge High School; one was the class of 1941 and the other was the class of 1942.

   “The class of ‘41 has the Japanese-Americans kids, The class of ‘42 doesn’t,” Mary said. “A whole group of people is suddenly made invisible—simply locked away.  Because of who their parents or grandparents were. Sean, who were your grandparents? What was it they did that made you want to become invisible, ending up as a spook, working for me?"

   Sean thought about her question before he began to speak. “My mother didn’t talk much about her mother and she didn’t talk about her father at all. My aunt Tina, in Iowa, would know. On the Senator’s side, all I know is what I’ve read in Wikipedia. He is from an old Southern family, old money.  You were adopted, it must be a different situation for you.”

   “It was. I have never looked for my parents, much less my grandparents. Their legacy is written all over my body. How come you’ve never talked to me about skin color?”

   “I… I don’t know what I’d say. I like your skin.”

   “That’s a good answer… to a different question. It will do for now. Let’s get something to eat.”

   The restaurant was nearly full by the time they got arrived. It was a trendy place, but Sean was a little peeved at the Boomer Muzak on the sound system.

   “Why is 70s rock the de facto playlist in places like this? I mean a little CSN can be nice, but does it have to be every other song?” Sean said.

  “Huh. I don’t pay much attention to it. I never have. Classic rock? Must be classic for a reason. I’m more of a riot grrrl, Liz Phair was my favorite when I was a teen.”

   “You’re not drinking tonight, Mary?”

   “No, I’m not in the mood.”

   Their food came and they began to eat.

   “Sean…” Mary began, “Sean… I think I know what the answer to my question is.”

   “What question?”

   “Back in the museum, the question about what normal people do with their lives, to fill the time.”

   “What?”

   “They have kids.”

   A big gap in the conversation followed her remark. The Muzak began playing CSN’s Our House.

   “Sean, why do you think that Icelandic woman sent you that picture? And no letter?”

   Sean had been thinking about it all day.

   “I don’t know, Mary. Should I talk to her? Should I go back to Iceland?”

   “We can talk about that after the sale goes through. We’ll talk about everything then.”

   It was dark by the time Mary and Sean drove on to the ferry. After they were under way they walked to the front of the line of cars, to the bow, where they could see the city approaching across the sound.

   “Seattle looks like a magical place tonight, Mary, it’s as if it were The Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.”

   “Beautiful… oh God,” said Mary, “Everything is changing… I feel as if it is the beginning of a new life.”





Fiction

By Professor Batty