Up North

Cross-posted from www.drumrollthenovel.wordpress.com:


“What is it about being in love with someone, and not feeling that we’re good enough to deserve it that makes someone act like a complete idiot? People drink too much, say stupid shit, get too high, too demanding; and the inauthenticity? Disguise and desperation…thick with machinations and manipulations that I can barely stand looking at some people – we must be a source of pure entertainment for the truly enlightened, either that or a real cause for alarm, because surely they’ve already thrown their hands up in the air and called “game over.”

Jack laughed heartily at Margie’s complaint. “Right you are, darling daughter, you have no idea how right you are.”

Years later, Margie travelled to the Hoot-n-Holler Grill where her father worked. Located just off the main drag, a stone or two’s throw southeast of International Falls, it was a hidden, raucous paradise for Northern Minnesotans; as well as those brave enough to endure the 6 hour car ride to the middle of nowhere.  She was about to turn 27, and thought it would be a great idea to accept another of her father’s invitations to visit.  It was the dead of Summer, and they were having a pig roast, after all, food and spirits would be flowing freely, and as a struggling single mom, she wasn’t about to turn down either.  All she needed was gas money and maybe some duck tape to string up her front bumper a bit better – because that’s what she had determined was her car’s issue du jour.  The Subaru hatchback had gotten more jiggly the faster she drove, so she taped up the bumper, strapped her kid into the back seat and set out for the wilderness – the North Country.  Callum, her very inquisitive five-year old, didn’t seem too concerned with the shimmying vehicle.  In fact, they made a game out of it, singing songs and shaking their bodies to the music the whole way up.  Well…almost.  They broke down on the highway, just outside Blackduck – just shy of their destination.

“Well, hullo there Sunshine.  You’re a ways from home.”

The state patrolman, who’d obviously ran her plates while she spent those 10 minutes ramming her head against the steering wheel.  She stopped just long enough to catch a glimpse of Patrolman 57, a stout man, tuck-launching out of his vehicle from her rear view mirror.  She could tell he was burning the calories to do it.  The spitting image of W.C. Fields in a State Patrol Uniform, she expected to smell the alcohol before he actually reached the car window.  She was not disappointed.

“Hi.  Yes, I’m so glad to see you officer, my car… it just … stopped.  I'm on my way to visit my father – he’s the cook at the Hoot-n-Holler.  Do you know it?”

“Who’s that,” he inquired thoughtfully, and so slowly, she could barely keep my head from rolling back in dramatic exasperation, “Tony?  You Tony’s little girl?”

“Oh.  No.  I’m Jack’s daughter.  Jack Foley.  He told me he was the cook up there.” Her voice was becoming terse.

“Jackie!  Of course! You’re Jackie’s daughter... just located not too long ago, ya?  Well congratulations, I’ve heard all his stories of you finding each other.  You musta been so shocked, what a beautiful story!” 

He sounded absolutely jubilant, and draped his arms above the car window before leaning in a bit, his gut not 3 inches from the tip of her nose.  She didn’t have the heart to tell him that she didn’t “just” meet her father – he did indeed finally locate her after abandoning her and my mother while she was an infant, but it was going on a good 12 years now that they'd been developing a relationship.  She smiled at that.  Her father, the ultimate story teller, sacrificing timelines in order to entertain the masses.  Too bad he couldn’t make money doing it.  Although, he really was a fantastic cook.  Everyone said so.

“Your dad is up there right now workin' some kinda voodoo with one of the biggest hogs I ever seen.  A fantastic cook.  You are too, I hear.”

His drawl was almost southern, so slow and predictable.  She could tell he was writing something, or looking up something.  “I’ll be right back, just sit tight, and don’t worry, we’ll take care of everything.”  He tapped on the glass before he walked back, peering in to wave at the boy, before walking back to his car to call in a tow truck.  And he made good on his promise, too.  Her father had sent one of the kids to come and pick them up, while the patrolman waited for the tow truck and escorted it to a local repair shop – who fixed it.  For free. It seemed everyone helped each other out up there.  Everyone knew everybody, including Margie.  For the first time in a long time, well, in her life maybe, she felt special.  A tiny celebrity in a tiny town. Maybe she should stay, she thought, find a simple job and a decent man.  Lord knows the men up there outnumbered women two-to-one – maybe more.  Yes, she thought, she could do this.  At that point in her life, she didn't think she had anything better to do.

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