Up North

By the time they rolled into the parking lot at the Hoot-n-Holler, she had every detail of her move to Blackduck figured out in her head.  The chauffeur, Jason, a lanky kid no more than 20, turned around and startled her out of my planning, “We’re here,” he voiced, matter-of-factly.  Callum had already bolted out of the car and was running to the front door of the bar.  She smiled at Jason and thanked him.  “Oh gosh, Miss Foley, it was my pleasure.”  He was out the door before she could explain that her name wasn’t Miss Foley, but Miss Brandwick – having had her name changed to her stepfather’s surname when her mother remarried.  But who was she to burst his bubble, he could believe what he wanted.  And so for the entire time she was up in Blackduck, folks called her Miss Foley. 

All of three days.  Three strange, life-altering days.

Margie immediately recognized her father's voice as she walked into the Hoot-n-Holler, retelling last night's story about some brewhaha at the bar. He had a captive audience, and Margie was one of them. She didn’t see his truth-stretching or omissions as lies. They were simply his side of the story, his version, his perception – like her stories were hers. They were his truth, and she accepted that about him. And so when he did not miss a beat or a breath to come over and hug his long lost daughter, it was the proudest she'd ever been. She wished she had a picture of it. The enthralled denizens of Hoot-n-Holler, and her dad, Blackduck’s famous cook and story teller. Saviour of lost and abused children, fixer of car problems, wrangler of over-sized hogs; tight with the Law and whatever other kind of hero you can think of existing in the Northwoods of Minnesota. In her mind, that was Margie's dad. That was Jack Foley.

They ate and partied, and Jack introduced her to all the characters in town.  She caught her up with the past few years – omitting why he and Mallory (the mother of his youngest child) had divorced, of course.  She tried to ask him more about it, tried to describe what Mallory had said to her:

“You need to let your father tell you, it’s no longer my concern. When can you come and get your stuff?” but he wouldn’t hear any of it. So she let it go, and wobbled next door to the rusted-out mobile home he was renting, and made sure Callum fell asleep for the evening before wobbling back. Margie sat shyly at one of the front tables until dad wandered up to introduce her to his new girlfriend.  Another red-head, of course, like my mother and Sarah’s mother, Mallory; but much younger. Indeed, I asked where she went to school and she declared she graduated from Aitkin High School in '80.  Well, at least that was five full years my senior, and exactly 20 years his junior. It was starting to get uncomfortable, the signs were there, the bells and whistles went off in her head, but she ignored them and ordered another rum and coke, as she tended to do back then.

Margie's father was oblivious as a host, three-sheets to the wind by the time she got back, and Cathy was bugging him to leave. Dad held Cathy on his lap and she was whispering in his hear while he groped her backside. Jack was still quite a handsome bloke, and with his auburn hair and full beard, looked to be more like 40 rather than his 51 years of age. Margie hoped it was genetic.

“I’m taking you home, right now, Jack,” her voice grated on Margie – even in her inebriated state.  Think milktoast, soaked in wine, sitting in a used ashtray – and that’s what was going through her head about her. Even so, Margie didn't want to be a creepy third wheel, so she decided to stay and hang out with some of her new friends, giving Jack and Cathy some privacy.

Chemistry can be, at times, quite dangerous.  It can turn a normally mild-mannered gent into a jealous chest-thumping baboon; and a mostly straight-n-narrow single mom into a mindless, drooling sexpot. Sometimes the transformation is with such single-minded focus that it can lead to bad decisions, which can lead to even worse consequences – like ruining lives other than your own, or much, much worse, resulting in someone’s demise – yours or otherwise.  In hindsight, Margie would have agreed that one does not fuck with sexual chemistry, because once you add alcohol to that formula, there is no turning back - all bets are off, and any amateurs left in the room will be assimilated.

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