Blog: Point No Point

Pine Street Episode 83

Franny slammed her door closed behind her, startling poor Precious, who was already unsettled from their encounter with the new human at Marilyn’s house.

“Sorry, sweetie,” Franny grumbled. “But what the hell? Doesn’t that man ever finish a conversation? Does he have some genetic issue that requires him to be mysterious? Or what?”

She unhooked the little dog from the leash, took off her jacket, and opened the refrigerator door. This seemed like a moment for some stress eating if ever there was one.

They’d been close, so close to figuring out what had happened between them, and if there even was going to be a “them.” Just a few unspoken words lay between their current status and some kind of resolution.

Words that Franny had been practicing. “I understand. I forgive you. I think we should try this. I think there could be something really sweet between us.”

Ugh, she thought. Really sweet? What grown-up talks like that? And double-ugh, that she would have been so close to baring her soul to Leo, when he was clearly preoccupied with the situation at Marilyn’s house.

Again.

Marilyn had prodded Franny to fight for herself. But what does that look like, when the person you might, might (Franny emphasized in her internal monologue), might be interested in, when that person squirrels away before you can ever get close enough to throw a punch?

Not that I want to punch him, of course. Although, maybe I do. Maybe if I did, he’d at least pay attention.

Nothing in her refrigerator spoke to her in a way that indicated it could soothe her anxiety. So she opened the snack cupboard and pulled out a bag of Tim’s Potato Chips.

Much like those who are trying to quit smoking always stash a pack somewhere, in case of emergency, Franny always had a bag of Tim’s hidden away. Okay, not really hidden, because she lived alone, so there was no one (other than Precious) to hide anything from. Even so, she tucked the bag behind a few other, healthier-appearing snack foods, just to give the illusion that she might make a different choice.

But when stress hit, out came the Tim’s. And given this day, Franny decided to pull out the biggest gun of all.

Opening the refrigerator again, she withdrew the jar of peanut butter. She grabbed a spoon, a paper towel, and flopped on her comfy chair to drown her sorrows in potato chips drizzled with peanutty goodness.

Precious curled up at her feet, ready for the crumbs and drips that would make her feel better, too.

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Pine Street Episode 82

The man who had introduced himself as David went back into the house. Was it his property? Well, that seemed like the best tactic at the time. It very well could be true, he hadn’t seen the will yet. But possession was nine-tenths of the law, and David knew the law well enough to try to bend that last tenth to his will.

And Franny – she was something special. If there was anyone who would be named in the will, he thought it might be her. So, hedging bets meant making friends with her, as well.

Just as his father, Douglas, had done.

What had surprised David the most was the actual wedding. Not that he hadn’t been invited to it, that was completely within character of his noble father. He’d been shocked that the elder man had been able to convince the art professor to do it.

After all, she had terrific medical insurance from her days at the university. The marriage, legally, was all about making sure his father would be covered when it was his turn. Neither of them thought Marilyn would go first.

And that lack of anticipation of the worst case scenario was likely, very likely, to work in David’s favor. The professor had arranged her will to take care of his father. If he was lucky, they hadn’t thought about his father’s survivors.

David had hoped to surprise Douglas with this visit, but he was pretty sure Leo would call his father right away. By now, Douglas was probably figuring out how to get back over to this little house and garden that had served as his love-nest for just a few months.

David figured he could be well-settled in by the time his father arrived. He counted backwards: five, no, six years since their last encounter in person.

He’d be ready for this one. He went into the kitchen, which had been left intact. This town – he’d had no trouble finding the spare key under a flower pot, and no one had even thought to take any valuables out of the house. There was even some coffee in the cupboard, He made a pot, and unloaded the rest of his belongings from the car he’d parked down the street. Why not move in? Let his father figure out how to get him out of the house, if he really wanted to.

True Love

For this Valentine’s Day celebration of love, some words from Thich Nhat Han on what makes true love:

True love is made of maitri (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (joy), and upeksha (equanimity and nondiscrimination). True love brings joy and peace, and relieves suffering. You don’t need another person to practice love. Practice love on yourself. When you succeed, loving another person becomes very natural. Your love will be like a lamp that shines; it will make many, many people happy. (Lion’s Roar, After the Honeymoon)

strawberry plant blooming

Pine Street Episode 81

“Why did you hustle us out of there so fast?” Franny asked, although she was relieved to go. She meant Leo, but Precious was also straining at the leash to leave.

Leo didn’t answer. Once they were down the street, in front of the old green house where he lived in the basement apartment, Allison stepped off the porch to greet them.

“Everything okay?” Clearly, this was not the intimate group of a few minutes ago. They all showed signs of unsettledness.

“Fine,” Leo said. “Franny, I will call you later, okay? I promise.” He took her hand. “We have more to talk about. I know that. And we will.”

“Okay. Fine. That’s fine. Leo, I don’t understand why you have to be so mysterious. But I do understand, very clearly, that you have decided we are done with this conversation. So fine. Come on, Precious.” She tugged the little dog’s leash. “Allison, good to see you.”

And they left, kicking leaves in their wake.

Allison turned to Leo. “That went well,” she said. He stared after Franny and Precious. “Go after them,” Allison said. “You know you want to. You know you should.”

“I have something I have to do, first,” Leo said, still watching the two forms getting smaller and smaller as they retreated.

Allison squinted up at him. There were times he seemed nearly a foot taller than she was. Maybe he was that tall, and most of the time he stooped. Or maybe it all depended on her perspective. Right now, his eye level seemed barely an inch or two above hers.

“If you always have something you have to do first, you never get to the things that mean the most.” Saying this, Allison was reminded of most of the last two years of her own life. “Just once, Leo, you should try going straight to what you have to do second.”

She walked up the rickety porch steps. “I have a carpet to remove,” she said to no one in particular. “That’s my second thing I have to do, and I might as well start now.”

Pine Street Episode 80

The kitchen door to Marilyn’s house banged open. “I’m sorry,” the man who stepped out said. “I didn’t mean to spy. But you are on my property, and I was curious as to why.”

He was tall, angular, with gray eyes and dark brown, close-cropped hair. “Hello, dog,” he said. Precious relaxed her posture, just a little, but her hackles and growl did not turn themselves off, not yet. Something about his smell, though, rang a very small bell of recognition.

“Your property?” Franny said. “This house belongs to our friends. Belonged, anyway.” Scenarios flashed through her mind. Had Marilyn sold the house before she died? Had Douglas sold it afterward? Maybe Marilyn didn’t have time to change her will, and the house went to some stranger? But Marilyn had been on top of all of that. She hadn’t waited until the wedding to do anything. Her affairs were in order before Douglas and she exchanged their vows.

“Yes. My family’s property.” The man smiled in a way that rang a very small bell of recognition in Franny’s mind, too.

“We’re sorry, man.” Leo extended his hand. “I’m Leo, this is Franny. We’re good friends of the lady who died here. If Marilyn was your family, we’re sorry for your loss. She was a very good woman.”

The tall man did not take Leo’s offered hand. Instead, he focused his gray eyes on Franny. “You’re Franny? Well, it is nice to meet you, finally. I’m David.” Now he reached his right hand out, shook Franny’s hand, held it a moment longer than absolutely necessary, then shook Leo’s hand, dropping it a moment sooner than absolutely necessary.

“Finally?” Franny asked. She narrowed her gaze, trying to turn the little bell of recognition into a full note of understanding. But she could not recall ever hearing of this man before today.

“Well, we’ll let you have your space back. Again, very sorry for your loss.” Leo gathered Franny’s arm and Precious’s leash. “Sorry for intruding.”

As Leo steered them out of the garden and back to the sidewalk, David called after them. “I’m sure we’ll see one another again soon,” he said.

Now it was Franny’s turn to wonder why she suddenly had hackles.

Pine Street Episode 79

As Franny and Leo sat in Marilyn’s garden, having the conversation they’d put off all summer, and Precious sniffed her old territory with deep satisfaction, someone watched from inside the house.

Someone watched as they scooted the lawn chairs closer together, as their voices lowered, and their heads bent toward each other. As Leo put his hand on Franny’s knee, as she moved it away, then took it in her own. As she used her other hand to wipe away tears, as Leo offered her a handkerchief, an old bandanna of dark blue patterned cloth, and as she blew her nose loudly in it, triggering laughter from both of them.

Precious the dog noticed the new scent, and turned toward the kitchen door. The odor was familiar, but not completely recognizable. Like a combination of moss, alcohol, and expensive laundry soap.

She whined. The humans didn’t react. She sniffed some more, making her way toward the door slowly, uncertain why her hackles wanted to raise themselves. Living with Marilyn, and then Douglas, and then Franny, and walking the comfortable neighborhood around Pine Street, Precious had rarely ever needed her hackles. She’d nearly forgotten she had hackles.

But yes, they were raising themselves. Precious now recalled that her hackles were attached in a deeply spiritual way to the low spot in her throat where her growls started. What reminded her of this connection was the fact that she was growling. Head lowered, one front leg raised, back legs tensed slightly, ready to pounce or run, she growled at the closed kitchen door.

Now the humans noticed. “Precious!” Franny called. “Whatever is the matter?”

Leo put his finger to his lips, indicating quiet. He spoke quietly. “Hey, Precious. What’s going on, huh?” He walked slowly toward the kitchen door, from the side, not directly on. “Franny. Do you have your phone with you?” She nodded. “Get ready to dial 911.” He took a big step toward the door and called out: “Who’s there?”

Ursula

Reading her books as a young girl helped me realized the power of creativity to understand our troubles, our weaknesses, and our human potential.

Thank you, Ursula K. LeGuin

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/ursula-k-le-guin-grand-dame-of-science-fiction-dies-at-88/2018/01/23/8842ceb8-0087-11e8-8acf-ad2991367d9d_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-cards_hp-card-obit%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.88fa78c4ab72