USGN, Chapter Five
It’s a short chapter.
Skip sat in the front passenger seat next to the driver, Samson, while Evelyn sat in the back. He had gleaned that it wasn’t appropriate to sit next to her in the back seat. She was, after all, a married woman, and he a confirmed bachelor.
The seating arrangement didn’t make for the most suitable environment for easy, flowing conversation, though they did exchange a couple of stray observations shouted over the noise of the engine.
Once they began to draw closer to town, Skip felt his excitement bubbling up. He felt like a child who was so often left at home and because of his good behavior, was suddenly allowed to join his parents on an excursion. I suppose Evelyn is my mother and Samson is my father, he thought. He placed himself in this fantasy until the car stopped and the door opened. He followed suit. He looked into Samson’s eyes and could tell there was a sense of disappointment. Skip never really cared for being waited on or having things done for him that he could do himself.
Evelyn, however remained perfectly still until the door was opened for her and she could step outside.
Skip had a limited amount of experience with the town. He had merely stepped off the train and gone straight into the car. The main street was limited in scope, but well-structured and clean. They walked together on the side of the street and admired the various shops and businesses.
“Is there anything you need, Mr. Wilson?”
“Not necessarily. Sometimes, though, I’m not sure I need something until I see it.”
“My husband is much the same.”
They walked. Past McGue’s Fine Linens, Parker Hardware, the Post Office.
“When was the last time you traveled outside of Louisiana?”
“Oh, gee. Well, let’s see. I’m not sure. We go back and forth across the Southern states. We spent most of last summer in Georgia. Other than that, I went to New York with my parents. We saw some shows on Broadway. I must have been twelve or thirteen.”
“Is that so surprising?”
“Well, in a way. Most people of your… ilk, seem to try and find any excuse they can to go anywhere they can.”
“My parents were a bit different, I suppose. Working people.”
“Well, my father worked in the family business and my mother tended the home. She was very involved in the church. They didn’t really allow much time for recreation.”
“That’s so surprising to me!”
“And what about you, Mr. Wilson? When was the last time you stayed in the same place for longer than a season?”
“That’s a good question. I can’t quite remember.”
“Different strokes,” she said. “I’ve got to go in here.” Skip looked up and saw that they were in front of a notary. “There is a shop across the street that sells the most beautiful leather bound goods.”
“I’ll take myself over there, then.”
“Let’s meet at the grocery in a half an hour.”
Though surprised at the length of time proposed, Skip agreed and strode across the street, paying no attention to Evelyn, not noticing that she didn’t enter the notary building.
They wandered the aisles of the grocery. Evelyn assured Skip he could pick out anything he wanted. It indeed felt like the life of a child suddenly allowed to run wild. However, Skip suffered from that unnamed condition where once he was faced with an endless number of choices, he became stuck in a state of confused paralysis.
After she filled the basket with more coffee than seemed necessary and a smattering of other dried goods, they went to checkout and then headed back to the car.
There wasn’t much else to do in town, though Evelyn asked if there were any other stops they needed to make. There wasn’t, and Skip felt a sense of disappointment washing over him as they headed back home.
Overall, the entire trip so far had been a disappointment. He expected to be lulled into inspiration, or at least distracted enough to notice he wasn’t getting enough work done. Neither were true. He began to invent reasons that might take him home. The easiest? A family member has passed away. He then imagined saying this to Evelyn who had tragically lost both of her parents. My agent desperately needs to see me. In person. To sign a contract. If she would believe that, she’d be the most gullible person on Planet Earth.
The car bobbed and bounced along the uneven roads, until they approached Cumberland Heights, where the roads were much more well-maintained.
Skip sighed, not fully aware.
“Is something the matter, Mr. Wilson?”
“Ah- oh, no, nothing is wrong. I think I’m just tired, is all.”
“Nothing beats a midsummer nap.”
“You might be right. Evelyn- Mrs. Smith?”
“Yes, Skip- Mr. Wilson?”
“I think tomorrow I’d much like to spend the day alone. I can’t quite seem to get a jumpstart on my writing.”
Silence hung in the air. He hoped he hadn’t offended her.
“Would you like the car? I don’t think I’ll need it tomorrow.”
“That would be fantastic. Thank you.”
“No problem at all.”
They finally arrived back at the house. Skip got out and opened the door for Evelyn himself, he supposed to thank her for his upcoming day of independence. They walked inside together and Skip hesitated. He felt some sort of strange obligation to spend more time around her, but before he could say anything, she said, “I hope you find your nap refreshing. I’ll be down here if you need anything.”
“Thank you,” he said, and made his way upstairs. He sat on the bed for a moment. The air was hot and muggy and stagnant, so he opened his window. Though it felt improper as a guest, he undressed completely and removed the blanket from his bed. He covered himself with the sheet and closed his eyes.
As he was falling asleep, he saw images fade in and out. The dining room table, covered with food. Evelyn’s green dress. Mr Smith, standing in the kitchen, box of corn flakes in hand.