Things started to happen in December. Doris caught Tim alone one morning, and said, “You know, I’ve remained in close touch with Vern Russell, Meredith’s psychiatrist in Boston.”
“What does he think?”
“Much what we do. She’s sort of okay, but not really. The other day, at the café, she asked me to wait a minute while she propositioned the homeless man sitting on the curb. She actually did start towards him, but then announced that it was a joke. I guess it was, but I’m never quite sure.”
“Did you tell the doctor about that?”
“Yeah. He thinks it’s time to bring her back, adjust the medication, and, perhaps, start her in psychiatry. Probably with one of his female colleagues.”
“Okay. Do you think she’ll agree to go?”
“I’m not sure. I’m telling you and Sharon before Meredith so that we’ll have a unified position in case she objects.”
In the event, Meredith agreed easily enough, and a flight was scheduled.
As a sort of joke, Doris and Meredith got dressed up for their flight. Doris said, “My grandmother’s generation always travelled in dresses, heels, and white gloves. We later discovered that nothing bad happens no matter how you dress, but we’ve decided to revert.”
Tim thought that they looked very nice, wondering, in particular, why he had never noticed how attractive Doris could be. Anyhow, they were off without incident, only a few days before the arrival of Audrey and Howie for Christmas vacation. The plan was for Diana to work with Howie on the screenplay for a week before she and Enoch left for England.
On the day of the newcomers’ arrival, Sharon had to go to the DMV to transfer the title of Enoch’s van and get a California driver’s license. It seemed like a little thing, but approaching the DMV in any state was a big thing. In California, it was a very big thing, and could take up a whole day. The upshot was that Diana drove Tim to the airport to meet Audrey and Howie in her rental car.
As they set out, Diana said to him, “I think Enoch will be safer on an airplane, even if his back gives him trouble, than out on the ocean with you.”
“I never intend to do anything dangerous. Things just have a way of working out that way.”
Diana laughed mirthlessly and replied, “That may continue to happen. My hope is that Sharon will preserve you.”
Diana than gave Tim a little thrill with a look that suggested that she wanted him to be preserved. She then added, “If it turns out that we miss all of you a lot, we’ll be back fairly soon.”
“I bet you won’t miss Wolfgang a whole lot.”
“No. Meredith made a mistake in that area, but it could have been much worse.”
“At least, Wolfgang likes us. I wouldn’t want to be his enemy.”
“I will continue to have my opinion of Wolfgang.”
It didn’t sound as if the opinion would be a good one, and Tim asked, “How’s the script for the movie coming?”
“We just have a few little things to work out. Since it’s no longer about lesbians and kayaks, Sharon’s little part has disappeared.”
“Just as well. Besides, I thought Howie would produce something interesting.”
“Very much so. When Meredith recovers and does poetry again, you’ll have a definite literary component in your group.”
Diana was generally late for things, mainly because, Tim suspected, people were so happy to see her that they accepted it. However, the plane was also late, and they all met at the baggage claim. The sight of Diana and Audrey hugging one another caused people to turn around and look. Tim greeted Howie less demonstrably, and then got a very nice burst of affection from Audrey. This time, she wasn’t wearing a clownish Salvation Army costume.
As they moved to the car, there was lots of talk about Meredith. Audrey and Howie had seen her only briefly after her return, and no one had any insights. It was Diana who said, “A remarkable thing about your group is the extent to which you can bring in reinforcements to deal with any sort of crisis.”
Howie replied, “We’ve had a lot of mini-crises to practice on, so we’re better prepared for bigger ones.”
On arriving back at the marina, Diana and Audrey went to work preparing the living arrangements. Since Tim and Sharon had already moved to the little boat, there was a lot of room in the big one.
Sharon was still at the DMV, and Wolfgang was being walked by a person from a pet sitting agency. Tim, Enoch, and Howie took a football across the road to the green space. Tim had discovered that he could still throw passes supported on one crutch, and he threw alternately to Enoch and Howie, the one not receiving playing defense. He couldn’t move well enough to catch the less accurate return throws, so the ball had to be run back to him some of the time. After they had been playing a while, Sharon returned. After greeting Howie, she announced, “I didn’t have to take the outdoors driving test, and I passed the written one.”
Tim was hardly surprised, but was surprised that Sharon seemed surprised. She explained, “I was supposed to take the booklet home, study it, and go back in a week. But I didn’t want to do that, so I took it right then and just gave common sense answers to the multiple choice questions.”
“So common sense was good enough.”
“No. It wasn’t. There are lots of quirky little things like blood alcohol allowances and rules about bike lanes. So I flunked.”
Sharon was still smiling, obviously enjoying their puzzlement, and then relented.
“After the lady scored the test, she said that I should try answering some of the questions over again. By that time, I knew the right answers, so she entered them for me and raised my grade to a pass.”
They were all laughing, and Howie said, “That was because it was you, Sharon. I’d have flunked.”
Knowing Howie’s effect on ladies, Tim wasn’t so sure. But, then, Enoch was asked the same question. He asked,
“Was the lady a white woman?”
“If she was a football fan who knew who I was, I would, very likely, have passed. Otherwise, definitely not.”
No one tried to deny it. After a moment, Sharon asked, “Is it possible that Audrey and Diana are working while the men play?
It was said with humor rather than anger, but Tim thought it better not to put Howie and Enoch on the spot by claiming that he couldn’t work with his broken leg. In the event, Sharon went to greet Audrey. Howie said, “I’m to work on the script with Diana later, but, in the meantime, we may as well keep playing.”
In fact, Howie was doing pretty well against Enoch. It might have been because Enoch had never played defense, or because he had already lost his edge, or because Howie was inspired.
Later, while Howie was editing with Diana on the big boat, Tim had coffee with Audrey in the deli. He remarked, “I guess I should tell you about the Jimmy episode.”
When he had repeated the account Sharon had given him, Audrey asked, “Who knows about this?”
“Besides myself and Sharon, only Doris. We intended to tell you and Howie, but we were afraid that Meredith, if she knew, would attempt to re-connect with Jimmy.”
“So we’re virtually forced to play God and decide what’s good for Meredith.”
“Well, I can’t really disagree. But I think she should know sometime. I do hope that she’ll end up with enough self control so that we won’t have to be totally manipulative.”
“Yeah. I did have the feeling that you might originally have thought that she just gave rise to understandable anger, and wasn’t really psychotic.”
“I probably would have thought that if I hadn’t been right there. Howie and I had bruises for a long time.”
“The other thing that’s happened since you left is that Meredith got us to produce a sex toy for her.”
“I’ve heard about it from Sharon. It’s not exactly my thing or Howie’s, but it does seem harmless. I’ve also heard that you’ve finally gotten a girl friend.”
“In a way.”
As Tim explained about Janet, Audrey listened with traces of amusement. At the end, she said, “I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be a simple straight-forward boy-girl thing. But that’s okay.”
A week later, they dropped off the rental car and took Diana and Enoch to the airport. Tim wondered if he would ever see them again. Enoch might have been thinking the same thing as he got out and said, “If England turns out to be a better country, we can set up something like the arrangement we’ve had here, and you can come over. A little more rain, but we can wear hats as we row and paddle.”
“And we’ll take up soccer and rugby. Strictly at the amateur level.”
It all seemed pretty unrealistic to Tim, but he didn’t think he could manage a formal, and perhaps final, farewell. Enoch, another reserved man, probably felt the same way.
As they drove off, Tim asked Sharon, “Do you think they’ll come back?”
“Probably not. Diana will be at home in England, and can produce her films. Enoch has never been at home in this country, and he has nothing to lose in trying a new one.”
When they got back, Tim got a call from Jane Heber, Chris’ teacher. She said, “I’ve got another young person who might be of interest to your group.”
It was the daughter of a friend, at a different high school. She had written an essay, which was good enough to be submitted for publication, on ‘young men who have no significant talent and a penchant for bad behavior.’
When Tim inquired further, Jane explained, “She’s most interested in the way societies deal with such people. She’s studied nautical towns in England in the 18th and 19th centuries, and, also, the towns adjoining American army bases. That’s where a lot of these young men end up, and the societies have a tendency to keep them as far removed from ordinary civil society as possible. The British simply kidnapped them into their navy, and America provides so few employment opportunities for them that they’re almost driven into the services. In both cases, the neighboring civilians relieve them of their money as quickly as possible and send them to sea or war. At one place, she remarks that the British ‘quite efficiently arranged to have many of them killed in their colonial and other wars.’”
“Sounds like hot stuff.”
“Indeed. A copy got out, and there was a violent reaction in the school.”
“The football players thought she had them in mind?”
“They, and a lot of others. Including the girl friends. In one incident, her glasses were ripped off and smashed on the ground. In another, her backpack was thrown into a dumpster.”
“She sounds a lot like us. Can you bring her around?”
“Yes. It’s clear that she’s not going back to the school, and so she’ll have a lot of free time.”
Because of Jane’s schedule, things were set up for the next weekend.