Chapter 16 already? I actually felt a little strange about this part because the Mr Allen in the story and my real Dad are not very much alike. Oh, Dad has his moments, ( well….had them anyway) but I tried to make this one a little more “colorful”. Everyone loved grumpy old men right? ( except little kids) Anyway, Enjoy Chapter 16…It’s all fiction after all.
The drive was peaceful. There are not many people on the road up north after 9 P.M. Every now and then a few cars would venture out onto the highway, blinding David as he drove. Tracy searched for music to try to pass the time. The trip would take about 2 hours, if there were no construction or accidents to negotiate. David had been up to Manistee several times and he knew where the Mr. and Mrs. Allen lived. Right near a state campground where David brought the family several years ago. It had been a while, but Mr. Allen’s address was still the same and David guessed that he could find it even at this late hour.
Tracy had settled on a radio station that she found tolerable. It was difficult to find any good music at this day in age. The kids always seem to find music that makes their parents hair stand up. The music that David and Tracy grew up with was now found on the “oldies” stations. It was funny that they thought their music would never be vintage, but now you have to listen through several bad outdated songs to find one that was from your time period.
They had just passed Cadillac city when the station that had been listening too for the last hour faded to static. Tracy had to find another one and the choices were becoming less and less as they moved further up north. Finally she found a station that was from Manistee. The music was a mixture of top forty and late nineties, but they reasoned it was a good gauge for detecting how close they were getting to the final destination. The station also had traffic, weather, and news to it’s credit. Tracy personally would have preferred talk radio, but all the A.M. stations were gone this late at night. As they drove through Cadillac, David started to recall some of the adventures he and Ethan had when they were younger.
“See that Burger king? Ethan and I got stranded there once when we got a flat tire. We had push the car into the parking lot to get it out of traffic. Our jack was froze up so we had no way to lift the car. It was crazy.”
“What did you do?” Tracy asked between laughs.
“Oh, Luckily we got an employee to come out and loan us his so we could get the spare on. We were back on the road.”
“Didn’t you get the tire fixed right away?”
“It’s funny you should ask that because, no, we didn’t. We spent the entire weekend with a spare tire on out rear end. No safety net. Just traveling by the seat of our pants.”
They turned down M 55 to Manistee. They should be there within the hour. David remembered the time when they went hunting up here. And reminisced the time they brought Tracy.
“Remember that? I don’t think Ethan was too happy about tagging along on that one.”
“That was when we were dating. We couldn’t keep our hands off of each other. I think it made him a little uncomfortable.” Tracy smiled at the thought.
“Remember when we took him to Big Rapids to go shoot clays on my Mom and Dad’s property?”
“Oh yeah!” Tracy nodded
“Was that the first time you shot a 12 gauge?”
“Oh no, My Dad showed me how to shoot one, but he never really took me out to hit anything with it. We just pointed it in a safe direction and shot it off. It was loud.”
“Ethan was afraid you were going to hit one of us. Especially that time you loaded the clays in the flinger and they came zipping at us.” David chuckled. It had been a while since he even thought of those stories.
“So where did you and Ethan have that great adventure that you always tell the kids about? I always thought it was around here.”
“Nope, that was up north. In the upper peninsula. I have not been there since that disaster. The second part, After Mom and Dad rescued us from up there, Took place around Big Rapids. That was the infamous “forced march on a hot summer night.” With the rain and the dogs and the cold porch of some strange house.”
“And the crazy tow truck guy, I know, I remember, you must have told the kids a hundred times. And the miles keep getting longer, the dogs bigger, the rain and lightning more violent.” Tracy was nodding her head at the thought.
“I’m telling you Tracy, it was really raining! And those dogs DID look big. I retraced the path and it was actually only 10 miles. But it seemed like 20 when it was all said and done.” David said earnestly.
It was not long before they passed by the local tribal casino when they knew that Manistee was getting close. The radio station, turned down so they could talk over it, was almost perfectly clear now. David guessed that they were 10 minutes out.
“You think he will be up at this time of night?” Tracy asked.
“I don’t think so. It’s almost 11:30! I was hoping we could just go, quietly slip it off the back and drive away.”
“What if he IS still up?” Tracy asked nervously.
“I hope not, I have not thought that far ahead. We should have a plan of action.”
Tracy and David talked for the last few minutes on what would happen if Mr. Allen suddenly came out of his house. They talked about shoving off the fridge onto his driveway and driving off. To trying to make up a really elaborate story. They both agreed that the truth, in this situation, was far less believable than anything they could make up. Hopefully, Mr. Allen would not think they were taking anything and greet them with a shotgun. What ever the plan was going to be, David and Tracy concluded that they would have to play it by ear because they were pulling down Mr. Allen’s street and would be there in mere moments.
David pulled up and into the driveway. There were lights on in the house, not a good sign. He looked at Tracy and thought for a moment what would happen if they just drove past it. They would have driven all this way and still be holding on to the fridge. Bad idea. At this point, David told Tracy that one way or another, they were not going to be taking this fridge back home with them tonight. Tracy agreed. They entered the driveway and turned off the engine.
Both sat in the cab, waiting for their next move. Should they start to unload it or should they knock on the door and see if Mr. Allen was home. David unhooked his seat belt and opened his door. Almost immediately the flood light lit up the driveway. The door to the house opened and Mr. Allen emerged. He was dressed in old jeans and a sweatshirt. He was wearing slippers.
“Who’s there?” He asked as he stood in the door way.
David cleared his throat. “Hey Mr. Allen! It’s Me, David and Tracy.”
“Oh Hi!” Mr. Allen’s voice became welcoming. “Come in! Come in!” He waved his hand. “What brings you out here at this late hour? You folks hunting up here? Or camping again?”
“Oh no. We were about to make a delivery.” David motioned with his hand toward the back of his truck. “We have a little surprise for you.”
Mr. Allen came out and looked in the back. “What is it? And what is that smell?”
David winced momentarily, then perked up. “ It’s a refrigerator. Your refrigerator! “ Tracy clicked on the outside cab light to illuminate the area.
Mr. Allen produced a flashlight from his pocket and shone it up and down the refridge. “That’s not my fridge.” He declared.
“What? Are you sure? What makes you say that?” David began to sweat. “You said you were missing one the other day.”
“This one is new. Oh, You mean you folks got me a brand new one? Oh isn’t that nice?”
David looked around in confusion. “You mean this doesn’t look like your old refrigerator?” He worded the question cautiously.
“Doesn’t look like mine, Mine was old, and dirty. And it smelled terrible.” He took a sniff around the fridge. “This one smells like lemons or something.”
“Oh that, We cleaned it off both inside and out. What do you think?”
“The kids worked on it all afternoon.” Tracy added.
“Well, I’m still not sure its mine. Does it work?”
“Of Coarse it works!” David exclaimed, without really knowing if it did. “Where do you want it?”
Mr. Allen looked around for a suitable spot. “It looks kind of heavy, I imagine we can put in here next to the garage on the driveway where the last one was. By the way, How did you guys get it?”
David looked at Tracy, This was the question they had been dreading. “Well, That is a very long story.” David began.
“Good, You can tell me over coffee after we unload it!” Mr. Allen exclaimed.
Tracy jumped out of the truck and into the back. It was obvious that this response was acceptable. Mr. Allen was willing to take it back and they were going home without it. All for the small price of a visit. Coffee and stories were David specialty. And what ever facts got in the way of the story, David would just omit them or make them up. “I’ll shove it off if you guys want to pull it!” She smiled.
Before long David and Mr. Allen slipped it off the truck and stood it on the paved driveway. They rolled it back to the original spot next to the garage. David even noticed that the rust spots of the cement matched the location of the wheels perfectly. If Mr. Allen was uncertain about owning the refrigerator , David was positive.
“That will do it, I now have a place to put my bait.” Mr. Allen dusted off his hands.
“Bait? Hey! That is a great idea.” David stood up stretching his back.
“Yeah, I’ll be a little more careful with this new one. The last one I had, Ethan got me about 10 lbs. Of trout spawn, from when he was working at the fish hatchery. Anyway, the thing was frosting up cause it was one of those old models, So I decide to defrost it. Low and behold, I forgot that the eggs were in there. And a couple dozen crawlers from that summer. Man, did it smell bad.”
David and Tracy were careful to conceal their emotion at the final mystery being solved. David nodded his head while stroking his chin, and Tracy shook her head in mock disbelief. ‘”That must have been Awful!” Tracy acknowledged.
“Oh yeah, I got Ethan to help me move it outside so it would not stink up the house so much. He has been bugging me to get rid of that thing ever since. Now that I have this new one, I won’t be needing that smelly thing anymore.”
“Well, I hope you like it.” David and Tracy smiled.
They all went inside for the coffee Mr. Allen had offered. David noticed that the house was pretty much like the old one when they lived in Grand Rapids, but it was smaller. Regardless, It looked like the Allens had kept all their original furniture and tried to cram it all into their living room. There was barely room to walk through.
They sat at the kitchen table while Mr. Allen put on a fresh pot of water. He had to push off stacks of old papers, mail and a number of medicine carousels to clear some space for his company. He broke out some Oreos as a supplement to the coffee. David looked around and could see why Ethan was clearing stuff out of his Dad’s home. There was so much clutter that no one could walk through it. By the look on Tracy’s face, She must have had the same thought.
Soon the coffee pot was screaming and they all had a cup of hot instant coffee with their cookies. David started telling the story how they had gotten this refrigerator, but then quickly changed the subject to talking about the kids and the fire department. It appeared that Mr. Allen barely noticed that the subject changed and was listening and laughing as they reminisced about the good old days. Tracy smiled at David’s ability to entertain with stories that were half real mixed with half elaboration. She was careful not to interrupt him.
“So why are you up so late anyway? I half expected we would end up leaving the fridge for you to find it in the morning.” David said
“Oh, I usually stay awake late on Saturdays. I don’t know why but I have been taking long naps in the afternoons lately. I get up early in the morning, take my medicine and do some chores around the house. Then I settle in with one of my books. I read till I get sleepy then I take a nap. By the time I get up, It’s usually supper time. I like taking naps, but I usually end up staying up later than I planned.
David and Tracy nodded. “So when was the last time you heard from Ethan?” Tracy asked.
“A week ago I think, As a matter of fact, He is coming up tomorrow. It’s too bad you didn’t drop that thing off a day later, you could have caught him.”
David and Tracy looked at each other. Both looking relieved that they had chose to bring the refrigerator tonight. Tracy looked at her watch. They had spent well over an hour there. “Oh my ! Look at the time! David we had better get back to the kids.” She looked at David with the eye signal that it was time to go.
“Oh yeah, it’s getting pretty late.” David stood up and pushed the chair back under the table. “Well thanks for the coffee, and we hope we didn’t keep you up too late.”
“Oh not at all, I don’t get a chance to talk to many people anymore. It was fun seeing a familiar face. Hey! You should bring up the kids one of these days and go fishing. I still fish with your uncle ya know. He lives just down the road. Don’t be a stranger.”
He walked them out to the driveway and continued to talk till they climbed into the truck and started it up. David and Tracy waved as they backed up into the road and flicked on the lights. It was still a long way back home and they had had a very full day. Mr. Allen waved back until he could no longer see the truck lights. The night air was quiet once again.