Ah, Finally getting there. This was how I imagined My real father would have reacted to this scenario. It’s mostly right. Things like this DID happen ( people showing up at odd hours) and Dad thought it was totally normal. My father was also Color blind. And Old.
I guess there is a protocol that is set whenever you reach a certain age. Old men tend to wear the same thing. Usually a mish mash of clothes from casual jeans with a Sunday dress coat. With bathrobe and slippers to match it all up. And they think they are “fashionable!” Well, never mind the things that old men become when they become old. I though this was a cool way to voice my observation without being too rude about the many “quirks” my Dad developed after he retired. ( along with many other Old men I have watched over the years) Enjoy Chapter 17…
It was a cool morning and the sun was already illuminating the landscape as Ethan Drove the familiar route to visit his father. He enjoyed these mornings. He was usually a night person, but on this one day each week, he would get up, drink some coffee, and drive a pleasant drive up to see his Dad. It was the best way to keep in touch. Since his Mother died, his Dad was all alone and his brother lived even further from his Dad’s house then he did. He felt better checking up on the old man, even if he could be grumpy or stubborn from time to time.
On these little visit days, It was essential to do something when he was there. Something that his Dad usually didn’t or couldn’t do himself. Sometimes he would help his Dad cut and load up firewood for the long Manistee winter. Other times they would fix something at the property that required two people. But most of the time, Ethan would help the old man clean up and organize his house.
Ethan always felt more of an urgency to work on this job than his Father. Dad’s reason was that Ethan was throwing away his entire life. Ethan’s thought was that his Dad should not have to hang on to old useless ( i.e. Broken) furniture and appliances. Either way, it was typical that little ever got accomplished.
Ethan would beg and plead and sometimes force his Dad to part with some broken chair or old separated can of paint. But sometimes, Dad would change his mind at the last moment or go back through the garbage and reclaim what had been thrown away. It was usually an uphill battle.
The miles drifted away as Ethan listened to the local morning news shows that gave weather and traffic reports every 10 minutes. Not that that was required traveling up north. The roads were usually clear of traffic and the weather seldom changed along the lake shore. If it was raining or snowing, you would know about it well before the news told you .
Regardless, Today was going to be sunny and possibly warm. September was a great time of year to go up north. The fall colors were in full swing and the seasonal temperature was still mild. Hunting season had just started and perhaps they would go walk around on the property and kick up some game if they got bored.
As he traveled along the highway, He smiled at his great conspired scheme to help his Dad finally get rid of that big stinky refrigerator. It had gone exactly as planned. In fact, Better! He actually thought that he would have to dispose of it totally solo. The pure blind luck and fortune that David Noorman would not only be home, AND awake at that late hour, AND willing to help him bury it, was a blessing from heaven. It was like God had sent some divine guidance showing him the way and helping him in the process. It was after it was finally in the ground that Ethan had Truly thought that he had finally done the right thing.
It was difficult trying to help Dad clean up his house. The house itself really was not dirty so much as cluttered. Cluttered with old newspapers, and mail and nick knacks that took up every bit of counter space. Not to mention the old furniture crammed into the living room and bedroom. As much as he begged and pleaded with his dad to get new furniture he always got the same responses: The old stuff is still good, there is no room for the new stuff, I plan on fixing that broken stuff, Or best of all, That was your mother’s favorite plant stand. There was always a reason to keep the clutter where it was. If he complained about how there was no walking room, Ethan would point out that there could be if he got rid of some furniture that was not used.
None of the furniture actually matched. It was a patch job of old hand me downs, unfinished sets and gifts from friends and family. Dad would always reason that there never was enough seating for company. But Ethan could not remember the last time dad entertained over 20 people! This mattered little. The fact was, that Dad wanted more room and a cleaner house but would refuse to recognize that it was the clutter that was the real issue.
Even with all these arguments, Ethan had scored some minor victories. He had gotten his Dad to burn up there old tattered room rug that had been rolled up in the barn for several years. It had thankfully gotten some mice to set up home in it and even to dad was now useless. Ethan had thought it useless for years even before the mice had tore it up. Even then Dad did not want to burn it up. He thought they should take it to the dump. A clever ploy to put it off and ultimately, never get rid of it.
Then there as the time he had gotten rid of the old blue Buddha lamps. A horrifically tasteless find Ethan’s mother had scored at some garage sale. They were the blight and eyesore of the house furnishings for nearly 20 years! When offered better lighting, Mom had set the Buddhas up so they could still be seen. They clashed with everything, the paneling, the floor, the other lights. After Mom died, Ethan thought he could finally get rid of them as a matter of principle. Even Dad agreed on that one. He also secretly hated them in silence for years, but never dared to voice his opinion to Mom. Even then, Ethan had to tell him that he might be able to sell them online or give them to good will.
The sun was fully over the horizon now and the light set the entire landscape with a fiery glow. Ethan would be there soon. He wondered if Dad had even noticed that the Refrigerator was gone. He never used it, no matter what he had said before. If his dad had not unplugged it inside on his carpeting to defrost it, it might still be there taking up way too much space. After they moved it outside, Dad was the first to comment on how much roomier the living room felt. Ethan volunteered to take it out to the property but Dad refused saying they would take it to the dump later. When later finally came, They both called around and found out that the land fills no longer take refrigerators because of the environmental impact they have. It was then that Ethan had hatched his plan.
He came up to Manistee with the truck on a day he knew his dad would be in elsewhere. He tipped it over till it was in the back of the truck and bungeed a blue tarp over it to conceal it from any snooping neighbors. He then planned on burying it on state land.
Ethan had worked for the DNR for several summers while he was in college. One of their daily duties was to drive around state land and parks and help clean up the dump sites. People would select local parking places to dump their garbage all the time. Garbage ranged from bags of trash to sofas and old dryers and washing machines. Of coarse there was a fine, But without any eye witnesses or identification on the garbage, there was no way to fine the perpetrator.
The plan still had its bumps. It had to be done before hunting season. And had to be done under cover of darkness. These were major hurdles and he would have to find a place that was relatively easy to dig. Another person would be most helpful when it came down to the digging. But he had to be prepared to do it solo if he had to.
Luckily, David and Ethan were reunited one last time to pull off the caper. It had gone so flawless, Ethan suspected no one would ever know what had transpired. And with the refrigerator out of site, He suspected that his father would never know it was missing. And even if he did miss it, he would never know where to find it so he could dig it back up. The entire operation was so flawless, Ethan secretly wished he could tell someone just to brag about it.
He pulled into Manistee and would soon be pulling into Dad’s driveway. The traffic was slowly picking up as people began their daily routines. He passed by the market, then the restaurant where he and dad would usually go out to breakfast. He turned at the burger king and headed down the road. HE was mindful to watch his speed through the local speed trap as he completed the final leg of his journey. Dad lived rather close to the lake Michigan lakeshore. Ethan stared out over the glistening waves as they rolled in. It looked like it was going to be a calm day.
He turned at the next right and slowed to the residential 25 MPH. People were already up and walking their dogs or by themselves soaking in the cool fall air. He slowly approached his Dad’s house. The house was fairly conspicuous. It had a boat in the front yard with a small wooden windmill as lawn decoration. It was located at a corner and down a slight hill. He pulled into the driveway and glanced up and the garage, expecting to feel a small sense of pride and possibly a slight pang of regret as to the secret operation that would never be known. Operation: Bury Smelly Fridge would go down in the annuls of history as the best kept secret operation that Ethan and David had pulled off and no one would ever know about it. No witnesses, no evidence, nothing but a glorious memory.
Instead, Ethan glanced up to not see a empty space as the only testament to the undertaking.
But rather a tall rusty Blue Refrigerator, A Blue Refrigerator that should no longer occupy that specific spot along side the garage. A Blue Refrigerator that should have been rusting 4 feet below the ground somewhere in Yankee Springs roughly 200 miles from here. A Blue Refrigerator that was the entire reason Ethan had rousted David to help him dispose of it. The very same Blue Refrigerator that should not be there.
Ethan unclicked his seatbelt and walked up to the garage. It certainly looked like the same refrigerator. He opened the door and inspected the insides for the sure unique fingerprints that set this refrigerator apart from every other one on the planet. There was a stain on the bottom inside with drips down the door. And there was no mistaking the smell. A smell that was also unique to this refrigerator. A smell that was mingled with something else. Car soap? It didn’t matter. The fact was that this refrigerator should not be here. It was not a dream that transpired that evening just five nights ago. It was real and Ethan had the gas bill and sore back the next day to prove it. He turned back toward the house and walked up to the door. Dad was sure to be up by now and was most likely waiting for him. He had some questions to answer.
Ethan knocked on the door then opened it. Dad’s white cat took the opportunity to bolt out before Ethan had the chance to close it.
“Snowball! Baaa you bad cat!” Mr. Allen called out after her.
“Hey pop! You’re up!” Ethan came in closing the door behind him.
“Waiting for you.” He took a sip of his coffee “Want some coffee?” He lifted his cup in a hospitable gesture.
“What’s the deal with the fridge?” Ethan asked still standing by the door.
Mr. Allen shuffled over to the window facing the garage. “What fridge?”
“That fridge!” Ethan pointed to the blue refrigerator standing at attention by the garage.
“Oh that! I was thinking about switching that one with the one inside” . Mr. Allen beamed a smile and lifted his coffee to his lips. “It’s new! “
“It’s NOT new! It’s the same old refrigerator that was there before!” Ethan declared.
“No it’s not. The old one was older. I think it was blue.”
“That one IS blue! Can’t you tell? Come out here and look.” He opened the door and the two walked over to the aged appliance.
“Ok, It’s blue, I guess I never could tell colors very well. So it’s blue. They make lots of blue refrigerators.”
“Yeah, Like lemons!” Mr. Allen shot back.
“Like lemons and rotten fish bait! Dad! This is the same refrigerator! This is not a new one. It’s not even different! It has the same stain in the bottom!” He opened the door to show off the discoloration permanently bonded with the yellowed plastic.
Mr. Allen looked that the door and the stain and sipped his coffee He turned to Ethan after swallowing and looked up.
“Ok then, Let’s just say for arguments sake that this IS, in fact, the same old refrigerator. So what? What’s the big deal?” He shrugged his shoulders.
“Because five days ago, while you were out, I came up here, loaded it up in my truck and buried it in Yankee Springs!” Ethan blurted out.
Mr. Allen paused for a moment to let the statement sink in. He looked at the refrigerator and touched its outside handle. The cat came running up and brushed up against his pant leg.
“Let me get this straight, You came up here,” He paused “ Five days ago. “
Ethan nodded his head. “You loaded up this very refrigerator here up on your jeep.”
Ethan crossed his arms and continued to nod. “And drove all the way to Yankee Springs ….And buried it. In the ground.” Ethan continued to nod.
“So. If all that what you say is true. Then what is this clean refrigerator that now smells like lemons, the SAME refrigerator that you buried down in Yankee Springs, doing here?”
Ethan could barely control himself, convulsing with his head and legs. “THAT’S WHAT I WANT TO KNOW!” He yelled out. “What did you do? Follow me there and dig it back up? Couldn’t stand to be without the old Stink cube?”
Mr. Allen was now laughing. He was laughing so hard he was spilling his coffee. He waved his hands trying to speak between laughter. Ethan stood tapping his toe with impatiens waiting for his father’s reply.
“No No, He started than had to pause to catch his breath. “David and Tracy came and dropped it off.”
Ethan’s eyes widened. “David!” He burst out. “David?” He paused a moment, thinking about the possibilities. “David.” He whispered knowing that although the path might not be known, David was the only answer. He looked over at his Dad who was still smiling with that Cheshire cat grin.
“Yep David and Tracy came up and dropped it off.”
“I don’t know, I guess around midnight.”
“And that didn’t seem odd to you?”
Mr. Allen paused a moment. “Nope.”
“So two people you have not seen in a while, come up here in the middle of the night and drop off a refrigerator, and you don’t find that the least bit odd?”
“Not at all.” He said affirmatively.
He perked up as a new thought entered his head. “Does it work?
“I’m sure it does. If it is the same one as before, it should.”
“Let’s find out! “ He ran over to the extension cord that powered the Christmas lights that were permanently hung in the bushes. Ethan detached it and ran it over to the outside outlet. He plugged it in and then connected it to the cord of the refrigerator. The compressor clanked on with a screeching chug then settled into a loud hum that was familiar to both. The fridge rattled as it clicked on the condenser.
“Ha Haaaaa! It still works!” Mr. Allen jumped in celebration. “ I told you!”
“You are one strange old man, Dad.” Ethan shook his head.
“At least I don’t go around swiping refrigerators.” He gulped down the last sip of his coffee. “Come on! Let’s go eat. I’ll buy you breakfast.” He beckoned with his hand as he walked toward the house. The white cat followed close to his feet.
Ethan looked after him and shook his head. He glanced back at the refrigerator for one last moment then surrendered the idea all together. If it was meant that Dad was to have a useless refrigerator rusting next to his garage for the remainder of his days, who was he to say otherwise.