Five Points, Vol. 13 No. 1

Spring 2009

From Thomas Mallon, “For some people who become actual writers, diary writing is like small-town vaudeville. It’s a place you can learn, a place you can be bad; it’s a place where you can fail without any consequence.”

Sample Content

Elizabeth Spencer
Return Trip

It was during a summer season Patricia and Boyd were spending together in the North Carolina mountains that Edward re-appeared. He left a message on the answering machine predicting arrival the next afternoon, saying not to give a thought to driving into Asheville for him, that he would rent a car and come out, if at all welcome.

“At all welcome” sounded more than slightly aware that he might not be. Yet, of course, Patricia thought at once, they were going to say “Come ahead, we’d love to see you,” whether it was true or not. And for me, she thought, it really is true, though she doubted it was for Boyd. Edward had a charming way of annoying Boyd, she thought, though Boyd wouldn’t say charming.

Patricia stood out on the porch of the cottage (rented for the summer) and looked out at the nearest mountain, thinking about Edward. Boyd soon joined her. “Wonder what he’s got in his mind.”

“Oh, he won’t be a bother. He’ll probably be going on some place else.”

She could have asked, but didn’t, just what it was Boyd thought Edward had in mind. Money used to be a problem for him, but family business might also be involved. Boyd never cared for him; she knew Edward was acknowledging that.

“Maybe he just wants to see us,” she offered.

“Why not a dozen other people?”

“Those, too. He has affection. And God knows after what’s happened he needs to find some.”

“Nobody on the West Coast has any?”

“Well, but that girl died. Outside of that—”

“You’ll ask.”

“Certainly I’ll ask. He’ll tell me.”

“But then you won’t know either.”

She whirled around, annoyed. “Don’t brand him as a liar before he even gets here.”

Boyd apologized. “He’s your cousin,” he allowed, adding, “Certainly not mine.”

Patricia said what she always said, “But we’re not close kin. In fact, hardly at all.” Boyd had learned that just as there were complicated ways Mississippians took of proving kin, so there were also similar was of disproving it. “God knows,” he once remarked, “All of you down there seem to be kin.” They dropped the subject of Edward.

Boyd spent the afternoon picking up fallen tree limbs from the slope back of the house. There were pine cones too. He built a fire every night, pleased to be in the mountains in mid-summer and need one. Boyd was from Raleigh, in flatter country, but he loved the Smokies. “My native land, “ he crooned to Patricia, “from the mountains to the sea.” Patricia said she liked to look at them, but never asked her to climb one. She wasn’t all that keen on driving in them either, though the next afternoon would find her whirling down the curves to Asheville. “I’ve got to go in anyway, to pick up groceries, oh and mail off Mama’s birthday present, else she won’t get it in time.”

“And pick up Edward,” Boyd said.

“You won’t mind,” she said. “He’ll be nice. I’ll cook something good, you’ll see.”

But she had hardly made I tout to the car when she heard the hornet buzz of a motorcycle coming up the Asheville road. It banked to pull into their drive and under the helmet and goggles she recognized her son. Oh Lord, thought Patricia. Why now? Then she was running forward to embrace him and hear about why now and calling to Boyd and finally getting into the car, leaving father and son to their back slapping and Whatderyaknows. A long weekend away from school. He might have told them. Boyd’s shout of “Wonderful surprise!” followed her down the swirl of the mountain.

And all the way she wondered if the mystery could possibly come up again. They had been over it before and decided it was just a joke of nature, unfortunate, but only extended family to blame for their son looking so much like Edward.