New Year's Day, 2003
Ennis was long accustomed to their annual open house by now, although at first it had been another hurdle to get over. The routine was now familiar: food and general socializing upstairs; television and snacks for football and parade fans downstairs. He'd been able to just follow behind David and Maggie and by the time Maggie and Sam had moved to Ely, he was at least familiar with the people who showed up.
Andrea always stopped by, as did various neighbors, many of the people at the store, Jerry and Rachel, and, over the years, students from Ennis' horseback riding classes. David's cheese grits, a sausage-and-egg casserole and store bought dinner rolls were regular features at the buffet, as was Andrea's tiramisu, at least one hotdish contributed by a neighbor and the salmonberry jelly that Edna still made every year. Ennis had inherited Maggie's job: napkins, disposable plates and flatware, coffee and tea. He also set out the boxful of coffee cups and mugs David had bought at thrift stores and yard sales over the years: “no one drinks anything out of styrofoam at my house”, was one of his few rules.
This would be a special year. Maggie and Sam would be in attendance for the first time in five years, as would Jerry, his daughter Karen and her new husband Roy. Rachel had died last year of a swiftly-spreading cancer, only a month after the wedding, and considering how mysterious she had been to Ennis, he was surprised at how much he'd missed her. Edna McClure had spent the last few winter holidays in St. Paul now that Dennis was gone; but was visiting with friends in Duluth this year and was bringing them along.
These were the people Ennis now felt comfortable with, although even neighbors that he saw only a few times a year now seemed familiar, like the ranch hands he used to see every summer. But now he had another reason to look forward to this New Year's, and to take every minute to heart.
This might be the last time.
Early October, 1985
It had happened so fast that his surroundings on the airliner seemed unreal. Alma's terse phone call had come shortly after sunrise and by noon he was on a flight to Amarillo: Junior had suffered a miscarriage. “I'll be there soon's I can get a plane ticket,” he said. “No need,” she'd answered and he'd responded with “didn't say anythin' about needin' “ before hanging up. But he'd been relieved when Alma had mentioned that the house Junior and Curt had rented was small and she'd be the only one staying there although Jenny would be coming as well.( Read more...Collapse )