He was looking down at her mailbox, at the address there, nodding his head the way a person does who has found what he is looking for and now has no idea what he is going to do with it. At first Joanie thought he was just some tramp who had wandered a bit far from the downtown bars and rehabs. He looked to be a large man who had shrunken to skin and bones. He had shaggy blonde-turned-mostly-white hair and a neatly trimmed still almost blonde beard. He had a guitar and a pack slung from each narrow shoulder. It was his hunched back and the guitar that began to suggest that this person was a bit more than the usual vagrant. Then he turned his head, eyed the rusted Civic, turned his pale blue eyes toward the door and grimaced. It was Weasel.
She had not seen him in nearly thirty years, not since Michelia and Jillith’s “vow taking ceremony and reception” which he had hitchhiked from Florida to attend. His name was Joseph Andrew Carling. Everybody else called him JAC. To Joanie he was Weasel and had been since she realized, shortly before Michelia was born, that Michelia had siblings all over the county with one whose due date was nearly the same as Michelia’s.
“I come to weddings for the food,” he said to her when she did the civil thing and greeted him. “Weddings and funerals always have food. Even Dike ones.” He was being flippant, but the way he said it irritated her. She stopped being civil.
“Jesus,” Joanie said. “You are still an ass.”
“You were the one who kicked me out.”
“Because I never knew what hole the goddamned shovel had been digging in.”
“I sent my check,” he said. “Every single month, come job or none, I sent my check.”
“There’s more to it than that. That isn’t what it’s all about.”
“And I came for the wedding, didn’t I.”
“Eat your heart out,” she said and she walked away.
That was the last she had seen of him until here he was at the end of her driveway. She heard tid-bits from Michelia. Sometimes she asked, usually she just waited for Michelia to say something. It wasn’t as if she had any interest.
She had finally come to that place of peace; a small retirement, social security, Medicare; a purring house with a yard, a vintage (somewhat rusty) Honda Civic in the gravel driveway and daffodils and hyacinth starting to bloom in the flower beds. The kids were all under their own roofs with a mate of some kind (“Significant Other, Mom,” Michelia, had told her, “Or you can call Jilleth my wife. We don’t mind both being wives). Finally, after Weasel and the three others of some Significance or Other, and their four children after Michelia, she had come to this peace of sipping coffee at her kitchen table of an April morning.
What she had heard from Michelia was that he had never left being a hippie. He worked when he had to and wrote songs that nobody ever covered. He had lived with a woman for several years, but she kicked him out. “She said she couldn’t afford hay for two asses, Mom.” Michelia said, “Two asses! What kind of person says that to a human being?” Joanie had shrugged. Not her problem.
And there was not-her-problem at the end of her driveway on an April morning not unlike the April morning when she had fallen for his guitar and slow grin and metal blue eyes. It was perhaps the scent of daffodils; and perhaps he had planned it that way. Such was not beyond his weaselness. At any rate, she remembered suddenly that day walking through the park not yet holding hands, shy in their first joy with each other. The sun on her back, hot and sweaty, so that she wanted to throw off her dress, take his hand and roll him, with him, wanton and uncaring into the grass. Wanting it so badly that this is eventually almost how it happened. Fifty years and the ache of it, the joy, the hurt all came back to her like the smell of daffodils and bitter coffee.
She put her coffee down, stood suddenly so that she scraped her chair on the floor. She found herself in the open door of her purring house and saying “What do you want?”
He looked at her with his pale eyes. They were rheumy and old. An old face sagged and masked the young one she remembered, could still see there. He took two or three wheezy breaths.
“I’m dying, Joanie,” he said. His old baritone was gone. She could barely hear him across the narrow lawn. He wheezed in and out again.
“O, Jesus, Jac,” she said. “O, sweet Jesus.”
Whether she had fallen again for his weasel or not really did not matter any more.
Apologies and thanks to Judy Dykstra-Brown for reminding me, with her poem, of an old friend and her romances. I don’t know if this story actually happened to her in the end, but it could have.