puffy_wuffy: bunnytongue (Default)
[personal profile] puffy_wuffy
[2010.11.24][1656][40389]
After dropping Rold off at school, Hare drove Harold and Harry to the airport, as planned.  From there, they would set off on their vacation a tiny adventure which both hoped would lift their spirits, and maybe help them get some kind of distraction.  Hare and Rold seemed more energized these days.  Rold would often come home much later than school let out, since he had joined a math club.  Hare, on the other hand, preferred being home, since there were no customers.
Hare had not known that he had lacked people skills, or rather, had known that he didn’t have any, but his severe lack of the basics made him wary when he was stuck alone in the shop.  He could easily steer people towards good tools and talk about torque and ratios, but if the customer wanted to talk about the weather or sports, he often did not know what to say.  John insisted that keeping the customer talking was the best way to sell things.  If a person was very interested in something, just keep them talking about it.  
None of the Harolds were very talkative.  On the ride over to the airport, neither Hare nor Harry nor Harold said anything.  They were all in their own personal headspaces.  Harry was dreaming of all of the new things he and Harold would do; Harold was dreading all of the new things Harry would force him to do.  As for Hare, he was contemplating what a pigskin was.  A repeat customer had come in had started talking about this game which he had watched in a local bar.  All Hare really heard was that the “pigskin had been steaming” and the field was “a war zone.”  He could not stop imagining hot, sweaty pigs fighting in an open field, trading gunfire.  Everyone knows that pigs don’t have thumbs which would make handling firearms impossible:  Hare imagined it anyway.
As the station wagon pulled even with the curb at the Departures drop-off, Harold grabbed his tiny suitcase up from below the glove compartment.  He had packed very little, anticipating pleasant and warm weather.  Opening the passenger side door, he flipped the suitcase onto the sidewalk.  “All right, Hare.  We’ll be back in two weeks.”
Hare winked.  “You’ll be back in two weeks.”  He stifled a laugh.
Harold turned to see Harry lain across the backseats.
“You go first, Hare will drive around, then I’ll get out.”  Harry whispered, then winked.  “Pretend that I’m not even here.”
“We’re staying in the same motel in the same room,”  Harold squinted.  “I bought our tickets.  We’re sitting next to each other on the plane.  We’re both named Harold Smith.  Someone’s bound to notice.  Why avoid it?”  He eased himself back into the passenger seat.
Hare leaned over.  “Look, he’s been planning this for a while.  Just let him do it.”  With a shrug, he added.  “You don’t want both of you to miss your plane.”
“Fine.  Drive around quickly.”  
Harold checked in and pulled his carry-on to the security checkpoint.  When he reached the gate, Harry still had not appeared.  Fiddling with his suitcase’s handle, he wondered what had happened to Harry.  By the time boarding was called, his nerves were shot.  He dutifully walked over when his seating section was announced, dragging his case along.  As he plodded over to the gate, he spotted Harry, who slyly waved and put a finger over his mouth as if to hush Harold.  Harold shook his head in amazement.  Happy that he wasn’t going alone, he practically skipped onto the plane.
As Harry took his seat, Harold glanced at him.  “I’m not pretending that we don’t know each other.”
Harry whispered back as he stowed his luggage underneath the seat in front, “I have this great witty repartee planned between the two of us, wherein we introduce ourselves and become bosom buddies.  I’m sure that it won’t only be amusing, but that it will be heartwarming to all of the other passengers.”
“Do it and you’re sleeping outside when we get there.”
In a huff, Harry settled himself back, silent for the moment.  
The airplane ride itself fascinated Harry.  Even before take-off, he could not stop looking at things, even simple ashtrays and buttons caught his eye.  The tiny lavatories were captivating and he managed to visit both of them, describing them in a horrific amount of detail to Harold.  When the plane zoomed down the runway, he quietly grasped the arms of his chair until his hands were white.  Gradually, he got accustomed to the space, its recycled air and somewhat pleasant atmosphere.  Harold got to re-experience flying in a way:  it was as if he was riding for the first time through Harry’s eyes.
Before the final descent, Harold pointed out the window.  Green and lush inviting spaces lay below them.  Harry stared in wonderment.  “Its tropical!”
“Marginally tropical.”  Harold grinned as his companion’s enthusiasm caught on.  “It’ll be warm, in any case.”
The airport, although air conditioned as most airports must be, proved to be both warm and humid.  They were both sweating as they headed out to the mid-day sun.  Catching a complimentary shuttle into town, Harold and Harry were separated.  Harold found himself often peeking to see if Harry was doing all right.  Harry excitedly poked at the chairs, feeling the rough and smooth surfaces.  
As the shuttle emptied out, Harold came forward to Harry’s seat.  “Having a good time?”
“Yes, yes I am.  Is the whole world like this, do you think?”
“Like what?”
Harry gestured with one arm in an arc over his head.  “Unexpected.  Different.  Amazing.  I mean, I’ve seen all of this before and thought about buses and planes, but experiencing any of it is a different story.”
“I guess it is.”  Harold smiled, glancing outside of the bus as they passed buildings and other vehicles, all unfamiliar to him.  The sun’s heat penetrated the bus even though fans in the ventilation system whirred loudly.  Flopping a damp hand against his wet forehead, Harold prayed that they would reach their motel soon.  
It was quite a ways away from the airport, but it would be near a retirement community, someplace appropriate for people of their age to stay.  The price was also reasonable unlike the bungalows and inns in the heart of the city.  The Coconut Motel even had a pool as well as a bingo night within it.  Rold had scoffed their choice, but had to concede that at least it was far away from any kind of a nightlife.  Neither Harold nor Harry would be able to get any sleep in a noisy area.
The shuttle hissed to a jerky stop in the Coconut Motel’s parking lot.  Up close, the two story flat building did not seem like an ideal tourist destination.  The white and brown color motifs (and the brown was unintentional in some cases) combined with the cracked concrete and austere metal poles bespoke of a time gone before for a good reason.  As soon as the boys stepped off of the shuttle, it sputtered away, leaving them there for better or for worse.
“Come on,”  Harry spryly took his suitcase in one hand and began hobbling toward the main lobby.  “The sooner we check in, the sooner we can have some adventures.”
Harold followed, muttering, “The sooner we check in, the sooner I can nap.”
The front desk’s minder waved to the men as soon as they got through the door.  “Checking in?”
Harold handed off their information and exchanged pleasantries with the young woman.  Harry wandered over to a sign which pointed off to a dining area.  Spotting a rack filled with shiny pamphlets, Harry picked a select few out, putting a couple back in their holders.  As Harold finished signing some more paperwork, Harry wandered back.
“Have a pleasant stay.”  She handed two key cards over to Harold.
“Thank you.”  Harold yanked both of their suitcases out of the main lobby.
“What’s the rush?”  Harry sidled alongside of Harold.  “We have our rooms set.”
“I’m feeling like a nap.”
“We could nap out by the pool, look over there.  Doesn’t that look pleasant.”
Sure enough, the pool area was occupied by many different people, all around Harry’s age.  In various states of undress, men and women lounged about.  Oddly enough, no one was the least bit interested in the water:  the surface of the pool was attractive and blue, but there wasn’t a soul taking advantage of its cooling effects.
Shaking his head, Harold said, “No, I think I want to lie in a bed.”
“Well, I want to go to the pool.”
“Then you can go to the pool.”  Harold huffed.  “I’m going to the room.”
“We’re both going to the room.  Then after we can go to the pool?”  Harry suggested.
“I don’t want to go to the pool.”  And that was that.
Harold let them into their room revealing two beds, a TV stand with a television which looked like it had seen better days.  A dresser drawer, a closet rail and a simple en suite bathroom completed the look.  The continuation of the Coconut Motel’s design standard was apparent, with adorable paintings of coconuts hanging above each bed.  With a minimum of fuss, Harold got himself settled and then, fully clothed with his shoes still on, he lay on top of a bed.
“Do you want to go to the pool?”  Harry wiped sweat away from his brow.  The room was quite warm in comparison to the outside.
“I’ll be fine here.  I’ll turn on the AC unit.”  Harold thought for a second.  “Don’t forget the sunscreen.  And a towel.  And don’t wear your shoes to the pool.  They might get wet.”
“I’ll just go by myself then.”  Harry steeled himself and gathered the mentioned items slowly and placed them atop the dresser drawer.  “I’ll change and then I’ll go.”

[2010.11.25][1641][42030]
True to his word, Harry changed and then left the motel room, leaving behind a deeply napping Harold.  So much for a brotherhood and a shared adventure.  In flip-flops, a light t-shirt and board shorts (new ones, which fit a bit snugly), Harry waddled away. The cool concrete was a pleasant surprise under his feet.  The humidity clung like a mist to his skin, sweat rose to the moisture unbidden.
In all of his years, Harry had rarely been alone in a strange place.  Often, he had been left in the house as he grew up, with only Harold as a companion.  Sneaking out had been a normal thing, but he had taken care not to interact with locals.  When Hare had come along, Harry had been relegated to the position of househusband.  No longer able to leave at a moment’s notice, he had passed his fear of the outside world on to another, a younger, stronger version of himself.  Rold’s arrival further forced him away, but Harry had maintained his curiosity through Rold and Hare as time had gone on, inquiring after their activities with the kind of fervor most would spend on a hobby.
Being outside finally had granted him an independence, but an independence filled with boredom.  He was far too old to enjoy running about or building snowmen in a chill air.  Harry’s main duties for the past few years had been structured around cooking and cleaning.  There was a certain joy he associated with doing either task well, but of late, he had found his interest in the mundane waning as the outside world came to mean more.  Although he would not admit it to his main companions, he had not been pleased that life was changing for all of them, it seemed to be happening too fast and it left no real place of importance for Harry himself.
In his mind, he had seen himself as the real head of household, as the person who took care of everyone.  Now that Rold was off at school and doing fine on his own with no help from the others, Harry did not feel necessary to Rold.  Hare’s work in the shop had caused Hare to become closer with John Kobbe.  His daily interactions with Rold meant that Hare and Rold had formed their own family unit, separate from Harold and Harry.  They were all navigating apart into their own worlds.  Harold was not much of a help either, he did not need Harry around, or so Harry thought.
Looking for a place to forget about his cares, Harry opened the tiny gate around the pool. People all about or above his own age lay in and around the pool in various stages of wakefulness.  Pool chairs, mostly upright, held middle and upper aged individuals lounging under the sun.  He spotted an empty white plastic chair next to a loud gaggle of women.  Steeling himself for any conversation, he squared his shoulders and strode purposefully to the deck chair.
Without incident, he lay back on the deck chair.  Flicking his footware off to the side, he applied some sunscreen to his face.  He observed the quiet that had come over the group of women he had passed on his way there.  He waved, hoping that it was a friendly wave, and added a smile afterwards.  Leaning back on the warm plastic, he placed his hands on his belly and closed his eyes.
Before he could fall asleep, he heard a warm female voice.  “Excuse me?”
Rousing himself from nearly dosing off, he blubbered.  “Yes?”  His rheumy eyes alighted on an angel.  Inquisitive blue eyes were set in a pleasantly lined face all surrounded by a halo of reddish hair, although in this light, it was difficult to say whether that color was natural or not.  For a moment, Harry could not speak.
The vision of loveliness spoke instead.  “Are you also here with the group who are looking at the retirement homes?”
He found his voice after a moment of fumbling.  “No, I’m not.”  Sitting up, he continued, “I’m on vacation.  With my . . . my father.”
“Vacation?”  A pleasant chuckle issued from her throat and she placed her hand on her chest, which, uncovered by a shirt, brought attention to her long, graceful fingers.  “Who would vacation out here?”
Trying to not stare at her fingers, Harry shrugged.   “I’ve never really travelled much.”  Sheepishly, he added, “This is the first time I’ve left home in quite some time. You know, other than grocery shopping and going to the post office.  Stuff like that.”  He hesitated.  “Have you been traveling much?”
“Myself, no, out of the country sometimes, but not a lot.  Personally, I think this town has changed a  lot in the past few years, but its a great place to retire, lots of sun and very little riff-raff.”  She sat up straight and looked into his eyes.  “Ever since my late husband died I’ve been looking for a nice retirement community to live in.”
“Well, you don’t look retired.”  Harry offered generously.
“Oh, stop!  That’s such a nice compliment.”  She leaned into her deck chair, maintaining eye contact with him.  “I’m probably quite a bit older than you think I am.”
“I’m, uh, Harry by the way.”  He offered his hand to hers awkwardly.
She took his hand.  “Au-shawn-tey.”  Regarding his confused facial expression, she explained, “It means, ‘nice to meet you.’”
“Ah.”  He made a small bow from his sitting position.  “Nice to meet you, too.  And you are?”
“Rita.”  She giggled behind her hand.  
“I guess, since we know each other’s names now, are we friends?”  Harry ventured.
“Close enough.”  Rita smiled, then turned to introduce him to the rest of her friends.  Oddly enough, it seemed that no one at the Coconut Motel pool had known each other before being introduced.  An eclectic group, quite a few were shopping around at local retirement communities, but few of them were actually there to vacation and relax as Harry and Harold were.  During a couple of conversations, Harry managed to glean two salient facts:  there was little to do besides lounging by the pool and nightly movie nights in the main lobby.  The beach was too far away to be a fun trip, after a long bus ride, all you would think about was how long it took to get back.  The tourist traps took all of the pleasure (and the money) out of paying visits to the town, and it was also a long bus ride away.  Harry wandered back to his chair next to Rita’s, sobered by these new revelations.  He sighed as he lay back.
“Disappointed?”  Rita asked him.
“Slightly,” he admitted.  “I think it makes me more determined to have a good time.  I haven’t had one in a long time, honestly.”
“Me neither.”  Gesturing in a broad sweep of the pool area, she confided in him.  “None of us have.” Getting up, she poked him in the arm.  “Come on, let’s go to the bar.  I’ll buy you a drink.”
Walking behind her, he felt like a lummox.  His t-shirt was old and stained and his shorts, brightly colored and ill-fitting, made him feel like a peacock, a dirty peacock.  A dirty and old peacock in need of a haircut, a shave and nicer flip-flops.
The bar area at the pool was a somber affair.  Perhaps ten years ago, it had been a bustling bar surrounded by young twentysomethings in search of a good time.  People who frequented the bar were still in search of a good time, but also in search of a bathroom or a good snack filled with fiber or some advice about how to ascend the stairs safely.  Non-slip pads were stuck willy-nilly about the bar area, which had low and wide bar seats some with arms, a far cry from slick and modern stools found in modern pubs.  As the bar patrons had aged, so had the bartender, a lone middle-aged man staffed the bar in a loud Hawaiian shirt.  What distinguished him from the rest of the patrons was that he stood behind the bar.
As Rita neared the bar, she called out, “Bloody Mary, please.”
The bartender nodded and got to work as Rita took a seat.  Harry sat down in the stool next to her.  “Cozy,”  Harry remarked.
Cocking an eyebrow at him, she asked, “What’ll it be?”
“I think that depends on what they have.”  Harry waited until Rita’s drink arrived.  “Do you have mango juice?”  At the barkeep’s nod, Harry rubbed his hands together.  “A large mango juice, please.”
Rita took a sip of her drink.  Stirring the icy concoction, she smirked.  “I took you for a gin and tonic man myself.”
He laughed, the first good laugh he had had of the day so far.  “I used to love those!”  Harry licked his lips.  “They used to be the best part of my day.”  Leaning his elbows against the counter, he sighed.  “I can’t have them any more, though, they’re not good for me.”  Uncomfortably, he gestured up and down his stomach.  “I’ve still got the memories, though.
“This isn’t good for me either.”  With a thoughtful look, Rita pushed her drink away.  “Mango juice, please,”  she directed at the bartender.
When both drinks had arrived, Harry raised his glass.  “To new experiences.”
She clinked hers against his.  “To new experiences.”
Their toast was of a friendly sort, but an experience he would have loved to share with the others.  He would have loved to share her with them.  He gazed upon her lovely features which were softened by the sunlight.  The harsh light of the noonday sun cast everything in bright white light and she was no exception.  “This is turning out to be a really good day.”

[2010.11.26][1700][43730]
After two days had gone by, Hare had noticed the difference without Harold and Harry.  Now, Hare and Rold were forced to make their own meals and in the process, and they had both discovered that they liked different foods.  Hare liked his food bland, the way that Harry had always made their meals:  the healthiest way to prepare food.  Rold preferred spicier foods, especially curries and anything with hot red peppers in it.  Never before having the freedom to try foods without Harry or Harold’s tastes in mind, Hare was beginning to prefer it, although it was a bit more lonely.  Rold could hold a talk nowhere near the same level of conversation that Harry or Harold could:  occasional grunting was all that Rold did on a regular basis.
Luckily, Hare had John to talk to during the day and occasionally, the customers.  He had one or two regulars who worked with local construction companies.  Often, smaller tools walked off-site and these men had to replace well-worn tools at a moment’s notice.  Although Hare had never before had to use most of the tools he sold, he began to assemble the jargon into a middleman’s patois.  Hare started feeling at home in the store:  comfortable at restocking and selling, but still not that comfortable at starting conversations with strangers.  He could often be found behind the register waiting to be called upon.  He wondered whether Rold was having an easy time of it.
To his credit, Rold was adjusting well.  In all respects, he appeared to be completely above average except in one:  he rarely spoke to people his own age in school.  Sitting alone most of the time, he counted down the moments until he could get home and talk to his real friends, his friends on the internet.  Most of the time, they exhorted him to get good grades and cheered him on.  Harold and Harry rarely had shown an interest in Rold’s schoolwork and although Hare cared, he  wasn’t a great motivator.
Mostly, Rold felt motivated to do well in math and science, as Harold had done when he was young.  Good grades in everything would be the basis for a lifetime in science, Rold thought.  Despite his avoidance of his classmates, some of them looked up to him and thought well of him.  Rold hoped that Harold would return soon from vacation:  he could use a little help in his science classes and Harold did love to explain things.

Eventually, Harry did manage to drag Harold down to the Coconut Motel’s pool.  Two days after their arrival, they managed to be the first patrons to show up one morning when all the chairs were devoid of people.  Harold and Harry spent some time sunning themselves like lizards as other pool dwellers descended into the area.  
Harry cleared his throat.  “You know, if Rita were here, she’d suggest that we get a drink.  Its pretty hot.”
Harold groaned, and sat up creakily.  “That’s not such a bad idea.  Is Rita around here right now?”
“Oh no,”  Harry said confidentially.  “She’s currently checking out Sunny Gardens.  They’re giving her a tour and everything.”  He unfolded himself from the chair, stretching his arms overhead.  “She wants me to with her to visit it.  Seems set on liking it.  She’s visited it before.  She kind of thought you would want to come too.”
“Is it some kind of an amusement park?”  Harold walked side by side with Harry.  “I have to tell you, I’m not fond of amusement parks.  They’re filled with people and mess.  I’d rather sit by the pool.”
Harry scoffed at Harold’s words, words he himself could identify with.  “Its a good thing we ended up here.  I kind of think its fate.”
“How do you mean?”  Harold took a seat and ordered from the bartender.  “Water, please.”
Sitting next to Harold, Harry talked to the barkeep.  “I’ll have a mango juice.”  Harry leaned his elbows against the countertop.  “I think it was destiny that we ended up here.”
“Or Rold finding us a great deal online.”
“That’s part of it, destiny.”  He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  “All the little things that come together and point to a great big thing.”
Harold shrugged, signalling the end of his interest in the conversation.  The bartender, in his little Hawaiian shirt, brought over their orders.  Harry attempted to propose a toast, but Harold had already taken a hearty sip of the cold water.  In many ways, Harold’s shortcomings as a companion to Harry were becoming more obvious as time went by.
Although Harry had known Rita for less than three days, he had certainly said more words to her over those three days than he had ever spoken to any of the Harolds.  Most of his descriptions were lies, but they were all bordering or converging on the real truth.  He was merely avoiding one inconvenient lie.  Rita knew this:  Harry was vacationing with his father Harold and had been the cook and caretaker for years of both Hare and Rold, young men no longer in need of his services.  Harry didn’t need to make up the boredom he didn’t know how to deal with or the uselessness he struggled with, Rita understood, seemed to understand his simple gestures and even his grunts.
Rita herself had been married to a rich man, a man who had died suddenly.  They had never had any children together, but his children (all from a previous mother) saw her as a waste of resources, especially since she had been left such a large inheritance.  His children had pressured her into leaving behind the stately mansion in which she had grown accustomed to living.  From a vagabond lifestyle (albeit a very well-heeled one), she intended to get into one with a community of people who shared her interests and needs.  In his secret heart, Harry hoped to be one of those people, or at least, closer to her.
“I think its destiny that we met Rita.”
“You should ask her.”  Harold deadpanned, wiping his mouth of the water that threatened to dribble out.
“I think I will.”  Harry pulled out a tiny steno notepad from his shirt pocket and scribbled.
“What’s that?”  Harold pointed at Harry’s pad.
“Its my Rita book.”  Harry flipped the notepad closed.  “If I think of something I need to tell Rita, I write it down in this book.  That way I don’t forget.”
“Let me see that.”  He reached out for it.
“No, its private.”  Harry put the notepad away.  “They are only for Rita, not you.”
What Harold knew about Rita could have fit on one page of Harry’s steno notepad.  In fact, much as he had asked for descriptions of the woman, Harry could only offer the same platitudes regarding how pretty she was and how interesting she was and how much he enjoyed spending time with her.  Harold wouldn’t have known her from Eve.  “Rita, Rita, Rita.  I’m beginning to wonder if she’s a real person.”
“Of course she is.”  Harry looked hurt.  “I’m not making this up.”
“Fine.”  Harold raised his hands in defeat.  “I’d like to meet her before we run off to some Garden and look at it.”  As an apology, he added, “She sounds like a nice person.”
“She is.”  Harry took a long sip of his mango juice.  Harry was the kind of person who daydreamed, a natural byproduct of the way he had been forced to live out most of his years.  Lately, all of his dreams had involved Rita in some form.  “I’d like you to meet her.  I think, then, you’d understand what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
Harold hazarded a guess, “You want to marry her and stay here?”  Glancing over at Harry’s serious face, Harold felt a chill run up and down his spine.  Although he had meant his comment in jest, he could not deny that Harry had been making romantic overtures to this lady, this Rita.  Uncomfortable, Harold posed a question, “Do you really want that?”
Harry leaned his lip against his glass.  He sipped lightly at the mango juice, chewing upon the bits as they went into his mouth.  “I have to admit, I’ve been thinking about it.”  Placing the glass down, he tapped his finger against the counter.  “Not that I know how she would take it.  Not that we’ve done so much as talk.”  Leaning his face against a hand, he moped, “All we’ve done is talk.”
Out of his depth, Harold murmured encouragingly.  “That’s not a bad start.”  Harold’s level of inexperience with romance bordered on the most obscene, that is to say, Harold had never opted to have any kind of romantic relationship whatsoever.  Certainly, he had been courted by several women (and once in special circumstance, a man), but Harold had never been motivated to, say, hold someone’s hand or, if the moon was full, go for a stroll.  Such a thing had not been in his own nature.  However, he had noted in his youth, how people his age took pleasure from such things as that, as romance and the smooshing of faces and bodies together.  “I’m sure its been, um, useful talk.  Productive,”  he finished lamely.  
“Would it be so weird if I stayed here?”  Harry expelled a loud breath, leaning forward on the countertop.
Without answering directly, Harold cleared his throat, then gulped down the rest of the water in his glass.  “I’m not sure,Harry.”  Harold thought back to the days when he had been younger, with younger, lovelorn friends.  Attempting to be comforting, Harold patted Harry on the back.  “How about I meet her first?”
Like a doomed man, Harry nodded.  “If we want to go to the Gardens tomorrow, she’ll have to meet you tonight, assuming you still want to meet her first.”  Glancing as if he could see the dismal future in his glass, he continued, “Otherwise, you could meet her on the bus.”
“Whatever is fine with you Harry, is fine with me.”  Harold backpedaled.  “I can meet her tomorrow on the bus.  I’m sure she’s a nice person.”
Harry’s face lit up.  “She really is.  Hold on.” 

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