Jean had a brand new Chevy Cavalier she had purchased just that summer. It was the base model with no A.C., no radio, and no automatic transmission. She had picked up the little red four-door for $5000; complete with black vinyl interior, a sun-roof, and sporty aluminum mag-wheels. She was extremely proud of her purchase as it had replaced a rusty used Ford Grenada that she had owned for half a decade; this was especially so as the Ford had seen better days even before she had purchased it.
Tony had been with Jean the day she picked the Chevy up at the lot. After the paper work had been completed and they were heading to the car Jean leaned in to him and whispered, “Do you know how to drive a manual?”
“Just barely; do you?”
“Not at all,” she admitted with a snicker. “Do you want to drive this off the lot and then teach me how to use the thing?”
Tony attempting a poor imitation of John Wayne replied, “Why shucks, Ma’am; I’d be honored. Let’s get this doggie moving and then we’ll circle the wagons to fight off the Injuns.” Mastery of the stick-shift had started out with the sight impaired leading the blind but with patience, practice and a few embarrassing stalls both of them had gotten much better at operating the manual transmission. At this point Jean just took driving it in stride but Tony still felt intimidated when having to start from a dead stop on a steep New England hill.
Jean started to grab the keys to her car but Tony stopped her. “Let’s take the 88, it’s way bigger. Here,” Tony said tossing Jean the keys, “you drive; I’m beat,” and the four of them piled into the Olds with Jean at the wheel.
“You’re going to let her drive Carl’s car? I didn’t think anybody was allowed to drive your father’s car!” Gerri exclaimed.
“Really? He’s had me drive him places a couple times when I visited. You’ve never driven Carl’s car?” she asked incredulously.
“Gerri, you’re right,” John said quickly, “he doesn’t usually let other people drive his car; but he doesn’t seem to have a problem when she does.”
“John, have you met Marla before?” Jean asked.
“No, the only one of your sisters that I’ve met is the one that came down with you that one time that we went to the concert out at Wolf Trap.”
“That was Mary; Jean roomed with her at Cobleskill College one year. This is Marla. I stayed with her and her husband Don when I visited up here and Jean hadn’t moved into her condo yet,” Tony interjected.
Jean smiled at Gerri in the rearview. “Marla and Don are big skiers, Gerri. She said she had ski pants that you could borrow for the weekend.”
“”Will they fit? Is your sister as tall as you are?”
“No,” Jean said with a chuckle. “Just my oldest sister and I are really tall. Marla’s probably five four, five five; she’s about your size.”
“Oh, good. I just got these really cute ski pants and I can’t believe I forgot them. I’m really kinda’ bummed about it.”
John put his arm around Gerri saying, “You’ll look good in whatever you wear, sweetie; even if it’s nothing at all.”
“John, stop!” she said with a broad smile.
Tony watched from the front seat as Jean drove to Marla and Don’s. When he had come and visited for about nine days in April Jean’s move to Connecticut had not yet resulted in her finding a place of her own. He had borrowed Jean’s new Trek 412 twelve speed bicycle and ridden into Hartford from Burlington a few times to have lunch with Jean at Connecticut General Life Insurance. Marla had worked at Connecticut General for a few years and had been instrumental in Jean getting the job at C.G. and moving to Hartford. The Tierneys were mostly spread out over eastern New York and Connecticut and they rejoiced when their traveling daughter returned to the fold.
Getting lost between Savarese Lane in Burlington and Robins Road in West Hartford would be rather difficult as the vast majority of the trip was up and down State Road four. It wasn’t a very complicated route and even Tony could get back and forth between the two towns without any chance of getting lost. In town much of route four was called Farmington Avenue but even as they drove west Jean just had to stay on four until they came to the bottom of the big hill which took them to Savarese.
Turning on to Savarese he looked at John and Gerri sitting in the back seat and said, “Riding up this hill is one hell of a work out! I never thought of Maryland as flat until I rode a bicycle in New England!”
Jean parked on the street in front of the Olson’s split level ranch to keep the long, two-car driveway clear. She wasn’t sure if Don was home from his job running Food Services at Central Connecticut State College yet or not and didn’t want to get in his way. Don had shown that he was easy going until he had a few drinks and then his inner demons would peek out. Jean had learned from experience that Don was not a happy drunk.
She led them around to the back of the house and up the half flight of steps to the big wooden deck. Don had finished building the deck early that summer and Marla had already demonstrated her love for entertaining on it. She wasn’t waiting outside on a cold evening in late December but she was waiting for them in the kitchen.
“J.T.!” she exclaimed excitedly as Jean lead the foursome inside. “Long time!”
“Marla, we had lunch together,” Jean said with a gentle smile.
“I know! Lighten up; you take everything so literally. Tony, long time!” she added with a quick hug and kiss.
“Marla! Good to see you. This is my brother John and Gerri, his girlfriend.”
“John, Gerri, it’s great to meet you. I understand you need to borrow some ski pants?”
John took Marla’s extended hand and shook it. “It’s nice to meet you, too. Yeah, if you don’t mind Gerri could really use a pair.”
“I forgot mine and by the time I realized it was too late to turn around and go back for them. I’ve only used them once and they’re darling and I really wanted to go back but Tony wouldn’t!”
“Hey, why am I the bad guy here? John said no too.”
Marla put both hands in front of her with the palms facing her guests. “Well, we can’t let a little thing like forgotten ski pants ruin the trip.” Grabbing a pair of ski pants from the back of a kitchen chair she said, “Here, try these on and see if they fit.”
Gerri’s mouth opened and closed as she looked at the ski pants Marla was holding out to her. She finally mustered a small, “Thanks,” and took the dark brown pants. Trying them on she said, “Uhm, these seem to fit. I mean, they’re not too big or too tight anyway. These should keep me warm,” she said, seemingly close to tears.
As Gerri said this the sound of the garage door going up was heard and Marla said, “Crap! I forgot to tell Olson that you all would be here. Let me run down stairs and let him know we have company.”
As Marla went down the stairs Gerri said, “John! I can’t wear these. They’re like, nylon covered, insulated brown sweat pants! They’re hideous!”
“Well, I think you’re going to have to, ‘cause that’s all we’ve got. You’ll look great in them,” John said unconvincingly.
“No I don’t! I look ugly! You’re just saying that.”
“Holy cow, Gerri; stop,” Jean whispered fiercely. “Marla’s going to hear you and you’ll hurt her feelings. I can probably take you to a sporting goods store and you can buy a pair if you need to but my sister’s just trying to help.”
“I know, and you’re right. I don’t want to buy another pair because they won’t match my outfit either and then I’ll just have an extra pair of ski pants that don’t go with anything. I’ll wear Marla’s.”
John took Gerri in his arms. “Look at the bright side, the only people who will see you in them that know you are the three of us and I think you look beautiful in anything you wear.”
Don lumbered up the stairs in front of Marla. He was a large Scandinavian, easily topping six feet four and weighing in at over 225 pounds. He smiled at Jean, said hi to her and Tony and stuck his hand out to John, “Don Olson; good to meet you.”
“John kneel, and this is Gerri Marginsky; good to meet you, too.”
“You’re Tony’s brother?”
“Yeah. Nice house you have here. I like your deck.”
“Hey, thanks. I built that.”
“It looks good. I have a landscape business and our other brother Mike helps me with deck design when he’s in the U.S. and has some time to spare. I like what you did with the alternating square panels for the decking and how you made it two tiered. It looks good and you created two separate spaces on one deck that way.”
“That’s what I was going for! I figure Marla and her hens can hang out on one tier and me and the boys on another. Plus when we have kids we can have our space and they can have theirs.”
“Does Mike spend a lot of time overseas?” Marla asked.
“Yeah, he takes some pretty long trips. He works for the CIA as a safety analyst,” Tony said.
Don asked, “Like the Culinary Institute of America?”
“No, like the Central Intelligence Agency! Don, I think you may be working too much, I don’t think a lot of people would think Culinary Institute when they hear CIA!” Laughed Jean.
“You mean your brother’s a spy!?” Marla added.
“No, our brother is a safety analyst, not security. He’s like an OSHA dude for overseas installations. I always picture him talking to field agents and telling them to be careful on ladders as they’re dodging bullets and installing bugs and shit! He’s out of the country for weeks at a time and he says some of the places he goes are real hell holes,” clarified Jon.
“Whoa,” Marla said, apparently impressed, “that seems pretty heavy, doesn’t it, O?”
“Hey, Don and Marla,” Jean interjected, “we’re going to go to that Hole in the Wall’s bar that Ellen and I went to last weekend when she was here; do you want to join us?”
“Hole in the Wall’s?” Marla asked doubtfully.
“Yeah, yeah, you know, the one I told you about on Monday where they pour drinks right into your mouth?”
“Right, right, right! You said El got pretty wasted and you had to pour her into your Cavalier.”
“Yeah, I was afraid she was going to puke all over the car but luckily she not only waited until we got home but she even made it to the bathroom; poor kid. She was fine the next day once she finally got out of bed for lunch!”
Don shook his head. “I don’t know, it’s been a long day.”
“Oh, come on, O!” Marla cajoled. “You were just saying how we need to get out more!”
“Alright, we’ll go. Let me take a shower and get ready.”
Jean said, “Maybe we should feed these guys a little something, too. We don’t need a repeat of the vomit comet from last week and I bet you guys’ stomachs are empty.”
Tony nodded. “We should probably eat a little something if we’re going to go drinking.”
“Where is this place, anyway?” asked Don.
“Not far; it’s in Manchester.”
“Manchester!” Marla exclaimed. “That’s like an hour from here!”
“Yeah, but it’s less than a half hour from my place. Just come on.”
Marla sighed heavily. “Okay, I said we’d go. Don, go get ready and I’ll get a little food in these guys.”