Orville had been deeply and genuinely touched by the efforts and extent to which RMD had gone to bid him farewell. It was mildly uncomfortable at first, as he was never one who had dealt well with being the center of attention—he knew few engineers who were—but as the gala went on he relaxed and just enjoyed the event thoroughly. It felt odd walking out of RMD for the final time afterwards and as he looked back one final time from his car, Orville wondered if he was really going to be able to tun over this page in his life and begin a new one so easily. He met Kathryn in a small pub downtown, The Angry Ferret, which was a favorite of long-time locals in Laconia to talk and decompress and try and get some perspective on what was next for him.
“You still think this is the right decision, Orville?” Kathryn asked as she sipped her beer with him as they sat on the back deck of the café and watched the Robinson Creek babble along over the round, smooth river rocks just adjacent to the west side of the pub.
“Right now, it is still all too new, Kathryn. In my head it makes sense, but my heart is still on the fence. I guess time will tell.”
She nodded and smiled that crooked little grin of hers that Orville never could quite decipher.
“So what’s next for Orville Peterson….genius engineer?” she asked dramatically with a flourish of her arms. “Back to Guatemala?”
Orville shrugged, but then wondered for the first time if maybe—her kidding aside—this might not be a good way to pause between his RMD career and whatever might be next for him here in Laconia. Since the venture down south of the border, he had been unable to shake the idea of traveling extensively. He’d like to go back to Mexico and other places nearby, but all over as well. Who knew what might appear to him to give him a hint as to what he might be interested in next. Because right now he hadn’t a clue….
“You know, Kathryn…” Orville replied as he set his empty glass on the table, “maybe getting out of Laconia for a while isn’t such a bad idea. You know…get away from my regular haunts and routines and just let it all have time to settle.”
She nodded knowingly and signaled for the waiter to bring them two more. Orville went home that night and went out back to listen to the night sounds of the forest. It was peaceful and relaxing and he leaned back to take in the full moon overhead. An owl hooted in the distance and some rustling in the brush just off to his right caught his ear. Orville looked over to see a pair of deer poke their heads out of the cover of the lower branches of some young saplings, the hair on their necks lit by the moon. He smiled recalling the jungles down south and right then and there he made up his mind.
Orville arose the next day and prepaid his mortgage and utilities ahead for 6 months. He then got out a map and plotted out a tour that would take him across the globe. Some of the places he had had his eye on for a long time, but a lot of spots were just complete unknows to him other than the names themselves and he drew a light pencil path from country to country as an initial trek that just came to him on a whim. The final destination, as he knew it would be was back down south so he could take in Belize in a more casual and relaxed manner as well as exploring a lot of Mexico that he had just never had the time to linger in. And he knew it went without saying that he would find his way back over to Guatemala and see if he could find his way to El Zapote to visit Francisco. With his newfound wealth, maybe see if he could offer help to the village to improve what he had remembered as a fairly primitive existence…at least by American standards, he guessed.
Orville did not have a lot of friends in Laconia, but Kathryn along with Joseph Garrity and Sarah Holding were among those closest to him. Joseph had lost his wife a few years back and he and Sarah had become a bit of an item following Sarah’s separation from her husband last summer. Though Laconia was not especially wrapped up in any type of religious mania, the small-town ideals of the southeastern US still held their sway. And despite the change in mores over the years, the Garrity/Holding situation was still frowned upon by many of the residents, seeing as how Sarah’s divorce was still pending. Orville knew for sure that much more lurid and scandalous things besides Joseph and Sarah’s relationship were going on, but to avoid the gossip mill, they tried to keep it as above board and low key as possible. That James Holding was a known alcoholic and was known to have been both physically and emotionally abusive toward Sarah seemed irrelevant to most.
Orville had just filled in Joseph on his plans as he was a skilled carpenter and builder and he asked him to keep an eye on his place while he was gone.
“I have no idea just how long, Joseph,” Orville explained, “at least 6 months, but that may change based on the trip itself.”
They had been friends since high school and often did favors for one another when necessary, and Joseph agreed right away to check up on Casa Peterson regularly.
“Winter’s coming, Orville,” he had said, “I’ll make sure everything stays ship shape since you’ll be away in the middle of snow and ice season. Remember that storm in ’68 when we were kids? Don’t worry…”
Kathryn and Sarah were good friends as well, often seen lunching together or just perusing the store fronts in old town Laconia on crisp fall days. Kathryn had been instrumental in getting Sarah to see that James was not likely to change his stripes and that she needed to make some changes before he got good and drunk one night and really did some damage to her. Sarah had taken her friend’s advice to heart and it was with only the “luck of the Irish”, so Kathryn said, and a quick intervention by the police to avoid this late one night.
Sarah fled the home just barely escaping one of James’ classic rages from a bender and never went back. She finally saw the light, and with the support of her friends, a lawyer, and the police she finally took action to get away from a really dangerous situation. The history between them was well-documented with authorities in town, even though Sarah had never filed an official complaint. So when this last episode exploded, it was a simple thing for her to get a restraining order in place while she holed up temporarily in Kathryn’s home.
The divorce proceedings had begun, but she was still waiting for the mandatory separation period required by law to elapse so the divorce could be finalized. Orville knew this had enraged James, but he was being kept under a close watchful eye based on his violent and unpredictable past. Orville had no idea what fireworks might transpire when the separation hiatus expired and the divorce became real, but he could not imagine James Holder would have much of a defense to protest.
“At least they did not have any kids,” Orville said to Kathryn over dinner one night.
So with a farewell dinner with his three closest friends completed, leaving them all a rough itinerary of his journey, Orville was looking forward to some time away from Laconia to reflect and evaluate what he really wanted to do next in his retirement.
“It’s just a rough outline, guys,” Orville said as the trio looked over the information he had passed out. “Might be less or maybe much more. I am just going to wing it and see what catches my eye along the way.”
“You will be coming back, right?” Sarah asked with a grin.
“Yes, Sarah…I will be coming back. Just not sure when.”
“You gonna try and find your friend down in Guatemala?” Joseph asked.
“Absolutely. El Zapote is pretty remote once you get over the border from Belize, but I am sure once I get a guide out there I will remember the way. Would love to see Francisco and his family again and see if I can offer some help to the village as well.”
“Stay in touch, Orville,” Kathryn said, “email, or whatever when you can and it is available. We just want to make sure you are OK.”
She winked at him and he nodded back as she was the only one of the group that knew of the details his recent health scare as well as his time with Emily Fote. He appreciated her still keeping this under wraps with Joseph and Sarah but appreciated her heartfelt concern.
“Will do, Mom….”
They all laughed and toasted to his upcoming travels and a safe return home.