The Summer of Adventure!
by Frederick Key
The storm passed soon after, but the power didn’t come back.
It didn’t come back in the morning. They had spent the night in the cellar with some battery-powered lights, just in case the storm decided to have another go at them, but all stayed quiet, except for Kerry who at one point loudly wondered what choices she had made in her life to lead her here at this moment. Screwball was pretty happy, though, after the thunder went away.
In the light of the sun but nothing else, they crept upstairs after a lousy night on the blow-up mattress and assorted sofa cushions. After the kids got some breakfast, Henry decided to go out and assess the damage to the house and the world. Hal wanted to go along but Jane said it was too dangerous.
“But it’s safe for me?” asked Henry.
“You don’t eat boogers when you think no one is looking…”
“…so I think you probably don’t believe that clutching a downed power line will give you superpowers.”
“Another career move shot to hell.”
The weather was overcast and cool in the wake of the hurricane. Quite pleasant, in fact. Some of the neighbors were outside too, looking at limbs on their yards and roofs. One guy Henry didn’t know was trying to pull a limb off his kids’ playset. Henry helped. Another had a big bald patch on his roof where a cluster of shingles had gone away.
“We lost three shingles,” Henry reported when he returned. “That is all.”
“Any idea why the power is out? We can’t get through to the power company.”
“Might be connected to the snapped utility pole on Evergreen Street.”
“Good work, Hercule.”
Henry’s sister stayed a little while, then felt safe enough to go see how her place was doing. Her answering machine at home picked up, so she assumed she had power. So did Jane’s parents, and they invited the family over, but Jane didn’t want to stress out her father so soon after his heart scare—and the first hurricane to hit their area in eight years.
“We’ll be fine, just fine,” Jane told her mom on the phone. Henry was impressed by her fake sincerity.
The novelty of living stone-age style lasted sixteen hours. Then everyone got cranky and the thermometer indoors cracked 82. The next morning Jane also cracked, and they piled into the car to spend the day with her sister Julia. “I don’t care if they have the plague,” she grumbled.
Henry called Geoff’s office line while sitting on Julia’s porch steps. Phoebe was on the porch swing with her ponies while her noisy alphabet toy charged up inside.
“You made it in,” he said.
“It would seem.”
“Sorry—we still have no power and the family has gone crazy.”
“Any idea when—”
“Lots of utility trucks around. I’ll call with an update this afternoon.”
“Good. Oh, and, er, Henry…”
“We had to let Cass go this morning as part of the staff reductions.”
“Cass and ten others, but she was the only one in your group. I would have asked you to do it, but it had to be today.”
“Is that all for the layoffs?”
“That’s my information. Sorry about Cass. I hope it wasn’t overstepping.”
The only overstepping Henry was concerned about was doing some Irish stepdancing with joy.
“Thanks for letting me know. It’s no problem. But—I thought you liked Cass.”
“I do. I hated to let her go. But she’s a lousy copywriter.”
“She hasn’t gotten better over time. Unlike you—after we spoke in April about you becoming more proactive.”
“Thanks. How’d she take it?”
“She was stunned. But I told her to try sales. She’d do better in client-facing work.”
“I need people who get things done right, especially with reduced staff.”
Henry hung up and laid back on the porch in boneless relief.
“Who was that?” asked Phoebe.
“Daddy’s boss, Mr. Silverman.”
“Is he silver?”
“Oh yes, sweetie. Hallmark-quality Britannia silver, ninety-five-point-eight percent pure, with a thin coat of fine silver for a perfect museum-quality finish, a unique and delightful addition to any fine collection.”
“He’s not a poopyhead.”
“Not at all.”
“Hal is a poopyhead.”
“We will keep working on him, sweetheart. He is coming along.”
As it happened, Hal was being a poopyhead. Since the family’s recent enforced togetherness, Hal had become inclined to slug Phoebe when she annoyed him. As soon as the power came back and the Kingslips returned home, Henry sat Hal down to have words.
“Hal, listen. Men from other, lesser families may punch their sisters, but we don’t do that in this family.”
“Batman punches everyone.”
“Only bad guys.”
“Phoebe stoled my truck.”
“But Phoebe— Look, Phoebe is like Robin to your Batman, okay?”
“She’s a girl.”
“But she’s like your pardner, see?”
“Like someone you share your adventures with. It’s a cowboy thing.”
“Batman’s not a cowboy.”
“Skip it. My question to you, my man, is this: Would Batman punch Robin, even if he thought Robin was doing something wrong?”
“No, he’d think maybe Robin had a good reason for it. Like, if he stole the Batmobile. Well, Batman might think Robin needed it. He wouldn’t go after Robin and punch him.”
“Yeah, he would, ’cause he hit Robin in the one where Clayface tricked Robin ’cause he looked like Batman and said Batman was him and Robin attacked him and Batman knew it was Robin and punched him anyway and then Robin knew it was Batman and they both said sorry and they went to get Clayface and they trapped him in the cement mixer.”
Henry and Hal went to examine the evidence on DVD and discovered that Hal was correct, even precise, in his description of the episode, which concerned the shape-shifting Clayface.
“Well,” Henry said to Jane, “the good news is that Hal apologized to Phoebe and promised not to hit her again.”
“He’s gonna be a lawyer.”
Labor Day weekend Hal enjoyed his last adventure of the Summer of Adventure!
Assuring Jane that they didn’t need a professional roofer to fix three shingles, Henry borrowed his neighbor’s big ladder and climbed up himself. He was correct that a roofer was not required to fix three shingles, but a roofer probably would have been able to climb back down the ladder without falling off of it.
Jane went running outside. “What happened? What’s all the swearing from?”
On his back on the deck, Henry explained that his foot had slipped and he’d fallen five feet, if not six. As he told the story over the next few days, the height in feet ranged anywhere from “a couple” (to Hal) to “fifteen” (to Kerry). But he was okay.
He milked it to have Jane get him a beer and leave him home while she went with the kids to see Pops. Henry sat on the sofa with his beer and the ball game, and concluded that falling three feet off a ladder was not the worst thing that could happen to a guy.
Jane turned off her e-reader and put it on her nightstand. Henry continued to look toward the ceiling, although with only the faint red glow from the alarm clock it was not visible.
“That’s the end of Labor Day,” she sighed, nestling down.
“End of summer.”
“Not for a couple of weeks.”
“You know what I mean.”
Jane sighed again, but it was a contented sigh. She really loved snuggling under the blanket. The weather had gotten cool, as if summer really had just stopped, and they had a window open instead of the air conditioner for the first time since the Summer of Adventure! began.
“So is this the end of the Summer of Adventure at last?” Jane asked.
“God, I hope so.”
“Followed by what, the Autumn of Carnage?”
“I hope the Autumn of Dullness.”
“And then the Winter of Our Discontent.” She yawned.
“That will be fine. I’ve had enough adventure. A little discontent wouldn’t kill me.”
“Good for your soul.”
Henry reviewed some of the highlights of the summer—the perils at work, Tor’s marriage (already on the rocks), the hurricane… and also the million little adventures along the way. When Phoebe got stung by a yellow jacket and Henry took care of her—not like last Christmas, when Hal fell down some steps and just lay there and Henry’s mind went blank. Seemed like Papa Henry was getting better at crises. Then there was the kid down the block, the Peters kid, who wiped out on his skateboard and creamed Henry’s mailbox. The kid must have survived, since there’d been no lawyer letters, but Henry had to fix the mailbox. Oh, then Nug’s amazing tantrum in the middle of the wholesale club when they wouldn’t let him play with the kitchen knife set. (Hey, his birthday was in November, and now they knew what he wanted!) And the chewing out Henry got for mowing the lawn with the kids playing in the yard. Oy. Then falling off the roof—well, three feet—all right, that was two days ago.
He turned to Jane and said, “I’m all for boring, but you know what? It’s never boring. My life is an endless source of fascination for me. It keeps me riveted. We may not be much, but we’re plenty for me.” He put his hand on hers. “I love it all.”
Jane was asleep.
“And you too, pardner,” he said, and closed his eyes.