Chapter 11: Names
Pittstop, the cafe near Merlyn, had been in the same family since it was a country stop for truckies, thus its name. Sometimes, one of the owner’s cousins worked in the cafe. They were nothing alike. Months ago, the cousin, Tom, decided that Merlyn should know his name.
The next time he saw her, he asked, “Can you remember my name?”
Merlyn usually didn’t remember names well. She remembered people’s energy exceptionally well.
“Yes,” she said hesitantly.
“What is it?” asked Tom unapologetically.
He wants me to know who he is, thought Merlyn. He must want to be friends. Tom was the sort of person that many people would have wanted to befriend. Although he would have given the impression that he was friends with them all, he trusted few.
“It’s Tom,” said Merlyn.
Satisfied, Tom said, “I sometimes see you walking down by the lake. I live over the other side of it.” Merlyn was surprised that Tom lived in Pittown. It didn’t seem his sort of suburb. “I normally work elsewhere but I help my cous here when I can,” he said.
Tom was a good talker. He was also good at asking questions. He asked Merlyn lots of things that other people wouldn’t have bothered to ask. So, he found out things about her.
Recently, Tom told Merlyn that he lived with the love of his life.
“You live with someone?” said Merlyn who was taken aback that he hadn’t mentioned it before.
“I’m terribly in love,” said Tom dramatically. “I have never fallen so quickly and deeply in love with anyone.”
Tom had a very sweet side although sweetness wasn’t one of his most dominant qualities. For one thing, he had a fondness for using the f-word in his conversations with Merlyn. Merlyn didn’t swear and other people didn’t swear around her. Even when Ben was angry with her, he didn’t swear at her. Tom wasn’t swearing because he was angry. Nor was he swearing out of crassness (mind you, he was the first one to thoroughly enjoy a crass conversation). Merlyn had the sense that he did it deliberately as if to say, Come on. You’re not that fragile that we can’t swear to you. You’re not a princess. You can learn to live in other people’s worlds.
“What’s the name of the love of your life?” asked Merlyn.
“Hardy,” said Tom over his shoulder. “He’s from Brussels.”
Chapter 12: Swanning About
Merlyn watched the six little cygnets with delight.
“I hope more of this lot survive,” said a voice behind her. It was a neighbour from the Friends of Edgars Lake. They had the zeal of missionaries. “Last year, there were also six but only one survived,” said the woman. “Four were taken by predators and one fell over the weir. I wish they wouldn’t swim so close to the weir and I wish they wouldn’t nest in such an exposed area.” She rambled on about the current lack of reeds to hide the swans, the inappropriate behaviour of pet owners who let their dogs swim in the lake, and the ignorant people who fed the ducks bread and were entertained by their consequent aggressive manner to each other. Merlyn listened to the long nature lesson, said goodbye, and continued her walk.
Further along the path, Merlyn saw someone running from the duck family with his young dog. Although the ducklings were teenagers now and were the same size as their parents, the dad persisted in being the sole protector. He would storm out of the pack with nothing more than an open, toothless beak and a few pathetic hisses and gallantly try to frighten off intruders. Ineffectual as it was, it seemed to work on this intruder and his pup.
“You are easily scared off,” laughed Merlyn. It was Tom.
“I was saving Hardy’s life,” said Tom.
“Hardy?” asked Merlyn looking at the dog. “The love of your life?”
“He’s a Brussels griffon,” explained Tom. Merlyn laughed.
Although Hardy was very cute with his squashed nose and Ewok-like facial features, Merlyn didn’t bother to pat him as she could see that his sensitive, alert eyes were only for his master. It was clearly a two-way love affair.
The male swan reared out of the water and squawked at the teenage ducks who were getting too close and too familiar. The swan spread his wings out around his children. Unlike father duck, he made an impressive show. Actually, that was all he had. A good show.
“The missionary from the Friends of Edgars Lake told me that swans mate for life and can die if their mate dies,” said Merlyn.
“Of a broken heart,” said Tom.
“I guess,” said Merlyn. “She also told me that occasionally a dad kicks out his wife, takes another male, and the guys raise the children together.” Tom found that amusing. She knew he would.
As Tom turned for home, he said, “See you at Pity.”
“Pity?” asked Merlyn.
“Yes, Pity, Merlyn,” said Tom. “Get with it. That’s what the locals call Pittstop.” After a few steps, he turned and said, “I do have a boyfriend. A real one.”
“Do you?” said Merlyn.
“Yes,” said Tom. “And I am gay.”
“Really?” said Merlyn.
Tom pranced off with Hardy at his heels. The father duck, once again, ran for them.
“Wouldn’t a mass attack be more effective?” Tom called to the duck. “Isn’t it time for your kids to pull their own weight?”
Merlyn could see Tom and Hardy in the distance; swanning about, dodging ducks until they disappeared over the footbridge.