Pronghorn, Chapter 20: About Maybe

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Al Pemewan looked closely at his son. His wife, Matilda, did, too. “There’s something in that ‘maybe,’ son,” said Asa’s father. “I can hear it. What happened? What’s eating at y’?”

Asa shook his head and sighed heavily. “It’s not something I care to discuss, folks. And it doesn’t really matter. It’s done and over, and I’m here now.”

“Asa, y’re not in any trouble, are y’?”

“No! No. Nothing like that, not really. The cops aren’t coming after me; I’d hardly be looking for work in a place where I’m remembered if I were.” Asa shook his head. “No. Too many people know me here, and not enough of them’d lie for me.”

“Then what is it?”

“I told you, I’m not really eager to talk about it. So I’ll ask you to leave it alone, okay?”

Matilda pressed her lips together, but Al nodded. “Alright, Asa. I’ll leave it, at least for now. But if and when y’ decide to talk, we’ll listen.” He paused, then his eyes widened, and he snapped his fingers. “Maybe y’ can talk with Rev’nd Kerr. Maybe new ears to hear would help.”

Asa sucked in breath through his bottom teeth. “Yeah…about that.”

“What?”

“I actually have, well, I suppose it’s a date with her.”

Matilda interrupted. “You have a, a date with Reverend Kerr?” Her voice rose in pitch, singing incredulity.

“Yes, Mom, I have a date with Reverend Kerr. Twice unbelievable.”

Asa’s father put in “It is a bit of a surprise, son. Not back in town for, what, three days, and already landing dates. And with a preacher, no less. The first’d be a surprise for anyone, but the latter’s quite a shift for y’. Hell, gettin’ y’ to come to church to start with was a trick.”

“I know, I know. But I was getting gas, and she pulled up, and I figured ‘Why not ask?’ and she said that lunch on Thursday’d be good. So I have a date.” He paused. “I think so, anyway. It’s probably a problem to try to read more into it than it is; we’re just getting lunch, after all, and that could just be a minister looking to expand the flock and the offerings that come in with it.”

Asa’s mother interjected. “Asa!” The tone in her voice made her censure certain.

“What? You and I both know a lot of clergy do it. And I understand it; the bills have to get paid, and preachers make their money from the offerings they bring in. And I’m not saying Anna is being profligate–”

“First-name basis already?” asked Asa’s father.

“For a date? How not? But anyway, I’m not saying she’s being profligate, and I’m not saying she’s being mercenary, but I do have to think she might be since I’ve seen so many others actually be so. It’s like being wary around a hornets’ nest; the one might not cause you trouble, but enough do that you have to watch each one.”

Matilda put in again. “If you keep going like that, Asa, you’ll never find anyone.”

“Mom, it’s just lunch! It’s not like we’re about to trip over our soulmates.”

“Not if you keep talking like that, you won’t. You’ll never be happy if you keep looking for things like that.”

“Maybe, but I also won’t be blindsided by them as readily. Easier to duck what you know’s coming in.”

“I’m not going to have this kind of circular argument with you again.”

“By which you mean you know you’re wrong and just don’t want to have to admit to it.”

Asa’s father put in, then. “Asa.” His admonitory tone was clear, and Asa stopped, holding up his hands at his shoulders, palms out, and turning his head to one side. Matilda pressed on, however. “You get so wrapped up in having to be smarter than anybody else, Asa, and then you wonder why you have problems with people.”

“Matilda.” Al shook his head at his wife. “It doesn’t help. If y’ want him to be happy with things, y’ve got to show him happy. He’s got a date. She’s clearly a decent woman. Be happy for him–and if it goes somewhere, great. If not, our son’s setting up to have a decent time, and it could be a damned lot worse.”

Matilda huffed a breath before saying “I hate it when you’re right sometimes, Al.” Then she turned to Asa. “But he is. I do wish you’d try to be happier, though, Asa. Seeing you sad or angry so much hurts your old mother.”

Asa rolled his eyes, then his head, at her. “That’s quite the guilt trip, Mom.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure, Mom. But I’ll be happier when I have more to be happy about.”

“You’ve got plenty to be happy about.”

“And?”

“So you should be happier and more grateful.”

“And when I have more to be happy about, I’ll be happier. Where’s the problem?”

“You know what I meant!”

“Sure, Mom. Sure, I did.”

“I don’t know why you have to be so difficult.”

“You know, Mom, I don’t either. I really don’t. But I wish I did; I could stop it if I did.”

Asa stood. “But that’s enough of that crap. No sense wallowing in it. And I need to go check my email. I might’ve gotten something that’ll help with the current situation. Probably not, but maybe; I have to take a look at it, in any event.” And with that, Asa left the room–not stomping, to be sure, but not taking any pains to tread quietly. Once again, his parents looked at each other after he was out of the room. Then Al picked up a remote control and turned the painting show on again.

Did I bring you as much pleasure as a delivered pizza does? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!

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