Bittersweet Snapshots of an Affair with a Married Man

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The circumstances and emotions associated with each picture play out as the couple watch two sets of their younger selves, school-aged Danny and Susie, and young adults Daniel and Susan.

Bittersweet Lavyrle Spencer

Few musicals could boast a stronger score than Snapshots. Many of the best tunes from Stephen Schwartz's vast musical theater catalogue there are none from his film scores here are presented, to much delight. Two songs from Mr. Schwartz's Reluctant Pilgrim album are included as well. Part of what makes these songs effective here, out of their original context, is the fact that Mr. Schwartz has provided many new lyrics to make the songs much more specific to the characters and plot of Snapshots. Most of the other songs have at least minor lyric changes. However, it is the melding and layering of songs that creates some of the best musical moments in the show.

The writer's emotionally rich songs, such as "Meadowlark" sung as a trio for the three female performers , "Chanson," "All Good Gifts" which is Dan's response to becoming a father and the title song, provide poignancy and strong material for a relationship-themed show. David Stern's book provides a solid structure for the songs, with detailed characters, plenty of pathos and mostly smooth transitions. The fact that the "current-day" characters can communicate and interact with their younger selves comes across as a somewhat lazy theatrical device. However, it is presented in such a way that it isn't difficult for the audience to go along with the approach.

The show's humor is a mixed bag, with the scene featuring "Endless Delights" a hoot, but the two songs from Personals going for cheaper laughs. The other minor weakness with the book is that too little time is spent on the couple's married life as compared to their childhood and dating life together. As far as shows using existing material go, however, Snapshots is certainly toward the top of the heap. The use of a meaty book and songs that have been reshaped for this particular show make this better than most of the composer revues and jukebox shows so prevalent today.

The impressive list of songs for Snapshots , as well as the complex characters, provide ample opportunity for the six talented performers in Human Race's production. Denise Devlin, a recent graduate of Northern Kentucky University, shows off a wide range, both vocally and in the acting department. She demonstrates spunk, quiet contemplation and a knack for physical comedy in her role as young Susie, and sings with great skill. Her wonderful rendition of "The Spark of Creation" captures the fiery determination of self-discovery in this case, that of an expected mother-to-be.

Forty-something Sue is portrayed by Stefanie Morse. Morse wisely delivers her material with the quiet heartache of a woman viewing the end of a long marriage. The men in the cast don't have quite as strong a set of songs as their female counterparts, but likewise do well with their material. Michael Marcotte puts his great facial expressions to good use, and carries the character deftly from college graduate to empty-nester dad and husband Daniel.

Jay Montgomery has the most difficult job, with his role as Dan, the modern-day workaholic spouse. Montgomery allows the audience to empathize with the character despite his faults, and leads the final song, "In Whatever Time We Have," with confident vocals and the appropriate desperation of a man trying to redeem a marriage that has been neglected for too long. Director Randy Brenner makes many smart staging choices, and his attention to detail helps enhance the theatrical experience of viewing the show.

Under Mr. Brenner's leadership, the show flows well and there is a fine balance between humor and dramatic tone throughout. Choreographer Karl Christian supplies effective movement in the limited dances, but the show could stand to have a few more choreographed moments. Musical Director Brent Crayon deserves kudos for capably leading the cast through some complex vocal arrangements and in directing the skilled four-piece band.

Those exquisite arrangements and the orchestrations are the work of Tony nominee Steve Orich. The effective unit set by Bob Fetterman is that of a dusty attic, with a hodge-podge of boxes and carefully unorganized junk scattered about the room. The costumes by Carolyn Ericson are appropriate, though a bit more variety for the two younger couples wouldn't hurt. John Rensel's lighting is professionally rendered, but the use of various colors coming in through an attic window seems vague in purpose and distracting at times.

Snapshots has a lot going for it. Its quaint and personal story of a couple struggling through life's ups and down plays well to the Midwestern sensibilities of an Ohio audience and will likely to appeal to many of the audiences to which this show will eventually play. Schwartz's amazing songs are given a new coat of polish thanks to new lyrics and arrangements, and the story that supports the songs is well-constructed.

The piece isn't perfect, but it's a worthwhile package that is likely to please most audiences. The Human Race Theatre Company, with their strong cast, direction, and sufficient design, presents an entertaining production of which all involved should be proud. You're visiting MusicalSchwartz. They laughed some more, and when it ended, Brookie said seriously, 'So tell me about this guy they lined you up with. Tried to put the shaft in you, did he? At one o'clock in the morning.

On my doorstep, for pete's sake. It was horrible. You get out of practice at fighting them off, you know? For the first time Maggie found the humour in the. She laughed with Brookie, great shaking laughs that robbed her of breath and left her nursing a sore stomach while she curled low on her spine and grinned at the ceiling. I haven't laughed like this in months.

Then you go out on a date and when he tries to kiss you you stiffen up and make a fool ofyourself. I did it again last week. A man who works at my supermarket who lost his wife several years ago, too. I've known him as a passing acquaintance for years, and I could kind of sense that he liked me. Anyway, my grief group kept after me to ask him to do something, so I finally did. You don't want to think that doesn't feel awkward! The last time I dated it was the men who did the asking.

Now it's everybody. I just froze. They say it takes a wh ile, and that's only two dates. It clouds the judgement. He said talking with people from the past was healthy, that it takes us back to a time when we didn't have much to worry about. So I called, and you didn't let me down. I know they'd love to hear from you. I know they'd want to help if they thought they could. I'll give you their phone numbers. All of them? They pick on me because I still live around here and I've got more than halfa dozen kids of my own to help me address envelopes.

Here, hang on a minute and I'll give you their numbers. Fish, with a turned-up nose which she'd always hated, and across which she'd written in everyone's yearbook; Tani, a freckled redhead. How about Dave Chrisdanson's? We were all friends, weren't we? He married a girl from Green Bay and runs some kind of ball bearing factory, I think. I sent them a wedding" card.

What the hell - live and let live. I had a lot of laughs with Mark on band trips. The laughter left her face. After several minutes Maggie declared, 'I can't call Eric Severson. Groping, green, first-rime lovers, terrified of getting caught, or pregnant, lucky on both counts. Runs a charter boat out of Gills Rock, just like his old man did. Because you used to go all the way with him? And don't forget, I was on his dad's boat the day after the prom, too. What else could you two have been doing down in that cabin all that dine? But what does it matter now?

Eric's still around, and he'sjust as nice as he ever was, and I know he'd love to hear from you. He's got a beautiful wife. A real stunfier, and as far as I know they're very happy. We're adults now. I just gave you number along with all the rest. I didn't think it would such a big deal. Thanks so much, and that comes straight from the heart. You were exactly what the doctor ordered tonight. You don't thank a friemd for something like this. You gonna be okay now?

I got kids to get to bed. Call me, anytime, okay? See y', Mag. A montage of pleasant memorie reeled through her mind, of hersdf and the girls in high school - Fish, Tani, Lisa and Brookie. Especially Brookie, not particularly bright but liked by everyone because sh had a terrific sense of humour and treated everyon equitably, never indulging in criticizing or backbiting How wonderful to know she hadn't changed, that she wa still there in Door County, a ready link with the past, tb keeper of contacts.

Maggie rolled her chair closer to the desk and glanced a the telephone numbers highlighted in the beam of th, banker's lamp. Eric Severson's. No, I couldn't. She sat back, rocked, thought a little longer. Pmally, she rose and searched the bookshelves, selecting a thin, padded volume of cream leather stamped with imitation gold that. She opened the cover and saw her own squarish handvriting, with the parenthetical instruction Save for Brookie , and Brookie's abysmal chicken-scratching.

Dear Maggie, Well, we made it, huh? God, I didn't think we ever would. I thought Morrie-baby would catch us drinking beer and expel us before we ever graduated. Boy, we sure drank a few, huh? I'll never forget all the fun we had cheering and dancing and driving thru all those cornfields in Fish's pand truck with the Senior Scourges.

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Remember the time we stopped it and took a leak in the middle of Main Street? God, what if we'd got caught!! Don't forget the choir trip and that green slime we put in Pruitt's thermos bottle, and all the dmes we drove him nuts adding notes to songs, and the time we put that poster of the nude in the boys' locker room with you-know-who's name on it! My mother still hasn't found out about all the trouble we got into over that! I sure hope everything works out for you and Eric, and I know it will because you're such a neat couple. Even though you'll be at Northwestern and I'll be in Green Bay at Beauty School, we'll still get together weekends and pork out with Fish and Lisa and Tani so let's all keep in touch Take it easy on the guys in Chi-town, and good luck in whatever you do.

You're the one with all the brains and talent, so I know you'll be a success, no matter what. You've been the best friend ever, Mag, so whatever you do, don't change. And don't forget me. Love, Brookie She didn't remember putting green slime in Mr Prnitt's thermos or whose name they'd written on the poster of the nude. And who was Morrie-I' baby? So many lost memories. She checked out Brookie's class picture, Tani's, Lisa's, Fish's, her own wrinkling her nose in chagrin - all of them so girlish and unsophisticated. But the one whose pictureI she'd really opened the book to see was Eric Severson.

And there he was. Extraordinarily good-looking at seventeen - tall, blond and Nordic. Though the ycarbookf was done in black and white, Maggie imagined colour!. Eric Severson, my first lover. She found his handwriting on the flyleaf at the end of theI book. Dear Maggie, I never would have guessed at the beginning of this year how hard it'd be to write this to you.

What a great year we had together. I remember that first night I asked if I could take you home, and when you said yes, I thought, Maggie Pearson with me, Wow!! And now look at us, graduating with a million memories. I'll never forget that first dance when you told me not to chew gum in your ear, and the first time I kissed you on the snowmobile trail down below Old Bluff Road, and all the times when coach Gilbert would be talking to us guys. I liked you for a long time before i got up enough nerve to ask you out, and now i only wish I'd asked you about three.

I'm going to miss you to beat hell this l when I'm at Stout State, but we've got a date Thanksgiving in The Door, and for Christmas, too. Don't Felicity and Aaron, and we've got a date in the spring '69 to talk about you know what. Keep wearing but only when you got a date at home with me. I saw a woman who looked so great in pink. I'll never forget you, Maggie M'girl. Lots of love, Felicity and Aaron - the names they had picked for future children. Heavens, she'd forgotten. And the date the spring when they had agreed to talk about gett married.

And how he'd always favoured her in pink. Remembering him, she was gripped by nostalgia. He's hapily married to a very beautiful wife, and we're all grown-1 now: How could a call from a girl twenty-three years in past threaten either his marriage or my well-being? It'll be a friendly hello, that's all. Following Dr Feldstein's orders, Maggie picked up phone and dialled. Chapter 2 The phone jarred Eric Severson out of a sound sleep. Beside him, Nancy mumbled and rolled over as he reached for the nightstand and answered in the dark. I'm really sorry. How thoughtless of me.

But I'm in Seattle and it's only nine o'clock here. Listen, Eric, I'll call some other time during the day when ' 'No, it's all right. You mean Maggie Pearson from Gibraltar High? Class of'65? It was an impetuous call, anyway. Please apologize to your wife for my waking her and go back to sleep, both of you. Hang on a minute. Sorry to disturb you. I'll tell you in the morning. He moved familiarly along the dark hall and down the steps, across the living-room carpet and onto the cool, vinyl floor of the kitchen where he switched on the fluorescent light above the sink.

In its sudden glare he squinted and reached for the phone on the counter. I'm downstairs. Well, Maggie, what a surprise to hear from you. It was stupid of me not to consider the time difference. You see, I just finished talking to Brookie - she's the one who gave me your number and suggested I call you. We had such a great talk, by the time I hung up I never gave a second thought to the time. Dressed only in Jockey shorts, he settled gingerly on a kitchen chair, taking the phone with him.

When she's here in her own bed, sleeping's no problem for her, believe me. Her name is Nancy. I met her my last year in college. How about you? You're living in Seattle and? His inflection left an open blank. He died a year ago.

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I read a mention of it in Advocate. A daughter, Katy, seventeen. Groping for something to fill it in, she put in, 'Brookie says you're running your dad's charte boat. Out of Gills Rock with my brother Mike. You remember Mike, don't you? He was two years ahead of us? We used his car to go to the prom. We've got two boats now and Ma runs the radio for us and does all the shore work and the bookings and sells the licenses. How is she? Looks the same as ever - like a eros between Burgess Meredith and a Persian lamb coat. The sound, coming across the wire seemed to roll time backwards.

She' still full of sass,' Eric added, settling more comfortably the chair. I liked her s much. And your dad.. I'm sure you must mis him. Even after six years, Eric still felt the loss. The values he had learned had been taught to him by the old man. He'd come by his occupation wrapped in the old man's arms, with his powerful hands covering Eric's own on the rod and reel, and his voice in Eric's ear, ordering, 'Never jerk back on the line, son!

Keep 'er steady! Eric's voice held gruff affection as he added, 'Ah, well.. I see your folks around every now and then, your dad mostly when I go into the store. He always wants a report on how the fish are biting. Maggie's mother had been' a harridan for as long as Eric had known her. He remembered his fear of Vera Pearson when he'd dated Maggie and how the area women, in general, disliked her. At least she hadn't the last time I was home, which was..

She's still got a ring in Daddy's nose, and she'd like to see one in mine. Consequently, I don't come home very often. We just somehow never made it, We travel a lot, though.. Funny isn't it, how hard it is to picture a person older than we remember them? And laughing. He'd always been able to make her laugh so easily. I' m older. Definitely older. He'd never understood why Nancy put wooden fruit on the table when the genuine article grew all over Door County. We had a model marriage.

I didn't know what the hell to say to my mother. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable, even me sometimes. Just to say hi. She rushed on. Saturday in The Door. I re member it well. Always a lot of tourists around then, and th ey probably all want to go fishing for salmon, right?

I know I woke her, too. Hey, I'm really glad you called. I ncan that. I'd like you to meet Nancy. And greet your mom and Mike for me. What the hell? He hung up, returned the phone to the cabinet and stood staring at it. He slipped his hands inside the elastic waistband of his shorts and scratched his belly, wondering. He opened the refrigerator and stood a while with the chill air fanning his bare legs, registering little but the repetitive thought:. Just to say hi, she'd said, but that sounded fishy. He took out a container of orange juice, uncapped it and swilled half of it straight from the bottle.

Backhanding his mouth, he continued standing in the wedge of light from the open door, baffled. He'd probably never know the real reason. Loneliness, maybe. Nothing more. He put the juice away, snapped out the kitchen light and returned to his bedroom. Nancy was sitting up cross-legged with the light on, She said she talked to Brookie and Brookie gave her my pho number and told her to call me.

I still haven't figured it out 'Brookie? Her maiden name was Holbrook. The cherry picker's wife. She and Maggie were best friends in high school We were all friends, a whole gang of us who ran arom together. What is your old girlfriend doing calling you in the middle of the night? They kissed, long and lazily, rocking against each other. When he lifted his head she looked into his eyes and said, 'I miss you when I'm gone, Eric. But he knew better than to push the subject.

Let's not spoil it with that old epistle.

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She was adept, very adept, and infallibly desirable. She saw to her desirability the way some wives see to their daily housework, expending much time and energy upon it, allotting it a fixed time in her schedule. Lord, she was a beautiful creature. While she reversed their roles and seduced him, he admired her at close range, her skin with the exquisite texture of an eggshell, incredibly unaged for a woman of thirty-eight, cared for twice a day with the expensive French cosmetics she sold; her nails, professionally groomed and artificially lengthened, painted a.

Orlane paid their sales reps a hair and nail allowance and gave them unlimited gratis merchandise with the understanding that they present themselves as walking testimonials for their products. The company got its money's worth with Nancy Macaffee. She was the most beautiful woman he knew. She ran one long nail across his lips and inside them. He 45 bit it lightly, then, still lying beneath her, reached up to stroke her hair.

She had hair as coarse as a mare's tail, thick and healthy. Daytime, she wore it drawn back to the nape in a classic, smooth, tucked tail, held by a sixty-dollar gold barrette. Tonight it bunched around her high cheekbones, making her look like Cleopatra in an up-draught. She sat on his abdomen, svelte, nude, shaking her head until the hair slapped the corners of her eyes, flexing her fingers in the hair on his chest like a dozing cat. Long ago, when she'd been in training to learn her trade, she'd told him a fact she'd learned: that most people are born with a single row of lashes, but some are blessed with a double.

Nancy had a double and then some. She had incredible eyes. Lips, too. He felt her cool hand 46surround him at last and shuddered with her first stroke. They knew each other's sexual temperaments intrinsically, knew what the other needed, wanted, liked best. But at the moment when he reached to place himself inside her, she pressed him away, whispering, 'Wait, sweetheart, I'll be right back. It's too risky. He sighed, flopped to his back and closed his eyes.

But he knew the answer. She pampered her body not only for the benefit of Orlane cosmetics, not only for him, but for herself. She was afraid of jeopardizing that perfection. He had taken a chance, introducing the subject tonight. Most times when he mentioned having a baby, she grew indignant and found something in the room to occupy her attention.

Afterward, for the remainder of their weekend together, the atmosphere would be strained. So he'd learned not to badger her about it. But the years were on a downhill run. In October he'd be forty-one; another two years or so and he'd be too old to want to start a family. A kid deserved an old man with a little zip and zest, one he could scrimmage and wrestle with, reel in the big ones with. Eric recalled his earliest memory, of riding above his father's head, seated on the old man's wide, cupped palm while the gulls wheeled overhead.

Follow them and they'll tell you where there's fish. More than anything in the world, he wanted a family. The mattress shifted and Eric opened his eyes. Nancy knelt above him. They were inventive and agile. They sampled three different positions. They verbalized their wishes.

Dating a Married Man - The Truth Exposed

Eric experienced one orgasm; Nancy, two. But when it was over and the room dark, he lay studying the shadowed ceiling, cradling his head on his arms and pondering how empty the act could be when not used for its intended purpose. Nancy rolled close, threw an arm and a leg over him and tried to finesse him into cuddling. She commandeered his arm and drew it around her waist.

But he had no desire to hold her as they drifted off to sleep. In the morning Nancy rose at and Eric at quarter to six, the moment the shower was free. He thought she must be the last woman in America who still used a vanity table. The house, prairie-styled, circa , had never pleased Nancy. She had moved into it under duress, complaining that the kitchen was unsatisfactory, the plug-ins inadequate and the bathroom a joke.

Thus the vanity table in the bedroom. It sat against a narrow stretch of wall between two windows, accompanied by a large round makeup mirror circled by lights While Eric showered and dressed, Nancy went through her morning beauty rite: pots and tubes and bottles and wands; jellies and lotions, sprays and creams; hair blowers and curlers and teasers and lifters. Though he'd never been able to understand how it could take her an hour and fifteen minutes, he'd watched her often enough to know it did. The cosmetic ritual was as deeply ingrained in Nancy's life as ' 48 dieting she did both as a matter of rote, finding it unthinkable to appear even at her own breakfast table without looking as flawless as she would if she were flying into New York to meet the Orlane hierarchy.

While Nancy sat at the makeup mirror, Eric moved about the bedroom, listening to the weather on the radio, dressing in white jeans, white Reeboks and a sky-blue knit pullover with the company logo, a ship's wheel, and his name stitched on the breast pocket. Tying his sneakers, he asked, 'Want anything from the bakery? You should have some wholegrain instead. Be right back. He had been displeased last night, she knew, and it worried her. She wanted their relationship -just the two of them - to be enough for him, as it was for her. She'd never been able to understand why he thought he needed more.

In the kitchen he put coffee on to perk before stepping outside and pausing on the front stoop, studying the town and the water below. Main Street, a mere block away,contoured the shoreline of Fish Creek Harbor, which lay this morning beneath a patchy pink-tinged mist, obscuring the view of Peninsula State Park, due north across the water.

At the town docks sailboats sat motionlessly, their masts piercing the fog, visible above the treetops and the roofs of the businesses along Main. He knew that street and the establishments on it as well as he knew the waters of the bay, from the stately old White Gull Inn on the west end to the sassy new Top of the Hill Shops at the east. He knew the people down there, too, hometown folks who waved when they saw his pickup go by and knew what time the mail came into the post office each day between 11 :oo and 49 and how many churches the town had, and who belonged to which congregation.

These first few minutes outside were some of the best of his day, casting a weather eye at the water and the eastern sky above the woods which crowded the town, listening to a mourning dove mimic itself from a highwire nearby, inhaling the scent of the giant cedars behind the house and the aroma of fresh bread, lifting from the bakery at the bottom of the hill. Why did Maggie Pearson call me after twenty-three years?

Out of nowhere the thought intruded. Startled by it, Eric set his feet in motion and jogged down the hill, hollering hello to Pete Nelson through the back screen door of the bakery as he passed it and headed around the building. It was a pretty little place, set back from the street with a grassy front lawn, surrounded by a white-railed porch and beds of bright flowers that gave it a homey look.

Inside, he nodded to two early tourists buying bismarcks, exchanged good mornings with. To Eric, this ritual trip to the bakery had become as enjoyable as Pete Nelson's pastries. He returned up the hill in blithe spirits, carrying a white waxed bag, bounded into the house and poured two cups of coffee just as Nancy entered the kitchen.

To Nancy it was never a good morning until her makeup ritual was complete. Who but Nancy would wear purple and green cats and look - chic? Even her belt - a twisted hank of purple sisal with a buckle the size of a hubcap- would have looked stupid on anyone else. But his wife had panache, and indubitable style, and access to the discount rooms in the most elegant department stores across America. Any room Nancy Macaffee entered became eclipsed by her presence. Watching her cross the kitchen in purple shoes, her hair confined in a neat, low tail, her eyes shaded and mascaraed, her lips painted one colour and outlined with another, Eric sipped his coffee and grinned.

Just trying to imagine you as a polyester mama - say, two hundred pounds, wearing double-knit slacks and hair rollers every morning. This job would be ideal if it weren't for all the paperwork. After a full five days on the road, she spent her sixth, and often half of her seventh, doing paperwork - she was one damned hard worker, he'd give her that. But she loved the glamour associated with such stores as Bonwit Teller, Nciman-Marcus and Rocco Altobclli - all her accounts.

And if travelling came along with the job, she accepted its drawbacks in exchange for that glamour. She'd had the Orlane job when they moved back to Door County, and he'd thought she'd give it up, stay home and have a family. But instead, she'd put in longer hours both at home and on the road in order to keep the job. Taking three charter groups out. He raised the door by hand, glanced at Nancy's ultra-respectable steel grey Acura and clambered into a rusty Ford pickup that twelve years ago had been white, had possessed a left rear fender and had not required wire to hold its tailpipe up.

The vehicle was an embarrassment to Nancy, but Eric had grown fond of The. Old Whore, as he affectionately called it. The engine was still reliable; the company name and phone number were still legible on the doors; and the driver's seat -after all these years - was shaped precisely like his backside. Turning the key, he mumbled, 'All right, you old whore,?

He gunned her, smiled, shifted into reverse and backed from the garage. The ride from Fish Creek to Gills Rock covered nineteen of the prettiest miles in all of creation, Eric believed, with Green Bay intermittently visible off to his left; farms, orchards and forests to his right. From the flower-flanked Main Street of Fish Creek itself the road climbed, curved and dipped between thick walls of forest, past private cottages and resorts, heading northeast but swinging to the shore again and again: at the picturesque little village of Ephraim with its two white church steeples reflected in glassy Eagle Harbor; at Sister Bay where Al Johnson's famous goats were already grazing on the grassy roof of his restaurant; at Ellison Bay with its panoramic view from the hill behind the Grand View Hotel; and finally at Gills Rock beyond which the waters of Lake Michigan met those of Green Bay and created the hazardous currents from which the area extracted its name: Death's Door.

Eric had often wondered why a town and a rock had been named for a long-forgotten settler named Elias Gill when Seversons had been there earlier and longer, and were still here, for that matter. Why, hell, the name Gill had long ago disappeared from the area tax rolls and telephone book.

Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook!

But the heritage of the Seversons lived on. Eric's grandfather Severson had built the farm on the bluff above the bay, and his father had built the house tucked beneath the cedars beside Hedgehog Harbor as well as the charter boat business which he and Mike had expanded to provide a good living for two families - three if you counted Ma. Some might not call Gills Rock a town at all. It was little more than a smattering of weatherbeaten buildings stretched like a gap-toothed smile around the southeast side of the harbour.

A restaurant, a gift shop, several wooden docks, a boat landing and Ma's house were the primary Scattered among these were smaller buildings and the usual paraphernalia peculiar to a fishing community - boat trailers, winches, gasoline pumps and the cradles in which the big boats were dry-docked over the winter.

Turning into the driveway, the truck pitched steeply downhill and bumped over the stony earth. Maples and cedars grew haphazardly between patches of gravel and among the collection of huts near the docks. The roof of the fish-cleaning shack already sported a line of gulls whose droppings had permanently streaked the green shingles with white. Smoke from the fish-smoking shack hung in the air, pungent and blue.

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Permeating it all was the ever-present odour of decaying wood and fish. Pulling up beneath his favourite sugar maple, Eric noted that Mike's sons, Jerry Joe and Nicholas, were already aboard the Mary Deare and The Dove, vacuuming the decks, icing up the fish coolers and putting in a supply of refreshments. Like himself and Mike, the boys had grown up around the water and had been going out on the boats since their hands were big enough to grip a rail.

At eighteen and sixteen Jerry Joe and Nicholas made responsible, knowledgeable mates on the two boats. Slamming the truck door, he waved to the boys and headed for the house. He'd grown up in the place and was unbothered by its doubling as the charter fishing office. The front door might be closed at times, but it was never locked; already at it was shoved as far back as the buckled wood floor would allow and propped open by a six-pack of Coca-Cola. On one rack hung yellow slickers for sale, on another a rainbow of sweatshirts lauding severson's charter fishing, gills rock.

Piled on the floor were more six-packs of canned soft drinks while on a card table in the corner a twenty-five-cup coffeepot was already steaming with free brew for the customers. Circling the counter with its vintage brass cash register, Eric headed for the back, through a. On the far side of the porch another door led into the kitchen.

To the best of Eric's memory that oilcloth was the only thing that had been replaced in the room since when the antique wooden icebox had gone and Ma had bought the Gibson refrigerator, which now was a yellowed relic, but still running. Ma never threw anything away with a day's use left in it. She was dressed in her usual getup, blue jeans and a tight aqua-blue T-shirt that made her resemble a stack of three inner tubes. Anna Severson loved T-shirts with slogans.

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  • Bittersweet Snapshots of an Affair With a Married Man : Skylar Stone : .

Today's bore the words i do it with younger men, and a picture of an old woman and a young man fishing. Her tight, nickel-coloured curls held the fresh shape of home-permanent rods, and her nose - what there was of it - held up a parr of glasses that were nearly as old as the Gibson and their lenses nearly as yellowed. Turning with the cup in his hand, Eric watched her move to a cupboard to unearth bread pans. Or don't that wife of yours know how to make it?

She get home last night? About ten-fifteen. What'd you do to it, by the way? They lived in the woods not fifty feet up the shoreline. You had your breakfast? Glazed doughnuts? God didn't make no commandment named "thou shalt not meddle," so I meddle. That's what mothers are for. He lifted a cover and found two nearly cold Polish sausages - one for him, one for Mike as usual - picked one up with his fingers and leaned against the stove, eating it, pondering.

My hair ain't kinked up that tight. What brought her up? She turned from the sink and looked back over her shoulder. For what? Sniffin' around, that's what she's doing. Widows get to sniffm' when they need a man. He had thirty pounds and two years on his brother, plus a full brown beard. Testing the steaming coffee with his lips, Mike grinned at his brother.

You and old Maggie used to nearly set that old daybed on fire back in high school. She and Glenda Holbrook kept in touch, and she just Said hi, how y' doing, are you married, you got kids, that sort of thing. Go ahead, Jerry Joe. Our seven o'clock parties are here. Just sent 'em up to the office. Nick and me could use some help down here.

Beyond the fish-cleaning tables he saw Tim Rooney, their handyman, directing a boat that was being backed into the water on their ramp, while another pickup and boat had just pulled into the parking lot. Switching off the mike, Eric called, 'Ma? Customers coming from all directions.

I'm heading for the boat. At precisely o A. Jerry Joe released the mooring lines and leapt aboard as Eric pulled the cord for the air horn and it split the silence in a long, deafening blast. From the cockpit of The Dove, Mike answered with a matching blast, as he, too, revved his engines. Beneath Eric's hands the wide wooden wheel shuddered as he threw the engine from reverse into forward and headed at a crawl out of Hedgehog Harbor. This was the time of day Eric liked best, early morning, with the sun coming up behind him and fingers of steam rising from the water, parting and curling as the boat nudged through; and overhead, a battalion of herring gulls acting as escort, screaming loudly with their white heads cocked in the sun; and to the west Door Bluff rising sharp and green against a violet horizon.

He pointed the bow northward, leaving behind the damp-wood-and-fish smells of the harbour for the bracing freshness of the open water. Switching on the depth sounder, he plucked the radio mike off the ceiling. Deare on ten. Who's out there this morning? No action out here. Thanks, Rug. Eric made one more call.

Have that bread baked, okay? He assigned lines, checked the multicoloured radar screen for sign ofbaitfishi or salmon and kept a constant eye on the tips of the reels in thcir scabbards along the side and rear rails. All the while he bantered with his customers, getting to know the first timers, rehashing past catches with the repeaters, joshing and charming them all into coming back again.

He was good at his job, good with people, good with the. When the first fish was hooked his enthusiasm added as much to the excitement as the bowed rod. He plucked it from its holder, bellowing out instructions, putting it in the hands of a thin, bald man from Wisconsin, then hurriedly buckling around the man's waist a heavy leather belt to hold the butt ofthq rod, shouting the directives his father had issued years before: 'Don't.

Stay close to the rail! We got him! He'd been fishing these waters all his life so it was no surprise that they filled out: six salmon for six fishermen. By seven o'clock that night he'd repeated the same routine three times. He'd baited lines a total of forty-two times, had met eight new customers and eleven old ones, helped them land fifteen chinook salmon and three brown trout, had cleaned all eighteen fish and had still managed to think of Maggie Pearson more times than he cared to admit.

Odd, what a call like hers began. Old memories, nostalgia, questions like, what if? Climbing the incline to Ma's house for the last rime, he thought of Maggie again. He checked his watch. Seven fifteen and Nancy would have supper waiting, but his mind was made up. He was going. Mike and the boys had gone home, and Ma was closing up the front Office as he went through. Looking up the number, he knew Ma would be coming in. He dialled. The phone rang in his ear and he propped an elbow against the top of the refrigerator.

Sure enough, Ma came in with the percolator and started emptying coffee grounds into the sink while he listened to the fourth ring. Thel child returned and said, 'She wants to know who this is. Moments later Glenda came on. Speaking of the devil. Surprised the hell out of me. I'm sure worried about her. We just- you know caught up, sort of. Apparently she's been going through counselling with some grief group and everything sort of came down on her at once. She was going through this struggle to accept All I know is that her psychiatrist told bet that when she starts getting depressed the best thing to do is to call old friends and talk about the old days.

That's why she called us. We're her therapy. Ill had.. Is she in the hospital or what? I mean, was she still depressed or I got her laughing some, but it's hard to tell. How did she seem when you talked to her? It's been twenty-three years, Brookie. It's pretty hard to tell from just her voice. I got her laughing, too, but I think it'll help. I've already talked to Fish and Lisa and Tani. We're going to kind of take turns.

You got a pencil? With his mother watching, he wrote Maggie's phone number among the dozens scrawled on the cover of the phone book. I'm at her house now. Bye, Brookie. He felt like a herd of horses was galloping through his insides. Her doctor told her to call old friends. He stood for a long time, filled with a startling amount of concern, considering what was proper. Finally he turned back to Anna. He was forty years old, but he needed her approval before doing what was on his mind.

I got to take a bath. Chapter 3 On the day following her conversations with Brookie and Eric, Maggie's phone made up for its usual silence. Her first. Her next call came as she was bobbing her first tea bag the day. It was Nelda. At o:3o A. Oh, Tani, how are you?

Gosh, it's good to hear your voice. Within an hour. Guess who? Fish, it's you, isn't it? It's the fish. Brookic called yo right? S was putting on the last of her makeup, preparing to go to th. Oh, goodness.. How are you, Maggie? I'm overwhelmed. Do you remember my brother, Gary? He's married to Marcy Kreig. They've been divorced for over ,ve years. Gary is getting remarried next week and be in Door for the wedding. I was thinking, If you could come home, I m! That's a disappointment.

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It would have been so much fun. Even if it's only for the weekend. It would be so great to get everybody together again. She thought about the curious rhythms in life, and how the support she'd just been given she would now pass on to another. At z that afternoon she sat flipping the pages of a Good Housekeeping magazine in the family lounge of the intensive care unit of Washington University Hospital, waiting to be summoned. A television with its volume lowered murmured from its perch on the far wall. From a Formica niche in the wall the smell of strong coffee drifted through the room.

A nurse entered, thin, pretty, walking briskly in on her silent, white shoes. So much machinery. So many tubes and bottles; screens of various sizes bleeping out vital signs; and a thin, gaunt Tammi lying on the bed with a network of IVs threaded into her arms.

Her eyes were cl osed, her hands lying wrist-up, her arms dotted by purple bruises where previous IVs had been. Her apricot-blonde Maggie stood beside the bed for some time before Tammi opened her eyes and found her there. Maggie brushed back Tammi's hair from her forehead.

Think ahead, not behind. You're going to get stronger now, and we're all going to work together to get you happy. The hand was shaky, tethered by the IVs, and Maggie gently pushed it down, took a tissue from a nearby box and dried Tammi's eyes. We want to see you up and smiling again. Because you've touched lives in ways you didn't realize.

Each of us does that, Tammi. Each of us has worth. Can I tell you. My daughter had left for college, and you were in the hospital, and the house was so empty. Everything seemed hopeless. So I called one of my old high school friends, and do you know what happened? Tammi's eyes showed a spark of interest. Today I had calls from three of them wonderful old friends I haven't heard from in years, people I would never have suspected cared one way or the other about whether I was happy or not.

That's how it will be with you, too. You'll see. Why, by the time I was getting ready to leave the house to come and see you, I was hoping the phone would stop ringing. But I'll be back. Meanwhile, you think about what you'd like me to bring when you get into your Own room. Malts, magazines, nachos - whatever you want.

I want my hair washed worse than anything. And my dryer and curling iron. We'll fix you up like Tina Turner. Get strong. She stopped at a bcauty shop on the way home and bought the things Tammi had askcd for. Carrying the bag, she entered her kitchen to find her phone ringing again. She charged across the room, whisked up the receiver and answered breathlessly, 'Hello? A little breathless is all. I knew you weren't calling just to say hello. I just got so scared - I mean I didn't know what to think.

I just - hell, I couldn't get you offmy mind today, wondering why you'd called. Finally, I had to call Brookie, and when she told me you'd been depressed and in therapy my gut clinched up. Maggie, you were always laughing when we were young. Honest, I'm not, Eric. It was a young woman named Tammi, but l just got back from visiting her in the hospital and she's not only going to make it, I got her to smile and almost laugh.

Maybe I should have told you that I've been in group therapy, but after you answered the phone I felt - i don't know how to describe it - self--conscious, I guess. Brookic it was a little easier, but with you, well. Hall, that's silly.