Home > The View from Alameda Island(7)

The View from Alameda Island(7)
Author: Robyn Carr

“Why would you ask that?” Beth asked.

“Because you’re all prickly.”

“Do we have a perfect marriage?” she asked, looking up at him. Beth was five foot three and Chip was a towering six foot three.

He grinned. “I doubt it. But close. Because your wish is my command.”

“Yeah, right. After four hours in front of a ten-year-old golf tournament.”

“But see how much nicer I am now?” he asked. He kissed her forehead. “You can’t do anything about Lauren and Brad.”

“Promise not to say a word. She’s focused on Cassie’s graduation for right now.”

“Beth, she’s never going to do anything, you know that.”

But Beth was thinking, this time she might. And although it made her feel sad and guilty, she desperately hoped her sister would really leave Brad.


Beau carried a forty-pound bag of fertilizer on each shoulder as he walked along the trail of patio stones that led to the vegetable garden. There he found Tim working on building a nice large pile of weeds. “I thought I might find you here,” Beau said. “I brought you a present.” He dropped one bag on the ground and lowered the other. “What are you up to?”

“Just hoeing around,” the priest said.

“You’re hilarious.”

“I know. I haven’t seen you in a couple of weeks,” Tim said. Then he stepped over his plants and gave Beau a firm handshake that brought them shoulder to shoulder. “How’s life?”

“Manageable, but busy,” Beau said, returning the man hug. Tim and Beau had known each other since they were about ten. To say they took different paths in life would be an understatement.

“But is life any good?” Tim pushed.

“Lots of it is,” Beau said. “Work is excellent. I’m almost too busy. Things are quiet at home. I watch sports all night.”

“I guess the divorce is proceeding,” Tim said.

He shrugged. “It’s a little stalled. Pamela wanted to try counseling. I thought it was a waste of time that also cost money. But then Michael asked me why I wouldn’t give it a shot.” He looked down, shaking his head. “I don’t know why Michael gets himself into this—he’s twenty, a sophomore, has a steady relationship...”

“He’s trying to put his life together—the life he wants to have. He doesn’t want the one you and Pamela have. He wants to know how that works.” Tim sank to one knee and stabbed the bag of fertilizer, ripping it open, releasing the rank smell.

“You almost sound like you know anything at all about marriage, Father,” Beau said.

“I’m well trained,” Tim shot back.

“Michael just needs to pay attention to the women he lets into his life, make sure there aren’t any red flags. Maybe he should be in counseling. Just for his future.”

“Not a bad idea,” the priest agreed. “Have you told him the truth, Beau? That you stayed for them?”

“I might’ve suggested that,” Beau said, sticking a shovel in the fertilizer and scooping out a big load, sprinkling it down the rows. “I told the counselor I’m there in body only. I don’t want to fix it. I want to end it. Our mission in counseling should be to help Pamela let go. So she sobbed for an hour, babbling excuses and trying to explain her change of heart. And there was begging. My head hurt for two days. It’s torture.”

“Stop going,” Tim said. He sat back on his heels. “Seriously, stop going. You are the worst victim sometimes. You can’t do this for her. It was her choice, you gave her many last chances. She needs counseling but not marriage counseling.”

“Well damn,” Beau said. “What about the sanctity of marriage and all that?”

“Everything has an expiration date, my brother,” Tim replied. “Really, I’m in the wrong order. I should be with the Jesuits. I’m living in this century. I can’t tell perfectly miserable people trapped in abusive and unholy relationships to stick it out just because the church prefers it that way and we promised to turn the other cheek and all that. I wouldn’t have lasted a year with Pamela.”

Beau grinned. “If the diocese ever finds out about you, you’re history.”

“Eh,” he grunted. He stood and started spreading the fertilizer with his hoe. “How about Drew?”

“Drew’s good. Graduating in a couple of weeks. I’m having a party for him—mostly his friends and my family. Will you come?”

“Of course, as long as no one dies or gets married.”

“Pamela is trying to get involved, combining families, throw in an ex who may or may not show up. I’m expecting Drew will get a card with some money in it from his dad—anywhere from twenty to a hundred, depending on his guilt. It’s so awkward, my family and I’m sure her family know the circumstances but we have to make nice, act like we’re at least getting along, look as if we’re not getting divorced. I talked to Drew about all the subterfuge and he said, ‘No biggie. Let her do it. Then we’re done until I get married, which I promise you will be many years from now. Between now and then, I’m probably not going to make her unhappy.’ You gotta love that kid. Everything rolls off his back.”

“Or it seems to,” Tim said. “Keep an eye on that. Still waters...”

“We spend a lot of time together,” Beau said. “Just me and Drew these days. I think Drew has forgotten we have Michael’s graduation in a year...”

“Things will be better by then. What did you tell the counselor?”

“I told her we’ve been separated four times, Pamela has had other relationships during the separations and when we’re together she’s almost always unhappy and we argue too much. She pokes at me until I poke back, so sometimes I leave the house or go in the garage or detail the truck. I told her I don’t want to do that anymore. And of course she asked if we fixed our relationship so it wasn’t like that, was I in? And I said, I’m sorry, not anymore.” He dug out a shovelful of fertilizer. “I’d like to move on so my friends and family aren’t constantly forced to ask me where we are now.”

Tim stopped moving his hoe. “I’m sorry, Beau,” he said.

“Aw, not you, Tim. I don’t see enough of you for you to get on my nerves. That’s a problem, by the way. I’d like to see enough of you for you to get on my nerves.”

Tim grinned. “Basketball game Thursday night.”

“Can I bring a ringer?”

“Absolutely. I haven’t seen Drew in months.”

“I’m in pretty good shape,” Beau said. “You should pray.”

“I’ll think about it, Beauregard,” he said.

When Beau was a kid, a relatively poor kid, Tim’s well-off family moved into town. Tim’s dad was a lawyer. Beau never went to school hungry but there were lots of times he wanted more to eat than there was and he was impressed by the bounty of Tim’s table. Beau had two sisters and a brother, Tim had two brothers and a sister. Tim lived in a five-bedroom house on a big lot with a brick circular driveway. Tim’s mom played a lot of tennis at their club and had a cleaning lady. But, despite the differences, the boys became friends and stayed friends all the way through school.

Beau’s parents were amazed and impressed that he got himself through college in five years with no help from them. Tim, on the other hand, went to Notre Dame. He’d never admitted it to anyone but he’d always aspired to the priesthood. He was spiritual and wanted to help people. Notre Dame honed that aspiration into reality.

Tim’s parents were appalled. Tim, being so damn smart, would have made a good lawyer in his father’s firm, but that didn’t interest him. He studied theology and counseling. And his mother lamented that he wouldn’t be a father. “But yes, I will,” he answered with a smile.

As it was, Beau became a landscape architect, marrying his love of design with his love of growing things. And Tim, after being away for many years, had finally come home to a parish in California not so far from where he grew up. And he was reunited with his closest friends.

When Tim came back it was to find his best friend struggling with a failing marriage. And while Beau was so happy to have Tim close by, he found the good father at odds with his assignment in his new parish. Tim wanted to help the needy, the hungry, the disenfranchised of the world and here in Mill Valley he was tending the wounds of people with plenty of money and access to everything they might ever need by way of health care, private education and luxuries. True, the well-to-do were not without problems, but Beau knew Tim longed for grittier work. He felt he wasn’t as useful as he could be.

They talked for a while about the vegetable garden and fruit trees, laughed a little bit about how Tim’s boss, the bishop, just wanted him to get people back into church. “He wants the confessional bubbling 24/7 and while there are plenty of Catholics in the parish, they’re more like you,” Tim said. “Not too worried about having a priest guide them and intercede with Christ for them. And most gave up on church doctrine a long time ago.”

“Your ego must be bruised,” Beau said with a laugh.

“I’m bored,” Tim admitted. “There isn’t enough challenge.”

“It’s a rich parish. Surely you can find something to do with the money!”

“This isn’t my dream job, Beau. In fact, sometimes I question my calling. Or better to say, sometimes I ask myself if I’ve done all I can do in this—”

Someone was walking through the garden and the men turned to see a lovely woman standing not far from them.

“I’ll be damned,” Beau said. “Lauren!” And he smiled, thrilled to see her.

* * *

Lauren left work a little early. It was a beautiful spring day and she wanted to stop at Divine Redeemer and see how far along the gardens had come. It wasn’t Tuesday, she told herself. There was no harm in it. But inside she knew she wanted to see him. Just to hear him talk about the gardens. Or his boys. She wondered how his life was going. Maybe he would talk a little about his divorce. If she felt comfortable and even a little secure, she’d ask him how they broke it to the kids. Cassie’s graduation was a mere week away. After that event and the celebration, when things had calmed, Lauren was going to stir it all up by telling her daughters her plans.

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