The Kelly disaster ran nonstop, an endless replay in my mind, over and over and over again. The disappointment that had become my life drenched my soul in a downpour of melancholy. I felt like throwing up. I wanted to throw up, but I couldn’t…just like everything else in my world…I couldn’t.
Stumbling out of the cabin, I thought about walking into the lake. I raised my eyes up to the heavens wanting a sign and expecting nothing. Less than a minute later my feet felt the freezing cold of the water seeping through my sneakers. Another step - my ankles stung from the icy liquid, and my feet numbed. The next step dropped off, over two feet deeper, emerging my belt. The numbness spread up into my lower chest. My breath came in short, quick gasps.
So this is how Scott MacDonald ends his pathetic excuse for a life. One last swim and God will finally have his way.
The memories flooded my mind…my parents, my life before their death, my wife, and then Kelly…her green eyes blazing. The tears rushed down my cheeks as I laughed out loud. Her beauty, her mind, her laugh formed a collage of memories all fighting to be seen and heard, until one forced it’s way to the top, capturing my attention…
The night before tax day, I had just cleaned up for the night. Kelly came in from the back and started brewing some coffee. I barked at her and she barked right back, refusing to tell me why she needed coffee at 1:00 in the morning. Shaking my head, I asked her if she would at least close up when she finished making a mess. She flipped me off and then went back to the coffee.
With my flight jacket in hand, I left for the day and headed back to my place. A block into my walk, I started wondering what she was up to, so I snuck back and watched her through the window. She poured an entire pot of coffee into a container, added about three-quarters of a bottle of Irish Whiskey, and grabbed a couple of large cups. She headed out the door, taking long strides with her long legs. I followed her several blocks to the other side of town and watched her knock on Melanie Stenson’s door. Melanie had lived in town her entire life, married early, and had no friends that I knew of. She peeked through the curtains, recognized Kelly, and then carefully opened the door.
By this time I’d already committed to stalking so I decided to finish up what I set out to do. Making my way around the left side of her red brick house, I found an open curtain. On her way to the kitchen, Melanie passed within a few feet me, and that’s when I saw it – the bruises and the cuts on her face and arms. The rumor around town about their financial problems and her raging husband, Roger, turned out to be true. I wanted to kick his head in. I made a mental note to do just that.
Melanie returned from her trip to the kitchen carrying a tray of ice and sat down on the sofa next to Kelly. Kelly put several cubes of ice in the cup and then filled it up with Irish Coffee. Coaxing her to drink like a loving mother with her 3-year-old, Melanie finally took it and drank several gulps. She wiped her mouth and began to talk, before falling apart. One sobbed uncontrollably and the other held her and rocked her, fighting back her own tears.
I felt like I’d invaded a sacred place, a sacred moment, and I ran away like a teenager who had just watched a couple making love in the privacy of their backyard. And I ran and I ran and I ran…until the night air cleared my mind. Then I started looking for Roger, because I was going to kill him. Dawn came and went. I continued my search through most of the day. I never found him, nor did anyone else. He disappeared for good.
A week later, Melanie walked into my pub, head held high. The long sleeves couldn’t cover the remaining bruises and cuts on her face. She pulled up a stool and said in a strong, clear voice, “Mac, I don’t have any money, would you mind starting a tab for me? I need a beer….oh, and a couple bucks for the jukebox.” I smiled at her, gave her a twenty to play some tunes, and filled up two pints with a double IPA. I handed her one and took the other for myself. I told her it was on the house as long as she needed it to be. She nodded her head, forced a smile, and stuck out her glass. I held my glass up to hers. She took a breath, met my eyes with resolve, and said, “Everything is going to be alright.” I agreed, “Damn straight. Cheers!” We both downed our beers in about ten seconds. While I refilled our glasses, she marched over to the jukebox and thrust the twenty in. I didn’t know it at the time but she selected the same song as many times as that twenty bucks would give her.
For the only time in my bar-owning career I bought drinks for the crowd. Over the course of the next few hours, the place filled to standing room only. The word spread that Melanie had come out of hiding, and everyone wanted to show their support. The entire evening we listened to Bob Marley sing No Woman, No Cry. The more drinks I served the more the crowd joined in...
My shivering body startled me, ending my reminiscing. Standing waist deep in Lake Tahoe, the cold creeping through my body, I could still hear the crowd singing…
Everything’s gonna be alright…Everything’s gonna be alright…Everything’s gonna be alright…
And then I heard myself yell, “Scotty MacDonald, what the fuck are you doing!” Channeling my father, I added, “MacDonald’s never quit!”
To this day, I don’t remember the next hour of my life. I found myself on my couch, the fireplace burning brightly, and my parents’ friends, the Plants, pouring Irish Coffee into me. They later told me I had called them on my cellphone, said ‘help’, and then hung up. They found me on the shore, shivering, and mumbling ‘everything’s gonna be alright.’
Mrs. Plant, a Naturopath by training, had me in non-critical shape within a couple hours. Exhausted, I slept for 12 hours straight. Other than a bit of soreness in my legs, I had no physical reminder of my episode. She rubbed on a little Arnica, gave me a couple Turmeric capsules, and my legs improved within fifteen minutes.
She nursed me for the rest of the day. About sunset, she explained to me the whats and hows of a few herbs that she left for me in the kitchen. Sitting down next to me on the couch, she studied me for a few minutes. Satisfied that she’d completed her work to her satisfaction, her facial expression turned stern, even dark. Then the most hippy-like, tree-hugging, peace-loving woman I’d ever met, put her finger right in my face and started yelling.
“I know things haven’t been easy for you, Scotty MacDonald. You lost your parents and that’s just terribly wrong. We lost our best friends and that’s wrong. But we didn’t lose each other. You have us and we have you, don’t you ever forget that! If you even think about doing anything like that again, I will chase you all the way to heaven and kick your ass for all eternity! You will never, ever get a moment of peace! Am I clear, young man?”
My eyes darted back and forth between her finger and her angry eyes as I answered, “Yes ma’am.”
“Give me your word!”
“You have my word, Mrs. Plant.” And somehow I knew I had to be true to that word.
The next day they showed up at my door with their second car, a real hippy vehicle – a 60s era VW Beetle with a large peace sign on the front, painted in bright reds, blues, yellow, and greens. Mr. Plant, a man of few words but plenty of smiles, handed me the keys and said, “What’s ours is yours”. He hugged me, a good, long hug. It felt good. I tried to avoid looking into Mrs. Plant’s face, but she took my chin in her hand and lifted it until my eyes met hers. A single tear fell onto her cheek. She leaned forward, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, “You are our son, Scotty. We love you.”
I drove off, thinking about how much they meant to me…and how much Kelly meant to me, in spite of my complicated situation. For now, that was enough. I tried the radio. Static. Thinking it wouldn’t work, I pushed the no-label 8Trak cartridge into the slot. To my surprise the music started right up. I put my sunglasses on to keep the sun reflecting in the rear view mirror from blinding me. The breeze flowed freely though the open windows as I turned the volume up and sang along with the Grateful Dead…
I will get by…I will get by…I will get by…I will survive…