Where You Go
Chapter 11

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

I had nothing else to do that day. I'd been between cases when Larry died. Come to think of it, these days I was between cases as often as I was working. I'd always worked as I felt like it, even when I was first starting out on my own as a PI; the money that let me get started was an inheritance, and from the time I got it I'd had enough money to relax a bit. I've just gotten rich, and then richer, since then. But it's not my money that has got me working less and less these past years. I just want to spend as much time as I can with my family, and since I can afford to do it, I do. I can't see that Cecelia or Darlia mind, either.

I've had a real blessing in Cecelia. We neither of us look at money as a thing we need or even want to pile up in heaps. We do in fact have heaps of it, but not because we set out to be rich; for me especially it just sort of happened. If my investments had gone the other way it wouldn't have surprised me a bit, for the only knowledge I have about 'em is what I gained making 'em. But they went well, and Cecelia's oversight after we got married and I turned it over to her helped. And so I have enough to buy my books and music, and take us on vacations every year, and that's what money is to me – a tool. A hammer lets you drive nails, a shovel lets you dig holes, and money lets you buy things. It's a tool, that's all, a medium of exchange. People would still be poor or wealthy if we lived in a barter economy, but trading would be much more difficult – I hate to imagine what Wal-Mart would be like if they had to maintain warehouses and pens around every store to hold the pigs and handmade furniture people paid in exchange for canned corn.

And meanwhile I've worked less and less since I got married. It's not been anything I've planned. Cecelia deliberately quit her job after a few years and began working for herself, out of the house, and then after a few years quit that too, so she could take care of the house and our daughter. With her it was conscious choices. Me, I've just sort of drifted into semi-retirement ... at 41 years old, yet. I know I'll always work some, or at least find something to do, just to avoid terminal boredom. I've seen too many people retire, sit down on the porch, and die in a couple of years; I'm not going that route. If I wind up abandoning the PI gig, I'll still find something to do – even if it's only digging in the flower beds under Cecelia's direction. Of course I don't much care for flowers...

Meanwhile I had to do something with the rest of the day. In December there's not usually much pleasant to do outside, but though it was cloudy the day was actually turning out fairly warm. I know a guy who grew up around Spokane, Washington, and he tells me that in winter up there everyone prefers clouds, which keep in the heat, where a clear day lets it escape into the sky. For that matter my brother Memphis, who lives in that area, says the same thing.

I left the Blazer in the parking lot and set out afoot, making sure my jacket was fastened up. It wasn't windy, or I'd have never done it, but the air was still and so I wasn't going to lose heat that way. I wasn't far from downtown – the original Anglo settlement, which at the time they'd called New Town – and so I went west on Lomas. Loma is the Spanish word for "knoll," or a small hill; why they call this particular boulevard that I don't know. There's a north-south street named Juan Tabo, and I've never met anyone who knows who that guy was – but he's got a street in his name. I'd intended to cut south into downtown, but when I'm walking plans don't often last. They say that no plan survives contact with the enemy; I've never been in the military so I don't know about that, but I do know that whenever I plan out a walk I depart from the plan sooner or later, and usually sooner.

This time I just kept going west. I didn't really notice where I was until I came to the point where Lomas meets Central, just shy of Old Town. When the Spaniards first settled Albuquerque in 1706, they built around a plaza in the old Spanish style. The plaza is still there, but Old Town doesn't have many inhabitants these days; it's mostly a tourist trap. Still, it is history; it's been there for 300 years. On the north side of the plaza there's the building that San Felipe Neri parish uses. There are older cities in the United States, and perhaps older church buildings, but nowhere is there an older building that they're still using for Sunday services. Whenever you go into the building you'll find tourists – and you're just as likely to find someone lighting a candle or praying, and on Sunday if you're there at the right time you'll find a priest saying mass, as they've done every Sunday since they put the building up in 1796. I've never been Catholic so I don't know everything about it, but I'm sort of proud to have the place in the city where I live. The current building dates from just 20 years after the Declaration of Independence. There are buildings in Boston which aren't that old, and yet Bostonians brag on their age.

The whole southwestern United States is old. The Spanish, after all, were the ones who financed Columbus' voyage, though he didn't find what he promised he would, and didn't discover the place anyway; there was a welcoming committee on the beach when he landed. Before Columbus died the Spanish were colonizing the Americas, and they pushed north from Mexico into California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Nevada, and Utah. Of those states, four have names which either are Spanish or show Spanish influence ... maybe the others do as well, but my Spanish isn't that good; I can't be sure. If I remembered I might ask Cecelia, whose Spanish is as fluent as anyone's, though her accent is pure American – but I never remember.

I thought about Cecelia speaking Spanish almost like a native – an Alabama sharecropper's daughter – and our daughter growing up as bilingual as anyone in town. I thought about history. I thought about the weather. I thought about the blessing it is to have Cecelia for my wife and Darlia for my daughter. I thought about how we'd never tried to have children or not have children, or have just one child or have more than one; we'd just gotten married and went on with our lives. And I managed to forget, for a time, the gnawing grief that was driving me crazy and making me do things that I would, eventually, hate myself for doing.

Sometimes I think there's nothing that Cecelia can't cook. Oh, there are things she's never tried, either because she has eaten 'em and doesn't like 'em, or Darlia or I don't like 'em, or she's just not heard of or gotten around to 'em. But I've never yet seen her take up a new dish and fail to make it come out better than right.

That night for supper she made her version of dirty rice. That's originally a Louisiana deal, but I'd gotten to liking it through the store brand at Wal-Mart, the boxed variety that you cook in a skillet with butter and two cups of water. She tried it one day, and looked at the ingredients on the box, and hunted around online for recipes, and within a week served us dirty rice that was about 20 times better than what came out of the box.

Being mostly vegetables, dirty rice doesn't fill you up much, so she makes tons of it – for all of us have healthy appetites. We all had big bowls – I guess they're soup bowls, though I'm about as informed on high class ways of eating as I am on what God was thinking three minutes before He created the world – and filled 'em up. And then we filled 'em up again. And a third time, though by then Darlia's appetite was slowing more, because she is, after all, just a kid. She sat and watched Cecelia and I put rice in our bowls a fourth time – Cecelia more than me, but still less than before. Finally we were full, though I suspect that we'd be ready for a snack before we went to bed. Vegetables don't stick with you anymore than they fill you up. I have nothing against being a vegetarian if that's how you want to go, but really human beings are omnivores, not herbivores, and we need meat sometimes or we're constantly hungry. For that matter real herbivores – cattle, giant pandas, koalas, like that – eat almost constantly, because it's just so difficult to get sufficient nutrition out of vegetable matter.

We skipped dessert, which isn't unusual but isn't everyday either. Darlia had already done her homework, and I looked at it with her while Cecelia did the dishes. She's a smart kid, and I have no doubt that one day she'll make me look sick in the brains department ... though the older she gets, the more "normal" she seems. I guess her age is catching up with her mind. There was a time, when she was smaller, when sometimes she could be almost frightening in her precociousness. I'm glad she's smart, but I'd just as soon she not stand too far out of the crowd. But perhaps I'm the wrong person to say that; I'm about as much of a conformist as the ugly duckling, though I am no swan.

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