And more is on its way. How many parts? Is this story even interesting (feel free to tell me that)?
Father Land (Part II)
After sleeping upon my arrival, I awake to start my first real day in Idaho. Or, as my father reminds me, my first in fourteen years.
“I ordered some bread from this local baker. He's got a pizza joint outside of town where we can pick it up. On the way, I was thinking we could stop at that campsite we stayed at when you were a kid.”
“Sure,” I say. “Sounds fun.”
“You remember this place?” he asks as we drive down the paved path.
The weather is cold and it's drizzling, so the grounds are nearly empty. Still, I dredge up a memory of riding bikes with my older step-brother. “I think so,” I say. “But it's all kind of vague.”
“Let's get out,” he suggests. “Go look at the lake.”
I do as he says. And I bypass the pile of deer shit he points out on the ground. When Laura spots the actual deer, she tells me to take a picture. My father and his wife look subtly amazed.
“We haven't seen any deer yet,” says Laura.
“Hmm,” is my response, because I'm a little perplexed. Deer are just as common in the town they left behind. So Laura's remark seems akin to pointing out a domesticated animal. But perhaps my thought is too harsh. I enjoy walking around and looking at stuff just as much as she does. Our preferred “stuff” is just different. Though, I can't think what mine may be.
We order several slices at the local baker's pizza shop. My father pokes at the cheese while pressing on his wife's elevated arm. The act is something he calls “muscle testing.” It's a tool in my father's arsenal of defense against the world. From what I understand, it's a quick way to check the body's response to a material placed within it's electro-magnetic field. Weak muscle tone implies a stress on the body's nervous system. More specific testing can pinpoint a response from any organ, joint, or point on the physical apparatus.
My father and Laura test just about everything. They're immune to people's stares.
“Looks like it's good to eat,” says my father. “Oh, but let's check the water.” He winces as Laura pushes his arm down.
I take a sip from my glass.
“You're gonna drink up all that chlorine?” he scowls at me.
“Tastes fine to me.”
Still, he runs to the car to fetch some BPA-free water bottles. I drink my share.
Back at the house, I suggest we take a bike ride. I've done nothing physical since I got here, and I'm beginning to lose my edge.
“Sure,” says my father. “We'll do a loop around the neighborhood.”
At the bottom of a hill, my father stops to question a neighbor. “I met this guy the other day,” he tells me. “I need to ask him about his snow blower. Let me tell you, they have some nasty winters here.”
He knocks on the front door of a quaint little home, and a women answers. “Hello,” she says with a hint of familiarity.
“Is Gary here?” asks my father.
“No, but he'll be back soon.”
“Oh. Well, let me introduce you to my son.”
I exchange pleasantries with the woman. Afterwards, she shows us the view from her porch.
“It's different,” says my father.
“Yes,” she agrees. “Different from yours.”
“But look at that.” My father smacks his lips as if he's just tasted a good meal. Then he turns towards a small, wooden table. “You have the wine set out and everything, huh?”
The woman laughs. “That's just decorative. Though, I guess you could still drink it. Can I invite you inside?”
“You want to go inside?”
“We just had new floors put in,” says the woman as we trek across the varnished wood.
“Oh, look at that,” says my father. He makes the same sort of sound as he did with the view.
“And we painted the walls. That furniture over there is new.” She's pointing to something I'd call mountain-chic. “It's nothing excessive, but it's nice.” To me, the place looks like a million dollar home.
My father talks with the woman about how to open up a house, and make it look more inviting.
“We'll have to have you over for drinks some time,” he says.
We're sitting in the living room, waiting for Laura's favorite television show to air. She makes some conversation.
“Just to let you know,” she says to me, “the real-estate agent told me that people here are - how do I put this - a little different.”
“What do you mean by that?” asks my father.
“Well, just a little bit different. Not everybody. But the people who grew up here. The people who don't know anything else.”
“Can you elaborate?”
“For example,” she continues, “I had to go down the post office to ship some packages. It was the middle of the day and the front door was locked. I kept banging on it, and eventually I decided to walk towards the side of the building. There was a door that said, 'Employees Only.' It took me a while to actually open it, but I peeked my head inside and realized it was the entrance. When I explained to the lady behind the counter that the sign could be confusing, she looked at me like...” Laura's eyes start to water. “Like I was...” There's a moment of hesitation. “... A dumb fuck.”
“Oh,” sighs my father. “Bad customer service isn't unique to this place. You find that anywhere. In fact, I've had quite the opposite experience here in Sandpoint. People seem genuinely nicer, more likely to help me out.”
“I'm just saying,” continues Laura, “that woman probably thought I should know better because that's the way the post office has always been.”
“Can we just drop it?” says my father.
“I was just saying they're different.”
My father waves a hand in her face like she's being absurd, and they both look quite flustered. It's the first time I've seen them fight since I arrived. And it's almost charming. The flare of my father's temper has shriveled throughout the years. It appears all he has left to fight for is this consensus: his new home is better than his old.
“I met this guy at my men's group who told me there's an all-you-can-eat fish 'n chips joint right down the road,” says my father. “I thought we could go there for dinner.”
Everyone agrees, so we make the trip. But Laura starts to (mildly) panic when we pull into the parking lot.
“I see the sign,” she says, “but where's the restaurant?”
We're parked next to a Conoco gas station. It's the only structure in sight besides some barns and a row of log cabins.
“Looks like it's a part of the gas station,” says my father. He happens to be right.
A small, walled-off area is tucked at one end of the convenience store. It's lined with tables and chairs, and spruced with an eclectic brand of classical music. We're among the first to arrive, but soon enough, the place is packed.
“The locals know where all the good food's at,” says my father.
Laura's demeanor is tentative, but soon enough she's downing her own glass of gas-station wine. My father has a beer. Their drinks are never tested, but when the fish arrives, arms are raised and morsels prodded. The food is deemed safe enough to eat.
“Well, it's a nice view,” says Laura, staring out the window in the back of station. It looks out upon a rolling green meadow and a setting sun.
Someone at the neighboring table overhears her. “As soon as I win the state lotto, that property's mine.”
My father gives me a brief chiropractic work-up before the night is through. First on the menu is some muscle testing. When he puts pressure on my arm, it goes down instantly.
“What's wrong with you?” he says, raising an eyebrow. “You know what your shirt is made of?”
“Cotton,” I tell him. “As far as I know.” I take it off and look at the tag. “Yeah, it says right here. A hundred percent.”
“I think I know what's the matter,” he says. “Touch the tag.”
I do as he says, and he presses down on my arm. It falls. When I let go, my muscle tone returns to normal.
“These tags are made of nothing but polyester. And it's sitting there right against your neck. How could that not effect you?” My father's tapping his head as if to point out the source of his intellect. “You see, I discovered this with one of my patients. He was an autistic kid. I had his parents buy him a whole new wardrobe. Everything was wool or cotton. But his muscle tone was still weak before I could even test him on anything else.
“I was a little bit scared, thinking, 'What am I gonna do with this kid?' Then I see this big tag sticking off the side of his sweatshirt. And guess what it's made of? Polyester. See, the clothing companies don't think about this. No one does, really.”
My father takes my shirt and asks me to hold the tag away from the clothing. He snips it with some scissors.
“Oh, did I get some of your shirt?” he asks.
“It's not that bad,” I say, because it's true, and the damage is already done.
“You might want to do that with the rest of your clothing.”
I go to sleep that night on down pillows covered with cotton pillow cases, and an all natural cotton, bed spread. And I awake to local farm-raised eggs, with locally-baked bread, and jam made from locally-picked huckleberries.
The sun shines and all seems good in the world.
“Great weather today,” says my father. “You want to take a trip in to Canada?”
“Sure,” I tell him. “I've never been.”
“It'll be the first time for all of us.”
To Be Continued...