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Monday, September 10, 2007

Just This Side of Tomorrow - Part Ten


Livy sings along with the radio as Patti Page’s voice oozes over the airwaves in velvety tones.

“Allegheny Moon, I need your light, to help me find romance tonight.”

Livy squeals as pair of hands grabs her backside unexpectedly.


“Ha-Ha. You’re a real laugh riot, you know that?” Ray wraps his arms around her, his palms laying across her belly, flat and possessive.

Livy reaches her arms up, running her fingers through his hair. They stand for a moment, staring out the kitchen window. Suddenly, they see Hettie the Hen running by at top speed.

“Nuts!” Ray’s arms drop, his hands clenched.

“Just wait, now. Give him a minute.”

Danny runs, his body twisting towards the window to face them.

“It’s okay. I’ll get her. It’s gonna…I’m gonna…It’s okay.”

His face looks less sure than his voice is putting out there. Livy stifles a giggle, hearing Ray growl under his breath behind her.

“Just give him a minute.”

They stand in silence, waiting. After a moment they hear the barn door slam.

“I GOT HER. It’s okay. I got her. I got her.” As Danny’s volume lowers, he continues to repeat the same words, more for his own benefit now.

Livy turns, facing Ray now. “See?”

Ray rolls his eyes and brings his hands up to her shoulders. He pulls her closer and slides his open palms up her neck. Putting his thumbs on her chin, he pulls her close, kissing her deeply.

Her shoulders to drop as she goes limp under the weight of his arms.

“Dad! Dad! I need help getting the coop door open. But I got ‘er. DAD!”

Ray’s arms drop again. Livy’s eyes dance with laughter. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and walks towards the door. Shoving it open with his elbow, he answers his son gruffly at first.

“I’m coming!” Hearing the harshness of his tone, he repeats himself but with less of an edge now. Livy watches from the window as he joins his son. Squeezing out the dishcloth, she rinses it under the hot water.

Livy glances up just in time to see Hettie run past again. Ray’s face flashes sheepishly by the window, Danny in tow. Livy breaks out into giggles. A moment later a man-call of triumph reigns from the yard.

Smiling still, Livy returns to her sink full of suds. She sings along with the radio some more, taking on Georgia Gibbs bubbly sound as she belts out her latest tune.

“I got it bad…… and that ain’t good!”


“Before we conclude today’s sermon, I would just like to take a moment and acknowledge those of you who have gone out of your way to make me feel welcome. In the short time that I have made this Parish my home, I have known the people of this County to be fine and true.

Reverend Case was indeed a man of God. I have some large shoes to fill. I only hope that you will remain patient while I learn all your names. Oh and I must add, your kindness with the stews and baking is much appreciated. I fear if this bounty continues, my waistcoat seams will be parted wider than the Red Sea!”

A tittering of laughter travels across the crowd as Reverend Dunn closes his catechism and makes his way to the doors. Livy watches as he bids adieu to each of the families, shaking hands and patting young heads.

“He seems to have made his way.” Ray’s voice lilts up at the end, pleasantly.

“I barely recognize him. It’s like he’s a different person.” Livy seems almost suspicious, as though waiting for a ball to drop.

They both stand still, watching.

“Maybe you’re a different person.” Ray says, slipping her jacket over her shoulders.


Livy stares out the car window, watching the green beet tops fan softly to the side as a breeze blows across their field.

“What is it?” Ray glances over, putting a hand on her thigh. She turns her face from the window and looks at him. The open concern in his eyes jolts her back to the present.

“Oh, no. Ray, no it’s nothing like that. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” She takes his hand from her leg and places it on her bulging belly.

“I’m feeling right. I just… I can’t explain it. I’m worried, I guess.”

Ray takes off his hat with his left hand and places it on his lap. He scratches his scalp vigorously with that same hand, and then places his hat back on his head.

“Well, I’d say that’s pretty normal right about now. Wouldn’t you? I mean, seven months is nearly there.”

“No it’s not that. That’s what’s so crazy. It’s not about the baby. It’s not even about us. I just keep getting this feeling of… of…”

“Of what?”

“Of dread.”

“Dread? You mean like someone’s going to die?”

“No, I…”


“NO, come on, I just….”

Ray chuckles light-heartedly. “I’m telling you, this is natural. Now just put your mind at ease.”

“It’s like I’ve got ants in my pants. Something’s not right. I can just feel it in my bones.” She seems as frustrated about having these thoughts in the first place as she does about not knowing the whole story.

Ray shakes his head, a half smile on his face at her impromptu irrationality. He rarely sees his wife flustered and he’s enjoying it. But only just a little.

As they pull up in front of the house, Ray pauses before getting out.

“I hear the circus is coming to Wilson. We could set you up with a proper tent and all. Madame Livy’s House of Doom and Gloom.”

She remains silent. Ray gets out, jogging around to open her door. His face looks sheepish as he takes her by the arm, leading her towards the steps. He worries for a moment that he may have gone too far.

As they come to the top of the steps, Livy sees a pamphlet sticking out of the mailbox. Lifting the lid, she slides it out and glances down at the glossy paper. A small grin lifts just the corners of her mouth. Handing it to Ray, she steps inside quietly.

Ray looks down at it.

Do you Love Your Family? Don’t let the RED TERROR keep you up at night.
Invest in piece of mind with our Family Fallout Shelter Kit. It’s easily assembled and covered by our manufacturers warranty. And best of all, its made in Racine, Wisconsin - right here in the Good Old USA! For More Information, Call you Local Representative.
Stewie Long - Phone# Pacific 512

“Oh cripes, Stewie.” Ray mutters, sighing as he opens the door.


Ray lays quietly, his arms tucked up under his head. The covers are folded across his chest in a perfect line. Livy scoots back and forth, to and from the bathroom.

“I decided to set my hair tonight, instead of worrying about it tomorrow. I’ll have so much to do by then and I want to look nice. Ray do you realize? It’s been almost a decade. Well, actually it’s been forever, hasn’t it? Oh, blast!”


“I can’t find the new package of bobby pins I bought.”

“If they’re in a small paper bag, I saw them on top of the icebox.”

Before she can say anything, Ray leaps out of bed and jogs downstairs. Returning as quickly as he left, Ray hands her the bag. He plops back onto the bed and scurries his way under the covers.

Livy stands at the dresser, opening the package. Separating bits of hair with her brown tortoiseshell comb, she twists and rolls several sections from the front and top into loose circles. She fastens each one in place with a new pin.

“How about down?” Ray’s chin juts out as though he’s using his jaw to point at something.


“Will you wear it down? I like it down.” Ray nods his head once as he says it.

“This is just to give it some wave.”


“Meet you half way?”

“How’s that?” Ray answers, in learning-mode now.

“I’ll wear the front up but the back down.”

“Sounds good.” He looks pleased.

Ray watches as she finishes her set. Taking a spray bottle, she lightly spritzes her hair with a mist of water and puts on her hairnet. He laughs, shaking his head.

“I know. I look like something right off of Queen for a Day.”

Ray gives her a look of pity. Flipping back the covers, he pats the smooth sheet beside him. “Come here.”

Livy shuffles over to the bed. Sitting on the edge, she pivots her body slightly and rolls into her spot. Her round belly forms a mountain on top of her as she lies on her back. Ray leans up on one elbow. He looks at the bump with affection. Then he glances up, staring deep into her eyes.


“It’ll be fine.”

“Oh, I know that.”

Livy smiles widely, her nose twitching up like a rabbit. Rubbing her cheek with his hand, Ray guides her chin gently upwards until their mouths meet. Livy feels the nervous tension of earlier today leave her body, one cell at a time. She lets out a long moan.

“Still okay?” She opens her eyes. Ray’s face is just inches from hers. She nods her head and cranes her neck up, pulling him back into the kiss.

This is all Ray needs to hear. He presses himself up against her. Taking her arm, he folds it across her body and pulls, turning her onto her side in a single, lithe movement. One of her legs instinctively goes up, bending at the knee. He bends his own, tucking his leg right in behind hers.
Ray brushes some of the hair that escaped the pincurls off her neck. Burying his face there, in the soft spot behind her ear, he takes a deep breath and drinks her in.

“You smell so good.”

Livy reaches behind her. Sliding her hand down under the covers, she leans back and rests her head against Ray’s chest. Ray groans at her touch. After a few moments he leans forward and pulls her hand it up to his mouth, kissing it.
Letting go, he slides his arm down, lifting her nightgown; searching. She closes her eyes.

Livy stops, bracing her hand on the edge of the counter as a sharp pain cuts through her midsection. It's the third or fourth one in the last 2 weeks. She turns, wondering if she can make it to a chair and sit for a short spell.
Danny enters, his face looking bright with fresh autumn air. Livy forgets her pains and fills a pot with water to boil.

“Mama, Dad says I should come and see if you any help?”

“Oh, did he? Well, where is he?”

“He said to tell you he’s working hard out there.”

“At what?”

Danny shuffles his feet, looking down.

“Daniel, I said what is he working hard at?”

“He didn’t say.”

“Well, what was he doing?”

Daniel mutters something under his breath, his body turned away from her.

“What was that?” Livy tries with no luck to use her elbow to flick away an escaped curl. Removing her arm from deep inside the turkey, she washes it under the hot water.

“I said…. he’s whittling.”

Liv lets out a small snort as the door opens and Ray steps inside.

“Oh my goodness Ray, are you all right? You must be so tired. Can I get you a drink?”

Ray chews his cheek quietly. He turns, looking at his son. Danny bows his head in defeat. Ray scruffles his hair.

"This is our first Thanksgiving Dinner and I want it to be perfect. Will you boys please make yourself useful and set the table? And I just finished ironing the tablecloth so it might still be a little damp.”

"It's weird having these doors up. I don't think my Mama ever used them." Ray runs his hands up the smooth door frame.

"I know, it does seem odd. But I had to do something to separate us from the kitchen. I don't want a room full of people staring at me while I cook. " Ray nods his head in agreement.

Ray and Danny head into the diningroom and start to put plates down at each place setting. Ray pops his head back through the doorway. “I thought the boys couldn’t make it.”

“They can’t.” Livy answers.

“There are nine plates here.”

“I invited Mack and May. She was so sad about not being able to go home to California for Thanksgiving.”

“Huh.” Ray answers, surprised but not unpleasantly so.

Livy stirs the cranberry sauce that’s burbling away in the saucepan. Crossing the kitchen for the six hundredth time today she removes a turnip from the basket by the windowsill and begins to peel it for carrot and turnip mash; Ray’s favourite.

“We’re going to help Hank tune up the thresher. Be back in an hour,” Ray calls out from the front door.

Wiping her hands on her apron, she heads into the dining room to see what they made of their task. Her hand goes up to her mouth as she stifles back a belly laugh.

The Indian corn cobs she left out are now featured prominently at each guest’s place setting, but protruding comically from up out of each water goblet. She approaches the table to place them on the centre of the dinner plates as she’d originally intended, but thinks better of it and returns to the kitchen with a serene smile on her face.



As the guests pour their various drinks and the chatters grows louder, Ray answers Livy’s call for help in the kitchen.

“I’m here.”

“Could you please take the turkey in? I just can't lift it.”

“Sure. Uh...”

Livy turns, removing her apron and smoothing her hair.

“What is it?”

“Well, I was just thinking about your father. I mean, do you think he’ll want to carve?”

Livy approaches Ray, wrapping her arms around his neck.

“This isn’t just my first Thanksgiving dinner in our home, it’s yours too. You should carve.”

Ray nods. Looking over at the counter, he spots a brown crockery dish.

“Who brought that?”

Livy glances over. “May did. She says it’s a tradition - something her family has every year.”

Ray peels back the tin foil, looking down at it dubiously. “It’s green. What do you think it is? Seaweed? I hear they eat seaweed.”

Livy peeks down at the dish. Taking a spoon, she dabs one moist corner and licks it off slowly. She smiles.

Ray raises his eyebrows. “Well?” His face is caught in a half grimace.

“Its green bean casserole.” She laughs, pointing at the turkey on his mother's bone china platter.
Picking it up proudly, Ray enters the dining room ahead of Livy. Oohs and ahhs can be heard from those seated around the table at their first sight of the turkey.
Livy follows, carrying May’s casserole.


“I’m grateful to have been invited to such a delicious looking meal with wonderful friends, old and new.” May holds her glass up. Mack holds his up, clinking with hers.

“Here, here.” He adds, his face red with happiness.

Ray glances over at Livy, who gives him a look that says, “Don’t.” He stifles a laugh. Livy often jokes that May managed to meet a man of fewer words than Ray, even.

Livy glances down the table at her father. His shiny face is smiling, but frozen in an unnatural look of bewilderment as he listens politely to Stewie chattering away beside him.

“….. I mean, you just never can tell. One minute you’re sweeping your porch, the next your family is in peril and Communism is at your door. That’s why the Blockade 40 is the perfect unit for someone such as yourself, who…”

Ray sees a momentary flash of panic in his wife's eyes. He stands quickly, sliding his chair back. He clears his throat. Martha gazes up at her brother with pride.

“Thank you all for sharing your thoughts with us. And now Reverend Dunn, will you please say the blessing?” Ray sits quickly as his father-in-law's face shows relief at having been rescued. He stands. The guests bow their heads as he begins.

“And so, we giveth great thanks on this day. Blessed be our forefathers who came before us and forged the way, so that we….”

Ray and Livy wave from the porch. Standing for a few moments, they watch as the last set of taillights disappears down the road.

“It was perfect.” Ray stands behind Livy, his arms wrapped across her shoulders.

Livy smiles, nodding her head. “I hate to say it, but I think you might be right.” They turn and walk into the house.

Entering the kitchen they take one look at the counter, piled high with dishes, and both let out a huge groan. It wasn’t that everyone hadn’t offered, they had just wanted the evening of good conversation and the a few rounds of charades to last forever.

Ray begins stacking plates while Livy empties the sink. As Danny reaches over to turn on the radio, the sound of a car comes from out front.

Ray shakes his head. “Ruth probably forgot her handbag again.” He goes to the front room and starts looking around for it. Livy turns on the hot water.

“Uh, Livy. You’d better come here.”

Wiping her hands on a tea towel, Livy joins Ray by the front window.

“OH MY LORD.” Livy shoves the door open and runs down the steps.

“Are you all right? What are you doing here?”

“I’ve left Kent.”

Livy wraps an arm around Abby's shoulders, guiding her up the steps and into the house.