“So what’s on your mind.”
“What makes you think something’s on my mind,” Niles said.
“You almost dumped a cup of catchup on your plate and never dunked one fry,” Kirk said.
“How do you know I didn’t all the sudden hate catchup?” Niles said.
“You’re avoiding the obvious,” Kirk said.
“Okay, you got me. I’m thinking about retiring,” Niles said. “I got my 30 in.”
“My god!” Kirk said. “Now I am old, when you got a kid that’s retiring.”
“I’m only 51,” Niles said.
“That sounds worse,” Kirk said. “I bet they been hitting you up to join AARP. Don’t do it, that’s giving in.”
“Do you remember a guy a was buddies with in the Army, Luther Hampton?” Niles said.
“Name rings a bell, but go on,” Kirk said.
“He calls me this week,” Niles said, “we haven’t talked in nearly 30 years. He remembers I’m near retirement and he offered me a job in some place called Brewster Harbor, Maine.”
“Are you ready to leave the force?” Kirk said.
“Ever since that call the fat lady ‘s been singing,” Niles said. “I wanted to talk it over with you.”
“I spent most of my career in uniform on the streets,” Kirk said, “my last five behind a desk. I hated being behind the desk and I was too old for the streets. I had to leave. But I’m a cop. So I came up here. I’m behind a desk a lot, but here it’s not so bad. They think I’m a little crazy around here; I walk main street like I’m a beat cop. The folks here know it makes me feel good. They pacify me and I know it.”
“So what are you saying?” Niles said.
“You came up here not for me to talk you out of it,” Kirk said. “You wanted me to assure you it was good. It sort of came in a flash for me, Your mom died. A year later I was staring out a window. It was in a flash. I think your mind may have been made up before the phone call, your heart patiently waited to be au fait with the particulars of your senses.”
“Crap, Dad,” Niles said. “I didn’t know you was so poetic.”
“This town has a widow librarian,” Kirk said.
“Dad, are you…”
“It’s only an intellectual exchange, my son,” Kirk said. “So, Annie?”
“We were supposed to have a meal together last night,” Niles said, “but she brings this guy with her who looks like Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby. He’s at least twenty years younger than her or has great genes.”
“And Annie?” Kirk said.
“She looked great,” Niles said. “It looks like Mr. Studly Doright is given her the spark of youth.”
“You’re not over her are you?” Kirk said.
“Of course I am,” Niles said. “Before yesterday it had been two years since we spoke and that was about an old piece of jewelery I found in the house that belonged to her.”
“So why call her?” Kirk said.
“I just wanted to bounce it off her,” Niles said. “Nobody knows me as well as she does.”
“I know you better,” Kirk said. “You wanted to see if she still cared.”
“No,” Niles said, “yes.” He paused. “Yes, I wanted to see if she at least cared. A year ago there was this report on the news about a woman named Anne Quinn who got killed in a car accident. I went to pieces. It turned out it was Anne Quinlin.”
“Have you tried to reconcile?” Kirk said.
“We tried a few years ago,” Niles said. “I thought it was my job, but it wasn’t. She loved her work. I was so busy with my job I didn’t notice. I told her I would cut back; a job came open in administration; home every night by 5:00. That’s when she told me, it wasn’t me.”
“That was good of her,” Kirk said.
“Was it?” Niles said. “The worst thing that can be said is it’s not you. If it’s not you it’s something else, something you can’t control.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, son,” Kirk said.
“You don’t, Dad,” Niles said. “Let’s just watch the ball game and curse the Yankees.”
Niles and Kirk spent all day Saturday around the town. Niles helped Kirk with a repair of a couple boards on his porch. Kirk introduced him to the librarian.
Sunday at noon Kirk walked Niles to his car.
“Are you sure you don’t want something to eat before you go?” Kirk said.
“We had a big breakfast,” Niles said. “I think that will hold me until I get to Augusta.”
“You’re spending the night there, right?” Kirk said.
“Yeah,” Niles said, “that way I can arrive in Brewster Harbor early Monday.”
“How long do you figure to spend there?” Kirk said.
“Few days,” Niles said. “I want to look things over. Who knows, after I talk with Lut he may decide I’m not right for the job and I might not like what I see.”
“Do you think you might come back this way when you’re done there?” Kirk said.
“If I take the job, I’ll go back to the city and close up shop,” Niles said. “Start the retirement process, sell the house…”
“Try one more time with Annie,” Kirk said.
“That ship has sailed,” Niles said.
They embraced and Niles climbed in his car.
“Be careful, son…”
“And if I get tired, I’ll pull off,” Niles smiled.
Niles backed out the drive way and headed out of town toward Augusta.