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Starting Over at 55 (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 07


DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.


Who's that Knocking on My Door


When the knock on the door woke Jack up, his first thought was, Where am I?

His father's voice accompanied the second knock on the door. “Are you up, Jack? You told us to be here after eight. It’s after eight.”

I’m in Aunt Caroline's house, Jack remembered. Only it’s my house now.

He sat up in bed and looked around for a clock. I guess I should have brought the alarm clock with me. Didn’t think of that, did I?

Jack swung his legs off the bed and saw his laptop and cell phone lying on the floor next to the bed. He picked up his phone to see what time it was. A blank screen stared back at him. Jack pushed the power button, but nothing happened. The battery was drained. Uttering a curse, Jack started rummaging through his computer bag for the charger.

His father knocked on the door a third time. At least it was the third time Jack heard.

“I’m coming,” Jack hollered.

His father stopped knocking.

Looking around for something to wear, Jack remembered that the duffel bag with his clothes in it was still sitting on the bathroom floor where he’d left it when he dug out the tank top and boxers he’d worn to bed. Another pressing need urged him to hurry to the bathroom as well.

As quickly as he could, Jack took care of business and, with a pair of cargo shorts and a Camp Riversail t-shirt on, he opened the door and let his folks in the house.

“Don’t you guys have a key?” he asked, his voice giving away his grumpy mood.

“Good morning to you, too,” his mother said by way of a scold.

Mary Shaughnessy Callaghan had retired after a long career teaching middle school English and, along with grammar and punctuation, she had insisted her students show courtesy and respect. She’d instilled the same habits in Jack.

Jack, understanding her unspoken reprimand, replied, “Good morning, Mom. Don’t you guys have a key?”

“Yes, Jack, we do,” his father said. “But since this is your home now, we didn’t want to barge in without a good reason. Since I was able to wake you up simply by knocking we didn’t need to enter unannounced.”

“How did you sleep?” Mary asked, noting Jack’s disheveled appearance.

Jack stretched and rolled his shoulders. “Not great. I should probably replace that old mattress.”

Martin, Jack's father, looked around the living room. “As you can see, we did as you asked and removed everything but the bed and the appliances.”

“I noticed that,” Jack said. Then he added with a tired grin, “Last night I wished I’d asked you to leave a chair.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Mary said. “You should have thought of that. What are you going to do for furniture? You said you’re not bringing anything down from Goldsboro. Are you planning to buy everything you need?”

“I won’t need much,” Jack said. He reached up and scratched the back of his head. “I’ll just get what I need as I need it.”

Martin shook his head. “I think you should come up with a plan. Figure out what you need in each room and then shop around for the best deal.”

Jack bit back his first reply. What he did say was, “I know that’s how you’d do it, Dad. But I’ll do it my way, okay?”

“Hmph,” was Martin’s only reply.

“It’s your house now, Jack,” Mary said. “You can do whatever you want with it.”

Her tone made it clear she thought Jack should listen to his father. Sometimes Jack wondered if they realized he was fifty-five years old with two grown children.

“I’m gonna grab a quick shower, and then we can go to The Crabby Stack,” Jack said. “Y’all want to wait in the kitchen.”

Mary looked into the empty kitchen and shook her head. “Why don’t your father and I head on down to the restaurant and get a table? You can join us as soon as you can.”

“All right,” Jack said. “Then I’ll see you in a few.”

Jack’s parents left. He headed into the master bathroom for a shower.

The House Itself

The house had three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The master bedroom had a full bath. The other two bedrooms shared a bathroom.

The over-sized living room doubled as a family room. The huge kitchen was also the dining room. Instead of a garage, there was a one-car carport that boasted a storage and laundry room.

The back door led from the kitchen to a screened porch which in turn led to a flagstone patio that bordered a kidney-shaped in-ground pool. The pool had been kept up by a local company and was ready for Jack to take a swim if he took a mind to do so.

A house with a pool was a rare thing on Buzby Beach, but Caroline had loved swimming though not in the ocean. She’d had a six-foot privacy fence erected around the backyard when she had the pool installed and outside of that, a thick hedge of shrubbery. Aunt Caroline had treasured her privacy.

The lawn and shrubbery had been maintained since her death by the same landscape company that took care of it for her when she was alive.

In the back corner of the backyard sat a greenhouse and shed. Caroline had loved dabbling with potted plants. The greenhouse was empty when Jack moved in as was the shed. Jack would have to decide what to do with them.

Jack dried off from his shower and put back on the cargo shorts he’d pulled on to answer the door. In place of the Camp Riversail t-shirt, he chose a West Wayne High Staff golf shirt. It had always been a point of irony that his kids decided to attend Northern Wayne High School when he worked at WWHS, his own Alma Mater.

It was only half-a-mile or so to The Crabby Stack, so Jack decided to walk. Though the day was already warm and the humidity was nearly one-hundred-percent, Jack figured it wasn’t worth starting the Mustang. By the time the a/c kicks in, I’ll already be there.


A Short Wait and an Impatient Father

It took Jack less than eight minutes to walk the half-mile from his house to The Crabby Stack. As he was about to turn the corner off Fourth Street onto Ocean Street, it occurred to him that for the first time since the phone call, he hadn’t woken up reaching for Cheryl.

That’s just because I was dragged out of an exhausted slumber by my father’s door pounding, Jack told himself.

Then why is it that you didn’t think about Cheryl until right now? That little voice in the back of his mind asked him.

Jack stopped, looked down at his feet, and scratched his eyebrow. Raising his eyes, he yawned and looked out over the ocean. I don’t know, he silently told the voice. I don’t want to think about it.

When Jack reached The Crabby Stack, his parents were already seated, and their waitress had just delivered their drinks. She set a large glass of sweet iced tea before Mary and a coffee in front of Martin. Martin promptly poured the contents of the sugar packet he was holding into the mug and stirred.

When Jack walked up to the table, the waitress - the name Naomi was embroidered on the waistband of her apron - asked him what he’d like to drink.

“Coffee, please, and a large glass of ice,” Jack said.

“Be right back with it,” Naomi said. Jack judged the girl to be about sixteen. She looked like she could have been in his Accounting II class. Most of those kids were juniors.

Jack took the seat across from Mary. “Have you been waiting long?”

Martin looked at him as if the answer should be obvious, without giving away whether it should be evident if they had or they hadn’t.

Mary set her iced tea down after taking a tentative sip. “There was a short wait. We only just sat down.”

“Then you haven’t ordered yet?” Jack asked.

“Not yet,” Martin said tersely.


Coffee on Ice versus Iced Coffee

Naomi returned with Jack’s coffee and a glass of ice. While Jack added two sugars and two creams to the hot coffee, Martin and Mary ordered their breakfast. When Naomi turned to ask Jack what he wanted she stopped and stared as he carefully poured his coffee into the glass of ice.

“You know we serve iced coffee, sir?” Naomi asked him.

“Uh, actually, no, I didn’t,” Jack confessed. “Last time I was here you didn’t.”

“It’s new,” Naomi said. “We just started this summer.”

“Oh,” Jack said, setting his empty mug down. “Well, when I finish this, perhaps you can bring me one.”

“Okay,” Naomi said. “What can I bring you for breakfast?”

Jack noted the impatient look on his father’s face and decided to forgo looking at the menu.

“I’ll take a two-stack of plain pancakes with sausage patties, please,” he told Naomi.

“Got it,” Naomi said, making a note on her pad. “Shouldn’t be too long. Is there anything else I can get you right now?”

“I think we’re fine for now,” Martin said in a tone that reflected his impatience. “Thank you.”

“All right, then,” Naomi said, a smile curling her lips when she saw Jack roll his eyes at Martin’s comment. “Just let me know if you need anything.”

Money in the Bank does not Replace a Dead Wife

Naomi turned and walked quickly toward the kitchen before Martin could say anything more, to her at least. To Jack, he said, “So, Jack, what are your plans for today?”

“I’ve been thinking about what you said, Dad,” Jack began, “about figuring out what furniture I’m gonna need and then going about getting it. I think I’ll drive into town and see what I can find for a kitchen table and maybe a new bed.”

“Those are your priorities?” Martin asked. “A kitchen table and a bed?”

Mary spoke up. “It sounds reasonable to me. Jack already said he needs to replace the bed. And I imagine it would be nice to have a table and chairs in the kitchen so he’ll have somewhere to sit and eat a meal.”

“And I could use the table as a desk until I decide how I want to set up my home office,” Jack added.

Martin picked up his coffee cup but didn’t take a sip. Instead, he looked at Jack and said, “I take it buying all this new furniture won’t put a financial burden on you.”

Jack took a deep breath, bit his lip, and exhaled slowly. “No, Dad.” The words caught in his throat and Jack coughed to clear them. “No, money’s no problem.”

Money wasn’t going to be a problem for Jack, Meagan, or Brayden. Jack and Cheryl had kept one million dollar policies on each other with double indemnity for accidental death. On Cheryl’s death, half the benefits went to Jack, and the kids split half. Meagan’s and Brayden’s shares were in trust until they graduated college or turned twenty-five.

Cheryl also had a policy through the bank which paid out five times her annual salary. That added another half-a-million to the amount Jack received.

“At least the two of you planned well in case something like this happened,” Mary said.

“Yeah, Mom,” Jack sneered. “A couple million in the bank makes losing my wife all better.”

“That’s not what I…” Mary started to say.

“How dare you talk to your mother like that!?,” Martin snapped. “You know that’s not what she meant. You apologize this minute.”


A Demand, Breakfast Arrives, and an Apology

Jack stared at his father. Martin stared right back. Mary was about to tell them to behave when Naomi walked up with their food. Martin broke eye contact and turned a brief smile on their server.

“Sir,” Naomi said to Martin, “I believe you ordered the triple stack of pecan pancakes.”

“Yes,” Martin said with forced friendliness. “Those are mine.”

Naomi put a plate down in front of Martin and turned to Mary. “And, ma’am, you asked for the chocolate chip topped with sliced bananas.”

Mary smiled. “Thank you,” she said as Naomi set her plate on the table.

“And you,” Naomi said to Jack, “you ordered a two-stack of the plain.”

“That’s me,” Jack quipped, “a double stack of plain.”

Naomi placed Jack’s plate in front of him and straightened up. “Is there anything else I can get you right now?”

“I think we’re fine for now, Naomi,” Mary said.

“I’ll check back on you shortly,” Naomi said. Then she turned away to check on her other customers.

“Shall we say the blessing?” Mary asked.

Martin shook his head. “After Jack apologizes for his uncalled for remark.”

Jack set down the glass he’d just picked up, without taking a drink. He looked at his mother, who was watching him with an expectant look on her face.

“I know you didn’t mean it like that, Mom. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”

“It’s okay Jack,” Mary said. “I can’t even imagine what you’ve been going through.”

“Let us pray,” Martin said, making the sign of the cross.

After they’d said the blessing, the three of them concentrated on eating their pancakes and very little was said until Naomi returned to clear away their empty plates. She’d brought Jack an iced coffee generously mixed with cream and sugar.

Jack sipped it and smiled his approval. “It’s perfect.”

Naomi beamed. “I’m glad you like it.” She took their plates back to the kitchen and returned to freshen up Martin’s coffee and Mary’s sweet tea. When she asked if there was anything else they needed and they said there wasn’t, Naomi said, “Then I’ll be right back with your check.”

Looking at the line of people waiting for tables, Mary said, “I guess we shouldn’t hang around.”

As soon as Naomi brought their check, Jack picked it up and said, “I got this.”

“Then I’ll leave a tip,” Martin said.

“Don’t be stingy,” Mary teased. She knew Martin always overtipped.

Once out on the sidewalk, Martin asked Jack, “Do you want us to go furniture hunting with you?”

“You guys don’t have to do that,” Jack said. “It might take me a while to find something I like. And I might want to send some pictures to Meagan to see what she thinks. Maybe I could meet you for a late lunch somewhere?”

Martin shifted his feet uncomfortably. “We already have plans for lunch, I’m afraid.”

“But if you want to come by the house for dinner I’m sure I could throw something together,” Mary said after casting an annoyed glare Martin’s way.

“I wouldn’t want you to go to any trouble,” Jack said.

“Don’t be silly,” Mary said. “I hardly ever get to cook a real dinner these days. Being just your father and me, we mostly go out to eat.”

“All right, then,” Jack said. “What time should I plan to show up?”

“Give me a call when you’re done shopping, and we’ll decide on a time,” Mary said.

Jack hugged his mom and said goodbye to his dad before they got in their car and headed towards the drawbridge.


Click the link below to continue Jack's story with Part 8.

  • Starting Over at 55 Part 8
    The empty house needs to be filled. Jack realizes some basic housekeeping supplies and a few groceries are a must. He doesn't like it, but he needs to go shopping.

© 2019 DW Davis


Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 07, 2019:

The tension between Jack and his parents is interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing where it leads.

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