Jerry was lugging a large trash bag to a dumpster when the Subaru pulled up in front of Jerry’s truck. The moment Abby and Murphy got out of the car, Winifred flew out the trailer and was on top of them.
“She’s going to miss you,” Jerry said.
“I’m going to miss her. So is Murphy. But she’s yours now.”
“Wasn’t sure I’d make it through the interview. You guys are tough.”
“Yes, we are.”
Jerry continued to the dumpster, eyes scanning the campground, lots of memories lingering in the cottonwoods.
Abby watched him, waited until he came back. “How’s the hand?”
Jerry held up his right hand, the ring finger heavily taped. “Half a knuckle short of a full house. My piccolo playing days are over.”
“Evie said you were leaving tomorrow.”
Jerry nodded and busied himself collapsing the poles holding up the trailer awning.
“Where are you going?”
“I was thinking the desert. But Winnie seemed to prefer trees, so we’re heading north. Oregon. I heard there’s some nice campgrounds west of Bend.”
“Been there. Beautiful. Great fishing on the Metolius.”
“I’m not a fisherman. Always hated having to whack the poor fish over the head after I caught it.”
“You don’t have to. The river is strictly catch and release.”
“Must be a long line of fish waiting to get into that river.”
“You can’t help yourself, can you? Everything’s a joke.”
“Besides not fishing, anything else you’re not going to do?” Abby asked.
“Yeah. Beat myself up over Evie’s book. Her life deserves better. But I do have an idea for a story. A murder mystery. About a rescue mutt.”
Abby smiled, “Maybe Winnie will give you a hand.”
Jerry picked up Winifred, gave her a kiss on the top of her head. “I’m counting on it. How about you?”
Abby shrugged. “Well… Where ever you land… Keep in touch. Let me know how you guys are doing.”
Nothing more to say, Abby opened the back door of the car and Murphy jumped in. Abby locked the door on his travel crate and climbed in behind the wheel.
“You take care of each other.”
Abby started the engine and slowly drove out the campground.
Jerry and Winifred looked after the car a long time. Winifred was first to turn and fix a sad gaze on Jerry’s trailer. Then Jerry turned, stared at his rambling wreck.
“Yeah… Time to move on.” The truth of that was not lost on Jerry. Too much for him to decide alone.
“What do you think?” he asked the bundle of fur in his arms. “Your call, Sweets.”
Abby sat at the kitchen table watching Evelyn munching Holy Granola from a bag while keeping an eye on a pair of legs sticking out from under her sink.
“He’s leaving,” Abby said.
“Maybe it’s time you did too.”
“I wasn’t invited.”
Evelyn understood, studied the bag of Holy Granola. “This stuff is addictive.”
Evelyn pushed the bag over to Abby who shook her head.
“I once crashed an Academy Awards after-party,” Evelyn said. “For winners only. Which I was not. If I had waited until I was invited, I never would have met Harry…”
“The love of your life.”
The memory brought a wry smile. “You’re lucky to get eighty, eighty-five percent in a man. Expect more and you’ll spend your life alone.”
The plumber wiggled out from under the sink. “Got it!”
Evelyn’s table in Terry’s lounge seemed darker than usual to Jerry. Or maybe it was just his need to do this in the shadows. Everything that needed to be said was over. Evelyn understood.
Gus rounded the corner. Jerry and Evelyn declined libations.
It was time. Jerry reached down, picked up the shoebox tied with string, and handed it to Evelyn.
“The Boys and I will take good care…”
Jerry was sure of that, got up to leave.
“Take care of yourself,” Evelyn said.
“I’ll be fine.”
“I know you will. Not so sure about me.”
Jerry leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“Now get out of here, before I make a fool of myself.”
Jerry left the table, was down the steps when he turned back. “By the way. What happened with the Boys in LA?… The movie?”
“They decided on Chihuahuas.”
The Subaru crossed the Carmel River and moved slowly down the road to the RV Park.
“You’re sure you’re okay with this?” Abby asked Murphy in back. “If you aren’t comfortable with this… I won’t do it.” Abby looked in the rear-view mirror. “So… We’re good?”
The Subaru pulled into the park, passed the Office and started down the row of RVs. Halfway to Jerry’s space at the end, Abby stopped.
The space was empty. Trailer gone.
Abby rested her head on the steering wheel. Emotions in check, she looked up and eyed Murphy in back.
~ ~ ~