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142 Days Later #9: Meeting Georgia in Carolina
Will Jack Be Able To Keep Georgia Off His Mind
Is Church The Best Place To Meet Women?
Jack wasn’t sure why Nancy dropped his ticket off instead of Corie but he figured it had something to do with how he’d blurted out about Cheryl’s death. He felt bad about it both because they’d seemed to hit it off and because he enjoyed breakfast at The Sea Wren's Nest. He didn’t want going there to be awkward.
Corie hadn’t wanted to face Jack after the foot-in-mouth incident about his wife and asked Nancy to do it. Nancy had worked at The Sea Wren's Nest longer than Tiyana and knew Jack from his visits over the years with his Aunt Bernadine.
“I’ll do it if you want,” Nancy told Corie. “But Jack’s not gonna hold it against you for asking. He’s a good guy, and he knows you couldn’t have known.”
“His name’s Jack,” Corie said. “See, I didn’t even know that. How could I not know that?”
Jack - oblivious that he was the subject of any such conversation - walked back to his house, climbed into his Mustang, and headed over the Snow’s Cut Bridge toward Saint Mark’s on Eastwood Road. His parents were waiting outside for him. They were talking with a group of people none of whom Jack recognized.
When Jack walked up to the group he greeted his parents. Mary immediately introduced him to a well-dressed lady with graying-brown hair who looked to be in her mid-fifties. Her dress, while conservative, showed off a well-kept figure.
“Jack,” Mary said. “This is Georgia Carstairs. Georgia, this is our son, Jack.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Jack,” Georgia said, offering her white gloved hand.
“My pleasure, Mrs. Carstairs,” Jack replied, taking the offered hand.
“Please, Jack, call me Georgia,” she told him with a polite smile.
Jack’s smile was more strained than polite. “Okay, Georgia,” he said, and released her hand. He turned to look at Mary and raised an eyebrow in question.
Mary patted him on the arm and explained. “Georgia is recently widowed. She’s going through what you’re going through. I thought if the two of you could meet you might be able to offer each other some mutual support.”
Jack’s inquisitive look changed to one of disbelief. “Really. That’s what you thought.”
“I understand how you feel, Jack,” Georgia said. “If you’re not comfortable with this, don’t blame your mother. When she told me what’d happened to you, I suggested she introduce us. Maybe it was a bad idea.”
Jack clenched his teeth to bite back his first response that it was indeed a bad idea. He caught Martin’s eye and recognized the look that said, 'Suck it up and at least be courteous.'
With an imperceptible nod Jack acknowledged his father’s unspoken command.
“No, it wasn’t a bad idea,” Jack said to Georgia in as friendly a tone as he could muster. “It just caught me off-guard is all.”
While Georgia is on your mind
When you first heard "Georgia on my Mind" by Ray Charles, did you think he was singing about a woman, the state of Georgia, or the country of Georgia?
Georgia's Offer To Jack
Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner
"Now that that’s cleared up,” Mary said. “It’s time we went inside and found seats.”
Georgia sat with them during Mass. Jack stayed in the pew during Communion since he hadn’t been to Mass in since Cheryl's funeral and felt like he should go to Reconciliation - what some still called Confession - before taking Communion again. After Mass, Georgia stood with them in front of the church after they shook hands with the priest and deacon. Jack had the impression she was waiting for him to invite her to join them for Sunday dinner.
If that’s what she’s waiting for, she’ll be waiting a long time, Jack told himself.
His mother decided not to wait for Jack to ask. When she realized Jack either hadn’t figured out he was supposed to ask Georgia to join them, or that he’d made up his mind not to, Mary did it for him.
“Georgia, if you don’t have any plans for lunch we’d love for you to join us,” Mary said, and then added, “Wouldn’t we, Jack?”
“Sure,” Jack said. “Why not? Georgia, would you like to join us for lunch?”
Much to his surprise and relief, Georgia demurred. “I’m afraid I have already made other plans,” she said. “Perhaps another time.”
“But…” Mary started to protest.
Georgia rested a hand on Mary’s shoulder. “No, really, I must be going.”
Turning to Jack, Georgia said, “It really was nice meeting you, Jack. I hope we can be friends.”
The sincerity in her voice made Jack feel like a heel. “Yes, it was very nice meeting you. I’d like it if we could be friends. Maybe we could get a cup of coffee sometime,” he tilted his head towards his mother, “without the ‘rents around.”
Georgia laughed and reached into her purse. She pulled out a business card and handed it to Jack.
“I’d like that. Call me this week when you get a chance and we’ll set a time and place.”
Jack looked at her card. It showed that Georgia D. Carstairs was a CPA and a partner in her firm. “Okay. I’ll definitely do that.”
Georgia offered him her hand once more. “Then I should get going. I look forward to hearing from you, Jack. Mary, Martin, another time.”
After Georgia had climbed into her silver Mercedes E350 Coupe and driven away, Mary looked at Jack and shook her head.
“I can’t believe how badly you behaved toward Georgia.”
Jack snorted a laugh, and replied, “I can’t believe you tried to set me up with the Widow Carstairs two days after I move to town. What were you thinking?”
"Your mother was thinking maybe you might like some companionship from someone who understands what you’re going through?”
“Oh,” Jack said, taking a step back and looking hard at his father. “Did Georgia’s husband die tragically and unexpectedly in a horrific accident, leaving her with two children in college and a huge hole in her heart and soul?”
Mary and Martin exchanged a look before Mary replied, “No. Georgia’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer too late to do anything about it. She had nine weeks from the time of his diagnosis until she buried him. So, no, Jack, her story isn’t the same as yours, but Georgia understands what you’re going through as well as anyone and better than most.”
Jack flicked Georgia’s card and then stuck it in his pocket. “I’ll call her this week, take her out for a cup of coffee, and apologize, okay?”
“That would be fine,” Mary said. Then she added, “Jack, it’s not like we were trying to fix you up with her. Your father and I just thought it would be good if you had a friend around here who knows what you’re going through. We’re just trying to help.”
Jack’s expression softened. “I know you are, Mom, and I love you for it. I really do.”
“Dinner’s waiting at the house,” Martin said, pointing at the parking lot. “Let’s go.”
Sunday Dinner Southern Style
Jack followed his folks to their house in Landfall and enjoyed what he thought of as a typical Sunday Dinner. They had fried chicken cooked by his father, green beans from his mother’s garden, mashed potatoes, and biscuits made according to Jack’s grandmother’s recipe, washing it all down with sweet tea. Jack turned down dessert, banana pudding his mother had made, but agreed to take home a helping or two in a Rubbermaid container his mother made him promise to return when he was done with it.
On his way back to Thatch's Island, Jack went a little out of the way and stopped at Dick’s Sporting Goods on College Road to pick up some fishing tackle. He decided on a large spinning reel and a seven-foot rod.
That should do me okay for fishing on the pier, he told himself as swung it through a few practice casts.
To hold his tackle, Jack picked out a 3-Tray tackle box and bought a selection of hooks, swivels, sinkers, and leaders to fill it with. The addition of a pair of needle-nosed pliers, a folding knife, and a spare spool of line completed his shopping list.
Jack carried his new fishing gear inside when he got home and carefully removed all the tags before arranging his tackle in his new tackle box. He attached a swivel to the end of the pre-loaded line on his reel, ignoring Brandon’s voice in the back of his head reminding him that real fishermen tied their leaders on instead of using swivels.
Since he didn’t want to go fishing in the clothes he wore to Mass, Jack went into his bedroom and changed into an old pair of cargo shorts a faded Wier’s Beach t-shirt he’d had since he and Cheryl had taken the kids to New Hampshire on vacation many summers ago. A faded, sweat-stained, Grumpy hat from another family trip - one to Disney World - finished Jack’s fishing ensemble. Jack collected his new fishing equipment on his way out the door and headed to Horseshoe Pier.
The walk to the pier was a little over half-a-mile and by the time Jack got there he’d decided the first thing he was going to look for was some sun screen. The late-afternoon, late-June sun was going to play havoc on his pale, Irish skin if he didn’t. Fortunately, a rack full of sun screen products stood just inside the door to the pier house. Jack picked picked out a pump bottle of 35 SPF and carried it up to the bait counter.
Something about the guy behind the counter seemed familiar to Jack, but he couldn’t figure out where he might know him from. The guy, on whose Horseshoe Pier golf shirt was embroidered Chief, had an almost military style haircut and his eyes kept moving about, taking in everything going on in the pier house.
When Jack approached the counter, Chief nodded at Jack’s rod and said, “Let me guess, you plan on ding some fishing today.”
“Uh, yeah,” Jack said. “And I’ll need some bait.”
“We’ve got shrimp, squid, and blood worms,” Chief said, gesturing toward the cooler next to him.
“I’ll start with a quarter pound of shrimp,” Jack said. “Can I pay for the sun screen here, too?”
“No problem,” Chief said as he weighed out a quarter pound of shrimp and put it into a Styrofoam coffee cup. He set the cup on the counter and reached for the sun screen. After ringing up the shrimp, sun screen, and the cost of a pier pass, he tore a pass off the roll next to the register and picked up the heavy duty stapler attached to the counter with a light chain.
“Let me see your right arm there partner,” Chief said, holding up the ticket in explanation.
Jack turned so Chief could reach the right sleeve of his t-shirt. Chief stapled the ticket in place.
“That’s good until six tomorrow morning,” Chief told Jack. “Then you’ll have to buy another.”
Jack nodded and reached for his wallet. “You take credit cards?”
“If you have your ID on you,” Chief said.
Jack nodded, and said, “Military ID okay, or do you need a driver’s license?”
“Military ID’s okay,” Chief said. “Military gets a ten percent discount on stuff like the sun screen.”
“Even for retirees?” Jack asked.
“Retirees, too,” Chief said. He examined Jack intently for a moment. “You over there in the desert?”
“Gulf,” Jack said. “Both wars. You?”
“Iraq a couple of times,” Chief replied. He handed Jack back his credit card, along with the receipt for Jack to sign.
When Jack looked down to sign the receipt he saw a notice taped to the counter advertising rates for season passes.
“Maybe I should get a season pass,” Jack commented.
“Are you planning to fish a lot?” Chief asked.
“Now that I’m living on the island,” Jack said, “I might be coming here a lot.”
“The pier is open from the first of March to the end of November,” Chief said. “The cost of a pass goes down each month. If you wait and buy it tomorrow you can save twenty bucks.”
“Thanks,” Jack said. “I think I might just do that.”