Multiple Muse Disorder: 1970

Chapter 7: Possibilities

• 7 June - Sunday afternoon - Smalton

"Who was that, dear?" said Sarah, as Patrick hung up the phone after listening for several minutes with an increasingly strange expression on his face.

"The lawyer handling Aunt Brigid's estate. They found the will yesterday, and he wanted to give me a head's up. Seems she left the house and land to me, and split her savings and stock between me and my sister. The house and land appear to be debt-free. Savings and life insurance payout on the order of $50,000 each for me and Mary, and Mary gets about $50,000 worth of stock."

"Goodness gracious!"

"What's the house like," asked Nan.

"It was the farm house, back before most of the land was sold off to neighboring farms. There's about ten acres left, with an orchard, garden and a few out-buildings. It's an old house. No air conditioning, maybe not even central heat. Mary and I spent a few summers there when we were young. Huge place, at least in my memory.

"We grew up in St. Louis, and would take the train up into Michigan, where my aunt and uncle would meet us. In hindsight, I realize now that they were probably helping my parents out by taking care of me and Mary during the summer. That was during the Great Depression. Both my parents worked two jobs for a while, trying to replace their lost savings.

"Uncle Seamus passed almost ten years ago, and I haven't had much contact with Aunt Brigid for some time, though I know that Mary visited from time-to-time. Maybe leaving the house and land to me is a way of punishing me for not visiting more often. I sure don't want to be a long distance landlord. I do have fond memories of my summers there, but I guess I'll have to sell it."

"I remember you talking about it a few times, Dad. Where is it, exactly?" said Sean.

"Just outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan."

"Really?" I said. "You know that Ann Arbor is something of a hotbed of alternative schooling, I suppose. Clonlara already exists as a tiny school, and soon there will be a couple of alternative high schools on the schools-without-walls idea. A spinoff from Pioneer High and of course the infamous Commie High, officially known as Community High School."

Sarah and Patrick were staring at me. "How do you know that, Lisa?"

"I lived in Ann Arbor during the early eighties. Actually rented a house from the Montgomerys."

"Really? So they're successful?"

"Oh, yes. Clonlara has a world-wide reach now, well, in 2017. Commie High still exists. Hey, even Summerhill in England is doing well. Clonlara is an advocate for alternative schooling in the U.S. and Summerhill is officially recognized by the government in the U.K. Alternative and free schools were a bit of a fad in the U.S. in the seventies, but remnants are firmly entrenched."

"Patrick," said Sarqh, "That house is large enough for seven people, isn't it?"

"Heck, yeah. There's a master bedroom on the first floor, along with parlors, a dining room, den, pantry and kitchen. Upstairs there are six or seven rooms. And a large attic, dry basement and cellar. Huge house by current standards. But what are you thinking?"

"Are there secret passages? A garret? A dungeon?" asked Nan.

"It's not a castle. But I think it was built before the Civil War, so maybe secret passages. There are windows in the attic. No dungeon, except a cellar for preserved fruit and vegetables."

Sean snorted. "Sounds like the cellar is the place for you, Nan."

Ignoring Sean, Nan said, "Father, we absolutely must move there. Immediately!"

"You're still in school, Nan," said Sarah.

"And I hate it! You can homeschool me."

"Actually," I said, "if you move there and don't tell anyone about Nan, they'll never know she should be in school. Maybe she could finish in an alternative school or do a G.E.D."

"Or just effing forget about it!"

"Language, Nan."

"I'm already a published poet and song writer. How the heck is going to school going to do anything but waste my time and make me angry? What I need is time and space to write. A decent band to write for wouldn't hurt."

"Ann Arbor sounds like a great place for you, Nan," I said.

"Lisa," began Patrick.

"Sorry, but I have to agree with Nan. I hated school and was dreadfully unhappy from middle school on. I could already read in kindergarten, and basically was teased and bullied for the next twelve years. If I learned anything useful in school, it was by accident.

"I loved living in Ann Arbor. There is so much going on there. In fact, it was sometimes called the little New York because of that. Maybe Anna and Maggie and I will head for A-squared on our own."

"No way," said Sean. "I'm on Nan's side for once. It'd be a lot closer to Canada, too, in case I loose the lottery next year."

I turned to Sean with a sudden shock of memory. "Oh, dear God. The draft! I'd totally forgotten. Vietnam. That's why you said you were thinking of spending time in Canada. Oh, Sean!" I started crying and put my hands over my face, leaning toward Sean.

Sean put his arm around me. "Lisa. I'm not going. I'm trying to get conscientious objector status. If that fails, then I will go to jail or leave the country."

I wiped a sleeve cross my face. "That war was so horrible, ruined so many lives, and it was pointless, stupid, evil and accomplished nothing. Ann Arbor is a great place to be anti-war, if you don't get too carried away."

"This war," said Maggie, "it is not just?"

"Hell, no!" chorused the O'Malleys and myself.

"Sean, if I remember correctly, and I think I do, because it was important to me at the time, the December 1971 lottery is the last one that is actually used to call anyone for conscription, from men turning 20 during 1972. Lotteries continued to take place for a while, but the U.S. pulled out of the war in early 1973 and the authority to conscript expired and has never been renewed."

"So you mean it's just one time for me? If you're right, and if things are the same here."

"Yes, Sean. And if I'm wrong about something that major, then I'm living in a different world entirely."

"Sean, if what Lisa says is true, then you could lay low, too," whispered Nan.

"An old farmhouse with two high school dropouts, a draft dodger and two aliens in hiding,"I said. "What could go wrong?"

"Lisa, I think that's a little overly dramatic," said Aunt Sarah.

"Okay, that's true. I'm eighteen in ten days, so technically I'm not a high school dropout; I simply decided not to finish school. And Sean, considering that I know the draft ends shortly after your window of vulnerability, the most sensible thing for you to do would be to enroll in college, even a community college, and get a deferment for a while. Ann Arbor has both the University of Michigan and Washtenaw Community College."

"Just a minute," said Uncle Patrick. "We can't up and move to Michigan on a whim."

"It's not a whim," said Nan. "It's a golden opportunity that we should not pass up."

"You haven't even seen the place!"

"Well, Patrick, that's a good point," said Aunt Sarah. "You'll need to meet with the lawyer anyway, so why don't we all go?"

"We could, I suppose. We were thinking of going to Kevin's place. This would be a longer trip."

Sean had pulled the road atlas off the shelf and was looking at it. "Looks like Interstate all the way into Michigan. Just head for St. Louis, then I-70 through Illinois into Ohio, pick up I-75 north of Dayton and that takes us past Toledo straight to Ann Arbor. We could probably do it in one day, if we swap drivers, but there are state parks and at least one KOA along that stretch of I-75."

"Arrive at an empty house, tired after a full day of driving and not knowing what to expect? I think now," said Aunt Sarah. "We'll camp along the way. Having our camping equipment with us, we could camp out on the property even if the house isn't usable."

"Practical as always, Mom," said Nan.

"Someone in this bunch has to be practical. Well, dear? What do you think?"

"Okay, but let's not be too hasty. I need to call the lawyer tomorrow and find out about getting access to the house. I'll also try calling a couple of teachers I know in that area this afternoon. Do we even have enough camping gear for seven people?"

"Anna and I can sleep in the station wagon with the deck down, and just use blankets. You and Mom in your tent, and Sean, Lisa and Maggie can squeeze into the other tent. It won't be cold so Lisa or Maggie can use one of the old sleeping bags."

"I can sleep rough, if need be," said Maggie.

"Me, too," I said. "It's just one night. I've backpacked in all kinds of conditions and weather."

"Okay," said Aunt Sarah. "Why don't you kids sort out the camping gear, and figure out how it and seven of us are going to fit in the wagon. We'll want the large ice chest and water cooler, too, if we're going to be cooking."

"Wouldn't it make sense for me and Lisa to take the bug, so we don't have to cram everything in the wagon?" asked Sean. "And it would probably be useful to have two cars once we get there."

"Yes, I suppose so," agreed Aunt Sarah. "Oaky, we'll plan on that. Now, I have a lot to think about, and your father needs to make phone calls. Go ahead and find all the camping gear and begin packing your own things. If there's anything we need to buy or borrow for this trip, I need to know by tomorrow morning!"

— ∴ —

• 8 June - Monday - Smalton

After breakfast Uncle Patrick called the lawyer and found out that the estate was in good condition. A close neighbor who had been a part-time housekeeper for his aunt in recent years, still had keys and was keeping an eye on the place. The lawyer suggested we call the housekeeper to let her know of our plans to visit.

"A housekeeper?" said Aunt Sarah. "Well I suppose your Aunt Brigid would have needed help. That probably means the place is habitable."

"The lawyer was there to do an inventory. He says it's in quite fine condition. The housekeeper's name is Jennifer Walters. Why don't you call her, Sarah?"

"I will indeed. Right now, in fact."

— ∴ —

• 9 June - Tuesday - Smalton

We were up at dawn for a quick breakfast. Then Aunt Sarah, Nan and I made a pile of sandwiches for lunch, packed the ice chest and filled the water coolers. We put them and other last-minute items in the cars and were ready to hit the road.

Sean and Uncle Patrick took a last look at the road atlas, agreeing on the route and where we would stop. Sean handed the atlas to me, saying, "We'll take the lead, Lisa, because the bug isn't the fastest thing on four wheels. Once we get past St. Louis we'll stop and can change drivers if you want to."

"I'm very out of practice, Sean, so I'd prefer you do the driving. Though once we have time, I'd like to relearn my driving and shifting skills."

"Good idea. Maybe you can drive around the estate. Hey, Nan! Behave yourself in the back of the wagon. Don't let Anna turn you into a witch or whatever."

Sean and Nan, by Lisa Lees.

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