Thursday, July 4
Blake and I tried installing the new jet ski battery. We couldn’t get ahold of a rubber strap that snapped over the battery in its ridiculously tight compartment and, after spending hours, gave up. Maybe the next-door neighbor was handy? I grabbed several bags of garbage—we paid our neighbors to use their trash service—and walked down the wooded path between our houses to their garage. The driveway was packed with vehicles. No one was outside. I dumped what I’d hauled into Tim and Donna’s cans, walked back to the cabin, and grabbed more garbage hoping I’d run into someone the second time. I reentered the garage and a tall blonde man was pulling drinks out of a refrigerator.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” he said looking puzzled.
“I’m from next door. We pay to throw our garbage here. Are you related to Tim and Donna?”
“I’m their son-in-law. I’m Ben.” He extended his hand.
I’d just thrown a bag of bottles into a recycling bin and my hands were sticky with beer and soda.
“You don’t want to shake my hand,” I said. “I’m Brenda. Can I ask, are you handy? My son and I’ve been trying to put a new battery in our jet ski and we can’t get it in.”
Ben resembled Mark Ruffalo. “Yeah. Let me take a look.”
“Thanks. Sorry to ask.”
“No, don’t be,” he said. He paused a moment. “You’re in great shape. What do you do?”
Showing up in a bikini had helped. “I teach yoga. You’re in good shape yourself.”
“No,” he said. “I don’t look like I used to. I used to play basketball but I’ve had some injuries.”
“Me, too. Don’t bounce back like I used to.”
“That’s for sure,” Ben laughed.
We walked to my pier and Ben spent the next couple of hours trying to snap the strap over the battery before tying it down with bungee cords.
“I’m sorry for taking you away from your family,” I said. “Anyone who’s tried to install this battery—my dad, my ex, my brother-in-law—had a hell of a time and I know you’d rather be relaxing on your pier.”
“No, not really,” Ben said, sweat dripping down his face. “When did you get divorced?”
“My sister got divorced. Her husband was not a good guy. I don’t think she’ll ever get involved with another man. Have you dated?”
“A little,” I said. “Your mother-in-law was sick last winter. How is she?”
“Good. She’s a lot better. She gave us quite a scare. She’s a great person and so is Tim. I’m lucky to have great in-laws.”
“I liked my mother-in-law better than my ex,” I laughed.
Ben gave me a knowing grin and nodded. “Yeah. I hear you. My wife doesn’t like my mother. It makes things very hard. You are in phenomenal shape. Is it just the yoga?”
“Stress from the divorce melted off ten pounds,” I said. “I wouldn’t recommend it, but I’m down to my high school weight.”
Ben laughed. “I played high school and college basketball. I wish I could still play but I had a back injury. A bulging disk moved into sciatica. The pain was debilitating. I could barely move. I had my leg electrocuted with what looked like a cattle prod in physical therapy. It made my leg shake spasmodically. It was horrible. But after several treatments it worked. One morning I woke up and the pain was gone.”
“Yeah. So I’m careful now. No more water-skiing, jet-skiing, basketball, nothing that can re-aggravate that condition. Would you mind giving me a tour of your cabin? I’ve always wanted to see what it looks like on the inside.”
“Yeah, come on,” I said. “I wish I could offer you something to drink, but all I’ve got is water and milk. We’re going home tomorrow morning.”
“Really?” Ben said sounding disappointed. “You’re not staying through the weekend?”
“Another partner is coming up tomorrow. Our weeks are Friday to Friday.”
I walked Ben through the cabin.
“Do you come up here other times?” Ben asked.
“Not really. There’s an hours-long winterizing process we have to go through to open and close the cabin. It’s not worth coming up in other seasons. I’d have to open and close all the valves, drain them, drain the toilets, drain the pipes. . .”
“Are you kidding me? Why don’t they just leave the heat on so the pipes don’t freeze?”
“Cabin Nazi’s rules. Do you know Elwood? Come to think of it, Elwood recently hired new cleaning people who will winterize for an extra charge.”
“You should come up during the fall,” Ben said. “It’s beautiful the last week of September, first week of October. It’s quiet. It’s different than now. Bearskin Bike Trail is phenomenal.”
“I’ve got that week. I might do that.”
We stood looking at each other.
“Thanks again for installing the battery for me,” I said. “What a shitty job.”
“I really didn’t mind.”
“I’ll walk you back.” We headed toward his house and I stopped at the trail between his house and mine.
“You should definitely come back in the fall,” Ben said.
“I believe I will.”