I remember the radio was playing the best song. It was something new I'd only heard a couple of times before over the last few days. Later, I'd learn it was Van Morrison's “Brown-Eyed Girl”. But that evening a long time ago, I didn't yet know the singer, the title, or the lyrics. I just knew I was hooked from the opening guitar riff, and I turned the volume up as I approached home. I was trying to discern and learn the words as I pulled into our drive and saw Deputy Taylor's county car parked in front of the house. It really is a great song. I still can't listen to it.
The week began on a positive note: school had started back. Normally this would have been a bad thing, but I was now entering the eleventh grade. Throughout the summer I had thought about how I was now, though not a senior, at least an upperclassman, in the top half of the social hierarchy of high school. Graduation was just two years--no, less: about a year and nine months!--away.
It was also an exciting week for another reason: Dad would go away the coming weekend. The fact that he was leaving was not in itself exciting, but the nature of his trip was. He was going on a business trip, his first one ever. He would fly in an airplane for the first time in his life. He would spend a week in Baltimore receiving training and meeting with his company's executives, many of them for the first time. We would be students simultaneously, each proud we had made it as far as we had and each looking forward to still greater things to come in the future.
Mom and I were excited about his trip, more so than he was. Neither of us would be joining him, but at least we could live his adventure vicariously. Having a husband or father important enough to warrant a business trip which involved flying to and lodging in one of the biggest cities in the country was almost as exhilarating as making the trip ourselves. We, too, were proud of how far he had come. We, too, looked forward to what his career had in store. We, too, wanted to see him successful and happy. We, too, would benefit from his increases in his income and status.
He had brought our family up from poverty and planted us firmly in the middle class since he began working at the furniture factory seven years earlier. He had steadily advanced from line worker all the way up to assistant director, a position created especially for him after he stopped a near-strike in its tracks without the use of force, financial coercion, or threats, but instead with the use of common sense communicated to his subordinates (most of whom he had known all his life) in a plain and simple manner.
His handling of this labor problem impressed the executives in Baltimore, and they considered transferring him (with a promotion, of course) somewhere else in the corporation, somewhere else in the country. However, Dad told them he would rather stay home for now and work his way further up the ranks in this particular factory, if they did not mind. They were a little disappointed by his rejecting the possibility of relocation, but this factory's current director, Ben Henderson, would probably be retiring in a year or two anyway, so. . . .
Mr. Henderson heartily approved the idea of promoting Dad to be his second-in-command. He had always liked my father, thought the world of him, appreciated his many contributions to the factory, and was more than willing to take him under his wing and train him to be his successor. It was Mr. Henderson who nominated my father for this in-house training usually open only to headquarters personnel in Baltimore because he felt that exposure to it and to the corporate executives themselves would benefit my father greatly.
Dad was flattered headquarters approved this trip. After all, it would cost the company money, which meant they believed in him enough to open their pocketbooks and invest a little, to take a risk with the expectation of receiving greater returns in the future. They believed in him. Dad was on his way.
He was not to fly out of Memphis (this after a two hundred mile drive) until Saturday afternoon, but Mom started gathering his clothes and toiletries on Tuesday evening. He did not even know she was doing this or he would have stopped her by joking, "I'm gonna need to use most of that stuff a few times before the weekend, ya know," or "Goodness! Are you planning on packing everything I own? I'm not going away for the rest of my life."
She packed while he was absorbed with the conclusion of The Fugitive. He had become addicted to it--the only television show for which he ever displayed more than a passing interest--a couple of years before and was fond of saying, "I just wanna see Dr. Kimble catch that one-armed man before I die." Alas, it was not to happen this evening; the final episode was a two-parter. "Well, shoot! I guess I'll have to finish 'er out at the hotel in Baltimore next Tuesday night."
I did not like Deputy Taylor. Though he was the son of our family doctor (whom Mom credited with saving my life more than once), he was also the father of one of my least favorite classmates: Louise. She was a whining, complaining tattletale and my doses of her in school were more than ample to meet my minimum daily requirement of whining, complaining tattletales.