Day 25 – 42,021/50,000 words
“As you may already know, I come from an established family in Japan. Due to the circumstances of my birth, however, I have dual citizenship in both Japan and the United States. For that and other reasons, when it came time for me to pick a college, I chose to come here for my studies. At the time, I intended to return to Japan after college, but instead I fell in love with Jimmy. It turned out, of course, that the Jimmy I thought I fell in love with was not quite the Jimmy I married. I realized that very quickly, but not before I became pregnant with June. That complicated matters significantly, as you can imagine.”
Benton Noro took a sip of wine. “For the sake of June, I tried to stick it out with Jimmy for another two years. In the end though, we divorced. It is a decision I have never regretted. However, in trying to keep with what is best for June, I decided to stay in this little town, despite some fairly compelling offers elsewhere. So, this town is where I have staked my claim, slowly but surely. This is also a decision I do not regret. I am happy here, and now I have Vicki in my life.”
Benton Noro squeezed Victoria’s hand. “The problem I have is that I am now in my late thirties, and I have only one child. She is sweet, and smart. But for a variety of reasons, she is not enough. I intend to have more children. Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to conceive with Vicki, as you can clearly see. That is where you come in.”
Marshall had been listening as Benton Noro discussed her situation, but he suddenly had the feeling he had missed something. It took him a moment to put together what she was saying. “You want me to father your child?” he asked.
“Should everything work out, yes?”
Marshall had trouble coming up with a response to the offer. There were too many different thoughts going on all at once. They ranged from logistical questions, to personal objections, to questions of involvement and authority. One more thought floated through his head. Take that Jimmy! Finally he said, “I guess my first question is, ‘Why me?'”
Benton Noro smiled. “You are an attractive man,” she said, “And smart. More importantly, I like you.”
Marshall looked at her for a moment. He was still getting used to the idea that he might be attractive. The fat kid in him could hardly grasp the thought. Benton Noro went on. “From a practical perspective, you are new to town and you seem to have a certain openness that leads me to think that you could live with the arrangement I am offering.”
“And what is that arrangement?”
“I want sole custody of any children we have, of course, but I don’t want them to grow up without knowing their father. It is bad for children to grow up that way. For that reason, you would need to agree to continue to live in this town at least until they come of age. You would see them regularly. To help facilitate that, I would give you a house to live in. I have several to choose from. I would also help you get set up in other ways, either through a job or a business. The important thing is that you would be tied to this town.”
“And how would we go about this?” Marshall asked.
“I would see a specialist,” she said. There isn’t one in this little town, but it is easy enough for me to go to them. You would need to accompany me, to handle your role in the process.”
“Handle my roll?” Marshall chuckled. “I guess that is one way of putting it.” Marshall looked at Victoria. “What are your thoughts on all this?”
Victoria looked out at the ocean, not looking him in the eye. “I had some concerns,” She said, “But I can’t have children of my own, and I have always wanted children, so this seems like a way to solve the problem.:”
Marshall nodded. He had a strong feeling that important details were being left out. He couldn’t quite believe that someone like Benton Noro would pick him based on reasons that basic. For some reason, his first conversation with Benton Noro popped into his head. “That aunt of yours,” he said, “The one who could tell you what number you were thinking of. It had to be between 37 and 73, right.”
Benton looked him in the eye, “That’s right.”
“I assume that you have done enough checking on me to know my birth date?”
“February 6th, 1973.” Benton Noro said without hesitation.
“I don’t know your birth date,” Marshall said, “But I’d bet you’re 37 years old.”
“You would lose that bet,” Benton Noro said, “For another three weeks.”
Marshall thought for a moment. “Your birthday wouldn’t happen to be on Election Day, would it?”
“November 3rd,” Benton Noro said. “That’s correct.”
Marshall slowly got up. “I will need to think about all of this,” Marshall said. “And by the way, the number I would have picked is 42.”
Benton Noro nodded. “We should talk tomorrow,” Benton Noro said, “Shall we meet at our usual spot?” she said, “Three thirty?”
Marshall agreed and headed out the door.
It was a moonless night, and very dark. Marshall had thought before he left, and brought his wind-up flashlight / radio. He took a minute to wind it up, then set out, leaving both the light and the radio on. The local station was Pink Floyd. He took the stairs down to the beach. Marshall walked along the ocean’s edge, listening to Dark side of the Moon. It was still relatively early, but with the sun down it could have been midnight. Marshall stood and looked up at the sky, watching the stars. He thought of the other night, when he had lay on the beach trying to feel the earth turn
Marshall sat down on the beach, well above the water line. He listened to the music as he stared out at the water — catching only glimpses of it in the dark. Marshall took off his shoes and socks. He wriggled his feet in the sand and he sang along with the lyrics… breathe, breathe in the air. Marshall took off his shorts, and then his pants, and finally his underwear. He left them next to the flashlight and strode into the water. It was cool against his feet. He waded out, up to his knees, and then a large wave came up, splashing him up to his waste. It was like a cold slap.
Marshall walked further out. The beach here was a little rocky, rather than the smooth sand down at the public beach. He wished he had brought his water shoes. Still, he worked his way out further, until he could no longer reach the ocean floor with his feet. He let himself rise and fall with the waves, occasionally getting knocked off guard by a crashing wave. A few times, he ducked under the waves. He lost track of time, just floating along with the water, He realized he was getting further and further out. He thought of the riptide he had encountered when he was a teenager, and wondered if perhaps that was happening again. If so, there was no one to save him this time. He was completely on his own. Marshall felt an odd calm at that. He had no real fear of death. He did not expect it to come, but he also didn’t really mind if it did. He had no real vision for his future. It would come or it would not. Either way seemed no worse than the other.
Eventually, he started making his way back. As he anticipated, it was difficult and slow going. He kept working at it thought. He sometimes would dive under the water, and swim down where there was less to the waves. At one point he brushed over a rock, and the sharp edge bit into his leg with a burning sensation. He kept going though, eventually, his feet found the ocean floor again, and from that point it wasn’t as hard, although it still took him another twenty minutes before he got out. He flopped down on the beach, exhausted. He rested for a long time. The thought had entered his mind that at this point, he did not know where he was in relation to his clothes. It occurred to him that, when you leave all your clothes in the dark, you should really pay attention to the location.
Marshall got back up and turned slowly around in a circle. At first, he focused on judging whether he was closer to the cliffs than before, or further away. He started walking toward them, figuring that it was better to start looking from a spot that he knew he had been at. Eventually he reached a point where he was sure he had been there before. He then turned around in a circle again, assessing where he was. He was cold now. He was cold enough that his teeth were chattering together just a little. He began to get a little nervous then. He wasn’t worried about the cold, but about the possibility of one of his headaches coming on. He should have worried about that on the water, but at that point he had felt at peace. Now he no longer was. Now he was a little panicked.
Marshall decided to sit down and get himself back centered. It was hard to do though, with sand penetrating his nether regions in an uncomfortable way. He took about ten minutes and then he felt relatively calm again. His eyes were somewhat accustomed to the low light, so he wasn’t completely blind. He thought back to a time when he was seven years old and walking home from school. He had lost a tooth and was carrying it in his hand. As he was walking, he had realized that he had dropped his tooth. He had been nearly beside himself then, at the prospect that a priced tooth, worth at least three dollars in his family, had disappeared on him. He had retraced his steps, and for some reason he did not understand, he had focused on the gravel in a yard a block back from where he had realized he had lost the tooth. He had known, for no good reason that it was there. Something in his head knew.
Marshall decided to trust that same sense again. He started walking a little further from the water, further up than he thought he had been. He convinced himself that he would find it. At one point he stopped, and turned around again, positive that it was near. He took another step, then two more. He started staring at the sand, insisting to himself that this was where he had lost it. He started feeling around. Moving inch by inch over the sand until his hand felt something soft. It was fabric. He kept feeling around, and came across his flashlight. He turned the crank a few times and hit the switch. There were all of his clothes, and his phone. Marshall did the best he could to brush all of the sand off of himself, then he put his clothes back on. He felt a twinge of pride. Somehow he had done it. He had gotten his clothes back. He had avoided the very real possibility of being found naked and disoriented. He could feel a headache coming on then, but he didn’t even care anymore. He just lay back on the sand and started his exercises, fully confident that he would beat the headache back quickly. It was one of the briefest headaches he remembered having. It seemed like it was gone before he started. Soon he was back on his feet again and heading home. He checked the time on his iPhone. It was 11:37.