An excerpt from Chapter 2, The Bouchard Legacy.
Paul has earned his place in the World but Randy owns it.
After what seemed like forever, Mum’s l960 Cadillac swung into the turnaround. The car still had its bright turquoise sheen, even if it was eight years old. The turnaround empty of traffic, the sidewalk all but abandoned, Mum spun in fast.
Coming to a stop, Mum put down her power window. She said, “I’m sorry I’m late.” Once out of the car, wearing her big oval sunglasses and a scarf covering her hair, she hurried to the curb.
Randy greeted her with a hug. “I’m sorry I’m late, dear,” Mum repeated. “That overpriced roofing contractor just would not take no for an answer. Finally, I chased him off. Well, here we are. My God, Randy, nobody travels by train anymore. Oh, we’ll talk about the roof later. You look tired. Are you all right? And to think…I haven’t been here in years. The place has really fallen apart.”
Randy took the keys from her and put his bags in the trunk. Mum remained outside the car. “Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“No. Not just yet. Excuse me. There’s something I need to do…so long as we’re here. Why did you take the train?”
“What?” Randy asked. His mum had turned to walk across the street to the old fountain.
A vast bathtub of a thing some forty yards wide, it was filled with concrete fish, water fairies, and mermaid sculptures. It was bone dry. It looked like something out of a mason’s nightmare. In the central piece was a man-sculpture with broken arms poised to dive at a female figure carrying a water jug on her shoulders. The fountain looked ready to crumble into dust.
Randy quickly followed Mum to the fountain.
“Oh, Randy,” Mum said. “This old train station, this fountain…brings back so many memories. You don’t mind terribly, if we linger here a moment, do you? Then we’ll go someplace nice for lunch.”
“Sure,” Randy said, looking back toward the car. He had to laugh. All the life of the station depended on the train, and now with the train gone, the place was a graveyard. A sign next to where Mum parked stood in stark contrast to all the quiet. It said “No Parking-Loading Zone.” About the only loading Randy could see going on were two winos sharing a bottle of fortified wine. What’d Mother see in all this decrepitude? The fountain was in worse repair the closer they got to it. Orange, red, and purple graffiti splattered all over the mermaids. A couple of the water fairies had been tipped over.
Even so, there she sat, his mum, Margaret Bouchard—corporate powerhouse and high-society insider—on a bench, gawking at the derelict monstrosity. Paper cups, crumpled newspapers, and food wrappers scudded about the dry basin, driven by the wind. Dandelions grew in the cracks that ran the length and breadth of the concrete basin, which was as large as the infield of a baseball diamond.
“I can’t believe it’s come to this,” Margaret said. “Only just a few years ago, this place was the showplace of the city.”
Randy had to lean in close to even hear Mum, her voice was so low. He didn’t sit on the bench. It was too dirty.
Mum furrowed her brow. “Oh,” she paused. “Oh, when was I last here? 1954, ’55, ’58? I can’t remember. That must seem like ancient history to you. When the boys returned from World War II, oh my, this was the place to be. VJ day. Everyone so happy. The reunions. My, my, but those were some days. I wonder if the Chamber is even aware how bad things have become…”
“Maybe you ought to tell them,” Randy said.
Mum perked up. “Me?” she said. “Now? No, Bruce and I are too busy now with our own business. We don’t have near the time. Your grand-pere would be the one…He’s got the connections. It’s just too sad that something this beautiful gets forgotten.”
The wind picked up, sending litter scudding across the empty fountain basin. “Grand-pere? You mean the Colonel. I thought the two of you weren’t talking. Has that changed?”
“No. Sadly, most of our communication has been through his CPA, Bernard Jeams.”
“Involving the Colonel, hmm,” Randy said. “That’s not a bad idea. He’s big on nostalgia, right?”
“Yes, he is.” Margaret Bouchard laughed. “Oh, look at me. I’ve fallen into something of a funk, haven’t I? Never mind. So how are you, Randy? How are your studies going? She tapped the stone bench by way of suggesting he sit next to her.
“Schools great,” Randy said, pacing a bit. “But I don’t think you and I just sitting here will bring this place back. Can we get out of here?”
“Yes, yes, of course, Randy. I just needed a moment. Now, see? I’m done. You being the age I was when this place was hopping…well, I’m getting carried away, aren’t I?” Mum stood up and took his arm.
Randy led the way back to the car.
“I do so miss you living at home,” Mom said as they crossed the street. “I guess I’m not ready to see you grow up and me grow old.”
“You’re not old—not in a bad way old, ah that is. You’re elegant, esteemed old. There’s a difference.”
Margaret laughed. “I’ll take that as a compliment, I guess. Young people today are so frank.”
Randy suggested Balboa’s Italian restaurant for lunch. Then he drove them both there in the vintage blue Cadillac.