Ed King
out, there was reasonably good reception at Cattle Point. To be polite, and to make it look as if he wasn’t in a hurry to catch a ferry home—to add a layer of reassurance for Diane that he was a good guy—Walter served Jiffy Pop and watched
As the World Turns
with her. “I’m in prison here,” Diane said. “There’s nothing to do. I don’t do a thing.”
    “Take walks,” said Walter. “Get exercise.”
    The next time Walter came to the island, it was to collect Diane for her appointment with the obstetrician. An hour on the water to pick her up at the cabin, an hour back to the mainland with a seething girl for company, thirty minutes with the doctor in Anacortes, a hot dog and ice cream devoured in a parking lot, and then yet again to the interminable ferry, again to Cattle Point, again getting Diane to her cloister, and then, for Walter, once more to the mainland, once more the long drive home. The next week, he had to do it all over again for a trip to the adoption agency, so Diane could sign relinquishment papers and claim she didn’t know who the father was, even though the father—actually, Walter still wondered—was sitting right there, pretending to be helping. Walter feltgrateful that the woman in charge of things pretended not to have seen this before—namely, the pregnant girl accompanied by an older man who purported himself as strictly a good Samaritan. But he didn’t feel grateful when she said that Diane would have to return the following week for an assessment of her features. This was so that the baby, when it came, could be placed in a family that had the right look, the better to allow for a successful sham, and to keep everyone not party to the deed—especially the baby, as it grew into a man or woman—from wondering what it meant that no one else in the family was, say, left-handed and cross-eyed. The next week came—another twice-circuitous journey. The assessment of Diane’s features was demeaning, and though she mechanically went along with the process, afterward she was livid about such a soulless inventory of her features. Walter worried that her goodwill was eroding further because she seemed brimming over now with shame and wrath. “Like
meat
,” she said. “It’s humiliating.”
    She swelled prettily, though, as things progressed. They both went on lying to everybody involved in order to sustain the charade indefinitely, and in order to move forward without a hitch. Lydia, with her inner battery now fully recharged, took a wifely interest in what she called Walter’s “distance.” He told her that stress at work—preoccupation with “an upheaval” at Piersall-Crane (“Someone got canned, and somebody somewhere decided to dump his accounts on
guess who
?”)—was the cause of his absence from their family life. Then he played with the kids, to lend depth to his remorse. Meanwhile, Diane metamorphosed. Her teen-age pregnancy was charming, yes, but she looked blotchy and had a burgeoning double chin.
    What to do? How to get to where this thing was done and he could move on with life unencumbered? And in the meantime, how to keep an angry fifteen-year-old on his side? Out of ideas, he bought her, once again, a double ice-cream cone in Anacortes, but it just made him all the sadder to watch Diane, so buffeted by circumstance, lick away earnestly at her Rocky Road. He said, “I know all of this is tough, but, believe me, I’m sticking with you, and we’ll get through it. These things happen.”
    Diane sighed. “A baby,” she said. “And look what I’m doing.”
    “I’m looking at it,” answered Walter, “and what I see is two people doing the best they can to do the right thing, Diane. We’re going to make sure our baby has a good home. We made a mistake—I made a mistake—butwe’re owning up to it together, and so far, I’ve been proud to stand beside you while you stay the course with so much … is the right word ‘courage’? Look, I’m sure it

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