Mr. Dearborn's Big Vacation
by Philip Loyd
The heady waves crested just below the setting sun, crashing
upon the white, sandy beach as Anna came splashing to the
shore. She shook her head, her wet hair whipping from shoulder
to shoulder. She smiled and waved to Richard, resting comfortably
on his beach towel, sipping his margarita. He waved back.
She was a vision of loveliness, the image of simple virtue
and supple charm altogether. She was everything he had ever
dreamed of. Seeing her smile as she kicked up sand running
toward him, he wished this moment would last forever. But
just like all honeymoons, it wouldn't outlast the days and
years to come.
This is what Mr. Richard J. Dearborn remembered as he sat
daydreaming behind his busy desk. For the clutter of penholders,
picture frames, and paperweights, there wasn't even room
for his feet.
The door to his office abruptly opened and in the same
motion a woman of great bearing came bursting through, the
secretary saying "Good morning, Mrs. Dearborn,"
all the while Mrs. Dearborn yammering on and on, as was
her way."Oh the traffic--frightful. Why is there always
such a crowd down below? I could hardly get into my own
building. Bums. Oh, they call themselves musicians, or artists,
or some other clever names like bohemians, or avant-garde,
but they're all bums, just the same."
"Now, dear," said Mr. Dearborn.
"Don't dear me," snapped Mrs. Dearborn, removing
her gloves. "This city has gone to hell in a handbasket,
overrun by hoodlums and hooligans alike." She hung
up her purse. "Why, you can hear them all the way below,
even with your radio playing" she said, closing the
window. "What is that noise anyway, if it even qualifies
"Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence," said
Mr. Dearborn, "you remember-"
"Silence is right," said Mrs. Dearborn, and she
turned it off.
"But never you mind," she said, changing moods
at the drop of a hat, as was her way. "How has your
day been, dear? Are you ready for the Gates merger? Everything
Mr. Dearborn sat forward, now standing and walking to the
"Why, look at your desk," said Mrs. Dearborn,
now organizing it, "you've not even your papers together.
What's this?" she said, now holding his pocket-size
book of poetry. "Edwin Arlington Robinson. What's this
Mr. Dearborn looked out the window toward the park.
"How do you expect to..." Mrs. Dearborn began,
and then he tuned her out altogether.
Down in the park, a dog was barking, running, jumping,
and catching a Frisbee. Richard had a dog when he was a
boy, a bright-eyed Beagle named Smokey; but Mrs. Dearborn
would have no part of it, said she was allergic to the dander.
A thirty-something couple strolled along hand in hand, pushing
a baby carriage, the father looking all around for everyone
to see, the mother looking up at him then resting her head
on his arm, both glowing with pride and joy. Mr. and Mrs.
Dearborn had tried to have a baby, but after the miscarriage
their doctor advised against ever trying again. Mrs. Dearborn
had never been real fond of children anyway, though she
did often donate money to several orphanages and literacy
programs. A college student lay beneath a sprawling oak,
his head resting upon his backpack while he scribbled something
in a notebook. Poetry, most likely, Richard thought. Richard
used to write poetry. In fact, people used to tell him he
was quite good. That was back in college though, when Anna
and he first met. He remembered sitting in the park, looking
much like the young student below, when he first saw Anna
sitting across the lawn. She was the most beautiful sight
he had ever seen, her sun dress hiked up ever-so slightly
so he could just barely see her legs, her hair resting upon
her shoulders and flowing like silk down her back. But he
couldn't muster the nerve to talk to her. Why would someone
like her talk to somebody like him anyway? So he wrote her
a poem, something about flying and the freedom of the never-ending
horizon, and dropped it in her lap without so much as even
a stutter. She read it, and even though she didn't like
it, she liked him. She came over that very next day and
sat with her toes twiddling in the grass. From that day
forward they sat together in the park, their textbooks open
and pretending to study, but never turning a page. And from
the very first she had that look of love in her eyes, like
they were at somebody else's wedding and she had been merely
his girlfriend long enough now. Mr. Dearborn saw a young
couple playing footsie on a blanket below. It reminded him
of Anna. For their ragged jeans and filthy T-shirts, they
couldn't have had more than two dollars between them. Oh
how wonderful it must be to be penniless and silly in love.
But Mr. Richard J. Dearborn didn't know about such things
anymore. That was so long ago, it must have been somebody
"So how do you?" said Mrs. Dearborn, standing
behind Mr. Dearborn, her arms akimbo, her short hair molded
on her unmoving head. "How do you expect to be prepared
for the Gates merger when you're reading this?" she
said, holding his book of poetry.
Mr. Dearborn turned and looked into her eyes. They were
as soft and brown as the day they met. The young lady he
had fallen in love with was still in there, somewhere.
"Dear," he said, grinning from ear to ear, "we
need to take a vacation."
"A vacation?" she said, taken aback. "You
have the Gates merger in less than an hour. Your papers
are a mess. How do you expect to..." Mrs. Dearborn
began saying, and as she did Mr. Dearborn's eyes drifted
to a picture on the wall. It was a photo of Anna and him,
and her parents, the very first time he had met them. It
was taken on Thanksgiving Day at their estate in the country.
Anna's father was a banker, her mother the head of the local
garden club. Both played bridge religiously and never drank.
Richard dreaded meeting them, but since Anna and he were
now going steady he knew it was inevitable. She told him
not to worry. They'd love him, she said, because she loved
him. He knew she wanted him to cut his hair and shave his
muttonchops, but didn't ask out of respect for him. Out
of respect for her, he did buy some new clothes and tucked
in his shirt. He bought some dress loafers and left his
sandals in his VW back at school.
The ride was peaceful. Once out of the city, they drove
through the piney green hills, past ponds and lakes alike,
listening to their favorite songs. She didn't mind so much
that he brought a few beers along; she knew it would calm
his nerves. He brought some winterfresh gum to top them
off and for a while even forgot where they were going. When
she pointed out her father's country club though, he knew
they were drawing near. He didn't even notice the row of
oaks leading up the winding driveway, or the horses passing
them by beyond the long, white fence.
It wasn't until dinner that the conversation took an unpleasant
turn for Richard. The unavoidable questions had finally
surfaced, just as he was cutting into his prime rib.
"So, Richard," began Anna's father, fork and
knife at work, "where are your parents this holiday?"
"They're back home," said Richard.
"And where is home?"
"On the South side."
"The South side. Yes, I know it well. I was born there,
you know. That's where I met Anna's mother. It was much
different back then though, much more of a close-knit community,
before the integration. We moved uptown shortly after we
were married, after I graduated college, of course. I haven't
been down there for quite some time. The neighborhood has
Anna looked at her father, then Richard. No words were
needed. Her mother never spoke.
"And what are you studying?" said her father.
"English," said Richard.
"English," said her father, "why, that's
fine--very noble. Of course, you plan on attending graduate
school, then attaining your Ph.D. There's no real money
in teaching unless you obtain a professorship at a university.
Then what, perhaps make dean, or chancellor maybe?"
"No sir," said Richard, "I want to write."
"Write?" said her father. "What, like for
a newspaper or a magazine?"
"No sir, poetry, short stories perhaps."
"Poetry?" snapped her father.
"Richard's an excellent writer," interjected
Anna, "everyone at school says so."
"But there's no money in poetry," said her father.
"You can't earn a living wage writing poems. Why, you
might as well be a juggler, or a mime on a street corner."
"Daddy," said Anna, "money isn't the most
"Is that so? Tell me then, what is?"
"Love," said Anna. "Richard and I love each
"And I suppose love is going to pay the rent, put
food on the table, put your kids through college?"
Kids, thought Richard?
"It will see us through," said Anna. "Richard's
a wonderful writer. He's very talented."
"Daddy, please," said Anna, with a tone of finality
she had inherited from her father, "can we please just
enjoy our dinner?"
"Fine," he said, "it's just that-"
"There, now," spoke her mother, finally, "we
have crepes suzette for dessert."
"That sounds delicious," said Richard, "at
my house we usually just have apple pie."
They finished dinner in silence. Anna and Richard made
love beneath the moonlight that night, through the woods
by the lake. They left early the next morning. Richard and
Anna's father shook hands, as etiquette decreed. He kissed
her mother on the cheek like she was his mother-in-law already.
Though Anna never said anything, he knew she was very impressed
with the way he held his composure all the while. He was
headstrong, like her daddy. He knew this was the girl he
was going to marry.
"Well," said Mrs. Dearborn, throwing the book
of poems on his desk, "how do you expect to be ready
for the Gates merger when you're reading poetry?"
"Dear," said Mr. Dearborn, "we really do
need a vacation."
"You're not going to start all that again, I pray."
"We could go to your folks place in the country. Remember
the lake, the moonlight?"
"I don't understand you," said Mrs. Dearborn.
"You know as well as I that the Gates merger is our
biggest deal yet. This isn't just any merger. How on earth
could you be thinking of vacation at a time like this? They'll
be here in less than half an hour. Honestly, Richard Jonathon
Dearborn, I just don't understand you sometimes. How do
you intend to..." she began saying, and as she did
his eyes wandered toward a paperweight on his desk, a smooth,
flat rock he had found while they were hiking out West one
summer while on break from school.
They'd had the most serene two weeks of their lives. They
were on top of the world, ascending mountain tops and shadowed
rocks altogether. There they stood, hand in hand at the
peak. He was completely out of breath when inspiration shot
through him like the cold, thin air burning in his chest.
"Wait, baby," he told her, "don't move an
"Why?" she asked.
"Just don't move," he said.
"OK" she said, shrugging her shoulders.
He scurried about, looking for...she didn't know. Then
he picked up a rock, hurrying back to her side.
"What are you up to, sweetheart?" she said, giggling
"Anna," began Richard, "I've loved you since
the very first time I laid eyes on you."
"What are you doing?"
"I'll never forget that day. You were wearing a white
sundress that was hiked up just enough so I could see your
legs. Your hair was resting on your shoulders and you turned
and smiled at me. I froze. I was paralyzed." He knelt
"Oh, my God," she said, blushing and giddy.
"Anna, I've known ever since that day, we were meant
to be together, always."
She began to cry.
"Will you please do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Anna was all choked up. It was not her way. Richard waited
patiently, nervous and confident all at once. The wind came
whipping down from the sky. Anna caught her breath. "Yes,"
she sniffled, "YES," and her shouted response
swept across the valley below, echoing from the next mountaintop.
Richard placed the rock in her hand.
"What's this, " she said.
"Well," he said, "I know it isn't the rock
you really wanted, but right here, right now, it's all I
have to give."
"It's wonderful, sweetheart," she said, now crying
Before descending the mountain, Richard suggested they
come back here every year, so as never to forget this moment.
Anna said she thought it was a great idea. She said she
would have suggested it herself if he had not first.
"Well," said Mrs. Dearborn, "how do you
intend to absorb all the merger information before the Gates
brothers arrive? They'll be in here in less than fifteen
"Dear," said Mr. Dearborn, "we could go
"Hiking?" exclaimed Mrs. Dearborn. "Richard
Jonathon Dearborn, have you lost your mind?"
"We could go out West, the mountains, remember?"
"This isn't the time to play Sir Edmund Hillary,"
said Mrs. Dearborn. "The Gates brothers will be here
in fifteen minutes. How do you think you can possibly..."
she began saying, and as she did he looked over her to the
mounted sailfish on the wall, proud and forever in flight,
an enduring reminder of what they could accomplish when
they worked together. They had caught it on their honeymoon.
Richard was talking to the boat's captain about something
in Spanish, something he didn't fully understand, when suddenly
Anna's line caught, nearly yanking the pole from her hands
while she hooted and hollered, hopping all around. Richard
came immediately to her side. "Give it some slack,
baby," he said, wanting so to grab the pole. "Let
it run with it."
"Let it what?" she said, and he came up behind
her, putting his arms around hers.
"Here," he said, and then the tension in the
line slacked off and the reel started spinning. She giggled
for relief and he laughed with her, their bodies pressed
up against one another. The captain hurried to the wheel
and started the motor. The chase was on.
Nearly two hours later, working in shifts and sometimes
together, Anna and Richard reeled in the great fish. It
was still fighting, flopping on the deck as the captain
clubbed it to death. Its shiny scales shimmered in the sunlight
as Anna and Richard held one another, both their arms sore,
their backs aching and their legs shaking. The captain smiled
his toothless grin, saying something in Spanish to the effect
of "A grand fish." They didn't need to understand
him; they knew it already.
That night, he would never forget. He had never known her
to be so spirited. He had barely walked into their cabana
when she threw him against the wall tore open his shirt
and had his shorts down, all seemingly in one motion. When
she arose to kiss him, he could see the fire in her eyes.
His lips disappeared into her mouth and she nearly swallowed
his tongue. They never even made it to the bedroom, much
less the bed.
After margaritas and a spicy meal, they danced the night
away. During a slow dance, Anna threw back her hair and
looked up into his eyes, hers all glossy and silly in love.
"You know what, sweetheart?" she said, spinning
slowly in his arms.
"What, baby?" he said, his hands resting on her
"That moment when the fish took my line, when you
came up behind and wrapped your arms around me, it was like
at that moment nothing else mattered, like there wasn't
anything else in the world to matter. Just like now, here
with you; just like earlier, alone with you." Her cheeks
turned red. He felt the same.
"We should just stay here," she said.
"What, for another night?" he said.
"We could open up a café, or a cantina. Or,
we could just buy this one. I have money. Then we could
fish every day and dance every night. We could sip margaritas
on the beach and make mad, passionate love until sunrise.
What do you think?"
"I think you've been in the sun too long."
"You don't like my idea."
"Sure, I like it, but what would your father say?"
"Oh, phooey on him."
"Well, you're not the one who has to see him every
day. He expects me there bright and early Monday morning.
It was your idea, remember?"
"Yes, I remember," she said, looking up at the
stars. "It was a wonderful idea though, wasn't it?"
"What, me taking a job with your father?"
"No silly, our staying here together, forever."
"Yes baby, it was a great idea."
"Well then, let's make tonight last. Let's watch the
sunrise one more time."
They spent their last night on the beach. There was a full
moon, then the sun came climbing over the ocean from beyond
"How do you think you can possibly be prepared for
the merger?" said Mrs. Dearborn. They hardly ever made
love anymore, only after hostile takeovers and auspicious
"Dear," said Mr. Dearborn, "we could go
south of the border, to that ocean-side village where we
"Now Richard Jonathon Dearborn, I know you've lost
your mind. The Gates brothers are surely on their way up
right this very minute," said Mrs. Dearborn. "If
daddy could only see you, why he'd turn over in his grave.
Now straighten your tie and comb your hair. You look a mess."
Mr. Dearborn turned toward the window, looking over the
tall buildings across the park. "Dear," he said,
staid, "we need a vacation."
"Lord have mercy," said Mrs. Dearborn, "we
just went to London not even a month ago, the Bigsby merger,
"Not a business trip," said Mr. Dearborn, "a
real vacation. Just somewhere, anywhere-a real vacation,
just the two of us."
"We're going to Japan next month," said Mrs.
Dearborn, "you know, the Hioto merger."
"Or we could go to Tillbury Town."
Mr. Dearborn said nothing, he just stood gazing out the
window toward the horizon.
"You're just tired, dear," said Mrs. Dearborn,
coming up from behind and tenderly spinning her husband
round. "Tomorrow is Saturday and you can sleep in."
She kissed him. "You know how much I love you, dear."
She hugged him."I love you too, dear," said Mr.
Dearborn, and he hugged her.
"Now," she said, "get your papers ready.
The Gates brothers are surely in the lobby as we speak."
"OK," he said, but he didn't need any papers.
What is that old cliché about a fool and his money?
Oh, yes. Mr. Dearborn needed no preparation for this merger.
The Gates brothers had a lot of money, and they were quite
the fools. Mrs. Dearborn freshened up. Mrs. Dearborn left.
Mr. Dearborn's secretary buzzed him. The Gates brothers
were in the lobby. He straightened his tie. He combed his
hair. Just another day at the office.
* * *
If you were to walk through the door of Mrs. Anna Dearborn's
house on 1 Stanford Lane at or around four p.m. that Friday
you'd swear there was a riot in progress. Imagine a hundred
chickens in a room, beating their wings desperately and
bouncing from wall to wall with their heads just hacked
off, or the frantic floor of the New York Stock Exchange
as the numbers plunge amid widespread panic. Now imagine
somebody moving in the midst, someone who could not only
make sense of it all but felt right at home. That someone
was Mrs. Dearborn as she gave orders here and ordinance
there: the flowers in the foyer, the settings on the tables,
the food, the wine, the lighting, the staff... She said
something to the caterer, then like a shot from a cannon
exploded through the kitchen door. Her caterer wondered
why she hired her at all. She was the most expensive in
the city, but had barely lifted so much as a finger. No
matter. When Mrs. Dearborn was in the cast, she directed
the show. You dare not get in her spotlight.
After a short stint terrorizing the chef and his help,
Mrs. Dearborn came bursting back through the kitchen door.
She rearranged the flowers again, checked the lighting once
more, and wondered if her new drapes really matched her
carpet, or if the carpet went with the sofa, or if the sofa
complemented the chairs. She lined up the waiters, busboys,
bartenders, cocktail waitresses, and coat-check girls like
a drill sergeant and inspected them one by one: comb your
hair; trim your nails; brush your teeth; tie your shoe;
change your panty hose; and to the last, trim your nose
hairs. Everything was ready. Everything was in place. Nothing
could go wrong. Tonight would be perfect. What could possibly
Tonight would be a disaster, she thought. She went over
everything again. She would get her husband on the mayor's
commission and he would forget all that nonsense about a
vacation. She was determined that this night be special,
one they would never forget. It would be, indeed.
The phone rang, resonating from mirrored walls and chandaliered
ceilings alike. It sent a jolt through the staff, scattering
them in a flash as a young, professional looking woman with
granny glasses came shouting through the ranks, "Mrs.
Dearborn, telephone Mrs. Dearborn."
"I'll take it in my study," said Mrs. Dearborn,
staring all along at the foyer as if the Queen of England
herself would soon be passing through. "And what have
I told you about shouting?"
"That it's very unprofessional."
"And most unladylike."
"Yes, ma'am. Sorry, ma'am."
Mrs. Dearborn stood statuesque, arms akimbo, then removed
one daisy from a vase, nearly smiling while saying "There"
to no one at all. As she sat stiff-backed at her desk in
her study--picking up the phone--she set down the flower,
forgetting it was still in her hand at all.
"Yes, this is Anna Dearborn," she said, as rigid
in her tone as she was in her poise. "No," she
said sternly, as close to shouting as a proper lady could
come. "No, I ordered two, one for the pool and one
for the gazebo. Lord in heaven, can't you people get anything
She spun the daisy between her fingers as she listened,
staring at Richard's portrait on the wall.
"I don't care what your invoice says;" she rebutted,
"I ordered two."
Spinning the daisy.
"Just a moment; it's in my purse," she said,
lifting her bag from the floor and digging through it. Her
purse was absolutely the only thing in her life not organized,
besides her powder room, of course.
She grabbed a piece of paper from her purse and glanced
at it momentarily. "What's this?" she thought
aloud, then dropped it on the desk. "Here we are,"
she said into the phone, unfolding the invoice. "Two;"
she said, "it says here, two."
She picked up the strange piece of paper from the desk.
"Well you had better, otherwise I'll see to it you
never work in the Free World again, or the whole world for
She opened up the sheet of paper.
"Yes, that will do fine."
She read the title.
"Apology accepted," she said, hanging up the
phone, hypnotized by the words on the paper. They were words
written long ago but she remembered them still, like seeing
an old lover on the street one day, years and decades down
the road. It was the poem Richard had given her in the park
that day long ago when she had worn the sundress her Aunt
Mellie had given her in the hopes of drawing his attention.
Even though he wore torn jeans and had sideburns down to
his jowls, she couldn't help not looking at him much longer,
no matter how unladylike it may seem. Then he dropped this
poem in her lap, running off like a scared little puppy,
which she thought adorable. She wasn't much into poetry,
but she was into him. She read it over and over because
it reminded her of him. What had become of it in the years
gone by she'd never cared about or known till now. He had
been saving it all these years. And these weren't just the
same words; this was the actual poem on the original piece
of paper. She read through it again and even though she
still didn't understand it, it made her think of him. She
thought about him as he was back then, but mostly about
how he was now, about the way he was acting and had been
for quite some time--about what he had said. She remembered
the very first time he met her parents. He was brash and
cocky, quite rude. But she loved him and knew he was just
nervous. She remembered how silly he was when he asked her
to marry him. It was not how she had dreamed it would be,
but it seemed like she had been waiting forever so she wasn't
going to let the opportunity pass her by. She remembered
him saying they should go back to that spot every year.
She remembered agreeing. She hated the great outdoors. She
knew they wouldn't have to go back. She remembered their
honeymoon. She remembered catching the great fish and what
a proud predator Richard was. It excited her so that she
lost her poise and her clothes that night, then almost lost
her mind thinking about staying there forever. It must have
been the moon, or the drink. When he talked her out of it,
she knew he was ready to take on the world. But he had been
acting so strange as of late. He must be suffering from
fatigue, what with all this talk of a vacation and all.
And now his slipping this poem into her purse. Maybe he
did need more than just a good night's sleep. Maybe he did
need some time off. Just get him through tonight, she thought;
just get him on the mayor's committee and then they would
take some time off, perhaps even a whole week. Anything,
just get him through tonight. She wondered how the Gates
merger had gone.She picked up the phone and dialed her travel
agent. There. Everything was set. Then, she stormed out
of her office, almost knocking over the caterer on her way
to the door.
"Mrs. Dearborn," said the caterer, "we still
have to finalize the--"
"You take care of it," Mrs. Dearborn said on
her way out the door. "What do you think I pay you
The caterer didn't know. She had never known. She was by
far the most expensive caterer in the city. She was scared
to death she wouldn't get it right.
The door slammed. Mrs. Dearborn had something much more
important to take care of.
* * *
When Mrs. Dearborn came to the revolving door at 1136
4th Avenue--her building--she felt like saying something.
No, she felt like screaming it. Bums! And the crowd had
grown even larger, now stirring and chattering on as there
seemed to be some commotion in the midst. She ought to call
the police, but there wasn't time right now. She was on
a mission. She would be putting a stop to it very soon,
Bolting out the elevator door to the penthouse suite before
the doors had even opened all the way, she blew by the secretary,
as was her way, the secretary saying "Good afternoon,
Mrs. Dearborn" as she burst into the office. She put
on the brakes at the desk--holding the envelope with the
plane tickets--and began to speak when all of a sudden she
noticed that Mr. Dearborn was not sitting there. In fact,
he wasn't in the office at all.
"Marsha," she said into the speakerphone, leafing
through her husband's papers on the desk, looking for the
"Yes, Mrs. Dearborn."
"Do you know where Mr. Dearborn is?" She couldn't
find the papers anywhere.
The secretary said something, but Mrs. Dearborn couldn't
make it out for the noise below.
"Speak louder, dear."
"I said, he should be in his office. He hasn't passed
this way since the Gates meeting."
"Well, he's not here."
"Maybe he's in the bathroom."
"No, dear. The door's wide-open. He's not in there."
"Then I don't know. I'm sorry, ma'am."
She found the document.
"All right, then," said Mrs. Dearborn.
"Is that all, ma'am?"
"No," said Mrs. Dearborn. "I want you to
call the police. I've had it with all the commotion below."
"Yes, ma'am. I'll--"
Then the sounds of sirens made their way, becoming louder
and louder. Mrs. Dearborn smiled.
"Never you mind," said Mrs. Dearborn. "It
sounds like it's been taken care of. Put Mr. Dearborn through
if he calls." She hung up.
Mrs. Dearborn perused the document. All was well. Then,
gloating, she traipsed over to the open window. She would
never understand why Mr. Dearborn always had to keep the
Bums! Now, they would get theirs. She looked down below.
There were two police cars and, an ambulance. Strange, she
thought. She looked closer and, leaning out with one hand
on the rail, touched a piece of cloth. It was a torn piece
of a shirt. What? It was a blue pinstripe strip of starched
cotton. It was just like the shirt Mr. Dearborn was wearing
today. She knew; she had picked it out herself. Her heart
began racing. Her face became flush. She looked to the street
below. She screamed in horror.
"Have a nice day, Mrs. Dearborn," said the secretary
as Mrs. Dearborn tore through the office toward the elevator,
faster than was her usual way. Did Mrs. Dearborn still want
her to call the police? She didn't know; she couldn't make
out the last thing she said for all the noise below. She
would shut the windows on her way out the office, just like
always. Those two really do need to take a vacation, she
thought as she went about her paperwork.
©1999 Philip Loyd