- Part 6
- Back at the house, Harry sent the
children to their rooms to put on their swimsuits while he sat
on the deck, telephone in hand, talking to Dr. Richards. "Yes,
we just got back- Are you certain you want to? . . . Very well.
I'll cancel the other boat-What's that? . . ." He smiled.
"Really? Can he meet us there at ten tomorrow morning? .
. All right. Thank you. What? . . . I will." Rachel looked
at him as Lauren and Graham came from the house.
- "What did he say?"
- "He knows a fishing guide who'll
show us where the biggest, fattest fish are," Harry told
them, smiling at the kids. "He'll meet us tomorrow morning
at the boat."
- "Yeah!" Graham said.
- Rachel shook her head. "You
two go on down to the beach," she said.
- "Aren't you coming?" Graham
- "In a few minutes," she
told him. "Just keep an eye on your sister."
- "Don't I always?" he asked
her, taking Lauren's hand as they moved toward the stairs.
- "Don't go out very far,"
Harry reminded them. "The undertow can drag someone under
before anyone realizes it."
- "We'll be careful. Come on,
Lauren. Ruffie!" The dog barked and ran ahead of them down
- Harry sat forward to watch as they
neared the water. Rachel touched his hand to get his attention.
"What happened this afternoon that made you decide to come
back for us instead of going out to the boat with Dr. Richards?"
- He took her hand in his. "I
don't know. Dr. Richards and I were talking about what happened,
about the two days I was in that truck alone, wondering if you
and the kids were all right, and suddenly I -I felt that if I
didn't get back here, to you and the kids, something would happen
and I wouldn't be here to stop it. I started having trouble breathing,
my palms got sweaty. Dr. Richards said it was an anxiety attack."
- Rachel touched his face. "Oh,
- "He was considering admitting
me to the hospital, and then suggested that I call home, to make
certain you were all okay. As soon as I heard your voice, and
Lauren's, I was fine. When I realized that you were just as upset
as I was, I decided that I couldn't stay away another hour."
He closed his eyes for a second. "I didn't want to tell
you about it-"
- "Why not?" she asked.
- "Because right now, you and
the kids need me to be strong. And-"
- "You've BEEN strong, Harry.
A rock. I think it's time you admitted that you were just as
much affected by what happened as the rest of us were and lean
on us. That's part of being a family, Harry," she told him
softly. "Knowing that you can lean on each other when you
- "I've never - There's never
been anyone I could lean on, Rachel. I suppose I just never learned
- Rachel could see the lonely, lost
little boy he must have been upon his parents' deaths, and her
heart ached for him. "Then it's time you learned,"
she said with a crooked smile. She gave him a kiss and then went
to the nearby table. She picked up the notebook that Lauren and
Graham had used for their list, and brought it to Harry along
with a pen.
- "What's this for?"
- "You need to write a report
for work- so write it. Include everything- how you felt, what
was going through your mind during thosel two days- "
- "I can't send that in-"
- "You can edit it later. Right
now, I think it's important for you to put those feelings down
on paper, to get them out into the open." Another kiss,
and she moved toward the house.
- "Where are you going?"
- "To start dinner," she
- Harry took out his glasses and put
them on. "I don't even know where to begin."
- "How about four years ago?"
She suggested, and when Harry looked up at her, she nodded, coming
back to kneel beside his chair. "That's all part of what
you're feeling now, Harry, whether you want to admit it or not.
Start with Columbia- when you and Marianne were trying to get
- Harry touched her cheek. "Have
you ever thought about becoming a psychologist?"
- "I think one doctor in the
family is enough, don't you?" She put the pen into his hand.
"Now start writing," she ordered gently, moving toward
the house again.
- He removed the glasses to take another
look at the kids as they splashed in the water, and smiled as
Lauren ran into the wave, then let it wash over her while Graham
had found a stick for Ruffie to fetch. Columbia. The day had
been hot- terribly hot, and he'd been out checking some readings
when the volcano had blown. Flaming rocks the size of soccer
balls had come screaming down onto the small village, creating
a panic as the ash laden rain coated everything with a muddy
sheen. He got back into the truck and wound his way through the
village, hoping that Marianne and the others would be ready to
get out when he got there. He was tired of this. All he wanted
was to marry Marianne and settle down in a boring professorship
teaching what he knew about volcanoes. Maybe after this, Marianne
would be ready to do the same thing. The rain was coming down
harder, the rocks were getting bigger, and Harry found it impossible
to see the road, even with the windshield wipers on full. The
Columbian soldier directing traffic recognized the vehicle and
directed it toward homebase, and as he neared the building, Harry
felt increasingly uncertain. They'd stayed too long already.
Marianne was there, waiting for him, but no gear in hand. He
got out of the truck, telling her they had to go. She hadn't
wanted to, had pointed to the computer screen, to the readouts.
She'd been so excited. This was her first real eruption, and
she was enjoying it.
- Harry started packing up, leaving
her and the others no choice but to leave with him. The others,
Juan, Chico, had gotten into the second vehicle, leaving Harry
and Marianne alone in the pickup. He'd been going to tell her
that this was it, that he was finished with volcanoes, but Marianne
was too excited to listen. A huge slag of rock fell from the
sky, hitting the front of the truck, bashing in half of the engine.
Harry kept going, mostly by momentum, assuring the now frightened
Marianne that they were going to make it.
- Suddenly another rock fell, not
much larger than Harry's fist, slicing through the roof of the
truck above where Marianne sat. Harry turned to look at her.
She was shaking, her eyes closed, blood pouring from her head.
Harry pulled her to him, crying, realizing that she was gone,
that the damned volcano had taken her from him just as surely
as another had taken Charlie.
- Harry sighed, blinking back the
tears, and pulled off his glasses. He looked down at the beach,
seeing Graham toss the stick into the surf and watching as Ruffie
dove into the water to get it. Something wasn't right, he realized,
standing up and moving to the railing. Where was Lauren?
- Harry's heart seemed to stop beating
as his eyes searched the beach. There was no sign of her. "Lauren!"
he called, taking the stairs to the beach two at a time.
- "Graham!" the boy turned
as Harry caught up with him, grabbing his shoulders. "Where's
your sister? You were supposed to be watching her-"
- "I am," Graham assured
- "Then where is she?"
- He pointed to the shady area beneath
the deck, and Harry felt his heart start to beat normally again
as he saw her coming toward him. "Thank God. For a minute
I -" He hugged Graham as he struggled to apologize and explain.
"I'm sorry. I-"
- Graham nodded. "I understand,
Dad. She got tired, and I sent her up there to play in the sand,
out of the sun. I guess I should have told you."
- Lauren came up to them, smiling,
taking Harry's hand. "Come and look at my sand castle, Daddy,"
she said, tugging on his arm.
- Harry bent to let her put her arms
around his neck, then picked her up, carrying to back to the
- Rachel watched the scene from the
deck, having come out when she had heard Harry call Lauren's
name in such panic. She stooped to pick up the notepad, and was
tempted to read what Harry had written, but something told her
that it should be Harry's decision for her to read it. To do
so without his permission seemed like an invasion of his privacy.
She closed the cover and put the book onto the chair as Harry,
Lauren, Graham and Ruffie came up the stairs. "Hey, you
guys. Time to get cleaned up for dinner."
- When they were alone, Rachel asked
Harry, "What happened? I heard you call Lauren's name."
- "I took a break from writing,"
he said, looking around for the notebook. Finding it with the
cover closed, in his chair, he picked it up. "When I looked
out to where the children had been earlier, I saw Graham and
Ruffie, but there was no sign of Lauren. I was afraid-"
- She put her arms around him, holding
him. "It's okay to admit it, Harry," she told him.
"I probably would have been too, if I'd been out here."
She gave him another hug, felt his shuddering sigh. "Let's
go have some dinner, shall we? And then you have some more writing
- After dinner, Rachel started clearing
the table, leaving Harry and the children to go the living room.
She heard them talking about the fishing trip, about Lauren and
Graham's list, and smiled. They were getting along so well. She
was loading the dishwasher when she heard Graham say, "I
did not," and then Lauren's voice.
- "Did too."
- Rachel sighed deeply. So much for
getting along, and she started to wipe her hands to go and stop
the arguement before it could escalate. But in the doorway, she
heard Harry say, "Why don't you go and see if your mother
needs some help, Graham?"
- "She never -" Graham started
to say, and Harry looked at him over the top of his glasses.
- "Yes, sir," Graham said,
getting up from the sofa.
- Rachel went back to the sink and
picked up a plate as Graham came into the kitchen. "Hello
there. What's up?"
- He shrugged. "Dad thought you
might need some help in here," he said.
- "You could hand me that pan
on the stove," she told him. "Did I just hear you and
Lauren arguing a second ago?"
- "She was telling him about
the time we went fishing at Mirror Lake and told him I'd pushed
- Rachel smiled, remembering the incident.
Graham hadn't pushed her in, he'd been trying to help her land
a fish. But from Lauren's point of view, it had seemed as though
her brother had deliberately pushed her into the water. "Oh."
- "Is Dad okay, Mom?"
- Rachel looked up at him. "What
do you mean?"
- "He really freaked earlier
when he didn't see Lauren on the beach."
- "He'll be fine," she told
him. "He's been having to be so strong for us, that it's
taken some time for what happened to start affecting him. Right
now, he needs as much love and support as he's given us the last
- "I figured it might be something
like that." He gave her the last dish.
- Rachel closed the door and turned
on the machine, then wiped everything down. Putting her arm around
her son's shoulders, she said, "Harry- Your dad needs to
know that we're going to love him no matter what, Graham. He's
not used to sharing his feelings with other people. So he's got
all of the fear and worry from those two days all bottled up
inside, and they're trying to work their way out."
- "But he thinks if he lets us
see that he's scared, we won't love him as much."
- "That's right. Let's go out
and join them."
- The room was quiet, and as they
entered the room, Rachel paused. Harry was sitting on the sofa,
his arm around Lauren, and the girl was asleep, her head on his
chest. "She's had a long day," he whispered.
- "I'm not asleep," Lauren
- "Well, you're close enough
that I don't think it matters," Harry told her, bending
down to give her a kiss. "Go with your mother. I'll be in
to say goodnight in a few."
- Graham watched them go, then watched
as Harry got up to go outside onto the deck. He followed, leaning
on the rail beside his step father. "Dad?"
- "Were you scared? When we were
in that boat on Mirror Lake?"
- Harry put his arm around Graham.
"I suppose I was. But I knew that I couldn't let the rest
of you see how frightened I was. Why do you ask?"
- "Just curious."
- "You did something of the same
thing yourself when you gave your sister that crystal,"
Harry reminded him. "Trying to keep her from becoming more
- "I didn't push her into the
lake," Graham said, wanting to set the record straight.
"She had a huge fish on her line, and I was worried that
it was going pull her in."
- "It was that big?"
- "Almost as big as Lauren,"
Graham insisted. "It almost took me in as well. She said
she could do it by herself. I grabbed for the line just as she
lost her footing and fell."
- Harry tried not to laugh. "Did
you land the fish?"
- Graham's smile widened. "Nope.
He got away."
- Harry laughed softly. "You'd
better get to bed. We've a busy day tomorrow."
- "All right." He gave Harry
a hug. "Night, Dad."
- "Goodnight, son." Harry
picked up the notebook from the table as Rachel came onto the
deck. "Lauren all tucked in?"
- "She's expecting you in to
say goodnight," Rachel said.
- "While I'm doing that, why
don't you read this?"
- Rachel didn't take the notebook.
"Are you certain you want me to?"
- "I thought that was the point
of my writing -"
- "The important thing was to
give you a safe outlet for your feelings, Harry."
- He put the book into her hands.
"If I can't trust you with my feelings, Rachel, then who
can I trust with them?" he asked. "I'll go say my goodnights,
might even tell Lauren a story before she goes to sleep."
- Rachel followed him inside, curling
up on the sofa so she could see the words he'd written.
- "It's often said that everyone
has, at some point in their lives, one defining moment. A moment
that so changes their lives that nothing is ever the same again.
That moment came for me in the
upper Cascade Mountain Range in a small town called Dante's Peak.
. . "
Harry came from Lauren's room and stood watching as Rachel closed
the notebook, wiping her eyes. She looked up and saw him, and
her smile let him know that she wasn't disappointed by what she
had read. In fact, the love in her eyes seemed deeper as he crossed
to sit beside her. "Well?"
- "It was- I can't find the words.
Have you ever thought of writing, Harry?"
- "About your experiences, the
people you've met- Reading this, I could almost feel what it
must have been like in that village. Hasn't anyone ever told
you this before?"
- Rachel ran her finger over the edge
of the cardboard cover. "Would you mind if I sent it to
someone I know who's a publisher?"
- "A publisher?"
- "Gail March. She grew up in
Dante's Peak, but she left to go to college. She works for a
big publisher in San Francisco."
- "I'll have to think about it,
Rachel," Harry told her. "Letting you read it is one
thing, but knowing everyone else was doing so-"
- She nodded, returning the notebook
to his care. "I understand. You haven't finished it, anyway."
- "And I still have to write
that report for USGS." He got up, holding out his hand to
her. "Let's go for a walk."
- "What about the children?"
- "Lauren's asleep. And I told
Graham that we might go for a walk on the beach. You'd better
get a sweater."
- Two evenings later, after fishing
most of the day, Harry finally sat down to write the report for
USGS. He kept his writing to scientific data, a dry, basic reporting
of the events that had occured in Dante's Peak from his arrival
to the pyroclastic cloud that had devastated the area, nearly
wiping the town from the map.
Once finished, he gave it to Rachel to read, watching her this
time. "The style's certainly different," she admitted.
"What am I supposed to type this on? I don't remember seeing
a typewriter anywhere."
- Harry drew what she had assumed
was a breifcase from the closet, placed it on the table, then
opened the lid to reveal a small computer. "I thought it
might come in handy," he told her.
- Rachel looked uncertain. "I've
- "It's just like a typewriter,
only there's no paper. Come here." He sat her down and showed
her how to use the system. "See? That's all there is to
- "And what happens after I finish
and save it?"
- Harry took a length of telephone
cord from the bag that the computer was in. "Then, we plug
this in and connect to the USGS computer, then upload it into
- "Won't they be able to trace
- "USGS isn't likely to release
that information to reporters," Harry said. "I'm going
for a run on the beach," he told her as she started to type.
Just save it when you finish and I'll upload it later."
- He had started running late in the
evening, something he told her that he'd done often when he wasn't
in the field. Rachel told him to hurry back, then looked at the
flat screen before her. It was just an overgrown typewriter,
Harry had assured her. She resumed typing, wanting to finish
the report before he returned.
- Three weeks later, Rachel sat on
the deck, watching as Lauren and Graham frolicked on the beach.
They were both deeply tanned from the Florida sun, and Lauren's
hair even had streaks of gold in it. She heard the car turn into
the drive and went to the sliding glass door as Harry entered
the house, removing his sunglasses. "What did Dr. Richards
- "Everything is fine,"
he told her, kissing her, then returning his attention to the
paper in his hand.
- "What's that?"
- "A letter that came to Dr.
Richard's office for me. There were several, actually. Including
one for you."
- "How did they- ?"
- "Dr. Richards has been sending
medical reports on my injuries back to USGS- which he had to
do, since their insurance is footing the bill. Terry and Stan
found out where we were from those reports." He handed her
the envelope. "Here's yours."
- Curious, Rachel opened it. "It's
from the government. An application for disaster relief funds
for the citizens of Dante's Peak displaced by the volcano erupting."
- "Are you going to apply?"
- "There's nothing left to rebuild,
Harry." She put the letter back into the envelope. "But
I suppose I'll fill it out and send it in for anyone else who
wants it. What's so
- "Oh, it's nothing. Just a position
I'd have given my eye teeth for at one time."
- "Harry-" she said warningly.
- "One of the letters was from
Terry Furlong. He said that a headhunter from the University
of Oregon in Portland was at the office just after we left. He
- talk to me about becoming head of
their new volcanology department."
- "In Portland?" she asked,
watching him carefully.