Me and the Dreamy Doomsday

Chapter 1

Kori

 

I yank my wrench back, tightening a bolt and grunting a little as I do.

Making a parade float is almost an annual occurrence for the residents of Good Grief, Idaho. I’m sure I’m not the only one lying on an old flatbed wagon, grunting, wrestling with wrenches, and covered in sawdust in our town today.

Our annual Chainsaw Festival, where the residents of Good Grief and thousands of other people celebrate everything there is to celebrate about a chainsaw—and there’s more than you think—starts tomorrow.

This particular float, for the parade at eight o’clock tomorrow morning, is for Cherry Tree, the senior living center in town, and it doesn’t have anything to do with chainsaws.

“I think that should do it,” I say, letting the wrench rest on my stomach and turning my head to my sister Leah and her husband, Doug.

Leah is studying it with her pointer finger tapping her chin, a thoughtful look on her face.

Doug looks more horrified than anything.

I bite back a smile. Ever since they’ve gotten together, they’ve been about the cutest couple ever. Even more so now that they’re married.

I have a feeling they’re about to have one of their “discussions.” The kind of discussion where Leah is saying one thing and Doug is saying another and neither one of them understands what the other is saying.

It happens all the time, and I really enjoy watching it.

“It looks like a gallows,” Doug says, tilting his head to the side like looking at it from a different angle will completely change his perspective and make it look the way he wants it to look, instead of the way it does.

“That’s morbid,” Leah says, putting one brow down and one brow up and giving her husband a look that says he has no clue what he’s talking about.

“I agree. It looks like a gallows, and that’s morbid. I definitely don’t think I should be trying to bungee jump off the top.”

This is kind of where things get interesting, because I think I hear my sister mumble something about honey and ropes, and Doug’s features, which had been pinched up tight, relax into what could loosely be termed a grin, and he gives his wife a look of interest, which she returns.

I sit up, taking the wrench off my stomach and setting it on the flatbed floor, as Doug mumbles something that sounds very much like, “Do you really mean that?” And I’m thinking that I’m probably not supposed to be hearing that.

My sister nods, and her grin widens.

They seem to reach some kind of understanding before Doug looks back at what he’s termed a gallows and says, “I think it might be dangerous, but I’ll do it.”

“You know what,” Leah says with a hand on her hip. “Why don’t I just do it? I think it would be fun.”

“No! There is no way I’m going to let you ride in the parade, pretending to bungee jump off the top of that thing. You’ll die.”

“That’s being dramatic, don’t you think? I’ll be fine. And, since you don’t want to, and I do, it just makes sense that I should.”

“I want to,” Doug says, sounding like the way he probably would if someone just asked him if he wanted to be buried alive.

“It’s not quite finished yet,” I say, enjoying their conversation but also knowing that I need to go and finish the last lesson on the photography course I’ve been studying as well as help my friend Denise ice the chainsaw cake we baked yesterday. “Miss Agnes said she was going to send someone for a drill, and we need to finish putting those bolts in at the top. That will make it sturdier.”

“I don’t think it will be sturdy enough,” Doug says, still looking at my miniature bungee jumping tower like he’d rather use the wood as fire starter than as a parade float.

“I could probably put a couple more braces on the bottom,” a deep, familiar voice says from behind me.

Hoover.

Hoover and I have a little history together, and maybe it’s because of this that I don’t turn around and greet him.

“I have the drill that Miss Agnes said you guys wanted,” he continues. “What do you want me to do with it?”

“I’ll take it,” I say, lifting my chin as I turn, holding my hand out for the drill.

There’s something about Hoover that gets my back up every time I see him.

Maybe because he’s so quiet and serious, and he seems to think everything’s a national emergency, while I would much rather have fun with my life.

Or it could be the possum potpie he tried to make me eat.

Either way, he’s not my favorite person, but I know he hates me. Still, we’ve been able to set aside our animosity and work together in the past. Which is where our history lies.

He doesn’t place the drill in my stretched-out hand. Rather, he says, “What needs to be done? I can do it.”

The man acts like he was raised with wolves in the back mountains of Idaho.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But he does have that cavemannish attitude that says he’s a man, so he can do it, and I’m a woman, so I can’t.

Maybe it’s just my imagination. Maybe I’m looking for something to be offended over. Like I said, the man gets my back up for some reason.

I will my mouth to tell him I can do it just as good as he. After all, there isn’t anything a man can do that I can’t do better, but Leah either realizes that I’m about to confront this dude and knows she needs to intervene, or she doesn’t realize that I’m about to get offended and just wants to get her float done.

Probably the second.

“We need to put two large bolts at the top of both of those posts to hold the crossmember firm.”

“And if you want to put some braces on the bottom, that might be a good idea too,” Doug adds with what I consider to be a hopeful tone of voice.

I don’t laugh though, because Doug is very much a play by the rules kind of guy, while Leah is a little bit more of a free spirit.

Not as much as me, since I seem to have inherited all of my mother’s genes. Although my mom has stayed with my dad for almost a half-century, and in almost forty years, I’ve never had a relationship that lasted more than a few months.

“Where are the bolts?” Hoover says as he hops up on the float, making it look easy.

Part of me resents that, and part of me wants to stand and admire him. He meets my eyes as he straightens, and although his face is serious, there’s a spark of something in his gaze as he nods at me.

I nod back. I don’t want to be rude.

I take a step and walk over to where I laid my tools along with the bolts that he needs, scooping them up and turning back around.

He’s already grabbed the ladder that’s leaning against the top rail and moved it over to the one side.

I want to say I don’t notice the smooth way he moves, or his confidence, or his willingness to jump in and help, but that wouldn’t be true.

I notice.

I like it, even though I don’t want to. He has all the traits I admire, and I honestly try not to.

I’m not even sure why.

He climbs up the ladder and uses the drill to make a hole for the bolt I’m holding.

I admit I wouldn’t want to bungee jump off of this. But I don’t think that’s the idea. I think it’s just supposed to represent bungee jumping. I heard Miss Agnes say something about having Doug hang by his feet with the rope and dangle on the float route upside down, but Leah can be pretty persuasive.

And Doug would do anything for her.

Maybe my relationships would have lasted longer if I hadn’t felt like I was the only one who would do anything for my partner.

My mom’s a liberated woman, liberated in the sense that she’s smart and successful and creative and passionate about the things that she does and even more passionate about her family and her husband.

She would do anything for my dad, and I’ve always admired that about my mom.

The thing is, Dad would do anything for her. That makes their relationship as close to perfect as one can get, I think.

I sigh. It would be hard to stay in any relationship where only one person was doing all the giving. I stifle my grunt. Maybe I’m just making excuses for myself and the fact that I’ve never had a successful relationship.

“Hand me your wrench,” Hoover demands, and he doesn’t even tack a “please” on.

I’m not getting upset about something so childish though, and I obediently pick up the wrench from where I set it down and walk back to him, holding it out.

He takes it, and our fingers brush. It doesn’t surprise me to feel those sparks travel up my arm.

We worked together for a week at his brothers’ lodge, up on Roscoe Mountain this past March. The kitchen was large, but as we cooked for the guests, our hands brushed more than once. I’ve never met anyone who seems to ignite sparks in my fingers like Hoover does.

Of course, I’ve never really had anyone who gets my back up as quick as he does either. All I have to do is look at him, and I have this weird reaction, almost like the hair on the back of my neck is standing out. Makes me defensive.

The bolt is big enough that Hoover doesn’t bother with the drill. He uses the wrench, and I wish I were strong enough not to watch as the sleeves of his T-shirt bulge with his biceps with each twist of the wrench.

He comes down, and we do the other side the same way. Him working, me handing him tools and pretending I’m not looking at his muscles.

He’s on his way down from the ladder when Miss Agnes arrives. She must be eighty if she’s a day, and she is the ringleader of all the shenanigans that have ever happened at Cherry Tree, and from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, there have been a lot of shenanigans.

Still, she’s a sweet old lady, and she hobbles to the edge of the float.

“That looks exactly like I hoped it would,” she says, looking the frame over with an approving eye. “Are you up to the challenge, Mr. Doug?” she asks my brother-in-law as he stands with his arm around Leah. I think Miss Agnes might have interrupted them whispering in each other’s ears.

Doug’s face is red. I don’t want to know why.

“I guess I have to be,” Doug says, sounding as eager to swing from the frame on the float as he is to spend six years on the international space station.

“How about we do it together?” Leah says, turning a sweet smile on her husband. One I’m sure he won’t be able to resist.

“I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“It won’t,” Leah assures him with complete and total confidence.

That’s probably true, too. Normally, the people who are scared are the ones who get hurt, right?

You just have to walk through life with no fear. I also believe you have to enjoy it.

That’s where Hoover and I butt heads. I’ve never actually talked to him about his life philosophy, but it seems to be be as sour and as grumpy and as untalkative as you can possibly be. Along with make everyone around you as uncomfortable as you possibly can.

It’s no wonder we don’t get along.