The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes Fiction

A Well-Ordered Life
Martin Green

The first time we met Kate and had some indication of her effect on my brother Ronald’s well-ordered life was on a Sunday evening in late January.  My wife Cynthia and I had gone to Ronald’s house for our monthly dinner, being careful to arrive precisely at six as he was a stickler for punctuality.  He greeted us at the door, as always impeccably dressed in a blue blazer but this time wearing a red, instead of his usual dark blue, tie.  

He seemed a little nervous, which I thought odd, but then he led us into his library where a stunningly beautiful girl in a red dress was looking over some books.   This was Kate.  I knew Ronald had taken on someone to finally go over his extensive collection of old volumes, but assumed it would be a graduate student, thin, pale, with thick glasses, not a woman who might have just stepped out of a magazine ad.  
“I’ve asked Kate to join us for dinner,” said Ronald, after the proper introductions were made.  So that explained the nervousness, I thought. I heard a meow and Ronald’s cat Emerson stepped out from behind a pile of books. Kate tried to pick him up but he evaded her and disappeared somewhere in the shadows of the library. We then went in to dinner.
At this point, perhaps I should explain a little about Ronald’s, and my, circumstances.  Our father, a lawyer and then a judge, had left each of us a small trust fund.  Ronald had joined a brokerage house, made some wise investments, and retired early to his country house in Connecticut quite a rich man.   I didn’t have Ronald’s business sense, as Cynthia constantly reminded me, and was now teaching at a small college two towns from where he resided.   I’d also married and we had two children, a boy and a girl, 12 and 15 years old.
Ronald had never married and until now appeared to have settled down into the comfortable, well-ordered life of a well-to-do country bachelor.   He attended concerts, plays and art shows.   He traveled to Europe once a year.   He had the monthly dinner with us and a weekly squash game with me.  He tended to his investments and collected his books.  
During dinner it came out that Kate had answered Ronald’s ad for someone to help catalogue his books.   “She’s been of inestimable help to me,” said Ronald.   “We’re making great progress.”
Under Cynthia’s questioning, Kate revealed that she’d graduated college a few years ago with a degree in literature, but she was rather evasive as to what she’d been doing in that time.   “Oh, this and that,” she said.   “I like to dabble in different things.   Life should be an adventure, don’t you think?”
“Kate has had quite an interesting life,” put in Ronald.   “Do you know, last year this time she was in Tibet.”
I didn’t know and would have liked to learn more about this, but evidently this was not to be as Ronald continued on, singing Kate’s praises while she in her turn told us how much she was learning under his guidance.   It was quite a mutual admiration society.
As we were leaving, Ronald casually remarked that he wouldn’t be able to make our squash game the next week as he and Kate were flying to Mexico City to attend the bull fights.
  “The bull fights!”
   “Can you imagine?” said Kate.   “Ronald told me he’d never been to one so of course I arranged a trip right away.”
  “But to Mexico?” said Cynthia.   “Aren’t there many kidnappings there?   And the police are totally corrupt.”
  “Kate has seen to everything,” said Ronald.   “We’ll be perfectly safe.”
  Driving back, Cynthia said, “That girl means no good.”
 “Perhaps a bit of adventure will be good for Ronald.”
  “Oh, don’t you see?   She’s after him, and his money, the money that by rights should go to our children.   You have to talk to him.”
  “All right, when he returns from Mexico.”
 “If he returns.”
                                                             *                    *                    *
In the event, Ronald returned unscathed and I invited him to lunch at my college, where he enthusiastically told me more about bulls and bull-fighting than I would ever want to know.   “Now I know why Hemingway admired matadors so much,” he said.
  “Hemingway?   I didn’t know you’d read him.”
  “Not until recently.   He came to a sad end but before that what a life he had.”
  “I hope you don’t intend to emulate him.”
  “Hardly, but Kate has made me see what a dull existence I’ve been leading.   It’s time I got out into the world and really start living.”
This remark gave me the opening I’d be waiting for.   “About Kate, don’t you think you’ve gone a little overboard on her?”
   “What do you mean?”
   “Well, she’s, uh, young, and after all you hardly know her.”
   “Are you trying to say, isn’t she an adventuress and isn’t she leading me about by the nose.   I can assure you she isn’t.   By the way, we’re going skiing in Vermont next week.”
                                                          *                    *                    *
I won’t go into what Cynthia had to say when I reported this last bit to her.   Suffice it to note she was convinced Kate had lured Ronald to the slopes to kill him or else so that he’d be injured and after she’d nursed him back to health he’d marry her.

The phone call from Ronald came at dinner time.   Yes, he was in the hospital but it was nothing serious and I needn’t worry about him.   No, I shouldn’t come to visit him.   They were keeping him overnight just to be sure, then Kate would drive him back.   He’d just called to let me know he wouldn’t be up to playing squash the next week.
When I reported this to Cynthia, who’d been hovering about, trying to overhear our conversation, she said, “I knew it.   You mean are such fools.   She’ll marry him and there goes our children’s inheritance.”
                                                         *                    *                    *
But there was no hasty marriage, although Ronald seemed to be going about everywhere with Kate, while his books remained neglected.   She took him to what passed for nightclubs in our area; he took dance lessons so that he could dance with her;  they went to a rock concert at the college.   Moreover, he bought her presents: a bracelet, earrings, a necklace, and clothes, a new coat, any number of dresses.   I had to admit that Cynthia seemed to be right:  Ronald was behaving like a silly old man with this young girl who was allegedly his assistant but was undoubtedly much more.   
Then came the news, in early summer, that they were going off to Africa on safari.   Kate, as always, made the arrangements.   She somehow knew a man who was reputed to be a top hunter.   Ronald and I had what had become by now our usual discussion before they left.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”  I asked.   “There’s always the chance of being injured, or even killed, by some wild animal.   Then there’s the chance of getting some  disease, tse tse flies and all that.”
“I appreciate your concern, but it’s perfectly safe.    Kate’s friend Jim has led dozens of safaris.   Of course there’s an element of danger but that’s what makes it so exciting.”

Cynthia and I also had our usual discussion.   “This is going to be it,” she said.   “She’s already had him put her in his will.  Now her hunter friend is going to kill him, just like in that Hemingway story, and she’ll get everything.”
  “We don’t know that,” I cautioned, thinking that Hemingway had popped up again in Ronald’s new life-style.   “I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
 “Just you wait and see,” said Cynthia darkly.
                                                            *                    *                    *
Ronald sent me a letter when they arrived in Africa, then there was no further communication.   Several weeks later, Cynthia saw a brief item in our local newspaper.   Prominent citizen Ronald A... had been shot and severely wounded in an accident while on safari.”   I immediately called the editor, but he told me he’d picked up the item from a Reuter’s bulletin and knew nothing more.    After that, I could only wait.  I didn’t even know what country Ronald was in.
I needn’t say that Cynthia had her own ideas as to what had happened.   Kate’s hunter had shot Ronald, who now lay on his deathbed in some primitive jungle hospital.   When he was gone, Kate would inherit his fortune.   In the end, it was all my fault.   Somehow I should have prevented this from happening.
The call from Ronald came two weeks later.   He’d arrived home the day before.   Yes, he’d been shot but the reports of his wound had been exaggerated.   The bone in his left arm had been shattered and would take some time to heal.   Otherwise, he was fine.   Yes, he’d like me to come over, say, in a few days.   No, I shouldn’t bring Cynthia.   Kate?   He’d tell me all about it when I came.
A middle-aged woman in nurse’s uniform greeted me at the door and led me inside.   Ronald was seated in a large comfortable chair in his library, his left arm in a sling.   In his right hand he held a drink.   His cat Emerson was on his lap.   He asked me to sit down and dismissed the nurse.   When she’d left, he said, “Mrs. Grimsby.   She’s taken good care of me.   Can I offer you a drink?”
I nodded and, while he poured, looked at Ronald.   Aside from having his arm in a sling, he looked tanned and fit.   “You’ve had us pretty worried,” I said.
“Sorry about that.   The wound wasn’t that bad, but conditions in the hospital weren’t the best and it became infected.”   So, in that respect, Cynthia had been right.   “It was a little touchy for a while but they flew in some antibiotics and after that it was fine.”
    “So Kate’s hunter shot you?”
   “He was shooting at a lion who was coming toward me.   Yes, just like in that Hemingway story.   Fortunately, his aim was a little better, or maybe worse, depending on how you like to view it.   At any rate, I wasn’t killed, only wounded, and he did stop the lion.”
  “Well, was it an accident?”
   “That’s hard to tell.   But the man did save my life so I thought it best not to look too closely into it.”
  “And Kate?   Cynthia is convinced you’d put her in your will and if you’d, er, expired, she would have gotten all.”
 “Hardly all, but I admit I may have lost my head a little over her.”
  “So, where is she now?”
   “After the, uh, incident, we had a little talk.   When I returned home, she went to Paris.   I don’t have to tell you she knows many people there.   I’m sure she’ll land on her feet.”
   “I’m sure she will.   So she’s out of your life?”
  “She is.   I don’t think I’d ever fully admit her into my life.   Emerson here never did take to her and he’s a pretty good judge of character.”
   “And now what?   Will you be going off to climb Everest next?”
  Ronald smiled.   “No, I don’t think so.”   He glanced at the many volumes on the library’s bookshelves.   “I plan to complete the task of cataloging my books.”
 “Will you advertise for an assistant?”
 “I already have and I’ve found the perfect one, a graduate student, pale, thin, thick glasses, and male.”         
   “He sounds ideal.   I do have one question about Kate, if, uh, I might ask.   Did you, uh, . . .”
  Ronald smiled.   “Kate is a beautiful young woman.   I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.   She did bring a lot to my life.   That’s something else I’d like to talk to you about.    Let me refresh your drink.” 
We talked for an hour or so.   When I returned home I of course had to give Cynthia a full report.   “Well, I’m glad that madness is over,” she said.   “I hope he goes back to his normal life.”
“I’m sure he will.   But there is one more thing,  as soon as Ronald’s arm is healed we’re going white-water rafting in Colorado.”
 “Yes.   Ronald has persuaded me I need a little adventure in my life, a taste of the outdoors before I go back into the classroom.”
 “Men.   I give up,” said Cynthia, as she flounced out of the room.
© Martin Green 15 July 2005

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