Talking with Zadok, pt. 1

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 1987
It was the first Language Arts and History assignment of the third quarter.

Interview a Comfort Rock resident about some aspect of the town’s history and write a five-page report, double spaced, about it. 

That was it. No other parameters, except that you couldn’t interview family members. Mr. Gilman wanted us to get to know more people around town while learning more about the place we lived.

“Well that’s a darned shame,” Dad said at dinner that night. “Your grandfather’ed be great to talk to for this.”

“Oh, it’s ok,” I said. “I think Dave’s interviewing him. At least he said he was gonna call and ask if Grampa would let him.”

“Dave! Ha! That’ll be somethin’ to see those two together.”

“Bruce!” Mom said, slapping the back of his hand playfully on the table. “You be nice.”

“Come on now,” Dad said. “Your father and Dave together? Two of the biggest BS artists in town? Can’t wait to read that report. They’ll probably rewrite history.”

Mom tilted her had a bit and looked at Dad with a hurt expression.

“Don’t say that about my father. And Dave’s Lauren’s friend. What’s wrong with you?”

He looked down at his plate.

“Nothin’. Didn’t mean anything by it. I know they just like tellin’ their stories, is all. Sorry, Jewel.”

“It’s ok,” Mom said, getting up to go to the cabinet for dessert. “Just think before you talk.”

She pulled out a box of Little Debbie peanut butter logs and put it on the table. She looked at me and Dad, smiling and pointing a finger at us.

“One. Package. Each. That’s it.”

“Yes, ma’am,” we said in unison, chuckling a bit at her preemptive approach to dessert management.

“So do you have someone in mind, LaLa?” Mom asked.

“Yup! I’m gonna go up and interview ol’ Zadok! It’s gonna be the best report in the whole class.”

My parents looked at each other and made faces like they smelled that awful liquid manure the Bouchards started using on their fields last summer.

“What?”

“Well … it’s just … you know.” Dad waved a peanut butter log in the air, waiting for his point to arrive. “There’s an awful dang lot of people in Comfort Rock, right? You could talk to someone from the historical society. Or maybe Walden over at the store. Heck! You could talk to Mr. Winchester. He’d be perfect.”

“Heather’s interviewing Walden,” I said. “And Valerie said no one’s allowed to interview her dad except Bernie Kittner because he’s gonna be her boyfriend someday. So I feel bad for Bernie. And the lazy kids took the historical society people because they came to class today to talk about why knowing Comfort Rock’s history is so important. Todd, Mark, and Pete cornered them at the end of class.

“What’s so bad about talking to Zadok?”

“That old fool –”

“Babe, let me take this,” Mom said, preventing Dad from talking without thinking again. “Lauren, Zadok is a … well … he’s kind of different from most folks, and he doesn’t really see the world like others do. He might not have the best perspective on things.”

Mom was one of the most open-minded people I knew at the time. Her attitude surprised and confused me.

“Why? What’s wrong with him?”

“Oh, nothing’s wrong with him really. It’s just how he lives, you know? He’s been in that little house up there since the day he was born, and he’s lived on the hill by himself since his father died. Gosh, that was when I was around your age, LaLa. He’s not terribly used to being around people. An interview might be hard for him.”

I shook my head.

“Nah. I saw him at the store before Christmas. He was talking with Walden about stuff he sees up at his place. It sounded cool. I bet no one else will have that sort of stuff in their reports.”

“Yeah,” Dad said. “That’s what I figured. Zadok and his stories! You talk to him, you’ll have more baloney in your report than Grampa and Dave could come up with in a lifetime.”

“Daddy! That’s not nice.”

“Well it’s true.”

“So … what? Are you saying I can’t pick who I want to interview? Mr. Gilman said whoever we wanted. And Zadok would be great to talk to. Probably do him some good if he’s so darn lonely.”

Mom took my hands in hers and smiled gently.

“LaLa, this is your project. We’re glad you’re excited about it, and we want you to do your best job. But we also don’t want you to get into a bind. You tend to bite off more than you can chew, and that can backfire.”

“Like the Christmas concert backfired? I remember that going pretty good.”

“You’re right. It did. Dad and I are just looking out for you,” she said, glancing at Dad. “And I guess if you’ve got your mind made up on this, we won’t stop you. But be ready for this to be harder than you think it’ll be. I mean, how are you even going to find out if he can do it? Are you just gonna walk up to his place and ask?”

“Nope,” I said, grinning. “I already left a message for him at the store. Walden said he’d give it to Zadok next time he’s in; probably in the morning for weekly groceries.”

“I oughtta talk with Walden,” Dad mumbled.

“Bruce?” Mom said. “Please?”

“Fine.”

“If it’ll make you happy, I promise that if I talk to Zadok and it seems like it’s gonna be hard to do, I’ll find someone else. Ok?”

That seemed to make Mom and Dad happier. 

After I went to bed, I heard them arguing a bit in the living room about how Dad spouts off sometimes and how Mom should have talked to Dad more before agreeing to let me interview Zadok. Then they started talking about farm stuff I didn’t understand, and I drifted off to sleep, thinking about the best questions to ask him.

To be continued …

THE COMFORT ROCK CHRONICLES IS AN ONGOING SERIES OF SHORT STORIES ABOUT A FICTITIOUS VERMONT TOWN, AN AMALGAM OF ALL NORTHWEST VERMONT HAS TO OFFER. COMFORT ROCK HAS BEEN GROWING IN MY HEAD FOR WELL OVER 20 YEARS. I REALLY LIKE THE FOLKS WHO CALL COMFORT ROCK HOME, AND I HOPE YOU DO TOO.

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