The next morning my back was barking and I was popping Vicodin like jelly beans. Bob had been up since 5, gone on a walk, washed clothes, and was now delivering coffee to me before attending church. I took the opportunity to get in a few hours of solo work. By the time Bob returned, there was only bare ground where the deck used to be. We weren’t done, though. There was another part of the deck that had to go, Bob said. And that wood had been shaded from the rain and sun for the last decade, which meant it would put up a much more ornery fight. We had to tug harder and jimmy our crowbars in deeper. I feared losing feeling in my lower extremities, but I feared disappointing Bob even more.
Six hours later, the Riede family cabin was officially short one massive wooden porch. Bob’s friend, Joel, on his way down to Bend for business, pulled into the driveway right on time, and whipped out a bottle of Jameson. “You boys thirsty?” he asked.
A few fingers later, Bob cut loose with some rather impressive uses of the f-word. So did I—why the f-word not, right? He challenged me to a game of darts on his new, homemade board. Not only did I manage not to blind anybody, but I beat Bob. His guard was down. He was actually having fun. So was I.
“You gonna come down to the rodeo with us this year?” he asked. He was inviting me to one of the most sacred Riede family traditions, the Sisters Rodeo. Of course I would be there. I would even wear a bolo tie—if forced to at gunpoint.
Maybe it was the painkillers, but when the sun scrambled over the ragged crest of Three-Fingered Jack the next morning, I felt like a summer camper who wasn’t ready to go home. But after I’d loaded my dogs, Axl and Leroy, into the car, Bob sent me packing with a stern, formal handshake. I wasn’t expecting a European cheek-kiss or anything, but I was momentarily bummed. Had I become too comfortable with him? Had I gotten too cocky around the dartboard? Had he decided I wasn’t the right man for his daughter after all?
Ten minutes later, my cell phone rang.
“Bart, it’s Bob…” Seems that I’d been so caught up in the cinematic soft-focus of my departure that I’d forgotten my bag of clothes. And the sack with the dog food and the leashes in it. And oh, Bob asked, did I need my computer?
Now, sure, my computer and my bag and the dog food might sound important, but all I heard was the void where Bob’s last name used to be. Much to my relief, he was Bob now. Just Bob.