I was awakened the next morning at the ungodly hour of 10:45, yanked into consciousness by the sound of the telephone ringing. The voice on the other end of the phone turned out to be Mr. Ketchum, who naturally had no way of knowing that I had not made it to bed until close to 6:00 a.m. Mr. Ketchum offered to take me to lunch at his favorite restaurant and for a tour of Terre Haute.
I mumbled my acceptance, dragged myself into the shower and met Mr. Ketchum in the lobby at noon.
After a very tasty but, I’m quite sure, artery-clogging lunch at Mr. Ketchum’s favorite restaurant we walked about the campus of Indiana State University. “All of this has been built up pretty much in the last few years,” said Mr. Ketchum, pointing to the area which he said was called The Quad, which was where we now strolled, “all of this stuff wasn’t even here before. Well, I mean there’s always been buildings and the like here, but all of those additions you see there are fairly new. The place looked pretty much the same for as long as anyone could remember, then a few years ago they up and decided that they just had to build some stuff. Looks a lot different now.”
“They’ve got a pretty good library too. What do ya say I show it to you?” he said as we turned to exit the Quad. “I spend more time reading than I used to now that I sold my business and ‘retired.’” We walked on for a bit in silence. And as we walked, I once again couldn’t help feeling that something was creeping into my system.
I liked Mr. Ketchum — and his daughter, I suppose. I had spent my entire life pushing people away, and now I felt as though I was being pulled in. Mr. Ketchum was a naturally likable guy. I had discovered that he had been an insurance salesman. Looking at his build, I had assumed he did something physical for a living, but no, he somehow managed to be both desk-bound and strong. Strange. But, I’m sure that this likable personality helped in his line of work. And Samantha? Well, if for nothing else I liked her for getting on the
nerves of the magazine’s management which had come down upon me with such a force of righteousness. It gave me a slight thrill of delight to see this young woman who had put me to shame as the thorn in their side.
“She’s so much like her mom it’s scary,” said Mr. Ketchum. “And is that good or is that bad?” I asked.
“Well, I guess it’s a little of both—like most things in this life. A
little of good. A little of bad. That adds up to life.” Mr. Ketchum paused, looking up at one of the towering sycamore trees. “Her mother wanted to be a singer.”
“A singer? Really?”
“Yep. She wanted to be a singer. She had the talent; she had the voice; she had the personality. But…” Mr. Ketchum trailed off, his eyes refracting sunlight in a way that said that his thoughts were somewhere else. Suddenly he snapped back to where he was, “She wanted to go to San Francisco. Of course, that’s where it was all happening at that time, San Francisco, that whole “Summer of Love” silliness,” he said, “We got married right out of high school and I went to work selling insurance for old man Henderson. I had worked for Henderson close to a decade when he asked me if when he did retire, would I be interested in buying the business from him? I was 27 and here was this great plan that had dropped right in front of me and I couldn’t see just chucking it all and heading out to San Francisco.”
“I suppose it would have been hard.”
“And besides, all of the pictures of those people I had seen—they looked like a real bunch of weirdos to me. All that hippie stuff.”
I began to laugh. Mark smiled and continued, “I see you laughing there David. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m a fairly tolerant man—live and let live. I got nothing particularly against weirdoes. As long as they ain’t hurting anybody I say ‘if you wanna be a weirdo, by all means have a ball.’ But what I’m saying is that I didn’t want to become one. I didn’t want to go live with a bunch of them. I couldn’t see dropping my sensible business in the town where I had
grown up to go off and join some hippie weirdoes. I just couldn’t see it.”
“But your wife could see it.”
“Yep. She could see it all right. It was all she could see. It was her dream.” Mr. Ketchum paused as if his awareness had just gone off somewhere else, somewhen else. “It was her dream.”
Out of respect for what seemed to be a bit of a personal moment, I said nothing as we walked along. Eventually, we arrived at the library building. In the grass before it was a large, modern metal sculpture that was supposed to be God-only-knows what. We stopped and I pretended to look at the sculpture.
After a moment, Mr. Ketchum looked up at me. He fixed me with the kind of gaze that only the wise can master and calmly said, “There’s something fishy going on here, isn’t there?”
I flinched. “Fishy?”
“You. Something about you and this thing you’re doing. Something feels not right.”
After a moment to regain my composure, I looked back at Mr. Ketchum and said, “What makes you say that Mark?”
“A hunch,” he replied, “A hunch.”