Her father, back in New Hampshire, was an avid climber and one of the founders of the Appalachian club. Twice he’d taken her climbing the mountain. The first time she loved it, and the second time, becoming a teen, she hated it, as was proper.
Back in New England, he’d been a “tramp” printer. That means a printer skilled in setting type, fine art books to newspapers, who was very good and who moved from job to job. They lived in nice houses, and he built a stone fence, and he liked to garden, and often worked a midnight shift.
When he’d been a young teen, his own father had left one day, and never came back. Clifford, oldest of six, had to drop from school to earn for the family. He read and studied anyway, and became a liberal intellectual, and when the war came he met Helen the actress and a week later they were married.
So now that he was retired, living in Pacific Grove, it seemed that Holly was to be his Christmas present.
But it didn’t work out that way.
Pacific Grove, not far from Monterrey, is the home of the Monarch butterfly. Every September, you can see them arriving from as far as Washington state. How can such a small creature travel so many hundreds of miles?
The Monarchs are black with bright yellow and orange designs. Some are huge, and to see them thick in the trees, and the air bright with their fluttering designs … it’s stupendous. Clifford and Hazel probably moved there because of the mild climate, and because Clifford was a lighthouse enthusiast, writing articles about lighthouses and lighthouse keepers, and visiting lighthouses up and down the coast.
The lonely point in Pacific Grove, and the lighthouse there in the grey air … perhaps it gives us an image of the man and his life.
Clifford was happy to have Holly, but love had been at work in the weeks before. Holly pined when Adrienne left. When Adrienne returned, Holly leapt with joy. And after a few visits, when Adrienne was about to leave, Clifford said, “You know, I never really wanted a dog, and it’s really clear that Holly is really your dog, so why don’t you take her back with you?”
“You mean it?” said Adrienne, thrilled.
He nodded, smiling.
And over the years, Holly and Adrienne had adventures together. Once Adrienne awoke, and found a hole dug beneath the fence. The trail led to the home next door. There, in the pool, Holly weakly treading water. Having fallen in, she could not climb up the ledge. Pulled out, she lay on her side, heaving to catch her breath. Whew!
And now this weekend, being Springtime and us feeling adventurous, Adrienne and Holly and I drove the surveillance vehicle down to Pacific Grove, where I’d made reservations. “Make sure they take dogs,” Adrienne had told me.
The year before, when Clifford had passed away, in his mind he was directing a movie, and one day he’d pulled all the tubes out of his arm, and faded into black during the night. Adrienne’s mother Hazel now lived in a home in southern California. But Adrienne wanted to show me the town where they’d once lived.
We drove to the motor hotel and I went in to sign us up. “You take dogs,” I said. The lady at the desk confirmed that dogs were just fine.
We drove to the room, and I made a great show of parking the car just so. “This place doesn’t take dogs,” I told Adrienne, “so we’ll need to smuggle her in.” Adrienne nodded. I went to unlock the door, while Adrienne waited in the car. “OK!” I called out, “The coast is clear!”
Quickly, Adrienne ran into the room with Holly wrapped up in a towel. I brought things in and we unpacked. When we went to see the lighthouse, we pulled the getaway vehicle so that our doorway couldn’t be seen from the office. When Holly needed to pee, we made sure to climb out the back window into the vacant lot next door. Late that night, we made sure to keep Holly from barking at neighbor sounds, to prevent discovery. And the next day, we cleverly smuggled her out again.
Later, as we were driving home from Pacific Grove, Adrienne read through the pretty brochure we’d picked up from the motor hotel. Suddenly she stiffened.
“Hey!” she said, “That place takes dogs!”