Here’s this week’s episode of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing serial novel of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense lawyer, and her family and friends, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:

“Let me tell you about my trip,” Adam said. “So much happened, I’m not even sure where to start.”

“Let me tell you about my trip,” Adam said. “So much happened, I’m not even sure where to start.”

As usual he’d dropped in without any notice, this time after spending a month on the road.

“Do it in reverse chronological order,” Tim said.

For him it was just a list of places. For me it was more significant since I was trying to figure out where Adam was ultimately trying to go. Considering one thing usually leads to another in life, I felt like we’d miss out on a lot if he started at the end.

Anyway I was the only one paying close attention. True to form, everybody else was on their phone or computer, even though we were supposedly having what passes for dinner in our house.

“D’you want another piece of chicken?” Angela asked Ethan. He’d been helping himself out of the pot while reading texts.

“Have you eaten yet?” Adam asked her, as she offered him a plate.

“No, I’m still cooking,” she said, putting green beans on the boys’ plates.

“How thoughtless of you,” Ethan said. “Now you’ll be sitting down to eat just when my dishes need to be washed.”

But Adam didn’t notice their conversation. “I just came from Newfoundland, which was incredible — especially Gros Morne. Have you ever heard of it? You have to go there.”

He pulled up some photos online.

“How much does it cost?” Angela asked, glancing at them reluctantly.

“I think the flight was around $350,” he said.

Angela made a face.

“That’s not expensive,” he said, looking at me. “If you stay for a year it’s less than a dollar a day.”

He was not quite grasping what our lives were like, but Angela helped him out a little.

“Ethan, can you please throw the wash in while I finish dinner and clean up?” she said. “I need to start the boys on their homework.”

Ethan doesn’t believe in doing wash. “I’ll drop it off tomorrow,” he said. “It’s cheap, and don’t forget, they fold it better than I do.”

But Angela doesn’t like how you always get back one thing that isn’t yours, like a pink baby sock or a pair of men’s bikini underwear.

“Who cares?” Ethan said, shrugging. “That’s what happens anytime you pay someone to do something for you instead of doing it yourself. It’s the signature of labor.”

He wasn’t going to do the wash just because Angela was uptight about it.

I looked over at the pictures of Quebec and eastern Canada. They were certainly a lot more interesting than the laundry.

“I want to learn French, at any rate,” I said to Adam, who’d lived in Montreal when he was young. “From now on, how about you only speak French to me. Whatever I can pick up, great, and the rest can just go by. Hopefully I’ll gradually understand more and more of it.”

“That should make for a great relationship,” he said.

It wasn’t a word I’d associated with us since he left Portland but hearing it sent a shiver down my spine.

“Where were you before Newfoundland?” Tim asked, getting on with the list. He was uninterested in the human side of the story.

“Lapland,” Adam said. “I’ve been thinking about moving there for some time.”

He checked for my reaction. “Would you ever want to live there?”

I couldn’t take it seriously despite his earnestness. “Why not? I love reindeer.”

“You’d have to kill them, you know,” Ethan said, looking up suddenly for some reason. “There aren’t any soy reindeer. You wouldn’t make a good Laplander.”

That got me defensive. “Why wouldn’t I be a good Laplander? You wouldn’t be a good Laplander.”

“Yes, I would,” he said. “I’m cut out for it.”

What he really meant was he wanted to escape the humdrum of house and home for the magnificent fjord where the Laplanders were standing with their reindeer.

“Look at that guy in the furs,” Ethan said to me pointedly.

Adam shrugged. “So? He’s the only one. Everybody else is wearing a regular coat, probably made out of felt.”

“How do you know they don’t have fur on the inside?” Ethan said. “Maybe he just didn’t know you’re supposed to turn them inside out.”

He was determined to scare me off from Lapland, probably because if he couldn’t run away he didn’t want me to be able to either.

“You wouldn’t have to kill the reindeer,” Adam said encouragingly. “You could eat cheese.”

My skepticism must have shown.

“It’s not that hard to make cheese,” he said.

“How hard is it to make felt though?” I asked, looking at the clothes and the yurt. “That’s hard, right?”

“Sure,” Angela said, putting Ethan’s dishes in the dishwasher.

Ethan didn’t get the sarcasm but he grasped that Angela didn’t exactly see him as a Laplander. Among other things, the Laplanders didn’t send their wash out.

Meanwhile Adam was still trying to sell me on Finland.

“There don’t seem to be many trees,” I said, looking at the photos. “Are there any forests in Lapland?”

He checked online. “Yes,” he said. “It says Lapland has a number of working forests.”

“Working forests?” Ethan said, pointing out the logs on the ground. “Those trees aren’t working. They’re being hunted.”

He sure didn’t want me to move to Lapland. It would have been touching if he’d focused less on scaring me out of going and more on making it harder to leave.

Fortunately others filled that gap. While Angela was in the basement putting in the wash, the boys took the opportunity to evade their homework and throw a ball around outside. They grabbed their mitts and ran out to the front yard, where the house lights along the block lit the sidewalk up just enough to see a ball. Adam and I sat on the front steps watching them and soaking in the crisp fall air.

They got in a couple of throws before Angela started calling them as she came up the basement steps.

It wasn’t exactly Lapland, but it sure was an escape.

“Bases loaded, one out,” Henry shouted, while Marcus backed up to get the throw, reveling in his last moments of freedom.

“I wonder where the batter is,” I said to Adam.

“Who knows?” he answered, putting his arm around me. “It doesn’t really matter.”

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