The Party




Thomas B. Macy (a father)

P.O Box 927

Windsor, Colorado 80550



1466 words




            “Hello. Macy’s.”

            “Hi. Is Robin there?”

            “Not right now. Can I take a message?”

            “Nope. She was supposed to drive us to a party in Poudre Canyon. I guess I’ll find another way.”

            At the mention of Poudre Canyon…and party…my stomach sank and my mind stirred the rest of the speaker‘s words into a mix of denial. I’d been to enough woodsies while attending CSU to know what a party on the Poudre River meant. That was the late 60’s, just over 20 years ago, but things hadn’t changed that much—beer, coarse behavior, activities in which my little girl had no business being involved… We’d raised her better than that. Nah! She’s somewhere else, not at that party.

            “Who was that?”

            I wished Sandy had been gone.

            “Uh…it was some girl for Robin.” How could I tell her what the girl on the phone had said!

            “Did you tell them Robin’s spending the night with Candi?”

            “No.” I KNEW where she was SUPPOSED to be.

            “Well, what did they want?”

            “Robin was going to take her somewhere.”

            Sandy shook her head. Our daughter was a sophomore in High School, and, like most girls that age, responsibility was not one of the virtues she was cultivating. “I’ll call and remind her.”

            “I don’t think you need to…”

            She shot me one of those I’m-dialing-the-number-don’t-cross-me-now looks.

            “…Hi, Sue. This is Robin’s mom. Can I talk to her?”

            A flame flickered behind her eyes.

            “Well, where is she?”

            The fire turned her face red.

            “Nooo. They’re not here either… Yes if I hear anything, I’ll call.” With her face ablaze, Sandy hung up the phone and stared at me. “Where was Robin supposed to go?”

            “The girl said something about a party.” I began to sweat.

            She waited. “…Where!”

            “Uh…Poudre Canyon.”

            Rolling her eyes, she picked up the phone. My wife had attended CSU as well. “…This is Sandy again. I just found out they were supposed to be at a party in Poudre Canyon… “Yeah I know.” She hung up the phone.

            “Look,” I said, “there’s every possibility she’s not in the canyon.”

            Sandy turned up the TV and started working furiously on the dirty dinner dishes.

            When the phone rang, she ripped it from the receiver and threw a pan into the sink. If that was Robin…

            “…Yes…sure…Come on over.”

            Sandy’s comforting tone did not match the woman I saw.

            “That was Candi’s mom… crying. She’s divorced and alone, so I told her to stay here until the kids turn up.”

            That’s all we needed. The two of us were on our way to SUCH a stimulating evening. An hysterical mother would add just the right touch of levity.

            “You know there’s beer at that party.” Sandy straightened up the magazines on the coffee table.

            Of course there is. But, Robin wouldn’t be with those kids. Still, I knew what she meant. Just the year before, a high school student from our town died in an alcohol related accident in the canyon. But we didn’t drink…

            Sandy took a deep breath. “Where do you think she is?”

            “Probably just driving around.”

            My wife softened a little and drew closer. “But what if she goes to that party?”

            “She won’t be drinking.”

            “Well, what if she does?”

            “She knows enough not to drink if she’s driving.” I tried to sound absolutely certain.

            I hugged her and we sat on the couch watching TV. Well, at least I tried to look like I was watching. My mind kept picturing Robin…and that party. What if she did go up the Poudre?

            “Do you think she was really supposed to take her friends there?”

            My stomach turned. They expected her to go. I shrugged.

            A knock at the door saved me.

            Sue’s voice quivered. “Thanks…I need to be with…someone.”

            “Sure.” Sandy put an arm around her. And that opened the floodgate.

            “How could Candi tell me she was coming here?” Words gushed from her mouth and tears from her eyes as she wiped her nose with a crumpled and torn Kleenex that had reached the end of its days. What a mess!  While Sandy led her to the couch, I got a box of tissues, hoping it would be sufficient.

            “There’s nothing we can do right now,” said my wife hovering over our guest.

            “I…know…. They might be anywhere… in the…canyon.”

            Robin and Candi weren’t where they were supposed to be. Maybe…

            “That’s not exactly so,” I said softly.

            They looked at me. Sue froze in the middle of soiling a clean tissue.

            “If there are a lot of kids, it’s probably at one of the first picnic areas…” I squirmed inside and out. “…Do you want me to go check?”

            Sue sobbed into the Kleenex. “Yes…yes…”

            I nodded to my wife. “If they can’t drive, I’ll put them in the truck and we'll get the car tomorrow.” Sue wailed and my wife’s strength ebbed away.

            Grabbing the keys from the key holder in the porch I ran out the door into a quiet April night and jumped into the old truck… Good. It started. The gear shift worked but hung loose on the column. I judged the gear by experience and felt the cracks in the steering wheel as I bounced down our lane and turned onto Main Street. In a country town at nine o’clock at night there wasn’t much traffic, so I had a quick shot to I25 and then headed north.

            What was Robin thinking? Telling us she was at Sue’s, telling Sue they were with us, and then having a friend call about the party. I should think she would at least be smart enough to tell her friends to be quiet about it. Thank God they called.

            Ten miles on I25 and I headed west on Highway 14 into Fort Collins. Robin was our sensitive girl. I mean a cross word made her cry. When I get my hands on her it will be more than a cross word!

            I turned north heading out of Fort Collins.

            The traffic was light.

            If a policeman stopped me, I’d tell him it was an emergency.

            If he had a daughter he’d understand and give me an escort.

            Not to be.

            The highway turned west, through LaPorte, past Vern’s Inn. We always stopped at Vern’s for a cinnamon roll when going to the Canyon. Robin liked the frosting. What in the world possessed her to go to a party up here!

            Around a few more curves…into the foothills.

            A turn left off the highway onto the Poudre Canyon road. Ahead, due west, the mountains rose black in the dead of night blotting out the stars. They grew into giant walls. A rumbling thump and I crossed the cattle guard into the canyon. The first curve pinned me against the door. The next slid me to the right. The first campground was dark.

            Another turn and the truck leaned to the left pushing me hard into the door again. And there…ahead…the flashing of a bonfire. Cars lined up helter-skelter. Whipping the wheel to the left, I crossed the lane, sped past the gate and slid to a stop gravel flying and dust rising about the truck. I took a moment to check the nearest car. A WHS sticker adorned the bumper. This was it.

            I jumped out and slammed the door. Where was she? Flames danced higher than the heads of the silhouettes that surrounded the fire. A cacophony of laughter and shouting filled the grounds. At the edge of the light, a few tents were nestled into the brush and trees. 

            Making no effort to hide the plastic cups of beer, a few of those kids farthest back looked up at the parent who had come to the party in the Poudre Canyon. I walked into the crowd of faces that flickered in the firelight. Some were familiar, but none were Robin. I walked toward the tents.

            “Where’s Robin Macy?” I yelled against the raucous noise to no one in particular.

            A boy walked up somewhat unsteadily. “Who wants to know?”

            The little twit! “Her dad,” I growled.

            He stumbled backwards. “She’s not here. Robin doesn’t come to these parties.”

            I choked on my breath.

            Smiling, he looked around. “Hey, anyone seen Robin?” Most everyone ignored the question. A few shook their heads.

            A nearby girl laughed, splashing beer onto her blouse. She leaned close to a friend and I barely heard the whisper. “She’s in trouble now. I told you he would come up looking for her.”

            The other girl laughed and took a drink.

            Feeling like a well-used flyswatter, I headed back toward my truck. I had heard that voice earlier in the evening.