Jakob was typing away on the keyboard at his desk on Tuesday morning when the phone rang.
"Jakob DeCosta," he said absentmindedly into the receiver as he focused on the computer screen.
"Jakob with a k?" The female voice on the other end asked.
"Marjorie Phillips?" He asked with amazement, sitting back in his desk chair.
"Hi, Jakob," she said. "I thought you'd want to know that Uncle Jack died last night."
"Oh, Marjorie, I'm so sorry," Jakob said with true sadness. "He was such a great guy."
"Yeah, he was," she agreed, her voice shaking just a little. "He just got your book a few weeks ago. He was touched that you dedicated it to him and all the other unsung heroes out there who make a difference in young people's lives."
"And I autographed it as he requested," Jakob smiled into the phone.
"He got a thrill out of that too!" She laughed. "Anyway, the funeral's Saturday but I'm sure you're busy."
"I'd really like to be there," he said truthfully.
"Oh?" Marjorie said with surprise.
"Is the Mt. Griffin Motel still in business?"
"It's called the Mountainview Motel now, but don't be ridiculous," Marjorie said. "You can stay at the house."
"I figured there'd be family there."
"It's good to hear your voice, Marjorie," he said. "It's been much too long."
"I'll see you when you get here," Marjorie replied and the line went dead.
Jakob glanced around his cubical and frowned. He had been miserable since leaving Mt. Griffin after his stay with Jack and Marjorie. The job had become a grind, his publisher wasn't interested in his Serguci League book pitch, and he hadn't stopped thinking about Marjorie all this time, even though he hadn't heard from her – or contacted her – since leaving.
Jakob tried to move on with his life but now with the dreaded (yet eventually expected) phone call announcing Jack Granderson's death, everything seemed to be falling into place and making sense.
Early reviews and sales on his Sports Heroes Off The Field book were encouraging and Jakob was trying to muster the courage to quit ESPN The Magazine and focus on his book writing pursuits.
Maybe another publisher would be interested in his Serguci League book. He already had half the manuscript written and if he returned to Blue County on a more permanent basis maybe he could expand the idea and interview more past and current league players.
But now that Jack Granderson was dead, would grandniece Marjorie Phillips be packing her bags and heading out of town just as he was considering the possibility of returning?
Jakob left work early on Friday with an overnight bag already in the car and he headed north for Blue County and Mt. Griffin.
There were several cars in the Granderson driveway when he arrived so he parked on the street curb and he cautiously walked up the front walk, not quite sure what to expect when he rang the bell. Maybe Marjorie would be over him and their memorable tryst that last night and had moved on – maybe even met someone new.
He stood in the dusk of the early spring late afternoon and a few minutes later the door opened and there stood Marjorie, looking pretty much the same as he last saw her, this time wearing a black skirt and a black sweater.
"Jakob," she said with happy relief, giving him a hug. "Thanks for coming."
"I'm glad you called," he said.
"Come in,' she invited. "Meet the family."
Jakob saw that the hospital bed had been removed from Jack's make shift downstairs bedroom and that the room had been returned to its original sitting room appearance. He heard voices coming from the den and kitchen and he followed Marjorie into the den where he met Marjorie's Dad, brother and a couple of male cousins. They congratulated him on the book and thanked him for including Uncle Jack in the Jim Ford narrative and the dedication.
In the kitchen, Jakob met Marjorie's mom, sister, various other (mostly female) cousins and Aunt Ruthie. They smiled at him and gave Marjorie knowing looks while thanking Jakob for coming, making positive comments about the book, and trying to offer him cheese and crackers and other snacks left out on the kitchen counters.
The next few hours consisted of family lore and stories, sports conversation, book reviews (mostly Jakob's) and endless Uncle Jack memories and tales. A ton of Chinese food was delivered and there were plenty of toasts of wine, champagne, beer and whiskey in honor of Jack as the evening progressed.
The family welcomed and embraced Jakob's presence and he noticed that Marjorie spent a majority of her time at his side. He wasn't sure if she was running interference for him or if she really wanted to be seen with him in front of her family.
When the night grew long and people started heading for the second floor bedrooms, Marjorie mentioned that all the rooms were taken and Jakob would have to bunk with her.
"Go get your bag," she said once most of the food was put away and other clean ups completed. "I'll wait for you at the door."
Jakob stepped into the cool spring night air and retrieved his bag for the car. Marjorie was smiling at him as he returned.
"I like it better when you arrive instead of leave," she said when he returned to the house.
"Me too," he said.
"Come on," Marjorie said. "It's been a long few days."
Jakob followed Marjorie up the stairs and down the hall to her bedroom. Her room was like all the others in the house - old; but she had personalized the room in the two years she had been living there to make it feel homely and comfortable. There was large canopied bed, an antique make up table, a large tall dresser, an old fashioned accordion desk, a huge mirror, and a couple of comfortable chairs.
"This was my grandmother's room when she grew up here," Marjorie reported as Jakob set his bag on the floor. "Jack was the last one left from that generation."
"A lot of history in this house," Jakob said.
Marjorie sat on the bed and examined Jakob. "Congratulations on the book," she said warmly. "Uncle Jack loved it, especially the section on Jim Ford."
"I don't know why I stayed away," Jakob sighed.
"It's okay," she said, holding up her hand. "We lead different lives. I was here to help Jack and you have a career."
"Jack's not here anymore," Jakob said, taking a seat next to her on the bed. "What are you going to do now?"
"I haven't decided yet," Marjorie replied. "Dad thinks we should sell this place but Mom doesn't want it leaving the family."
"Are you thinking of staying here?" Jakob asked with surprise.
'Mt. Griffin has been looking for a home for its historical society for years," she said. "I've been thinking that this would do rather nicely."
"You'd run it?"
"Move the kitchen upstairs and make part of this floor an apartment," Marjorie suggested. "The entire first floor could serve the society with maybe a room or two up here as office space. Best of both worlds, don't you think?"
"If that's what you want to do," Jakob said.
"Were you going to ask me to go back to Bridgeport with you?" Marjorie dared to ask.
"I don't want to go back to Bridgeport," Jakob realized.
"I want to quit the magazine and focus on my book career," he said openly.
"From where?" She asked.
Jakob noticed the door to the sitting room off of her bedroom. "That might be big enough for an office," he said.
"It's been almost eighteen months, Jakob," Marjorie cautioned. "That's a lot of time apart."
"Is there somebody else?"
"Of course not," she groaned. "It's been Jack 24/7, especially these last few months."
"How'd he pass?"
"I gave him his meds Monday night," she said. "I went upstairs to go to the bathroom and when I came back he was gone."
"Wow," Jakob remarked.
"The last thing he said to me was that the Red Sox would repeat this year," she laughed.
Jakob smiled. "Talking sports to the end."
"I think I'll put money on it," Marjorie grinned. She stifled a yawn. "Let's go to bed," she said.
"I can sleep on the floor if you think it's too soon," Jakob offered.
"Don't be ridiculous," she said, as she stood and closed the door, dimmed the lights, and began to disrobe.
Jakob did the same. When Marjorie was down to her panties and bra, she dug a long tee shirt out of her dresser and slipped that on. Jakob was in his briefs and a tee shirt when he slipped under the covers. Marjorie joined him from the other side of the bed.
"No fooling around," she announced. "We need time, plus my parents are just down the hall."
Jakob kissed her on the forehead. "Thanks for waiting for me," he said quietly.
"Thanks for coming back," she replied.
The house was a whirlwind of activity in the morning with people coming and going. Jakob thought Marjorie was kidding when she told him Jack's funeral was in the gym of Mt. Griffin High School but when he thought about it, it made perfect sense.
Several hundred people attended the service, including the current school basketball team that sat on the sidelines in their basketball uniforms. There were several humorous and poignant speeches as Jack Granderson was remembered as a 'grand' man and a hometown mentor who left a lasting mark on his community.
"He really is a small town hero," Jakob told Marjorie.
The high school band played the school's theme song as Jack's casket was wheeled out of the gym and he was buried in the family plot with his parents, brother Bob and his wife, and his sister Isabelle and her husband.
The catered reception took place at the Granderson home and most of the family spent another night in the house before heading to their various homes on Sunday.
"No foolin' around, Jakob with a k," Marjorie teased on Saturday night as they climbed into bed together for the second night. "My parents are still here."
There was a family brunch on Sunday morning at Mason's Restaurant before the many departures.
"When do you have to go back?" Marjorie asked Jakob when they found themselves alone in the huge house.
"I called my boss yesterday," Jakob let her know as they sat in the den, strangely quiet without the three televisions on and Jack holding court. "I gave my notice. I have a few assignments to wrap up but those are pretty fluid."
"So, you're really coming back?"
"If you'll stay," he answered.
"Don't you think a fine arts degree can run an historical society?" Marjorie asked.
"I think you can do whatever you want."
"I'm going to need a few weeks to de-Jack," Marjorie admitted. "I've spent the last two years of my life dedicating myself to him."
"Take all the time you need," Jakob encouraged.
She glanced at the bookshelves. "I think Jim Ford's books will be a great addition to the historical society collection," she said.
"Maybe we should take the unsigned exemption notice out of the scrapbook," Jakob said.
"I already did," she smiled. "I put it in Jack's casket."
"So the story is finally dead and buried," Jakob said, giving her a squeeze.
"Our small town heroes can rest in peace," Marjorie said with relief. "No homophobic bullshit or social media insults."
"Can we go upstairs and rest in peace?" Jakob asked.
"That would be nice," Marjorie said as she stood. "I'd like to sleep for about fourteen straight hours."
"Sounds good to me," Jakob replied as he stood too.
"But we should tire ourselves out first," Marjorie grinned as she took him by the hand and led him out of the den. "Now you can be my Small Town Hero."