I'm beginning to realize that I'm writing these parts of the story in no particular order. Whatever seems to strike my fancy on a given night comes out. They're like pieces of a puzzle.
Nothing to do
Mom could tell that something was wrong when I came home. I told her about my day at work, and she was all sympathy. "What in the world did you do to lose a day from work?" she demanded.
"Mom, I don't think I did anything. He said that he had enough people for tomorrow, and asked me not to come in. The guy who usually works in the Wine Shop is going to work there, and he doesn't want me around. Evidently he doesn't like the way I work, not that he would know anything about it, because until today I've never worked with the guy."
"He probably has an in with your boss," she said. "I bet he gets overtime for working the extra day."
"Probably," I said. "So, I go back to work on Sunday, and I'll just head home from there."
Mom gave me a funny look. "Honey, this is your home. You're going back to the dorm."
"Well, I kind of think of it as home, too. It's where I spend my time while I'm in school."
"Yes, honey, but this is home. All right?"
I didn't want to argue with her. "All right."
I called Kate later that night, but her father told me in no uncertain terms that it was too late to be calling their house, and hung up on me before I had a chance to apologize. It was only eight o'clock, so his complaint didn't make much sense, especially not on a Friday night, but I wouldn't argue with him. As nice as he had been to me earlier in the week, I didn't want to force the issue. I couldn't think of anything that I wanted to do. I really had no homework to do, I had nothing else to read, TV sucked, and my radio and all of my music was at school. I decided to take a walk to the drug store and buy some cigarettes, and maybe stop for a cup of coffee at the all-night place around the corner. I went to the entrance hall and put on my coat.
"Where are you going, Tony?" Mom asked from the living room, where she and Francis were watching "Donnie and Marie".
"Just down to the drug store, then maybe over to the Olympus for a cup of coffee."
"We have coffee here."
"I know, but I want to take a walk."
"Honey, it's freezing out."
"That's OK. I'll bundle up."
She shrugged theatrically. "Well, OK. Be careful now, honey, you've had a couple of close calls."
"I will, Mom. Want me to bring you anything?"
"No, I'll be fine. Have a good time."
I walked out into the freezing cold night and immediately felt less claustrophobic. I had been inside most of the day, and it felt good to be breathing the relatively clean air. So good, in fact, that after I bought my cigarettes, I took a long walk around the block before going to the Olympus. I passed by the house of Tim O'Riley, a guy I had gone all the way through grammar school and high school with, and saw him standing outside having a smoke.
"How you doing, O'Riley?" I asked.
"That you, Reardon?"
"Yep, it's me. What's happening?"
"Not much." He walked down his path and we gave each other the "soul brother" handshake. "How's things with you?"
"They suck, but then, that's normal. How about you?"
"Same here. Just hanging around outside, getting away from in there." He pointed toward his house. "Mom and Dad are doing their usual, 'you should go to school and get a degree' BS routine. I can only take it for so long, then I have to get out of there. How's Loyola?"
"You're living in the dorm, right?" He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and offered me one. I took one from him just to be sociable.
"What's it like?"
"It's OK. Not great, but it's a lot closer to school, there's more girls around and it's nice not being home most nights. Gives me a chance to get away from home for a while, even though I'm right on the other side of town. On the down side, there's the roommate thing, the food's not that great, and sometimes it's not quiet there when you're trying to go to sleep. On the whole, it's pretty good. Hey, you want to get some coffee? I was on my way to Olympus."
"Sounds like a plan, my man," Tim said.
We walked down the street toward 95th. "So, what are you doing these days?" I asked.
"Working at Dominick's, taking some classes at Moraine Valley, hanging out. You working?"
"Yeah, I got a job at Field's in Water Tower. I work in the wine shop."
"Do you get to sample anything?" He grinned.
"Nah. Nothing there that I'd really want, to be honest. I'm not much of a wine fan. Plus, my boss is a real jerk. I was supposed to work tomorrow, he told me to take the day off."
We went inside and Georgia, the daughter of the owner, seated us. We both knew Georgia from grammar school, but she didn't seem to remember us, maybe because she didn't have to. She was always the prettiest girl in school, and she had gone from pretty to gorgeous to stunning since graduating from eighth grade. She was wearing a diamond the size of a baseball on her left hand.
"You getting married, Georgia?" Tim asked.
"Yeah, next June. I don't think you guys would know him, he's not from around here." She smirked, turned her back and walked away.
Tim made a face as she was leaving, which got me giggling. "He's not from around here," he said, mocking her, and I nearly embarrassed myself laughing.
"How you guys doing tonight?" Our server was one of the older ones, whose name I could never remember. She was brandishing a coffeepot. "Coffee?"
"Yes, please," I said, and flipped my cup over. She poured us both coffee, and we both ordered a piece of pie.
We talked for a while about where everyone was and what they were doing, then when our pie came, we ate. Over at a table not too far away, we could hear two people having a heated discussion about Legionnaire's disease.
"You know, Tim, I'll never figure out why it is that people have to discuss things like Legionnaire's disease while people are eating."
"I know what you mean. It's pretty freaky, though, they've never figured out where it came from or what caused it."
"I thought they said something about it growing in the air conditioning system, or at least that's the way it got distributed."
"Personally, I think it was probably someone who had it in for those guys. I mean, it came out of nowhere, no one knows what it is or what caused it, I'll bet someone was growing it in their basement and decided to try it out."
"You'd be surprised. We had a discussion about this at school the other day, and someone else thought that."
"What, are you telling me I'm nuts?"
"No. I'm saying that it's interesting that you're the second person that's come up with that idea. Maybe that's what it is, I don't know."
"It's all that makes any sense to me."
"One of the guys said that one of the professors at Loyola is working on it, trying to figure out where it came from and how it can be prevented. It's kind of scary, isn't it, something like that can come out of nowhere?"
"What scares me even more is that it can come from somewhere, and you're like a sitting duck."
"Yeah. Listen, let's talk about something else." The subject was giving me the creeps.
I got home about ten, just in time for the news. Mom was already in her nightgown. "Where were you?"
"I ran into Tim O'Riley."
"Really? How are his parents?"
"Oh, they're fine."
"I see him all the time at the Dominick's. You might want to consider working there, Tony, I'll bet the pay is better than where you are."
I sat down on the couch and stared at the TV. "I suppose so." Especially if you get some hours.