John Holton (john_holton) wrote,
John Holton

Tonight's update

It was a busy work day for me today. The day before vacation always seems to be. My boss sent me something this morning, telling me that he wanted to discuss it with me at four this afternoon, when I was on my way over to pick Mary up at school. Since her school is in the general vicinity of the office, I dropped in on him. Evidently he got it into his mind that he had explained the assignment well enough: I was to take the generic plan he had sent me and "provide more granularity". In other words, develop the entire plan for our engagements on the new product sometime before I went on vacation, which was at five this afternoon. Thanks, boss.

I did find this article describing the suspension of Randall Simon of the Pittsburgh Pirates to be quite funny, probably unintentionally. Specifically, read the sentence under "Views".

Nothing to do, noplace to go

With no other plans for the day, I got up later than usual on Saturday morning. Mom was already in the midst of her weekly cleaning when I went down to the kitchen.

"Good morning, dear. It's good that you're home. You can help me change the shelf paper in the pantry," she said.

So much for hanging around the house doing nothing. "Uh, sure, Mom, can I have some breakfast first?"

"I've got cereal. If you want anything else, you can make it yourself..."

"No, that's all right." My culinary abilities were the source of many jokes around the family. I went into the pantry and tried to decide which of the boxes of cereal were the least stale. All of them seemed to have been around the last time I visited home several weeks before. I decided I'd have toast instead. I found half of a loaf of white bread on the bottom shelf, looked through the wrapper for any signs of mold, and took it and the butter over to the table, where the toaster sat. I put two slices of bread into the ancient machine and they slid automatically inside. I poured myself coffee from the pot on the stove and waited for what seemed an eternity. Eventually the bread popped out; one slice was slightly burned, while the other was barely warm.

"The toaster's not working very well," Mom said. She did have a flair for the obvious.

Mom and I worked together on the pantry. She insisted on changing the paper on every one of the shelves, even the ones at the top where the big roasting pans were kept. I did manage to convince her to throw out the old boxes of cereal, over her complaints that Francis might want them. I knew better; she was up every morning to make his breakfast for him. He was "the baby", after all. He was finishing his last year at Leo, which would probably be his last year in school, as his grades were barely in the passing range and his test scores were a little below average. He was already planning for a life of work in a factory, even looking forward to it in a way. Not that I looked down on him for it. Sometimes I wish that I was as sure of where I was going as he was.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we finished the shelf paper project, and neither Mom nor I had had any lunch. I suggested that we go to the Olympus for a big meal, but she didn't like that idea. "I have roast beef for dinner, dear. I don't think that I could eat a big lunch, then have a big dinner." Instead, she sent me to the store to pick up "a few things".

I went upstairs to get cleaned up and put on a fresh shirt, and by the time I came downstairs she had prepared a lengthy list of things to get from the store. I'd have to take the shopping cart with me; it was going to be too much to carry. I always hated dragging that wire contraption around the neighborhood when I was younger. Every kid in the neighborhood knew where I was going and why I was going there, and teased me relentlessly for doing what they considered a girl's job. Now, it didn't bother me much. I didn't know if that was a sign that I was growing up or a sign that most of the kids who teased me about it were no longer living in the neighborhood, but it didn't bother me much.

An hour later, I was on my way home from the store. Mom's list had been surprisingly easy to decipher. I felt like the great hunter, dragging my kill for the day behind me in our old Dennis Mitchell shopping cart. OK, so it was cold cuts, frozen pizza, Cokes and a twelve-pack of beer, but I had bagged it. I wheeled it down 95th Street toward our block, turned the corner and was ready to cross the alley when I heard a car revving its engine. Instinctively I stopped and braced myself against the building, praying to God that it wasn't starting again. The noise stopped, and I peeked around the corner to see where the car was. It was parked in the middle of the alley, with half a dozen guys standing around its open hood. I took a deep breath and wheeled the groceries home. So much for my status as the great hunter.

I dragged the cart in through the front door and took off my coat. Mom came out of the kitchen. "Honey, you got a phone call from someone at work. They left a number. Help me with the groceries first, then call him back."

A few minutes later, I found the note. Mr. Schwartz had called. The number wasn't one of the numbers for the store, and I wondered why he was calling from a different one. I dialed it, and he answered.

"Hello," he said.

"Mr. Schwartz, it's Tony Reardon."

"Yes, thank you for calling. I'm calling to let you know that you needn't come in tomorrow."

"What's going on? First, you tell me not to come in today, now you're telling me not to come in tomorrow..."

"If you'll let me, I'll explain. The store is closed until further notice."

I was shocked. "What?"

"The store was closed down by the Board of Health. I have no idea why. They told us to go home about an hour and a half ago. In any event, you won't need to come in tomorrow. Enjoy your day." He hung up.

I looked at the receiver for a couple of minutes before setting it onto its cradle. I lit a cigarette and stood there for a minute.

Mom came into the room. "Everything all right, dear?"

"That was my boss on the phone. He told me that the store's closed until further notice by the Board of Health."

"No!" Mom was aghast. "My goodness! Why?"

"I have no idea. He didn't know, either. Not that he would have told me if he knew, but he said that everyone was sent home about an hour and a half ago."

"Maybe you can call someone else that you work with."

I thought about that for a minute, then shook my head. "My phone list is at the dorm. The only person's number that I know is Kate's, and she hasn't been to work in a few weeks, so she wouldn't know. Unless someone called her."

"Well, maybe there'll be something about it on the news tonight."

We watched the news at six, flipping frantically between channels 2, 5 and 7, but none of those newscasts had anything to say about the store being closed. In a way, it didn't surprise me; the store was owned by one of the richest and most powerful families in Chicago history, and it had a reputation to uphold. The same family owned one of the newspapers, and was said to control a lot of what was reported. I was pretty sure that nothing would be said anytime soon, and I would have to wait for the rumor mill to crank up.

I was surprised when, in the middle of the Saturday night movie, there was a teaser for the news, saying that a store at Water Tower Place had been closed, with details at 10. I made sure to stay awake for the newscast, which used the story as its lead.

"Our top story tonight: The Board of Health has closed the Marshall Field's store at Water Tower Place after it was discovered that the water supply had become infected with Legionnaire's disease. Here's Kim Johnson with the report." The story went on to talk about how several people had turned up ill with the disease, the only possible link being that they had been at the store. They went on to talk about the disease, that they weren't sure how it was transmitted just yet, but that its incuabation period was two to ten days.

Now I was really scared. Was I now infected with Legionnaire's disease?


Next part (last part before guitar camp) tomorrow night. Thanks to all of you who are continuing to read this.

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