The next morning the day started with me going to the preacher’s bike shop. I planned to carry the posters made for me at the the office depot around to the various bike shops in the area. The preacher had the only bike shop of any size in town. Yes, it has mostly used bikes for his core customers, but he was branching out. He would do a special order for the purists. Of course the shop manager would only order it, if one paid in advance completely. The ministry did not tie their money up for anyone. They wouldn’t even do it for me.
So I spent the whole damn day putting out the warm up posters. They were hanging in bike and sporting good shops everywhere. I even got one put in the Walmart bike section. It was kind of fun distributing posters in my big ole sweats and knit hat pulled low over the dark glasses. Odds were that no one would have known me anyway, but it seemed kind of like a big adventure.
I know what you are thinking, I was obviously getting bored. You are right, I was bored, but not quite ready to commit murder to get past it. It probably wasn’t far down the road though.
“Lois came to see me as I had asked her to the evening before. “Well hello there come on in,” I said cheerfully.
“So what is the plan for today?” she asked hopefully.
“Today I’m going to find out what you are good at.” I said.
She looked confused. Do you have some kind of test you are going to give me?” she asked.
“Nope we are going to talk all day long. At the end of the the day, I will have an idea what to do for you.” I said.
“Don’t you just have a friend you can call to get me a job?” she asked.
I saw it, when she looked at me. She was playing me. Why and how I didn’t know, but she sure as hell was. The day before she had convinced me that her life was crap. She led me to believe that she was in total despair. Today, it was no longer can you help me please. It was, why can’t you to this for me. It doesn’t matter, if its the best thing for me. It’s what I want right now, and God knows it’s all about me.
I was cold when I said, “Show me your fingers.”
“What?” she asked beginning to wind up.
“I want to see you hands and then I want to see your toes,” I said shortly.
“You think I’m using?” she asked.
“Something has sure as hell come over you. I want to know what it is, yeah.” I said.
“I haven’t been using, but I don’t think I’m ready for any responsibility,” she said.
“What if I can get you into a real program, would you be interested?”
“I don’t know, if I can do it,” she said.
“Have you ever tried it?” I asked.
“No,” she replied.
“Then you won’t ever know till you try. I’m going to get you in to talk to the man this morning. You two can work out the next step.” I didn’t have to call the Reverend. I knew one of the worker bees. I called her direct.
“Janet, it’s Maxine Stone tell me hon do you have an empty bed?” I asked.
“And if I do?” Janet replied in a squeaky voice.
“I got a lost child in need of help here,” I replied.
“Bring her on over, but stop by Helen’s and get me a lunch, and then we will call it even. Well even with me bought off, you still have the preacher to worry about.”
“Shit he is a pussy cat,” I said.
“Of course he is, get your ass on over here.”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes or I’ll call you.” I turned from the phone to Lois. “Okay girl it’s on you. This might be your last chance to get clean and turn your life around.”
“I don’t think I’m strong enough,” she said.
“You are strong enough. You might not know it, but you are.” I knew I couldn’t beg her to do it. It had to be her decision.
“Will you come see me?” she asked in a little girl’s voice.
“Of course I will. Just as soon as they say it is okay, you get a phone so you can call to tell me shit I need to do.” I laughed after I said it.
I drove her to the bed and breakfast that the Russians were running as a high priced brothel and blackmail spot when I moved home. If she knew the history, she didn’t comment. I was glad of that. I had intimate knowledge of it and wished I didn’t.
It was hard for me, but I walked down the hall with Lois. I even installed her into a room. I made arrangements to come visit her on the weekend. Then Janet was pushing me out the door. “We don’t like for them to have much contact with the outside in the first couple of weeks,” she explained.
Since I hadn’t really had anything in mind for Lois, I was just as glad to be shed of her till I thought of something. Back in the Downtown House I sat on the second floor in the window and looked out at the cold windy day.
“Holy shit Miss Stone, I had no idea who you were. This is Bill. We met this morning.” He said all in one breath.
“Sure Bill how are you?” I asked.
“I’m good, I was calling about the bike things you wanted to talk about. If you would still like to talk? I would be happy to meet you anywhere.”
“I appreciate that Bill. Why don’t you come by here and we can talk about a dead-o-winter bike race,” I suggested.
“I would love to come bye there. Er where is there?” he asked honestly embarrassed. I gave him directions to the Downtown House.
A half hour later he was standing in front of my second story window drinking hot chocolate and looking at the traffic below. “I had no idea how neat this view would be. “It’s hypnotic,” he said smiling at me.
“So let’s at least pretend this is about the bike race,” I suggested.
“Of course,” he replied.
“It doesn’t look like we will have anyone outside of town join the race,” I admitted.
“How do you feel about college kids?” he asked.
“I have no problem with kids, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” I said.
“What?” he asked honestly confused.
“Get out of bed on a cold Saturday Morning and ride a bike twenty five miles, I don’t think so,” I said.
“Nothing ventured,” he said smiling.
“Okay, you can have all the materials you can use. Let’s see the number of old farts vs college kids who show up.”
“That’s a fair challenge. “ Bill suggested.
“Oh don’t you run off kid, I’m going to show you off a little first.” I said grinning at him.
“I don’t have a car here but let me go home and change. It isn’t far, then we can go on a proper date,” he suggested.
“Could we make that a not so proper date?” I asked.
“You bet your pretty ass we can.”
With that he moved toward me, I held my hand up like a cop. “Date first, then we can discuss the other.”
“I have been out with girls with much less encouragement,” he said.
“Good, real encouragement might come slowly,” I admitted. You do hear that don’t you, I sent telepathically to the farm.
We hear you and the board meets in the morning. Just as soon as we know, you will know. I promise, the female voice in my head said. It’s strange that I thought of them as having gender. They were just stray thoughts. Even though they were strays they definitely had gender. It was in the way they framed their ideas and suggestions. They could all be fat old men with beards, but if they were, a couple of them were at least closet queens.
“Would you mind driving Maxine. I hate to ask but I don’t have a car here. I honestly have never needed one,” he said.
“No, I often drive on dates,” I said smiling.
Bill went home to dress and I called Julie at Lucas’s place. “Julie I have a date with a college boy where should we go for dinner.?” I asked.
“Maxine, I usually let the guy decide where we are going, and what we are going to do.” she said.
“He is from out of town honey. He is going to ask me where to go. I don’t want to take him to some old folks place.” I replied.
“There is a new varsity club in the Peartree mall. It is really for college age kids. There are also three or for other restaurants out there.”
“The mall,” I laughed. “Then we can take in a movie at the multiplex.” I couldn’t help laughing.
It was my first real date since the change. Bill rode his bike to my Downtown House where we loaded it onto the rear of my woody cruiser. Once I saw his driver’s license with my own eyes, I allowed him to drive it to dinner.
He didn’t even ask me, instead he drove to the backyard griller. I stayed in the car while he walked up to the window to purchase three hot dogs and french fries. One of the dogs was for me and half the fries.
We drove to the marina to eat. “How the hell do you know about this place. It is a big ass secret,” I said.
‘If it were meant to be a secret, you probably should have kept it out of the TV show. After I met you I went back to the dorm and watched half the shows. This place and your love of hot dogs is all over those shows.” he said.
“It’s exaggerated I’m sure,” I replied more than a little embarrassed.
“Anyway thats how I knew about this place. I’m sure the view is better from the terrace but it would be cold as a muthu there with no sunshine.” he advised me.
“Yes and they let you sit here looking at the lake until about seven then the ranger will come out and ask us to leave. We will have to go, but they are usually pretty nice about it.
Bill was from Anson county. His family owned a farm there. The two year program at the community college was all he could afford. Even so he was going to end up with a pretty good size debt after graduation. The school didn’t have enough dorm space, so a lot of the kids shared cheap apartments off campus. Since the kids who went to community colleges were generally without a lot of resources, it was difficult to find the money for it.
Of course like an idiot I decided to look into it. I had no business doing so, but I wanted to help somehow. Bill and I talked about how things were now and how they used to be. I added a lot of what my dad had told me about his life as well. Even without my dad being there, we had three generations of memories flying around inside the woody.
After the date we did some heavy kissing outside his really cheap looking apartment. There were four people living inside those tiny walls. I knew with guys like Bill, it was just a bed and place to read a book, but it had to be hell on girls trying to rest, study, and maintain a social live of any kind.
The best I could do for Bill at that moment was a job. I don’t believe in charity it demeans the receiver. Gifts are one thing pure charity on a continuing basis is counter productive, I feel.