Doing It All Over
10-20-2012, 11:32 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
She came over the next day to study for finals, which were coming up fast. We spread the books from our common classes on the coffee table and I put on an album I'd found in my dad's record cabinet. I was actually interested in studying. I needed to nail down the Biochemistry test in order to keep my average high enough to qualify for the academic scholarship I had my eye upon. But Nina had other ideas.
She began kissing the side of my neck and rubbing herself against me. I could feel the press of her breasts against my arm and could remember how they'd felt against my hand.
"Nina," I protested playfully, not pulling away from her, "we're supposed to be studying."
She took my face in her hands and turned it towards hers. Her eyes were shining. "This is Bio-chemistry, isn't it?" she asked, putting her lips to mine, licking out with her tongue.
"In a way," I agreed, putting my arms around her.
We kissed and licked on each other's necks and ears. I tasted the salty tang of her flesh, nibbled on the softness of her earlobe, kissed the back of her neck just below the hairline. My hand found its way beneath her shirt and bra again. I caressed her breasts gently, with more care than I'd been able to show the previous night in the movie theater. Her nipple pushed insistently against my hand. Her breathing quickened at my touch and her arms tightened around my back. She leaned backwards into the couch, pulling me atop her, allowing me to feel her entire body pressed against mine. My erection pressed into her hip and I couldn't help but push it more firmly against her.
She felt this and shifted beneath me, bring one of her legs outward until it was resting on the floor. Suddenly the crotch of my jeans was pushing against the crotch of hers. Her hands dropped down to my butt and pulled firmly, grinding me against her.
I groaned at the contact and our kiss broke. We looked into each other's eyes. Hers showed desire and the realization that things were getting very serious. There was some fear there as well. Finally she put her mouth back to mine and pulled me against her, encouraging me with her hips to push myself to her. I did, finding the sensation pleasantly unfulfilling.
The sound of our garage door opening made us pull apart. Dad was home. Was he early? A quick glance at the clock showed that he was actually a little late. Time had slipped by that quickly. By the time he entered the house we were composed again and studying away. If he had any suspicions to the contrary, he kept them to himself.
Nina and I made plans to do some more studying the next afternoon. Some real studying this time. She told me that she would be a little later than usual.
"How come?" I asked.
"Oh, I just have a little something to take care of," she told me mysteriously. "It's nothing big."
"Fair enough," I replied, feeling mild curiosity at what that "little something" might be. But we talked no more on the subject.
She came over to my house about an hour later than usual. Dad was already home by then so we did nothing but study and exchange kisses on the porch as she was leaving.
10-20-2012, 11:32 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
As January wound onward Nina and I got together as much as we could. Usually it was at my house to study or to listen to music or to talk or to make out on the couch before Dad got home. On Saturday and Sundays, before I went to work, we would typically spend the day together doing something. Skiing was a passion we both shared and when the weather permitted we made the drive to the Idaho ski resorts and spent the day on the slopes. We would hold and kiss each other as we ascended on the ski lifts. We would cuddle together in the warmth of the lodge afterward, sipping coffee and talking of things that lovers talked of before making the long drive home. We were in love and the time passed quickly when we were together, slowly when we were apart. Our intimacies did not progress beyond my sliding my hand up under her shirt or her feeling the outline of my erection through my pants. Most of the time we merely kissed and held each other.
Things reached an uncomfortable impasse at the Blackmore household. According to Nina her mother no longer protested when she went out with me or went over to my house. She never withheld the car from her since she knew that I would simply come pick her up in mine if it was required. But she was obviously not very happy about her continued rendezvous with me either. Her mom and dad also stopped fighting with each other. But at the same time there was a strain in their relationship that hadn't been there before. She told me it was like they were constantly waiting for a hammer to fall, a hammer that simply kept hanging there above them. Nina felt considerable guilt for the way her parents were feeling, as did I when I heard her stories, but not enough to stop our visits. I only hoped that someday they would accept me as part of their family because I intended to be a part of it whether they liked it or not.
One afternoon after school we were watching television on the couch. Dad was not yet home from work and Nina was lying in my lap with her feet outstretched. I stroked her hair for a while and then her face. She cooed as I did this and I noticed that she had a few pimples near her nose and on her chin. They were not large or unsightly and she had done a decent job of covering them with make-up. I noticed them primarily because I'd never seen acne on her face before. She had one of those smooth complexions that just wasn't prone to it.
"Pimples," she said with disgust when she noticed me looking at them. "Are they bad?"
"Not at all," I assured her. "Every teenager gets them from time to time."
"I know," she answered, "but I've never had them before. Not until last week anyway."
"Maybe the stress of being in love has given them to you," I suggested jokingly.
She chuckled. "In a way you're completely right," she answered.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I'll explain later," she said.
"What do you mean?"
She reached up and grabbed me by the hair, pulling my face to hers. "Later," she whispered, licking at my lips. "Your dad will be home soon."
We made out in that position for a while and then finally twisted around so that she was lying atop me. As we kissed she rubbed her crotch gently back and forth across mine, arousing me greatly. My hands slid under her shirt once more, caressing her bare back, finally working around to her front. However this time, when they slid under her bra she winced as if in pain.
"What's the matter?" I asked, instantly withdrawing my hand, bothered by the thought I might have hurt her.
"It's nothing," she told me dismissively. "They're just a little sore."
"Sore?" I asked, remembering uncomfortably what that had meant when my wife had begun to complain of that. That certainly wasn't possible with Nina. If it was, I'd sadly misread her.
"It'll go away," she said. "Don't worry about it."
But the mood was broken for that day. When Dad came home he found us sitting together on the couch watching the Phil Donahue show while we held hands.
10-20-2012, 11:33 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
I was officially given an offer of employment from the trauma center on January 15. I accepted it later that day. When I went to work at the pizza joint that night I officially gave notice to the manager that I would be leaving his fine employ. He gave one more try at convincing me to stay, offering to make me an assistant manager and bumping my salary to a whole four and a quarter an hour.
"I know the hospital is offering you more than that," he told me, "but I'm offering you a management position. That looks awfully good on the old resume."
I respectfully declined his offer and he took it well. He told me that if I ever found myself in need of a job, that I should see him first. I told him I would.
January 24 was my last day there. I clocked out at 10:00 and turned in my uniform to him. We shook hands and he told me he would miss me. Though I didn't particularly like him, he had given me a job and had helped me earn money for college. I felt I owed him a little bit.
"You know what you need to do?" I told him just before I walked out the door.
"What's that, Bill?" he asked.
"Get into pizza delivery," I suggested.
He looked at me strangely. "Pizza delivery? Nobody does that. It isn't financially feasible."
"If you do it right, it will be," I said. "You see, Americans are lazy. If they can get someone to drive their pizza to them, then they'll do it. There are two tricks to this that you need to employ. One, you need to make sure their pizza is still hot when it arrives. You'll need to come up with some sort of insulated carrier for that. Shouldn't be too hard," I assured him. "The technology is out there. The second thing you need to do, and this is hard for a business person to accept, is not charge people for the delivery."
He laughed. "That's very interesting, Bill," he said, "but you don't know a whole lot about business. How could I not charge someone a delivery fee for driving their pizza to them? How would I pay for the driver? How would I pay for the gas?"
"Ahhh," I said, "that's the thing. With all due respect, I know a considerable amount about business. It's what I'll be majoring in in college and I've studied quite extensively on my own. If you were smart, you'd listen to my advice. I'm not wrong about this."
He seemed more amused than awed by my speech. "Okay, Bill," he told me patronizingly, "tell me how I can magically deliver pizzas at no cost to the customer and still make a profit on them."
"It's simple," I said. "You hire an eighteen year old kid with a car and pay him four dollars an hour or so. You stipulate that he pays for the gas, insurance, and uses his own vehicle. His main job will be the deliveries but when there are none going on, you can also have him help out around here making pizzas for the regular customers, sweeping up, doing dishes, whatever. You will have to shell out a little cash for advertising to make it known to the general public in your area that you deliver. Your target group is those people who are too lazy or too busy to make food and who don't really want to go out to pick something up. They will be the people who would otherwise have made some hamburger helper or something instead of going out. If they know that they can call your number and have a hot pizza at their front door in less than an hour, they'll do it. Pizza will triumph over hamburger helper every time. When you do your ads you need to put in something like "guaranteed hot and fresh in forty minutes or less" or some crap like that. You also need to put in "no delivery fee". Your pizza sales will go up enough to cover the four bucks an hour the extra employee makes and will give you considerable profit. Remember, you're snaring people who would not otherwise have come in here and bought a pizza. That's the key to the whole thing. Your driver will get tips from those he delivers to since the public will feel obligated to give him a buck or so since there's no delivery fee. Your driver is happy because he's making reasonably good money and gets to get out. The public is happy because they don't have to go out and pick up their pizza. And you're happy because your sales are going up. You would do especially well on Friday nights, and on Sunday afternoons during football season. Trust me on this, it'll work and it'll work well."
He smiled condescendingly at me. "Well thanks for the advice, Bill," he said. "I'll certainly take it under consideration."
"You do that," I smiled back, knowing that he would do no such thing. Oh well, his loss. In two or three years when the pizza delivery craze hit the nation he would undoubtedly think back on this conversation and wonder why he hadn't listened to me. You can't change the world.
When I stepped out of the pizza parlor I saw that a blizzard had blown in at some point. Cursing I got in my car and drove very carefully home. As I pulled into my driveway I stopped, staring down the street. A smile formed on my face. In Anita's driveway a late model Buick was parked. A late model Buick I'd once crouched next to as I pulled a coil wire from Anita's vehicle. It was nearly 10:30 at night. Jack Valentine wasn't merely popping by for a visit. He was staying the night. Fate had reclaimed what was hers. And for once I was ecstatic about it.
10-20-2012, 11:33 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
My new work schedule was both better and worse than my old. I went to the hospital at 12:00 each afternoon, Monday through Friday. I worked straight through until six o'clock in the evening with only two ten-minute breaks. In a way it was an exploitation of labor laws. Thirty hours a week was just under what they had to consider full time and thus pay benefits for. And six hours a day was just under what they had to give a lunch break for. I didn't mind being exploited however, especially after I saw my first paycheck. At six bucks an hour times thirty hours a week minus the miniscule amount of taxes they took out I made damn near a hundred and fifty bucks; a small fortune for a teenager. When I subtracted living expenses from this I put three quarters of it into the computer stocks I was now investing in. I would do this on every subsequent paycheck. My day was coming closer and closer.
Dad too began investing. Like Tracy, once he knew the source of my information he had no problem acting upon it. He diverted all of the money that he had going into savings into the computer stocks. He also freed up some more money from Mom's paycheck and added that to it. When I explained the ramifications of the big play that was soon to come he became very enthusiastic, diverting every spare penny into the investments. Mom questioned this a little but Dad convinced her that I knew what I was doing without actually telling her how he knew this. Since she had seen me obsessively studying all aspects of business for the last two years she had no problem accepting the fact that my foresight was based only on my own common sense.
My new schedule did cut down on my time with Nina on the weekdays. Occasionally she would come over to my house after work and we'd spend a little time together either downstairs or in my room. These were nice times but there wasn't much of an atmosphere for intimacy. Even if my door was closed it felt decidedly weird making out while my parents were home. The most we ever managed was a few deep kisses and a slight dance of tongues.
The weekends however, were now completely free since I no longer had to work on Saturday and Sunday nights. Our ski trips became longer. We would head out early in the morning and drive to resorts further and further away from what we were used to. We trekked all the way up to the very northern fringes of the Idaho panhandle or to the western portions of Montana. We loved everything about these trips; the loading of the equipment in the frigid early morning air, the long drive as we shared coffee from my thermos, the standing in lines waiting for the lifts, the time in the lodge, but especially the long, tired drives home. We would switch off the driving chores but often as not, Nina would end up curled up on my shoulder as we approached Spokane, fast asleep, a contented smile on her face.
The ski trips are special memories of special times but we could not do them every weekend. Sometimes the weather would intrude upon our plans but usually finances did. Skiing is an expensive hobby and most of my money was tied up in my stocks, either growing with latex for college or growing with computer technology for my big move. But having fun does not necessarily have to cost money. Some weekends we would just go ice-skating on the frozen lake, or we would take in a movie, or we would just hang around my house. We were in love and we didn't care what we did, as long as we did it together.
As the weeks went by Nina's complexion cleared up again, leaving her soft face unmarred. The pimples she'd had went nearly out of my mind. Her boobs continued to be sore for about a week and that too went away. Unfortunately I wasn't given much opportunity to touch them.
In late February we took a ski trip to western Montana and enjoyed ourselves so much that the sun was setting before we packed up and headed home. Nina volunteered to drive the first leg back and before she even got the car back onto I-90 I was fast asleep beside her, my hand resting on her knee.
The sensation of the car coming to a stop woke me some time later. I opened my eyes and saw that complete darkness had fallen outside. The stars were out and shining with a brilliance that can only be experienced at high altitude. Nina had pulled into a turnout beside the road, crunching over the gravel and finally coming to a stop behind a snow bank. From the other side the sound of traffic could be heard passing on the interstate.
"Where are we?" I asked, yawning, looking around outside. My ears popped as I yawned.
She turned off the headlights and pitch-blackness resulted, making the stars shine even brighter.
"We're in Idaho," she told me. "Up near the summit outside of Coeur d'Alene."
"Nina," I admonished, "you shouldn't have driven so far. Why didn't you wake me up sooner?"
"I was okay," she told me, leaning back in her seat. "You looked like you were enjoying your little nap." She giggled. "You're cute when you're asleep. My eyes were starting to get a little tired though so I thought I'd rest. It's pretty here, isn't it? You can see all the stars."
"Yes," I agreed, looking around. It was a very pleasant spot. Even the sound of passing traffic added just the right amount of white noise. "Why don't you let me drive for awhile? We're awfully late."
"I called Daddy from the ski resort before we left," she said. "He knows I'm going to be late. Why don't we just sit for a while? Enjoy the night."
10-20-2012, 11:33 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
I smiled, putting my arm around her and drawing her close. "If I didn't know better," I told her, "I'd think you were trying to put a move on me."
She snuggled up to me. "And what would you do if I was?" she challenged.
I shrugged. "Call the cops?"
"I don't think they'll hear you from here," she said.
"Well," I answered, "I guess the next best thing would be to give in."
We kissed, lightly at first, reacquainting ourselves with the taste of each other. Her arms went around my neck and mine went around her waist, inside of her coat. Before long our passion heated up and we were exchanging deep soul kisses, our tongues dueling back and forth. The gearshift and the parking brake lever were getting in the way so I finally pulled her over the top of them so she was sitting on my lap, facing me.
"I don't know about this," she said, bending her neck uncomfortably against the roof of the car.
"Here," I said, reaching down with my right hand and grabbing the seat lever. "Is this better?"
With a pull the seat reclined backwards until it was resting against the back seat. This put me almost horizontal and put Nina's body comfortably against me.
"Worlds better," she whispered, bringing her lips to mine.
We kissed contentedly for an unknown amount of time, our libidos shifting into high gear while the idling car engine kept us warm. The spring from the seat bit into my back and my left leg fell asleep because of her weight pushing down on my thigh but I was in heaven all the same. When she began rubbing her hips back and forth, putting pressure on my straining erection I groaned, letting my mouth find her neck.
"They're not sore anymore," she whispered to me.
"What?" I asked, kissing her earlobe and pulling her waist harder into me.
"My boobs," she whispered back, nipping at my ear. "They're not sore anymore."
Not needing to be hit over the head with a hammer, I slid my hands under her shirt. Her coat got in the way of this process so she impatiently sat up and ripped it off her body, tossing on the driver's seat. When she leaned back down the going was easier and my hands found her bare flesh.
"I like your hands on me," she said softly, kissing my eyelid.
"And my hands like to be on you," I assured her.
As I felt her under her clothing she sat up a little. I don't know who initiated the action but suddenly my arms pushed upward, hiking her sweater and her bra up to her shoulders. Her bare stomach and breasts were now exposed to me although it was too dark to see them in any detail. But my hands found them and began to touch them softly, feeling them unencumbered for the first time. As I've mentioned before, they were small, each hand covered a breast completely, but they were firm and very erotic to touch, the skin warm and moist from aroused perspiration. She moaned as I slid my palms back and forth across them, as my fingers gently touched and flicked her erect nipples. Her chest heaved as she panted with sexual excitement and the knowledge that she was showing a secret part of her body to me for the first time.
I let my hands slide from her breast to her armpits. I tugged gently upward and she slid forward. With a pull of my arms she leaned forward into me and her left breast was suddenly against my face, the nipple pushing into my cheek. I slid my tongue out and licked around the perimeter, finally touching the nipple, feeling the rough ridges of it. Nina jerked as if shocked at the contact.
"Oh, Bill," she moaned.
I teased the nipple for the briefest instant and then gently sucked it into my mouth, suckling it as a baby would. It tasted divine against my tongue. I had sucked many a nipple in my two lives but never had one sent tingles through my body as this one did.
Nina's hands went to the back of my head and pulled me tighter against her chest. She moaned and cooed as I suckled, her fingers running spastically through my hair. I switched to the other nipple, bathing it with my saliva, my hand cupping the first. Nina's hips began moving in an involuntary rhythm on my abdomen as sensations that she was unfamiliar with assaulted her body.
I switched breasts again, allowing my hands to drop down to her stomach and flanks where my fingers slid slowly up and down upon the soft, sensitive flesh there. I could feel the gooseflesh that was covering her body beneath my fingers, hard, miniscule bumps of overheated skin.
And then suddenly she was pulling back from me, her fingers pushing off my shoulders, her nipple popping free of my mouth and leaving a trail of my saliva from it.
I looked up in confusion, my own arousal near a fever pitch. What was wrong?
"I'm sorry, Bill," she said, near tears, her body trembling all over.
"What's the matter?" I asked breathlessly, still tasting the aftereffects of her flesh in my mouth.
"I... " She hesitated. With jerky motions she reached up and pulled her shirt and bra back down.
"Nina?" I asked gently.
"I got scared," she said miserably. "I've never done anything like this before. I'm sorry, Bill."
"Nina, it's okay," I soothed, cursing myself for pushing things too fast. I should have known better!
"You must hate me," she said.
"No," I protested. "It's me that should be sorry. I shouldn't have done that. I didn't mean to push you that fast." I pulled her to me again, hugging her, patting her back.
"You weren't pushing me," she said into my ear. "I wanted to do that. I liked it. I've never felt anything like that before. But it just got kind of... overwhelming. I started to feel like I wasn't in control and it scared me. I'm sorry."
"It's okay," I repeated soothingly. "We'll move at your pace. Whenever we're, uh, doing things, you stop whenever you want to. I'll never try to push you. I promise."
She looked up at me. I could see just a hint of moisture in her eyes from the reflected starlight. "Isn't that frustrating for you?" she asked.
"Don't worry about that," I told her. "I love you and I'll move at whatever pace you want."
She kissed my cheek gently. "I love you, Bill."
We hugged for a moment and then she sat up. "You suppose we should start heading for home again?" she asked.
"No," I told her, "let's just sit here like this for awhile."
She planted a kiss on my nose, just a brief peck. "Okay," she whispered, putting her head back on my shoulder.
10-20-2012, 11:33 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
Another thing that suffered from my new schedule and my relationship with Nina were my study sessions with Mike. This bothered me at first until I realized that Mike didn't really need them anymore. His grades remained near the top of the scale and he had completely caught up with all of the concepts that he'd left behind. When our time was cut down I'd worried that he would slip back into academic purgatory but he held his own just fine, passing his finals with an upper B. Though I was never thanked for this accomplishment I felt immense pride in it. I'd pulled him out of the ranks of the dropouts and into the ranks of future college attendees if that was what he wished. By March of 1984 it would have taken a catastrophic event indeed to push him back into independent study. With only three more months of school left anyway, the allure of that particular thing would no longer be as attractive anyway.
It was the third week of March when Mike showed up at my door at 7:00 in the evening, just after I'd gotten home from work. His visit was unusual and I greeted him warmly. There was always a conflict in my personality when I hung out with Mike. On the one hand I had a genuine need to help him make something of himself, to keep him off of the path that fate had in store for him. But on the other hand he was still an immature seventeen-year-old and his conversation about phony sexual exploits and macho posturing quickly got old.
"Hey, dude," he whispered to me at the front door, casting a wary eye upon my dad, who was sitting in his favorite chair watching television. "Why don't we walk over to the school for a while?"
I knew what he meant by that. Around the corner from my house was an elementary school, the elementary school we'd both attended once. During its off-hours it had served as a favored locale for smoking pot, drinking beer, or just plain fucking off. By inviting me there I knew that Mike probably had some marijuana in his possession.
"Sounds good," I agreed, figuring, what the hell? I told my dad I was going to Mike's house, the standard excuse for such an endeavor, and he grunted in reply. Since our talk, Dad never questioned anything I did.
I retrieved my jacket and we walked that way slowly.
"You got some buds?" I asked as we ambled down the sidewalk of the darkening street.
He nodded. "Yeah, got a joint of some pretty good green," he said. "Haven't smoked any in a while but I just felt the need today."
I looked at him. "You haven't smoked any in a while?" I asked, wondering if he was putting me on.
He shook his head. "Nope. I've been running a lot lately and it fucks up my lungs if I smoke cigarettes or pot too much. Makes it hard to breathe. I've quit the cigs completely."
"No shit," I said, suppressing a smile of joy. Mike was growing up at last.
"I been running three miles a day on the weekdays," he told me. "On the weekends I've been running the stairs over at the library with a back-pack full of bricks. I'm trying to get in shape for the physical agility test for the fire department. You know what they call the agility test?"
"What's that?" I asked, although I knew.
"The combat challenge," he said dramatically. "My captain told me that if I want to pass it I need to really work on my legs and my endurance. He said running should do it."
Yes, I knew exactly what he was talking about. The combat challenge is the standard physical agility exam for most fire departments. It is a test designed to measure a prospective employee's physical ability to do the job of firefighter (and the cynical ones among us might think it is also designed to keep out women). And it is grueling indeed. I had once taken it as a young paramedic with hopes of joining the fire department and acquiring the increased security and pay that went along with it. You start off by putting on a helmet, turnout jacket, and an air tank. You then walk to an engine and pull out a hundred feet of inch and a half hose. It sounds easy but the hose is charged with water and is very heavy, especially as you pull more and more of it out. It is a real workout on the legs. You then walk over to a sled assembly and pick up a sledgehammer which you must use to force a steel beam backward three feet using chopping motions. You then go over to the wooden, three-story structure that is referred to as "the tower". Still wearing the air tank, which weighs about twenty pounds, you climb up the outside of the building to the third story of the tower on a ladder and then back down again. That complete, you pick up a forty-pound roll of supply hose and go inside the tower, climbing up the stairs to the third story. Once there you drop the supply hose and hoist up another forty pound roll that is tied to a rope from the ground. You are not allowed to rest your elbows on the windowsill while you do this. You then lower the rope back down again, pick up the roll you carried up the stairs and carry it back down. The grand finale is to drag a one hundred and seventy-pound dummy twenty yards. You are given four minutes in which to do all of this.
I'd fancied myself in pretty good shape when I'd tried it. I was 24, not smoking at that time, and was in the habit of running. The test defeated me easily. My endurance was strained to the limit by the time I got to the top of the tower. Somehow I'd managed to hoist up the rope and put it back down but the exertion of picking up the hose roll again was too much. By that time I had less than a minute left and I knew I wasn't going to make it. My lungs were burning, my heart was hammering in my chest, and my leg muscles were screaming from the abuse. My time expired as I sat there. For a week afterward I was sore. I never applied at the fire department again for fear of feeling the way I had at that moment.
"I've uh, looked into it before," I told Mike. "Your captain is right. Work on the legs and try to get yourself able to go hard for four straight minutes. Try wind sprints."
"Yeah," he said dismissively, mildly offended that I was giving him advice. "No sweat. I'll pass it."
"So they're gonna be hiring for sure?" I asked him next.
"Filing starts May 20," he said. "Written test is June 12, combat challenge June 20. Good thing I'll have graduated before then or I wouldn't have been eligible. From there the oral interviews are scheduled. I'm as good as in, the captain tells me. By this time next year I'll be out of the academy and assigned to my first station. A year after that I'll be off probation. A year after that I'm eligible to test for engineer. Two years after that I'm eligible to test for captain."
"Good for you," I said, wondering if he really was a shoe-in like he claimed. It was possible. If he'd made a good impression as an ROP student, and he would have had to make a damn good one after the marijuana incident, the word would filter upward to the powers-that-be in the department. The powers-that-be would see to it that his name was among the next hiring group. The pitfall of this was that the same thing worked in reverse too.
10-20-2012, 11:33 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
My mom and dad, as I've mentioned before, loved to go to parties with their co-workers. It didn't matter the occasion, if there was a party, they were there. One such party was for the opening day of baseball each year. They were in the habit of traveling to one of Mom's fellow worker's house, a woman whose husband possessed a large screen television, for opening day each year. In truth my dad cared even less about baseball than Mom did. It was simply an excuse to get together with friends, drink lots of beer, eat fancy appetizers and drink more beer.
They left the house at 9:30 that morning and I would have been surprised to see them home anytime before 6:00 that night, riding in a cab of course. Nina and I decided to take advantage of the situation. She came over at 10:00 that morning and by 11:00 we were making out on the couch, our passion accompanied by the sound of one of my dad's sixties rock and roll albums.
Since that day I'd put my mouth to her breasts we'd been very reserved in our affections. We kissed a lot but didn't tend to go much further than that, even if we were alone. Only once had my hands gone beneath her shirt since then and that had been only because she'd physically picked them up and put them there. I was determined not to push her too far too fast. As a result I was actually getting used to the sensation of blue balls.
But on this day Nina was extremely passionate. Her hands were feeling me all over. She slid them over my chest, under my shirt to my back, to my butt where she squeezed brazenly as our tongues dueled. She ordered me to feel her tits and I gladly put my hand beneath her shirt while my tongue continued its exploration of her mouth.
As I felt and kissed her she suddenly pulled her mouth from mine. She looked at me, blushing furiously.
"What's wrong?" I asked her, worrying I'd gone too far again.
She licked her lips nervously and then said, "Wouldn't you like to take my shirt off?"
I stared at her, searching her eyes, trying to determine if she was doing this because she wanted to or because she thought I wanted to. I saw nothing but passion there, mixed with a little nervous anticipation.
"Yes," I said, stroking her face, feeling the heat coming from the aroused blush. "But are you sure you want me to?"
"Take it off," she told me. "Do to me what you did that night."
Surprised to find my own hands trembling I reached for the hem of her sweater. I lifted upwards and she raised her arms to allow me to pull it off. Her white bra was only a few shades lighter than the pale skin of her stomach, skin which had spent the winter firmly clad in clothing. The sight made my mouth water. I stroked the exposed flesh above her bra cups softly, raising goose bumps on her, and then let my fingers slide around to the back. We kissed as my digits began the process of unclasping her bra snaps. In a moment I would see my beloved's bare breasts, a sight I'd fantasized about so many times.
The phone started to ring-shrill, annoying decibels, cutting through the air.
We broke our kiss and looked at each other, my fingers freezing in place.
"You gonna answer that?" she asked, pushing her chest into mine.
"Hell no," I said, shaking my head, leaning in to kiss her again.
We tried to re-establish the rhythm and the passion we'd just had but the telephone just kept ringing and ringing and ringing. I didn't attempt to take off her bra while the infernal noise was going on because I didn't want my first view of her breasts in the light of day to be marred by the distraction of a ringing telephone. I wanted to drink in the sight, to relish it, to assign the entire being of my concentration to it. How long could a telephone ring? I wondered. Don't most people give up after ten rings or so? If nobody answers after ten rings they can assume that nobody's home, right?
But not this person. That phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing. We would pause at the end of each ring, relishing the brief silence, expecting that another one would not follow and that we could then get back to business. But after two seconds or so another ring would always shatter the calm of the living room. Finally our mouths broke apart.
"I'm ripping that fucking cord out of the wall," I told Nina, pushing away from her.
"Bill," she said, obviously as annoyed as I, "why don't you just answer it? Whoever it is must have something important to say or they wouldn't have let it ring so long. Maybe there's some sort of emergency."
"They're gonna have an emergency," I proclaimed.
I walked over to the phone and picked it up roughly, cutting it off in mid-ring. I put it to my ear. "What?" I almost yelled.
There was a brief pause. Finally, "This is the AT and T operator. Will you accept a collect call from Tracy?"
Tracy? Goddam her! This had better be good. "Yes," I said shortly. "Put her on."
"Thank you," the operator said, probably sounding much huffier than her supervisor would have cared for.
"Bill?" came my sister's voice hesitantly.
"Hi, Tracy," I said impatiently, looking over at Nina, who was sitting on the couch in her bra, her nipples poking at the material. I could vaguely make out the shadow of her aureole through the cotton. My dick was throbbing with desire. This had better be good.
"Uh..." she said uncertainly, "are Mom and Dad home?"
"No they're not," I said. "It's the first day of baseball." I knew that Tracy would need no further explanation than that.
"Oh yeah," she said, giggling, her tone telling me she knew damn well what day it was and that Mom and Dad wouldn't be home. "It is, isn't it?"
"Yeah," I told her. "So they're over at Janice and Ken's. You might try them tomorrow. Probably later would be better. They're bound to be hung over."
"Okay," she said. "Oh, did you hear about Cindy?"
This got my attention a little. "No," I said. "What about her?"
"I got a letter from her yesterday. Her professor boyfriend is divorcing his wife. Cindy has moved in with him. Can you believe it?"
"Actually I can," I answered. This news didn't surprise me in the least. The only surprise was that it had taken so long.
"She's dropping out of college too," Tracy added. "I guess she figures she got what she went there for."
"I guess she did," I replied, casting another glance at Nina, disheartened to see that her nipples were losing their erection. "Listen, Tracy," I said, "I was kind of in the middle of something."
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'll let you go and get back to it."
"Umm..." she said hesitantly, "there is one thing I wanted to ask you while I had you on the line."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Well," she said uncertainly, "the people that I hang out with here are having, well, a little baseball pool."
"A baseball pool?" I asked, exasperated. What the hell did she want to talk to me about this for?
"Yes," she answered, "for five bucks you can enter who you think will be in the World Series this year. If you're right, you win the pot in October."
"The World Series?" I asked, trying to glare through the phone.
"Yes," she said, "so I was wondering if maybe you could tell me who was going to be in the series this year? I know you have a real good head for this sort of thing, Bill." She giggled knowingly.
I looked up at the ceiling for a moment and then cast a glance at Nina, who was looking at me expectantly, questioningly.
"Tracy," I told her honestly, "I don't have the slightest idea."
There was a long pause. Finally, pouting, "Bill, this doesn't hurt anything. How is this different than you taking advantage of stocks you know are going to go up? I could win twenty-five hundred bucks from this!"
"It doesn't, Tracy," I said, lowering my voice a little so Nina couldn't hear. "If I knew, I'd tell you. But I don't know."
"How could you not know?" she nearly screamed, pissed at my refusal to supply her with this information. "You've already lived through it! You know! You just don't want to tell me for some moralistic, bullshit reason."
The biting edge of her words cut through me like a knife, deflating my desire like a punctured balloon. "Tracy," I said carefully, "I really don't know. I'm not a baseball fan. I've never paid attention to baseball in my life, just like Dad. How the hell would I know who was in the series in 1984?"
"Because you've already been through it!" she cried. "You have to know. You just don't want to tell me!"
"Tracy?" I asked, looking at Nina again. She was now definitely sensing that something was wrong. "Tell me who won the World Series in 1982."
"What?" she asked.
"You've already lived through it," I said, mocking her tone. "It's only been two years from your perspective instead of," I thought for a second, doing some quick mental addition, "seventeen years from my perspective. So tell me, who won the series?"
"That's different!" she said desperately. "You're a boy. Boys know this shit!"
"This boy doesn't," I told her, feeling my own anger starting to rise now. "But let's put that aside. Let's ask you some girl shit. Who won best supporting actress in 1982?"
"What?" she asked, confused.
"You heard me," I whispered harshly. "That's girl shit if I've ever heard it. So who won it?"
There was silence on the line for a moment. "I don't know," she finally said.
"And I don't know who won the fucking World Series in 1984," I told her. "And if you call me back in October and give me the names of the two teams who are actually in the fucking thing, I still wouldn't know who won it. I don't watch baseball, Tracy. I don't give a rat's ass about who was in it or who won it. You should know that. You're right, this information is harmless, and I would tell you if I knew, but I don't know. And I don't appreciate you screaming at me because of this. And I especially don't appreciate your indignant tone with me because of it."
The silence on the line was longer this time. "I'm sorry, Bill," she finally said. "I shouldn't have yelled at you."
"Goddamn right you shouldn't have."
"I just thought that maybe... well, you know."
"Tracy," I told her, calming a little, "you're going to be all right. You don't need to be so greedy. Isn't it enough that you're alive?"
She didn't have an answer for that.
The rest of our conversation took less than thirty seconds. When I hung up, Nina was looking at me quizzically.
"Your sister?" she asked carefully.
"You seemed mad at her," Nina said. "Anything wrong?"
"Nothing I can't handle," I told her.
"Bill," she said softly, "what's wrong? You can talk to me about anything you know."
"I know, Nina," I answered. "And usually I do. But this is something of a family secret if you know what I mean."
"Like what my dad told you?" she asked sharply.
"Kind of," I agreed. "But much more secret than that. I'm sorry."
"It's okay," she said, pouting a little.
The mood for the day was effectively broken. By the time my parents got home that evening Nina was long since at her house and I was long since relieved of my testosterone by my own means. I spent the rest of the day with Mike, drinking some beer he'd managed to get hold of. It was fun but not as fun as what Tracy had interrupted.
10-20-2012, 11:34 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
It was late April when I went to Nina's house to pick her up one evening. It was Friday night and we had a date to go see the release of the movie 1984 based on the Orwell novel that had been the basis of the first conversation we had shared. I pulled to the curb at her house at 6:30 and stepped out of my car, heading for the front door.
I was no longer nervous about picking up Nina at home. The impasse with her parents was holding strong. Nina had told me that her parents had gone back to their usual relationship, as I'd predicted, but that I was never discussed in their household. It was taboo apparently. When she told them that she was going out with me they would give a small grunt in reply and question no further. That they weren't happy about her continued relationship with me was obvious but they never tried to stop her or talk her out of seeing me. She said they treated it as a phase she was going through, a phase that would eventually end. The fact that they still, after all this time, didn't trust me, that they still, after seeing the obvious happiness of their daughter, didn't trust my intentions, spoke volumes about how badly they'd been stung by the Bob Simpson episode. They really thought that I still intended to dump their daughter like a bag of garbage. All I could do was hope that someday they would come around. Didn't they realize what they were doing to Nina?
Because of this impasse, an unwritten set of rules had developed about my picking up Nina for dates. I did not enter their house or speak with them in any way. Nina would simply answer the door when I was expected and then leave upon my arrival. They, in turn, would be out of the room when I arrived, keeping us from even having to look at each other. I expected nothing different on this day. But something different was what I got.
I rang the doorbell and stood patiently, waiting for the door to swing open. It didn't. I rang the doorbell again, pushing longer this time and finally was rewarded with the sound of footsteps approaching the door. It swung open and there stood Nina. She was wearing a robe tied tightly around her. Her hair was a frazzled mess, as if she'd gotten out of the shower and dried it but had not combed it. She most definitely didn't appear ready to go to the movies any time soon.
"What's wrong?" I asked, puzzled.
"I'm sorry, Bill," she said, her voice worried. "I don't think I'm going to make it tonight. Daddy's sick."
"Sick?" I said. "What's wrong with him?"
She shook her head. "He says it's just the stomach flu but I don't think so. He was sitting in his chair after dinner and he started getting all fidgety. Then he started throwing up. He's all pale right now and sweaty and he looks like he's not breathing right."
"Sweaty?" I asked, feeling an instant return of my paramedic instinct. When people were sweaty for no good reason, something was usually very wrong. That in conjunction with "not breathing right" made me immediately concerned.
"Yes," Nina said. "I've seen people in the ER that look like he does now. And usually they're very sick. I'm worried about him, Bill. I've been trying to get him to let me take him to the hospital but he's being stubborn. He's scared, I can tell, but he won't go. I want to stay here in case something happens."
"Let me see him," I said suddenly.
"Bill," She shook her head, "I don't think..."
I wasn't going to take no for an answer. I pushed past her and entered the Blackmore house for the first time in many months.
"Bill!" Nina protested.
"Where is he?" I asked her.
She looked at me for a moment, her eyes scared, her own face pale. She pointed to the kitchen. "In the den," she said. "Through there."
"Come on," I told her, heading that way.
Mr. Blackmore's den was a room that had been built to house a bedroom. He had long since converted it to his own personal use. An oak, roll-top desk was the dominant piece of furniture. It sat against the far wall. Its surface was scattered with books containing lovingly placed stamps beneath plastic covers. On the wall above the desk a deer rifle sat in a rack. On either side of this were large racks taken from an elk and a deer. On a small love seat next to the desk was Mr. Blackmore.
"Jesus," I muttered, looking at him.
He looked worse than Nina had led me to believe. His skin was not merely pale but was gray and ashen. Sweat was glistening off of him, his shirt damp with it. His mouth was open and he was breathing rapidly, seeming to struggle to get air in. His right arm was massaging his left shoulder.
"What are you doing here?" Mrs. Blackmore, who was sitting next to him, asked sharply.
I ignored her. "Mr. Blackmore," I told him, walking over, "you need to go to the hospital. Now."
He looked up at me. "Bill," he said, shaking his head, "I think you'd better leave. Sorry to have to postpone your little date." This last was said quite sarcastically.
I reached down and grabbed his wrist, feeling for a pulse.
"You will leave this house immediately!" Mrs. Blackmore told me, ripping his hand away from mine.
"I know what I'm doing," I said forcefully, meeting her gaze. We stared for a second and she finally dropped her eyes.
I took his wrist back, finding his radial pulse. It was beating rapidly and irregularly, sometimes not pulsating for as long as six seconds. I noticed that when I could not feel the pulsations, Mr. Blackmore's breathing became more ragged at the same time. Though I did not have a cardiac monitor on me, I had a pretty good idea of why this was happening.
"Nina," I said, "go call 911 and get an ambulance here."
"What?" Mr. Blackmore said. "I don't think..."
"Do it now," I told Nina calmly and with unmistakable command in my voice.
She gave a quick glance towards her father. "No, Nina," he told her. "I'll be all right."
"Do it, Nina," I said firmly. "Tell them he's having a heart attack."
Nina was convinced. She rushed to the phone. Mr. and Mrs. Blackmore were not. They called once after her but quickly realized it was futile. When she was gone they turned to me.
"How dare you come into this house and..." Mrs. Blackmore started.
"What do you think you're..." Mr. Blackmore started.
"Quiet, both of you!" I barked. It had the desired effect.
"Mr. Blackmore," I said, looking at him. "Are you having chest pain right now?"
"No," he told me. "Just some indigestion. She made some spicy food tonight and it didn't agree with me."
"Uh huh." I nodded. "Why are you rubbing your shoulder like that?"
"It's sore," he said. "What business is this..."
"Show me where your chest hurts," I told him. "Point with your finger."
Rolling his eyes upward he put a finger right in the middle of his chest. "Right here," he told me. "Its just indigestion."
"Indigestion doesn't hurt right there," I told him. "It hurts down here." I put my finger just under his rib cage. "And it doesn't radiate up to your left shoulder either. And it doesn't make you short of breath or sweaty. It doesn't make you throw up. And it most definitely doesn't make your pulse irregular. Have you ever had heart problems before?"
"No!" he said.
"You're having them now," I said. "You're having a heart attack, Mr. Blackmore and a very dangerous one if I'm right about what I'm feeling in your pulse. You need to get to the hospital, now."
"What the hell do you know about it?" he asked angrily. "You're just a kid."
I smiled, gazing at him meaningfully. "We've had this conversation before," I said. "Do we need to rehash it? I think you're having a heart attack. Go to the hospital with the ambulance when it gets here. If I'm wrong, then you'll get to say I told you so."
Before he could answer Mary Blackmore spoke up. "Jack," she said softly, "why don't you do what he says?"
I looked over at her in surprise. She was the last person in the world I expected to have as an ally in this thing. I saw raw, naked fear in her eyes. I think she knew that I was right and she was terrified that she was about to lose her husband. So terrified that she was even willing to listen to me.
"Listen to your wife, sir," I told him. "You want to see your grandkids someday don't you?"
"Okay," he finally said. "Once again young man, you've stated your case well."
"You can't die, Mr. Blackmore," I told him. "Until you learn to get used to me dating your daughter. I won't allow it."
He actually chuckled at that.
From outside came the sound of approaching sirens.
The paramedic and the EMT that showed up were both strangers to me. Probably they were people that had worked briefly in the field and then had gone onto other things; the fire department, the police department, nursing, medical school. They came in the door shortly after the fire engine crew had barged in. I was glad to see that the paramedic took Mr. Blackmore's condition as seriously as I did. I stood back and said nothing, feeling confidant he was in good hands.
While the paramedic went through the routine questioning, questions I was very familiar with, his partner hooked up the EKG machine. It was an older model of the device, a model I was unfamiliar with since it had been replaced long before my debut in the medical field, but the display was the same. I saw the rapid complexes of his normal heartbeat intermixed with frequent premature complexes; beats that were not per fusing much blood, beats that were the telltale sign of a very irritated heart. Worse still was the fact that sometimes Mr. Blackmore would have fifteen to twenty of these premature beats in a row. This was known as ventricular tachycardia, or V-tach, in medical circles and it was very dangerous. It was, in fact, only a step above complete cardiac shutdown.
The paramedic, a young, blonde man whose hair was probably a little longer than was allowed, saw the display and tightened up almost imperceptively. He glanced at his partner for a moment and a look was passed between them; a look that the ordinary citizen would not have even noticed but which I was well versed in. It was a look that said holy shit!
"Set me up an IV," the paramedic told his partner calmly, as if this was a perfectly normal request. It wasn't. Usually IV's were not started on scene.
"Right," his partner agreed, going for their medical box.
"Put him on high flow oxygen," the paramedic told one of the firemen.
He went mechanically about the task of installing the IV line into Mr. Blackmore, speaking soothing words to him the whole time, telling him what he was going to be doing. On the other arm a fireman was taking his blood pressure. He shouted out the reading when he had it.
"Ninety-four over forty," he said.
The paramedic digested this, chewing on his lip thoughtfully for a second. That was not the greatest blood pressure in the world in relation to a cardiac event. Finally he plugged in the IV and taped it down.
He injected some lidocaine into the IV port and watched the display on the EKG. The lidocaine was supposed to numb the heart a little, making it less irritable and less likely to throw premature beats, go into V-tach, or, worst of all, go into fibrillation. The runs of V-tach slowed a little, becoming less frequent and shorter in duration when they did come. Not the best thing in the world but better. Hopefully it would be enough to deliver him to the hospital alive.
"Let's get him out of here," the paramedic said.
Mr. Blackmore was loaded up onto their gurney and rushed out of the house to the waiting ambulance. Mrs. Blackmore was placed in the passenger seat by one of the firemen. Another fireman climbed in the back with the paramedic. Again this probably seemed routine to the average person and again it wasn't. A paramedic only took a fireman in with him when he thought that he might need an extra hand on the way to the hospital. In other words, when he thought there was a good possibility that CPR was going to need to be performed at some point. Runs of V-tach had a nasty tendency to degenerate into a full-blown cardiac arrest.
The ambulance headed to the hospital with lights and sirens on. The remaining firemen climbed into their engine and drove off behind it to pick up their crewmember. That left Nina and I alone at the house. She was scared, as scared as anyone I'd ever seen before.
"Bill," she asked me, "is he going to be all right?"
"I hope so," I told her, wiping a tear from her eye. "Why don't you go get dressed and we'll drive down there?"
She nodded and rushed into the house.
10-20-2012, 11:34 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
We arrived at the hospital and found Mrs. Blackmore in the waiting room amid a full house of sick, injured, and others that were waiting their turn to be seen. She was sitting bolt upright in one of the plastic chairs, wringing her hands together nervously, ignoring the babble of conversation and the wall-mounted television that was pumping out a mindless sitcom.
"Mom?" Nina said, grabbing the seat next to her. "Have you heard anything? Is he okay?"
Mrs. Blackmore looked at her for a second and then at me. She swallowed and then hugged her daughter briefly. "No," she said. "They put me in here as soon as we got here. Nobody's been back to talk to me yet."
"Did anything happen on the way in?" I asked her.
She looked at me, wanting to be offended by my presence with her family on this occasion but she simply couldn't muster the will to do it. "No." She shook her head. "The paramedic gave him some sort of injection about halfway here, but nothing else happened."
I nodded, heartened by the news that he'd hung in there on the trip. We waited, speaking little to each other.
It was about ten minutes before a doctor came out to speak with Mrs. Blackmore. Again, he was no one I recognized although I had learned to know all of the ER docs in my time as a paramedic. At some point he would probably move on to other things. I only hoped he was competent at what he did. Some weren't.
He invited Nina's mom back to a private consultation room. Nina stood and went with her. After a moment's hesitation I did too. Nobody offered protest to this. We all took seats in a tastefully decorated room with several comfortable chairs, a couch, and a telephone. Again my knowledge of how things worked in the ER told me a lot. The absence of the hospital chaplain announced the fact that Mr. Blackmore was still hanging in there.
"Your husband has suffered a very significant myocardial infarction," the doctor explained once we were settled in. "In layman's terms, that is a heart attack."
"Will he be okay?" Mrs. Blackmore asked, wiping her eyes with a tissue from the box near the telephone.
"It's too early to tell," he said. "But the fact that he was brought to us so early in the process is encouraging."
"What do you mean?" she wanted to know, encouraged by the word "encouraging".
"Well," he explained, "a heart attack is basically a clot that has become lodged in the coronary arteries, these are the arteries that feed the heart, blocking the blood flow and therefore the oxygen. If nothing is done about it, then the tissue that is deprived of oxygen will die in a few hours and will never again be able to help pump blood. I must tell you that in an attack of this size, if something like that were to happen, your husband's chances of surviving more than a month or two would seriously be in question. He would most likely develop congestive heart failure. But since he got to us shortly after the onset of symptoms there are things we can do to get rid of the clot."
"There are?" she asked.
He nodded. "Yes. There is a procedure known as cardiac catheterization. What we do is send him to a room in the hospital where a cardiologist will insert a catheter, a thin sheath, into one of his veins. We will thread this all the way to the coronary arteries and then inflate a small balloon in the catheter with air. This will push out the obstruction, returning blood flow to the tissue that is deprived. Now the science is inexact, and there will still be some damage to the heart, but it will be much less than what it would have been."
"So he'll be okay?" she asked hopefully.
"With a little luck," he said, "your husband will be able to resume a normal life in a few months. He might require a bypass operation to divert flow around the compromised arteries, but yes, if this is successful, he'll probably be all right."
"When do you start?" she asked.
"He's on his way to the cath lab right now. He'll undergo the procedure in less than an hour. This is what will happen..."
He then went into a dry, sterile description of the anesthesia procedure and the recovery problems. It took about twenty minutes. But I'd already learned what I needed to know. In all likelihood, Mr. Blackmore would be all right. Though in my when there were other means to clear a clot, namely medications that actually dissolved it, the cardiac cath was a tried and true procedure.
As he droned on I found myself wondering just what had happened to Mr. Blackmore in my previous life. He had gone to the hospital this day at my insistence, because of my intervention. Did that happen before? I didn't know the outcome of Nina's father when I knew her before because we were never close, obviously. But instinctively I felt that he'd probably died at home that night or shortly after. Was fate being thwarted again? Or was an inevitable realignment in the works?
We moved up to the cath lab waiting room on the second floor. This waiting room was smaller, though still equipped with a television and phone. It was also empty except for Nina, her mother, and myself. We sat together in a row of chairs, Nina between Mrs. Blackmore and myself. We didn't talk. Every once in a while I would receive a strange glance from Mary Blackmore as if she was wondering why I, someone who was only after one thing, was still there. Did I think I was going to try to ruin her daughter's virtue that night?
After an hour or so I excused myself and found the hospital cafeteria, returning with cups of coffee, which I distributed.
"Thank you," Mrs. Blackmore said, taking it from my hand.
"No cream, one sugar," I said. "Just the way you like it."
She looked at me puzzled, suspicious. "How did you know that?"
I smiled. "Nina told me," I answered. "She takes it the same way."
She nodded thoughtfully and we continued to wait.
Shortly after our coffee was consumed a doctor entered the waiting room. He was dressed in surgical scrubs and his hair was mussed from the sterile cap he'd just been wearing. Everyone tensed up. Again, the absence of the chaplain spoke volumes before a word was even said.
"We think we cleared the obstruction," he told us. "Mr. Blackmore is in the recovery room now. He's doing fine."
He spoke a lot more. He told us that they had discovered a large amount of occlusion in Mr. Blackmore's coronary arteries during the angiogram that had been done prior to the catheterization. Was he in the habit of eating high cholesterol food? He was? Well that was probably what had started it. He said that he would be transferred to the hospital where I worked the next day and, if he continued to recover well, would undergo a triple bypass operation. That, in addition to a change of diet, would probably take care of the problem.
By the time the doctor left we were all feeling better. Nina came over to my chair and gave me a hug, a tight, squeezing hug of gratitude. Her mother watched this impassively, not saying anything.
"Thank you, Bill," Nina told me when she released me. "You saved Daddy's life."
"I don't know about that," I said modestly. "I just helped him see what he needed to do. I'm glad he'll be okay."
"You saved him, Bill," Nina repeated. "And I'll never forget that." She turned to her mother. "Don't you think you owe Bill a thank you Mom?" she asked sharply.
"Nina, I..." I started.
"Hush," Nina told me, continuing to stare at her Mom. "Mom?"
Mrs. Blackmore swallowed nervously and then reluctantly looked at me. "She's right," she finally said. "You did save him. We owe you our thanks."
"I did what any decent person would do," I told her, emphasizing the word "decent". "I'm glad he's going to be all right and I was glad to help."
She nodded and an uncomfortable silence followed.
"So," I said at last, breaking it, "why don't we see if they'll let you two visit him for a bit? You're probably anxious to do that."
Only one visitor at a time was allowed in the recovery room. It was a rule the staff was very firm about despite my attempts at intervention using my adult voice. Finally Mrs. Blackmore went in, leaving Nina and I alone in the waiting room. We sat together and I put my arm around her. She rested her head on my shoulder, yawning with weariness.
"Sorry we couldn't go to the movie tonight," she told me.
"Understandable," I assured her, stroking her hair.
A minute went by. Finally Nina asked, "Bill?"
"How did you know Daddy was having a heart attack?"
I had been afraid of this question, though I knew it was coming. I didn't enjoy lying to her.
"I read a lot of medical texts," I told her. "It's kind of a hobby of mine. I thought about being a paramedic once so I went through their textbook and studied it. Your dad was having textbook symptoms of a heart attack and he was displaying the common response to it. Denial. When I felt his pulse and noticed the missing beats I was sure. That's another textbook symptom."
"You knew all this from reading a textbook?" she asked, her tone unreadable.
"Yes, Nina," I said with a fairly straight face. "I have a good memory for written words."
"I see," she said softly. And she said no more about it.
We sat and talked softly for more than fifteen minutes, me continuing to hold her and stroke her hair. A slight cough interrupted us and we both looked up to find Mrs. Blackmore looking at us, taking in the manner in which we were seated.
"Hi, Mom," Nina said, somewhat embarrassed. She broke free of me and sat up. "How's Daddy doing?"
She walked over slowly. "He's a little groggy from the medicine they gave him but otherwise he's okay. They're going to take him up to his room soon. We won't be able to visit him anymore until tomorrow. Why don't you go in and talk to him real quick?"
"Okay," she said, standing. "I'll be back in a little bit."
She left the room leaving me alone with her mother. We looked at each other for a moment and finally she took a seat next to me. She sat stiffly upright.
"You didn't have to stay you know," she told me.
"I wanted to," I replied. "Besides, how else are you going to get home? You know how much a cab ride would be from here?"
"We could've handled it."
"Like I said, Mrs. Blackmore, I wanted to stay."
Another uncomfortable silence developed. There was so much I wanted to say to this woman next to me, so much I wanted to explain, but this was not the time. Not when her husband, a man I knew she loved deeply, was in a hospital room after nearly dying.
But Mrs. Blackmore apparently did want to talk about it.
"You're a very strange young man," she said, not looking at me.
I nodded. "I've been accused of that," I agreed.
"I like to think that I've got you figured out," she said. "That I know exactly what you're like, how you'll act, what you'll do. I tried to tell Nina this when she started seeing you again. But she didn't listen to me, wouldn't hear a word of it. I tried to tell myself that it was teenaged rebellion, that she knew I was right but that she wouldn't listen because she thought she was in love with you and because her mom was telling her these things."
"But?" I prompted, looking over at her.
"But now I'm forced to wonder if maybe I was the one who was wrong all this time," she admitted.
"Really," she sighed. "You see, I've been waiting all of this time for you to toss my daughter aside like an old shoe. That's what people like you do, I told myself. You get them to fall in love with you and then, once you get what you want a few times, you get rid of them. I have speeches all memorized for the day that you finally do that; speeches I'll recite to her as I'm holding her while she cries. I'll tell her that someday she'll find someone who really loves her for herself, not for her body. I'll tell her about how I found a man like that and how he came back to me even though I made a horrid mistake once. I'm well prepared for the day when you finally show Nina that you are nothing but slime." She stared over at me, her eyes softening. "But that's not going to happen, is it?"
I shook my head. "No, it's not," I said. "I love your daughter, Mrs. Blackmore. I love her with all of my heart. I love her the way Mr. Blackmore loves you. I plan to be with her for the rest of my life."
She nodded softly. "You know something?" she asked. "I've known that for a while. I don't know what you and Jack talked about the day he went over to your house, he wouldn't tell me, but I was dumbfounded when he said that he was going to allow you and Nina to see each other. I was absolutely in shock. We fought bitterly over it but finally he convinced me that I was simply going to have to let Nina run this relationship out for better or for worse. And he was right about that. You can't control a seventeen-year-old girl if she doesn't want to be controlled. I didn't like it, but I had to accept it. That's when I started waiting for Nina to come home crying again. Every time she went out with you I thought that this would be the time. You were finally going to get what you were after and toss her aside. But every time she came home she wasn't crying. She always seemed deliriously happy in fact.
"I told myself that her happiness was simply part of your plan. I myself know intimately what it feels like to think you're in love with someone such as yourself. You are happy during that period. That's what makes it hurt so badly when the happiness is taken away. These last two months Nina has been positively glowing whenever she came back from a visit with you. And I just told myself you were picking her up further and further before you dropped her. I knew you were going to do it. I simply knew."
"Do you know why I feel this way?" she asked me pointedly.
I wasn't sure how to answer that one. I hesitated.
"Jack told you about Bob Simpson, didn't he?" she said.
This question put me on even shakier ground. "Uh..."
She nodded knowingly. "He did, didn't he? I can see it in your eyes. I suspected as much."
"Look, Mrs. Blackmore..." I started.
"Call me Mary," she said. "I think you and I need to be on a first name basis, don't you?"
This really threw me off guard. Call her Mary?
"Bill," she went on, "you know about Bob Simpson, right?"
I nodded. "Yes."
"I appreciate your honesty," she said. "I don't how you got Jack to tell you that story, especially since he hated your guts, but somehow you did. This should offend me. I should go in there and beat the hell out of Jack for telling you such a personal thing. But strangely, it doesn't bother me. I'm glad you know about it in fact. It makes this talk a little easier."
"Okay," I agreed.
"Bob Simpson left a scar on me that remains to this day. He took away something that was precious to me and precious to Jack. I'm not talking about my virginity, although that's a part of it, I'm talking about something in here." She pointed to her chest. "And in here." She pointed to her head. "He used me like a man would use a dirty book and he threw me in the garbage like a man would when he's used that book enough. He took away more than five years of what should have been happiness with Jack. To this day I still remember how I felt when I realized that I'd sent that letter to him and that I'd lost him. To this day I still get down on my knees and thank God that Jack was strong enough and loved me enough to take me back after that. What Jack did was unheard of back then. Most men today, even in these liberated times, wouldn't do what he did. My point is that Bob Simpson was the lowest form of life on this earth. And though I share a good portion of the blame for what happened, it was Bob that deserves most of it. He took advantage of me when I was little more than a girl, when I didn't know what I wanted in life yet. He made me think I knew what I wanted. Do you see?"
"Yes," I answered. "I do."
"When Nina came to me crying that day, when she told me about you and those girls at school, she was describing Bob Simpson to a tee. I was horrified by what you'd done. I still am."
"I know," I said. "I'm ashamed of that now. But I never did that with Nina. Never."
"That's what she told me when you got back together. But I couldn't accept that. You were Bob Simpson out to destroy my daughter. You see, before I fell in love with Bob I'd heard all of the stories about him. The same stories Nina said she'd heard about you. I didn't believe them, I wouldn't believe them, because I loved him, just like Nina loved you. I figured Nina had simply been smarter than me, or luckier anyway. She caught you sleeping with an engaged girl and she couldn't ignore your reputation any longer. I told her she'd done the right thing in getting rid of you. She was hurt, I could see that, but not nearly as hurt as she would have been if you had gotten what you wanted."
"And then she went back to you," Mary said, shaking her head. "I couldn't believe it at first but finally I knew it when she started borrowing my car every day. I was determined to put a stop to it once I knew what was going on. I didn't let her go out with you on New Year's Eve and I stupidly thought that would end it. But when she asked to borrow the car again the next day, giving me a pathetic lie about it, I knew something would have to be done. That's why Jack showed up at your house."
"And the rest is history," I said softly.
She shook her head again. "I was sure I knew what you were about, Bill," she told me. "You don't even deny what you were like?"
"No," I said simply. "I can't deny it. All I can say in my own defense is what I told your husband. I discovered a way to get girls to go to bed with me. I was fifteen when I discovered this and I couldn't resist taking advantage of it. I couldn't. But Nina was never like that to me. I initiated the relationship with Nina for friendship. That's what we were Mary. Friends. That's what we still are primarily. I love her deeply, I want to marry her, I want to spend the rest of my life with her, I want her to have my children, but she is my friend first and foremost. The best friend I've ever had.
"When she caught me with the engaged girl and told me she would never see me again I was crushed. I realized then how much she meant to me. Since then I haven't done anything like that and I don't plan to do it in the future. Nina is my future Mary. Can you understand that?"
"That's just it," she said. "I couldn't. I couldn't see past the fact that you were like Bob Simpson. That's the whole point of what I'm trying to tell you now. You were Bob Simpson reincarnated, out to have my daughter. I was so sure of that fact that I didn't see certain other things that were right in front of my nose the whole time.
"I told you what I thought about Nina's apparent happiness to be with you. That was easily written off as part of your plan. But there are other things, things I didn't acknowledge until you forced me to tonight. For instance I'm forced to ask myself why, if you were only after one thing, it has taken you so long to get it? You've been seeing Nina for more than two years now. Now I certainly don't want to go into what, if any, sexual experience my daughter and you might have had, but if that is all you were after, surely you would have gotten it by now wouldn't you?"
I nodded. "If that was what I was after, I would have," I agreed.
"But still she remains committed to you, and you to her. The biggest thing I'm forced to see though, is you."
"Me?" I asked.
"You," she confirmed. "Tonight you and I were forced together, probably against both of our wills. I didn't want to be with you, to have anything to do with you. I just wanted you to go away. But all the same I've been watching you when Nina is sitting next to you. I can see how you feel about her in your eyes. When I came in the room just now and saw you with your arm around her, holding her to you, you reminded me of Jack. You were holding her the way a man who loves a woman holds someone. You weren't trying to cop a feel or put on a phony comforting act for her benefit because you thought it might get you inside of her later, you were genuinely concerned about her and you were genuinely trying to comfort her. You love her."
"Yes," I nodded enthusiastically, "I do. That's what I've been trying to say all this time."
"I recognize that now," she said. "And I realize that you are not exactly Bob Simpson. But you're close. And just because I recognize it doesn't mean I like it, Bill. I'm willing to acknowledge that you and Nina are in love with each other. But I can't forgive you for what you've done in the past and I have no proof that you are no longer doing such things. I still believe that Nina is heading for destruction by being with you."
"That's fair enough," I told her. "You think that we're too young to know what love really is and that I'll give in to the temptation to stray away from Nina, right?"
"Roughly," she answered.
"We are young," I said. "But tell me this, do you think that Jack knew what he wanted when he told you he wanted to marry you before he went off to the war?"
"What?" she asked.
"He loved you back then. Very much from what I understand. And though he didn't have the, uh, experience that I do, he was pretty certain that you were the woman for him. So do you think he knew what he was talking about?"
"Yes," she agreed, seeing where I was taking this.
"That's the same way I feel about Nina. I know she is whom I want to spend the rest of my life with. My experience has done nothing but show me that sex is nothing but hollow pleasure if it's not with someone you love. I don't plan to repeat those experiences. I am committed to Nina now and I will remain so. I'm the same age Jack was when he fell in love with you. Nina is older than you were when you fell in love with Jack. She's older than I am in fact since I got to skip second grade. Why do you think that you, of the previous generation, have some sort of all-knowing lock on what love is and that those of us in this generation are clueless?"
The Look was strong upon her face. She smiled. "You are certainly a remarkable young man, Bill," she said. "I'll give you that. Like I said, I'm not quite sure you're right for Nina and I'm not quite sure you are my idea of the perfect suitor. But there's little I can do about it. You've proved yourself worthy of my giving you a chance. So for Nina's sake I would like to extend you a welcome into our house for as long as you and she are together. Maybe someday I'll learn to love you. Or maybe I won't. But until we know for sure, you no longer have to hide on the porch when you come over. You're welcome in our house."
"Thank you, Mary," I answered, touched by her cynical words. "I'll take you up on that. And be assured, you're not going to get rid of me."
"Time will tell, Bill," she answered. "Time will tell."
10-20-2012, 11:35 AM
RE: Doing It All Over
Two days later Jack Blackmore was transferred to the hospital that I worked at in order to undergo bypass surgery. He was installed in a private room on the seventh floor. His spirits were reported to be high by Nina, who visited him daily after school, usually joining her mother there. I had not had opportunity to see him since the night he'd been taken away.
On the Tuesday following his heart attack I had a brief chat with my dad before I headed off to school.
"Do you think that's a good idea?" he asked me, nearly appalled by what I was suggesting.
"I wouldn't go so far as to call it wise," I agreed. "But it's not dangerous. After all, the man is undergoing a bypass tomorrow. What can it hurt?"
Dad shook his head. "I'll concede to your greater medical knowledge," he told me. He did as I asked.
After work that night I went out to my car and put a few things into a plastic bag. I then went back inside. I rode the elevator up to the seventh floor and headed for the ICU where Jack was being stashed. Visiting hours were soon coming to a close and Nina and her mother had already gone for the night. I was unquestioned as I walked past the nurse's station. The surgical scrubs I wore saw to that.
I entered his room and stood in the doorway for a moment. Jack Blackmore was dressed in a standard hospital gown. IV's were installed in his arm and connected to a pump. Wires snaked from beneath the sheets and his gown and fed to a monitor on the wall above his head. He was sitting in the bed, which he'd adjusted to a chair position, watching a baseball game on the television. He looked over at me as I entered, his eyes taking a moment to realize that I was not just another hospital worker coming in to take his blood pressure or to get him to piss in a jar.
He nodded when he recognized me. "Bill," he said. "How are you?"
"I'm fine," I told him, coming in and closing the door behind me. "How are you?"
"Hanging in here," he said as I took a seat. "I never did get a chance to thank you for talking me into going the other night." He lowered his voice a little. "The doc tells me I might've died if I hadn't of come in."
"I was glad to help," I assured him.
"As much as I hate to admit it," he said, "I owe you one."
"Maybe I'll collect someday," I said. "But in the meantime, I brought you something you might like."
I reached into my bag and withdrew two dripping, icy cold bottles of beer. Beer that my Dad had bought for me that morning and which had sat in an ice chest in my car all day. It was his favorite brand. His eyes lit up as he saw them.
"I can't drink that," he told me, his voice far from virtuous.
"Sure you can," I said. "You're probably sick of Jell-O and powdered eggs about now. You're probably even sicker of powdered orange juice. Have a brew. You're going in for bypass surgery tomorrow. What can it hurt? Hell, they ought to be feeding you bacon and eggs and greasy tacos tonight. The cholesterol can't hurt you now."
He licked his lips for a moment and then said. "You have a gift for putting things into perspective, young man. Give me the beer."
"Better pour it into your cup," I instructed. "If the nurse comes in and sees it, she'll kill me."
He gave me a shrewd look. "We wouldn't want that now, would we?"
We poured the beer into the little plastic cups that are only found in hospitals and stashed the bottles away.
"To good health," I offered, holding up my cup.
He nodded. "To good health."
We clinked them together, well, not really, plastic doesn't clink, but you get the idea. We drank. The beer was like nectar on my parched throat. It probably tasted even better to Jack Blackmore, who had just faced death in a much different way than he had in World War II.
"Mary tells me that you had a talk with her," he said after the first drink.
I looked at him for a moment and then nodded. "I did."
"Uh huh," he grunted. "She also tells me she invited you into our house."
I swallowed nervously, wondering if Mr. Blackmore was about to veto this decision, if he was about to tell me that he would see me in hell before he saw me in his house. "She did."
"Well," he said, sipping out of his beer again, "I guess I'll have to agree with her then."
It took me a moment for what he said to filter through, so much was I expecting the "see you in hell" speech. "You agree with her?" I finally asked.
"Young man," he told me, "you alone have caused more turmoil in my household than anything since Bob Simpson himself. I've fought with my wife, my daughter, sometimes both at the same time over the subject of you. That last thing I ever thought I'd do was invite you into my house. But I'm forced to admit that much of the turmoil and arguing that you've caused was because of the preconceived notions that Mary and I had about you. Notions that, like Mary pointed out, are apparently wrong. I'm not inviting you over because you saved my life, although I'm grateful for that. I'm inviting you over because I think I was wrong about you. You're not Bob Simpson. You're an offshoot of him, but you're not him. And I think that maybe you're starting to get out of that stage. My daughter adores you, Bill, absolutely adores you. But I also realize that maybe you feel the same way about her. That maybe you were telling me the complete and honest truth that day I came over to your house. If that is so, I apologize for not believing you and ask that you understand why I didn't."
"I do," I said. "I probably would've reacted the same in your shoes."
"I suppose you would have," he said. "I'm not sure I like you yet. I'm still holding judgment on that matter, but I'm going to give you a chance. Just like any father gives any suitor his daughter brings home."
"Thank you," I said.
"You asked me the other day if I wanted to live to see grandkids."
"Yes," I said.
"I do," he told me. "And I assume that you intend to provide those grandkids?"
I swallowed nervously again. "Yes," I finally said. "I do."
He nodded slowly, taking a long drink from his beer. "Be sure you treat my daughter right, Bill," he said. "She's the only one I got. I intend to live long enough to kick your ass if you ever hurt her. Do you understand?"
"I do. And you're gonna have to live a long time to see that, Mr. Blackmore."
We stared at each other for a moment. Finally his expression softened. "Who do you like?" he asked, jerking his head towards the television.
"Like?" I asked.
"In baseball?" he clarified, as if I was an idiot. "You're from Spokane so I assume you like the Mariners."
"Well to tell you the truth, Mr. Blackmore..."
"Jack," he said. "Call me Jack."
"Jack," I said, the name sounding strange on my lips. "To tell you the truth I'm not much of a baseball fan. In fact I don't really follow sports at all."
"You don't watch sports?" he asked, looking at me as if I was some sort of communist radical.
I shook my head. "No."
"If you're going to be dating my daughter, Bill, we're going to have to change that."
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