The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 65

A Phone Call

Before the end of the week Sam hired Gordon Winslow. He was a University of Maine graduate with a year’s experience in the newsroom of a Boston radio station. He was a burly bristle haired man in his early twenties with a perpetual five o’clock shadow.
It was early October. Leaves were at their absolute peak in vibrancy. The reflection of red leaves on the bay shore made it seem ablaze. There is a certain convivial feeling about the northeast in the fall. It is as if the region was made for those few brief weeks when all seems aglow. It was the type of days that Rich lived for. He felt alive and full. The air was crisp and invigorating.
It was during that time Rich found it impossible to drive out to Dennis’s and Peggy’s. He really was busy, however, he had been busier and found the time to drop by in the past. Even though the plan was to gradually withdraw from Dennis and Peggy, it was impossible for him to do so. Their company and friendship was addictive.
It was stubbornness and personal pride that kept him from driving to their home. He thought if the meeting appeared chance or by accident his personal principles could be salvaged. Rich looked for them at their favorite haunts in Rockland, hoping to see them by accident, but they were nowhere to be found. They would be easy to spot. The summer was over, the tourists had gone, and everything seemed abandoned. A few places had even closed for the season.
Rich finished work at six by placing a small stack of copy on Rudy’s front desk. He paper-clipped a note to it. How does this look, Mr. Kent. I sure hope it’s swell - J. Olsen.
Rich drove to a restaurant just outside town on the way to Port Clyde. Dennis and Peggy occasionally ate there.
He walked inside and said to the waitress, “Have Dennis and Peggy been in lately?”
“I haven’t seen them in several weeks. Come to think of it, it was August for sure. They came in here with an older couple. I thought at first it might have been one of their parents, but they left and Dennis rushed back in to give me a tip. He said they were art patrons and thought that tipping was vulgar and that was the last I saw of them.”
Rich had an impulse to leave and take the thirty minute drive to their place, but he stayed. “Can you get me a Pepsi, fries, and a burger and wrap up a coconut cream pie to go.”
It started to rain while Rich ate. He ran outside and put the canvass top on the jeep. His heart leaped. He saw Dennis’s and Peggy’s car drive by. He waved. Peggy was the only one in the car and she didn’t notice Rich.
Rich went back in and the waitress said, “You won’t be takin’ that canvass off again till June.”
“This will by my second winter,” Rich said.
“Braggin’ or complainin’,” she said.
“I wouldn’t trade this place or you for Florida and all its pretty waitresses,” Rich said.
“You’re still payin’,” she said. “Fresh.”
“I’ll even leave a vulgar tip,” Rich said.
Rich drove back to the apartment, slid the pie into the refrigerator, and turned the valve to the radiator on. He sat in his chair and reminisced how the apartment appeared a year ago. He now had a stereo record player with a small album collection. There was a book shelf partially filled. He stood and looked out at the harbor and the refection of the lights off the water.
Rich thought, “A little more than a year ago I was peddling my way across Pennsylvania. I have come a long way. I don’t think I can ever return.”
He turned and stared at the phone on the nightstand. He thought about his old friend, Don. Rich pulled a tablet from the book shelf and found Don’s number and called long distance. “If anybody except Don answers I’ll hang up,” he thought.
The phone picked up on the second ring, “Hello.”
It was Don.
“Don, this is Rich.”
“Are you home?” Don asked.
“No,” Rich said.
“Where are you?”
“I can’t tell you, but I just wanted to let you know I’m fine,” Rich said.
“Everybody thinks you’re in Chicago or California.” Don said.
“Keep this call between the two of us, but if you should feel as though you can’t, tell Mom and Dad I’m fine and healthy. I got a job and an apartment.” Rich said. “Tell them that if I talk to them it would be just too hard on both of us.”
“Don’t worry,” Don said. “I can keep it quiet. And by the way, thanks for the twenty.”
“I didn’t want you to think the reason why I skipped town was because I owed you money,” Rich said.
“I was talkin’ to Ole man Kratzer a few days ago and he said ya joined the Navy - you wanted to be like him,” Don said.
Rich laughed. “If I wanted to be like him I’d have to forget everything I know and drag my knuckles on the ground.”
“You haven’t lost you sense of humor,” Don said.
“How’s Mom and Dad doing?” Rich said.
“Your Dad doesn’t drink anymore, but he doesn’t drink any less either,” Don said. “Your Mom missed some work at first, but I hear she’s going to get a realtor’s license.”
“It’s good to hear they’re doing good,” Rich said. “If I talk any longer you’ll have me spillin’ my guts. Seriously, my life is good. I’ll call again and maybe someday we can get together. I‘d like for you to visit me some day.”
“Let me know the time and place,” Don said.
“Oh I almost forgot, if you do talk to Mom and Dad about me tell them I have a son - just kidding, not true, but I had ya. Take care. Good bye,” Rich said.
“Good bye,” Don said laughing.

Rich placed the phone slowly on the receiver and smiled contentedly. He spent the evening like many of his other evenings. He brewed a cup of tea and ate his pie. He selected some albums to listen to and read.