Bill Todd -- BOLLINGER: A Novel of the Prairie
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 Chapter 13

Another Game

Having escaped Orrville more or less intact, Howie turned his mind to the problems of arrival in Bollinger. There, where he was known, the same tactics couldn't be used. The correct strategy, he decided, was to drive to the house of a friend, blow his horn until he came out, and then get assistance. He thought first of Sam Herz, but Sam and his wife had three children, the oldest a girl about thirteen. If he blew his horn in front of their house, she might well be the one to come out. Even if it were Mrs. Herz, he would feel distinctly uncomfortable.

The obvious place was the Wintons' home. They had no children, were more isolated, and even had a driveway. He could also have Chuck check him to see if his assailants had damaged anything. Neither would his arrival there compromise Amanda in any way. Even if Chuck knew she had been in Orrville, it would be obvious that Howie had been otherwise occupied. On the other hand, what on earth would she think? That, too, couldn't be helped.

It was just about dark when Howie arrived, pulling into the driveway and stopping behind the Wintons' car. He blew his horn lightly three times, in the way that most residents of Bollinger would when arriving to pick someone up. If that didn't work, he was prepared to lean on the horn. As it happened, Chuck immediately poked his head out of the door. Howie beckoned to him to come, and, when he drew near, Howie said,

"I've been mugged, and they took my clothes."

Chuck, looking alarmed, asked,

"Are you all right?"

"I think so, but you might check. If you can get me some trousers ... "

When Chuck opened the car door and saw Howie, he laughed despite himself. He then said,

"Come on in as you are. It's dark and there's no one to see."

Howie got furtively out of the car, saying,

"Aren't you going to warn your wife?"

Chuck laughed again,

"I dare say she's seen a number of men with less on than you have. Anyway, a surprise won't do her any harm."

When Howie followed Chuck into the living room, Amanda looked as if she had seen a ghost. Howie quickly said,

"I'm sorry to appear this way, Mrs. Winton. I was attacked over in Orrville, and they took my clothes."

She made appropriate noises of sympathy while Chuck had Howie lie down on the couch and examined his injuries. Amanda said,

"I was shopping in Orrville myself today, but I didn't see any disturbances."

"I decided to go to the football game today and got a little carried away."

Except for giving the impression that he had arrived at the beginning of the game, Howie told the story as it had happened. There was a curious look on Amanda's face when he described his goings on with Danny. Chuck enjoyed it immensely. He summed up,

"That was quite an adventure, and you don't seem to have any serious damage. The knee was probably hyper-extended, but, if you don't have any pain tonight, I imagaine you can play in our game tomorrow."

"Well, maybe."

"Still, all in all I'm amazed. You're always telling me how hopeless you are around girls, but here you had a football player's girl friend half undressed in a public place."

"I never could have done it sober. Or if she hadn't been at least as drunk as I was."

Chuck replied,

"It's lucky that they didn't do worse than that to you."

"She was pretty much arrayed by the time they came along. I think Danny's room-mate must have sent them looking for us."

Amanda asked,

"Are you going to see her again?"

"Well, I'd sort of like to, but there are obviously risks, and, anyway, there's the girl Chuck found for me at St. Monica's."

Amanda spoke archly,

"I think you need more than one girl friend, Mr. Slattery. What did Danny say when you last saw her?"

"She went for my assailants like a tigress, and was trying to bring me aid and comfort when her boy friend dragged her away. But she didn't have a chance to say much."

Amanda nodded.

"She'd probably be happy to go out with you."

"I don't even know her last name."

"That's easy. It's a small college. There must be only a few hundred girls, and that's an unusual first name. I'll get her last name for you."

Before Howie could say anything, Amanda went to the telephone. She then looked up a number and rang it. Howie could hear only her end of the conversation.

"I'd like the women's dormitory, please."

"I see. I'm not sure which, but I'll try the largest one first......Thayer Hall. Thank you."

There was then a brief interlude before Amanda spoke again.

"Hello, I'd like to speak with Danny, please...... Yes, Danny Richards......Oh yes, he's one of the football players, isn't he?.....Yes, very good looking......Oh, just tell her Amanda called. Thank you."

Amanda hung up and said to Howie,

"There you are. Danny Richards, Thayer Hall. A pretty name for a pretty girl. Probably short for Danielle. Was she there when they took your pants?"

"No. She may have heard about it by now. Will that win me further sympathy?"

Amanda looked pensive.

"I don't know. It depends on the girl, I guess."

Chuck asked,

"How would you feel if you were Danny, Amanda?"

"Well, of course, I don't allow gentlemen who have been drinking to disrobe me behind bushes, so that's rather a big 'if.' On the other hand, if I knew that my admirer had been forced to flee without his trousers, I think I'd be impressed if he were willing to come back. It would be a sign of spunk, I should think."

Howie was now outfitted with a shirt, pants, and shoes. All were a bit large. Amanda commented,

"I'm afraid that the clothes Chuck found you don't help much, Mr. Slattery. Before, you looked like a gentleman in some distress. Now you look as if you'd been outfitted by a Salvation Army officer with a sense of the absurd. You may not have an easy time finding another young lady tonight."

Chuck then intervened,

"As Howie's medical advisor, I urge him to forego further adventures tonight. We've got some extra food, haven't we, Amanda?"

"Certainly. He must be hungry after all this activity."

The dinner consisted mainly of spaghetti and meatballs. It was quite good, and, as they were having coffee, Chuck remarked,

"I saw Barbara Bowen yesterday, and she said you have a date for next weekend."

Amanda asked Chuck,

"Is she the girl you told me about?"

"Yes. Sister Rose is really a remarkable woman. I can't imagine any other headmistress, much less a Catholic one, who'd promote a student to take the place of a teacher who's quit."

Howie replied,

"I've talked to Barbara on the phone several times, and she says she's enjoying teaching."

"I'm sure she's good at it. The really amusing thing is that she's also the nurse. The first time she assisted me, I took Mrs. Badgett out there to show her what to do. We also gave her a quick course in first aid. We covered everything from heart attacks to choking on food. Barbara's awfully quick."

Amanda asked,

"The girls aren't likely to have heart attacks are they?"

"No, but some of those older nuns might. It'd be a good while before I could get out there, or before they could get to the hospital. Barbara will be on her own if anything like that happens, any emergency, really."

"Shouldn't they have a proper nurse?"

"Sure, but RNs are expensive, and are in short supply. You'd be surprised how many women in white uniforms don't know any more than Barbara. Probably less."

Howie replied,

"She certainly sounds interesting. I can hardly wait to meet her."

Amanda exclaimed,

"Why Mr. Slattery, how fickle of you! Are you forgetting Danny already?"

Chuck said,

"I bet Barbara's better looking."

His wife replied,

"But she may be much more difficult to lead into the bushes. One has to be practical in these matters."

As the evening went on, there were many friendly arguments between Chuck and Amanda concerning literature, public affairs, and the state of life in Bollinger. Howie noticed that Amanda won every argument. Chuck, on the other hand, had a way of putting the focus of attention on her, more particularly, on her sexuality. He didn't make any remarks that were obscene or vulgar, but he loved to tease her in a rather provocative way. She would invariably turn the tables on him, but would flush prettily while doing so.

Amanda continued to address Howie formally, but with all sorts of undertones. When he left, he was aware of being deeply involved in a game the Wintons played primarily with each other, but one that also required a third player.

Bill Todd -- BOLLINGER: A Novel of the Prairie
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