Two days after his release from the hospital, Howie found his first workout with weights being personally supervised by Dr. Torgeson. Despite Howie's protests, poundages were reduced and certain lifts were eliminated altogether. He was then allowed to run, not out in the prairie, but for only a half mile around the track built above the basketball court. At the end, Howie opined,
"Not exactly a big workout, but much better than nothing."
"You can do a mile tomorrow, two miles the next day, and then, in a week's time, you can go back outdoors. You can live with that, can't you, Howie?"
"I guess so. I do have some aggression to work off. I've found myself, now and again, hoping that the little bastard that got me with his pencil is going around with my pencil tip in him."
The doctor shook his head and replied,
"I guess there's no hope for you chaps who haven't had the benefit of a proper Christian education. If you ever come across him, send him to me. You won't object if I cure him will you?"
"I suppose not."
The doctor smiled and said,
"That's something, anyhow. In the remainder of your time here, we may be able to develop in you something like a sense of charity."
Late that afternoon, Howie set out for St. Monica's in the car he had just acquired from Chuck. It was a definite improvement on his old one, and he was also mindful of the fact that he and Amanda had made love in it. Only partly for that reason, he drove up to Barbara's dormitory with a flourish. She was out immediately, and quickly hopped into the car, kissing him rather casually. When he asked whether she would like to have dinner in Orrville, she replied,
"Let's go to the Bollinger House. It's not just that we can go to your place afterward. Funny old Bollinger doesn't make any pretensions, and I'm feeling pretty down-to-earth tonight."
When they arrived in Bollinger, Barbara asked Howie to wait at the hotel for her, explaining,
"I want to get a couple of things down the street, and I've just time before the stores close."
Howie watched her go, looking a little cold in just a skirt and a sweater over her blouse as she stepped along quickly.
The food at the Bollinger House, never very good, was a little worse than usual. They ate it anyway, and joked about the sort of chef it would take to produce it. Barbara then said,
"I remember something that I read somewhere. At the end of a dinner like this, the woman says to the man, 'Thank you for a delightful dinner. Rotten food, but a lovely dinner.' If I say that to you, will you be extra nice to me afterwards."
Just as Howie was assuring her that he would, Ken Seitz came in with his wife and three children. They stopped to speak, and were introduced to Barbara. Mrs. Seitz, a moderately attractive and noticeably good-humored woman, was inclined to chat until her youngest child, tugging at her skirt, tried to drag her off. As she gave way, she said,
"I guess we'd better feed them quickly before we disrupt the dining room."
A bit later, when Barbara went to the ladies' room, Ken came over and said,
"Howie, I'd heard about your girl friend, but I had no idea. Is she graduating and leaving this year?"
"Yes. We're actually engaged now, and we'll be at Harvard next year."
"Congratulations! Now I understand why you're leaving Bollinger."
Howie was quite affected. He had always regarded Seitz as representing the spirit of Bollinger, and, for that matter, the spirit of small-city America. Sturgis might be finer, but he wasn't nearly so typical. Seitz' considerable driving force was, for the most part, healthy, honest, and good- natured. Howie hardly wanted to be like him, but, as he thanked Seitz for his words, the pounding he received on the back made him feel at least eight feet tall.
When Barbara came back, she suddenly grabbed his left hand and shoved a ring on to his finger. It was only then that he noticed that she also had one. Before he could say anything at all, she said,
"They aren't really gold, I got them down the street for a dollar fifty each. But they're the sort of rings Bollinger couples ought to have."
"But I haven't gotten you an engagement ring."
"A detail. Let's go to your place and celebrate."
"Great! I even laid in some condoms."
"Do we need to bother with them?"
"How could we possibly manage with a baby?"
"We'll get a nice apartment near Harvard and hire a nanny while we're in class. Daddy will be happy to pay for everything, and Mother will visit often. She'll be awfully good with the children."
"They say it does feel better if you don't use condoms."