Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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 Chapter 15


    It had been a long cold winter in Cambridge.  The snow got piled up along the curbs, and was blackened by the effluents from cars. Tim heard of a woman who called a city councilor to complain about the dirty snow, and got the response, “Sorry about that. I’ll be right down to wash it.”

Meredith, hearing the story, remarked, “Boston Irish politicians don’t take any shit from their constituents.”

Tim felt that he could live with dirty snow, but, in the occasional thaws, he disliked wading through the icy slush that came over the tops of his shoes. Once, when it happened, he and Howie whined loudly to one another in a mythical language they made up as they went along. In Harvard Square, people were used to all sorts of strange sounds.

     Weather apart, they went on much as before, more or less dreading the time when they would graduate. Jimmy and Meredith broke up, but came back together again. Their friends didn’t understand, but avoided being nosy. Sharon lived happily with Doris, who did most of the work involved in selling the Hastings family home. In the uncertain financial times, it was hard to know what to do with the money. After some discussion, it was tucked away in an index fund owned jointly by Tim and Sharon. The yield was modest, but, given their habits, their income exceeded their probable expenditures by a large margin.

     The football situation was irritating. Tim had been drafted by one of the two expansion teams, the San Diego Sailors. The fury in the city when the Chargers moved to Los Angeles was so great that the league had to create a replacement team to keep emotions and unfavorable publicity under some control. The other expansion team, in Las Vegas, was known, not as the ‘Gamblers’, but as the ‘Nevada Ranchers.’ The NFL could always be trusted to be bland.

     It wasn’t terribly surprising that an expansion team had drafted Tim. They were usually bad teams with little offense and a lot of three-and-out sequences. They would be doing a lot of punting, and, even though Tim hadn’t gone to the scouting combines, his agent had had him put on some demonstrations for scouts. Tim was gradually finding out that his agent had convinced the Sailors that he could also be developed into a quarterback. That would entail much more time, effort, and involvement than Tim wanted. His idea was just to punt for a year or two, thereby topping off the money they already had with an increased safety cushion.

     A favorable contract, carefully checked by a sports lawyer, was signed, but that wasn’t the end of it. The Sailors kept calling, wanting him to come to mini-camps and do all sorts of other things that weren’t in his contract. The coach had even called to say that he expected every player to ‘give a hundred and ten per cent all year around.’ After that, Tim had Howie answer the phone with a strange accent. If he didn’t recognize the voice of a friend, he would say that ‘Nawbawdy wid de nom off Astin liff heah.’

     That worked for a while, and Tim’s senior thesis went down rather well with the philosophy department. It looked as if he might turn out to be about a B plus professional philosopher. That was all right, but not really enough to tempt a man who wouldn’t have to work for a living. Besides, Tim didn’t see himself as enough of an exhibitionist to want to lecture to hundreds of students who would rather be elsewhere. It would be easier to punt.

     In the meantime, Sharon had been accepted for the Harvard freshman class, but was only moderately enthused, reacting, “I might do it for a year to keep the rest of you company. After that, who knows?”

Howie had replied,

“After next year, Jimmy is the only one of us who has a clue.”

     In the middle of May, the seniors tended to slow down. All but a handful knew that they were going to graduate, most knew what graduate schools they were going to attend, and most of the others had fairly definite plans. The last few grades weren’t going to matter much. Jimmy worked because he enjoyed it, and, anyway, he would hardly notice the transition to graduate school. He’d have to find a room somewhere, but he’d be doing the same work with the same people.

     Tim and Howie, with no transition in sight, were also studying full-bore, perhaps in denial of the fact that a very satisfying existence was going to end in a few weeks.  In the midst of a wave of optimism surrounding them, they alone feared for the future.

     Meredith and Audrey, as juniors, were trying to finish the year well, but were facing some questions. As Meredith said, “My grandmother told me that, when she was at about this point, she had to decide whether to marry or have a career. Nowadays, there are careers open to us besides nursing and teaching school, but it hasn’t otherwise changed all that much.”

There were some unanswered questions as to what Jimmy would be like when he ‘grew up’, and Meredith had to do some guessing. In Audrey’s case, it was clear that she and Howie would stay together and interlock careers, no matter what they might turn out to be. She continued to meet Tim at the French café, and, on this morning, Tim was there first. She turned up almost immediately in a frilly dress that looked like an oversized child’s garment. Explaining, she said, “It’s nice and cool, and allows lots of freedom of movement.”

Audrey had also taken to cutting her own curly blonde hair, but never seemed to get it quite even. In any case, there were lots of little ringlets that went rather well with the dress, but not so well with a face that could express, not only mirth, but tragedy. It was easy to remember that her heritage, as well as her major, was Russian. Tim smiled wordlessly at her as she sat down and said, “Graduation for you and Howie is coming up, and that means Howie’s parents.”

“I wasn’t going to go to graduation, but Howie has to because of his parents, so I’ll be keeping him company.”

“Have you met his parents?”

“Only briefly.”

“His father’s crude, and talks like a gangster, but he’s fun. His mother’s a real bore.”

“I’ve come across a few.”

“Harriet’s extreme. She’s a shopper, and she’ll tell you, at great length, where the best bargains in New York are to be found on any given day. She’s also rude to waitresses.”

“If you give a waitress a bad time, they’ll do very unpleasant things to your food in the kitchen.”

“I know. I’ve several times eaten very gingerly, trying to identify any foreign objects.”

“Piss, or even shit, is better than broken glass. I’ll be careful not to go to a restaurant with them.”

“When Harriet isn’t doing that, she’ll tell you all about her health problems.”

“Not so good.”

“Enough to drive anyone crazy, me in particular.”

“Howie’s never mentioned anything about that.”

“I think he hardly hears her. He couldn’t have survived otherwise.”

“He does sometimes mention his father favorably.”

“Yes. They have a good relation. The only trouble there is that, since Howie was drafted on the basis of those two plays, his father wants him to try out for the NFL.”

“Is that just a matter of money?”

“I think so. Besides, Sam was a professional boxer, and he discounts the possibility of injury in violent sports.”

“DeWayne used to say that your body is never the same after one game in the NFL, and Howie believed him. It’ll be okay.”

“I hope so.”

“And money isn’t really a problem. If things work out, we could form a company and all work in it. Then, the fact that Sharon and I would supply the start-up capital would hardly matter.”

“Well, it would. Everything to do with money matters. I’d feel that I’d have to work extra hard.”

“You and Meredith could make our operation glamorous and seductive. Wouldn’t that count as a kind of capital?”

Audrey replied, “Without whoring, I take it. Of course, doing the things ‘nice women’ do is quasi-whoring, but I don’t object to it. In fact, it can be fun in a good cause.”

“You know, we could let it seem as if we were a sort of singles club. That would attract people. I might end up with a girl friend, and we might seduce people into worth-while things.”

“You might, indeed, get a girl friend. And we could seduce them into sport. But philosophy and mathematics?”

“Could be a problem.”

“Besides, Meredith and I wouldn’t want to quasi-whore to the extent of making men think we’re available. And you certainly wouldn’t want to dangle Sharon.”


“You know, speaking of Sharon, there is a problem. She and Jimmy are a natural pair, more so than Jimmy and Meredith. Sharon’s his age, and she’s become much more mathematical than Meredith. Which might mean something to Jimmy. Besides which, Meredith and Jimmy have already had some problems and a ruption.”

“Yes. I see the point. But Sharon’s really just experimenting. With all kinds of things. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t experiment with Jimmy, even if he wanted to.”

“Well, people don’t set out to experiment. Things just happen.”

“Or don’t happen.”

Audrey, with one of her looks, replied, “Maybe I’m being pessimistic. However, these college groupings usually don’t hold together once people get out in the real world.”

“A lot of college couples do get married or stay together. I imagine you and Howie will.”

“Yes. Despite both our families, I think we will. It’s not just sex. We excite and interest each other in so many ways.”

“Since you were both pursued by so many admirers, it must have been a relief for both of you to find someone you didn’t have to fight off.”

“It was in a way. About the same time, Meredith and I became close friends. Even though she likes clothes and femmy things while I don’t, we still have a lot of common ground. We don’t want babies, aren’t obsessed with marriage, and do want to have some sort of unspecified alternative careers.”

“I think we all share that.”

“Except, possibly, Jimmy. His excitement will come from mathematics, and, the rest of the time, he may want some sort of highly conventional hearth and home.”

“It’s hard to figure out how Chinese he still is, how American he’s become, and what the effects might be. I’ve certainly never heard him speak of children.”

Audrey replied, “The English tradition is for scholars to be single, more or less monastic, and live in those colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. Sometimes buggering each other, sometimes not.”

“All of us, including Jimmy, are a long way from that.”

“The American tradition is for the scholar or scientist to have a family which provides comfort, but which makes very few demands.”

“So, what would Jimmy do?”

“I think he’ll have to be at a university as a professor. But he’ll still have time for fun and relaxation. He can vacation with us.”

“Our main idea is that most people take too many things too seriously. We want to be fun to be with, so that people will do the good and fun things we do. That should work as well on Jimmy as anyone else.”

Audrey adjusted her costume and said, “You know, there’s always room for buffoonery, as in the court jesters that kings used to have. Jimmy loves to play the fool and entertain people.”

“Despite all the brilliance, he’s still a kid.”

“Which Meredith isn’t. She’d never play the fool.”

“Anyhow, we could have Jimmy do ridiculous things in kayaks to amuse people.”

“One foot in the air, and flailing with the paddle as he tips over.”

“Yeah, that kind of thing. He could also call for help in Chinese.”

“A kayak jester. That may be a new concept, Tim.”

Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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