Chris came up the next Sunday morning, and, this time, he and his father, Duane, went row-sailing with Tim. Sharon had no idea what they talked about, but they all looked happy when they came back.
Sharon wasn’t surprised. For a start, Tim and Duane had philosophy in common. While Duane claimed only to be a ‘mediocre philosopher’, she suspected that he was over-modest. Chris obviously had a good relationship with his father, and that also included some philosophy. Apart from that, Chris seemed to share interests with virtually any intelligent person.
It was a day of light breezes, and she gathered that Chris and Duane had taken turns with one oar while Tim handled the other. In fact, Duane needed the exercise more than his son, and Sharon wondered if this might be the start of something.
There were also hints that the mother was inadequate in some unspecified way, and it seemed that Chris and his father were inclined to share as many activities as possible. It might even be part of a defensive alliance.
Soon after they sat down with sandwiches, Tim went off to watch the football game against Nevada in Las Vegas. He admitted, a little ruefully, “Since Coach Higgins and the higher ups haven’t been all that nice to us, I’ll kind of enjoy watching them get obliterated by the next worst team.”
Surprisingly, Chris, with no known interest in football, went with him. Evidently, any concern of Tim’s was a concern of Chris’.
Left with Duane, Sharon asked him if he was sore from rowing. “Not so far. I may be tomorrow, but it felt good.”
“Is this the first athletic thing you’ve done in a while?”
“Practically forever. I’ve really never had any interest in sports, either playing or watching.”
“Our little group is funny. Some of us really love activity for its own sake, and a couple of the girl friends have been sucked along three-quarter heartedly.”
“I like that concept. I might be four-fifths hearted at this point.”
“I’ve heard that all of you think it doesn’t matter who wins these games.”
“That’s our position. The funny thing is that Enoch and Tim, despite their rational stance, have an intense desire to win.”
“People are like that.”
“Enoch always wanted to get to the Super Bowl, but the teams he was on all messed up in one way or another. He won’t admit it, but he would have been delighted if this team, against all odds, had made it.”
“If he’d been handled in the right way, which, thank heavens, he wasn’t, he would’ve become a fine quarterback.”
“Does he still have a mixed attitude?”
“Not about playing. As a spectator, he hopes the team will do badly. In particular, he wants the punting to be disastrous. However, he wants the special teams to do well because he liked their coach.”
Duane was laughing, “I wonder if he’ll communicate all this to Chris.”
“You know, there have been times when I wondered if I was Chris’ only friend. At least Tim’s within ten years of his age.”
“Is he completely isolated at school.”
“Almost. But there are other smart kids in the school, and he does seem to talk with some of them. I allowed him to be double-promoted twice with the idea of getting him out of high school and into college as quickly as possible. So he’s a senior, still not quite sixteen, and he does have more in common with some of the older kids.”
Hearing someone coming up behind her, Sharon turned and saw Melissa. She again had no children with her, and, instead of her usual rather drab appearance, she was hardly recognizable in a pretty dress, fashionable sunglasses, high heels, and all the fixings. She spoke enthusiastically to Sharon, “My husband was being difficult, so I got dressed, saddled him with the children, and left.”
“Are you going back?”
Duane appeared to be quite stimulated by Melissa’s sudden appearance, and Sharon introduced her as the sportswriter who had been interviewing Enoch and Tim. She then explained to Melissa, “Tim and Chris, Duane’s son, are up at the other deli watching the game.”
“I didn’t travel with the team this time, but I’m supposed to watch the game so that I can write about it. I’m rebelling.”
“Will you write about it just the same?”
“Sure. I’ll get the reports and improve on them.”
Duane was amused at that, and said that he had done much the same thing in his own writings.
As Melissa spoke with Duane, Sharon sensed that something new was going on. Melissa sat more upright than usual, seemingly acutely conscious of her upper body and posture, almost as if she were showing off her modest breasts. She was also looking directly and continuously at Duane, and seemed hardly aware of Sharon’s presence. Duane obviously liked the attention, and could have had no idea that Melissa had presumably come in search of Tim. At any rate, she didn’t seem interested in finding Tim for the time being.
Tim had hinted that Melissa, despite her usual appearance, was highly sexed. It seemed to Sharon that that wasn’t the half of it. Duane wasn’t a glamorous man, and, not used to this sort of approach, he seemed to have lost his usual objectivity.
After things continued in that fashion for some time, Tim and Chris came back with satisfied looks. The Sailors had lost 28-0 to the other expansion team. Tim summed up, “They used a new quarterback, but they still didn’t come near to scoring. The punter, my replacement, got off a twenty yarder. On defense, they didn’t give up big plays, but got chewed up. Fortunately, the special teams didn’t give up much yardage.”
Melissa said, “The Sailors may not win another game all season.”
When Duane asked if that would be a record, she replied, “No, but it’ll be noticed.”
After Duane and Chris left, Melissa gave Tim a big inviting smile. They then went off to the boat with an excuse lame enough to make Sharon smile.
Since it was evening in Boston, Sharon called Doris. She had previously told Doris about Meredith, and, the moment Doris heard Sharon’s voice, she shouted, “I’ve just sprung her.”
Sharon, amazed, asked, “How did you do it so fast?”
“The psychiatrist in charge is an old boy friend of mine. He didn’t release Meredith just because of that, but the condition is that I come with her to San Diego and give her support. He knows me well enough to know that I’ll be able to do that.”
“Great! When are you arriving?”
“Whenever you want. Meredith will be staying with me in the meantime.”
“Can you come tomorrow?”
It sounded as if Doris was on her cell phone while driving, and Sharon heard a bus go by as she signed off. Sharon was tempted to go down to the boat, bang on it, and call in the news, but thought better of it.
There were the practical details. It wouldn’t be good to put Meredith back in the bunk she had shared with Jimmy in the big boat. But Tim’s little boat, once cleansed of Melissa, would be fine for Meredith and Doris. Doris liked little ethnic restaurants, as did Meredith. There were lots of those in San Diego.
When Melissa and Tim, having finished their activities, came up to the gate, Sharon looked closely at Melissa for signs of disarray or exhaustion. In fact, she looked just the same, ready to do the same things over again. After she left, Sharon gave Tim the news. He was surprised, and, she thought, a little ambivalent. He remarked, “I wonder what she’ll be like when she gets here.”
“Probably a little quiet and depressed. Aren’t disturbed people usually like that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Neither do I. Our father was obviously screwy, but, when he was quiet, he was also seething.”
Tim, shaking his head, replied, “I’m sure Meredith won’t be like that.”
“Hard to imagine. I won’t mention Jimmy at all.”
“I’m sure none of us will.”
The next day was a memorable one for Sharon. Chris called at lunchtime, apparently from a pay phone, and asked her to a high school dance. Momentarily set back on her heels, she knew she couldn’t refuse unconditionally. Then, too, she was just out of high school herself. She’d been with adults so much that she didn’t think of herself as a high schooler, but she shouldn’t be shocked. After all, Chris was a senior, only a year behind her. With only the slightest hesitation, she accepted, but then told Chris about the dance at Geary College, asking,
“Will this be like that?”
“I haven’t been to one, but there was a big stink last year. So, this year, they’re videotaping the dances with all kinds of threats for bad behavior. So it should be fairly civilized.”
“Okay. Can I bring the others as chaperones or something? I’m still not sure I can face a whole high school by myself.”
Chris, obviously delighted, said that he was pretty sure he could arrange it.
It had been decided that Sharon, alone, would meet the newcomers. She would then take them to the deli to join the others before installing them in Tim’s boat. She accordingly went to the airport early, parked, and stood at the place where passengers exited from the security area. Sharon always went early to meet visitors, and she enjoyed watching people as they exited from various flights. She was used to seeing what seemed like a whole load of people leaving, except for the one she was supposed to meet, and then having that person come up behind her and touch her elbow. This time, she was determined not to miss Meredith and Doris.
In fact, Meredith saw Sharon first, and began to run to her. However, before they could reach one another, a TSA man, in one of the fake pilot’s uniforms, intercepted Meredith, grabbing her arm. Short and a bit overweight, he had black hair reaching close to his eyebrows and a protruding lower lip that seemed designed to dangle a cigarette. Sharon always had trouble with that sort of man, and she pushed rapidly in his direction past the exiting passengers.
Of course, Meredith hadn’t tried to run to the gate area through security, and she was in the clearly marked exit lane. But the TSA people apparently didn’t want passengers to run anywhere within their visual fields. It was suspicious behavior and made TSA wonder what they might have done. Meredith, quite upset, was trying to explain as Doris and Sharon converged from opposite directions. Doris, in a calm but forceful voice, asked to speak to the supervisor as Sharon asked the man, in an equally calm voice, on what charge he was arresting her friend. He, a little confused, said she was running away from something.
Sharon quickly asked the man what he thought Meredith was running from, and, before he could answer, Doris asked him to state the maximum speed at which one was allowed to exit. When he bumbled a bit, she suggested helpfully, “Four miles an hour? Or do you not like to see anything faster than three?”
It was said in such a way as to cause the other passengers to laugh. The TSA man simply walked away. Meredith, a little shaken, said, “I thought they were going to lock me up again.”
Sharon replied, “Not with us around.”
Meredith looked a little better, and Doris explained, “Educated women can terminally confuse a man like that.”
Sharon had parked in a free parking area on the waterfront. She and Doris walked on each side of Meredith, carrying luggage. It was obvious that she was still quite fragile, but Sharon thought that she and her friends would be quite good at making her feel safe.
As they proceeded, Meredith seemed to cheer up, pointing out to Doris, who was new to San Diego, the various sights. Sharon explained about the things Tim could, and couldn’t, do with his broken leg, and Meredith murmured in understanding. As they were loading the car, Meredith said, “By the way, I’ve become a Zoroastrian.”
She pronounced the word in a funny way, running together the ‘Z’ and the first ‘r’ without the ‘o’. Sharon wasn’t sure what it all meant, but it sounded exciting.