It seemed too good to be true.
Saturday's overheating had me sick all day Sunday. Normally I walk to the church down the street for their Sunday night services, but I didn't go. I went to bed very early.
Monday morning I got up and fell down. I got up again, and somehow made my way down the stairs, and called in sick to work. I went back to bed, and slept until well in the afternoon. I got up, gorged myself, drank some coffee, logged in to K5 and probably made really stupid remarks, watched some TV and went back to bed.
Tuesday I got up, still not feeling well, but had a mostly normal morning, aside from feeling that half my brain was missing and all of my joints and muscles were on fire. I think I had a slight fever.
I went to go to work, and just couldn't get off the porch. My muscles hurt too much. I went back upstairs and went back to bed.
I got up at two or so, and felt a little better. Daughter Patty was in the kitchen when I went down. What are you doing home? she demanded.
Well, I answered, seeing's how I slept all day what do you think?
She snarled and went back to the computer. Everybody's in such a bad mood, she snarled again. What's wrong with people?
Hmm, I answered, Is it that time of the month?
I need some money, she demanded. For female stuff.
She's just starting a job down at Rally's, and went to work at six. By then I was feeling pretty good. I watched the first fifteen minutes of a movie and shut off the TV, and remembering that beer was two bucks a pitcher at Duffy's, I walked down there.
By eight, pitcher drunk, I decided to walk up to Rally's and give Patty some company home. As I got there, she was coming out of the parking lot in a car with some young fellow. What are you doing? she demanded. I told her I came to walk her home. I'm a big girl, she said, glaring. Hey, she said, light bulb going off in one of those little cartoon thought balloons over her head... I could almost see the bulb. If we give you a ride to Dempsey's could I stay out until 10:30?
Why not? It's sure to be slow, being a Tuesday night, I'll talk with Mandy for a while. I was bored. They dropped me off, and as I walked across the railroad track I smelled burning hemp.
I went into Dempsey's, and Mandy was off. The kid with the backward hat was there behind the bar, with some new girl. The place was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday. I sat down at an empty seat, asked the new girl for a beer, and looked around the room at the sparse crowd. Mostly men, a few women scattered around. There was a blonde to my right, turned away from me, talking with a guy who looked to me to be around my age, face looking like it had been weathered by years of being soaked in rum. He looked happy, as if he had showed up at happy hour and kept setting the clock back. He and the woman with the beautiful long, hippie style blonde hair were waving unlit cigarettes around, as if they were doing some kind of animal mating ritual. The guy lit his smoke and laid the lighter on the bar in front of the girl. I pulled out my lighter and lit it.
She turned around, and she wasn't bad looking. No, not at all, way better than the rum bum sitting next to her deserved. She looked a well kept 40, thin frame hid in the back by that long, thick hair. Nice little bosoms. Not big, but well shaped. Her too-pointy nose somehow made her more attractive. I know you! she said, and picked up the lighter and lit her cigarette, and took a sip of her wine. Rum bum was frowning. He'd obviously been hitting on her.
I hope so, I said. Probably here, I come here a lot, but not usually on Tuesdays; I come for the music.
She had just come into town, she said. She was originally from Alton, had been in Springfield in the mid 90s before going out to Colorado.
She was hitting on me! Wow! I loved this. Meanwhile, when happy guy went to the john, I discovered that his name was John, he was a drunk, and Heather, my new friend, hated drunks. She had been a bartender at one time.
John came back, and Heather asked me if there was any old blues on the jukebox. I walked to the jukebox with her, and we picked out some songs. She was 32, and couldn't believe I was 50. The mirror says I'm 10 years younger than John, who was 40 but looked 55.
As Heather told me her life story, at least her life after adulthood, I could see why she looked more like 40 than 30. She had been a needle coke junkie, and had given it up about four years earlier.
She didn't seem like a coke addict. Coke addicts are assholes. She was nice. For some reason, every time she touched my arm I would start to get an erection.
She was a glass blower, with a masters degree. In what, she didn't say. I really liked this woman.
John staggered back and started hitting on some twenty somethings at the table closest, sitting down between two of them.
I talked with Heather, having a hell of a good time, and there was a loud thump. John was on his back, still in the chair which was on its back. Heather, I, and a young lady at the table helped the drunken sod up. The young girl was a Dempsey's regular.
John staggered off and disappeared. Heather and I sat back down at the bar talking. I felt like I had known her for years - there seemed to be some magic, some chemistry. She handed me a cigarette and I lit it, and handed it to her. She lit another with it and handed it back. I took a puff, and told her I had quit three years ago.
You quit smoking?
I quit tobacco, and took another puff. And laid it back on the ashtray. She started talking about what she blew - glass smoking pipes. She had been shipping them to Penny Lane from Colorado, and when Penny Lane got busted in Ashcroft's paraphernalia bust a month or so ago, that's when she decided to come back to Illinois. Hmmm.
She excused herself to use the rest room. I stood up, doing my best imitation of a gentleman. The young regular who I had helped get John off the floor walked up, and she started hitting on me! Holy shit, that was a magic comb! This young lady, Ann, was only 22, and cute as a button. I told her my daughter forbade me from dating anyone under 30, and she grinned slyly.
We were talking, and Heather walked back. Hey, slut, leave him alone!
Ann's jaw dropped; I started wondering what kind of psycho I had gotten mixed up with, when Heather started laughing and put her hand on Ann's shoulder. Ann started laughing too.
My first beer empty, I figured it was time I visited the small room. I passed a fellow I'd met a few weeks earlier, a musician. He smelled like burning hemp.
When I got back, Ann and Heather were standing there talking about breasts. They looked like sisters, one older and one younger - or mother and daughter. They were bemoaning the sizes of their own, and speculating whether the new bartender's were real.
I told them their tits were fine, tits are for babies anyway.
I sat back down with Heather - God, I liked this woman! We talked as I finished the second beer.
I had to work the next day; no longer sick, I couldn't call in hung over. Especially after being out the two previous days. It was 10:00, and I was supposed to call Patty so she and her friend could give me a ride home.
I grabbed a matchbook and wrote my phone number, cell number, and email address down. She grabbed another and wrote her number and made me promise to call her, and we traded matches. She said something about the number and repeated it, in case I couldn't read it. I went and called Patty, who had my cell, from the bar's phone.
Heather started getting self-conscious, she thought her nose was too pointy. I grinned, touched her nose, and told her I thought it was a cute nose. She gave me a hug and a kiss, and walked off. I walked toward the door, at least an inch or two above the floor, as Patty was walking in.
You sure look happy, she said. I told her I'd met someone, and told her about Heather. How old is this woman? she demanded. I replied Within your speci-fications, she's 32. I told her we had exchanged numbers, that I was supposed to call her after 2:00 the next day, etc.
I got in the back of her friend s car. As we crossed the tracks, I smelled hemp again. I've been smelling pot all night, I said. Patty frowned. She doesn't like anything that people smoke, and she doesn't like people when they're high.
You smoke pot? her friend asked. I told him it had been quite some time since I'd gotten high. How long? he asked. I don't know, maybe a month or two. I can't afford the stuff, I told him. He said, If I brought some by your house would you get high with me?
I asked him how old he was, knowing some of Patty's friends were older than others. She's said that some of her friends went to Dempsey's sometimes. He said he was 21. Well, OK. Sure, I'll drink a beer with you.
Patty and I got out at home, and she was livid. Here she was trying to get the friends she had that got high to stop, and here I was encouraging it!
Wednesday I couldn't keep my mind on my job. My mind kept wandering back to Heather, the fat book in the library open but little looked at. I had to force myself to work. Would 2:00 never arrive so I could call her? I had the matches in my pocket.
At two, I walked down to Bread Stretchers for a cup of coffee, and sat down with my reading glasses, matches, and phone, and the last digit was messed up, but looked like a 5.
It was a wrong number. Nobody named Heather there.
I dialed it again, and dialed 6. The number you have called... and something about the number's being checked, or tested, or something.
Same thing all day long. She could call me; I had given her both my landline number, cell number, and full name, and told her where I lived. But no call.
I got home in a funk, and Patty had been busy - the kitchen had been cleaned up, living room straightened. I turned on the air conditioner and took a shower.
Her friend showed up, as promised. Patty had work at 6:00. I got out two beers. So, he said, you still want to get high? Sure. I got out some papers, and a pipe was produced. Patty went to work, making us promise she'd be gone before anything was set on fire.
I got wasted. Zombiefied. He was pretty loaded, too, and was in awe of the number of MP3s on my computer.
He pulls out a teeny, tiny little bag of white something. Meth. Talk with him, I can see he's got a problem. It's not a trivial problem, and if he doesn't solve it now it will be a life-altering problem.
I'm thinking, damn, I'm all loaded, I want to go back to Dempsey's and look for women. In the corner of my mind I'm thinking Heather, but somehow have the idea that she's vanished for good. I'd seen Ann at Dempsey's before, but never Heather. I'm thinking, the last digit was ruined on purpose. She doesn't want me.
I moved the two man pot party out of the kitchen and into the living room, and put on Fritz the Cat. It was storming outside.
Movie over, and he says wow, that was the strangest flick I've ever seen. I grin and say, Fucking nasty weather. I'd walk down to Dempseys but it's raining its ass of out there.
He offers to give me a ride to Dempsey's, and does so. But, he doesn't want to go inside - he's only 17.
Fucking shit. I'm going to start demanding ID from Patty's friends.
Dempsey's is full of men. I drink a beer, and walk on back home.
Patty is on the computer. I tell her she needs to help her friend, that he has a serious problem. She says she doesn't see him very often.
I slept without the hassle of those damned Paxil dreams waking me up every hour or two. But I spent today thinking about Heather.