I think this is the most screen time Sam and Lucy have had together. The plot is on Wednesday, and the charity dinner is on Saturday, so we've got a few days to keep building complications until Saturday. And, today, we get to set Sam up again. I'm worried this is going to end up dragging out too long and that too much is happening here. I'm starting to feel like Sam sounds a bit too much like me in his pre-rambles, but then he gets a distinct voice shift after the first paragraph or so. I may need to tighten up my writing to give Sam a "Not Matt" voice.
I like those intro rambles, though. It helps establish our narrators and helps me recapture their voice before I dive in to the hard part. I also like seeing snippets of Lucy in Sam's story. When she speaks, she sounds like how Lucy should sound. This, I think, is a major accomplishment for me. She has a distinct voice, and when she tells Sam about how he's a lying liar from Liarsville, that sounds like what she'd say in her head. Which shows how comfortable she is with him. Anyway, fiction below the fold. You can find previous entries here. True story: I initially did not plan for the two of them to be so friendly and almost flirty, but it works, so it happened. Yes: Mentions of them being flirty earns this the ROMANCE tag, the most misused tag on this blog.
* * *
I never liked reporters, even in T.V. Well, except for April O’Neil. She set my pre-pubescent heart a flutter. She was probably the only woman who could wear yellow well. If I had to give a list of crushes in my life, it would go: Julie Andrews, April O’Neil, the Little Mermaid. Then, I suppose, real women. Wait, Julie Andrews is real. Realish. I never did really go in for the Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, Britney Spears generation. I think it was because I was a music snob; or at the time I was in my brunette phase.
This reporter from Frontiers wasn’t what I expected. She didn’t seem the outdoorsy sort: Heels, skirts and those knee-high boots that were in. No earth tones, all serious blacks. Or navy blues; I can’t tell the difference in the O.G.’s terrible lighting. She also didn’t seem like a reporter: She didn’t have one of those nifty hats. We shook hands and she introduced herself as Susan. The name April was better; it evoked spring and the Technodrome. Susan was a brunette though. I don’t think I ever outgrew that phase.
“Alright, I’m going to have a little recorder going, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” I said. “I’m just a little nervous. I didn’t think anyone would want to make a big deal out of me.”
“I’ll admit, this isn’t my usual beat, but Peter said we could take a local color angle to it,” Susan said. I asked her how she knew Peter, and she just sort of shrugged. “Rich people like him have interests everywhere. Peons like me don’t get to know what the big wigs are doing.”
“Alright, I’m ready when you are,” I tried to smile at Susan, but out of the corner of my eye I saw Lucy take her station at the greeting podium (there’s a real name for it, but that’s what I called it.) She gave me a side look and shook her head at me.
“Honesty will set you free,” She called. She gave a half wave to the reporter.
“She’s no one important,” I said. “Let’s get started.”
We walked through the night at the bowling alley. It was all dreadfully boring for me by now, but I tried to make it exciting. The reporter had nice enough eyes and no ring, and Kenny said never to waste an opportunity.
“So, tell me about Kenny. How long have you two known each other?”
“Feels like forever,” I said. “After all we’ve been through, he’s like family now.”
“What’s it like to work with him every day?”
“It’s not every day. I think I’d kill him if I had to work with him every day,” I said winking at her. “His dad says we fight like an old married couple.”
“Do you get along with his parents?”
“Yeah, they’re pretty cool people. They even let me stay with them for a little while. Kenny and I moved out for a bit, but you know, the economy.”
“Getting back to Peter Junior, where did you learn CPR?”
I heard Lucy’s foot tap. The truth was, I didn’t know CPR. I just got lucky. I was about to say that when I realized that, you know, doing CPR wrong is kind of, well, dangerous. I turned and saw Lucy glancing over at me, mouthing “Tell the truth.” I shook her attempts to distract away and went with Plan B.
“I learned it in the Boy Scouts.”
The tip of Susan’s pencil scratched furiously. “You were in the Boy Scouts?”
“And I was a weevil.”
“You know, like a junior Boy Scout,” I said. “Like a Brownie, but for boys. That is what a junior Girl Scout is called, right? I really don’t pay much attention to Girl Scouts, except for their cookies.”
“When were you a Boy Scout?”
“Oh, you know, when I was a kid. The early 90s, or so,” I said. I tried to do mental math, but then I decided to just be vague. Kenny’s rule for lying to a woman was that the more verifiable facts there are, the faster you get nailed. He would smack his hands together for emphasis.
“How did you handle being a Boy Scout? Was it hard?”
“Well, you know, I wasn’t the same as the other kids. I wasn’t very good at the outdoors stuff, and, well, I didn’t fit in for a lot of reasons,” I tried to fake a nervous laugh. Susan nodded, scribbling furiously. It was mainly that I had asthma as a kid, but I think I grew out of it. The last thing I wanted to do was admit to the outdoors reporter that I was a wimp who considered it a hike to get my mail in the morning.
“Do you think the Boy Scouts could use more people like you?”
“Of course! Just because some kid is a bit awkward and different doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have the same chances,” I said. In other words: Just because I can’t climb a tree doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t give me the same chance she would give to a park ranger. This is what Kenny called subtext, that is, holding two conversations at once. “Any kid that wants in should get a chance. Like elementary school kickball.”
I was very proud of that little analogy. I think Susan liked it too, because she smiled a genuine smile. With teeth and dimples and everything. I heard Lucy cough a little.
“Sam, can I talk to you? Real quick?” I knew Lucy well enough to know that real quick was never real quick. Except the one time I ran into her at the pool in a bikini. She insisted I put on pants and refused to even listen when I explained that I had lost a bet. She said that we wouldn’t be talking if I was not wearing pants. The next day when I saw her and she was being annoying, I threatened to take my pants off to shut her up.
We all had to attend sexual harassment training that weekend.
But, I also knew that she was having a rough time, so I let her pull me aside. I pretended to listen as she talked while trying to steal glances at Susan. Lucy kept following my eyes and shaking her head. “Listen to me! You can’t tell her all that stuff! She’s going to print it; everyone will think you’re an Eagle Scout. Do you want everyone to think that?”
“Are women attracted to Eagle Scouts?”
“Not ones that can’t tie ties,” She said. She followed my glance over to Susan who waved at us.
“I suppose Rusty can make a Windsor, a four-in-hand and a shell knot, right?”
“How do you know what they’re called but can’t tie them? And leave Rusty out of this!”
“Because I’m cultured Lulu,” We turned to look at Susan again, who was turning a pretty shade of red. “Cultured enough that even reporters find me irresistible.”
“Fine! But when she finds out you’re a lying liar of Liarsville, she’ll eat you for breakfast.”
I shrugged. “I wasn’t thinking she’d be staying for breakfast, but hey, if we hit it off that well, all the better.”
Lucy turned a brilliant shade of crimson. She crossed her little arms in defiance, turned on her heel and walked away. She turned and pointed one angry finger at me before taking her position again. Susan and her exchanged a glance, then they both looked at me. I came back and offered my hand to Susan.
“I’m sorry about that,” I said. “My friend is a little awkward.”
“Awkward in a cute way. You know her well?” Susan said as she clipped off her recorder.
“Better than she thinks,” I said. “She’s transparent. Look, before you go, I was wondering, could I get your number?”
“Did she put you up to this?” Susan turned and looked at Lucy, who was pointedly pretending that I didn’t exist.
“No, it was my idea,” I said.
“Well, who am I to say no to the hero of the hour?” Susan said.
Susan smiled and pulled a notebook from her briefcase. She scribbled out her number onto a piece of paper and ripped it free. She folded it neatly and handed it to me. I tucked it into my pocket; never in my life had I gotten a number so easily and smoothly. As Susan headed out the door she stopped to talk with Lucy. Then Susan waved to me, shook Lucy’s hand and walked out the door. I watched her walk out. She glanced through the window on the way to her car, but I don’t think I caught her eye.
This week was turning up Sam all over the place. I pulled out my phone and sent a quick text to Peter: “Didn’t say anything controversial.”