Monday, July 29, 2013

Sam Gets a Table

Funny thing from Althouse. This is a long-ish section. Table of contents here.

* * *

I tried to find Lucy, but she was surprisingly quick for a woman in heels. Actually, all women were fast in heels. I remember trying to walk in cleats on carpet or tile, and that was a pain. I knew guys in high school who were convinced that men were inherently better athletes, but I don’t know. There’s a certain amount of physical prowess that comes with being able to hop around on heels.

My argument fell apart when the guys asked me to prove it, and I foolishly obliged. Thank God there was no My Space or Facebook in those days. And that I burned the negatives. I did find Peter with his wife and Mr. Dawes. I tried to weasel away before they saw me, but I had no luck.

“Peter, isn’t this one of the men who you’ve been helping?”

“Oh, yes, honey. Sam, this is my wife, Chelsea.”

I said hello, and shook her hand. She was pleasant, I don’t see how Peter could do what he was doing. I mean, sure she was looking like a woman in her mid- to late 30s and Christine was, well, not. So, I guess I could see how Peter would do it. I just don’t know why.

“I was looking for someone though, so I need to get going.”

“Sam, there you are,” said a voice from behind me. I froze a little as Susan’s hand tapped my shoulder. Mr. Dawes raised an eyebrow, and Peter smiled.

“Mr. Dawes, this is Ms. Berryman, the journalist I told you about,” Peter said. Mr. Dawes gave her a not even half disguised once-over.

“Pleasure to meet you.”

“Kenny was asking me if I knew where to find any hamsters, so I decided to come find you instead,” Susan said.

“I’m not going to turn down your company,” I said. “Mr. Dawes, we’ll have the paperwork to you first thing in the morning. Excuse us—”

A voice came over the intercom asking everyone to find a seat. I was about to make an excuse, when Mr. Dawes shook his head. “No, no. Come on, join us for dinner.”

“I really should get back to Kenny.”

“He can go one hour without you,” Chelsea said. “Peter has told me so much about you; I’d like to get to know you better.”

Peter looked at me, and I couldn’t tell whether he wanted me to go or stay. Then I figured that no matter what he wanted, his life would be more inconvenient if I stayed. So I smiled at Susan and pulled out a chair for her.

“Well, have a seat, Susan,” I said. Peter took a seat at the table. With us were a two couples I didn’t recognize, probably bank people. They talked in that airy, flighty way of people who find themselves uncomfortably seated together. There wasn’t dislike in their voices. I don’t know how to describe it except when teams were decided alphabetically in school, and your last name always meant you got paired with the awkward girl who had cat earrings and only wanted to talk about Missy.

“So, what do you do when you’re not saving little boys and crusading for the rights of the oppressed,” Chelsea asked me. I looked at Susan, who smiled at me. It was an impish sort of smile; the kind Kenny always had right before the jaws of some crazy plan of his snapped shut.

“Oh, look for work, cruise the Internet. The usual.”

“Aren’t you working at the bowling alley?” Mr. Dawes asked.

“Well, yes. But you know, always need to keep your options open,” I said, unconsciously stealing a glance at Susan. It may not have been as subtle or unconscious as I think it was. “That’s how you work with finances, isn’t it Peter?”

“I wouldn’t phrase it like that—”

“Not getting too tied down with your assets all in one place is good financial advice,” Mr. Dawes said.

“In case something new and better comes along,” I said. “After all, it isn’t like stocks and bonds have feelings, right?”

I felt like James Bond politely discussing how Moriarty had killed a British spy the other day, and I would get revenge. Ok, I know Moriarty isn’t a Bond villain, but, for the life of me, the only Bond villains I can remember the names of are Jaws, Oddjob and Scaramanga. Oh, wait. There’s Goldfinger. Let’s go with Goldfinger.

“So, you’re not so confident in this bowling craze?” Susan asked.

“You know, I like bowling alright. Kenny? Kenny’s a fanatic about bowling,” I said. “I guess you could say he’s practically married to it.”

Tonight was not a night for subtlety. The drinks arrived, and I raised a glass to Peter. Check, my friend. I think he was grinding his teeth. Susan struck up a side discussion with one of the other couples about the death of journalism. Chelsea was drinking coffee, and Mr. Dawes was looking down at his tablet. Old people with technology are funny to me, I don’t know why.

Peter looked like he was about to say something, when Chelsea snapped her fingers. “I knew you looked familiar, Sam. Aren’t you on TV?”

“It was a one-time thing, a favor for a friend.”

“That’s Sam, for you,” Peter said. “Always willing to help out a friend.”

“The stories I could tell.”

“Maybe you should tell me them someday, Sam,” Susan said. I couldn’t help but smile at her. I tried to remember if Kenny or I had mentioned anything about our plans for tonight, but I was surprised at how easy she had warmed up to me.

“Some other time,” Peter cut in. “Eric, didn’t you get a new motorcycle?”

And with that, Peter effortlessly changed the topic to motorcycles and the dangerous things men did on them. But, the night was young.

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