Missoula by Steven Ford - HTML preview
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Chapter 9 Audrey
Rich Runyon’s luck was indeed extraordinary. Not only did he avoid being collared by the police in the aftermath of the Battle of Knowles Hall, he survived the Great Window Implosion of 1974 without so much as a scratch. Paul and Jeff found him at his usual table in the cafeteria the next morning, making quick work of a stack of buttermilk pancakes.
“I churned up the snow like you wouldn’t believe,” he said as he described his escape. “I was like a cartoon character, you know how their legs spin madly, but they don’t get anywhere?”
Paul and Jeff nodded.
“I think my feet were throwing up rooster tails of snow—that’s how fast I was scrambling. It was total panic. I just screamed across the Oval and ducked into the University Center. God, if I hadn’t froze to death, I believe I would have had a heart attack. I shot a few games of pool with a couple of Indian students. That kept me out of harms way for about two hours.”
“Grindel and the other resident advisors put up a big sheet of plywood,” Jeff said. “Police were there until after midnight.”
Rich shrugged and stuffed a forkful of pancakes into his mouth. “It was an accident. You and Scott saw it.”
“Maybe you should just fess up, then,” Jeff replied.
Rich held his fork in mid-air and glared. “Are you out of your fucking mind?”
“Good god, Jeff,” Paul said with a laugh. “They’d expel Rich in a heartbeat. What are you thinking? Besides, what’s one window?”
“Several hundred dollars, maybe more,” Jeff said.
“Shit,” Rich grumbled. “I’ll write them a check next chance I get.”
Rich and Paul laughed, but Jeff remained silent. “Let’s change the subject,” Rich said.
“Good idea,” Jeff muttered.
“Lighten up, Jeff. I have great news for you,” Rich grinned. “You can have Audrey.”
“You can have her. She’s gone around the bend. Too crazy and clingy for me.” Rich wiggled his fingers in the air.
“I didn’t know she was yours to give,” Jeff replied.
“Oh, Jeff,” Rich chuckled, “you know exactly what I mean. There comes a point in every relationship where the woman goes insane. That’s the time to move on. Audrey has clearly arrived at that point.”
“Rich’s telling you the truth,” Paul interrupted. “One day it’s all fun and the next day they’re shrieking and flapping their wings like huge crows. Criticism. Demands. All that bullshit. I saw it coming with Leigh and cut her off at the pass.”
“I see,” Jeff replied.
“Well, you won’t see her around my room anymore,” Rich announced as he drained a glass of orange juice. “Life is heavy enough as it is. There is always something just under the surface, ready to drag you down. The only solution is to walk on water, my friend. That’s what I’m doing.”
Paul nodded slowly, as if receiving sage wisdom. Jeff just stared.
“And leaving you with that little nugget, I must run,” Rich said as he hopped to his feet. “By the way, Jeff, I still have plenty of that Acapulco Gold.”
Jeff smiled weakly. “Maybe this weekend.”
“Suit yourself,” Rich replied with a wave. He swept up his books and disappeared into the crowd.
“Better find Audrey and strike while the iron is hot,” Paul said as he buttered a piece of toast.
“Or what, Paul? Another man ‘gets’ her? You make Audrey sound like a piece of merchandise that has just gone on sale.”
“Whatever,” he replied as he glanced at his watch. “Time is short. I need to concentrate on knocking off breakfast.”
They both returned to their plates and finished their meals in silence.
Two weeks passed and Jeff still hadn’t gathered enough courage to make the journey to Knowles Hall and knock on Audrey’s door. It was Valentine’s Day, oddly enough, when he saw Leigh in the first-floor hallway of the liberal arts building between classes. He took a deep breath and tapped her on the shoulder.
Leigh turned and frowned. “Hello Jeff.”
“Haven’t seen you in a long time,” Jeff said with a smile.
“Yeah, well, you know how it goes.”
He did, at least as far as she was concerned, but wasn’t really eager to
discuss it. “How’s Audrey?”
Leigh shrugged. “Hanging in there, I guess. No thanks to Rich.” Jeff sighed. “Um…look, Leigh, just because I associate with those guys,
Her face softened slightly. “Yes, but you really do a piss poor job of picking your friends.”
The bell clanged just above their heads.
“I have to get to my next class, Jeff.”
“Leigh,” Jeff said as he touched her arm, “I’m really sorry, for all the good it does.”
“Do you think there is there any chance Audrey and I could…get together sometime?”
Leigh smiled at last. “You should just ask her, but I think I know where you’re coming from. Let me talk to her.”
“Just a cheeseburger in the UC. That’s all.”
That afternoon Jeff’s telephone rang while he was queuing up another album for KRAP.
“Jeff? It’s Audrey.”
“Hi!” replied, groping for just the right warm, but casual, tone of voice. “I guess you spoke to Leigh.”
“Yes. She said you wanted to take me out on a date?”
“Well,” Jeff chuckled, “I just thought we’d meet at the UC for a burger, or something.”
There was a long pause, and Jeff thought he heard a sigh. “Sure, Jeff. When?”
“Tonight? How about 6 o’clock?”
Another long pause. “Okay. I’ll meet you in the UC.”
“Great!” He hopped Audrey could hear the smile in his voice. “I’ll see you then.”
Jeff hung up the telephone and snapped his fingers. “Yes!”
He spent the next two hours rehearsing what he was going to say. Jeff planned to apologize for Rich’s boorishness, swear that at least he wasn’t a cretin, demonstrate his kindness and overall trustworthiness—and not bring up politics.
At fifteen minutes to the fateful hour, Jeff brushed out his hair as best he could. He considered tying it back into a ponytail, but then decided against it. He popped a stick of spearmint gum into his mouth, signed KRAP off the airwaves and began his pilgrimage to the University Center.
Audrey was waiting at the entrance to the second-floor restaurant, dressed in faded jeans and a bulky University of Montana sweatshirt under a light parka. Her platinum-blonde hair was flowing over her shoulders like water cascading over a fall. Jeff caught her attention with a wave; Audrey smiled.
“Hungry?” he asked.
“A little,” she replied as they took their places in line.
“I missed seeing you. It has been a long time.”
“I guess I don’t get over to Duniway all that much these days. Do you still have your little radio station?”
“KRAP, yes. Do you listen?”
“Well, you’re probably not missing anything,” Jeff laughed.
They chose a small table away from the other students. Jeff began eagerly tearing into his cheeseburger, but then noticed that Audrey had barely touched hers.
“I guess you really were only a ‘little’ hungry,” he said.
“C’est vrai,” Audrey replied with only the hint of a smile.
Jeff put his sandwich on his plate and gazed at Audrey, adoring how she seemed to glow in the pool of light cast by the ceiling lamps. He resisted the urge to take her hand.
“Is everything okay, Audrey?”
“Why do you ask? Do I look ‘not okay’?”
“I know that you and Rich--”
Audrey silenced him with a sudden wave of her hand. “Jeff, I don’t…”
She quickly blushed and covered her eyes. Through her fingers, Jeff saw a glint of tears.
“I don’t want to talk about Rich,” she choked as she shook her head, her hand never leaving her eyes.
“He can be a complete jerk, I know. Do you want me to speak with him? Maybe--”
“No!” she snapped.
“Okay,” Jeff said with growing alarm. “I’m confused now. I think this goes a lot deeper than being pissed over a breakup, doesn’t it?”
Audrey lowered her hand and tears trickled down her cheeks. Her eyes were swollen and bloodshot. “Jeff,” she lowered her voice to a whisper, “I’m pregnant.”
Jeff sat upright in his chair and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
“Wow!” he said. “Why are you telling me this?”
Audrey dropped her gaze to the tabletop.
“Wait,” Jeff said quickly. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. I’m trying to ask if I’m the only person who knows. Did you tell Rich?”
Audrey shook her head. “Hell, no. He wouldn’t care anyway.”
Probably right about that, Jeff thought.
“What about Leigh?” he asked.
“No. No one but you—and just now. Isn’t that bizarre?”
“Well, yes. I guess I am an odd choice.”
Audrey wiped her cheeks and then touched his hand. Jeff almost gasped.
“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” she said.
“I understand,” Jeff replied. He placed his hand atop hers. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to Spokane this weekend,” she said. The choked sound was returning to her voice.
Audrey looked around quickly. “It’s not easy here in Montana, Jeff. It’s better in Washington state.”
Jeff felt a chill rising up his spine. “What is better, Audrey?”
“Don’t you understand? I’m…having an…”
“Abortion?” Jeff whispered.
Audrey swallowed hard and nodded.
“Good God,” Jeff sighed. He held her hand and slowly caressed her fingers. Almost a minute passed in silence.
“How are you getting there?” he asked.
“I’m taking a bus.”
“Is Leigh going with you?”
“No,” she replied softly. “I don’t want anyone to know. If I hadn’t been so weak minded right now, you wouldn’t have known, either.”
“But since you had to tell someone, I’m glad it was me,” Jeff replied with a slight grin. “I’m honored.”
“Thank you,” Audrey replied.
“Look,” Jeff said as he cleared his throat, “why don’t you let me take you?”
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You didn’t. I did.”
Audrey drew a deep breath and seemed to shudder. “This won’t be pretty, Jeff.”
“I understand. When do you have to be there?”
“Nine o’clock Saturday morning. But you don’t have a car.”
Jeff shrugged. “I can borrow Paul’s car. He won’t mind.”
“You won’t tell--”
“A single soul,” Jeff said. “Not Paul, not Rich. I’ll tell Paul we’re going on a date.”
Audrey tried to laugh, but it died in her throat. “Boy, won’t they be surprised.”
“C’est vrai,” Jeff replied.
Jeff and Audrey left the University Center and strolled slowly around the Oval, moving from one lamppost to another in the gathering darkness. They talked little, and when they did it was meaningless babble about music and current events. All the most important things had already been said.
They parted at the entrance to Knowles Hall, Jeff taking her hand in his.
“I’ll be ready Saturday,” he said. “I’ll call your room at five.”
“That’s awfully early for you to wake up,” she replied.
“I’m a morning person. Don’t worry.”
Audrey nodded. “Meet me on Arthur Avenue at five, okay? Don’t come to my room. I want to leave quietly.”
They hugged tightly, then Jeff watched her walk through the doors and into the warm light of the Knowles Hall lobby. As Jeff returned to his room, he noticed that Rich’s door was standing open.
“Jeff my man!” Rich called out. “What’s happening?”
“Nothing. I’m going to bed.”
Jeff’s door slammed shut.
The sky above the eastern mountaintops was stained pink as Audrey climbed into the Paul’s Mustang on Arthur Avenue. “I brought you some coffee,” Jeff said, handing her a steaming paper cup.“I appreciate that,” she replied.
When they had merged onto westbound I-90, Jeff slipped in an eight-track tape of the Moody Blues Question of Balance. He assumed that Audrey wouldn’t be in a mood for conversation, and he was right. As they climbed Lolo Pass and onward into Idaho, the music seemed like a soundtrack selected for the moment. He thought sure Audrey would ask him to turn it off, but she didn’t.
It was a painfully long drive to Spokane, the hours spent mostly in silence. Jeff would comment on the scenic beauty, but Audrey responded in monosyllables, if she responded at all. When they finally reached the outskirts of the city, Jeff saw that Audrey had begun to cry.
“I wish to God there was something I could do,” he said softly. “You’re doing it,” she whispered.
Audrey gripped his arm as they stepped through the doors of the clinic.
The tiny waiting room was furnished with a few scattered chairs, a battered television and a fern badly in need of sunlight and water. The fact that the room was empty was a small consolation.
They sat together for several minutes until a door opened and a smiling nurse with a clipboard asked Audrey to step forward.
Audrey stood, then hesitated. The nurse asked Audrey if she wanted Jeff to accompany her.
“No. That won’t be necessary,” Audrey replied softly.
Jeff felt a stab of pain at this, but merely nodded.
“I’ll be right here. Waiting. If you need me.”
“I know,” Audrey replied before the nurse closed the door.
Jeff read every magazine in the waiting room and watched Saturday morning cartoons until he thought his eyes would bleed. He listened for any sound that might pass through the walls, but heard nothing except clicking typewriters and ringing telephones.
Two hours later, Audrey emerged. She was pale and trembling. In one hand, she carried a paper bag containing a generous supply of Kotex pads and Tylenol.
“Let’s go,” she said. “Right now.”
“Was it bad?” Jeff asked as they drove out of the parking lot.
“Very bad,” Audrey replied, then began to cry. “I will never do something like this again. Never.”
“Can you eat? Do you want to get lunch?” Jeff asked, and immediately felt ridiculous.
“No, Jeff. Let’s just go home. I have really bad cramps. I need to rest.”
Audrey eventually fell asleep with her head resting in Jeff’s lap. It was another long, quiet drive back to campus, but it gave Jeff time to shuffle through his thoughts. September 15and the glorious aroma of roofing tar seemed like a childhood dream. Only five months had passed, but it felt like five years. Jeff could sense his life changing in ways he could have never anticipated, and he knew it wasn’t over yet.
For now at least, Jeff was happy just to feel Audrey’s body against his, even if she was merely sleeping. He felt responsible and mature, but most of all—and best of all--he felt needed.
Audrey awakened as they slowed for the exit off the interstate in Missoula, and by the time they reached the campus, her glow was returning. They hugged in the parking lot, and this time she blessed him with a kiss on his cheek.
“Thank you so much, Jeff. You really are a good friend.”
“Do you think we--”
“Remember,” she said as she squeezed his hand. “Not a soul.”
Audrey smiled and waved. “See you later!”
“I hope so,” Jeff answered, but she didn’t hear him. Audrey was already on the sidewalk and walking away with quick strides, the paper bag bouncing off her thigh with each step.
Chapter 10 A Friend of the Devil is a Friend of Mine
Jeff was tacking a new poster to his wall when Rich Runyon burst through the door. A tack slipped from Jeff’s hand and rolled beneath the bed.
“Don’t you ever knock?”
“Not if I can help it,” Rich replied. He eyed the poster and cocked his head to one side. “More Soviet wallpaper, eh? Who is the old lady waving her arms? What does it say?”
Jeff sighed. “The ‘old lady’ is supposed to represent Mother Russia. She’s saying ‘Mother Russian demands your help.’ It’s a World War II recruiting poster.”
“But why is it on your wall?”
Jeff jumped to the floor to retrieve his thumbtack. He had to fish among the dust bunnies beneath his bed for the prize. When his fingers closed around it, the tack sank deep into his flesh.
“Ow! God damn it!” Jeff pulled the tack free and stared at his bleeding forefinger.
“Here,” Rich said as he handed a tissue to Jeff. “Looks like you’ve shed blood for Mother Russia.”
“If you hadn’t come in my room unannounced, I probably wouldn’t have dropped the tack in the first place.”
“I’m sorry, Jeff,” Rich replied softly. “I was just coming to chat.”
“I’m sure,” Jeff shrugged as he used the bloodied tack to pin down the last corner of the poster.
“Do you want me to leave?”
Jeff considered saying “yes,” but what actually crossed his lips was, “No. I guess not. Have a seat.”
Rich pulled out Jeff’s desk chair and sat backward with his forearms resting on the top. Jeff stepped back to the center of the room with is hands on his hips, admiring his new poster.
“It does look good,” Rich said. “Full of revolutionary fervor, of course.”
Jeff nodded, then turned to Rich. “So, what did you need to talk about?”
“Oh?” Jeff’s stomach clenched slightly.
“It’s Madame Bump and Grind. Remember her?”
“Well,” Rich said as he lowered his voice to a whisper. “She gave me the clap!”
Jeff sat down hard on the bed. “Oh shit.”
“I’m sure of it,” Rich continued to whisper. “It burns like hell when I pee and there’s…a discharge, as they say.”
Jeff’s thoughts went instantly to Audrey, and his anger flared. “What the hell were you thinking, Rich?”
Rich shook his head. “What do you mean?”
“Did it ever occur to you that a woman like Madame Bump and Grind might have been just a little promiscuous? And it isn’t like she’s out there screwing only squeaky-clean college boys. You saw who she hangs out with.”
“I know, I know,” Rich said as he hung his head. When he looked up, his eyes were shiny with tears. “What’s gonna happen to me?”
“To you?” Jeff almost shouted. “This has gone well beyond you now. Didn’t they ever teach you about syphilis in your high school health classes? Or were you too busy goofing off?”
Rich glanced at the hallway and waved his hands at the floor. “Keep it down, please.”
Jeff walked to the door and closed it quietly. “You need to go to the university health service and get on antibiotics.”
“I can do that.”
“Yeah, but here comes the hard part: they’re going to make you name everyone you’ve had sex with in this town—everyone. They all have to start taking antibiotics.”
Rich’s face went pale. “You’re shitting me!”
“Oh, man. I don’t even know Madame Bump and Grind’s real name!”
“What about Audrey?” Jeff asked.
“What about her?”
Jeff had to bite the side of his tongue to stop himself from screaming. His next impulse was to yank Rich out of the chair by his grimy shirt collar and throw him through the window.
“You had sex with her after Madame Bump and Grind,” Jeff spat through his teeth. “Remember?”
“Yeah,” Rich grinned sheepishly. “Bow wow.”
Jeff took a step forward and stopped. Rich smiled at him stupidly, oblivious to how close he was to having a fist rammed through his teeth. Jeff drew a deep breath and clenched his hands behind his back. “Audrey has the clap now, too. Comprende? You’re going to have to name her as one of your ‘partners.’”
“Oooh!” Rich winced. “That won’t be good.”
“Damn right. Within a couple of days after you visit the health center, she’ll be getting a bad-news telephone call.”
“Jeff,” Rich began softly, “I need a favor. I don’t want Audrey to get the word that way.”
Am I hearing compassion for the woman who, until three weeks ago, was carrying your unborn child? Jeff thought. Remarkable. “What is it that you want me to do?” he said aloud.
“Audrey isn’t talking to me…”
“…so could you possibly let her know? And tell her I’m sorry?”
Tell her yourself, you irresponsible asshole.
“Oh, why not?” Jeff sighed. “I’m a friend of the devil and everybody’s caretaker these days anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
Rich stood suddenly and hugged Jeff so tightly Jeff could barely breathe. Jeff resisted for a couple of seconds, then slowly patted Rich on the back.
“I really appreciate this, man,” Rich whispered.
Good God help me, Jeff thought. Why do I end up in the middle of everything?
“It’s okay,” he said. “Just get the meds and try to keep better control over your penis. Practicing celibacy for the rest of the school year might not be a bad idea.”
Rich pulled back and nodded. He stepped around Jeff and opened the door. “I owe you, man!” he called as he vanished into the hallway.
“You have no idea,” Jeff replied.
It was a sunny, early spring day when Jeff arrived at Audrey’s room on the second floor of Knowles Hall. Audrey had the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds playing on her stereo and she was puttering about the room with paper towels and a bottle of Windex. She turned to see Jeff standing in the doorway and seemed startled.
“Oh! Hi, Jeff!” she said.
“What are you up to?” Jeff replied as he surveyed the room. “Spring cleaning. Isn’t it a gorgeous day?”
“You bet,” Jeff replied.
But it’s about to take a different turn, he thought.
The Beach Boys had just started singing “God Only Knows.” Audrey
turned it down to a whisper. “So what brings you here?” she asked. “We need to talk privately,” Jeff replied as he stepped into the room and
closed the door. Audrey frowned and sat on the edge of her bed. “What’s this about?” she asked flatly.
“Rich. It’s about Rich.”
Audrey shook her head. “Oh, Jeff. What did you do?”
“Nothing,” Jeff said as he sat beside her. “But I was talking to Rich
yesterday and he told me something that you need to hear.”
“C’est vrai!” Audrey said with a bitter laugh. “He can’t live without me,
right? Poor, sad Rich. He--”
“No!” Jeff snapped. Audrey stared with wide eyes. Before she could
speak again, Jeff blurted, “Rich has syphilis.”
Audrey dropped the Windex bottle. Tears welled in her eyes. “You’ve got
to be kidding.”
“I wouldn’t make a joke about something like that and you know it.” Audrey grabbed a pillow, put it to her face and screamed. Jeff put his
hand on her shoulder, but she shook it away. “That bastard!” she screamed
When Audrey finally removed the pillow, it was stained with tears. Her
cheeks were wet and flushed. “I should have known. I’ve been
having…symptoms. Now I’m going to have to see a doctor.”
“Shit,” she shouted as she threw the wad of paper towels toward the door.
“Now he has fucked me over twice.”
More times than that, to hear him tell it, Jeff thought.
“Do you want me to come with you to the health service?” he asked. “I’m a big girl, Jeff,” she sneered. “I can take care of this.” “Of course,” Jeff replied quietly. He could feel the tips of his ears
Audrey retrieved her Windex and tore off another towel from the roll. “I
have work to do,” she said.
In other words, get the fuck out.
Jeff opened the door, then looked back. Audrey was dabbing away tears.
“If you need me--”
“Yep. I know,” she said, and then turned up the Beach Boys. “Later,” Jeff replied, knowing that the odds of a “later” with Audrey were
The weather changed abruptly, as weather in Montana often does. The early spring heat wave vanished and in its place a snowstorm buried the campus in mountains of white. By now even the freshmen had become hardened winter veterans, so they simply reverted to their routines of moving from class to class by navigating networks of ice trenches.
Paul and Rich had cut their own trench from the front of Craig Hall to the tall pines on the north side of the Alumni Center. They borrowed shovels on the pretense of digging out Paul’s car (which really was buried in snow). Once they had carved the trench to the base of the trees, they widened it into a circular platform on which they could stand and smoke pot unmolested.
All this work had been necessary because Steve Grindel had finally brought the hammer down. The defining moment was the debut of Rich Runyon’s multi-chambered water-filled pot pipe, better known as the “Mega Bong.”
The Mega Bong was designed to solve a particular set of problems: sore throats and coughing. Too much coughing was especially awkward after Grindel became savvy enough to realize that coughing fits behind closed doors often signaled pot use. Sore throats were an annoyance of smoking, but one that Rich was determined to solve as well.
He began by pilfering two large glass bottles from the chemistry lab. Both were conveniently outfitted with black rubber stoppers, each featuring two smooth holes. To his collection, Rich added a supply of plastic tubing and glass pipe. He installed a bowl at one end of a glass pipe, which was no small effort considering the fact that Rich broke several lengths of the stuff trying to adapt the brass fitting. With the bowl and its attendant pipe in place on the stopper, and the stopper secured in the first bottle, Rich inserted a plastic tube into the adjacent hole and snaked it over to the second bottle. From the second bottle stopper ran the four-foot hose that would carry the “processed” smoke to the smoker’s lips.
Rich decided to test-drive his creation in Paul’s room one snowy Friday evening. He filled both bottles with ice-cold water from the drinking fountain, then used food coloring to stain the water red in each bottle, just for dramatic effect.
Scott, Jeff, Grady and Paul were in attendance for the performance and everyone marveled at the sight of the Mega Bong. Rich had assembled the hookah on Paul’s desk, in plain sight of the window. This lack of discretion didn’t seem to concern him. Jeff was beyond mentioning such things and no one else appeared to notice.
Rich stuffed the bowl from his latest bag of pot and held a match over the mounded leaves. He put the long tube in his mouth and began drawing air with puckered lips. Other than the flush that appeared on his cheeks, nothing happened. But them, suddenly, the water in both bottles began to bubble. The match flame dipped and began to caress the marijuana. Two seconds later, the first bottle filled with smoke, which quickly shot through the connecting tube into the second bottle and then directly into Rich’s lungs. He released the hose and sighed.
“Oh, man! It’s beyond my wildest dreams!”
“Let me try,” Paul said. Rich handed the tube to Paul, who immediately drew a huge volume of smoke into his lungs. His eyes opened wide and he smiled.
“Smooth as silk,” Paul announced as he removed the tube.
Each of them took their turns at the Mega Bong. As the last bit of pot turned to ash, absolute silence descended upon the room. For the moment, everyone had lost the capacity for speech.
Jeff was groping blindly for an album, any album, to put on Paul’s turntable, when the door flew open and crashed into the opposite wall. Such an entrance would send most reasonable people into a panic, but the students gathered in Paul’s room that evening only turned their heads to the sound, and rather slowly at that.
“I’ve been watching you!” Steve Grindel shrieked.
“Really?” Rich replied languidly. “From where?”
“In the snow?” Scott asked.
“Damn straight!” Grindel barked.
“Oh, wow,” Grady said. “That would be…cold.”
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Grindel continued. “You guys have some nerve.”
“Some bones, skin and blood vessels, too. Not to mention balls,” Scott added.
Grindel strode to the table and gathered up the bottle and tubes. Water and pot ash splattered across the desk.
“This has to be your work, Runyon.”
“Good. I needed to know whose name to put in my report. The rest of you are culpable just for participating.” He stormed to the door and slammed it behind him.
“Far out,” Grady murmured.
“Well, that was a hell of a thing,” Rich said with a shrug.
Jeff noticed that his wrist was aching and discovered that his hand was immobilized in mid-air over Paul’s peach-crate record rack. In the fascination of watching Grindel’s tirade, Jeff had simply neglected to move. He had frozen in place like a dime-store mannequin.
Jeff grinned and plucked Pink Floyd’s Meddle from the crate. As “One of These Days” throbbed in Paul’s speakers, the snow continued to fall and Steve Grindel began filling out triplicate forms in the silence of his room.
After one of their evening pine-tree therapy sessions (as Paul liked to call them), they emerged from the hiding place to find Scott busily piling mounds of snow on a wood bench in front of Craig Hall.
“What the hell are you doing, Scott?” Rich asked.
“Art!” Scott answered. “And you can help.”
“Are you building a snow man?” Grady asked as they approached the
“Yes and no,” Scott replied with a grin. “This is going to be a snow
Scott picked up a basketball-sized snowball and packed it into one of the
bench armrests. “This will be her head. She’s reclined. Do you all get it?” “I do,” Rich said and began to lovingly pile and sculpt the snow. Scott
continued work on the torso and arms while Grady, Paul and Jeff fashioned
the pelvis and legs. Each person was working in silent concentration, creating
their own individual masterpieces. A small crowd began to gather, some
calling out suggestions.
After an hour, the cold had finally worked its way beneath their coats and
their breaths hung in frosty clouds in the sidewalk lamps. Scott was the first to
step back and admire his work. “She’s a beauty,” he said.
Grady had been on his knees much of the time, and now he stood and
laughed triumphantly. “She’s finished.”
Rich added a curl to the hair that fell in the center of her forehead. Paul
smoothed in a belly button and Jeff deepened the spaces between her toes.
Some in the crowd began to applaud.
“She needs one more thing,” Scott said as he ran to a nearby juniper bush.
He cut a small sprig from the bush, then carried it back to the sculpture,
placing it gently in the snow woman’s crotch.
“I am insulted and appalled,” a woman shouted. The indignant voice
belonged to a student Jeff recognized from the SDS poster sale. She was a
severe-looking woman with her black hair held captive in a bun. “You should
all be ashamed of yourselves. This is horrible and sexist.”
“No,” Scott replied, “it is not. This is an artistic appreciation of the female
“It’s obscene,” the woman said. “It’s typical of male, capitalist
“Capitalist?” Rich asked with a grin. “We’re not charging you anything to
gaze upon her beauty, although that isn’t a bad idea.”
The woman looked at the crowd as if searching for support, but no one
spoke. With a disgusted grimace, she kicked the snow woman in the
midsection, sending snow cascading to the sidewalk.
“Hey!” Grady yelled.
Jeff gripped him above the elbow and whispered, “It isn’t worth it,
The woman kicked again, shattering the snow woman’s head. “Why are
you doing this?” Scott asked. “We did no harm to you.”
“You’re doing harm to all women,” she shouted as she swept the
voluminous breasts to the ground.
“Speak for yourself, bitch,” a female voice said from the crowd. Jeff
turned and saw Leigh Simmons stepping into light. “Why don’t you just get
the fuck out of here?”
The SDS woman looked like she had been punched in the stomach. Her
gaze swept crowd again, a expression of unease replacing her anger. “You’re a traitor to sisterhood,” she said to Leigh at last.
Leigh scooped up a snowball and hurled it at the woman’s head. She tried
to turn away, but the icy missile struck her ear. She cried out in pain, then
received another snowball, this one from Grady, on her cheek.
“Fuck!” she screamed as she staggered backward.
“Not even with Grady’s dick, sweetheart” Rich said.
Jeff began laughing loudly and others joined him as the woman fled down
the sidewalk, slipping and sliding comically as she went.
“Aren’t you going to rush to the defense of your revolutionary comrade?”
Scott asked Jeff with a smile.
“Hell no,” Jeff replied.
Chapter 11 Grady
Jeff despised his early morning Introduction to Sociology course. Dr Jackson was young and earnest, but he couldn’t communicate enthusiasm in his lectures. The endless droning overcame even two cups of cafeteria coffee and Jeff often found himself slipping into a boredom-induced coma. As a result, he often skipped the 8AM class, attending only when he knew the professor would be showing movies of scientists torturing monkeys, or unfortunate human subjects.
As luck would have it, Jeff did choose to attend the class session when Dr Jackson gleefully announced that his charges would have to submit lengthy essays on the founding principals of sociology. That was the bad news, the professor had said. The good news was this was his last class at the University of Montana and, feeling magnanimous, he was willing to let the essay grade stand as the grade for the entire quarter. Students would be free to accept their essay grades as their course grades (it was understood that further attendance was optional), or if the grades weren’t to their liking, remain with the class and spend the rest the quarter working to improve their standings. This sounded like a good deal to Jeff, so he jotted down the deadline in his notebook and promptly erased it from his memory.
Two weeks later, Jeff bumped into the professor between morning classes at the University Center. After the exchange of pleasantries, Dr Jackson smiled and said, “I’ll be looking forward to your essay, Mr Louden!”
Jeff’s mind went instantly blank and he felt a chill race down his spine. “You bet, doctor. And when is that deadline again?”
“Tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock,” Dr Jackson said.
“Ah, hah! Great. I’ll be there,” Jeff replied with a brittle smile.
“Oh shit,” Jeff muttered as he walked away. He glanced at his watch and realized that he had only 22 hours to complete an essay he hadn’t even started.
He skipped his afternoon classes and sequestered himself in the library until dark, leafing through stacks of references for hours and taking copious notes. Jeff finally returned to his room by way of the Craig Hall lobby, grabbing three bags of Doritos and a can of Coke on the way.
Grady hailed him just as Jeff arrived at his door and placed his key in the lock.
“There’s gonna be a party in Aber Hall tomorrow night. You going?”
Jeff sighed. “That’s the most distant thing from my mind at the moment, man. I have to bang out a 6000-word essay between now and tomorrow morning. Ask me again tomorrow afternoon.” He turned the key, stepped into the room and quickly shut the door, leaving Grady still standing in the hallway.
Twelve hours later, Jeff typed the final lines and pulled the last page from his old Selectric. To him, it was 6000 words of bullshit interspersed with quotes and references, but at least he had finished.
Jeff tried to read it through from the beginning, but he found that he couldn’t concentrate long enough to make sense of the sentences. Even the lettering seemed blurred. The essay would have to stand as he wrote it, without revision. He simply didn’t have the willpower to retrace his rhetorical steps.
Jeff trudged through the snow in the gray dawn, ignoring the wind and the cold. He had even neglected to wear his coat, a fact that drew long stares from passing students. Jeff didn’t notice the stares, or the students, for that matter.
Dr Jackson’s office was closed, so he slipped his precious treasure gently underneath the door. By the time he returned to Duniway, Jeff’s head was ringing. Scott Davies caught his arm as he shuffled through the hall.
“Hello? You okay, Jeff?”
“I’ve been up all night working on an essay.”
“Oh, you poor son of bitch. Let me guess, you forgot a deadline.”
“Any classes this morning?”
“Just the sociology class.”
“Which you are blowing off, of course.”
“Of course,” Jeff sighed, then turned to continue his exhausted journey.
“Grady tells me that there is going to be a party in Aber this evening,” Scott called after him.
“Uh-huh. He told me, too.”
“He said you were going with him.”
Jeff hesitated, but even this odd revelation was well beyond his intellectual capacity at that moment. He merely waved to Scott, stumbled through his door and fell into bed.
Jeff awoke to the sound of music echoing in the hallway. Although it was still light outside, he had no idea of the time. With a bleary glance at his clock radio, Jeff learned that it was 2 PM.
One of Jeff’s truisms was that your body odor reached critical mass when you could smell it yourself. At this point Jeff believed that he would likely burst into malodorous flames at any second. It had been more than 30 hours since his skin had been subjected to sandblasting by the Duniway showers. That was far too long.
Jeff peeked out the door to make sure no one was coming, then sprinted to the bathroom wearing only his underwear. When he emerged from the shower, Jeff was annoyed to find Grady brushing his teeth before a nearby row of sinks. Jeff fumbled with his towel while struggling to wrap it around his waist as rapidly as possible. He felt a twinge of shame for his nervous reaction. After all, he and Grady had an understanding, didn’t they? Still, the awkwardness hung thick and silent in the room.
“Hey!” Grady said, sputtering toothpaste on the mirror.
“Hi, Grady,” Jeff replied with as much casualness as he could summon.
Grady rinsed his mouth and spat the water into the sink. “The Aber Hall party starts around 8 o’clock,” he said as he dried his face.
“Well, I guess we’ll be there, huh?” Jeff replied. He was still a little toasty around the edges from having his sleep schedule thrown askew, but after the events of the last day or so, he thought that a party might not be a bad idea.
Grady grinned. “You bet! I’ll stop by your room around that time and we can go together.”
“Sounds like you had this planned all along,” Jeff said as he peeked into the hallway once more.
“Well, I’m always up for a party and I know how much you enjoy them.”
“True,” Jeff said with a chuckle. “See you later, Grady.”
He made a mad dash back to his room, this time clasping his towel with one hand and holding his dirty underwear with the other. To his horror, Jeff discovered that his door was inexplicably shut and locked. He heard a whispered giggle from behind the door and recognized the voice immediately.
“Runyon!” he howled.
Grady appeared in Jeff’s room at the stroke of eight, wearing his trench coat over a bulky sweater. “Don’t you have a heavier coat, Grady? Maybe a parka? It’s cold out there and we’re supposed to get a shitload of snow later tonight.”
“No,” Grady said with smile. “I like this coat. Worn it since I started high school.”
Jeff shrugged and shook his head. “Suit yourself, man.”
By the time they reached the fourth floor of Aber Hall, the party was in high gear, such as it was. Unlike most parties they had attended throughout the year, this one could almost be called sedate. Instead of stereo systems pounding out Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix, this gathering was graced with jazz, mostly the fusion variety from the likes of Weather Report and other bands.
They eventually located Scott, sitting in a quiet corner, of course. Jeff refilled Scott’s beer and they all sat listening to a group of girls excitedly discussing female orgasm.
“See what I mean?” Scott whispered. “If you just sit back and listen, you discover all sorts of wondrous things at these parties. And besides, a closed mouth gathers no feet.”
Scott and Jeff found the conversation riveting, especially after a hash pipe made the rounds, but Grady demurred and eventually drifted away.
Their highs wore off around midnight and even Scott admitted that the party, like the beer, had gone stale. When the conversation among the women suddenly turned to Jesus, they knew it was time to leave.
After a fruitless search for Grady, they took the elevator to the ground floor and made the long journey back to their dorms. The promised storm had arrived at last and snow was already swirling in the streetlamps.
“Gonna be a bad one,” Scott observed as they walked. “The consolation is that this will probably be the last blast of the winter season.”
“God, I hope so. I should never have let Paul talk me into coming out here.”
“Really?” Scott replied as they followed a snow trench across the Oval. “Did Paul talk you into it, or did you talk yourself into it?”
“Oh, not again,” Jeff groaned.
“Bear with me. I’m curious. Who came up with the idea to apply to U of M? Tell the truth.”
“It was Paul,” Jeff sighed.
“Uh-huh. Then you looked through the university catalog and found a reason why you should be here, too. Correct?”
“Yes, I confess. What do you want from me?”
“Just the truth,” Scott laughed and pointed to a street lamp. “Lux et veritas, and there is the light to go with it. Remember?”
“Good lord,” Jeff replied. “You should have been a psych major, Scott. You’ve missed your calling.”
They met Rich Runyon and Paul Jepson in the Craig Hall lobby. The dynamic duo had just returned from a sorority party and they were disappointingly sober as well.
“Shitty night for parties,” Scott said.
“No kidding,” Paul replied. “We spent the whole damn evening with a bunch of pudgy girls at Rho Theta god-damn Kappa, or something like that.”
“Gamma Gamma Moo from the look of them,” Rich added. “Was Grady with you guys?”
“Yes,” Jeff said. “But we lost track of him. Maybe he got lucky.”
“Let’s see if he’s in his room,” Rich replied. “We can roust him and share a joint at my place.”
When they reached Grady’s room, they heard music behind the door. Rich lifted his fist to knock, but then Grady moaned softly. Rich stepped back from the door with his hand on his lips.
“Is he sick again?” Paul asked.
“Not likely,” Rich whispered with a grin. “I think our man Grady has a conquest in there!”
“You can’t be serious,” Paul replied.
Jeff took a deep breath and began to turn away. Scott leaned toward Jeff’s ear and whispered, “What’s wrong?”
Before Jeff could answer, Rich opened a small access door in the opposite wall and removed a fire extinguisher. He quickly pulled the hose free and flipped the brass tank upside down.
“No!” Jeff shouted, but it was too late. Flipping the old soda-acid extinguisher started a chemical reaction that could not be stopped. The tank filled with carbon dioxide gas and sent water rushing through the hose, precisely as it was designed to do. Rich kicked open Grady’s door and tossed the tank inside. The hose began flailing wildly, spraying water into the darkness.
Two voices, one clearly belonging to Grady, screamed. Rich Runyon howled with laugher, but it was abruptly cut short. The only sound remaining was the hiss of the extinguisher.
Rich backed slowly out of the room, shaking his head in stunned disbelief. His face had gone ashen. Other students had emerged from their rooms at the sound of the commotion and now they crowded behind Rich to catch a glimpse of whatever it was he had discovered.
“Jesus Christ,” Rich shouted, a hand flying to mouth. “They’re ass fucking! Grady is letting some dude fuck him up the ass!”
“Oh, man,” Paul said in slack-jawed amazement.
“Can you believe it?” Rich shouted again. The other students backed away hurriedly. “Grady is queer!”
Jeff lunged forward and grabbed Rich by the back of his collar. Rich was off balance and fell backward, but Jeff hauled him upright and twisted his arm behind his back. “Not another word,” Jeff snarled. “Not one more fucking word.”
“Ow! Jesus!” Rich cried.
Grady’s door slammed shut with such force that the walls trembled. Jeff released Rich and he staggered into Paul, almost knocking him down. Rich looked back with wide eyes, grimacing and rubbing his arm.
“I’m sorry, Jeff” he muttered. “I didn’t know.”
“Everyone needs to go back to their rooms,” Scott announced. “Unless you want Grindel down here in a hurry, we all need to go to our rooms. Lei capisce?”
They understood Scott very well indeed. The small crowd melted back to their respective rooms, including Paul who shook his head sadly and vanished down the hallway without further comment.
“I really am sorry,” Rich said as Jeff returned to his room and began to close the door.
“I know,” Jeff sighed. “We’ll talk later.”
“You did well, Jeff,” Scott said as he walked away.
Jeff lit a candle and doused the lights. The KRAP transmitter was still active, broadcasting dead air to the masses at 88.5 on your FM dial, so Jeff queued up Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. He sat by the window and watched the snowstorm, which had by now whipped itself into a bona-fide blizzard. He waited more than an hour for Grady’s knock on his door, but it never came.
Early the following morning, Jeff walked to Grady’s room and knocked lightly. There was no response.
“Grady?” Jeff whispered. Nothing.
He turned the knob and discovered that the door wasn’t locked—it wasn’t
even latched. Jeff stepped into the room to find that it was empty. This didn’t come as a surprise. What did concern him was the sight of Grady’s beloved trench coat folded neatly on his bed.
Jeff searched the bathrooms, the lounges and everywhere in between. When he returned to his room, he found Scott Davies waiting for him.
“Where’s Grady?” Scott asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve been looking for him everywhere throughout Craig and Duniway. I’m hoping he went to breakfast.”
Scott frowned. “I don’t think he would have gone to the cafeteria. There’s four feet of drifting snow between here and there.”
“Especially not without his trench coat,” Jeff added. “It’s still in his room.”
“Really?” Scott said as he glanced down the hall. “Tell you what, I’m gonna get my parka and go see if his Camaro is still in the parking lot. I hope he wasn’t foolish enough to try driving in this weather.”
Jeff nodded. “I’ll grab my coat and meet you at the north doors.”
Minutes later they stood together with the wind-driven snow stinging their faces. The space beside the basketball court where Grady always parked his Camaro was empty. From the amount of snow that had covered the asphalt, Scott guessed that the car had been gone for some time.
“He said his parents lived in Frenchtown,” Jeff said over the howl of the storm.
Scott shrugged and shook his head. “I can only hope he’s with them.”
They walked to the Craig Hall lounge and warmed themselves over cups of hot coffee while they watched the snow pile into mammoth drifts outside the windows. By evening, the storm had blown itself out, but Grady didn’t return.
Late Sunday afternoon, Steve Grindel knocked on Jeff’s door and asked if he had seen Grady. A man Jeff recognized as the UM chief of campus security accompanied him. The cop explained that Grady’s mother had called after Grady had missed their usual Sunday lunch together.
Jeff told them story of what had happened Friday night and the security chief listened intently. He asked for the names of everyone involved, along with their room numbers.
Grindel stood frowning and shaking his head. “And where is the fire extinguisher?” he asked. “Should I assume it is still in Wallace’s room?”
“You won’t have to worry, Grindel,” Jeff almost spat the RA’s last name. “Grady cleaned up the mess.”
The cop glanced at Grindel and sighed. “You may have more to worry about here than a fire extinguisher, Steve. Come back to the office with me and I’ll fill you in on Grady Wallace’s parents.”
“Of course,” Grindel replied, blushing slightly.
Two days came and went. Still there was no sign of Grady Wallace. Jeff had also seen little of Rich, Paul or Scott. The mood throughout second-floor Duniway and Craig was dark. Even the music had ceased. The gossip grapevine was flourishing, of course, but no one dared to speak openly about what had happened.
By mid-week, Missoula police had visited the dorm, combing through Grady’s room and interviewing everyone on the floor.
“Grady hasn’t been to his parent’s home,” a detective told them. “He hasn’t telephoned, either. If any of you hear from him, call us immediately.”
But they wouldn’t hear from Grady again. His Camaro was found a week later at the end of an old logging road in Rattlesnake Canyon. There was no body, and no sign of blood or violence. Grady had simply walked into the storm and disappeared.
Chapter 12 Rich Runyon
The mood on the first floor of Duniway Hall never recovered from the emotional maelstrom surrounding Grady Wallace’s disappearance. Spring— real spring, not a faux spring—had arrived at last, and yet the spirits of the Duniway denizens remained muted. Students now chose to mingle quietly with small groups of friends. When they weren’t haunting Missoula bars (now that walking and driving around town had become pleasant again), their doors were closed and the privacy of headphones replaced blasting speakers.
Paul arrived at Jeff’s room one Friday afternoon to find him sitting on his windowsill, enjoying the novelty of the fresh warm breezes.
“No music?” Paul asked as he stood in the doorway.
Jeff shook his head. “No. I’m just relaxing in the silence of the moment. What brings you here? Usually I’m the one going to your room, not vice versa.”
“I was wondering what Rich was up to. I haven’t seen him much lately.”
“And since I was just across the hall, it must have been a challenge for you to figure out a way to slink back to your room without me seeing you.”
Paul frowned. “What’s wrong with you, Jeff?”
“The same thing that’s been wrong with me since we got here,” Jeff said with a shrug.
“Oh. Now I’m sorry I asked.”
Jeff shook his head. “You really don’t get it, do you?”
“I get…I get that you’re having a hissy fit like some premenstrual woman. And just like with a woman, I have no idea what you are being so pissy about.”
Jeff couldn’t stop a grin from spreading across his lips. Paul responded in kind.
“Jeff, are you trying to fuck with me?”
“You just don’t love me like you used to,” Jeff replied with a chuckle.
Paul walked up to Jeff and patted him on the head. “I will always love you, man,” he said with a laugh. “You just need to stop thinking so much. That’s been your problem for as long as I’ve known you. Besides, relationships change. People change. Chances are, we’ll always be friends but the distance may vary. Do you understand what I mean?”
Before Jeff could answer, Rich Runyon strolled into the room. He was carrying a manila folder stuffed with paper.
“Hey, Rich!” Paul said.
Rich nodded, but didn’t smile. “Guys, I have some bad news.” He tossed his folder on the bed. “Those are my walking papers.”
Jeff shook his head. “Say what?”
“I’m out of here,” Rich replied. “I’m dropping out.”
“Why?” Paul asked.
Rich sat on the bed with this hands clasped between his knees. He stared at the floor for at least 30 seconds before answering.
“I had no business being in college,” Rich began. “Like I told Jeff once, coming here was just a way to get out of a bad situation at home. My grades suck. I hardly go to class. Grindel has me up on a formal complaint about the Mega Bong incident and then…that thing with Grady. I’ve had enough.”
“You’re going back to Florida?” Jeff asked.
“No. I know a guy in New Orleans who can get me a job with a big oil company. I’ll probably be working on an off-shore rig in the Gulf of Mexico by summer.”
“When…when are you leaving?” Paul stammered.
“I have a flight tomorrow morning.”
To Jeff it seemed as though the spring breeze had taken on a sudden chill. He turned and closed the window. Rich stood, clutched his folder and forced a smile.
“Look at it this way, guys. It was meant to happen. This really isn’t about Grindel or Grady, when push comes to shove. I was the man who pulled the ultimate fuck up. I ruined myself…and I ruined Grady.”
“Whoa. Wait a minute,” Paul said.
Rich shook his head. “There’s nothing you can say, Paul. I know what the truth is. Don’t try to sugarcoat it for me.”
With that, Rich slipped into the hallway and unlocked the door to his room. “Come here, guys,” he called out.
Jeff and Paul walked slowly into Rich’s room. “All this crap,” Rich began as he waved his arms, “is the flotsam and jetsam of my brief career here at U of M. I’m only packing one small suitcase, so most this stuff has to remain behind.”
“What are you going to do with it?” Jeff asked. “You bought a nice stereo system. Lots of records, too.”
Rich placed his hand on Jeff’s shoulder. “That’s why I need your help, man. I need you to make some appeals on KRAP for me. Tell your listeners that everything is free—first come, first served.”
“Oh, man,” Paul said. “You should at least get some cash for--”
“No. I just want all of this gone as soon as possible. I need these albatrosses plucked from my neck today,” Rich said with a smile, but it faded quickly. “This ancient mariner already has enough albatrosses to last a lifetime.”
“This sucks,” Jeff spat.
“Indeed it does,” Rich replied, holding up a forefinger. “But life is filled with sucky moments and this is just one of them. There will be better times for all of us.”
“Okay,” Jeff said. “I’ll get on the air and start making announcements. If I announce a party for tonight, that’ll bring even more people.”
“No thanks, Jeff. No parties. I’m done with all that.”
For the rest of the afternoon, Jeff played his albums on KRAP and announced the “Rich Runyon Going Out of Business Sale,” as they called it. Scott Davies was among the first to drift by. He claimed Rich’s new, unopened copy of Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic album and offered Rich cash in return. Rich refused, so Scott handed the LP to Jeff, who ripped off the cellophane wrapper and queued it up on the KRAP turntable.
“I’m going on a errand,” Scott said as Donald Fagan crooned. “I’ll be back after dinner.” He turned and watched as a smiling student walked away with an armful of records.
“Picking the bones clean,” Scott muttered.
By 6 o’clock, Rich’s room was mostly bare. The stereo disappeared a half-hour before, thanks to a couple of girls from Jesse Hall. Even the porn posters on Rich’s wall had vanished, leaving faint shadows of their former selves on the plaster.
“Well, Jeff,” Rich called out. “I began like this and I end like this— standing here with nothing but a bare, boxy room.”
“I remember,” Jeff replied with a nod. He turned down the KRAP audio and strolled into Rich’s room. “This was also the way my hovel looked on that first day in September.”
“A thousand years ago,” Rich said with a slight laugh. “It’s already fading into dreamland.”
Paul appeared in the doorway. “You guys up for something to eat?”
“Why not?” Rich replied. “I wouldn’t mind dining in the cafeteria one last time.”
The cafeteria was packed with students. It was as though everyone on campus had decided to eat dinner at the same moment. The food lines snaked along the walls at both ends of the dining room and the kitchen staff was darting among the hungry students, gathering dishes and wiping down tables.
They took their places in line and began inching toward the buffet.
“Oh, I’m gonna miss this,” Rich shouted above the din.
When they finally reached the buffet, Rich reached over the salad and shook hands with a startled woman. “I hope you don’t mind, ma’am. This is my last meal, so I want to do it right.”
He filled a large bowl with lettuce, then drenched it with ranch dressing. As Rich moved down the line, he grabbed two cheeseburgers and a plate overflowing with onion rings. He also took two slices of chocolate cream pie.
When the University of Montana cafeteria was teeming with students, “situational awareness,” as pilots called it, was essential. Jeff was well aware of the hazards and had his head on a swivel as they left the buffet and weaved their way to a half-empty table. More than once he narrowly avoided bumping into students and furniture. He was grateful to see their “landing strip” only 10 feet away.
A cafeteria busboy with an armload of dirty dishes emerged from behind the milk dispensers. The plates were piled so high, his chin was resting on the topmost plate just to keep the stack stable. Jeff saw him coming and stopped, but Rich was oblivious to the approaching disaster. Instead, he was staring intently at a lithe blonde sophomore wearing a revealing halter-top.
The busboy veered at the last moment, but in doing so, he disrupted the delicate balance and started his plates on an inexorable slide to the floor. Jeff could see the hopeless horror dawning in the busboy’s eyes as he crouched in a futile attempt to forestall the spill. Rich must have detected motion out of the corner of his eye because he suddenly began to turn away from the falling stack.
It was all too late. The plates tumbled to the tiles and shattered with an explosive crash. Rich danced sideways, tried to regain his footing, then completely upended his tray, spending pies, cheeseburgers, onion rings and salad to the floor with yet another peal of ceramic thunder.
For about two seconds everyone fell silent, then the cafeteria erupted in a crescendo of applause. The students at a nearby table stood, then more students joined them. The standing ovation spread through the room until every soul in the place, even the workers, were applauding and whistling.
Rich bowed deeply. The busboy hesitated, then bowed as well. A grim matronly woman in a white uniform approached with a two sets of brooms and dustpans. Rich and the busboy nodded, then went to work cleaning up the disaster.
Jeff and Paul stooped to help, but Rich waved them off. “This is my mess,” he said with a smile. “Let me enjoy it.”
Scott was waiting in Rich’s room when they finally returned. He was lying on the bed, reading from Jeff’s copy of the Communist Manifesto.
“How do you manage to wade through this dreck?” he asked.
“I don’t,” Jeff grinned.
“Are you taking over my room, Scott?” Rich asked.
“Hardly. I wouldn’t willingly live across the hall from KRAP,” Scott said with a wink. “No, I’ve been out shopping and I was waiting for the rest of you to get back from dinner.”
Scott tossed the Communist Manifesto into a nearby wastebasket. “You don’t mind, do you, Jeff?”
“Nope,” Jeff chuckled.
Scott reached into his coat pocket and produced a small package wrapped in aluminum foil. They all huddled around as Scott carefully peeled back the foil layers, revealing a beige cube about one inch on each side.
“Wow,” Paul said. “Hash!”
“Pure Lebanese,” Scott replied with a smile.
Rich closed the door and began sorting through his open suitcase. “I’m glad I didn’t toss this,” he said as pulled out his signature corncob pipe.
Scott used his pocketknife to shave a tiny piece of hash from the cube, then placed it into the bowl of the pipe and handed it to Rich. “First honors,” he said.
“Allow me,” Paul said as he leaned in with his cigarette lighter. The hash was soon glowing in the bowl and sending forth a thin stream of white smoke. To Jeff it smelled like sweet incense and he inhaled eagerly when the pipe was passed to him.
After the hash had been thoroughly consumed, they all dragged themselves into Jeff’s room. Scott planted himself cross-legged on the floor beneath the window while Paul and Rich sat on the bed. Jeff flipped on the KRAP transmitter and dug out Janis Joplin’s Pearl.
“Thanks, Scott. I really appreciated that,” Rich said.
“You want to take it with you?” Scott asked.
“Nah. It would be my luck that someone in the airport would find it in my suitcase.”
“Man, I tell you,” Paul began with a sigh. “This has been a strange seven months.”
Rich nodded. “Tell me about it. Just look at us. We’re four lost souls at the edge of the world. Who in their right mind chooses to go to college in Montana?”
“Fuckin’ eh,” Paul mumbled.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Scott said. “Sometimes this campus seems almost magical to me. Missoula is in a different world, but it is a good world.”
Rich grunted, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.
When side two of Pearl came to an end, Rich stood and stretched. “Gents, I have some people to see yet this evening, then I kind of need to turn in early.”
“How are you getting to the airport?” Jeff asked.
“I have a cab picking me up at 6 AM.”
“Get me up before you go,” Jeff said.
“Me, too” Paul added. Scott put up his hand and smiled.
“So the three musketeers are going to see me off, eh?” Rich grinned. They all nodded.
“Good enough,” Rich replied as he opened the door. He hesitated and looked around. “You always had a nice room, Jeff. Kick ass stereo, too.” Jeff smiled weakly. “Thanks, Rich.”
“See you all tomorrow,” Rich waved, then was gone.
The sun had yet to climb over the mountains when they gathered in the Duniway parking lot. A slight breeze carried the aroma of brewing coffee from the cafeteria. Beyond their own conversation and the songs of awakening birds, however, the campus was silent.
Rich stood beside his suitcase, shuffling his feet and clearly eager to be on his way. “Once I’m resigned to action,” he said as they had stepped outside the dorm, “there’s nothing to do but move. I’ve got a new life down the road and I need to get there.”“How long does it take to reach New Orleans?” Scott asked. “Well, the flight from Missoula goes to Bozeman, then on to Salt Lake
City. From there I catch a plane that will take me the rest of the way.” “You’ll be flying all day, I bet,” Paul said.
“Pretty much so, but that’s okay. I don’t mind flying, unlike some
people.” He grinned and winked at Jeff.
“Hey,” Jeff protested. “I’m much better than I used to be. Before it was
sheer terror, but now I just feel mild panic. That’s all thanks to Paul.” Rich thought he heard the sound of an approaching car and glanced out to
the street. The noise died away and the taxi didn’t appear.
“Jeff, just so you know, I didn’t tell Audrey or Leigh that I was leaving,”
Jeff hadn’t seen either of them for at least a month, but he smiled and
said, “I know they’ll be depressed at the news, but they’ll get over it.” “Would you make me a promise, Jeff?”
“Sure, Rich. What is it?”
“Speak with Audrey. Tell her again that I’m sorry. If she had expected me
to give her some money for…you know…the antibiotics, tell her I apologize
for that, too. I could barely afford my own, you know?”
This was one promise that Jeff had no intention of keeping. So he put on
his most cheerful grin and said, “I’ll tell her. She’ll be fine, I’m sure.” “Hey, man,” Paul called out. “Here comes your cab.”
A yellow Chevy Impala glided to the curb and the driver popped open the
trunk. Rich handed him the suitcase, then turned to embrace Jeff. “I really
appreciate everything you’ve done, man. You’ve been a real friend through all
“Same here, Rich.”
Rich hugged Paul and Scott in turn, then shook hands with everyone.
“Well,” he sighed, “one chapter closes and another opens. If I never see you
guys again, I wish you peace. Be happy and stay out of trouble.” Rich slipped into the taxi, the driver closed his door and they circled the
parking lot (with Rich waving furiously) before disappearing into the street. Jeff, Paul and Scott stood listening to the fading sound of the engine. “I’m gonna grab some breakfast, as long as I’m up,” Paul said at last. “I’ll pass,” Scott replied, and began to walk away.
“I’ll pass, too,” Jeff said and climbed the stairs to the dorm. He found Rich’s door standing open and walked inside the empty room.
The sheets were wadded into a ball where Rich had left them at the foot of the
bed. On the desk, Jeff saw Rich’s prized pipe and a slip of paper.
I KNEW YOU’D STOP BY MY ROOM, JEFF, SO I LEFT THIS FOR YOU. KEEP IT SAFE AND USE IT WELL. FUCK STEVE GRINDEL!— RICH
Jeff pocketed the pipe and laughed to himself, recalling Rich’s improvised gas mask and the infamous Mega Bong.
He returned to his room and put the Rolling Stone’s Beggar’s Banquet on the turntable. “Good morning, Missoula,” Jeff began. “This is KRAP, the voice of the revolution coming to you from the campus of the University of Montana. Our first song of the day is played in honor of Rich Runyon, late of Duniway Hall and now on his way to New Orleans.”
Jeff lowered the needle to the record and turned up his speakers. He hoped Rich was listening, but doubted it highly. Jeff stood before the speakers and remembered when Grady Wallace gleefully sang as “Sympathy for the Devil” boomed through the hallway. Rich had joined Grady that night, playing air guitar with a broom.
Jeff smiled at the memory and he was sure that he would never meet anyone quite like either of them again.
Chapter 13 You Say You Want a Revolution
On the evening of April 15, 1974, the network news broadcast a photograph of Patty Hearst holding an automatic weapon in front of a Symbionese Liberation Army flag. Seeing the publishing heiress in such a revolutionary pose was strange enough, but…
“…wasn’t the SLA the group that kidnapped her to begin with?” Paul asked.
“Yeah. Back in February,” Jeff replied, still staring at the television. Paul and Jeff had shared an after-dinner hit of hash with Scott Davies and, as always, immediately discovered an intense need to relax. The plush couches of the Craig Hall TV lounge seemed like excellent destinations.
“Is Patty your idea of a revolutionary?” Paul asked.
“I don’t think so. I have no idea what the Symbionese Liberation Army is, or what they are rebelling against. I don’t believe Patty Hearst does, either.”
“Speaking of revolution,” Scott began, “I presume you heard about the Nixon impeachment rally coming up.”
“Yep,” Jeff replied. “The SDS is sponsoring it Friday afternoon on the Oval. It’s not just a babblefest. I understand there is going to be music.”
“Well, that might make it worthwhile,” Paul said.
“Maybe,” Jeff replied. “If it weren’t for the music, I would definitely blow it off.”
Paul turned and stared. “Would you repeat what you just said?”
Jeff shrugged. “You heard me.”
Scott leaned forward and watched the exchange with bemused interest.
“Our own answer to Vladimir Illyich Lenin would blow off an SDS rally? Say it ain’t so!” Paul crowed.
“I just said I probably wouldn’t go except for the music,” Jeff replied. “Look, I don’t march in lockstep with those people. Hell, I’m beginning to think they’re kind of silly most of the time.”
Paul gaped. “Wow! What the hell has happened to you? On the way to Missoula last September, you talked about--”
“So you do remember that conversation!” Jeff interjected.
“—wanting to overthrow the government. Now you’re not sure if you want to attend a little pep rally.”
“Protest rally,” Jeff corrected. “You said it yourself, Paul. Things change. Maybe I’m changing. I don’t know.”
“I suspect you are,” Scott said at last. “I suspect we all are. Haven’t you guys noticed how much more seriously we take our classes and grades these days?”
“Yeah,” Paul replied sullenly. “I’m down to two months and I need to do something to pull a B out of my resource management course.”
“Too bad you don’t have a prof like Dr Jackson,” Jeff chuckled. “Did I tell you guys about that?”
“You said something about an essay grade being accepted as your Sociology 101 grade for the entire quarter,” Scott said.
“That’s right. And didn’t you notice that I was sleeping late every morning through the end of winter quarter?”
“You’re shitting me!” Paul shouted. “You pulled an all nighter and nearly blew the deadline. You said your essay was pure crap.”
“That’s what I thought, too, but Dr Jackson disagreed and handed me an A.”
“Fuck you,” Paul spat, shaking his head.
“Jeff has the gift of Blarney,” Scott laughed. “Take it from me. I’ve seen him in action at dorm parties.”
“Speaking of parties,” Jeff interrupted, suddenly eager to change the subject, “I was told that some girls on the first floor of Corbin Hall are going to be doing something this evening.”
“Something?” Paul asked. “Man, that has lame written all over it.”
“Suit yourself,” Jeff shrugged. “I’m not going to spend the night with my ass planted on this couch.” He stood and gathered his fatigue jacket.
“Jeff has a point,” Scott said as he joined Jeff at the door. “Are you coming, Paul?”
Paul leaned forward, but then fell back into the cushions with a laugh. “No, I really do want to spend the night with my fat white ass planted firmly on this couch. Thanks anyway.”
As it turned out, Paul’s prediction concerning the Corbin party was largely on target. At first, Jeff and Scott couldn’t even find the party. When they tracked down the source of the Peter, Paul and Mary music wafting through the hallway, they discovered about a dozen senior girls in a large dorm room sitting around a junky stereo. The walls of the room were adorned with posters of actor Robert Redford, and a curly haired fellow with a guitar who Jeff didn’t recognize.
“Who the hell is that?” Jeff whispered.
“Terry Jacks. ‘Seasons in the Sun,’” Scott mumbled. “Do you remember that hideous song?”
“Good god,” Jeff replied.
“Hi,” Jeff said as they entered the room. The girls stared as if Jeff had just introduced himself as the Boston Strangler.
A shockingly thin girl wearing green granny glasses and Kalso Earth Shoes (one of the great abominations of the ‘70s) regarded them with a smirk.
“Who are you guys?”
“I’m Jeff Louden. This is Scott Davies.”
A few of the girls nodded, but most just continued to stare.
“Are you here for the feminine consciousness session?” the Kalso girl asked.
Scott and Jeff exchanged glances. “No,” Scott replied. “I don’t think so. Our consciousnesses are decidedly male—at least for the moment. We’re obviously in the wrong place. Excuse us.”
Jeff waved at the incredulous faces before following Scott down the hallway as quickly as possible. When they bolted through the doors and back into the cool night air, their lungs seemed to explode with pent-up laughter.
“That was really awkward!” Scott howled.
Jeff was laughing so hard he had difficulty catching his breath. “I had a zero percent probability of getting lucky in that room,” he gasped.
“Well I’ll be damned. A couple of hyenas lurking outside Corbin Hall,” Leigh Simmons said as she stepped out of the shadows. “Don’t tell me you guys were in there looking for a party?”
“Hey, Leigh!” Scott said.
“As I live and breathe,” Jeff added.
Leigh smiled and shook her head. “You two are pathetic.”
“It’s a pathetic night,” Scott replied. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. Haven’t seen you two around much. Paul, either.”
“How is Audrey?” Jeff asked. He thought he saw a bit of sadness creep into Leigh’s smile at the mention of her name.
“She’s doing alright, I suppose. We don’t hang out that much these days. We’re both too busy with our classes.”
“I know where you’re coming from,” Jeff replied. “It has been pretty intense for us, too. And strange.”
“Yeah, I heard about Grady, of course, then Rich leaving. You guys must be bummed.”
Jeff and Scott nodded at the same time. Leigh glanced at her wristwatch. “I was just on my way to the Wilma theater to see Heavy Traffic.”
“By yourself?” Scott asked.
“Yeah. There was nothing else going on. Why don’t you fellows come with me—unless you have studying to do?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Scott began. “We just left what’s likely to turn into a very hot little party in Corbin Hall.”
“Once they elevate their consciousnesses,” Jeff added.
“Bullshit,” Leigh said, and suddenly linked arms with Jeff. Their eyes locked and she grinned “I could use a couple of handsome escorts to the movie."
Scott winked at Jeff and nodded.
“Works for me,” Jeff replied.
“Quite right,” Scott said cheerily has he fell in behind them.
Friday afternoon was glorious with abundant sunshine and the warm promise of the summer to come. Students were passing Frisbees in the Oval while the SDS Impeach Nixon rally occupied the area immediately in front of University Hall. Jeff had found a comfortable spot to sit in the grass near the stage, not terribly concerned about how authentic he did or didn’t appear this time. The music was passable (except for the guy who desperately wanted to be the next Woody Guthrie) and although Jeff found himself in agreement with most of the Nixon tirades, his attention kept wandering.
The afternoon is too beautiful to be angry, he thought.
He noticed Scott Davies standing by the edge of the Oval and waved until he caught his attention. Scott returned the wave and smiled.
“What’s happening, man?” Scott shouted as he strolled through the crowd, eventually taking a seat on the grass beside him.
“Just enjoying the day. You?”
“I was on my way to the geology lab. I set up an erosion project and I wanted to add a few finishing touches. With luck I’ll snag an A for the quarter.”
“Really? That sounds very cool. You’ll have to show me.”
The protest speeches were apparently intended as inspirational filler to occupy the audience between music sets. Jeff and Scott passed the news of the day as the speaker chastised the crowed for its lack of revolutionary fervor. As the rant sputtered to a stop, a couple took the stage, both carrying acoustic guitars. Without a word of introduction, they began a tender rendition of “500 Miles.”
“They aren’t Peter, Paul and Mary,” Jeff said, “but they’re not bad.”
“It’s kind of a lonely song, don’t you think?” Scott asked.
“Yes, it is.”
Scott nodded grimly. After the couple sang a handful of similarly morose songs, a student Jeff recognized as “Che” from the infamous poster sale took the microphone.
“Brothers and sisters, we’re gathered not just for music on this fantastic afternoon, but to consider the war crimes of a demon named Richard Nixon.”
Che hesitated and there was scattered applause.
“Nixon’s minions are still in southeast Asia, burning villages and bayoneting babies as I speak.”
“I have a brother in Saigon,” Scott whispered. “He’s too busy trying to stay alive to bayonet a baby. This guy is full of shit.”
“We need to get our killing machines out of Vietnam!” Che shouted before being overwhelmed by a blast of feedback.
“We need to get our troops home so that that more won’t be killed in that god forsaken place,” Scott grumbled.
Jeff found himself nodding in agreement. “And the asshole doesn’t even know how to handle a microphone.”
“This is so much bullshit,” Scott sighed.
“Hey, let’s bug out and take a look at your project,” Jeff suggested. “This is getting very old very quickly.”
Jeff and Scott took their time getting to the geology lab. They joined a Frisbee football game in front of the journalism building, then flirted with a couple of girls who had been watching from the sidelines. (“There is always time to stop and talk to pretty women,” Scott had observed.) By the time they reached the lab, it was deserted.
Scott fished out a key and held it up for Jeff to see. “This is what you get when you’re a trusted student,” he said with a smile.
“Then your professor is a fool,” Jeff smirked as Scott unlocked the door.
They entered the lab, walking between long black islands graced with faucets and sinks. At the back of the room stood a wide aluminum pan filled with earth. A stack of bricks elevated one end; the other end rested on the floor and featured a screened drain with a hose. A similar hose hung on the wall.
“This is my ticket to an ace in Geology 103,” Scott announced.
Jeff rubbed the stubble on his chin and frowned. “I don’t get it.”
“Okay, imagine that this tilting pan of dirt is a piece of flat, ordinary land.”
“I’m with you so far.”
Scott plucked the hose from the wall and turned a valve handle slightly. He held the hose at the elevated edge of the pan and a small stream of water began running across the soil.
“Now we’ve introduced a river. Watch what happens.”
“ But where would the river come from?” Jeff asked. “You mean it just magically appears?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“But how is that realistic? I mean, rivers don’t just magically appear.”
Scott rolled his eyes. “I’ll say it is coming from a melting glacier.”
“A present-day glacier, or at the end of the last Ice Age?”
“I think you’re missing the point, Jeff.”
“Not so. Your demo has a huge logical gap. You can’t explain the appearance of your river.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake!”
“There’s your answer,” Jeff grinned. “It’s a biblical miracle.”
“Stop trying to play with my head and watch the god damn river!”
As Jeff watched, the imaginary river began to carve a long valley in the pan. At the bottom of the pan, the river spread into a delta and pooled, presumably as a sea.
“This sho ‘nuff is a powerful miracle,” Jeff said.
“All kidding aside, Scott, it is quite cool. I understand what you’re doing here. This is supposed to be a few thousand of years of geology evolving before my eyes, right?”
“Bingo,” Scott smiled.
Suddenly they heard a loud crash from another room. “What the hell was that?” Scott asked as he turned off the hose.
“Whatever it is, we’ll probably catch the blame,” Jeff replied. They made a hurried exit from the lab and heard another crash, this one louder than the first.
“What the fuck?” Scott muttered as they followed the noise. It led them to another research lab used by graduate students and professors. The door was standing open and they walked into the room to find five hooded figures hurling bottles of lab chemicals against the walls.
“What the fuck are you people doing?” Scott shouted as he ran to close the chemical cabinets. A tall student wearing a red T-shirt emblazoned with a yellow hammer and sickle stepped into Scott’s path.
“Stay back, brother,” the student growled.
“I’m not your brother.”
“We are all brothers in the cause,” a girl shouted as she scattered a sheath of research papers. “The people who work in this room are destroying our environment. They’ll use these tools to figure out new ways to despoil the land, tearing it to pieces in search of copper, just like they did in Butte.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jeff said.
“I’m talking about the wholesale rape of Mother Nature,” the girl replied with an exasperated stare.
“So you’re gonna rape our labs instead?” Scott shouted.
Scott tried to step around the burly activist, but he planted both hands on Scott’s chest and pushed him back. Another hooded figure suddenly picked up a chair and sent it flying across the room, striking Scott on the back of his head and sending him sprawling across a lab table.
The thug with the hammer and sickle T-shirt stepped back in shocked surprise. Jeff rushed forward and no one tried to stop him.
“Shit!” the girl cried. “Get out. We need to get out of here.” They scrambled out the door in a panic, knocking over chairs and tables as they went.
Jeff reached Scott just as he slumped to the floor. He grabbed Scott underneath his arms and lowered him slowly. Scott’s hair was matted and dark with blood. The blood had also soaked into the back of his red flannel shirt.
“Oh, shit,” Jeff moaned as he leaned Scott’s back against a cabinet door.
Scott sighed loudly and his eyes fluttered open. “Bastards,” he mumbled.
“I need to call security, Scott. Will you just sit here until I get back?”
“I don’t feel like going anywhere at the moment.”
Jeff returned minutes later with a roll of paper towels.
“They’re on their way,” Jeff said as he tore off a sheet and used it to staunch the blood that was still trickling from the back of Scott’s head.
“Ouch!” Scott winced. “Careful back there.”
“Did you recognize any of those assholes?” Jeff asked.
“Nope. I don’t think they were students.”
“Do you want to try to stand?”
Jeff took both of Scott’s hands and pulled him to his feet.
“Whoo!” Scott said as he braced himself on the edge of a table.
They heard sirens in the parking lot and soon a campus cop and two emergency medical technicians came jogging into the lab. The EMTs bandaged Scott’s head and, with more than a little persuasion, managed to get him to lay on their stretcher. They checked Scott’s vital signs and gave him a couple of Tylenol tablets with a glass of water. In the meantime, the cop took statements from Scott and Jeff, then called on his radio for Missoula police.
“We need to take you the hospital,” one of the EMTs said.
“Sorry, no can do,” Scott answered as he swung his feet over the edge of the stretcher.
“But you probably have a concussion,” the EMT protested.
“It’s my life. And it isn’t illegal to be foolish with it, last time I checked,” Scott said.
He stood slowly, reaching to Jeff for support. The EMT glanced at the cop, who merely shrugged.
“So you’re refusing treatment?” the EMT asked, although it sounded more like a statement.
“I am indeed.”
“Not a wise choice,” Jeff whispered.
“I know what I’m doing,” Scott replied. “Does that mean we’re free to go?”
“I guess so,” the EMT replied with a disgusted shake of his head.
The Missoula police came screeching up to the lab just as Jeff and Scott stepped back into the afternoon sunshine. By now a small crowd had formed and they gaped at Scott’s bloodied shirt and bandaged head. Paul intercepted them as they crossed the lawn on their way to Craig Hall.
“What the fuck happened to you?” he cried.
“I had a disagreement with a group of environmentalists. You’ll probably read about it in the newspapers tomorrow morning.”
“They were trashing the graduate lab,” Jeff said. “We surprised them and one of the assholes brained Scott with a chair.”
“Good lord,” Paul grimaced. “How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been smacked with a chair,” Scott smiled.
“Why aren’t you in a hospital?” Paul asked.
“I hate hospitals,” Scott replied. “Besides, the ambulance guys told me that they didn’t think my skull was fractured. I just need to take it easy.”
When they reached the Craig Hall entrance, Scott waved them back. “Stay here and enjoy the rest of the day, guys. I need to go to my room and take a nap. Okay?”
Scott left them sitting glumly on the cool granite steps. Yet another angry speech from the SDS rally echoed between the buildings as Jeff glanced at the sleeves of his fatigue jacket and saw that they were stained with Scott’s blood. Paul noticed the stains too.
“That was your favorite jacket,” Paul said quietly.
“It doesn’t matter,” Jeff replied. “I think I’m done with it anyway.”
Chapter 14 A Night at the Movies
“Yes siree!” Scott laughed. “I want to ride in the back of a B17 bomber and get my ass shot away!”
A very young Burgess Meredith grinned and saluted an equally young Ronald Regan.
“And then I’ll reincarnate as The Joker!” another voice called out. The crowd laughed.
About 50 feet from where Paul, Jeff and Scott were sitting in the cool grass of the Oval on a late April evening, the Student Activities group had erected a screen and a large set of loudspeakers for “Movies Al Fresco.” How they had managed to dig up the World War II recruiting film The Rear Gunner, Jeff had no idea. Moreover, why they had decided to show it to the students was an unfathomable mystery. No matter. The movie was only 20 minutes long, a prelude to what they had really come to see: Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon.
“This is a hoot,” Paul said. “I didn’t know The Joker had ever made a recruiting film.”
“And it is so unquestioning, if you know I mean,” Jeff replied. “They look downright happy to be risking their lives.”
Scott nodded. “Hard to imagine believing in something so strongly that you’d be willing to put your life on the line for it.”
Paul laughed. “Damn right. I don’t believe in anything that strongly! I’m sure those poor saps sitting in Vietnam right now don’t either.”
Jeff turned to face him, but said nothing.
“So?” Paul shrugged. “That’s how I feel.”
“Did you know that Scott’s brother is one of those saps?” Jeff snapped. He felt Scott discretely pinch his elbow.
“Let’s not argue about it,” Scott said. “Bruce Lee starts soon and we’d better get our preparations underway.”
Scott still had at least half of his cube of blonde Lebanese hash (he’d been jealously concealing his treasure from everyone for weeks) and Jeff had the foresight to bring along Rich’s old pipe. Now, with the darkness closing in quickly, they shaved off another piece from the cube soon were quietly savoring the sweet smoke.
There was no threat from campus security; even Jeff wasn’t overly concerned. The few campus cops that were present when the movies started had now disappeared. Several plumes of hash and marijuana smoke were rising above the crowd with impunity.
Jeff searched the audience as the opening credits of Enter the Dragon scrolled across the screen. He saw a number of faces he knew, but he was looking for one face in particular. Seconds later he found her—Audrey was sitting just 20 feet away. She was wearing the same sweatshirt she wore during their tearful meal in the University Center. Her silvery blonde hair was tied back into a ponytail, but this time the tail was braided.
“Audrey is right over there,” Jeff said as he pointed. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
Jeff attempted to stand, but his right leg had gone numb from sitting. The best he could manage was an awkward crouch.
“What’s wrong?” Scott whispered.
“Pins and needles,” Jeff said through clenched teeth. The sensation was excruciating, and made all the worse by Scott’s hash.
With one hand balanced precariously on Paul’s shoulder—Paul frowned and tried to turn away—Jeff stood and hobbled through the crowd. When he reached Audrey, he almost stumbled into her.
Audrey had been smiling as she turned to look back, but the smile vanished almost before Jeff could see it.
“Good to see you, Audrey. It’s been a while.”
“I’m sitting just over there with Scott and Paul.”
“Good. I hope you guys enjoy the movie.”
“I was wondering if you’d want to come and sit with us. Scott has some outrageous hash.”
“I don’t think so,” she smirked. “I’m here with friends.”
“Oh. Okay. Would you like to get together for a snack afterward?”
“I can’t. I have a party I’m supposed to go to.”
Audrey sighed. “It’s just a party, Jeff.”
“Right, but I thought maybe--”
“I’m sorry, Jeff, but I really want to watch this movie right now, okay?”
“Sure, Audrey. Have a good time.”
Audrey nodded and resumed her position facing the screen. Jeff slowly made his way back to Scott and Paul.
“How was Audrey?” Paul asked.
“She’s fine,” Jeff sighed.
Scott leaned in and whispered, “Even from here I could see that your little chat was on the frosty side.”
“Yeah. I’d better check to make sure my balls are still in place.”
Scott chuckled. “At least you’ve still got your sense of humor.”
“I just thought, you know, maybe we could still get something going,” Jeff shrugged.
“Not fucking likely, Jeff. Too much bad water has passed under that bridge. Not that it’s your fault, but she associates you with some unpleasant events.”
Jeff nodded and tried to return his gaze to the screen, but his eyes kept wandering to Audrey.
Maybe she’ll have second thoughts and look my way longingly, Jeff thought.
But of course, she didn’t. Audrey laughed along with everyone else at the terribly dubbed dialog, but otherwise she seemed bored. When Jeff glanced back later, Audrey was gone.
After the movie, Paul suggested that they pile into his car and cruise the Front Street bars. Scott agreed immediately, but Jeff was reluctant. After some gentle cajoling from Scott, he eventually relented.
To Jeff’s disappointment, they wound up at the Cavern. The bar was packed with a mixture of students and regular drunks. They squeezed around a tiny table in the back, about 30 feet from the stage. A country western band and just struck up a Hank Williams tune and audience clapped in appreciation, including Scott.
Jeff sat with his chair tilting against the wall, nursing a tall glass of Coke. As the band worked itself into a respectable version of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” Jeff wasn’t at all surprised to see Madame Bump and Grind leap into the spotlight. The audience roared its approval as she thrust her hips at the banjo player.
“Wow!” Paul exclaimed, “She’s outrageous.”
“Don’t even think about fucking her,” Jeff shouted above the music. An hour later, Scott and Paul were feeling the effects of their beers while
Jeff continued to work on the same Coke. A fight broke out by the back door between two sloppy drunks. Neither landed punches, but the general pandemonium was enough to disrupt the band’s set. Two bouncers shoved patrons out of the way as they rushed across the dance floor and unceremoniously tossed the battling drunks into the alley.“Jesus!” Scott said.
“Let’s blow this joint,” Jeff suggested, but Paul smiled and shook his head.
“I’m way too fucked up to drive,” he slurred.
“Me, too,” Scott said.
Jeff reached into Paul’s coat and grabbed his keys. “I’ll drive. Let’s go.”
“Aw, shit, man,” Paul bawled. “You’re always the wet blanket. You don’t know how to enjoy yourself. Never have.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” Jeff replied as he jerked Paul out of the chair. Scott stood unsteadily and sighed.
“So, tell me--when are you ever going to extract that bug from your ass?” Paul said.
“Be cool, Paul. I thought you two were best friends,” Scott said.
Paul shrugged. “I don’t know. Sometimes it’s hard, man. It’s hard.”
Jeff could feel the hot blush on his cheeks. Scott stood swaying slightly in place, shaking his head.
“Let’s just leave,” Jeff said. They followed him out of the bar like little children and crawled into the back seat of Paul’s car.
“How about something to eat?” Scott asked.
“Okay,” Jeff replied as he started the engine. He took them back across the river and eventually tracked down a Denny’s Restaurant, the only eatery still open at 1AM.
Jeff guided them to a table in an unoccupied corner of the mostly empty restaurant. Under a ceiling speaker that broadcast middle-of-the-road music and news from KGVO, Jeff did his best to keep Scott and Paul quiet. He hoped the music would mask their outbursts of laughter and obscenities, but from the sour look on the face of the waitress who approached their table, it wasn’t entirely effective.
Paul tried to flirt with the waitress, but failed miserably. With an I’drather-be-in-hell-than-here look on her face, the young brunette scribbled down their orders. After acknowledging Jeff’s request for coffee and a cinnamon roll, she hurried back to the kitchen.
“Paul, can you try being just a little less obnoxious?” Jeff asked.
“I don’t know. Can you try being less of a prick?” Paul grinned.
“Now, now,” Scott said, raising his hands. “We’re all friends, remember?”
Paul grunted and was about to speak when the waitress returned with their coffees. She put the mugs down brusquely, then left as quickly as possible.
“So, Jeff,” Scott began, “how’s freshman journalism these days?”
“I’m actually enjoying my classes, believe it or not. Especially broadcast journalism.”
“Then how come I don’t hear newscasts on KRAP?” Paul mumbled as he tried to spoon some honey into his coffee.
Scott rolled his eyes and turned back to Jeff, ignoring the question. “So you’re thinking about getting into radio or TV news?”
“Yep,” Jeff replied as he sipped carefully. “I’m in one of Dr Reneau’s classes on radio and TV journalism. Pretty interesting stuff. Just last week he
“Hold it!” Paul shouted and pointed to the ceiling. “Listen!” They all stared at the ceiling speaker.
“The badly decomposed remains were discovered yesterday by a hiker in the Rattlesnake Canyon area. According to the medical examiner, a wallet found with the body carried the driver’s license of Grady Wallace and his identity was confirmed through dental records this afternoon. Wallace was the son of well-known industrialist Michael Wallace. He disappeared during the March 30th blizzard in a suspected suicide. Missoula police confirmed to KGVO that there was no indication of foul play. In other news,…”
Jeff could feel his skin breaking out in gooseflesh. “God damn,” he said aloud.
“Fuckin’ eh,” Paul slurred.
“Well, we all knew this would happen eventually,” Scott said quietly. “At least now he can have a proper burial.”
“Poor bastard,” Jeff said. “Dying alone in the snow.”
“There are worse ways,” Paul muttered. “I wouldn’t want to burn, for instance.”
Scott touched Jeff’s arm. “You know, man, Paul is right. I once talked to a mountain climber who nearly died on Mt Hood in a snowstorm. He told me that once the hypothermia began to set in, the sensation of being cold disappeared and he actually felt warm and comfortable. When the rescuers found him, he was just starting to drift into a pleasant sleep. They said later that if he had fallen asleep, he would’ve never awakened.”
Jeff nodded. “I hope you’re right.”
Their food arrived soon afterward and they ate in silence.
The next morning Jeff was up early, reading a journalism assignment and spinning records on KRAP. Jeff had heard that nearly 40% of the freshman class had dropped out and he wasn’t surprised. Duniway Hall had become increasingly quiet and empty. The party activity that had nosedived after Grady’s death never really recovered. Even the number of Frisbee players in the courtyard between Duniway and Miller Halls had dwindled to a handful.
Low clouds and light rain had arrived with the dawn, and the damp chill finally compelled Jeff to close his windows and turn up the heat. As he rummaged through the dresser for a sweatshirt, Scott Davies knocked on the side of his door.“Hey Jeff,” Scott said.
Jeff looked up and saw that he wasn’t smiling. Worse yet, Scott’s face seemed pale and drawn.
“You okay, Scott?”
Scott walked into the room with his hands in his pockets. He stopped in the middle of the room and stared at the floor.
“I have bad news, man, and a favor to ask on top of it.”
Scott sighed and swallowed. “I got a call this morning, Jeff. My mother…”
Scott swallowed again and waved his hand. “My mother…is gone. Dead.”
“Oh my god, Scott. I’m sorry.”
Scott slowly shook his head, his eyes still fixed on the floor. “My dad said she went to bed with a stomach ache last night. She never woke up. It was a heart attack.”
Scott finally looked up and Jeff could see that his eyes were bloodshot and glistening.
“I don’t know what to say.”
Scott shrugged. “Nothing you can say, man. God takes everyone, but I always thought he might make an exception for my mother, you know? She was so proud of me going to college and…” He couldn’t finish the sentence.
Jeff felt as though he was cemented to the floor. After what seemed like an eternity, he summoned the will to break free and put his arm around Scott’s shoulder.
“You going home, Scott?”
“Do you have a flight booked?”
“You’ll need a ride to the airport.”
“Yes,” Scott whispered. “That was the favor I needed to ask.”
“Paul is still sleeping off his hangover. I tried to wake him for breakfast and he was dead to the world. He won’t mind if I borrow his car.”
“Thanks, Jeff. I’ll go pack.”
When Scott left the room, Jeff sat on the bed with his head in his hands.
These were supposed to be the best times of our lives.
There was a soft buzz and a click as the tone arm lifted from the center of the record and then lowered itself to the resting post. Beside the turntable was an Earl Scruggs album that Scott had left nearly a month ago. Jeff had always promised to give the LP a spin on the air, but could never bring himself to do it.
Now’s the time.
He stood and grasped the KRAP microphone in one hand while he removed the Jethro Tull album and replaced it with Earl Scruggs’s I Saw the Light.
“What you are about to hear is a departure from our normal music programming. It’s an album by Earl Scruggs, a famous name in bluegrass that some of you might recognize. This is a special dedication to Scott Davies of Craig Hall.”
Jeff cringed at the sound of banjos pouring from his speakers. Scott laughed softly from behind. He was standing in the doorway with a small duffle bag slung over this shoulder.
“Not so bad, is it?” he said.
“If you say so, Scott.”
Scott smiled and nodded. “This will get everyone’s attention.”
“No doubt. And while they are distracted, let’s go steal Paul’s keys and hijack his car,” Jeff replied as he pulled on his coat.
Paul didn’t even stir when Jeff crept into his room and plucked the set of keys from his jacket. He would likely awaken in a foul mood, and receiving the news about Scott wouldn’t improve things. Jeff decided to put that moment off for as long as possible.
When they got in the car, Jeff tuned the radio to KRAP so that Scott could at least have something enjoyable to hear on their way out of town. As they crossed the Clark Fork on the Madison Street bridge, however, the signal faded to noise.
“Thanks for trying, Jeff. I appreciated it.”
“Well, you’ll be back within the KRAP community soon enough.”
“I’m not altogether sure about that,” Scott replied as he gazed out the window. “My dad isn’t doing well, mentally or physically. He had a stroke a couple of years back and my mom was really the one running the household. My dad is going to need my help now.”
“You’re going to have to take care of your mother’s funeral yourself?”
“Most of it. They’ll give my brother emergency leave as soon as the news gets to his battalion commander, but he’ll be lucky to make it back in time for the burial.”
“Oh.” Jeff could see where this was leading and felt another wave of sadness wash over him.
Scott was silent as they weaved through the streets and eventually climbed the ramp onto Interstate 90.
“So,” Jeff said as the car accelerated, “you won’t be coming back, will you?”
Scott shook his head. “No. By the time I make some arrangements for my dad, it will be too late. Maybe I can get partial credit for what I’ve done so far this quarter, I don’t know.”
“That’s a shame. And only five weeks left in the school year.”
“But,” Scott said, holding up his finger, “I will be back in the fall. Doing anything less would dishonor my mom’s memory. I’ll find a job around town over the summer and get the necessary money together for another year’s worth of books and meals. I will be back.”
When they arrived at Johnson-Bell, the airport seemed as deserted as Duniway Hall. Only a few passengers milled about the gate area, waiting to board a lonely Northwest jet that sat nearby on the wet tarmac.
The boarding call crackled over the public address system and Scott shook Jeff’s hand. They stood staring at each other for a moment, then Scott threw his arms around Jeff’s shoulders.
“Take care of yourself,” he said.
“You, too,” Jeff replied as he slapped Scott’s back.
“Remember, Jeff, follow what seems right for you. Don’t just run with your old habits.”
“I know, Scott. Thanks for everything.”
Scott stepped back and smiled sadly before turning and walking quickly through the gate. Jeff watched him jog through the rain and climb the rear staircase of the airliner.
As Jeff reached the parking lot and unlocked the car, he heard a deep, distant roar that grew quickly in intensity. He turned to see a silver and blue Northwest Orient 727 soaring above the terminal and climbing rapidly into the mist, drawing up its landing gear as it went. Within seconds, Jeff could only see its flashing lights. A minute later even the thunder of its engines had faded to silence.
Chapter 15 Let’s Dance
Jeff awoke to a scream. He sat bolt upright in his bed, his heart pounding in his throat. Somewhere outside a voice was chanting, “Jungle boogie!” to a throbbing mixture of bass and brass.
He stumbled to the window and saw two students in the courtyard below. They were gyrating around a portable cassette player with oversized speakers.
“My god. Disco at nine o’clock on a fucking Saturday morning.”
Bleary, bewildered faces appeared in several Miller Hall windows as well. As Jeff watched, one of the students jabbed a button on the cassette player and the music suddenly jumped to “Dancing Machine” by the Jackson Five.
Jeff slammed the window shut and considered putting on his own music at earsplitting volume, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good.
I would be pissing into the wind, he thought.
And the wind he would be pissing into was one that he had heard blowing for months, gathering strength like an approaching storm. Request calls to KRAP for the likes of Traffic and Pink Floyd were trickling down, only to be replaced by demands for Kool and the Gang and Barry White.
Empty, repetitive dance music. That’s what we’re coming to.
Jeff threw on some clothes, brushed his hair and strolled through the hallways to Paul’s room. He found Paul awake and at his desk, rolling a thin doobie.
“Would you like a little marijuana to start your morning?” Paul asked as Jeff entered the room. To Jeff’s dismay, the music could be heard even here.
“Why not? Hell, I was asleep until they fired up that bullshit.”
“Don’t get your underwear in a knot,” Paul smiled as he lit the joint. He inhaled deeply and held his breath while passing it to Jeff. “Fuck the revolution. Let’s dance,” he croaked.
“I hope you’re being sarcastic.”
“Yes and no. The whole revolution thing is over, Jeff. We’ve had this discussion before.”
Jeff pulled a chair up to the windows and sat wearily. “I know. It’s just hard to give it up.”
“Poor Jeff. I could see this coming before we even left Indianapolis. You set yourself up for disappointment from the get go.”
“That’s not entirely true. When it’s all said and done, I’m still glad we came here. We’ve just had a run of bad luck.”
“What you’re calling a run of bad luck is otherwise known as life,” Paul replied with a laugh. “We aren’t magically insulated from it just because we’re on a university campus.”
“Maybe so, but this place is special. This time is special. Haven’t you ever felt that?”
Paul sat back in his chair and smirked. “Special how? Supernaturally special?”
“Special because this situation is unique. We’ll never live through an experience quite like this again.”
“We’ll never live any experience again, Jeff. I remember you telling me that Scott once said that we can never step in the same river twice.”
Jeff sighed. “Scott was talking about a philosophy of time. I’m talking about life-changing experiences that span months and years.”
“Ah, that’s where we part company,” Paul said as he drew again from the joint. “To me, this isn’t a life-changing experience. My time here is just one diversion among many while I hurtle headlong into an uncertain future. I don’t see any special significance in it. Maybe years later, when I look back, I will. Not now, though.”
Jeff nodded and gazed out the window to the parking lot below. “We’ll have to agree to disagree, Paul. I’ll admit that my idea of a campus revolution turned out to be pretty hollow. The people I’ve met who call themselves revolutionaries are just flaming assholes for the most part. And the students who didn’t buy into all the Marxist claptrap were some of the best people I’ve ever known.”
“There you go,” Paul replied as he extended the joint to Jeff. “The truth will out.”
“But none of that changes the fact that this place is special—at least to me.”
Jeff waved the joint away. He was already buzzed sufficiently and didn’t want to cruise at higher altitudes so early in the day.
“Suit yourself, Jeff.”
“Speaking of the future, have you pre-registered for your classes next fall?”
Jeff shook his head.
“Why not? It’ll save you a lot of the hassle next September.”
“I don’t know if I’m coming back yet.”
Jeff felt his stomach clench and tried to ignore it. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m just not sure yet,” Paul replied as he tapped a long ash out the window.
“You mean you’re not sure what classes you need to take?”
“No. I’m not sure I want to come back at all.”
Jeff grimaced and shook his head. “This is making me dizzy. I still don’t get it.”
“What’s to get?” Paul chuckled. “Maybe I want to go off in a different direction. Maybe I don’t want to get a college degree.”
“What’s going on here? Are you trying to fuck with me?”
“Why does it all have to be about you, Jeff? I simply said that I am thinking about not coming back to school here. I’m looking at all my options.”
“But throughout high school we talked about going through college together. This was supposed to be--”
“What?” Paul interrupted as he leaned across the table. “Special? You haven’t understood a thing I’ve said.”
“I thought we had kind of a, you know, a partnership.”
“A partnership? I never agreed to such a thing. I told you that I was going to go to U of M for my freshman year, nothing more. You ginned up this partnership idea in your own mind and decided to come along.”
“So,” Jeff laughed, waving his arms in the air, “I’ve been living a lie. You didn’t even want me to come with you.”
“Nooo,” Jeff said, drawing out the word as if talking to a child, “I didn’t care either way. You could have stayed in Indianapolis and my feelings wouldn’t have been hurt. I would have just figured that you were doing what you felt you needed to do, just like I was.”
Jeff’s arms fell to his sides. “I see.”
“Do you really?”
“Yes, I do,” Jeff replied as he stood slowly. “Thanks for making that clear.”
“I’m sorry if the truth hurts,” Paul said. “This is the way it is, the way it has always been. You just couldn’t see it.”
“Well, I shouldn’t really care if you’re coming back in the fall, right?”
“I can’t tell you how to feel, man. Either way, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you.”
Jeff walked to the door. “Want to grab breakfast?” Paul called after him.
“No. I’m not hungry. You go ahead,” Jeff replied.
He walked unhurriedly back to his room, grateful at least for the fact that the disco barrage had ceased. Jeff switched on the KRAP transmitter and pulled the Moody Blue’s In Search of the Lost Chord from his pile of albums.
“Good morning, students” Jeff began. “This is KRAP, the pirate voice of the rev--”
Jeff stopped cold and thumbed the OFF switch on the microphone. He stared at the needle, posed just over the edge of the record.
“This is KRAP,” he began again, switching on the microphone, “the voice of Duniway Hall. For your morning pleasure, we have the Moody Blues.”
Jeff flipped the turntable cueing lever and watched the needle glide down to the album grooves. As the music began, he went to the wall and carefully removed the thumbtacks that held his collection of Soviet posters. He rolled up each poster and slipped rubber bands over the tubes to keep them in place.
An hour later, Jeff Louden walked across the Oval with the warm May sunshine in his eyes and a load of posters under his arm. In his other hand he held the rumpled remains of his beloved fatigue jacket, the one still stained with Scott Davies’ blood.
Jeff smiled and waved to one of his professors as he strolled through the lush ground-floor square of the University Center. Sunlight was streaming from the skylights and the fragrance of breakfast was everywhere. When he reached the SDS office, the door was closed and locked, as he assumed it would be. Jeff simply dumped the posters and his jacket on the floor.
“Long live the revolution,” Jeff whispered as he stepped into the glassenclosed elevator. He rode to the second floor and joined the line of hungry students at the Center cafeteria.
Jeff looked up from his books and saw Leigh standing at the end of the table.
“And why not?” he asked with a smile. “You should know that you’d always find me in the library.”
“Oh, of course—scholar that you are.”
“Sit down. Tell me about your life so far.”
Leigh tossed her books on the table and pulled up a chair. “I don’t have a life. I probably spend more time in this library than you do.”
“No movies? No parties?”
“As many as I can manage, but the number is declining. It’s way past time to get academically serious.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Have you heard anything from Scott?” Leigh asked.
“No. I should give him a call. I think I have his number in Little Rock stashed away somewhere.”
Jeff shrugged. “He’s okay, I suppose. I haven’t seen him all that much lately. We have dinner together sometimes.”
Leigh nodded and Jeff watched her jet-black hair fall across her face. She brushed it back with a wave of her hand.
“You know, Leigh, until now I never noticed what pretty hair you have.”
“It must be the lights,” Leigh said with a laugh.
Leigh closed her eyes briefly and smiled. “Thank you, Jeff. Coming from you, that’s a wonderful compliment.”
They locked eyes for what seemed like several minutes, then Leigh abruptly slapped her hand on top of her books.
“Hey, I’m on my way to Freddy’s Feed and Read to grab a book and a snack. Wanna come with me?”
“Sure,” Jeff replied and quickly gathered his papers.
Freddy’s was a bookstore and grocery run by a commune of hippies just a few blocks from campus. Students could always buy their books in the oncampus UC bookstore, but Freddy’s had a strange panache that many, including Jeff, enjoyed. Besides, when the UC ran out of a particular title, it was often possible to find it at Freddy’s.
Leigh browsed the tall bookshelves, searching for Melville’s Moby Dick, while Jeff grabbed bags of chips and various other snacks. An overly cheerful girl at the checkout took their cash and placed their treasures in a brown paper bag emblazoned with a bust of Karl Marx. With snacks and book in hand, they headed back to the Oval and found a shady spot near the liberal arts building.
“So, what did you buy us to eat?” Leigh asked. “I wasn’t paying attention at the checkout.”
“Well, you should have,” Jeff replied as he reached in the Marxist bag and produced a two turkey sandwiches wrapped in cellophane.
“Good choice, Jeff. Anything to drink?”
Jeff pulled out two cans of Coke.
“Works for me,” Leigh said with a grin.
“Don’t forget to ask about dessert,” Jeff said.
Jeff peered into the bag, then looked back at Leigh with a mischievous smirk.
“What have you done, Jeff?”
Jeff reached in slowly and his hand emerged with a coconut.
“What the hell are we supposed to do with that?” Leigh laughed.
“Eat it, of course.”
“Have you ever eaten a coconut?”
“No, but it looked strange and delicious.”
Leigh hung her head and laughed again. “But they’re almost impossible to open without some kind of tool.”
Jeff studied the coconut and frowned. He found a rock protruding from the grass and began to tentatively knock the coconut against it.
“Much harder,” Leigh said.
Jeff brought the coconut down as hard as he could and the husk shattered, sending coconut milk spraying over the legs of his jeans.
“God damn it!” he shouted, bushing furiously at his pants.
Leigh let out a shriek of laughter and suddenly fell into Jeff, hugging him tightly. Jeff wrapped his arms across her back and closed his eyes. Her warmth, and the light fragrance of her hair, completely obliterated the clammy dampness of his pants.
Leigh pulled away slowly, her hands falling into his. “Damn it, Jeff. You’re so delightfully clumsy.”
“With coconuts in particular and life in general.”
“I know that, too.”
“What you saw in Audrey, I’ll never understand,” she said, shaking her head.
Jeff only sighed and shrugged his shoulders.
“Well,” Leigh blurted. “let’s eat. I’d love nothing more than to spend the afternoon sitting right here, but I have a 2 o’clock class.”
They ate their lunch as slowly as they could manage, although neither would admit to deliberately doing so. It was Jeff who began glancing at his watch with growing concern.
“It’s two minutes until two, Leigh.”
“Yeah, I’d better get going,” she replied as she scrambled to her feet. “Wednesday is the Aber Day kegger. Are you going?”
“Of course. Paul and I plan to head out there in the morning.”
“Good. I’ll be going with some girls from Knowles. I hope we’ll run into each other.”
“Yes,” Jeff smiled. “Me, too.”
The bell sounded and everyone rose from their desks. “I need all your essays on Friday,” Dr Reneau called out. “Aber Day, or no Aber Day.”
Jeff scooped up his books and walked toward the door.
“Mr Louden! A moment, please,” Reneau said.
Dr Reneau, a lanky professor with snow-white hair tied back in a ponytail, strode quickly up to Jeff.
“I happened to catch you on the air yesterday evening,” Reneau said with a grin. “You’re very good.”
Jeff blushed. “Oh. You were listening to KRAP.”
“Yes, I was grading papers in my office when I decided to tune around the FM dial. I usually listen to the university station, KUFM, but I was just curious.”
“Well,” Jeff replied with a laugh. “I hope your curiosity was rewarded.”
“Indeed,” Reneau said as he leaned casually against one of the desks. “My hope is that you’ll put your talent to better use.”
“That’s one of the reasons I’m in this class.”
Reneau laughed. “Good answer, Jeff.”
“No, I mean it. I really enjoy your class.”
“You know,” Reneau began as he stroked his chin, “I see strong potential in you. I believe you’d make an excellent broadcast journalist once you’re sufficiently polished. That takes time, of course.”
“What I want to propose is that you join the KUFM staff next fall as one of our regular news editors.”
Jeff shuddered and nearly dropped his books. “Me?”
“Of course. It’s time for you to graduate from 10 watts to 10,000 watts, don’t you think?”
“Wow,” Jeff replied, rubbing his forehead. “I didn’t expect this.”
“You will be coming back to U of M for your sophomore year, won’t you?”
“I…don’t know, doctor. I’m still considering it.”
“Well, I don’t need an answer today. Think it over carefully and let me know before finals. I’d be proud to have you become part of our team.”
Jeff nodded. “I’m flattered that you asked, if nothing else.”
Reneau clapped Jeff on the shoulder as they walked to the door. “By the way, Jeff, I have a friend who works over at KYLT-FM. He told me that his program director has also heard about KRAP. Stickler that he is about Federal Communication Commission rules, the program director isn’t too thrilled about your presence on the airwaves and plans to file a complaint with the FCC office in Helena.”
Jeff felt the hair standing on the back of his neck. “Uh-oh.”
“Uh-oh indeed. The last thing you want to do is run afoul of the Feds. Personally, I’d suggest a siesta for KRAP—perhaps a permanent one.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Besides, with finals coming soon, I don’t really have the time to keep it on the air anyway.”
“A wise choice,” Reneau replied. “I’ll be sure to pass the word along.
Jeff cleared his throat and drew a deep breath.
“Ladies and gentlemen, what you are hearing is the last transmission from KRAP, the voice of Duniway Hall. We came on the air more than seven months ago, and it has been a good run. I want to thank everyone for their support. I hope you’ve enjoyed the music as much as I’ve enjoyed playing it. We’ve had a lot of good times together and I have to honestly say that it has been fun. I want to dedicate this last song to all of you, but particularly to Grady Wallace, Rich Runyon and Scott Davies—wherever you all may be. Goodbye, good luck and peace to you all.”
Jeff smiled as he lowered the needle to the song he had selected for his sign-off: Frank Zappa’s “Montana” from Overnight Sensation. As the song played, he removed the microphone from the stereo and pitched it into the wastebasket.
His telephone rang several times with students wishing him well, or protesting the loss. Jeff finally had to take the phone off the hook and let it dangle on the wall.
As the song faded and the needle wobbled into the inner grooves of the album, Jeff unplugged the audio line that snaked between his stereo amplifier and the KRAP transmitter.
“KRAP is now leaving the airwaves—forever,” he whispered as he switched off the power supply. The red glow of the transmitter’s “on air” lamp dimmed, then winked out.
Chapter 16 Aber Day and Beyond
Aber Day is a University of Montana tradition that dates back to at least 1915. In honor of William Aber, U of M professor and early environmentalist, classes were canceled on a chosen day in May and students spent the time cleaning the campus.
Jeff recalled reading these historic tidbits somewhere, but on Aber Day 1974, thoughts of tidying the campus were remote at best. The day was already hot by 10 AM and the line of traffic into Miller Creek was more than a mile long. Paul and Jeff were part of that line, creeping forward in the bed of a pickup truck along with six other students from Craig and Duniway halls. While they baked slowly under the Montana sun, they all sampled the new pot Paul had just purchased. Deep Purple’s Machine Head was pounding in the truck’s rear-deck speakers.
Even from this distance, they could easily see the mammoth concert stage with its scaffolding and loudspeakers. Even more impressive were the lines of 18-wheel beer trucks with “Coors” and “Lucky” in massive lettering on the sides of their trailers. Over it all hung a pall of yellow dust as 11,000 people danced, loved and consumed copious amounts of intoxicants.
Jeff and Paul jumped from the pickup as soon as it crossed the fence gate. They paid their admission and were rewarded with orange plastic pitchers— the better to drink beer from. As they stood in the Coors beer line, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was just taking the stage. Speakers boomed as the band members tuned their instruments and tested the microphones. By the time they launched into “Mr Bojangles,” Jeff was holding his pitcher under the dual spigots, watching the flow of delightful, golden liquid.“Where to?” he shouted to Paul.
Paul pointed to an area near the front of the stage. “Let’s try there,” he shouted in reply.
They spent several minutes weaving through the crowd, gingerly stepping over those who had already succumbed to drugs, alcohol or both. At the end of their quest, they found themselves standing in what Paul assumed was a relatively clear spot, only to discover that it was clear because some poor wretch was vomiting violently in the middle of it. Paul shrugged, set his pitcher on the ground temporarily and lit the largest doobie Jeff had ever seen in his life. It looked more like a premium Dutch Masters cigar than a marijuana cigarette.
Jeff and Paul took several hits from the pot cigar before Paul decided to pass it to girl standing next to him. She passed it to someone else and before long the mega-joint had vanished from sight, never to return.
By noon, they had drained their pitchers and Elvin Bishop’s roadies were rearranging the stage. Jeff was unsteady, but still feeling good despite the grit that had seemingly worked its way into every pore.
“Man, I gotta pee,” Paul announced.
They navigated through the crowd once more, this time moving in the general direction of the men’s latrine. When they arrived, Jeff was quietly aghast. Behind a wall of hastily erected canvas, a line of students stood at the edge of a rank ditch and relieved themselves. The canvas only covered their midsections, leaving their lower legs exposed. Through that portion of the wall Jeff could see countless arcs of streaming piss.
“I’ll pass for now,” Jeff said. “I’m going to get back into the beer line.”
“Okay. I’ll probably join up with you there.”
When Jeff left the beer line with a fresh pitcher of Coors, Paul was nowhere to be seen. Jeff waited several minutes, then walked the periphery of the crowd, thinking he might catch sight of Paul among the masses.
After almost 30 minutes of fruitless searching, Jeff gave up and found a comfortable place to sit and listen to Elvin and his band. Even though sweat was pouring across his face, the icy beer was keeping Jeff cool and happy.
This is just as well, he thought. Besides, I have some thinking to do.
It was mid-May and he still hadn’t given Dr Reneau his answer. On the surface, it should have been easy. An opportunity to work at KUFM was priceless; it could be the first step in a broadcast journalism career. Who knew where it might lead?
All Jeff had to do was say “yes” and return to Missoula in the fall. But Paul might not come back for his sophomore year. He was still waffling, refusing to give Jeff a decision. God only knew when Paul would finally make up his mind.
But why should my decision depend in any way upon Paul?
“If Scott Davies were here, he’d slap me silly,” Jeff mumbled.
Early noon melted into late afternoon and Jeff was still looking for Paul. The bands were winding down and many students were beginning to leave. Now Jeff’s concern included not only finding his friend for the simple sake of doing so, but also because Paul had arranged their transportation. The pickup driver was a stranger to Jeff. Moreover, Jeff had no idea where the truck was parked.
He decided to wait in the billowing dust at the side of the dirt road that lead to the main highway. Every vehicle had to pass that point to get home and Jeff would surely see the truck coming his way.
Jeff saw a girl that he thought sure was Audrey. She sped by at the wheel of a Ford Pinto with two other girls in the back seat. He waved, but she didn’t appear to notice.
“So it goes,” Jeff muttered as he drained the warm dregs of beer from his pitcher.
Twenty minutes later, to his immense relief, Jeff saw a familiar brown Chevy pickup lumbering up the road. And there was Paul, sitting at the rear of the pickup bed with his pitcher clenched tightly to his chest.
“Hey!” Jeff waved. “Paul!”
Paul saw him and smiled. “Sorry,” he shouted as the truck drew even with Jeff. “There isn’t enough room for you.”
“Come on, man. Tell him to stop!”
The truck didn’t even slow and Paul merely held out his hands, palms up, in the classic there’s-nothing-I-can-do gesture.
“Say something to him!” Jeff cried, but Paul and the pickup were speeding away.
Jeff dropped to his knees in the dust, his head hanging down. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered.
Suddenly he was jerked upright by the blast of a car horn.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Jeff looked around and saw Leigh Simmons leaning out of the window of a Volkswagen Beetle. “What’s wrong?” she shouted again.
“I don’t have a ride back to campus.”
“You do now. Get in.”
“What happened to the girls you came with?” Jeff asked as he closed the door.
Leigh wrestled the car into gear with a curse, then steered back to the middle of the badly rutted road. “They found other ways home, with guys mostly. Where was your ride? Where was Paul?”
“I lost track of him about halfway through the party, then he went cruising by in the back of the truck that brought us here.”
“Why didn’t he pick you up?”
“He said the truck was full.”
“Was it?” Leigh asked as she turned onto the highway.
“Yes, I suppose so. I shouldn’t blame him.”
“Bullshit,” she replied. “Even if people were hanging off the hood and roof, being full isn’t the issue. If you weren’t allowed on, Paul should have jumped off at that instant and stayed with you.”
“Yeah, but he--”
“He is supposed to be your friend. That’s what friends do. It’s a matter of principle, Jeff.”
Leigh switched on the radio and tuned it to a Top-40 AM station. “It isn’t KRAP,” she said with a grin, “but it will have to do.”
They gossiped and laughed all the way back to campus. After Leigh jerked the Beetle into the parking space and killed the engine, they sat quietly and stared at each other.
“Would you like to come up to my room?” Leigh asked at last.
“What about your roommate?”
“She dropped out last month.”
Jeff gestured to this shirt and pants. “I’m not very presentable. In fact, I’m probably downright filthy.”
“I don’t care. So am I. Any other objections?”
“I guess not,” Jeff said with a sheepish smile.
Neither spoke as they walked into Knowles Hall and climbed the stairs to the second floor. Leigh’s room was at the far end of the east wing. She took Jeff by the hand and led him to the door, opening it quietly and closing it behind them.
As soon as the lock latched, Leigh threw her arms around his shoulders and kissed him deeply. With no real experience to guide him, Jeff responded as best he could. After another one of those eternal minutes, Leigh pulled back, her arms still clasped around his shoulders.
“Sorry,” Jeff whispered.
“I’m kind of new at this.”
Leigh bit her lower lip and grinned. “Oh. You could have fooled me.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll need further instruction.”
“I’ll be happy to be your tutor for the evening.”
“Sounds fine to me, Leigh.”
Jeff removed his dusty boots while Leigh put the Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed on her stereo.
“Is that for me?” Jeff asked.
“Do you like the Moody Blues, too?” Leigh replied as she stretched out on the bed.
“Yes. I have all their albums.”
Leigh patted the mattress beside her. “Come here. Class is in session.”
Jeff found Leigh’s instruction very much to his liking. It began with more passionate kisses, then rapidly progressed to frenzied removal of clothing. Any fear that Jeff may have harbored about his own sexuality vanished when he felt the heat of Leigh’s nude body against his. With Leigh’s quiet guidance, their lovemaking was glorious.
An hour later Jeff lay on his back with Leigh cradled in his arms. She had lit a candle on her nightstand and now its orange light flickered and danced over their naked bodies. Jeff ran his finger across Leigh’s shoulder, then down across her chest and around her breast. She shivered slightly.
“That tickles,” Leigh whispered.
“I can’t get over my amazement. You’re just so beautiful.”
“You’re basking in the afterglow, Jeff, when everything is beautiful— even me.”
Jeff kissed her forehead. “You were beautiful way before this. I was too ignorant to see it.”
“Okay. I’ll buy that.”
Leigh stroked the hair on Jeff’s chest. “So, what will you be doing at the end of school year?”
“I’ll need to go back to Indianapolis and get a job over the summer.”
“Will you be coming back here in the fall?”
Jeff took a deep breath and didn’t answer for almost a minute. “Yes,” he replied at last.
“That’s going to be a very long three months for me.”
“I know. Me, too.”
Jeff held Leigh even tighter, savoring the fragrance of her breath. Somewhere in the dorm, Maria Muldaur was crooning “Midnight at the Oasis” on the tinny speaker of someone’s radio. Jeff couldn’t remember a time when he had felt so much at peace and he wondered if he’d ever feel quite this way again.
In the weeks that followed, Jeff spent most of his free hours with Leigh. Spring-quarter final exams were looming and they often studied together in her room, or in the library. On a balmy June afternoon, Jeff was sitting by himself in the Oval, scratching out an essay on the First Amendment, when he heard Paul’s voice behind him.
“Jeff, my man. Long time, no see.”
Paul squatted down on his haunches. He was holding a bright red Frisbee. “You, too,” Jeff replied.
“I hear that you and Leigh Simmons are an ‘item’. I even saw you
together at the Grateful Dead concert. Quite a loving couple!”
“Yeah,” Jeff said with a smile. “Leigh is a fine lady.”
Jeff briefly considered bringing up the episode at the Aber Day kegger,
but then discarded the thought. As Scott might have said, that water had passed under the bridge a long time ago.
“How are your finals?” Paul asked.
“Difficult, but I’m hanging in there. I have three this week, then that’s it.”
“So,” Jeff began, “what did you ever decide to do about your sophomore year? Are you coming back?”
“Nah. I gave it a lot of thought, but I’m just not college material. My grades are okay, but I can’t see doing this for three more years. I want to get moving with the rest of my life.”
Jeff shrugged. “Whatever you do, I’m sure it will work out.”
“What are your plans?”
“Well, I’m definitely coming back. Dr Reneau offered me a position on the KUFM staff starting September 20 and I took it. I’ve already preregistered for all my fall classes.”
“Good for you,” Paul said with a smile.
“Yeah. I’m excited. If this plays out like I hope it will, I’ll have three years of serious broadcast experience under my belt when I graduate.”
“Excellent. When is your last final this week?”
“Early Friday morning.”
“That’s perfect. I’ll be ready to leave by noon. We might make it to Billings by nightfall.”
Jeff shook his head. “I have a job waiting for me in Indianapolis bright and early Monday. My dad arranged a position for me on a Chessie System track crew. Working on the railroad during a humid Indianapolis summer is brutal, but the pay is fantastic.”
A shadow seemed to cross Paul’s face. “I wasn’t planning to drive back to Indianapolis that quickly.”
“I know,” Jeff replied. “That’s why I booked a flight back on Northwest. It leaves Saturday morning.”
“Oh. Okay,” Paul frowned. “Looks like I’ll be driving back alone.”
“Yes, I’m sorry about that. I thought it all over carefully, but then I remembered what you said about having to do what you think is right. I think this is the right choice for me.”
Paul stood and nodded. “Okay, man. Well…good luck with your finals and that railroad job. Maybe we’ll have some time to get together over the summer.”
“Let’s hope so,” Jeff replied.
Paul waved, and then turned and walked slowly toward Craig Hall, swinging the Frisbee as he went.
Saturday morning, June 8, 1974, dawned hot and clear. Jeff showered and shaved, then began packing his suitcase. The room was already barren; he and Leigh had packaged his stereo equipment and dropped it off at a storage locker the evening before.
Students had been evacuating all week, so there was barely a trickle of traffic in the hallways now. Cleaning crews were already moving on every floor. Jeff could hear their voices and the roars of their vacuum sweepers.
Leigh appeared in the doorway just as Jeff was folding his last pair of pants into the suitcase. She took his hand and turned him slowly, kissing him warmly on the lips.
“It’s almost time,” she whispered.
“I parked just outside the door. There is a campus cop giving me the hairy
Jeff set the latches on the suitcase and pulled it off the bed. Leigh stepped into the hallway and waited as he gazed at his room for the last time. He could feel his throat tighten.
“So much happened here,” he said.
“It was a magical year, wasn’t it?”
“Yep. It was a very a strange journey.”
“And it is really just getting started,” Leigh said as she slipped her arm
around his waist.
“Yes,” Jeff chuckled. “As they say at the end of series episodes on TV,
‘to be continued’.”
“Did you peek into Paul’s room?” she asked.
“Yes. It’s empty. He left yesterday. I hope he has a safe trip.” “Come on,” Leigh said as he tugged gently on his shirt. “Time to go.” They squeezed the suitcase into the back of Leigh’s Beetle and Jeff gave
Duniway Hall one last look before climbing into the passenger seat. All the
rows of windows were wide open and many sets of curtains fluttered in the
It’s as though nothing happened, Jeff thought. It is as though the last nine
months were nothing more than the stuff of dreams. Three months from now
the cycle will begin again.
During their drive to the airport, Leigh made a concerted effort to keep
the conversation as light as possible. They talked about how much they
despised disco music, and whether Nixon would really resign the Presidency. She didn’t steer for the parking lot when they entered the airport grounds.
Instead, she drove directly to the main entrance.
“I’m really bad with goodbyes,” Leigh said as she brought the car to a
stop. “I’d wait at the gate with you, but…I hope you understand.” At that
instant, a tear broke free and fell across her cheek.
Jeff drew her into his arms and kissed away the tear. “I understand very
well,” he whispered. “I promise to call you each weekend.”
“I’d like that,” she sniffed.
Jeff hugged her tightly. “Thank you so much.”
“Why, you’re most welcome,” she giggled through her tears. “I’m serious. You made a huge change in my life, more than you
“You made a pretty big impression on me, too.”
Jeff nodded and ran his fingers gently across her face.
“Well,” Leigh began with a sigh, “let’s get this over with.” Jeff opened the rear door and dragged his suitcase to the pavement. He
walked over to the driver’s side window and kissed Leigh one last time. She
lingered as their lips parted, moving forward to steal one last peck. “Call me when you get to Indianapolis,” she said. “Let me know you’re
“You know that I will.”
Leigh threw the Beetle into gear and coaxed it away from the curb. She
glanced at Jeff one last time, then sped away.
“Good, old, reliable Northwest,” Jeff muttered as he stood in the gate
area, watching the 727 roll to a stop. The rear stairway lowered slowly from
the tail and the arriving passengers began streaming into the terminal. Soon the Northwest agent unlocked the glass doors on the departure side
of the gate and announced the flight to Billings. Jeff pulled out his ticket
envelope, flashed it at the agent, then followed his fellow travelers onto the
When Jeff made it to his seat row, he found an elderly woman peering out
the window, intently watching as a man in blue overalls pumped fresh fuel
into the 727’s wing tank. Jeff settled into his aisle seat and buckled the
“This is my first flight,” she said softly.
“Yes. And I’m a little nervous, I must say” she laughed.
“Nothing to be concerned about,” Jeff replied. “I used to feel the same
way, but not any more. Flying really is very safe.”
“I certainly hope so.”
They continued to chat as the ground crew finished loading the baggage,
closing the cargo door with a loud thud. Seconds later, the turbines began to
whine and the rear stairway was raised.
Jeff kept talking as they taxied to the runway, trying to distract the woman
from the sight of the rocking wings and the jiggling overhead luggage bins.
When the aircraft turned onto the runway threshold, the woman suddenly
grasped his hand.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she said with a weak smile.
“Not at all,” Jeff replied as the engines spooled up to their usual roar. “Oh my,” she exclaimed as the jet surged forward.
Soon Jeff heard the thump of the nose gear lifting off the concrete. “Here we go,” he said. “See how smooth it is?”
The woman nodded quickly as Jeff leaned forward to get a glimpse out
the window. The airliner turned slowly over Missoula and he could see Mt
Sentinel standing watch over it all. Its white M was blazing in the summer
The 727 returned to level flight, its engines roaring again as the pilot
applied climbing power. Within seconds, Missoula disappeared from view
and Jeff settled back into his seat.
“Not so bad, is it?” he asked as he patted the woman’s hand. She released her grip with a giggle. “You’re right, young man. It wasn’t
bad at all.”
Jeff reached into his pocket and his fingers closed over a deck of cards. “I don’t suppose you play poker?” he asked. “It helps pass the time.” “Certainly, and better than you might imagine!”
“Let’s find out,” Jeff grinned. “Five card stud. Threes are wild.”
“So,” Joe Wilson said as he drained the last of his coffee, “is that where the story ends?”
“The rest, as they say, is history,” Jeff replied with a smile. “How’s that for a fine way to kill a couple of hours?”
Joe glanced at his watch and nodded. “Since we still haven’t heard from London, it’s safe to assume that the World Cup hook-up went off without a hitch.”
“Yep. I think we can finally call it a day.”
“By the way, did you manage to stay in touch with the gang over the years?” Joe asked. “I’m just curious.”
“Well, I lost track of Paul not long after I got home. He never went back to Missoula, of course, and when I returned at the end of my sophomore year, I learned he had left town for a job on the East Coast.
“Rich Runyon finally wound up in Los Angeles doing stand-up comedy. He bought a comedy club a few years ago and I understand that he’s doing well.”
“He never went back to college?”
“Nope. Scott Davies did, though. The man was good to his word and I saw him on campus every year. Scott Davies eventually became Doctor Scott Davies and he is a department chair now at Stanford University. We still communicate by e-mail at least once a week. He became one of my closest friends.”
“Ah, Audrey. That’s a sad tale. She finished college and married. Moved to Memphis, Tennessee and had two children. One day she was driving by herself on the freeway and suddenly veered into the concrete median barrier. She climbed out of the wreckage and, for reasons know one will ever know, walked directly into the path of an oncoming truck. She was killed instantly.”
“Yeah, I spent the day in a serious funk when I heard the news. After all these years she still had an effect on me.”
“So,” Joe said as he set his cup on a nearby table, “have you ever considered turning your experiences into a book?
“Oh, hell no,” Jeff laughed. “I don’t think that would go over well with the stockholders.”
“You’re probably right. Couldn’t you just see the headlines?” Joe said. “Capital Network CEO Pens Lurid Tell-All Book.”
Jeff’s speakerphone crackled. “Mr Louden, I have your wife on line one.”
“Just a moment, Joe. I need to take this call.”
“Of course,” he replied with a grin.
“Hi honey,” Jeff said as he picked up the phone.
“Happy birthday,” Leigh replied.
“Not all that happy,” Jeff said. “I’m 50 years old. I’ve officially crossed the line into geezerhood.”
“Bull. Your hair is merely a nice shade of silver and I think it enhances your looks. You’re as young as ever to me.”
“I’m glad you think so. How’s Christine?”
“She is upstairs meticulously packing. You’d have to see it to believe it.”
“But she understands that we’re not hauling all her worldly possessions, right?”
“I think so. She is just nervous about forgetting something important. When will you be leaving?”
“Shortly. In fact, Joe Wilson and I were just wrapping up.”
“Okay. Drive carefully. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Joe and Jeff passed through the security checkpoint in the Capitol Network lobby, then began their walk to the parking garage. The sun was settling into the Chicago skyline, orange beams slicing through the spaces between the skyscrapers.
“Busy weekend for you,” Joe said as they crossed Michigan Avenue.
“Yeah. Leigh and I are driving Christine down to Purdue University.”
“Hard to believe that she is going to be a freshman in college.”
Jeff shook his head. “Incredible how time passes, isn’t it?”
Joe suddenly grimaced and waved his hand in front of his face. “Good god, when will they ever finish that job? I can’t stand the odor.”
Jeff glanced at the squat brownstone building adjacent to the parking garage. The roofers had left for the evening, but their asphalt kettle still steamed on the sidewalk below.
“I know what you mean,” Jeff replied softly. “Roofing tar is an acquired taste.”