Chapter 3 The Dreamers
I woke up the next morning to the sound of the toilet flushing in the bathroom down the hall. It was then that I realized how much I needed to go. I rose up in the bed trying to remember where I dropped my jeans from the night before. Man, was I tired! I found them draped across the chair in front of Bob's desk. I threw the cover off my legs and dropped my feet to the floor. There was a knock on the door.
"You awake, Bill?” Gus asked.
"Ya, sure am Gus," I replied in my true crackly morning voice. I cleared my throat and tried again. "Yes, Gus, I am."
"Good," said Gus. "The bathroom is all yours. Breakfast in about thirty minutes. Bacon, eggs and pancakes. Sound OK to you Bill?" Gus inquired.
"Sounds great to me Gus," I said, realizing how hungry I was. "I'll be down as fast as I can."
I shaved and took a quick shower, then went back to the room to finish dressing. I pulled my Bears jersey with the number 34 out of my bag and pulled it over my wet hair. Found a clean pair of socks in the same bag, installed them on my feet and laced up my Rockport’s. I then stuffed my dirty clothes into the Bears bag and zipped it closed, placing it at the foot of the bed on the floor. I made a quick stop into the bathroom to re-comb my hair and then headed downstairs. The aroma of the bacon hit me as I touched my foot to the third step. I WAS HUNGRY!
As I entered the kitchen I spotted the clock on the wall. It was only 7:10 AM.
"Good morning Bill," sang Mary.
"Sleep good last night?” Gus inquired.
"Good morning Mary. Sure smells good in here," I replied. "I slept like a rock, too. I was more tired from the long drive than I thought," I confessed as I turned to Gus who was sitting at the table with the sports page open.
"Ya," said Gus not looking up. "It takes a while to catch back up. You'll be there in a coupladays."
"How do you like your eggs, Bill?" asked Mary as she opened the egg carton sitting on the counter.
"Scrambled," I replied.
"That's right. Men like scrambled eggs, don't they," said Mary almost talking to herself. "Please sit down and pour yourself some orange juice."
Mary finished preparing our breakfast. I enjoyed every bite. You could tell Mary enjoyed having someone to cook for. All Gus had was a cup of coffee.
I helped Mary clear the table and load the dishwasher while Gus made his way into the living room with the large Sunday New York Times. Mary took the smaller local paper, sat in her rocker and started sifting through all the coupons that come as inserts to the paper. I went outside to get my large suitcase that would contain proper clothing for attending church. Somehow the Bears jersey just didn't seem appropriate. In Chicago-land? Maybe. But not here in Giant and Jet territory. Sorry Walter.
I stepped outside. It was a beautiful spring day. No clouds and unseasonably warm for the first week of April. As I walked to my car, I could see kids playing down the street. Looked like wiffle ball. Gus's neighbor was just coming out to get his paper. He smiled and waved.
I opened the tailgate of the wagon, pulled out the larger of the suitcases and went back into the house.
"Mary, what time do you normally leave for church?" I asked.
"Usually about 10:15. Church starts at 10:45." she said.
Gus broke in, "Bill, read this about the NY Monarchs." "The Expos kicked their behinds 16 to 4." Gus handed me the entire sports page to read.
"Are you finished?" I asked, not wanting to impose on the sacred act of a man reading the Sunday morning sports page.
"Naw, go ahead Bill. I'm through. Looks like the Monarchs are in for a long season. They've lost four times as many as they've won down there in Florida. The season starts Tuesday in New York. It's gonna be a long-un," Gus said as his voice trailed off in the end.
"Oh honey, don't get down on them already," said Mary. "The season hasn't even started yet."
"Gus," I jumped in, "I thought these games didn't mean very much. That the players were just trying to get into shape."
"Bill, one thing you'll need to learn real quick is that the Monarchs are the exception to every rule. Mr. Steinbaum hates to lose even a game of Tidily-winks. He pays his players well to play the game of baseball and he accepts very little failure. That's what makes playing in New York the best and the worst. The pressure the players receive not only from Steinbaum, but from the fans and the media who expect the Monarchs to win the World Series every year is unbelievable. I'm not trying to scare you, but you're still nineteen when it comes to pro ball. Men who have been in the Bigs for ten years still can't handle it.
It was unmistakable that what Gus was just now telling me was going to be the hardest lesson for me to learn. THE NEW YORK DISTRACTION SYNDROME.
I sat down and read how the NY Monarch pitching allowed 12 walks and 14 hits. The route would have been worse had the infield not turned seven double plays and Johnson not picked three men off at first base.
I went upstairs and got ready for church. Mary and Gus were waiting for me at the front door. Mary looked beautiful for a woman in her fifties. I guess that's what she was. Her facial features were such that you knew she had been a real pretty young woman. "Hey Gus, are you going to introduce me to your daughter or just stand there?" I asked. Mary blushed. Gus laughed.
While making our way to church, Gus and Mary made sure we took a few detours so they could point out some of the landmarks in their fair city. It really wasn't so bad for an older New England blue collar town. They told me that the town earned its nickname of the "Marble City" when the main industry was making grave markers. But, like other towns, Madison was forced to diversify its industrial base when the business went to the Far East. The town was in the middle of a mini renaissance now, with the issue of downtown redevelopment a political hot potato. It would happen, but not without a little grief along the way.
Gus went on to say that the moving of the New York Class AA franchise here was a big step in proving to the citizens and to the potential new industry considering a move into this area that this was the place to be in Connecticut. This, a town of hard working men and women trying to push their town to new heights.
The ball park that was built in 1986 cost the taxpayers twelve million dollars. No small amount considering the average per capita income in town was around $9,700. in '86. The stadium built without a bond issue, too.
We arrived at the church located on Broad Street which split the town down the middle, north to south. It was a beautiful typical New England Church. Large pillars stretched across the front of the building reaching thirty plus feet into the air. The steeple seemed to reach endlessly into the clouds that looked like giant cotton balls flowing slowly through the sky.
Out front were the standard church welcome signs informing you of your arrival to the "Third Baptist Church". Gus pulled in front of the building, stopped and told Mary and me to wait out front while he parked the car in the rear lot.
Mary introduced me to a number of the Lollar's friends, proudly informing them who I was and that I was their house guest. Then I saw her again.
Gloria was coming up the sidewalk in front of a newer, single story building that probably was some sort of fellowship hall or Sunday School classrooms or both. Walking just ahead of Gloria was an older woman in a long, heavy winter coat. She looked very old. Probably Gloria's grandmother, I though. Gloria saw me standing with Mary Lollar and I thought I saw what might have been a smile come across her lips.
Mary spoke up. "Mrs. James, how are you feeling today?" and without waiting for a response, "Gloria, don't you look lovely."
"Hi Mary," Gloria said. "Mom's not feeling too good today, but she just wouldn't miss church. You know how she is about her church," Gloria continued in a somewhat sarcastic tone. "It's no crime to miss church once in a while, but you can't convince her of that. I really think that she believes that the first Sunday she misses the devil is going to snatch her right up!"
Mrs. James and Mary started conversing about some church business. Gloria stood not more than four feet from me looking more beautiful than I had remembered her from the night before. I could smell her perfume and maybe a strawberry shampoo coming from that sexy hair.
"Hi Gloria," I said to start the conversation, any conversation. "You do look wonderful. I hoped I might see you again."
"You would have any way." she replied as a broad smile overcame her beautiful, soft looking lips, "if you were to keep coming to the Bluelight."
"The foods not bad there Gloria, but not enough for a reason to keep coming back," I quipped.
"Did you find a place to stay last night after you left the diner," Gloria asked?
"Well, kind of. Gus took me to his place and Mary was nice enough to put up with me," I informed her. "I get the impression that they want me to stay with them for a while. I think they would enjoy some company. They seem like real nice people."
"You won't find any better, at least not around here," Gloria informed me in a warm, but firm voice. "When father was killed 13 years ago, Gus and Mary stepped right in, helped my Mom get back on her feet. Without them my Mom would not have made it. I'm sure of that." Gloria became very quiet and sullen.
"I'm sorry about your Father," I said. "If you ever want to talk, I'm available. I'm not much on advice, but I can be a good listener."
"Thanks," Gloria said as a little happiness returned to her face. "I'd like that very much." "You like ice cream?"
"You could twist my arm and then I might," I said. "Would you like to go out for some this afternoon?"
Gloria said she'd like that and I could get her phone number from Mary to call and set a time for OUR FIRST DATE!
All during church all I could think of was seeing Gloria this afternoon. I sat in the center section of the pews with Gus and Mary. Gloria sat with her Mom over on the left, four rows in front of me, which allowed me to glance in that direction without being too obvious, I hoped.
The sermon given by Pastor Brown was pretty tame by Southern Baptist standards. No hell fire and damnation here. No strong declarations concerning the end of time being right around the corner. The gist of the sermon was that God love everybody and that he wants us to try and be better people. All true, but none the less a very safe sermon. A politician running for re-election tomorrow couldn't have spoken to the masses better.
As we were standing in line out in the vestibule waiting for our turn to shake the pastor's hand and compliment him on a "fine sermon", it struck me that most of the people who were in church today were, well, older. Some were ancient. As I was standing in line directly behind Mary and Gus I tried to spot and count anyone who might even be in their thirties. I could do it on both hands with fingers left over. That explained the sermon. How can you tell these old people, some knocking at death's door, they might not be going to heaven? Maybe Pastor Brown felt that since he had been here less than a year, according to Mary, that they really weren't his responsibility. His job was to try and uplift their spirits and try to slide their minds into a more positive mode. Positive thinking is a strong force but it doesn't get you into heaven. My preacher back home would have a field day here.
I quickly realized that trying to tackle such cerebral areas as deeply spiritual and philosophical were certainly beyond my gifts and training. Best left to the professionals I concluded and went back to something I could deal with. Gloria!