Chapter 2 The Dreamers
The food that Mel had prepared for us and that Gloria had so efficiently delivered to our places was very good and really hit the spot. Gloria left right after serving us, not giving me a chance to further our minimal conversation and find out why such a beautiful young woman was stuck working in a place like the Bluelight Diner.
Because it was so late, Gus felt it would be best for me to spend the night at his house. He had two spare rooms with his youngest, a son, stationed at Andrews Air Force Base and his only daughter, Becky, attending Brown University in her junior year.
Becky was a journalism major, which Gus felt was well suited to her personality of being open minded and outspoken. She was salutatorian of her high school class, a cheerleader, student council vice president and a member of the National Honor Society. I hoped that along with each of these qualities she most assuredly inherited from her mother, she wasn't blessed with Gus's "good looks". I thought, God wouldn't be that cruel, would He? Time would tell.
Gus's son Bob was a good kid, Gus went on to tell me as I drove down East Main Street, right through the center of the downtown area. Bob was a good athlete in high school, earning varsity letters in baseball, football and basketball all four years. No small feat that had never been done before or since. Gus went on to say that Bob was about my size, six feet two inches and about one hundred and ninety pounds, which Gus felt was the near ideal athletic size. Bob ran the forty yard dash in four point five seconds and could bench press over three hundred fifty pounds. Gus just beamed telling me how HIS son just overpowered any competition he came up against. Bob rushed for over three hundred yards in the city league championship game his senior year and scored a state record seven touchdowns.
Gus kept rambling on and on about his son, and I wasn't about to be the one to stop him. It is very fortunate that a father can live out his fantasy through his son. Gus was able to do just that and I was happy for him.
I reminded Gus that I was a tourist in town and that if we planned to do something other than drive around all night he had best start giving me directions. A sheepish grin rolled up on his face and he started to chuckle, stumbling all over himself apologizing for burdening me with all his stories about Bob Lollar, All American Boy.
I lightly banged my elbow into his arm and told I hoped that I had stories like that to tell and enjoy remembering. Gus smiled and sat quietly for the rest of the trip to his home, except for the occasional "turn left" or "turn right". Gus was happy walking through his son's past and I left him to it.
"Take a right at the next corner," Gus said as he awoke from his trip down memory lane. "It's the white house on the left, the second from the corner," Gus informed me.
There were absolutely no street light near his house and no one had left on a porch light as any kind of a guide for us. If the house was white, I would have to take Gus's word for it. I could count, found his driveway and pulled the wagon up to the house behind and old Plymouth "K" car sedan. It looked tan.
As my head lights spun across the front lawn and came to rest on the back of the car, I found the only socially redeeming quality the old car possessed, a vanity plate that shouted, Monarchs.
"Gus," I said quite surprised. "I thought your wife wasn't a baseball fan."
"Oh, she isn't, but she knows which side her bread is buttered on. She indulges me a little once in a while," Gus replied with a smile on his face.
As we were remarking about the plate, a light came on in one of the upstairs rooms. I wondered if my car had made too much noise from the dual exhausts and had been the reason for the light to appear.
"Grab yur bags kid, and let's go on inside," instructed Gus. We opened the car doors and I hit the power door locks to secure the car and went around to the rear of the car. I opened the top glass to the tailgate and reached for my Chicago Bears Duffel bag that was all I would need for the night.
"Gus I'm sorry if we woke your wife," I apologized. "I hope she's not going to be too upset with us."
The front door of the house opened. A short, petite little woman pushed open the storm door and held it open as she stood on the cement stoop. Her hair was up in curlers and appeared to be covered in one of those pink nets. A pink terry-cloth housecoat and blue, furry Bigfoot slippers is what she wore to greet us. She put her hands up to her forehead to form a visor to shield her eyes from the porch light glare. She bent over at the waist to help in her scrutinizing of her husbands mystery guest.
She spoke. "Who's that with you, Gus? Where have you been?"
Gus turned to me and said, "Come on in Billy, she won't bite. Let's get on inside."
We worked our way on the circular sidewalk leading to the front door. Gus stopped at the bottom of the steps and ushered me up first.
"Mary, this is Billy Alan," Gus stated proudly. "Bill, this is my lovely wife Mary."
Mary's face lit up like warm spring sunshine. "Nice to meet you Bill," said Mary. "Please come on inside."
As I passed Mary and made my way through the front door Mary and Gus kissed a very warm and affectionate kiss for their age. "Another remark about my formal evening wear and I may just leave you outside," Mary kidded Gus. "Wait a minute; I thought you were the milkman! Billy, who is this guy you brought here?"
We were all laughing as Mary finished closing the front door. I sensed right away a genuine love and affection that Mary and Gus had for one another, plus a sense of humor that is somewhat a byproduct of children in their early twenties. Mary and Gus were young at heart. I was happy for them.
Their living room was tastefully decorated in Early American. A large, high-backed herculon sofa in brown and gold plaid was bracketed by two large end tables with hinged lids. On the front of the end tables were storage bins and in one of them was a skein of yarn with the needles protruding out of the top. In front of the sofa were two chairs in the identical fabric facing each other over a rectangular coffee table covered with magazines and a basket of dried flowers.
In the corner was a console color television with a rocking chair to the right and directly in front of a window. A floor lamp of simulated oak with a circular table at its center was to its' side. A weaved handbag rested against the legs of the rocker, with more yarn and knitting needles showing out of the top. A small secretary desk was next to the front door with assorted nick knacks on the top. A writing lamp was to the right and a large picture window occupied the rest of the wall space back to the TV. A piano was against the wall on the right with some sheet music and a church hymnal waiting patiently for the next recital.
"Where have you boys been all night," Mary chided. "Been out chasing the young damsels in our fair town, have you?"
"Oh, Mary, give us a break will you," Gus said coming to our defense.
"I'm not worried about you Gus. It's this young good looking, very eligible bachelor. But you're right. They probably come to him, don't they?"
Gus could tell that I was becoming a little embarrassed by this conversation. "Come on Mary; take it easy on us will you?" Gus pleaded half heartedly.
I joined in the fun. "Well Mary," I jumped in, "the reason we're so late is that we had to get police protection. It's pretty rough for a couple of studs like us, out loose in a thriving metropolis like Madison." Gus started laughing and so did Mary.
I decided to take another shot. "Don't sell Gus short. He has something that drives the ladies wild. They can't seem to keep quiet, giggling and falling all over themselves. I don't know what it is but Gus has it!"
At that moment Gus decided he needed to come clean. "Mary we've been over to the Bluelight grabbin a bite to eat. I met Bill checking out the ball park earlier. We got a little situated there and then went to Mel's."
"Yeah, sure," Mary shot back winking at me. "Seems like I've heard that story before. Well listen, Bill. I'm very happy you'll be staying with us for a while. You're more than welcome here," Mary continued.
It was then obvious that my staying at their house had already been discussed, planned and given the seal of approval by both Gus and Mary. With both of their children involved in their own lives away from home, I could sense Mary would welcome some new activity in their family.
"I really appreciate your taking me into your home on such short notice, Mary. I don't want to impose or anything," I replied.
"It's no bother at all. Before I go back to bed, can I get you boys something to drink?" Mary asked. "It's nice to have people who appreciate me fussing over them."
"No thanks, we'll be OK, sugar," Gus said. "Go ahead on up. I'll be right behind you."
"Well, OK," Mary said as another smile broke over her face. "Don't be long. We're all tired, especially Billy. Sleep tight."
With that, she turned and made her way up the stairs to their bedroom on the second floor.
"Bill, would you like a nightcap before we go up," Gus asked?
"No, I think I'm all set Gus." I reached down and picked up my Bear's bag that I had dropped at my feet earlier. "I'm beat, Gus," I said.
Gus reached for my arm to direct me to the stairs. "How'd you like to go to church with Mary and me tomorrow?" Gus inquired. I could tell by the look on his face he wasn't sure how I'd react.
"I'd love to Gus," I said smiling.
"That's great. I mean, it would mean a lot to Mary, all of us going to church," responded Gus. It was obvious by the look on Gus's face that he felt he had just given his wife something very valuable to her.
"I'm glad she'll be happy, Gus. But it isn't just for you and her. I need to be in Church."
"Good. It's settled then," declared Gus. "Let's find you a bunk in Bob's room." With that we headed upstairs to get the sleep I was really looking forward to.