Chapter 9 The Dreamers
Gloria and Mrs. Lollar attended the game together and were waiting for Gus and me in the guest lounge area after the game. Mrs. James had decided that she didn’t feel quite up to the large crowd and all the noise, deciding to stay home and listen on the radio.
As soon as Gloria saw me come through the doors of the locker room she jumped up, rushed toward me and threw her arms around my neck. “You were wonderful tonight,” she said softly in my ear. She released her arms from around my neck, moving her hands to the back of my head and gave me a wonderful, soft, loving kiss.
“You don’t even need to ask,” she quietly stated. “There will be more to those even on the nights you go 0 for 5. If that is alright with you?”
“That would be just fine with me,” I replied, “but I hope to keep the 0 for 5’s to a minimum, if you don’t mind. You do have a way of making an Illinois boy fee right at home.”
“Come on you two,” chirped in Mrs. Lollar. “Let’s get on home. You can do the same thing tomorrow night if that is alright with you. Let’s get home and get you some rest.”
“OK, Mom,” I shot back to Mrs. Lollar. “You’re the boss. I’ll behave myself. Are we going to have a bed check every night, you know the kind Vince Lombardi used to have with the Green Bay Packers? Or do you prefer the “honor” system”?
“I will only recommend, Bill,” added Mrs. Lollar. “What you do is up to you. Besides you should enjoy yourself after a game like tonight. Gus tells me you and Tavy got the game balls. That’s great.”
“Ya, it sure is,” said Gus. “The way the Monarchs played tonight almost everyone could have gotten a game ball. I thought those two catches by Miller in left were unbelievable.”
“Well, Bill, I’m just so proud of the way you played in your first game as a Yankee,” beamed Mrs. Lollar. “I wish Becky and Bob could have been here to see it, but they’ll have plenty of time to do just that. Becky is coming home for spring break Thursday for a little over a week. Bob is flying into Hanscom Air Force base on Friday and said he has three days off and is looking forward to meeting you, Bill. It will be wonderful having everyone home at the same time,” said Mrs. Lollar beaming ear to ear.
Gloria’s beaming face went flat. You could sense that the wheels in her mind were turning a million miles an hour.
“Gloria,” I asked, “is something wrong?”
“Everything is fine,” she said as she looked up at me trying desperately to return a smile to her face. “Everything is just peachy. Can we get out of here?” She headed out the double doors leading to the tunnel to the parking lot.
I wasn’t sure what was going on, but Mary and Gus were so caught up in the good news of everyone coming home that they overlooked just how distressed Gloria had become. I followed her out the door. It was all I could do just to try and catch up to her.
“Gloria, wait up, “I shouted. “Gloria, slow down will you,” I asked? I shouted down the corridor breaking into a trot. “Gloria!”
Gloria got in the car without saying a word. Something had really upset her. I didn’t know what, but could sense that it would be like pulling nails to get her to talk about it to me. She didn’t say a word all the way to her house. I pulled up in front, shut off the engine, sitting quietly just starring out the front windshield.
“Gloria, this doesn’t seem like you,” I offered, trying anything to break the ice. “You and I seemed to be getting along so well. We’ve talked about so many things in the last few days. I know we are just starting to care about each other and it hurts me when I see you’re upset and I can’t help you because you won’t share this thing with me. Can’t you tell me what’s bothering you? Is it about Bob coming home? I know it must have something to do with him. Please talk to me. Don’t shut me out. I just want to help.”
Gloria sat quietly for a few moments longer. She turned to me and for the first time I saw the tears streaming down her beautiful cheeks. She moved across the seat throwing her head into my shoulder and began sobbing. After a moment she began pulling herself together, taking a handkerchief from her purse and began wiping the tears from her face. I brushed one or two from her cheek with my thumb.
“This is all going to be so complicated,” Gloria began. “I don’t know where to begin. I was hoping that I could forget the past, start fresh. Meet someone like you, fall in love, and get all my feelings in line, under control. I needed to begin thinking about my future with someone, a possible family, things a girl my age should be thinking about. “I’m 22 years old and still have feelings like a high school girl.” She paused for a moment obviously trying to collect her thoughts.
“You see,” said Gloria continuing, “When Mary said Bob was coming home I realized for the first time that I hadn’t gotten over him. I thought I had gotten over him, that I was and am falling for you, but then I realized I still had feeling for Bob, and that is not fair to you, Bill. Just her mentioning him coming home made me realize that these feeling were just dormant, but still there, just suppressed. Maybe I was just trying to trick myself into thinking my feelings for him were gone for good. He was gone. Maybe the feelings were too. I think that maybe I was using you as a substitute as you and Bob are much alike, but you are not him. In many ways that is a plus for you. I know that I do really like you, but I still realize that I still have strong feelings for Bob, just too much history to totally erase. I can tell you that the feelings I have for you are different. Maybe it is because I’m older, possibly wiser, if that can make any sense. This must sound all sound so crazy to a terribly stable person like yourself.” she concluded with a faint smile appearing on her face.
All during this conversation Gloria was twisting her handkerchief tighter and tighter. I could tell this was not easy for her, coming to grips with her true feelings. The fact that she really cared for me made it even harder for her. She was not the kind of girl to lead some guy on, always trying to be truthful, always upfront. Bob was a lucky guy, he just didn’t know it.
“Gloria, please don’t feel bad about how you feel,” I replied. “It hurts me a little too, because I am falling for you too, and if we were having this talk a year from now it would hurt a lot worse. I’ve never gotten involved with anyone before as I saw my high school friends hurt each other time after time by getting too serious and then having to back off as college and career choices altered their life directions. It would be very easy for me to not let you off the hook here and let you know that I wasn’t going to give up on you and our relationship, being selfish. Bob Lollar is a big boy; let him take care of himself. I am not going to make this more difficult for you than it already is. I want you to know that I will probably always care about you and wonder what the future could hold for us, but I think that fate maybe is Bob and you together. If on the chance that it doesn’t work out and I just happen to be around…why don’t you give me a call and see where I stand then. Who knows maybe we’re both wrong.”
A smile started across Gloria’s face along with a brief chuckle after my last sentence.
“You’ve got a deal,” Gloria said turning her beautiful face toward me looking deeply into my eyes. “You are certainly taking this well for someone not even 20. I could be making a big mistake.”
“You probably are,” I said, “but I won’t ever tell you I told you so. It will be just our little secret. Fair enough?”
I drive Gloria over to her house. It was the most silent car ride I had ever taken in my life. Way too somber for me.
“I had better go in now. I don’t want Mom to worry about me,” stated Gloria as she reached for the door handle to get out of the car.
“I understand,” I replied. “I won’t kiss you good night as it will just make it tougher than it is. I still want us to be good friends, good friends, understood?”
Gloria smiled and wiped the last of her tears away. She opened the car door and made her way into the house. I still couldn’t believe what had just happened. If this had been a dream it would be classified a nightmare. This had turned out to be quite a day alright: a baseball high and a personal low.
While driving back to the Lollar’s house my mind was racing like an Indianapolis 500 race car. Jumping from one thought to another, but never staying on one thought long enough to sort anything out or come to any conclusions. Did I give up Gloria too easily? Should I have resisted her wanting to terminate our relationship? Terminated! That’s what I was. Terminated! I really didn’t have much to say in the matter, really. Or, did I? I don’t know. Maybe I did. Maybe I was the one who wanted out, but she said it first. Really? No I didn’t. I really liked Gloria a lot. If love was more than what I was feeling then it must be something. Maybe I should go back and tell her that I am not going to give up so easy? Maybe that is what she was really looking for? Maybe she was testing me? Maybe she was waiting for me to tell her how much I liked her and would not leave her like Bob Did? Maybe Bob and I are just alike? Maybe we both can’t finish a love we start? If he loved her how could he have left her like he did? Maybe he is just a self-centered jerk and didn’t deserve Gloria in the first place? Maybe he is just all too wrapped up in Bob, his life, his problems, never taking into account anyone else’s feelings or needs? Maybe he just never considered how is life interacts with others and the demands he has made upon them?
Greatness has its share of responsibilities as well. I was beginning to doubt whether Bob Lollar really thought about his effect on other people, especially Gloria, whether she really loved him, waited for him to grow up.
What am I saying? I haven’t even met the guy and I am already drawing conclusions about him. Not very fair. I’d better slow down. If Gloria had waited this long for him, he must really be a pretty good guy after all.
I pulled into the driveway. The Lollars appeared to still be up as the downstairs lights were still on. I went around to the back of the house to go in the back door. Just as I made the turn, the neighbor’s cat, Obleo, ran like a lightning bolt between my feet, scarring me half to death. I went into the house still trying to regain my composure.
“HI, Bill,” said Mary as she reached into the refrigerator. “Sounds like you either met or stepped on the neighbor’s cat. He’s not an attack cat, you know.” Now she was beginning to laugh. “You want anything from the Lollar Grill before you go to bed?”
“No, Mary, I’m fine except for that darn cat, nearly gave me a heart attack,” I replied. “I think I’ve had enough for one night. Is Gus still up? I would really like to talk to both of you if I could?”
“Sure, Bill, Gus is in the living room,” replied Mary. ”I’m just fixing him something to drink. I’ll bring you a little something to and then we can have our little chat.”
I walked into the living room where Gus was watching the sports news. The reporter was talking about the Orioles beating the NY Monarchs on opening day, 10 to 4. “M’s don’t have a lick of pitching, Bill,” stated Gus. It’s going to be a long season for Bucky Dial the Monarch Manager. Gus acknowledged my arrival into the room. “Who knows, maybe they’ll bring back Billy Jones for the 75th time, oh wait a minute, he died didn’t he? Stranger things have happened in the big ball orchard in the Bronx, as Mr. Art Pabst used to call it.”
“Who’s he, this Pabst guy,” I asked?
“Arthur Marshall Pabst Jr. he is Mr. sports Talk on WABC Radio in NY. He has a call in radio show in the evenings. People call in from all over the place, talk about all kinds of sports, Mets, Monarchs, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers, Knicks, Nets, devils. You name it, Art talks about it. If you can kick it, punch it, swat it, bounce it, drive it, bank it, throw it, or just shoot it; Art is the man. Some of the people who call in are off the wall. Most are pretty knowledgeable about sports. Diehard fans usually. You should listen some time. You’d like it.
“Gus, you sound like his marketing manager or something,” I jokingly add. “You get a commission on every listener you sign up?”
“Don’t I wish,” laughed Gus. “I’ll have to talk to Art about it the next time I se him. He has always been really nice and friendly to me, even some Class AA locker room jockey like me. Go figure.”
Mary had come into the room with our cold drinks, set the tray on the coffee table, and went over and turned the television off. She went and sat next to Gus on the sofa.
“Gus, Billy said he wanted to talk to us about something,” said Mary, indicating to Gus why he had turned off HIS television set before he could question her sanity about messing with his nightly sports telecast. “What is it you have on your mind, Bill,” asked Mary.
“Mary, you and Gus have been wonderful to me every since I got to town and became a part of the Monarchs,” I began.
“You don’t want to move out, do you,” asked Mary as if she had done something wrong?
“No, Mary, nothing like that,” I quickly replied to put her at ease. “In fact I hope to stay for as long as you’ll have me. It feels just like home here with you and Gus. I really appreciate you putting up with me. It has been great.”
“Well, son, what’s on your mind,” inquired Gus? “Spill it, I’m not getting any younger you know. Don’t want me to watch TV in my boxers anymore? I can deal with it. Mary has been trying to get me to stop for at least a decade. It’s the least I can do for our new start player.”
“NO, Gus, you can watch TV in your underwear,” I reply. “That’s between you and the Mrs. I have something more serious than that.”
“What I have to say is very difficult considering all of the people that are involved. It concerns Gloria, Bob, Jon Tavy, and his sister. This is very difficult for me as I care for you and Mary very much. I was even falling for Gloria. Even this thing with Tavy was a little bizarre until Bolton help me put the pieces together, I added.
“Mary and Gus, tonight Gloria and I decided to stop seeing each other,” I announced. “It was really more Gloria’s idea than mine. Shoot, it was all her idea. She realized tonight, for the first time in a long time, that she was still in love with Bob. This love has been going on ever since grade school, but seems to be more one-sided. Because Bob has shown little interest she has been quite lonely. Then I showed up, live in Bob’s house, sleep in bob’s bed, maybe even symbolically take over Bob’s place in the sports world, it’s almost like a new Bob arrived in town to take the real one’s place. Gloria pictured me as the new Bob Lollar and thought she was falling in love with me too, but in reality, it is still Bob she is in love with, not me. But, Bob doesn’t seem to know she exists as he never calls her, never writes her, and just ignores her. This girl is no chopped liver, she is drop dead gorgeous and very nice to boot. She is bright, warm, charming, and witty; everything a bright male should be looking for in a girl. The funny thing is Bob is nowhere on the radar to be found for her. Yet she waits for some sign from him.”
“I know all about Bob’s College recruitment trip,” I add. “It seems there were a number or people who were wrongly hurt by others who let a practical joke get way out of hand, but life goes on, for them and even Gloria. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has disappointments. You just can’t quit on yourself, your dreams, and most of all your friends. Running away never solved anything and leaves scars that may never heal. Your memory of what could have been keeps reminding you of your failures. Can you tell me, does Bob care at all for Gloria? Does he have any true feelings for her one way or another,” I ask somewhat desperately?
“Bill, we haven’t talked about this to anyone,” began Mary. “Our Minister has even tried to talk to us and we have resisted it every time. We have grown very fond of you and love Gloria as if she were our own daughter. We would love to have her for our daughter-in-law. Ever since they were kids we hoped they would grow up, fall in love, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. That dream has died. Bob has a different set of priorities. He mapped out his life in his mind down to the smallest of details. What he really did was make a blue-print for his failure; he never left himself any options, plan “B”, or whatever. He was always an enormous success in anything he attempted. He seemed invincible and driven.”
“Bob was never to be distracted. I think he may have thought he was Superman. You know, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, that sort of stuff. He left no room for changes, and certainly no room for failure,” added Gus.
“That weekend at college,” Mary continued, “he found out he wasn’t perfect. The first chink in the armor. He had his first “beer with the boys” as it were, painted the town red, and was carried back to the dorm room fast asleep. They put him to bed in the buff, doing the dame to Cheryl Tavy who was in the same condition, all for just a practical joke. Cheryl took it quite well and laughed it off. Bob, on the other hand, couldn’t deal with it. He left in a huff and never seemed to forgive himself for a slight lapse in judgment. Nothing happened, but that didn’t matter to Bob. He felt ashamed and ill treated. It is time that he did get over it. In every letter he writes to us he asks about Gloria. Why he doesn’t cal her is beyond us. He can’t be waiting for her to call him. She has bee in this town waiting for him to come home all this time. She has been more than patient.
“You mean if it was safe,” I quickly added, “prearranged? As long as he knew he would succeed he would make the call? That is not fair to Gloria. Bob needs to take the lead for once in his life and take charge of this relationship if he really wants it.”
“Bill, you and we know you are right,” replied Mary as Gus shook his head yes. “We as his parents have never felt comfortable talking with our children about these things. I know now we should have. We haven’t bee very good in dealing with relationships ourselves. I think it is time we became involved. I think Gus would agree.”
“You’re right,” added Gus. “It has been long enough. When Bob comes home we need to settle this thing once and for all. I’m glad we’ve had this little take as keeping this bottled up inside is doing no one any good. I like Gloria too much too just let this thing drop. I think we all realize it is not just going to go away. Bill, thanks for your….well…thanks…you understand don’t you,” added Gus?
“I’m sorry you had to be hurt by all of this,” said Mary. I know you like Gloria a lot and we hoped it was going to work out for the two of you. You’ve got a lot of class, kid, if you ever want to be adopted just let us know…we’re in!”
“You’ve got,” I said warmly. “I could never pick a better family to be a part of than you and Gus, that’s for sure.”
Mary began collecting our glasses and put them back onto her serving tray. Gus and I continued to sit quietly. I’m not sure what was going through Gus’s mind, but I was beginning to play out every conceivable scenario that might take place this weekend.
“You know fellas,” said Mary as she made her way back into the living room from her trek to the kitchen. “We have a lot to accomplish this week before Bob and Becky come home. Gus, don’t you have an off day this week?”
“Yes, dear,” replied Gus. “We have an off-day Thursday before the Cubs come to town over the weekend and again next Monday, or even Tuesday morning. Why do you ask?”
“Well, Becky will need a ride home from college maybe on Monday, or Tuesday,” Mary informed us. “Can you go and pick her up?”
“Mary, I have the station wagon and would be happy to go and pick her up for you if I have the time,” I offer. “Bolton may even be able to help. It would give either of us the chance to see some of this beautiful New England country side you all talk about. If it is all settled, one will leave early in the morning. Just get some good directions and let her know some strange dude from out of town is coming to bring her home.”
“We’ll need to make up the study room for you,” added Mary. “Hope you don’t mind relocating for a few days. I guess I can handle that while you guys are performing your taxi duties.
“No problem”, I reply.
“Well, I guess I’ll get some rest,” I state. “It has been quite a day all the way around, too exciting in some cases to suit me. I do need to make some phone calls. Can I use the phone in the study?”
“No problem,” answered Gus, “You don’t need to ask. You’re part of the family now. You do what you need to do. You know, you sure played a heck of game tonight. You’ll do just fine in this league and the next for that matter. I’ve seen’um come and go. You’ve got it kid. Trust me. It was fun watching you tonight. Good night, Bill, get some good sleep.” Gus and Mary strolled down the hall to their bed room. Only a small night light remained lit by the front door. Don’t want any burglars to trip and break anything, I thought.
I make my way down the hall and go into the study. Reaching around the study door I find the light switch, flick it on, and then close the door. I spot the phone book on top of the chair next to the roll-top desk. I scan the “A’s” in the yellow pages for Airline Companies. I find TWA’s toll free number and dial it. A voice on the other end speaks: “TWA Reservations, May I help you?”
“I would like your flight schedule to Los Angeles on Sunday evening,” I ask. “It would be a round trip ticket, returning on the earliest flight Tuesday morning possible.”
“Yes Sir,” replied the attendant. “We have a flight that arrives in L.A. at 3:18am PT, leaving New York at 11:40pm ET. One minute please…we also have a returning flight leaving L.A. on Tuesday, at 5:40am and arriving in NY at 3:05 PM. Would those flights work for you Sir?”
“Yes, that will be fine,” I reply. I book both flights first class with my American Express card.
“Thanks you Sir for flying with TWA, My name is Ms. Stevens. If you have any questions before your flight please let me know how I can help. Thanks for calling TWA and have a great day.”
“Thanks you, Ms. Stevens,” I reply. “I’ve already had a great day!”