He stepped out of the car and stood looking at the house. A sprinkler sat in the middle of the grass, neither moving nor emitting water. The front door and all the windows were closed. In the midday sun all the windows looked black.
When no one answered the door he sat on the front step and drank from his water bottle.
After about five minutes he had decided to get moving. Just as he stood up, a car pulled into the driveway. It slowly idled up the drive and stopped. Bill stepped out of the driver’s seat. He was dressed in some fine-looking clothes.
Well Jack, it’s been an awful long time.
They both grinned in amusement. Bill came around the car and the two shook hands.
How are you doing Bill?
Not bad. What are you doing in these parts?
I came home.
Here you are. For how long?
Well. I don’t know.
Do you want to come in?
Nah, I just thought I’d say hi. Where’s Janey at?
Working. She’ll be home later.
We all three should get together sometime.
Yeah we should.
All right. I got your phone number from your dad so I’ll give you a call.
Okay. What you driving there?
Just an old Plymouth.
Drive that thing all the way from out there?
I did. It got me here.
Have any problems?
Nothing big – it’s a pretty good car.
Okay, I’ll talk to you later.
Bill opened his garage door and pulled his car in. Jack got in the Plymouth and drove home. His mom was in the kitchen.
Did you go see Bill?
Yeah, Jack said. He sat down at the kitchen table.
What did he say about a job?
He told me he thought he could help. He said he’d look into it.
Well that’s real good.
Do you want a beer Jack?
That’d be great.
Jack drank the beer while his mom made stew and after a while he got up and drained the last of the beer into the sink. He rinsed it out and set it upside down to dry out. His mother was humming as she chopped carrots.
I’m going over to Bill’s for dinner tonight Mom.
Really. That’s great. That sounds great. When are you going over there?
In an hour. Might stay over there and play pool after dinner for a while.
Oh he has a pool table?
He’s got quite the place over there Mom.
That sounds like fun.
It should be. I’m going to go shower.
Jack went downstairs where his suitcase sat by the couch and he dug out clean clothes and went and showered. When he got out of the shower he dressed and thought to himself that he had missed his own shower a lot. He had been bathing in campground bathrooms and rest stops and at near-strangers’ for a few months and he had hated the unclean showers or showering without soap or not having a towel or not having hot water. He dressed slowly and decided he didn’t like the shirt and sweater he had picked out so he went and got another shirt and put that on and then decided he liked the other shirt better and put that back on and was okay with it.
When he said goodbye to his mom and left he didn’t go over to Bill’s. It would have been awkward to see him and Janey already. He hadn’t even sent them a gift and he remembered how he’d been flushed when he saw them at the restaurant right before he left town. How his face had been hot and itchy when he was talking to them.
He went over to Susan’s house. She answered the door in light blue denim pants and a t-shirt and no bra. She smiled without restraint when she saw it was him and she laughed and hugged him. He kissed her on her ear as he hugged her and she held on.
Do I know you? She said when she was done hugging him.
I think that’s an unfair question.
I guess it is. She stepped back from the door and he went in after her.
He got home around midnight. He was taking short breaths and he walked extremely slowly and still bumped the shoe rack in the entryway. As he took off his shoes his mother appeared in the hall.
Hi, how was dinner?
Did Bill say anything about the job?
No, he said he was going to look into it. He only had about two hours, I didn’t expect him to get me something that quick.
Well I hope he can help.
If he can I know he will. He’ll do everything he can. Good night.
He went downstairs and laid down on the couch. He was very tired but he read for a while and then laid the book down and fell asleep.