Get a Room - M
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Get a Room - M
"You're the greeter?" he asked Nancy.
"Yep. Want to handle Alice while I handle Bulletins?"
"I'd be grateful." He picked Alice out of her car seat, being careful to brace her neck. Lying on his arm, she grinned at him, and he grinned back. Then he went out the door to walk the landing at the top of the outside steps. She was dressed warmly and nearly surrounded by his body heat, and -- September or not -- it was a warm, bright, day. He greeted a few early attenders, and they greeted Alice.
Then a college girl came up the stairs. She was new; he would have noticed that impressive pair of melons if he'd seen it earlier. Still, he asked.
"First time?" She nodded. "Welcome. I'm Bill."
"Carolyn." She extended her hand, and he shook it. She had a pretty face and lovely, black, shoulder-length, hair. Nice voice, too.
"And this is Alice." Carolyn and Alice exchanged grins. Carolyn went in, and he continued pacing. At the first notes of the opening hymn, he took Alice back to Carl. They cooperated in replacing her in the car seat, and he sat in a pew not to far away.
Bill half-way expected some parent to say, "You like my kid so much, then you change him." None ever did, however. On the other hand, he maintained a policy of being helpful to those parents who'd trusted him with their kids. Drew Kindred was one of those. The next Sunday was coffee hour, and Drew was changing Stan. Bill went to the other side of the table to talk to Stan and hold his hands. When Drew had got him dressed again, he lifted him and handed him over the table to Bill. Bill enjoyed the wriggling toddler in his arms, if not as much as he'd enjoyed him last year. Stan enjoyed it much less. Bill could tell that he would demand to be put down in a minute. Still, that minute could be used.
He walked over to Carolyn. Women were much more comfortable when approached by a man with a kid in his arms than when approached by a man without one. Maybe they figured that guaranteed they wouldn't be groped.
"Carolyn, have you met Stan?" he asked. She hadn't. "And Stanford, this pretty lady is Carolyn." Stan was too young to be interested in pretty ladies. He wanted to run around. He let him down and admonished him to go to Drew. That left Carolyn and Bill to carry on a conversation, and they did. She made polite noises about the congregation -- not that she wouldn't whatever she thought, but she had come back. She was an economics major, a graduate student. He ushered her to the line, while continuing the conversation. Then, before she could feel the need to get out of this guy's clutches, he introduced her to the other graduate students who were sitting at their own table and left her there.
Carolyn started singing in the choir. That meant he saw less of her, but she was more likely to stick around. So he talked to her briefly and watched her continually at coffee hour. He abided his time. Then, one rainy day, it came. She had on a light dress, which showed her figure to good advantage, not that anything would hide those melons. What the dress didn't provide was much protection from the rain. He'd come prepared; he always did.
"That what you have for rain gear?" he asked her.
"What I have here." Which, perhaps, implied that she had more suitable clothes at home. Much good that would do her. On the other hand, her situation did him some good.
"'If you don't like the weather in Chicago, wait fifteen minutes.' I don't think that applies to this storm -- it looks closer to forty days and forty nights. Look, stay here until I honk. I'll drive you home." And, when he honked, she ran out.
Gee, thanks," she said.
"Nothing. But I don't know where you live. What's the address." She told him. He'd have liked to ask for her phone number, too. But that But that would have been too much. "Settling into your studies? Midterms aren't coming up are they?"
"Not really." Which meant that it was now or never.
"Look, how'd you like to go out to eat Friday night? I could pick you up there and take you to a restaurant I like." He held his breath, but not for long.
"I'd be pleased." It had been that easy, after all his worry. Now, he had a date with the prettiest girl in the church. He'd make a reservation at Manfredo's, not a place her fellow students could afford. But the idea of reservations led to question of time. Students probably ate earlier than he was used to.
"Is six-thirty too late? I get back from the Loop, and have to get my car afterward. If I drove home from the Loop at rush hour, it would be even longer." He was talking too much.
"Six thirty would be fine." Outside her dorm, they exchanged phone numbers. He had her number, and a date. Now, all he had to do was not blow it.
"Thanks for the ride." She said.
"The pleasure was mine." And it had been.
Friday, he left the office precisely at five. He thought of himself as management, not one of the clock watchers, but leaving on time occasionally wouldn't spoil his reputation. He got home a few minutes after six. He shaved and splashed on after-shave. Then, he called the number she'd given him.
"Sixth floor," a girl answered. Oh yes, he'd lived in dorms, too.
"May I speak to Carolyn." The girl shouted the name, and he heard the receiver brush against the wall.
"Carolyn Schneider speaking." Was that her name? It didn't sound at all like her; the voice wasn't even pretty.
"This is Bill Pierce." How much would he have to explain? How much of an ass would he sound like? Would the story be told often enough to get back to Carolyn? There was a pause, then another voice, pretty even over the phone, spoke.
"Hello?" It was Carolyn. Well, it was his Carolyn rather than the other. Well, if not his yet, it was the Carolyn he wanted.
"Sorry, I'd forgotten what dorm phone service was like."
"I should have given you my last name. I didn't think." The girl was thinking about what she should have done rather than about what he should have done.
"Yeah. Anyway, I'm back from work and about to go out the door. What's the drill? I forgot to ask you on Sunday. Do men just walk in? Will they call campus security if I try?"
"They're not that bad. There is an entrance area. You give my name, Carolyn Nolan, and they page me. There's even an inside area where you can go if I'm with you. If you're on the floor, then they call campus security."
"Will do." But he didn't have to. By the time he got there, she was already waiting in the lobby. She was carrying a raincoat this time. Unfortunately, she was wearing jeans. He had a reservation at Manfredo's, and they would turn her away. Should he ask her to change? The church clothes would be totally acceptable. It would be a horrible start to a date, though. Well, he would be flexible.
"Do you like Chinese? Chinatown North, a section of Chicago, isn't too far from here."
"Sure." Parking on Friday night wasn't great, but he had a choice of restaurants he'd eaten in. The first one had only one couple ahead of them. After he'd seated her, and they'd picked up the menus, she opened the conversation.
"So, you manage to sell drugs which don't lie, cheat, or steal?" She'd totally lost him. "What makes a drug ethical?" Oh!
"It's more how you get it. It was the drug industry until people started talking about street drugs. You want one of ours, you get a prescription first. For that matter, most of ours wouldn't interest a junkie. Representatives don't dare leave a sample case out where it can be seen in a car, even so. The company has a few over-the-counter products, too, but I don't deal with them. The marketing is entirely different."
She was ready to choose her own dishes, which pleased him. He hadn't enough experience here to know which were the best. She was drawing him out, which meant that she liked him. The problem withe men inviting and women accepting or not was that you never knew whether she really wanted teh invitation, was desperate from a change in menu, or felt that politely accepting was less distasteful than turning down a guy who'd -- after all -- driven her home as a favor. Anyway, he knew what part of a mostly-boring job was interesting. And she didn't look bored.
When he drove her home, she stopped in the lobby. He moved to kiss her. She didn't reject him, and he got the taste of her lips and the feel of her melons against his chest. He felt himself hardening. If she felt it, too, she made no objection. Saturday, he called to thank her and hear her voice again. He still wanted to take her to Manfredo's. Well, all it took was a little planning.
He was carrying Alice again during coffee hour in church. She was more active now, and his carrying her was more of a service to Carl and Nancy. He stopped by where Carolyn was sitting.
"I'd like to thank you again for coming out with me Friday."
"The pleasure was mine." She sounded like she meant it.
"Could I tempt you to come for another dinner next Sunday after church?"
"I'd be pleased." At which point, Alice started squirming. The girl had no respect for the laws of gravity. He nodded his goodbye, and walked off fast enough to give Alice the motion she wanted. He got a reservation at Manfredo's for Sunday at one o'clock.
They actually got there a little early. They talked about the church and what she called "his babies" while they waited.
"They aren't mine. I just borrow them. Don't you think that they're cute?" At that point, they got their table. Carolyn seemed happy, and was still in the draw-him-out mode. He was willing enough; he'd done better in economics, and enjoyed it more, than most of his classmates. On the other hand, that level of enjoyment wasn't a particularly high bar.
"Do people really rob your salesmen of their drug samples?" she asked.
"Not often. Replacing the windshield they break to get the case is the representative's responsibility. Only slow learners replace two windshields." Showing her that he understood the economist's rule of changing behavior through economic incentives. "And the drugs they carry aren't often anything the addicts want. But those aren't the smartest people.
"Look suppose that somebody has a blood pressure of one-eighty. The doctor prescribes one pill a day to bring it down below one-fifty, and that isn't really healthy. Now, what would happen if you took that pill? We really don't know, but if it lowered your blood pressure thirty points, you'd probably faint. They test these things out to see whether they deal with problems, not to see how they affect healthy people. Now, some addict gets those pills and gulps a dozen. If he survives, it's a miracle."
"I thought lower blood pressure was good."
And they went on from there as far as that subject fit into a dinner-date. Then they got onto the poor economic conditions. He knew what the problem was, and it always amazed him that papers talked about other causes. Since she was taking training in economics, she should agree.
"This Great-Society crap was bound to ruin the economy. Washington needs the discipline that businessmen deal with every day. Instead, they dole out this Keynesian bullshit." But she didn't agree. She, in fact, disagreed quite harshly.
"Well, first of all, the economy was doing all right -- spectacularly well, in fact -- when Kennedy and Johnson and their appointees were in control. The growth rate of real GDP was significantly higher than it was under Eisenhower. Somehow, the economy grows well when Keynesians are in control; it tanks when they're replaced with old-school economists -- somehow, that's supposed to demonstrate the weakness of Keynesian economics. After all," she tried to point out calmly, "this is macroeconomics. It's what I study." That was too much. He couldn't bite his tongue.
"Well, it's what you're in your first quarter of studying. I have an MBA, and I studied it all."
"In the first place, I may have just begun my graduate study of macroeconomics," she interrupted, "but I have a bachelor's degree in economics. I don't really see why they'd put much emphasis on macroeconomics in a business school. Microeconomics is what you do, after all." That was putting him down. He forgot that she was a pretty girl, and went after her.
"Micro, macro, economics is economics. You guys may get lots of theory, but I know how things work. I make it work every day." She was unconvinced.
"And in the business-school economics you studied, did they tell you that a decrease in price would lead to an increase in volume? That's standard for beginning micro. Well, you're operating in the real world -- drug sales. Would a decrease in price lead your doctors to prescribe more? We're both talking theory. It's just that the theory you learned is a little simplistic."
"Just shows how much theory is worth."
"And the statements you originally challenged weren't theoretical. They're the matter of statistics, statistics published in Economic Report of the President with Richard Nixon's name up front."
"You can prove anything by statistics. What you call growth was just inflation." He then got control of his tongue. They didn't go back to the subject, but he felt he'd spoiled this date. When he'd taken her back to her dorm, she proved that. She avoided his kiss.
And she didn't cool down. The next few times he saw her in church, she seemed to be avoiding him. He let her alone except for testing the waters occasionally. Every week he could hear her voice, and every month he could see her at coffee hour. Somehow, that increased his frustration. He'd been right about what he'd said, but he became convinced that he'd been wrong to say it. He'd certainly been wrong to blow off like that on a great date.
That didn't keep him from blowing off at other times, though. Maybe the frustration made him likelier to do so. One coffee hour, he'd been admiring a baby new to the church when Dan Hagopian came over. Dan was on the committee to deal with new visitors, and was interested in the one who had learned to talk, so Bill went his way. Soon after, he heard Ruth Schweib, one of the soft-headed graduate students say something about the inadequacy of the level of welfare. He expressed his frustration at having his tax dollars spent on welfare cheats. He might have expressed that frustration rather more loudly than was absolutely necessary, but Carolyn was at the same table, and she was ignoring him. Not long after he'd finished, Dan walked over.
"Nice shoes," he said. "Who tied them for you?" Crazy question.
"You bats? I tied them myself."
"You sure didn't sound bright enough to tie your own shoes five minutes ago. We had a first-time visitor when you started sounding off about welfare. She immediately got her stuff together and left. Now, our diversity numbers suck, and you might not care about that. But I know what you do care about, and she took her baby with her. That's one infant you'll never carry, and it's all because you can't keep your damned mouth shut."
"But I didn't mean..." He sure didn't mean that woman, not with her sweet baby.
"What you didn't do was think. Look, some welfare mothers might be cheats; some might be dope addicts. What every single one of them is is a mother. You have to choose between insulting them and their trusting you with their kids. And, for the sake of this church and its being welcoming, I hope to God that you choose selfishly."
Dan had been too loud -- well, he'd been too loud first, but he suspected that Dan's loudness was deliberate. He was infuriated for the rest of the day. Then he thought. He'd lost a lot more than the chance to hold another baby by expressing his opinions inappropriately. The next Sunday, he went over to Dan after church.
"We need to talk."
"Longer than this. Let Gladys drive home, and I'll take you home. We can talk in my car."
"Okay." And so they went to the Packard. He didn't start the car.
"What did you want to talk about?"
"Last week. You said I talked inappropriately."
"I'm sorry." He wasn't sorry. He trying to maintain a friendship.
"Thing is, I might have talked when it was even more inappropriate." He told the story of mouthing off on a date that turned into a last date.
"Carolyn?" That was a detail he'd omitted.
"Something happened between you two, and people can tell. Let me think." There was a long pause. "You know, asking a professor to talk when he's sitting in a car really limits him. We talk standing up. Anyway...
"Go back a bit. You boss a crew of salesmen." That was a fairly patronizing job description, but he'd come there to listen. "How much of that selling had you done when you were put in charge?"
"I put two months in the field."
"Having been already hired as an executive. You weren't a spectacularly successful salesman?"
"Representative, and it doesn't work that way." Representatives didn't have records of how many prescriptions their doctors ordered.
"But you had listened to a lot of professors talk, and that put you in charge of people who'd had years of practical experience in selling."
"There's more to an MBA than listening to professors."
"There's more to any degree than listening. Which is fortunate, considering how few seem to listen. My point is that you're in charge of the level where the real practical work is done. You expect to go higher. That's because you have a better education than those guys have. And then, you put down someone who's getting an education because your work is closer to the ground. And it's not on the ground. You don't make pills; you don't even sell pills. You boss guys who sell pills. You know how steel workers vote?"
"The way their union bosses tell them."
"That's my field, Bill. That's terribly simplified. Back when coal miners almost worshiped John L. Lewis, Lewis turned against the Roosevelt. Coal-mine regions didn't. Anyway...
"People who have more education than you should listen to you because your experience is more nearly practical. People who have more practical experience than you should listen to you because you have more education. But you don't have any respect for the opinions of the people with more practical experience, like steel workers and coal miners. You don't have any respect for the opinions of people with more education like PhDs and grad students. You have the epitome which makes your opinions gold.
"Somehow, for some inexplicable reason, for some deep psychologically weird reason, some people are delusional enough to perceive that as arrogance."
"Some people including you and Carolyn?"
"I can't speak for Carolyn. Maybe, if you sincerely ask her for her honest opinion and listen to it, she might tell you.." Which dodged the question whether Dan thought him arrogant. Which clearly meant that he did.
"Well I'm not sure that she has more education than I do. I have a master's; she doesn't yet have a doctorate."
"Well, I have a doctorate. She knows more economics than I do, and I took economics courses. The world is full of people who say that they know the theory as well as the theoreticians but know the practics, too. There are a few poli-sci PhDs running campaigns, and they could make that claim -- though even they probably don't keep up with the lit. Generally, the claim is bogus. You have the economic theory which is needed to learn the business theory that is the grounding for your practical work. The business theory doesn't qualify you to teach in the B school of the U of C. The economics sure-as-hell doesn't. Apply for teaching post at some university and see if they give you an interview."
"Well, maybe so, but I wasn't saying anything that my professors weren't."
"I'll buy that, and not only at the B School. The economics department at the U of C is notorious for it's conservative views. But you weren't saying what her professors were saying. There is a debate in that profession. There are debates, lots of debates, in every profession."
"So it comes down to what her professors were saying as opposed to what my professors were saying?"
"To some degree. Also, the professors have arguments and data to support their positions. If she's any good in her field, certainly if she's ever going to turn out a dissertation, she knows the arguments and can find the data to support her professors' opinions. " That rang a bell.
"She said something about the president's report on the economy."
"The Economic Report of the President., an annual that comes in three sections. The first is prepared by the president's Council of Economic Advisors. It's signed by the president, but that pretense doesn't go beyond the signature. You know, those Christmas letters that are signed by the whole family but the wife is 'I' and the husband is 'George'? Anyway, the first section tells how wonderfully the administration's economic policies are working. Even in bad years it tells how wonderfully they're working. The second section tells all about the Council of Economic Advisers. The third section is full of economic statistics going back decades. People, academics, actually read the third section, I don't know of anyone who does more than glance at the first two, although somebody must be interested in what the Council of Economic Advisers is doing. I could tell you where to buy a copy. You could actually read the data. Then you would have the data to argue with her intelligently." That didn't sound like a way to get Carolyn over her anger.
"Well, thanks." He'd already known that he had stepped in it. Dan had told him how he'd stepped in it. He drove Dan home. Maybe, if he listened while Carolyn told him how he'd stepped in it, they could start over. He liked the girl, and -- he had to admit now -- it was more than the melons that he liked. But she didn't seem to be getting over her anger. She sang a solo, and he complimented her. That, at least, should have brought a smile. It didn't.
One problem was that the whole damn church knew about his feelings for Carolyn. Any of the single women he asked on a date would feel like a second choice. And he didn't date in the office. Some of the representatives and clerks did, but executives didn't, and that policy had been laid out when he started. So, where was he going to get dates?
Business, at least, was going fine. He was promoted to regional sales manager, a position that brought him a real office and a secretary. Miss Flaherty sat in the larger room, but her desk was right outside his office door. She was pretty, but the rule against dating employees would go double against dating your own secretary. However, the rule didn't mention ex-employees.
"Denise, do you have any contact with Maureen Spann, who used to work here?"
"Yes, we have lunch together on birthdays and such."
"Well, I don't want to force you to betray a confidence. Why don't you tell her that I asked for her home phone number the next time you talk to her. If she's willing, then you give it to me." Denise looked like she was hiding a smile. "I know. Sounds just like high school, doesn't it? But, in high school, I could walk up to the girl myself if I wasn't scared to."
At the price of a little gossip, he got the phone number. And the gossip wasn't a complete negative. Anyway, he called.
"Maureen? This is Bill Pierce from back at Andalusia Pharmaceuticals. Nothing to do with that, it's just that I remember you from back then. I was wondering whether you would be willing to have dinner after work some night."
"Why thanks, Bill."
"Where do you work now?"
"I'm at Harris Bank."
"In the Loop, then?" If she worked in the main offices she would be. They had branches all over, and he didn't know how many secretaries, as opposed to tellers and such, worked in the branches.
"Would this Wednesday do? Say 5:30?"
"That would be fine." They arranged to meet at the entrance to her building, and Bill checked which entrance she used.
The date went fine. Maureen lived on the North side, as he learned at dinner. They took the El home together, but he rode on to Howard after she got off at Argyle. They had other dates. He took her to the movies, driving in that day, taking her to dinner afterwards, driving her home, and kissing her on her doorstep.
When he took her to Manfredo's for lunch on a Saturday in June, she was willing to return to his apartment afterwards for a drink. They had Manhattans on the couch of his living room. He could taste the cocktail on her lips when he kissed her.
"Sweet Maureen." He began to unbutton her blouse. She didn't stop him. When he'd got the bra undone and petted her for a while, he removed both and leaned back for a better look. Without the distraction of his kiss, and with his gaze so openly on her, she started to move her hands up to cover her melons.
"Don't. You're as pretty as I pictured you back then." But not, some corner of his mind reminded him, as buxom as Carolyn was.
"You looked at me?"
"Probably everybody looked at you. I tried not to be obvious." He went back to kissing her. Now, his hands had free access to her above the waist. For a while, she held his head against her as they kissed. When he moved his kisses downward towards her melons, she stroked his face, his arms, and then his leg. Her destination was obvious. He broke away and sat up. He rose and reached a hand down for hers.
"We'd be more comfortable in there." He nodded towards his closed bedroom door. She gave him her hand, and he helped her up. They left her blouse, bra, and shoes in the living room. When had she removed her shoes?
In the bedroom, he kissed her again while they were standing. His hands went down her back to her ass while his chest appreciated her melons. He pulled her against him until her stomach was grinding against his hardon.
"Let's take care of our own," he suggested when he stepped back. He started on his tie. She got her skirt, half slip, and pantyhose off before he was down to his underwear. She lay on the bed and watched him.
"Doesn't skin feel better?" he asked when he lay down beside her. Hers certainly felt better, her melons under his lips, her leg against his leg and his hardon, her ass under his hand.
"Ihm hmm." She stroked his hair. He passed his right hand up to her far melon, which he'd been neglecting. (His left hand was out of the action since he was lying on that elbow.) Then he stroked down over her stomach to her delta. When he pushed against her leg, she spread it enough to give his hand access.
He sucked on the tip of her melon while he rubbed up her furrow. He pushed two fingers into her tunnel to test its openness and lubrication. Both were inviting, but he went upward to her nub.
"Oh," she said. He licked the tip while he stroked the nub. Then, when she seemed to be getting there, he started sucking the tip again. He rubbed his finger in a circle around her nub. When he rubbed it directly again, she went over with another "oh."
He reached over to grab a rubber out of the drawer in the night stand. He rolled it down his dick. Then he knelt with his face right above hers.
"Maureen, lovely Maureen, say yes." Actually, she didn't say anything, but her hand stroked down his stomach to grasp his dick. As he moved his body into position she led his dick to her snatch. He pushed into her tunnel.
She felt warm and smooth around him. He shifted to put his left hand on her melon while he grasped her ass with his right. As he thrust in, she raised her delta to meet him. He felt her ass tighten. As he moved out, she sank back onto the bed. Her ass softened in his hand.
It had been too long. He couldn't wait for her to go over a second time. He came with a gush. He lay on her for minute, enjoying the softness beneath him. Then he rolled off and began stroking her body again.
"You are so lovely," he said.
"Thanks." She started to get up.
"Thank you. Do you want a shower?"
"I probably should."
"I'll go after you. We'll go out somewhere else to eat dinner." And they did, after watching some TV. Saturday afternoon doesn't have the best programming for adults, but they paid more attention to each other.
He'd certainly enjoyed himself, and she seemed to have enjoyed herself, too. They fell into a pattern, Wednesday night movies -- occasionally, a play -- Saturday afternoon lunch and dinner at different restaurants with leisurely love in between. That meant that he drove into work on Wednesdays, but it was well worth it. After the first few times, he started choosing movies and restaurants between the loop and her apartment on Wednesdays and between his apartment and hers on Saturdays. There were a lot of choices. Covertly, he observed a rhythm in her responses to him. It must be her periods. He never mentioned it, and he felt a little guilty, but it was intriguing as bell. For one thing, he knew she was sexiest half-way between her periods.
One Wednesday in late August, he drove her home as usual. The movie had been romantic, and they'd shared a bottle of wine over dinner. His kiss in the entranceway of her apartment building was enthusiastic, and her response was more enthusiastic. He felt her hand on his dick through his trousers.
"Come up," she said. "My roommates are gone." That sounded great, even though he wasn't prepared. For that matter, she'd known her roommates would be gone. She might have bought some rubbers as a surprise for him. It would certainly fit her sexiness at this point of her cycle.
In her apartment, she took his suit coat and tie. After a long kiss, he started stripping her.
"Not here," she said and led him to her bedroom. When he returned to her blouse, she started on his shirt. Naked to the waist, he knelt on the floor to remove what clothes she still wore. She ruffled her hand though his hair while he peeled down her pantyhose. When she lay on her bed, he kissed both her melons and stroked her delta. She spread her legs immediately. She rubbed his dick again before pulling at his belt.
"Lose those," she said.
"Um, I didn't come prepared."
"I'm safe." Well, if so, why not. He reached for his belt, but had another thought. She wasn't safe. He knew that she was near her most fertile point.
"Let's go a little slower," he said. "Ladies before gentlemen." He began kissing her again, and reached for her snatch. He rubbed her nub before inserting two fingers in her tunnel. She was plenty wet down there, but it was her lubrication, not blood. He rubbed up and down her furrow before returning his finger to her nub. He sucked her melon while rubbing there until she went over. This time, he didn't stop. He merely switched melons while continuing to rub her there. When she reached a hand towards his dick, he grabbed her wrist with his left hand. They were struggling more than loving when she went over again. He continued to rub her nub, but she pushed his hand away.
"No! That's too much!" He stood up and started to put on his shirt.
"Well, I'm sorry. I think I have to be going." He carried his undershirt, tie, and coat down the stairs and to his car. She was hardly dressed for pursuing him.
He didn't know whether she'd tried to entrap him or had just got carried away in the moment. Should he cut the ties right now? Should he just drop her? But she was Denise's friend. He suspected that some report of their activities got back to Denise. Through her, they could circulate through the entire female side of the company. For that matter, Maureen probably had other friends who still worked for Andalusia. If he did go on, though, he'd keep a rubber in his clothes when he dated her. He decided to call her the next evening.
"Hello." He recognized her voice, but she didn't carry over the simplest part of business telephone etiquette to her personal life. She didn't identify herself.
"Maureen? This is Bill. I wanted to thank you for the date last night."
"I don't know why you should thank me for what you turned down cold."
"I had the pleasure of your company at the movie and for dinner." There was a long pause. "I was wondering if you could come out for dinner Saturday night." That was a change, but not something she could complain about.
"I'm sorry, Bill, but I'm busy that night."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe we'll talk again."
"Maybe. Good night." Which meant that she hoped that they wouldn't. Well, that ended his problem. He'd been rejected.
Speaking of rejections, when Northwestern started up a few weeks later, Carolyn was back at Aldersgate. Soon, she was back in the choir and talking in a friendly fashion to almost everyone at coffee hour. He was the conspicuous exception, but he could appreciate her singing voice and her beauty from a distance.
Alice, on the other hand, wasn't really rejecting him. She, indeed, was happy to talk to him. That was no great compliment as she was perfectly happy to talk to her doll if nobody else was around. Sometimes in preference to people trying to talk to her. The doll understood her about as well as Bill did. What Alice rejected was being carried. She now walked, or staggered, on her own two feet. this was a great adventure, and she rejected any limits on it. Sometimes, the two of them would go into the back of the church, the "narthex," during the sermons. She sometimes rejected, and sometimes welcomed, his hand. Nancy and Carl trusted him to keep her from killing herself. Her murmurs to her doll, were usually -- if far from always -- soft enough to escape any of the congregation who weren't sitting in the back few pews. Those who were bothered should just have sat further forward.
Ray and Lily Bell had adopted a daughter, Beatrice, but they seldom were in a mood to share. Bill suspected that they thought that adoption required them to take full responsibility. For all he knew, adoption law did. Stan was in the terrible twos, and Drew and Mildred took to keeping him home. Bill started taking surreptitious peeks at the waistline of the young married women, but none of them looked promising.
Alice found running even more adventurous than walking had been. And people would play tag with her if they wanted something she had. At the December coffee hour, she was having a great time avoiding Nancy and Carl. Bill was hanging far enough back from the grad-student table that he wasn't intrusive but close enough that he could both see and hear Carolyn. He leaned forward to put his cup down on the table, but carefully didn't look towards Alice. When he heard the pounding of little feet (pitter-patter was either somebody's imagination or one of the glories of the past which had disappeared in the present) about to pass him, he pounced. He held a squirming Alice far enough away until she stopped kicking.
"Down!" she said. He folded her into his arms.
"Gee, thanks, Bill," said Nancy. "Now hold her while I get this on her." He held Alice as closely as he could, but responded,
"Nope! Finders keepers -- losers weepers. I'm going to take Alice home with me," he told Nancy. She looked a little tightly wrapped just then, and needed a touch of humor. "Aren't I?" he asked Alice. She nodded, whether she understood the question or just agreed with his laughing tone. She was in high good humor after her game of tag.
"For God's sake, Bill," Carolyn broke in. "That isn't a toy for you to pick up when nobody's looking. Alice is a human being, and Nancy and Carl are her parents. Now, give her to Nancy!" Well, the ice queen had actually noticed him. He laughed -- half the sport with Alice, half the triumph with Carolyn.
"Look," said Nancy, "why don't the two of you get a room?" He was willing. Apparently the ice queen wasn't. Oh well, at least he'd got a reaction from her.
When Nancy had the coat on Alice, Carl came over and relieved him of his squirming load. Nancy picked up the bottle bag.
"Really, Nancy..." Carolyn went on.
"Really, Carolyn. I'm sorry for speaking out like that. Alice had me frazzled, or I wouldn't have invaded your personal business. But you have to know that nobody can be in the same room with you two without sensing the tensions."
"Tension? I hardly speak to the guy."
"And, when you do you, you bawl him out for a silly joke. Look, I have to go. Deal with it; don't deal with it. It's not my business, but you've made it everybody's business."
Nancy trailed after Carl. Maybe Carolyn would take out her frustration on him. He was willing. She, apparently, was not. She turned to Brigit, another grad student.
"I don't see what she meant, do you?"
"Yes," Brigit answered honestly if diffidently. "Where was Bill sitting this morning?" She paused. "And where was I sitting?" she said more strongly. "Answer me that one."
"How in hell am I supposed to know where you were sitting?"
"Carolyn, I was liturgist today, sitting beside Pastor Jake. You heard my voice not an hour ago, but you've forgotten already. No problem! Why should anyone but me remember that?"
"So what's the point?" She got no answer. He waited for her to express another opinion to him, but others at the table found another subject, and Carolyn joined in. He moved away, but got his car early and was waiting outside the door when she came out.
"Look," he said, "Nancy's suggestion of a room wasn't serious. If you want to bash this out, though, I've got a car and we can get food at Mickey Dee's and talk in the car."
"I don't think we have anything to talk about." Well, that was better than silence, but not much better.
"Nancy does. Brigit does. For that matter, I do, but you don't think my opinion counts."
"What's your opinion of me?"
"You're opinionated, arrogant, ignorant, conceited, and..."
"And those are my good points," he finished for her. "I think you're a bright girl with a pretty face, a sweet voice, and absolutely gorgeous hair."
"All you think I am is a pretty face on the front of an empty head. Well, let me tell you, Northwestern didn't agree when they admitted me, and my professors haven't agreed when they've graded me." That was unfair.
"I started out saying you were bright. If I were your professor, that might be more important to me. As it is, I think your beauty is more important. I'm not trying to judge you in the balance for your place in the world. You go to the dentist, you don't tell him about your blood pressure. He's only there to deal with your teeth." So a male who remembered her melons was only fulfilling the male function.
"What is it with you and blood pressure, anyway?"
"Huh? I was just making a comparison."
"On our last date, you talked about addicts stealing blood-pressure medicine." Now, that sounded more promising.
"Our last date? Is this your idea of a date, then?"
"Not 'last' like 'previous.' 'Last' as in 'the last we'll ever have if we both live a thousand years and you're the only man left alive on earth.'"
"You sure you don't want to discuss this in more privacy?" People were pretending not to look, but nobody was pretending enough to head home.
"We have absolutely nothing to discuss."
"Don't look now, but you've been talking to me."
"But we were talking about you. That's discussing absolutely nothing." With which exit line, she strode off. Her buns, if less attractive than her melons, were still a sexy sight. And the brisk stride, firming them with every step, showed them off quite well. Somehow, he suspected that this gift to him was unintentional
Well, he'd tried, and the offer was still on the table. He drove home. When Carolyn, and the other students if that mattered, were back from Christmas vacation, he started changing his pew in church. Like most of the congregation, he had a usual place. But, if Brigit thought that Carolyn noticed where he sat -- and she hadn't denied that -- he'd give her something to notice.
Alice had decided that he was another player in the game of tag. He didn't mind playing with her, but she could escape him until she fell down. As he didn't want her to fall down, he let her taunt him while he pretended indifference. She was so involved with this that she didn't see her father approaching. Just before she might, he lunged, she squealed, wheeled, and ran into Carl's legs.
"Thanks, Bill," he said scooping her up. He and Nancy wrestled her into her coat and took her away.
"Changed sides, Bill?" asked Ruth Schweib from the grad-student table. "I though you were always on the kids' side." Not conspicuously against the parents, he wasn't. You basically needed the permission of both kid and parent to hold the kid.
"Nah!" he simplified. "She wanted to be caught. She just wanted to make a game out of it. If Carl and Nancy had gone home without her, she'd have been scared."
"Now he's an expert on child psychology," Carolyn broke in. "Terrible that the rest of us have to study things to learn about them." She was now noticing him, if only to criticize. Well, he now understood why a previous generation had dipped girls' pigtails in ink pots. It was better to be criticized by the prettiest girl in the room than to have her ignore you.
"Now, Carolyn, however inadequate you think my study of economics, you can't deny that I've spent plenty of time studying Alice." He thought that this might lead to a longer conversation, but it didn't. Her coffee looked like she'd need a refill soon. He walked up to the serving table and talked to Molly. Let Carolyn approach where he was standing for once. She didn't.
He and Nancy weren't the only people who noticed that Carolyn was trying to avoid him. At the next coffee hour, he was standing not far from the grad student table, nursing a cup of coffee, when one of the students asked him a question.
"You've been around for a while, haven't you Bill?" Harold Liggins, who'd asked, was sitting right beside Carolyn.
"Not too long." It was bad enough for Carolyn to think of him as an unperson, she didn't have to think of him as an ancient unperson. "I joined in '63. Everybody who came here before you looks like part of the furniture."
"Still, you've seen some changes," Ruth Schweib said. She was sitting on the other side of Carolyn. Soon, he was in a conversation with those two, and standing right behind Carolyn. He was enjoying his position too much to understand how much it was bothering her, until she asked someone else to get her a cup of coffee because she was hemmed in. Instead, he got the coffee. Half spoon of creamer, heaping spoon of sugar. That much sugar would give her diabetes; too bad it didn't sweeten her disposition.
"Tell me if it's too sweet." She tasted it.
"Just right, thanks." Well, he'd got a friendly word from her. As a reward, he stopped hemming her in. He suspected that Ruth and Harold had started the conversation to discomfit Carolyn. It hadn't been sudden curiosity of the church's history; neither approached him later for more information. It hadn't been to provide him an excuse for closeness; they were interested in their fellow student, Carolyn, not in the old fossil, Bill.
At that age, Alice was more interested in stairs than in anything else. She was too young to be safe on them alone. Their compromise was for her to hold his thumb while his other fingers wrapped securely around her wrist. She might not like the contact, but it was a price she was willing to pay for a period of going up and down stairs. They were climbing the outside church stairs, an especially fun set, while Carl got his car. Carolyn came over to talk to Nancy. Fine, not even Carolyn could fault him for returning Alice to her mother.
"See the pretty lady talking with mommy?" he asked at the top of the stairs. Alice spared them a quick glance, but she was more interested in going down again. As they neared the bottom, Carl drove up. That entailed a brief struggle -- Alice was much more interested in going up the stairs than in going home. As he was dragging Alice over to the car, Carolyn spoke.
"Say 'hi' to the pretty lady," he told Alice.
"Hi, Prillay." Somehow, this upset Nancy, or maybe she thought of something which had to be done.
"Well, we're out of here, and out of this. We'll see you later." She said after shoving Alice into the car seat. She got in the front, and they drove off.
"Bill how could you?" Carolyn said. What had he done now? Walked Alice? Oh the 'pretty lady.' "That's awful!"
"What's awful? So I refer to you as a pretty lady. You are, and it's not as if I said, 'say hello to the busty wench,' now is it?"
"Busty wench?" Now he'd stepped in it. He was supposed to notice nothing below her neck. That rule was idiotic, but he knew it.
"That's what I don't call you. That would be insulting. What's insulting about 'pretty lady'? You aren't one of those who think ladies only should be called women, are you? Anyway, I don't even know what 'wench' means except it isn't complimentary, and it is a woman." That didn't get him off.
"That's irrelevant. You're trying to change the subject."
"Just what is the subject?" Aside from how horrible he was.
"No, I don't, and you don't either, or you wouldn't have said that. Let me put it another way. What subject do you wish to discuss? Select one, and I'll try to keep to it."
"I don't want to talk with you."
"Okay." And he stopped talking. He wanted to look at her, and he did. If she wanted it to be in silence, that seemed a fair compromise. She, however, didn't keep the silence.
"Last week, I found Alice sitting on the stairs leading up from the basement." That sounded serious.
"Alone? She shouldn't have been on stairs alone. Did she fall?"
"She was sitting on a stair near the top. One shoe was off. She handed it to me and said 'Prillay.' I put it on and took her to Nancy."
"Just what you should have done. Now, how was that a misdeed on my part? I didn't leave her there; you know I wouldn't leave her in a dangerous position, not even leave her with one shoe off."
"She got that 'Prillay' from you." Oh. Well in a certain sense, she had.
"Well, not the pronunciation."
"What do you say to her?"
"'See the pretty lady?' I mean there might be other things, depending on the situation. But nothing derogatory. I don't see what the problem is." Not talking to her was something she might demand reasonably, not mentioning her was going too far.
"I don't want you talking with her about me."
"But she's at an age when talking with her is necessary. Her language skills for the entire rest of her life depend on what she picks up this year." Well, at least, language practice was one of he services that he afforded parents in exchange for the company of their children.
"It doesn't have to be about me."
"Probably not, and most of the time it's not. On the other hand, it's a strange request. And, it's a damn strange complaint to make that I didn't honor that request before you made it."
"And you claim that the reason you talk to Alice is that it's good for her." Not really, he had claimed that it was good for her.
"I never denied that I enjoy it, too. Three questions: Do I like it? Does she like it? Does it do her good, or at least no harm?"
"And what if it's something you enjoy very much and it does her a little harm?" What was the basis of this interrogation? Well, it was a conversation, and he wanted a conversation with Carolyn.
"Well, if I know it would do her harm, I wouldn't enjoy it. Okay, I get her sweets at coffee hour. But no more than her parents permit, and Carl's a dentist, for God's sake. That's another rule. It has to be something the kid's parents permit."
"Bill Pierce, the saint." That was overstating it. He tried to be a positive influence -- often only slightly positive. Parents could feel that leaving kids with him did their kids some good.
"I don't claim that. Those are the rules. I don't always keep them. Have I spun kids around until they threw up? Yes. Did they demand that I spin them around again just before they threw up? Yes. I'm not omniscient."
"Except about economics."
"Is that the subject of this conversation?"
When she didn't answer, he continued. "Look, you like to sing. Even if you don't, lots of the choir members do. They perform -- you perform -- a service to the church. That it's something you enjoy doesn't lessen the service you perform. Why is it evil that I perform a minor service for kids -- and for their parents -- just because I enjoy it?"
"You're being silly." She stalked off again. Again, this afforded a great view of her buns.
The next week, there was a gentle rain at 11:00 and a downpour with wind shifting every second when church got out at noon. He saw Carolyn unfold one of those fancy umbrellas which could be folded into a compact shape. She went out the door ahead of him while he was making sure that his trench coat was secure and opening his adult umbrella. He was about to offer drives to their cars to some of those clustered in the doorway when Carolyn came back with her contraption in ruins. He thought fast.
"Look," he told her, "if you're not scared of me, I'll be back with the car in a second." He ran to where his car was parked -- parking was always a problem around Aldersgate and the early birds got the less wormy spots. When he drove up, she got in. She wasn't happy, but you couldn't have everything.
"Scared of you?" she asked. "Why should I be scared of such a miserable excuse for a man?"
"Dunno. You've sure been avoiding me, though. Look, what -- what particularly -- have I done?" Well, if she wanted to lambaste him, she'd get her chance. Maybe it would cool her down. Anyway, with her attention on his wrongs, she wouldn't notice where he was going. Instead of north, towards her dorm, he turned south. He'd offered her a hamburger to go with her bawling out, and he'd make that offer again.
"You're arrogant, nasty, sneaky, deceitful..."
"That's what I am. What have I done? If I'm deceitful what deceitful thing have I done?"
"You ask that, after tricking me into these conversations."
"Well, asking a question may be starting a conversation, but it's not a particularly tricky way of doing it. What was the conversation I tricked you into?"
"Well, the last one -- last Sunday. You tricked me into that one, and in front of everybody, too."
"If I remember correctly, you started that conversation."
"After you taught Alice to call me 'Pretty Lady.' That was tricky."
"Well, I didn't teach her to say it very well. And, I was only talking to her. You didn't tell me you didn't want me talking about you until then."
"And you keep saying you like my singing. Those are totally unnecessary conversations."
"Those are the only ones in which you behaved in a half-way friendly fashion. And three comments on three solos is hardly stalking you. Was I the only one who said that they liked your solos?"
"Where are we going anyway?" Now she noticed.
"Mickey Dee's. You were telling me all my faults, and thought you needed to keep up your energy for the task."
"I don't have time to tell you all your faults. The list is too long."
"So you need your energy. Big Mac? This way, at least, we don't have the audience. Shake?" He finished. They were now in line. Salesman's rule, always let your customer decide something minor. That decision makes the whole contract their decision.
"Two big Macs and a large coke." He told the girl at the window. When he had the order, he noticed how little room she had on her lap. "Why don't you throw that umbrella in the back seat? Now, is that the worst? Seems to me that you were mad at me long before Alice called you 'pretty lady.'" By this time, he'd parked in the far end of the MacDonald lot.
"No the worst thing about you is your arrogant ignorance." She was back on what he was, now.
"Which was shown?"
"By claiming to know everything about economics, when you don't know jack shit." Well, while she was exaggerating, she had a point. Dan had suggested the same thing.
"Dan was kinder, but -- then -- Dan's a friend. He did say, though, that I thought too much of my MBA and not enough of doctorates."
"Well, I don't have a doctorate, yet." Now, she was backing down.
"No, but your professors do. And you weren't telling me something your professors weren't telling you."
"Actually, I was telling you something you could look up yourself. It wasn't abstract theory, it was the rate of growth of real GDP. Look, you think professional economics is a bunch of abstractions, don't you?"
"Yeah, and I have to go to work dealing with particular figures every day."
"I'll bet I look at more numbers than you do. They're aggregated, sure. You don't ask your salesman how many minutes they spent with Dr. Smith and how many minutes they spent with Dr. Jones. You do ask him how many minutes he spent with doctors that day." Which wasn't quite true, and the inaccuracy threw him off the point she was making.
"Maybe I should. Actually, I don't."
"Well, I don't look at what your company sold this week, but I do look at what the drug industry sold last year. And I look at what every other industry sold last year, too. Until my head is swimming in numbers." Now, he saw her point.
"But," she continued, "that isn't what I wanted to say." Just when he'd been about to agree.
"I'll listen." Listening might get him somewhere. Talking sure-as-hell hadn't. Well, it had got him in the doghouse.
"What you studied was microeconomics. It's not really the same. They are terribly abstract. And, really, the abstractions aren't close to the real world. What's the competition for a Big Mac from McDonald's?"
"Huh? A Whopper, I guess."
"But they aren't really the same."
"I don't think they are."
"We're sitting in a Packard, eating Big Macs. You sell drugs. Are there other companies which sell drugs identical to yours?"
"There are generics, which claim to be as good, but they're not really. They don't go through the same trials."
"Do they sell for the same price?"
"God no! Even so, we have to cut our prices when generics come out. Wrecks the profit margin."
"So, there is no direct competition for the car we're sitting in, for the food we're eating, for the stuff you sell. But micro theory is based on an auction market. There just aren't all that many actual auction markets setting prices in this economy."
"There's the stock market." She was losing him again.
"So there is. And, look at the stock market. They set a new price for any particular stock every minute. So, the grocery store doesn't act like the stock market. But the basis of classical microeconomics is that everyday prices are set on an auction market. The papers aren't studies of particulars, 'The marginal cost of producing soap, and the resulting price of Palmolive hand soap.' Instead, they assume that the market somehow does operate that way." She was, presumably, planning to be a professor. She might be learning economics, she sure hadn't learned how to teach it. She'd lost him completely.
"But macro isn't done that way. People dig into tons of data. They study what happens when you cut taxes, when you raise taxes, when you run a deficit, when you spend lots on new roads. And it's a bitch, too." She sounded like she was more desperate about her classes than mad at him.
"You sound like you're getting to the end of the term."
"Well, yes. I'm writing a paper in regional economics. Y'know why Chicago became the railroad capital of the USA?"
"I'm not sure we are. Anyway, it's at the bottom of Lake Michigan, If you want to go northeast or northwest, you have to pass through Chicago."
"Or Gary. That's the point. It's easy enough to see why Chicago ranks Milwaukee. But the real southernmost point of Lake Michigan is right above Gary, but they didn't build the railroad yards there. Chicago already existed. New York is a major railroad hub because it was the largest city in the country when the rails were being laid. There are factors and factors -- and more factors." Now she was off him and onto her field.
"The micro boys can tell you precisely what the price of a widget will be. That might not be anywhere close to the actual selling price of widgets, but they can draw two graphs and point you to the price. I, on the other hand, have to explain what happened and -- what is worse -- predict what will happen. Anyone ever tell you about the Tsar's railroad?"
"No. What Tsar? What railroad?"
"Haven't the faintest idea what Tsar. The railroad line between Saint Petersburg and Moscow. The tsar came upon a couple of engineers arguing about what was the best route for a railroad line between the two cities." Didn't engineers run trains? Did they also plan the routes? "This was when there wasn't such a line and railroads were rare, at least in Russia. They were pointing to a map and arguing. The tsar grabbed up a ruler and a pencil. He placed one end of the ruler on Saint Petersburg and the other end on Moscow. With the pencil, he drew a line from one to the other. 'Why there, of course,' he said."
"Sounds reasonable, if a bit arbitrary."
"Well, he didn't have either of them executed, which counts for being non-arbitrary when you're the ruler of Russia. The railroad was built on that line. It contains only one curve. Can you guess where that is?" Now she was off his faults entirely. Was she going to go back to how stupid he was if he didn't know Russian geography?
"At Moscow?" Not by the way she was looking. Well, there was only one other sensible guess. "At Saint Petersburg?" She shook her head.
"No. Where the Tsar had his thumb over the edge of the ruler. Now..."
"Really?" Sounded ludicrous, ludicrous enough to be true.
"Really, in the middle of a dead-flat stretch. As I said, neither man was executed; they probably wanted to maintain that record. Now, though, regional economics is the study of where things are done. And, sometimes, it feels like predicting where the tsar is going to put his thumb." Then she took a breath and veered again.
"But I've been telling you about the pothole before you've seen the road."
"You did have me rather lost, there," he told her. "Although the tsar story was one I'll remember. I'm glad to hear it wasn't just my density." She didn't say that he wasn't dense. On the other hand, she didn't say he was either.
"Your office is in the loop, and it doesn't have all that many employees?" Another jump. What's 'all that many'?
"There are quite a few. It's national HQ as well as regional."
"But there are more factory employees, and the factories are elsewhere?"
"I'm thinking of specializing in regional economics, and that is what regional economics is about. Offices get services and prestige by locating in the central business district. They use a small fraction of the company's space. So, they can afford the high rent of the central business district. How much is it worth to you to be in any particular location? How much does it cost? The people who want to be in a location bid up the rent or the land costs until the people who are willing to pay the price fill the space -- there are no spaces left open and there are no people willing to pay the price left out. Very simple application of economics, but..." First she called him a simpleton, then she summarized a quarter's course work and expected him to comprehend. Well, he was having a conversation with her, and she wasn't listing his faults.
"But there are always other factors. I don't know when your company moved into that office, but I do know that there were only so many office suites available just then. Maybe another office location would be cheaper or provide more prestige. That isn't going to get them to move unless the difference is immense; the cost of moving is too great. Why, you'd have to have your cards reprinted." That was cute.
"That isn't the cost they're worrying about, but yeah. And that's not even considering the tsar's thumb."
"Professor Kindle, who's a great guy," -- a description of her professor which did not please him, but he hoped he suppressed his jealousy before she could notice it -- "told us that story as a warning. It's extreme, but the president of your company may be determined to move somewhere that's more convenient for him. Maybe he doesn't have the power, but some presidents and chairmen do. And the prestige might be worth something to your company, but not as much as it's worth to the board. Anyway, there are non-economic forces at work at any time. And there is always the force of the-way-we've-always done it. So the predictions only go so far.
"I'm interested in the field, and it's a relatively new field. That means that I won't have so many grey heads standing in the way of my promotion. On the other hand, too many of the studies, not Kindle's but others', are closer to the micro 'This is the way it is in theory, why look at messy facts,' than to the macro 'Here are the numbers, let's see what theory could explain them?' So, the difference in approach of micro people and macro people is very close to what keeps me up at night."
"And you think me one of the micro people. I'm really not." But he'd been claiming that his economic training was as good as hers.
"I'm sorry. This started about you, and I switched it to about me."
"That's no problem. I'd rather hear about your worries than about my faults." That got him a laugh.
"And I don't think you're a microeconomist. You work in the real world and look at real numbers, as you've pointed out. I do think that what you know of economics is micro. What you think of as economics is micro. And, thus, when I say I'm doing economics, you hear that my head is in the clouds. On the other hand, when you think of what is plain about macro is really distortions that the micro guys spread.
"Sure, if bad times led to a drop in prices, the economy would react to recessions the way they say. But, in case you didn't notice, these bad times didn't. In fact, no drop in demand since the Great Depression has led to a drop in prices." The way she veered from one topic to another had left him dizzy. He had heard a little about the last, though.
"Yeah, but that's because there hasn't been a drop in wages. That's the problem with propping up wages through welfare, unions, minimum wage laws, and the like."
"But, you see, micro predicts that a drop in demand will lead to a drop in prices even if there isn't a drop in wages. People want fewer widgets because they're buying more gadgets. widget productions drops, widget workers go make gadgets. Classical theory predicts that widget prices will fall, even though wages don't -- the workers are still getting jobs, you see, only making gadgets not widgets. Anyway, a drop in demand for widgets should lead to a drop in price for widgets even without a drop in wages for widget workers. And it doesn't." She was certain, and -- as Dan had suggested -- she had arguments for her certainty. Still, she could have been talking Greek for all that he understood of the last.
"Well..." Maybe they could have more discussions, slower discussions about only one point.
"Look, when is your last exam?"
"Two weeks from next Tuesday." And until then, she was under intense pressure.
"And are you going back home afterwards, or staying in town?"
"Clearing out." So he should ask her for a date the day after the last exam. They could go from there.
"Want me to drive you back to your dorm?" And, so, he did. She was calmer. He figured that they were friends again. When the pressure was off, they might well be a dating couple again.
In church, while they hardly spoke, she was civil when they did. Carolyn skipped the June coffee hour, but so did most of the students. He was waiting. Her last exam was Tuesday. He waited -- the last days of exams wouldn't improve her temper.
Wednesday afternoon, he called from work. He had a private phone, and personal calls at his level weren't actively discouraged. On the other hand, he should be setting a good example to his subordinates -- he did this by making few of them. This one was worth making an exception. He'd invite her out for the next night. If she agreed, he'd give her her choice of fanciness. He'd known guys who didn't shave for exam week. Maybe she'd prefer something she didn't have to dress up for. Maybe she'd be sick of grunginess. For a Thursday, he'd probably be able to get a reservation at Manfredo's.
"Hello." Telephone etiquette wasn't part of the Northwestern core curriculum.
"Carolyn Nolan please." He heard the name shouted and the receiver brush against the wall. He pictured it swinging from the phone.
"Carolyn Nolan." She, at least, identified herself on the phone.
"This is Bill Pierce. You're finished with your exams, aren't you?"
"How would you like to go out for dinner tomorrow night?" Or, to put it another way, have you forgiven me enough to try me again.
"I'm sorry. I won't be in town." And, before he could even think of the tonight loophole, she closed it. "I'm heading out to O'Hare in an hour. We'll speak when I come back, though." Which was very clear. She was his church friend. They would speak in church, and speak civilly. She was certainly being civil now, unlike the 'not if you were the last man on earth' line. But she was not his girl friend, and she was not going to be. Well, a polite excuse was a major improvement. It just wasn't the improvement he wanted.
"I'm sorry to miss you." If she could be civil, he should be, too. "Do you have any idea how you did?"
"On the exams? I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but there weren't any questions where I drew an absolute blank."
"That sounds good. Well, I'll let you go." And he let his dreams of you go, too.
With summer coming on and certainty of a chilly school year, he should date. Denise already knew too much of his business. He didn't want somebody else she knew. He thought of Ruth Deeds, a recent divorcee in the church. She agreed to go out with him for dinner.
"I really don't understand the dating game these days," she told him over dinner. "Greg and I got engaged at our senior prom. It was a long engagement, but there was nobody else for me from long before that -- we were sixteen when we began going steady -- until he left." He expressed sympathy, thinking that she needed to decide whether she was on a date or confiding her anxiety about dating. He had enough anxieties of his own, but she wasn't going to hear them.
They got onto more pleasant subjects, though. When he stopped the car at her door, he had decided to ask her out again sometime. He should probably date someone else in between, though. He needed to be in the swim.
"Do you want to come up?" she asked. "Ron will be asleep." Was the invitation what he thought? His dick twitched, but his mind raised a warning. He was after a date, not an affair. And, he really didn't want an affair with anyone who would offer like that. He wanted to be the hunter and not the game. Instead, he walked her to the door and kissed her.
"I'd love to, but I've got things scheduled. Another time." And he drove away.
It looked like a lonely summer.
The End Get a Room - M Uther Pendragon email@example.com 2010/12/16 These same events from Carolyn's perspective, can be read in: Carolyn's Experience Another story about another romance which develops slowly: "Honey Bee" The index to almost all my stories is: Index to Uther Pendragon's website