By Robt. Emmett
Doris and Bert were standing on my veranda when I awoke. I hadn’t seen either of them in nearly two decades. Why now, I wondered?
“Are you going to ask us to sit?” Bert asked.
“Yeah, sure,” I yawned and pointed at the other chairs.
“We want you to come to the twentieth-class reunion of the Cathedral class of ’71.” He said. Her hair wasn’t the straight glossy black it had been when we had been students together. Her hot yellow sleeveless shirt and neon green pants screamed at my eyes. I had to squint to look at her. Orange leather sandals clash with the hot pink polish on her toenails. Large hoop earrings and plastic bracelets, matching her shoes, were from another era.
I’d already made up my mind not to go. “I haven’t been to the other reunions, why now?”
She looked at Bert. “Cuz, the old bunch will be there, and have asked about you.”
Bert’s belt buckle was working overtime on holding up the paunch pushing against the wife-beater T-shirt. He was trying to look seventeen again and failing.
As he talked, extolling all the reasons to come to the reunion, Doris eyed me.
I wasn’t listening. Instead, I was studying her. The intervening years hadn’t been kind. She’d lost her reputation in the ninth grade and never missed it. In Chicago, she used her only talent and found a job.
He rambled on about the upcoming event. Tuning him out, my mind wandered back to the Friday twenty-something years ago before last hour. I’dwalked toward her locker. She shooed her two friends away. Her look said we were on the same page in the Anatomy textbook. I asked her to meet me after the football game.
Bert hadn’t given her a glance in school. He’d been a faithful kind of guy. The day after graduation, he married the girl he’d knocked up. Doris and Bert were friends, nothing more. They were the recruiting team trying to drag former classmates back into their salad days.
She agreed to meet me at the north end of the stadium after the game.
“We graduated on Tuesday, June first, remember?” He asked. “The reunion is on June first, a Saturday, at the Pickwick. It’ll be exactly twenty years.” He paused and waited for my answer. “Well, what do you think? Are you going to come?”
It was getting late, “Sure, why not?”
“Happy hour starts at seven.”
I nodded. They left.
I didn’t go to the football game that Friday.
A class reunion is the stupidest idea I’d heard, ever. My flick knife slit the stitching holding shut the pockets of my new dark green sports coat from JC Pennys, three-button jacket, the latest style. I wondered for the hundredth time ‒ why was I goin’ to this crap-fest.
Dressed, I headed out to spend a dull evening with a bunch of nearly forty-year-old kids. I’ll breeze in, have a drink, chat a bit, and breeze out, come home, and polish my Wellington boots.
As I drove, I thought about the women that would be there. I remembered Dad’s advice on women. Rule one; it’s as easy to love a rich woman as a poor one. I had followed it to the letter and dated only rich ones.
Rule two; meet the mother because your date will look like her in twenty years. I followed that one too. I even dated some of the mothers.
The last rule, date a hundred women before you settle on one. Somewhere along the line, I must have overlooked Miss Right. I quit counting somewhere around two hundred twenty, two-thirty.
I realized I shouldn’t have come the moment I entered the private room in the Pickwick. If I hadn’t read the name tag on her more than ample bosom, I would never have guessed the rotund woman standing before me was once a cheerleader. It was probably still there but hidden under a large cheap floral polyester print tent dress. Back in the day, she had a body to make strong boys drool, and the weak ones faint. There wasn’t a wedding ring among her collection of rings on both her pudgy hands. She explained she’d been married, twice, and verrrry well.
I excused myself, walked around her to the bar, and ordered a Johnnie Walker Black Label, neat. I hardly recognized the woman who joined me as I waited for my drink. She looked as if she’d been ridden hard and put away wet. She asked if I would save her the first dance when the band started. In high school, I’d asked her to a school dance. The back of my neck still tingles at her laughing rejection. Worse, the snickering of her three girlfriends and the remark one of them made about my forgetting which side of the creek I was from. I knew why she wanted to dance with me now. I was famous. She’d have the first dance? In a pig’s ass!
Many of the women classified me as untouchable because of where I lived in my youth. Now they wanted to spend time with me. They wore cheap knock off Versaće dresses and perfume you’d find at Woolworth’s five and dime for a buck and a half a quart.
Some of the men had young trophy wives and dressed them in style. Other men acted as if they were movie stars. These losers clapped me on the back as if we been best friends. We hadn’t and weren’t. They hoped I’d forgotten the way they’d treated me in high school. I hadn’t.
Now, I was acceptable. I was still the same kid from the wrong side of Chester Creek. The one big difference now was – several of my novels were on the New York Times Best Seller List.
The time passed. I chatted with Bob and Johnny, two of the few friends I had known long ago. I didn’t see a woman I would care to ask out after this reunion was over. Then, I spotted her, Cathy. We’d gone to a school dance, once. She wouldn’t date me again. Not because I lived on the wrong side of the creek. No, she hadn’t wanted me to get beat up again by her brothers. She wore no rings. I could, and maybe I should have, talked to her. I didn’t, she was surrounded by a pack of salivating married wolves. I turned to set my glass on the bar and stopped. Doris was there.
Our eyes met. “It seems I haven’t had the opportunity to thank you properly.”
“Thank me for what?”
A small smile curled the corner of her mouth. “You, for rejecting my offer.” Everyone saw or heard her slap my face. “I’ve waited twenty years to do that!” Her slap had caught me off guard.
Some people ignored it, some frowned, and others smiled.
Wiping the drop of blood from my lip, I realized I’d spent more time at this farce then I’d planned. No regrets about missing the other reunions; none at all!
The early the next morning, at the police station, I learned of Doris’s murder. And I had no alibi.
– ℜ –
Robert Remillard writes under the pen name, Robt. Emmett. After working twenty-five years at a large international manufacturing company as a mechanical design engineer, [sans degree] he retired. His imagination urged him to write short stories are about his teens in the mid-1950s when the world was great, but who wants to read stories of what was?