After the dishes were washed and placed in the drainer Jack started down the hall to his room. He suddenly remembered that Henry's shirt was in the dryer. Shut behind the door of his bedroom watching the movie, none of them heard the buzzer alert them that the shirt was dry. Jack turned around and walked back to the utility room to get the shirt.
He couldn't resist lifting it to his face and taking a deep inhale. He pulled the shirt away disappointed. It smelled like dryer not Henry.
He took the shirt to his room and put it in his backpack so he wouldn’t forget to take it school tomorrow and give it to Henry. He got undressed and climbed into bed. As he lay there in the dark he had to resist the urge to get up, get the shirt and hold it to his chest like a child clutching a security blanket. He didn't need it for security; it was a substitute for Henry.
Wednesday. When Jack awoke from a restless night's sleep he immediately remembered dreaming about Genevieve. It wasn't like the first time he dreamed about her. He wasn't playing out scenes with her. This time he could see her in a very bright room. They weren't talking. In fact he didn't remember there being any sound. She was just there and he was watching her. He didn't even know if she was aware of his presence. He figured the dream was a combination of having watched her movie the night before and remembering how bright her living room is usually lit.
He got up and stumbled down the hall. Walking the half-awake walk of someone not ready to commit to the morning.
Post shower and breakfast, he headed out the door for school. He was running later than usual so he was surprised to see Henry and Kevin barely at the end of their street. He ran to catch up with them.
"Hey guys, wait up," he yelled at them.
Henry and Kevin stopped at the sound of Jack’s voice and turned to watch him running to meet them.
"What's up?" said Henry.
"School," replied Jack with little enthusiasm.
"Word!" Replied Henry.
Kevin had done little more than grunt, as he was the least morning-enthusiastic of the three of them.
"I hope today doesn't drag by," said Jack. His tone was that of someone dreading the present because the future was all he could think about.
"Why would it be any different than any other day?" asked Henry.
"Because going to Miss Genevieve’s is something I'm really excited about doing and it has nothing to do with school. School is just something I have to get through today. It’s a means to an end to get to what I really want. It's like the tootsie roll center of the tootsie roll pop; what you really want is the tootsie roll, but you gotta get through the hard candy coating to get to it."
"Wow, that was a lot of description for this early in the morning," said Henry a little overwhelmed, processing everything Jack had just said.
"Sorry." Jack took his ability to be intellectual, no matter the hour, in stride. "Hey, I brought you your shirt." He took his backpack off, opened it and took out Henry’s shirt.
Henry was confused about what shirt Jack was talking about, then he remembered that he had worn Jack's shirt home last night. He recalled catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror in his bedroom as he started to take it off. He stopped and checked himself out in the shirt. He liked it. It was a nice shirt. He had always thought Jack had good taste.
"Sorry I forget to give it to you last night. I didn't hear the dryer buzzer, so I didn’t remember it was in there."
"No problem," said Henry as he took the shirt from Jack. "I didn't bring yours. I can drop it by your house later or I can bring it to school tomorrow."
They were playing their roles perfectly this morning. It was very Jack to remember Henry’s shirt and very Henry to be suave, aloof and forgetful.
"Whatever's easier. It's not like I don't know where you live."
The day did drag on just as Jack had feared. Every class seemed to take two hours instead of one. Interestingly enough it was the study period that flew by; the hour he wished would have lasted longer to give him more time to complete his homework. Somehow he managed to get it all finished. He wasn't sure about Henry or Kevin. He couldn't really worry about the two of them and their homework though. He was ready for this school day to be over. He was ready to be sitting on Genevieve's sofa enraptured by whatever exciting story about her life she might tell next.
Finally the bell rang. As he walked out the front doors of the school he saw Henry and Kevin already outside. He ran down the steps and straight into their conversation.
"I just don't understand why, that's all," said Kevin.
"Why what?" said Jack.
Henry and Kevin turned to look at Jack who seemed to have materialized out of thin air.
"Where did you come from?" asked Kevin.
"I saw you guys from the top of the steps and ran down to meet you. I just ran up. So what conversation did I interrupt?"
"It was a geometry conversation. I hate proofs and I was telling Henry that I don't understand why we have to learn them."
"I told him they were to challenge him," said Henry. "Kev, you just gotta open your mind and let the math flow through."
Jack looked at Henry for a reason behind his Zen-like statement.
“Are you high?” he asked half serious; his eyes squinted, questioning. He then looked at Kevin for a reaction. Henry half-heartedly gave Jack an offended look and Kevin snorted a laugh at the two of them.
"So, are you guys ready to go? I've been looking forward to Miss Genevieve's all day," said Jack. His excitement was only slightly contained.
"Yeah. I've been looking forward to it myself," said Henry.
"Then let's get moving instead of standing here giving ridiculous explanations for proofs." Jack gave Henry a smirk that oozed with sarcasm.
As they walked toward Genevieve's Jack took in the scenery around him for the first time this season. He loved fall and there were trees in their neighborhood exploding with yellow leaves. None were brighter than the large gnarled tree in front of Genevieve's house. Its roots were firmly planted in her sloping front yard, but its reach was expansive. To the east its branches covered the sidewalk to the west they shaded her entire side yard. It was beautiful to behold. The afternoon sun’s illumination made it seem like it was glowing with a million yellow lights.
Through the gate, up the front steps, across the porch, through the door, past the Bible, up the stairs – they were in familiar territory now. It had only been a few days since they'd first stepped inside 327, but they no longer feared it's dark corners or creaky, rotten stairs. They knew their way around. Standing outside the second floor door now, Jack knocked and they waited for the voice that would gain them entrance.
“Come in, Jack.” There was no question that the voice was that of Genevieve.
Jack opened the door and the three of them walked into her living room.
“How did you know it was me?” asked Jack.
“No one else visits me,” replied Genevieve.
She was sitting in the same chair as each time before. She was wearing the peach-colored robe just like the time before and the time before that. Bing Crosby was again playing on the record player. Jack wondered how many of the peach-colored robes she owned or if it was the same one over and over. He also wondered what she did all day that kept her from getting dressed. He didn’t dwell on the answers to those questions, as they really were not that important.
The Hear, See and Speak No Evil monkeys took their places on the sofa.
"Do any of you know of Lana Turner or Tippi Hedren?" Genevieve asked as she looked at each of them individually.
It took Henry and Kevin a split second to look at Jack. Genevieve followed their lead with wide-eyed anticipation.
Jack felt the rush of heat to his face and knew it had turned red. There was no reason to be embarrassed, but he felt put-on-the-spot. He knew the answer though, so he laughed a little at his friends and then looked at Genevieve. "Yes, I know who Lana Turner is - she starred in Peyton Place and Imitation of Love among other things."
"Imitation of Love figures into my story, as does Lana Turner. What about Tippi? Have any of you heard of Ms. Hedren?"
No one was more surprised than Kevin himself when he blurted out, “Birds! She was in The Birds.”
Genevieve looked at him with surprise and gave him a congratulatory nod.
“Well Jack, it looks like you’re not the only person here who has an interest in classic films. Kevin must enjoy the suspenseful more than the melodramatic.”
They each sat back on the sofa anticipating another chapter in the life of Genevieve Malloy. Her stories were entertaining. It made sense because entertainment was her business. She was saturated with it like a vermouth-soaked olive in a gin martini. She was a movie star and the unlikeliest diversion for all three of them.
©2010 Michael Rohrer