Monday, October 25, 2010

Harter Union: Part Eight, Chapters 1 & 2

I slid the pizza into the oven and closed the door. I wiped my brow and exhaled. “All right,” I began speaking to Dan, “those three pizzas are in and you all should be able to handle it from here on in,” I wiped my brow again and went through the back door of the kitchen, through the storeroom and into my office. I sat down in my chair and leafed through all the pamphlets, brochures and order forms that King Pizza has done business with within its 32 years of existence.

I was the new manager of King Pizza, a local Lawrence restaurant that was owned by Jonathan Tierney. Jon wanted to retire after owning and managing King Pizza for all 32 years. I was the new manager and was instructed to run everything exactly like Jonathan Tierney did for 32 years.

I had been living in Lawrence for a month now but I never went out and did anything. I came to work in the morning, went home at night, lived off my King Pizza income and saved the modest income I got from my book. I would go home and write on my second book or watch television. I hadn’t tried to contact anyone from Baldwin and strangely, no one from New York had tried contacting me.

“Mr. Franklin?” a girl knocked on my wall.

I looked up and saw it was Alexis. “Please call me Jeff. How can I help you, Alexis?”

“I’m throwing a sort of party for my friends and was wondering if you’d like to go,” Alexis said, smiling sweetly at me.

“Oh, probably not. I don’t do well in those types of situations. I wouldn’t know anybody and I would probably just be a bring-down,” I admitted. “Besides, everybody there would be between the ages of 18 and 24 correct?”

Alexis shrugged and lazily nodded.

“I’m 32. You don’t want an old fogy like me ruining a party. I appreciate the invite and maybe next time.”

“All right but it’s going to be the shindig of the semester,” Alexis coaxed.

I smiled and watched her leave. I sat back in my chair and resumed shuffling through the mess.

I slowly climbed the stairs to my apartment. As I neared my floor, my neighbor Christine, left hers. “Hi, Jeff,” she said as we passed each other on the stairs.

“Hi, Christine,” I said happily. I turned my head and looked at her leaving. She was the one highlight in my life now. I actually looked forward to seeing her either coming or going. Beyond that, my life was very empty.

I entered my apartment and Shadow walked over to me. “Hello, Shappy,” I kneeled down and petted him. My apartment seemed bigger and lonelier tonight than any other night. I went to the kitchen and opened the freezer. I grabbed a bag of pizza rolls, dumped a bunch out onto a plate and shoved the plate into the microwave. I walked out of the kitchen, down a couple of step and into an unused room off to the side that had Shadow’s food, water and litter box in it. I poured him some hard food and plopped half a can of turkey and gravy cat food on a plate and Shadow began munching it down.

I went back into the kitchen and grabbed the cooked pizza rolls out of the microwave and headed toward the back bedrooms, past the guest bathroom and linen closets. My bedroom was the smaller room because what was supposed to be the master bedroom was now my office. My bedroom was small but offered all the comforts of a bed, dresser and cable TV. I unlocked the door to my office and walked in. I turned on the CD player and it started playing a Dave Matthews Band CD, which I all but forgotten about while I was in New York.

I went into the master bathroom, went to the bathroom, and put on some pajamas. I sat at my huge mahogany desk and turned on my computer. I pulled a red notebook from a drawer and began looking through the note I made for my next novel. I opened the computer file, scrolled to where I left off last and began typing.

Chapter Two
Every Sunday morning I would jog. I would park in the Visitor’s Center parking lot at the University of Kansas and jog down 15th Street from Iowa Street to Wakarusa Drive, an equivalent of two and a half miles, up and down steep hills and then after resting and stretching, I would either jog or walk back. Since being back in Lawrence, I had joined a gym and began working out. I hadn’t really lost any weight but I had gained some muscle tone.

The rest of Sunday was filled with shopping, going to Wal-Mart or the grocery store. It had been a routine for nearly two months and I hadn’t wavered from it at all. I was totally lazy for the entire weekend except for my Sunday errands.

I was walking through Target slowly and just at everything on the shelves. I wasn’t really paying attention to anything but heard a voice behind me, “Jeff?”

I stopped and turned around. It was Alyson wearing a red shirt and khaki pants with a Target nametag. “Alyson?”

“What are you doing back here? I thought you were in New York,” she said running up and hugging me.

“I was. I decided to come back,” I loosely hugged her and then backed away from her.

“Couldn’t handle the rush of the big city?” she laughed.

“No, nothing like that. New York just didn’t suit me,” I smiled.

“Have you told anyone else from Baker that you’re back?”

“No, none of them work at Baker and I just don’t want to randomly appear at their house so…”

“Well, Wendy,” interrupted Alyson, “is head chef for a restaurant in Overland Park, the Golden Truffle, so she’s doing well. Nathan knocked up some girl and they got married. They live in Ottawa now.”

“What about Aaron, Heather or Katie?” I asked.

“I wasn’t very close with them so I really don’t care. Oh, and Jason was arrested in St. Louis for breaking and entering and is serving six months in a prison near there.”

“Nice. I always figured he’d end up in jail sooner or later,” I sighed. “So you work here? I figured you would’ve moved up to something else like office secretary or something with customer service.”

“No, I chose the glamorous life of stock person,” Alyson smiled.

“So do you live in Lawrence? Are you seeing anyone?” I asked, now wondering why I’m keeping this conversation going.

“I live off of Sixth Street with my boyfriend, Chandler.”

“Chandler?” I questioned. “Like the Friends character, Chandler?” I was trying not the laugh.

“Yes,” Alyson said very seriously.

“I honestly don’t believe I have ever heard of anyone actually named Chandler outside of that television reference,” I said.

“Well, it was great seeing you Jeff. We should get together sometime. I have to get back to work.”

“You should. I’ll see you around,” I smiled at her, enjoying a little too much that I possibly insulted her. We both turned around and I rolled my eyes as I quickly pushed the cart out of the aisle and around the corner.

Only Aaron and Wendy had their names listed in a phone book. Aaron lived in Bonner Springs and Wendy lived in Lenexa. I sat in my office at home with their phone numbers in front of me contemplating whether or not to call them. As I opened my phone to dial, it suddenly rang. I looked at the ID and answered. “Hi, Kate!” I said ecstatically.

“Hey-hey, Kansas! How are things back home?” she said loudly.

“You don’t need to shout. We’re not talking on tin cans,” I laughed. “It’s all good. I still love it here. I have a crappy job at a pizza place but I still make good residuals off my book so I’m doing good.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I had my foot surgery so that’s one reason I haven’t called yet,” Kate said with a smile over the phone.

“Well, that sounds like fun. How are you doing?”

“Great. I’m going back to work tomorrow but I’m still limping around.”

“That’s good. How’s everyone doing?”

“Oh, everyone is great. Dustin and Annie have moved into an apartment in SoHo and they are acting like a newlywed couple.”

“Sweet. I’m sorry I’m missing that.”

“I’m sorry I’m not,” she chuckled, which made me smile bigger. “Dustin is so cute with his son and Annie is working as a sales rep for a comic book company.”

“A comic book company? Damn, I should’ve stayed with her,” I joked.

“Everyone said they would call you later this week but I have to go and try to play catch up with my student’s lesson plan,” Kate scowled over the phone.

“Well, I’m home between ten at night and ten in the morning so they can call anytime during that time,” I said.

“I’ll let them know,” said Kate.

“I have a problem,” I began. “There are a couple of people I used to work with at Baker and I want to call them but I’m not sure how to go about it.”

“You press the numbers on your phone and press ‘send’.”

“I hate you. No, Kate, you know what I mean.”

“Call them and say that you are back in Kansas and want to catch up. If they were good friends they will be happy to see you and get together,” Kate explained.

“You always know the right thing to say,” I said. “I have to go make some phone calls and do some writing so I’ll talk to you later.”

“All right, Kansas. Good-bye,” Kate said with a hint of singsong voice.

“Good-bye, Kate.”

“I miss you, Jeff,” Kate said suddenly.

“I miss you, too,” I replied. My phone clicked and the line went dead. I wiped the screen on my pants leg and got a confused look on my face. “She called me Jeff.”

Jeff reunites with Wendy and Aaron and tries to learn what happened to Heather.