Theresa asks me to go to a party. I don’t feel up to par; depressed, I guess. School thing. She says it would do me good, get my mind off things. She won’t be denied.
“Okay, what time?”
“And I can leave any time?”
“Sure, but you won’t want to."
Wanna bet, I say to myself. Theresa bounces upstairs and I hear the bathroom door slam. I wish she wouldn’t do that. She’s too bubbly. I plop into my favorite rocker. Depression comes knocking. I let it overspread me and then I shake it off. Sissy’s right. I need to stop this.
I need motion! I get out of the rocker and pick yesterday’s paper off the floor. Where’s that article I started reading before I got the call from Dean Wimbley?
Yeah, page 5a, more rancid politics, but this guy, Ralph Hodgson, he’s got a point. At least I agree with him. I start reading where I left off when the Dean called. Dean Wimbley’s head of the Political Science Department and I’m going for a PhD in Modern Politics. It’s a serious matter and it doesn’t feel good because his perception of my article could be taken the wrong way if one takes the narrow view.
Wimbley’s old school and then there’s Hodgson, and his point isn’t all that far from where I’m coming from. Maybe the Dean should see this article. Probably has…
Blackness tugs at the corners of my mind. I review my article in my mind, trying to see it the way the Dean does, but I can’t and if I don’t come around to his way of thinking it’s going to hurt me. Dean Wimbley isn’t what you call flexible. What can I do…?
The bathroom door opens with a creak. Brings me back. Have to oil it. Not today. Theresa’s thundering footfalls resound on the stairs. My mind freezes while I wait for them to stop and hear her scream as she finishes her trip airborne, but she’s made it again.
“Someday you’re going ass over teakettle and break your neck, you know.”
“No I won’t. You ready?”
“A little early, isn’t it?”
“It’s across town. Traffic?”
“Oh yeah. Okay, my turn.” I head upstairs.
I walk upstairs quietly, hoping that my lack of sound might promote better understanding in Theresa, help her form a picture in her mind of the difference between walking and her brand of elephant thunder. I do it without expectation so I can’t be disappointed when it doesn’t work. It’s not that I haven’t tried before or anything.
I flush, turn quickly to leave, slip on water she’d splashed on the floor tiles near the sink and nearly kill myself. I push my anger down. Wouldn’t do any good. Rubbing my side where I’d sprained something, I walk back downstairs.
My beautiful little sister looks up at me with her baby browns and blows me a kiss. She pushes my buttons with the finesse of a ballerina.
“Okay,” I say morosely, “Let’s get it over with.”
I grab the keys off the hook in the kitchen and lock up. We walk out together. I work the Saab’s fat remote key in my hand into the insert or “key a car” position. I don’t do that stuff. It’s the neighborhood.
“I want to drive,” Theresa says.
“Uh-uh, forget it. I drive, you navigate.”
“Okay, meany.” I remote open the doors and she bounces into the passenger seat. Twenty minutes later we turn down “J” Street and I look for number 345. It’s a brownstone and in decent shape, more than decent.
“Who lives here, did you say?”
I must not have been listening before. Black fog does that. Philip Enright’s a city councilman, one of the up and coming politicians in St. Louis. He’s a big noise, as Theresa would say.
“How’d you get an invite to this place?”
“Shelly, one of my girlfriends from work, she knows Kathy Enright. I told her you’re getting a PhD in Poly-Sci and she was impressed. She knew about the party, said it’s a social gathering for some other “up and comings” in the city. It told her you had some interesting ideas about running government. I gave her a few stats and she said you sounded fascinating. Anyway, she wants to meet you. She said she’d get in touch with Kathy and ‘Viola!’ an invitation. Neat, huh?”
What has Theresa gotten me into? The die is cast, I guess. I park the car down street in the first spot I can find, lock it up and we walk back and up the broad stairs. The bell chimes inside. I’ve always loved that three-bell tone. Kathy Enright opens the door and Theresa tells her who we are. A brilliant smile and, “Welcome.”
We walk into the foyer. There are several people in the well-lighted living room beyond, but Kathy takes us immediately to Philip. He has the smile of a politician, all right, but I notice his clear eyes and I think that up close he looks all right. We shake hands and he says,
“Jules Bronson. I hear you’re a PhD.”
“Political Science, Modern Politics,” I say, “but I can’t claim the designation yet.”
'Shelly says you come highly recommended.”
“My sister loves me.” I smile.
A bit more seriously he says, “I think I have a shot at Mayor in the coming election and I want to pick your brain sometime, but not tonight. I suppose there’s always some ulterior purpose to a party, but I’d be pleased to have you join our guests and get to know some of us, decide if you like us and after that, we’ll go from there.”
I like him already. He turns Theresa and me loose and I fall comfortably into the routine. It surprises me. I’m the academic type and don’t do strange crowds well.
“Oh Jules,” Theresa says brightly, “I see Shelly.” She grabs my hand and drags me over to a couple of plush chairs in a corner of the room.
Shelly stands. She is about five-six and maybe a half and has dark auburn hair, a wide mouth and lovely green eyes. She’s wearing a Kelly green jumper that isn’t tight in all the right places. I’m six inches taller than she is, but she fills my mind instantly and I have trouble taking my eyes off her. The meeting is awkward, because I’m tongue-tied and I’ve fallen hopelessly in love. This never happened before.
“Hi.” It’s all I can say. Theresa looks at me and she knows. Women know these things.
Shelly laughs and tells me how nice it is to finally meet the brother of her best girlfriend. I manage to gear up to conversation and I’m immediately on my mettle, but I feel like pulling at my collar. I see Shelly’s champagne glass is empty and I offer to get the ladies more.
I high-step it across the room to a waiter carrying a tray of bubbly, nodding to others as I pass. Before I turn with the precious liquid, I feel green eyes boring into my back. Shelly. Great name. I weave back through the crowd with a happy smile to my sister and the gorgeous creature beside her.
No way did I want to leave this party. My black fog has evaporated. Suddenly I’m in the midst of the scenario I wrote about in my academic article. This room full of people is my test case. Problem? No way did I want to leave this stunning girl’s side, either. Life is choices, like politics.