A Thousand Miles From Home - Part 09




Driving the truck was harder than Ollie thought it was going to be.

He’d never driven anything this big before. There was just, so much of this truck. Ollie felt like he was taking up both lanes as he drove back to the hotel, and therefore pulling to the right a bit too much each time he encountered a car coming towards him in the opposite lane. Luckily all that caused was jumping a curb once or twice and driving in the ditch a few times. Ollie just thanked his lucky stars that no one was parked along the road.

As it was, Ollie managed to arrive at the hotel without damage or serious injury. He let himself into his room, threw his stuff down on the couch – along with himself – and dialed the local Pizza Hut for delivery and was told that they were short handed, so it would be at least an hour. Ollie didn’t mind.

After that he spent a little time on the toilet, reading the latest Stephen King novel, some huge tome about time travel. He was so into the story that he was still on the toilet when he heard a knock at his door.

His pizza!

Ollie leaped to his feet, pulling his pants up, not worrying about cleaning the affected area, the area that one uses when they sit on the toilet, because he’d done all that twenty minutes ago.

Ollie answered the door and found a kid with a soul patch and a chain wallet standing there holding a steaming pizza bag. Ollie paid for the pizza, gave the kid a handsome tip, and settled on the couch for pizza and Stephen King.

Two minutes in to the book his cell phone rang. He looked at the display. It was Don. Why would Don be calling? Hoping nothing had gone wrong with his date, and secretly wishing something had, Ollie answered the phone.

“Hi, Ollie. This is Karen. Karen Walters,” a voice said from the phone.

“Karen Walters? Aren’t you supposed to be out with Don tonight?”

“Yep, I’m having coffee with him right now. See, Don just wanted to know if you got back to the hotel okay or not?”

“Seriously? Why would he wonder about that?”

“Well, I guess he was worried about you.”

“He was, was he,” Ollie said. “Well, then why didn’t he call himself?”

“He said that guys don’t do that.”

“I guess that’s true,” Ollie laughed. “Tell you what, tell Don that I’m okay and that it sounds like the only one who needs to find his inner cowboy is him.”

“Okay,” she laughed. “I’ll tell him. Bye.”

“Bye,” and he ended the call.

It sounded like Don and Karen were having a good time. That was good, Ollie supposed. On the other hand, nothing good could come of this budding relationship. Nothing at all. But there wasn’t much Ollie could do about that at the moment, so he went back to his book.

It was almost nine o’clock before he realized that he hadn’t called Susan yet. So Ollie put the book down, put the pizza in the fridge, and dialed up his wife for their evening chat.

“Hiya, babe,” Susan answered, knowing by the caller ID that it would be Ollie.

“I miss you,” Ollie said. “I miss you something fierce.”

“One more week, just one more week. I just gotta keep saying that to myself.”

“Are the girls around?”

“Why wouldn’t they be around? They are six and seven, it’s not like they’re out clubbing?”

“Okay, okay, smartass. I just didn’t know if they were in the bath or anything.”

“Nope,” Karen said. “They are in the other room watching Phineas and Ferb. You want to talk to them.”

“Yes, I’d love that.”

Ollie listened to the sound of Susan walking to the other room and asking his girls if they wanted to talk to his Daddy. As he sat, he thought he heard a faint scratching noise at the window behind him. But before he could turn, move the curtain aside, and investigate, he heard one of the two sweetest little voices in the whole world in his ear.

“Hi, Daddy.” It was Sally.

“Hi, Pickle,” Ollie said into the phone. Pickle was his nickname for Sally. It really meant nothing, Ollie Just decided that Sally Pickle sounded cute, so he started calling her Pickle.

“I miss you, Daddy.”

“I sure miss you too, Pickle. You getting along with your little sister while Daddy’s gone?”

“Yes.”

“And how’s your tooth?”

“Fine.”

“Fine? Just fine?”

“Just fine,” she said.

“Does that mean that it’s still in your mouth?”

“Yes.”

Ollie smiled. Sally wasn’t much for words when it came to the art of conversing over the phone. She preferred face-to-face interaction.

“What did you do today?” Ollie asked her.

“Played.”

“Played what?”

“Played with my dolls and colored and pretended that our room was a store and Ruthie came in and bought stuff.”

“That sounds like some amazing stuff, sweetie.”

The two talked for just a bit longer. Sally told Ollie how loose her tooth was now and how she’s waiting for him before letting it come out. And after a while Ollie told her he loved her and that he missed her and that he’d be home in just a few days. She returned her love and said that she missed him too. Then he asked to speak to Ruthie.

“Hello?” Ruthie said into the phone.

“Hi, Squirrel,” Ollie said, using his nickname for Ruthie. Squirrel actually meant something. The name was meant to convey the sense of rapid flightiness that was his youngest daughter. That girl was tireless and all over the place from the moment she got up to the time she went to bed. She had her quiet moments, but in general she was busy with something.

“Hello?” Ruthie said again.

“Hi, Squirrel,” Ollie said again. “How’s your day been going?”

“Hello?” Ruthie said for a third time. Then, her voice becoming more distant as she pulled the phone away to talk to Susan, Ollie heard her say, “There’s no on there, Mommy.”

“You have to hold the phone up to your ear, Hon,” said Susan, standing further from the phone.

“Oh,” Ruthie said. There was the sound of the phone being shifted around for a moment or two before Ruthie was back. “Hello?”

“Can you heard me now?” Ollie said.

“Daddy!” she said, and then without wasting another breath, she went right into her day. “Guess what? Sally and I played store and then we ran around the house, outside, a whole bunch of times and I found a stick. I thought it was a snake but it wasn’t a snake, it was a stick. And guess what?”

“What’s that?”

“Mommy said that tomorrow we can help he make cookies and she’s going to let me help stir and then I get to eat some of the dough.”

“Oh yum,” Ollie said just as a scratching came again at the window behind him. He was about to turn and investigate again, when it stopped and Ruthie suddenly ended their call.

“Okay, bye.”

“Wait, wait a minute,” Ollie said, trying to keep her on the phone.

“What?” she said, a hint of impatience in her voice, as if she had things to do, things needing to get done.

“Well, I just want to tell you that I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“And I wanted to say that I miss you.”

“I miss you too.”

“I’ll be home in a few days.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

“You keep playing nice with your sister, okay?”

“Okay Daddy. Bye.” And she was gone, replaced by Susan.

“Boy, when she’s done, she’s done, huh,” said Susan.

“I know. So, did they not have school today?” Ruthie was in Kindergarten, her first year of going all day, and Sally was in the second grade.

“Today and tomorrow are Teacher In Service Days,” Susan said.

“Ah, okay,” Ollie said. Teacher In Service Days were set aside a few times a year to allow teachers to come to school and get paperwork done without any kids around. Ollie wasn’t sure what it was that they actually did, but the way he understood it they were getting stuff done.

Just then Ollie’s phone beeped at him.

“Hold on a second, Hon. My phone is beeping.”

Ollie held the phone away from his face and looked at the screen and saw that he was low on batteries.

“Well crap,” he said into the phone. “My phone’s about to die. Hold on, let me get the plug-in.”

“No, it’s okay. I have to go anyway and get these girls ready for bed. I love you”

“I love you too, Hon.”

“I mean it, I truly love you Oliver Jordan. You come home safe to me, you hear?”

“I hear you, and I will.”

“Promise me.”

“What?”

“Promise me that you will come home safe to me.”

“I promise,” his phone beeped again.

“Say it.”

“Say what? My phone’s about to die, Hon.”

“Say ‘I promise to come home safe to you’.”

“I promise to come home safe to you, Susan Jordan.”

“You do that. Otherwise I’m liable to kick your ass,” she said, laughing.

Ollie laughed too, “I can’t have that. How would that look, my wife kicking my ass?” His phone beeped a third time. “Okay, Hon. This phone is about to go. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Ollie pushed the red button that ended their call, got up from the couch and started to search in his bag for his phone plug-in. As he was searching through his bag, he heard the scratching at his window again. Ollie ignored it as he found the plug-in, but the scratching continued, become more insistent. Ollie dropped both his phone and his plug-in back into the bag when he heard a car alarm go off in the distance somewhere outside. And with it, the scratching stopped.

Ollie stood there at his bag, looking at the window across the room. The window behind the couch. He didn’t want to look, but then again, he didn’t not want to look either. Ollie felt he had to look, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight. Besides, it was probably just Don, messing with him. Though it wasn’t like Don to do something like this.

Ollie crossed the room, knelt on the couch, and drew the curtain back slightly, peeking out into the parking lot. The first thing he noticed was the parking lot across the street. That’s where the car was with the car alarm blaring, it’s lights flashing. Then Ollie noticed someone stumbling across hotel’s parking lot, her back to Ollie, moving slowly to the street.

She wore a cocktail dress. Like she’d just come from a party. So what was she doing shuffling around a parking lot at nine thirty in the evening? There must have been some fancy dinner party going on at the hotel, but nine thirty seemed a little early for public drunkenness. And this lady was obviously drunk.

Ollie thought for a moment that he ought to go out and help her. She was heading for the street after all. But something deep within him made him stop. Something instinctual. Primal. Something in him told him that going outside at that moment was a mistake. That going outside was dangerous. Unsafe. Possibly even life threatening. So Ollie stayed right where he was.

He watched the woman step out into the road and begin to cross. The way she walked was really quite odd, Ollie thought. Being drunk would account for some of it, but it was almost as if she was walking on a broken ankle. From where Ollie sat, it looked almost as if her right ankle was turned unnaturally, but she was walking between two street lights so the light was bad.

Ollie had a thought to call 911. Someone should know about a drunk lady in a red cocktail dress meandering about the city, but before he could turn and grab his phone a Police car drove up, the lights on the roof came to life, and it pulled in next to the lady as she shuffled through the lot across the street. Ollie, satisfied that he was no longer responsible for what was going to happen next, let the curtains fall back and turned back around. He sat on the couch for a moment, something nagging at him. He was doing something, but suddenly couldn’t remember what. He glanced around the room, thinking that something might spark his memory. He noticed the book on the couch next to him, then his eyes drifted to the open bag on the bar between the main room and kitchenette. He looked back to the book and picked it up and started to read.

Two hours later Ollie was laying on the couch, his head propped up by a couple of throw pillows, still reading.

Two hours after that Ollie was in a deep sleep, the book on the floor next to him where he dropped it. He was out for the night. Not even the three ambulances that screamed by the hotel at four in the morning roused him.

An hour and a half after the ambulance noise that didn’t disturb him, Ollie woke to an insistent pounding at the door.

To be continued ...

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