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Dr. Wilson arrived expecting to find Mrs. Smith outside on her post ready to fill him in on all the details of the party. When she wasn't there he became a little concerned, but went inside to quiet them down a little. In a few minutes he found Mrs. Smith in the dining room, singing to the music, swilling Mexican beer and handing tacos to anyone who came by. She seemed to be having a wonderful time.
Dr. Wilson watched her for a few minutes. She was still coherent, and remarkably silver-tongued.
"She's had about five glasses of punch and I lost track of the beers." Steve told him.
They watched as the lady got up and strode onto the dance floor to do a turn around the hat. Dr. Wilson took a beer and smiled at her, just by watching you would never know she was as drunk as she had to be.
A little later she left for home. Mrs. Smith had a milk jug full of the punch, and her purse was full of tacos. She was starting to feel the effects of the rocket fuel. She banged on what she thought was her front door.
"HOARCE! Wake your lazy self up!" She shouted, and banged some more. "HOAR-RACE!" She wandered off the steps and stood in the street shouting for her husband.
Mr. Smith and the patrol car saw her at the same time.
"Elizabeth! Are you all right?" Hoarce asked her.
"Ma'am please come over here. You are in the middle of the street." The campus officer told her.
"Pete. She's crocked." His partner said.
Pete looked at Mr. Smith. "She yours?"
"Yes, Officer. But I don't know where she's been."
"Neither does she. Take her home and we'll forget about it."
"Thank you sir. Come on Elizabeth, we're going to bed." He took her by the arm and led her to the house. The officers got back in their car and left.
"The Independents are seducing young girls with tacos." She said.
He took her jug as she tried to get him a taco out of her purse. Hoarce sniffed the jug and made a face, then he took a pull at it.
It was a minute before he could speak, "Holy Mackerel woman! Where did you learn to drink coal oil?" But he had another swallow of it before he ate the taco she had given him. The fire in his throat from the meat in the taco forced him to pull at the jug again.
Hoarce didn't mind at all.
Peggy caught up with Dale outside. He was on his knees, playing in the fishpond. He didn't look at her, then he caught a crayfish in the murky water. The thing was angry, quick, and not friendly. Dale threw it back. A few of the small catfish broke the water chasing bugs.
"I didn't know there were fish in this." Peggy said.
The fishpond was in the narrow Paris Street side yard. The grass in the area was slightly taller, an eight foot tall chain link privacy fence kept the curious out. It was a small private nature area in the middle of town. It had used to be the swimming lagoon way back when, but had fallen to disuse. A marine scientist had converted it to fresh water in an experiment on the competition between crayfish and catfish. And so it stayed. The area was allowed to remain slightly wild. Rabbits lived under the bushes, many birds nested in the trees, and a garter snake was rumored to live in the small brushpile in one corner. Occasionally the fish stock was replenished by a friend of the house, including a variety of panfish.
"It has fish." Dale finally said.
"Dale I know you're mad at me. I haven't said anything to them. Saleeta was just kidding, she didn't mean anything." Peggy said.
Dale threw an acorn at a small frog.
"You must be ashamed of me or something to act like this when somebody says something about us. Either that or you really don't like me."
Dale didn't know how to answer that. He saw something in the water and leaned over for a closer look. His knee slipped and somehow his other leg got between Peggy's feet.
Dale fell over onto his side, grabbed at her for balance, and, of course, both of them ended up in ten feet of cold yucky fish infested water. Peggy's legs got tangled up in her skirt as she sputtered to the surface, looking to punch Dale. Dale surfaced next to her.
"You Stupid Geek! This is my best outfit! I'm never going to talk to you again!" Peggy was as mad as she could get. But then a new feeling came over her. She was having trouble swimming. Her head went under for a second. She worked her arms frantically, "Dale! Help Me!"
Dale had his ears full water and seaweed, so he only about half heard most of what Peggy had said. He shook his head again.
"Dale! My Legs are caught in something! Help Me!"
Her skirt was wrapped around her legs and caught up in long strands of the water plants. Even though Peggy was a good swimmer from years at 4-H camps, she couldn't swim at all tangled in a wool skirt and seaweed. Dale was an OK swimmer, and that was about it. He heard her cry the second time for help, and went under to get her legs loose. She kicked out of the skirt with his help and got to shore. Dale followed.
The party had been a blast. Mary was upstairs with Jack, they were holding their breath for long kissing. Maggie and Cindy had left long ago. Dr. Wilson was asleep in the TV room closet by the front door.
Jack and Mary were holding each other tightly, taking turns between talking about nothing in particular, and kissing. Touching. Jack rolled on top of Mary and things began to get a little more serious.
"I've wanted this for a long time." Jack said softly.
"So have I. So shut up and kiss me."
"You've been doing all the talking."
"I know, so shut me up." She smiled and kissed him deeply moving even closer to him, if that were possible when still partly dressed.
It wasn't even a minute later when...
There was a furious beating on Jack's door. "JACK! JACK! COM'ON!!! BONKER IS SICK!"
"Damn." Jack mumbled, he wasn't sure he could stand.
"It figures." Mary said to him with a grin. "What's wrong with Bonk?" She hollered to the door.
"He was drinking. You how his stomach has been."
Mary looked at Jack. "He got ulcer or something, he shouldn't drink. It happens every time." He said as they dressed quickly.
"JACK! If you're sober you got to drive him to the hospital! He's puking up BLOOD. Lots of it!"
"Come on." Jack said taking Mary's hand.
They were sitting on the bank of the pond. Peggy was trying to decide just how mad she was. One of her best skirts was ruined, her hair was a mess, she was soaked with smelly water, shivering cold, and spitting out bits of green seaweed.
"You all right Peggy?"
Slowly she realized that if he hadn't helped her, she might very well have drowned. She nodded slowly. "I think so. Dale, I didn't mean those terrible things I said in the water, I was just scared."
"I didn't know you fell in with me. I'm sorry."
"Dale, I think you saved my life."
He was looking at the water, "My sneaker came off in there, I hope it floats, they were expensive." He took the other one off and left it on the bank to wait for its mate.
She laughed and shivered.
"Did I really save your life?"
Peggy hugged him. "I think so. My legs were all tangled up and I couldn't swim."
"I'm glad you didn't drown."
Jack opened the door, Dr. Wilson was standing there, he was fighting being sick himself. Dr. Wilson told them Bonker was downstairs.
They started toward the stairs, there was blood and vomit all over the floor, they went to the back stairs.
Bonker was in the kitchen, leaning over a trash can, barfing for all he was worth. He was weak but he could walk. Ramsey threw Jack his truck keys. Bonker was loaded into the back of the truck. Mary held him, and Jack drove.
The four by four roared to life. Jack ran over the trash cans and some bushes getting to the road. Dr. Wilson was babbling into the phone in the house, but he neglected to tell them the patient's real name.
Bonker spent half the ride dry heaving and spitting all over the tailgate of the truck. Mary was amazed he was still conscious, he was burning up, and almost delirious. It was a quick ride to the hospital.
A couple of guys in white jackets helped the fading Bonker onto a gurney. He was all but out of it. Jack ran over the 'do not enter' sign on his way to the parking lot.
Bonker was being wheeled into the emergency room. Mary and Jack were stopped by a nurse that looked like she drank paint thinner for breakfast, she was holding a stack of paper. "Has he filled out the proper authorization forms?"
Mary shook her head. They heard Bonker gagging from down the hall, somebody hollered they needed to do an emergency tracheotomy. Jack winced. A nurse said something to the nurse with the forms, then Bonker and the staff working on him were gone down a hallway at a near run.
"They are going to have to do several things to him to stabilize his condition. Are you family?"
"I don't think he has any family." Mary said. "Jack?"
"No. No, he's an orphan. He has an Uncle in Ohio he visited one time."
"We need his real name, all I have is 'Bonker'."
Mary was at a loss. Jack's brain stalled for a second, then something clicked.
"Hey! The wrestling coach has his records. Can I use your phone?"
Jack talked to several people, then hung up. He looked at the nurse, "The wrestling coach is calling the team doctor, they should be here in a few minutes."
"Do you know his real name?" The nurse had a one-track mind. "All we have is 'Bonker'."
"Yeah." He thought a minute, "Olbonkial Peitroase, but I don't know how to spell it."
The nurse sounded it out and wrote it down, adding 'Bonker' to the line.
In about half an hour the wrestling coach and team doctor were giving the nurse all the information she wanted and then some. Mary and Jack sat off to one side, holding hands and looking at each other.
The only word they had gotten was that Bonker was in surgery, and it was touch and go. The team doctor left to change and scrub to join the surgical team. The coach sat by himself with his head in his hands.
Mary and Jack moved over to sit with him. Jack went to get some cold drinks. They sat in silence, waiting.
They sat there a minute before they went inside. Peggy wrapped what was left of her skirt around her. They made it to the laundry room. Dale got a towel off the shelf and handed it to her. Peggy took the towel and Dale's hand. She pulled her to him and kissed him.
Slowly Dale pulled away. He was uncomfortable.
Peggy unwrapped her skirt and dropped it in the trash, then she put the towel around herself.
"Nice legs." Dale said to her.
"Thank you." She was only a little embarrassed. "You don't think I'm too skinny do you?"
"No. I like you the way you are."
"Where did you learn to say such nice things?"
Dale wiggled his toes in his wet socks. "I've been thinking them up for a long time. But I never get to say them. I always do something dumb before I can."
They went up to their rooms. Peggy decided she wanted to talk to Dale about them. She took a quick shower and did a very quick job on her hair. Then dressing in jeans and a T-shirt she went down to his room.
Dale went to his room and got his bathroom stuff and his robe. His room didn't have its own bathroom so he had to go down the hall to the floor bathroom shared between five or six other rooms. He adjusted the shower to what he thought was hot, just a trickle of steam from the spray, and then he started washing up, playing with the shampoo bubbles on the wall, whistling a song from the radio.
He wasn't in his room, but she heard him whistling in the floor bathroom just down the side hall. Dale was the only person she had ever known that whistled in the shower. Peggy knocked on the door, she heard Dale call out ,"Yo Bud!", she pushed the door open and slipped in. She stole his clothes from the stall outside his shower and sat on the chair by the bathtub, humming to his song.
It never ceased to amaze Dale that this place had hot water for an entire shower no matter what time of the day or night you used it, when the Wilson dorm, only ten years old, was constantly running out of hot water. He sputtered as he rinsed his hair, then looked for his towel.
"All right, where's my towel?" He called and started out of the shower.
Maggie was the first to get the bad news from the Board Secretary.
"I thought you should be the first to know." He told her over breakfast. "We are just waiting on the final report to come in."
"Know what? What report? What are you talking about?"
The secretary patted a folder of papers he had in front of him. "Miss, I know this is early on a Monday morning, and I am sorry to interrupt your breakfast, but here it is. The University is not liable for the loss of personal possessions unless the resident had purchased renters insurance. The fire is believed to have been arson, which is an exclusive in the room contract."
"But the sprinklers didn't work." Maggie said.
"They are believed to have been operational, low main pressure kept them from working properly. The University is not responsible for the water pressure."
Maggie was stunned. "Bullshit."
"Miss. That is the finding of the Board's investigation."
"Bullshit! They haven't had time to investigate anything! They just don't want to pay." Her voice got louder, some students in the cafeteria looked their way.
"Miss, the State Fire Marshal is investigating as well." He said trying to defend the board.
"BULLSHIT!" She was now angry. Real angry. "BULLSHIT!!!" She slammed her fist on her tray. Bits of scrambled egg landed on his suit. She liked that and threw a handful at him. "BULL! SHIT!" she screamed at him.
"I've got it." Peggy said softly.
"Whoa! What are you doing in here?" He pulled the curtain around him. "You'll get into trouble being in here.
She laughed. "This is the floor bathroom, I've used it before."
"But I was in here first." He protested.
"I want to talk to you. About us."
"OK, OK. I'll come to your room as soon as I get dressed. Please give me my towel."
"I don't have much choice." He said, she threw him his towel.
The operation on Bonker was a qualified success. The surgeon and the team doctor came out to fill those waiting on news in. A couple of the guys from the house had shown up, and sat waiting with the rest.
They discussed at length what had been wrong with him, and what had caused his condition to become so acute.
The team doctor was a little puzzled. "He had complained of some stomach problems last year. But this season he hadn't complained about it at all.
The coach broke down. "He had been sick. A couple of times." They all looked at the man. "I talked him into the match last week, he was the only one in his weight class." The coach's face was pale, "My God. I could have killed him."
The team doctor frowned. "There was more damage to his stomach than just from the match. He has severe ulcerations, and has bled into his abdomen. We had to remove his spleen and do a partial resection to contain the damage. There was beer inside him, and damage from stomach acid. Plus his esophagus is extremely raw from the vomiting."
The surgeon was still staring at the coach. "And there was vomit, beer, and blood in his lungs as well."
The surgeon continued to explain what was wrong with Bonker and what they had done to fix it, but nobody from the house heard it. *****Mary
Maggie had started a minor riot in the cafeteria.
Her strong voice had carried through the entire room. Now the board secretary was surrounded by students.
He defended the 'findings' again and again.
He was absolutely loyal to the board. Although he did not realize that the report was whipped together on no evidence whatsoever by a small faction of the board that really and truly felt that students were an inconvenience in the operation of the university, he repeated lines from it like they were Gospel.
"The study by the board has found that the sprinklers were operational and should have at least retarded the spread of the fire. Since the fire was caused by a careless or criminal act by a person or persons unknown the university's exposure to liability is at a minimum, excluding textbooks and university property."
Maggie's blood pressure would have been off the scale if somebody had wanted to get close enough to measure it.
The students around them stood in stunned silence now.
"If the independent investigation by the City Fire Police and the State Fire Marshal show otherwise, up to and including that the fire fighting equipment in the building were non-operational or impaired, then the university is liable for everything." The young man looked like he could use several good meals, but he spoke carefully and exactingly. "Including all personal possessions, inconvenience, duress, and the sentimental value of her mother's picture."
It was the secretary's turn to sit quietly stewing. He excused himself and left. Worried.
Two Dorms Part 15
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