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Dale stopped on the stairs and peeked out the window. Bilbo, Dr. Harrison, was puffing as he dragged himself out of the pond. Covered in slime, the skinny guy was already out, throwing handfuls of moss into the bushes. The butler was handing each of them a towel. Dale ran up the stairs to his room. He had forgotten for awhile why he was so anxious to get back after class, Dale took off his 'school clothes' and changed into 'play clothes' something his mother had made him do every day after school for twelve years, old habits seldom die.
Peggy was in the TV room when Dale found her. He was embarrassed to see her, after their talk last night. She smiled at him. Whatever he had been about to say to her vanished.
Dale stood there stupidly for a second, then he stammered, "I've got a paper to work on for, ahhh, one class, I think."
"Dale. Did you forget to write down your assignments again?"
He looked sheepish. "I didn't mean to."
Miss Alice announced the early supper. They went into the dining room. There was only a few people there, Dr Harrison was one of them.
"Ah, Dale, thank you for my early bath, remind me to repay you." He stomped out of the room.
"What is he talking about?" Peggy asked him.
"I pushed him and that skinny guy into the pond."
"No the foreign guy, the one that practices the organ all the time."
"0h, Poi Kareem. You shouldn't have done that in front of him."
"No, I pushed him in too."
Peggy was literally aghast. "Dale, Poi Kareem is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia or somplace."
Dale turned death-white, "I nearly drowned a prince?" He wasn't hungry anymore.
The alarm clock screamed them both back to the waking world.
"Jack." Mary said after a minute or so, "Jack."
"Huh, I'm awake. Who are you?"
"Me. We never did anything last night."
"I'm sorry, what was I supposed to do?" Jack struggled to a sitting position, his back was stiff, and he needed a bathroom.
"We didn't make love or study." Mary said flatly.
He had to think about that for a minute. "Oh. Yeah I guess we blew it all the way around." He stood up. "I need to go downstairs and freshen up. Let's go to breakfast."
"Here or in the union?"
"Which is better?"
"The truck stop on the bypass."
"Then we'll eat in the union, it's free."
Mary made the trip to the academic buildings, and sat through her classes. Jack was in the history class when she got there. They took the test. Mary got the one question about 1901 right. But missed at least eighty percent of the rest. Jack wasn't even sure about 1901. Lunch was disappointing, hotdogs with some questionable red stuff with rice in it, some sort of greens, a hard roll, and lettuce with things in it. Mary went to her afternoon seminar, a roundtable discussion with a red-hating, Jew-baiting, homophobic ex-regular Army nutcase who called himself Professor Axelenboyd. He was against almost everything, for grade school kids wearing uniforms, and a law against music on the radio.
Axelenboyd wasn't totally weird, he only made Americans say the pledge to the flag on Monday's before class.
Mary loved the class because they never really studied anything, she just sat and watched people yell at each other for an hour, and left. She joined in occasionally, and even once got very intense, about something she cared about deeply. Women's bathrooms having all sit down toilets instead of some idiot stand up thing like the urinals in men's rooms. She wanted toilets, no discussion.
Today they 'discussed' whether California should be a separate country.
Axelenboyd was in favor of putting all the 'loonies' in California and waiting for it to slide into the Pacific. Mary liked that.
Dale stared at his plate, he wondered what the penalty for dunking a prince was. He was sure it was twenty years at hard labor.
He didn't see Poi Kareem when he came in. Kareem sat down next to Dale.
Dale couldn't even breath, he was sweating, chilled, and convinced he was seconds away from a massive heart attack.
Kareem didn't say anything, he just sat there and filled his plate. Dale watched from the corner of his eye as the prince meditated a minute before eating. Dale closed his eyes and prayed hard
After the meal, Kareem looked at Dale and smiled, "An excellent joke, I am glad for it, one tends to take life, and oneself, too seriously." He said no more, and did not comment on Dale's speechless wonder.
Dale had a blank expression on his face.
Harrison snorted and mumbled something, he wanted to still be mad about it, but since Kareem had forgiven Dale so graciously, he really couldn't.
Poi Karem sat for a moment, smiled at Peggy and stood up, "I would like to invite you all to both my homes, the Silver Chateau here, and the Palace of the South Wind in my country. When can you come?"
Dale blanched at the thought of going to Kareem's country, he imagined himself staked to the ground and run over by a herd of camels.
Alice looked around the group, "I believe we just might drive up one Saturday in the spring, if that's alright with you, Your Highness."
Kareem nodded. 'Drive to Saudi Arabia?' Dale thought.
The prince bowed to the lady and sat back down.
Later Peggy and Dale were in her room. They talked about the prince, then about the invitation to the palace.
Finally Peggy remembered the reason she had been in a hurry to get up to her room. "I want to show you something about my bed."
"You mean you want to talk about... ah, you know, and ...." Dale stuttered to a stop.
"No silly." She got on her hands and knees and pointed under the bed. "Dale, when I went to hide your suitcase under my bed, I found something."
She scooted under the bed. Dale saw a light come on, he got on the floor next to the bed. Peggy was pulling on an old piece of unfinished hardwood. "I think it's a safe, or maybe a secret room, give me a hand."
Together they tugged on the panel, then it fell inward, almost by itself.
Inside it was dark, musty, looking like a secret room in an old movie, and smelling almost as bad. The flashlight only showed an old brick wall just a few feet from the to the right.
Peggy gulped, but Dale was excited. "Let's go."
She didn't want to. "We only have one flashlight." Peggy had seen to many late, late, late shows.
The argument shifted suddenly to something between premarital 'snugglebunnies' and suggestive lyrics on the radio and sex on daytime TV.
Somehow Mary got put on the spot as to whether she and Jack had, well, had.
"This is none of our business." A junior named Warren protested.
"Nerd!" yelled a guy Mary knew from the Independent house. "WEll?? Did you?"
The professor wasn't going to bail her out. Mary knew she was blushing. She shifted in her seat. If she said no they would never believe her. "... maybe ..." She whispered.
"WHAT? We couldn't hear you over here." A sleazy, cheap, easy, show-it-all to whoever's looking, (I'm sorry) slut, commented from the other side of the room.
"I said maybe." Mary repeated, she felt a speech coming on. "What I do in the privacy of my own room is nobody's business but mine and my consenting adult partner. Neither you or the government or some religious body can dictate what I do, with whom I do it, or whether or not we practice safe, kinky, birth protected or anything else sex. I ask, what good is a sodomy law unless you are going to have a cop in every bedroom all the time, and who is going to decide who to arrest, or what constitutes sodomy?" Mary was on a roll.
She babbled on for quite some time, mentioning everything from what constituted a consenting adult to what was so special about a marriage license. Mary finally came back to the point, "So, I ask again, what business is it of anybody's what I do in my own room?" She found herself standing, but couldn't remember at what point in her filibuster she had stood up. So she picked up her books and walked out. To a smattering of applause.
Mary found herself in the library a little later, downstairs there was an informal lecture on computer assisted research, she sat and half listened to it. The speaker was a middle-aged woman who didn't seem to be aware that several of the young men were flatly staring at her sizable bra-less nipples through her light beige blouse. Mary was amazed that the woman kept her monotone monologue going, in spite of her nipples getting hard, and the guys getting restless. Her talk ended, she announced next week's topic will be gaining entrance to the school system. Mary waited, she had to talk to this woman.
After the crowd had thinned Mary introduced herself.
"MS Smith." She frowned, "Betsy. I'm used to talking to underclassmen."
The woman took a long drink of 'water'. Then offered a paper cup to Mary, who accepted, then drank.
"Owww, that's vodka." Mary exclaimed, her breath taken away by the drink.
"Shh, you'll give away my secret."
Dale ran back to his room and dug through his junk drawers until he found a small flashlight. It still worked. He hurried back to Peggy's room. She had changed into jeans and a t-shirt.
"Ok. I'm ready now." She said.
They crawled under the bed and through the small hole. Dale found he could stand up once through. He shined his light around as Peggy crawled through. The air was stale, but a light breeze was coming up from below, moving the cobwebs slightly.
"This is better than that night in the library." Dale said. Peggy wasn't sure. "Let's see where it goes." He was off into the dusty dark before Peggy could protest.
"Hey there's a ladder here, you want to go up or down?"
"Up." She figured the nasties upstairs had to be better than the ones down.
Dale stuck his flashlight in his mouth and started up. The ladder was old, but solid. The shaft it went up was narrow, the breeze still coming up from the darkness below.
Dale was sure they had climbed past the third floor, he could see some light coming in far overhead though. Peggy was just below him, "I see a light." he whispered.
Peggy was still uneasy. She was wondering what this kind of passage was doing in the mansion. She thought maybe it was spies, or maybe... "Dale, do you think this could be from the Underground Railroad?"
"Nah, the train station is downtown." He had reached the end of the ladder. There was a small room, screened and barred narrow windows looked out on three sides. One window looked out on a lot of the campus, and much of the town. (Oh, in case you didn't pick up on it, Dale wasn't a great buff on US History.)
"When this place was built this must have been some view." Peggy
said. They stood and looked for quite a while.
Betsy led her to a small office back down a dogleg hall. "We can talk back here, its quiet, almost forgotten."
"You're awful friendly." Mary said to her as she looked for her key.
"Nah, just lonely, I only have two classes this semester, and I really don't have much to do besides the tutoring sessions. I'm glad for the company." Betsy unlocked her door. The room was small, but well furnished. A small couch, a desk, bookshelves all over, files, and some pictures made the closet into an office, a neat and efficient looking one at that.
Mary looked around. "No computer?"
"I eat, sleep, and think computer all day. I refuse to have one in here." Betsy plopped in the desk chair, she poured some vodka in a coffee cup, then handed the thermos to Mary.
"You're married?" Mary nodded to the family photo on the desk.
"Sure am. Doug, and my son Billy. Married twelve years."
The teacher took another drink then smiled at her "I can see you're dying to ask me how come I don't wear a bra?"
"Well that's one of the things, yes."
"I was born and raised in a small town between Rio and San Paulo in Brazil. We never had, much less wore, underwear. After we moved to Dallas, I couldn't wait to be on my own so I could quit wearing it again. It starts interesting conversations."
"You don't wear panties either?" Mary questioned quietly.
"Seldom. I also don't shave under my arms, or my legs very often. Call it European influence. And yes I know the effect I have on some of the males in my classes. It teaches them self-control. And I'm not afraid of rape. I'm a black belt in Tae Kwon Do."
"You don't seem the type." Mary blurted.
"To what, tease teenage boys all day, or be a black belt?"
"Well both actually."
"It has its advantages; My husband gets incredibly turned on when we go out. I'll wear a skirt like this, and no underwear. He has a sense of humor, and he'll cop a feel now and then. Its great."
"Maybe I should try that with my boyfriend. But I've never gone without panties. What about your period?"
"I make exceptions. Besides, it makes a quickie real easy."
Mary sipped the vodka and thought about it.
"Mary. I've got an idea. I'm supposed to check in at the computer graphics lab. Do you want to borrow a skirt and make a trial run?"
Mary thought some more, then drained her cup of straight vodka and swallowed hard. "Yes I do."
Betsy got a skirt out of a filing cabinet drawer full of clothes. Then stepped into the hall to let Mary change in private. Mary opened the office door when she finished. "No panties right? How about your bra?"
Mary was wearing a loose blouse. She pursed her lips and shrugged, then unhooked her bra and slipped it off quickly. "No underwear. Wanna check?" Without waiting for an answer, Mary turned around, flipped the back of the skirt up and mooned the teacher. Then laughing, they were off.
They ran their flashlights around the small room. Just some old scraps of paper, bird bones, and assorted debris. Some of the papers were from the 1920's. In a corner was a few old bottles.
"Neat." Peggy said. "This must have been the place to
go during Prohibition."
Dale agreed, even though he wasn't sure of what Prohibition was. But he had heard of it.
She collected all the newspaper pieces that didn't crumble at her touch.
Then they started down. Dale led again. He passed the landing outside Peggy's room, and continued down.
There was a small room on the first floor. A cot, a couple of chairs, some old books, lots of dust, and a peephole that looked out into the hallway outside the music room furnished the place. They explored it carefully, it seemed not to have been occupied for years.
"Here's a newspaper from 1954, April 30. 'McCarthy hearings underway with mixed reviews'. Wow." Dale said. Peggy looked through the books, several had cards or letters in them, most dated from the early fifties.
"This is a mystery isn't it?" Peggy whispered. "Who would live in here in the fifties? Maybe a communist hiding out? Or a draft dodger? Or maybe a criminal. Geee?"
Cont in Two Dorms Part 17
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