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Dale's alarm did its thing at it programmed hour.
He jumped straight out of bed and regretted it immediately.
He hated to get up at that Godforsaken hour. But he had learned in the last couple of weeks that this was the only time the bathroom was almost empty, there was ample hot water and pressure to go with it, and he could be near the front of the line for the breakfast in the dorm.
Plus he wanted to get to the Greek math class to show Professor Varscroft what he had found in the book.
He really didn't realize that Varscroft had been one of the co-authors of the text although he had read the name on the list of authors.
Dale didn't notice breakfast, he was too excited about his mission to the Greek math class. Maybe he was better off. The regular matron wasn't in today, and the substitute wasn't much of a cook. The eggs were a little green from excessive heat, the toast was a little black for the same reason, and the sausage was showing evidence of being short of heat.
In class Dr. Varscroft listened to Dale's story about finding all the mistakes in his book. The professor looked at the list, then in the book. Many of the mistakes were obvious misspellings and typo's, but some of them were places where the ideas and theories the text was referring to were a little thin, or in some cases, just plain wrong. And now, over a year past the publishing date, he knew that, but, how did Dale recognize it?
"Dale. Tell me, did you understand any of what you were reading?"
He looked at the professor, the class was just starting to wander in, it was a few minutes after eight-thirty. "Well." Dale shuffled nervously. "I, ah, did sort of understand, maybe, some of it, a little."
Varscroft went through that in his mind. He took it as a qualified 'yes' from the young man. "How about this? You can stay in the class, and do a project for some credit, it will count as part of your required science credits to graduate. And maybe you'll pick up on something in the bargain."
One of the class regulars, Dale had taken to calling him 'Bilbo' under his breath, heard the proposition. "Now wait just a hog tied minute here!" Dr. Simmons Harrison protested. "He has no business in this class. We discuss cosmology, high theoretical physics, and mathematical expressions of metaphysical ideas. This isn't a day care."
A slightly grubby man who seemed in a world of his own most of the time nodded in agreement.
Dale was a little shaken by the conversation about him.
Varscroft put a calming hand on Dale's shoulder. "What's the problem Ralph? You don't want Dale here finding out you don't know what you're talking about?"
The unshaven man picked his nose and looked out the window.
"How about you Canney?" Varscroft looked over at the very fat man with a lap top and a huge pile of books on the floor beside him.
Dr. Canney scowled and tried to think of something smart to say, but the professor didn't give him a chance.
"Then its settled, he stays."
"Terrific." Said Bill Crowley, a thin, older black man, from the door.
Mary found Jack at the Independent house without much trouble. It was also easy for her to talk him into going for a walk.
They ended up by the College of Agriculture test field. A lonely, almost romantic place. They were sitting on a pile of forgotten concrete blocks, well, not very romantic really.
They were being spied on, a stringer for the bookies was watching them from a ways off, taking notes. Waiting on a photographer to catch up with him.
Jack and Mary were gone when the spy looked up a moment later.
Jack was a part-time heavy equipment operator on his work-study program in the off season from sports, and during the summer he had appropriated a set of keys. When he had run out of small talk type things to say to her he had asked out of the blue, "Have you ever ridden in a bulldozer."
Mary had thought he was kidding. "Yeah sure, drove one every weekend back home." The look on his face let her know he had been serious. "No Jack, where would a nice girl like me get a ride in a bulldozer?"
"You want to?"
She nodded wondering what he was up to.
A few minutes later Jack found the dozer parked in a clearing in the stand of trees between the field and the river.
Mary was surprised when Jack climbed up and offered his hand to help her up. But she just sat on the arm of the seat and smiled at him.
That was all the encouragement he needed to fire the huge machine up and take her for a jolting rumbling ride down to the river.
They talked about nothing for awhile, then they found themselves sitting closer, and occasionally holding hands in silence.
Dale was about three inches off the floor that night. He was going to have a date with a real college girl Friday night!
Kremin was almost on the floor, laughing.
"Dale, you're going to go out with the student body." Somebody said.
Dale didn't understand.
Kremin calmed down enough to explain. "Hurumph, yeah. Dale, Ellen is God's gift to freshmen. She loves Freshman, All freshmen."
"She's a geek killer." Ken told him.
Dale was still lost.
Ken smiled at him from behind the desk, "She takes a sweet young innocent nerd like you and turns him into a not-so-innocent nerd."
"The bigger the geek, the harder she works." Jimbo said slowly.
Kremin was laughing again. "Yeah, Ellen damn near killed herself to go out with our boy Ken last year."
Ken frowned and drank his beer.
"I just thought she was a nice girl." Dale said.
Kremin almost dumped his wine cooler laughing at that one.
Dale shook his head and walked back to his room. He still had the today's campus newspaper stuck under his arm.
A special edition of the school paper was out early Wednesday morning. There was only one story on the front page of the issue.
Ms Carol Manning, a twenty-one year old junior from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was found dead in her room in Cannon Hall early Tuesday Morning by her roommate.
The events leading to her untimely death are unclear. If anyone has information on this matter they are asked to contact campus police or the county coroner. All calls will be held in strictest confidence.
The Roger Manning family of Winston-Salem has made Arrangements with the Parker Funeral home, and the Harman Road Church of Southern Baptists for a service in the Cathedral on campus.
Ms. Manning was active at the church since beginning studies here. She was also a member of the wrestling boosters and a regular columnist for this paper. Her final column will run in Fridays edition.
The staff of this paper and the campus community at large extends their prayers and condolences to her family and friends.
Joan Dylan, Ms Manning roommate, is said to have discovered the body. She is currently in University hospital due to the emotional shock. Her condition is said to be good though she is mildly sedated at this writing.
Dorm Super, Cindy White was unavailable for comment. Westin Super, Maggie Carmicheal told this paper that Ms White was, "Busy with cops, and the family, and all the paperwork, she'll get to you later."
Mary sat and read the paper at breakfast in the union with a lump in her throat. She had talked to Carol just Monday night. She had seemed fine, maybe a little depressed. But Carol was always depressed, and a little depressing. Mary felt her eyes clouding up.
She wanted to get out of the Cafeteria. She started aimlessly walking the campus.
Later she ended up at the Independent house, sitting on the front steps. Staring into space.
Jack found her on his way to class. She didn't say anything when he spoke to her. He took the paper away from her and read the story about Carol.
Jack got her to stand up, he walked her back to her dorm.
He knocked on the super's door. Cindy answered, she looked like hell. Jack explained where he had found her. Cindy took charge of Mary and thanked Jack for bringing her home.
Cindy shook her head after she put Mary to bed. She really didn't need another of her girls going weird on her, but... she'd deal with it.
The next day dragged for Dale. Thursday's were a little dull on campus anyway, there were few outside events that happened on Thursdays, and almost no sporting events. The campus seemed deserted on Thursday at the best of times. But today, with the shock of death still fresh, the place was nearly abandoned.
Dale didn't know Carol, but maybe even he understood that a University was about life, and death rocked it to its foundations.
He sat in the TV lounge in the union after lunch and listened to muttered conversations while he watched a tape of last night's soccer game.
He was looking foreword to an adventure of his own Friday, his date with Ellen. He was worried about what she expected from him, what he should wear, if he should buy the pizza, and a dozen other things he had heard about dates.
Dale went to his afternoon class to find the classroom dark. There was a note on the board. 'Canceled; Thursday and Friday.' Dale walked back to the union to check his mail for the fourth time that day.
Thursday morning found Mary sitting in Cindy's room talking to Carol's parents. They had flown in from North Carolina yesterday and had spent most of that evening with the pastor from Carol's church. Now they had recovered a little composure and wanted to hear about her last days, trying to make some sense from what had happened.
Mary told them of Monday, that she had spent some time with Carol and Joan, and everything seemed pretty normal. Carol mentioned she had a lot of reading to do for her Business Finance class, so Joan took the laundry and went downstairs, Mary left to go see Jack.
Cindy took up the story, "Joan is very meticulous with the laundry. She sorts and sorts, and checks pockets, and matches socks and pins them together."
Mrs. Manning nodded, her daughter had mentioned how careful her roommate was with their laundry.
Cindy continued. "Well," she swallowed hard. She looked at the parents. Mary was holding hands with Carol's mom, her dad was sitting like a statue in a straight chair, but his eyes were red and his lips trembled once in awhile.
"It's OK Miss White, just tell us what you told the police, I think I'd rather hear it from you." He said slowly. His voice heavy with emotion. Mary felt the lady's grip tighten on her hand as Cindy took a breath.
"What we pieced together from what some girls on the floor said and the little bit I could get out of Joan Tuesday morning, was that she had finished the laundry fairly late. She took it all back up to their room, already separated and folded and things on hangers. She saw Carol in bed, so she thought she was asleep..." Carol's mother sobbed. Mary put her arm around her. Her dad had his head in his hands. Cindy gritted her teeth and went on as the lady nodded to her.
"Joan put their clothes away like she did, then she got ready for bed. She didn't think anything was wrong until her alarm went off and it didn't wake Carol." Cindy had to stop, a physical chill swept through her.
"That poor girl." Mary heard Carol's mom whisper. Mary wasn't sure if she was talking about Carol or Joan.
Cindy went on when Mr. Manning asked her to finish. "Joan got up and went down to the bathroom. When she came back to the room Carol still hadn't woke up, which was unusual for her. Joan went to her and shook her and asked if she was feeling all right." Cindy wiped her eyes.
"One of the things Joan did keep saying was that when she put her hand on Carol's shoulder.... it was cold." Cindy couldn't say anymore, her voice failed her, tears were streaming down her cheeks.
"I feel so sorry for Joan. That's awful." Carol's mom said. "Can we go see her?"
Cindy nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
Mary still had her arm around the lady. Carol's mom patted her hand. "I'm OK dear. Thank you so very much."
"We were all good friends. I wish....." Mary trailed off.
"I know." The lady looked at her.
There was nothing really left to say. Cindy and Mary went with them in their car to the hospital to see Joan, who was still being held for observation.
Joan hadn't spoke more than three words at a time since Tuesday morning. She had crying fits and didn't want to eat. Joan's parents were there, but she cried every time they walked into the room.
Cindy suggested Mary go in first to see if Joan wanted to see anybody. Mary accepted the duty as the least she could do.
Dale was sure about one thing late Thursday night. He didn't feel like going down to Kremin's room. He sat in his room and read some of his required book for Freshman Seminar.
The graduate assistant that was teaching the literature portion of their class spoke lovingly of the book. He talked up how it was written by an author who later won a Nobel Prize for Literature, "This book is a milestone in the world of fiction, the detail and development of the plots and the characters was truly the work of a master."
Dale struggled through the first chapter, some of the German names left him gape-jawed as he tried to pronounce them. The plot was already becoming thick when he took a break at the end of the third chapter. He was glad the chapters were short, it gave him more opportunities to walk to the water cooler down the hall. By chapter seven the child in the story wasn't the only one with indigestion.
Dale had no idea what he was in for. BUDDENBROOKS, by Thomas Mann isn't to be read lightly, never mind by a freshman with no concept of German Literature or the overplotted Gothic style from the turn of the century. The graduate assistant, in his quest to bring some of the finest of the Great Books to his charges, forgot to tailor the reading list to them. CATCH-22 they may be ready for, maybe not Dale, but most of the class. The Mann book was a little heavy.
OK, a lot heavy.
Dale was determined to get through it, in spite of his copy of the book weighing in at nearly six hundred pages, he was going to read this, end of discussion. He was trying to figure out how a hunchbacked woman fit into the story when he fell asleep, sixty pages into it.
Mary and Cindy were walking back to campus. Carol's parents thanked them for their help and they said a tearful good-bye in the hospital parking lot. The visitation was the next day in the Cathedral on campus, and the girls promised the grieving parents that they would be there for them.
But Cindy didn't want to go back to campus just yet. They stopped off at a small bar next to a hotel. In a secluded booth far from the early happy hour crowd they sipped whisky sours and stared at the candle.
The Hunter's Lounge tried hard not to be quaint. But it was nonetheless. Heavy wood furnishings. Dead animal heads mounted here and there, antlers over the bar. A stuffed bear in the entry completed the picture. It smelled of ancient wax, and the atmosphere made conversations muted no matter what time of day or night you went in. Cindy liked the place because it was sedate and quiet. She had never even heard of a fight in here.
"When I want to get away from the dorm and think a little, I come here. Usually nobody even looks my way until late in the evening." Cindy said while they waited on their second drink. The first round had gone down in nearly total silence.
Mary shook her head. She had a lot to think about herself.
Joan had looked awful. Mary and the others had talked awhile to Joan's parents. Mr. Dylan had told them that if she didn't come out of it soon, the doctor was going to recommend some anti-depressant drugs. She had to get back on her feet. Although she had a shock, she needed to at least start working herself back to normal. Right now, she wouldn't even talk about it.
Later the girls walked the rest of the way to campus. They stopped in Cindy's room, then for some reason they went upstairs to Mary's.
Later that night neither of them could figure out how or why they ended up back in Cindy's apartment. Cindy did have a respectable liquor collection. Maybe that had something to do with it. They sat and talked. And drank and talked. And just sat and drank.
Some of the pain of the last few days faded.
On Friday the Greek Math class was debating the value of an infinite variable when described in terms of definite value.
Dale wasn't sure there was even a point to the discussion.
"Doctor Canney." Mr. Blumn said with ice in his voice. "Maybe you can explain to our neophyte what is meant by the Quantum Uncertainty Principle."
"I'd have to explain it to him... Since you don't seem to understand it."
"That'll be the day."
"I don't think either of you could explain you way out of a pay toilet." Ralph Cook interjected into the conversation.
Dale sat and looked at the computer screen. He had taken to playing with some of the simulations they ran from time to time. He was getting good at a couple of them, so he ignored the argument.
They ordered a pizza about 3:30 AM.
"Italiano Pizza. May I help you." A thickly accented voice said.
Cindy stared at the phone, she started giggling and passed it to Mary.
"WEWANNAPIZZZA!" Mary said.
"Ma'am. I'm sorry. I didn't understand that."
"He didn't understand." Mary said and handed the phone back to Cindy.
"Bring us a pizza." Cindy was a little straighter now. "One medium. Mushrooms." She started laughing again.
"One medium mushroom. To what address ma'am?"
Cindy laughed again. "Where are we?" She looked at Mary, "President somebody, no, ahh."
"Room one hundred." Mary tried to help.
"Room one hundred, gun dorm, no, ahhhh, Cannon Dorm."
"This would be Miss White then?"
"Yessir." Cindy stammered.
"Very good Miss White. You're account is current, we will add it to your tab." The pizza man hung up. "Charlie, you should have heard these chicks. Man were they loaded." He said to his co-worker without a trace of an accent.
Cindy hung up with some difficulty. "Mary..." She said slowly.
Mary piled onto the couch. "Yes?"
"I think I'm gonna be thick."
"You mean sick?"
"Yeth." Cindy staggered down the hall.
The argument about who understood what became very lively. Dr. Varscroft seemed not to notice, he was reading a book about microfusion and ignored all of them.
Dale was glad they didn't drag him into it. Tonight was his big date.
Well, OK, it was his only date. Dale was not Casanova. He knew the biology of male and female well enough, but he had never even attempted to put this knowledge into personal practice.
The rest of the day sort of flashed by for him. He remembered going down to eat lunch, but he couldn't have told you what it was.
He thought about calling Ellen and telling her he was sick. But he sat in the union because his afternoon class was canceled and watched a closed circuit live broadcast of the intramural volleyball tourney. It was probably the least watched program in the city. But Dale was entranced by the coverage. No commentator, just an open mike of crowd noise and the P.A. announcer in the gym.
Dale was still wondering what to do about his date when he ate supper. He thought maybe he really shouldn't go.
He was still thinking about it as he changed clothes. Dale knew a date wasn't for playclothes. So he put on his dressier pants and a good shirt. He even put on a tie.
He was still wondering as he left to walk to Ellen's dorm tower.
What Dale lacked in decisiveness he made up for with insecurity.
They didn't get to a whole lot of the pizza.
It was about four-thirty in the morning when they finally crashed for keeps in Cindy's living room.
They had talked about many things. Mary's ?relationship? with Jack being one of them.
As far as Jack was concerned, there was no relationship. He wasn't overly worried about whatever it was that seemed to be between them.
The House was shaken by Carol's death. Bonker and some of the others were involved with the wrestling team, and Carol had been a Mat Booster last year. But she had never been a real social type. Still, the death of someone, especially a suicide as the rumormill had it, was shocking.
Jack had been on campus two years ago when there had been a string of accidents involving alcohol. A couple of them resulting in the deaths of the drivers. And last year there was a student who died of a sudden brain hemorrhage. But suicide. It wasn't even mentioned.
It seemed Hairy couldn't stand the house being quiet, so he fired up the huge rack system stereo and began his own wake for the dearly departed.
It didn't take long for the feeling to spread, and soon a fairly decent party was developing.
Bubbles showed up and looked around for Jack. Soon he forgot he had ever met somebody named Mary Henderson.
He made it about halfway to the huge McQuin Dorm Complex when he realized he had to go to the bathroom.
Dale was in the middle of the giant main parking lot. It was a good two blocks back to his dorm. Further still to the Union. Dale looked around. He was alone.
He drew up as much courage as he could muster and walked to stand between a van and a light pole, and did what nature insisted he do.
And he felt guilty about it.
Finally he made it to the lobby of the twin towers that were the McQuin dorm complex. Towering over the entire city, they could be seen from the interstate highway. A massive lobby and activity center occupied a good area under the towers.
Dale didn't know Ellen's last name, so the desk clerk wouldn't give him her phone number. He wanted to call her to see if she was ready.
Boy, was she ready. Even without his call.
But Dale was still downstairs. Waiting on an elevator.
He got off at the fourth floor and started looking for her room number. 410. "405....407....409...411....413..." He read outloud.
There was no 410. He walked back around. No 410.
At the elevator he found a sign. "Odd numbers in west tower. Even numbers in East tower." He read aloud.
Dale took the elevator back to the lobby and went to the East Side.
This time he found her room on the first try.
"Come In." A girl's voice whispered.
Two Dorms Part 3
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