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Valerie whispered to Peggy, "Now just watch."
It was like watching a gathering storm, Mr. Blumn was trying to describe his idea to Varscroft and Canney. Dale drew smiles on some of the circles on the blackboard, and frowns on others. Blumn was looking out the window. Ralph was trying to get one of Harrison's cigars to stay lit after he had dropped it in his vodka. But something was afoot, you could sense it.
Crowly came back into the room after a 'nature break'. "Well, now what?" He asked.
Harrison was leaning back in his chair, blowing smoke at the light fixtures. The idea struck like a thunderbolt. He fell backwards, wiping out the chairs behind him, dumping his vodka, and almost setting himself on fire with his cigar. "DAMNITALL!!!! We've been looking at the answer for years."
"What. what answer? What was the question?" Ralph asked.
Varscroft was looking at Harrison picking himself up off the floor. "Did you hit your head, again, Bilbo?"
"Shut up and watch." He said. He took a huge drag on the cigar and blew the smoke at the lights again. "Don't you see it?"
"Pollution, lung cancer. Ashes on the floor." Canney said looking confused. "What are we looking at?"
"The light is not formed in an energy vacuum on stars during the fusion process."
"We know that, you have all sorts of particles, real and relative, radiation, gravity, and the Breath of God. So what?" Blumn stated flatly.
"No, that's not it. You have outside energy coming in from everything else in the universe, including incoming light, and all the other solar, as well as non-solar stuff. Interstellar garbage, and it is not constant, It is not predictable, but it has to effect the formation of light at the photosphere and possibly below." He waved the cigar around, creating streamers of smoke.
"Wow." Somebody whispered as the implications sunk in.
Mary found the dorm supervisor, actually one of the in the married dorm. They chatted. Mary was astonished to find out that the building hadn't been full for years. There were rooms on the fourth floor, the top floor that hadn't been occupied for decades. Only married students were allowed in with their families, children were predominate on the first and second floors, just couples above, and lots of space for everybody.
The dorm super explained that him and his wife, Betty, had been there for six years, At first he was the student, she was still in high school, now he was finishing his degree and she was a grad student.
"Are you going to move in?" He asked after the pleasantries had been exchanged.
The meaning of Harrison's statement didn't seem obvious to Dale, but the comments about the smoke did. "If your light is formed in a polluted atmosphere won't it contain some pollution inside its, ahh. ."
Dale Knew what word he was looking for, but he couldn't think of it.
"Envelope of nonrelitive space." Crowley finished.
"Nonrelitive time AND space." Varscroft offered. "Even though the time and space are only a fraction of a quantum in size, it is real and does take up unreal space in real time, thus the uncertainty principle, but it is real."
Crowley nodded and looked for some more pizza. Harrison seemed pleased that the others had taken his idea and began working with it.
Canney looked at the lights. "It would seem that every particle would react with every other inside the star, and as the photon is born as a byproduct of the atomic process everything else would be there when it is formed, there must be a combination that would have the effect of causing the internal instability, possibly the combination in a peculiar assortment for each limited infinity all the way up to relatively eternal existence."
Peggy knew what they were talking about, how long light lasted in space, but the way they were talking about it gave her the willies.
Mary stammered and stuttered, "Well, I don't think so, I'm not sure when, well, soon, but I'm not sure we'll".
"You sound like me six years ago. Let me give you a tour, when were done Betty should be back, we need to finish up a little bit of decoration, want to help?"
"Isn't the time limit up for decorating buildings?" Mary asked.
"Well, yes, but we have a little latitude, we don't have the help or resources to decorate as extensively or as quickly as the others. So, we cheat."
"Sure I'll help." Mary smiled.
"My name's John. Just John. I'm not Johnney, JoHan, or John Jay Jinglehimer. Just- John. Let's start our tour Mary."
"How did you know my name?"
"You're in the paper, and Betty was on campus when you and Jack, when you and Jack did whatever it was you did.
"Mary had almost forgotten about the paper, she hadn't seen one yet. She followed John to the stairway.
The second floor showed more signs of habitation, Some children were playing in the hallway, a TV was on in the room next to the stairs, John spoke to several of the children but kept walking up the stairs. He walked down the hall on the third floor, there was more music but less noise than the second floor, but the building was still quiet.
"Is it always this quiet?" She asked.
"Except on weekends, yeah it is. ... Don't worry, it's not THAT bad."
The discussion broke up late, Harrison and Dale found Peggy waiting downstairs by the van. They were exhausted, Dale was suffering from the first really good headache of his life. Peggy and Harrison discussed where tomorrow's discussion might lead.
"I fully intend to have a working formula for this by lunch, I think Canney has a variable factor in mind to differentiate the combinations that would result in the different states of relative infinity."
Peggy nodded. Dale looked ill. They walked him upstairs and put him to bed. Miss Alice made him drink a smelly herbal tea she said would help him sleep. Then they left him in his room with George Washington watching over him.
Dale dreamed of chalkboards and paintings of stars.
The tour ended on an old terrace on top of the building looking out over the media complex and the main student parking lot. The twin towers of the McQuin dorm towers loomed over the scene, Mary could see dorm row across the lot. The office side of the athletic complex cut off any view of the rest of the campus.
"Not a bad view. I think this is a nice place. Why all the horror stories about the Married Dorm? One of the guys at my fiance's house talks about this place like a morgue."
John looked out at the campus. "We encourage the rumors to some degree. We like being left alone, those that want a little more excitement in their lives move into the apartments over on Naval Avenue, or the set on the other side of McQuin. I think Betty misses dorm parties and such, but we have a few good parties here now and then. Not the knock down drag outs like the frats, but some good ones now and then. We have a lot of cookouts and social functions."
Mary was sure she'd like this place now. "I'm not a big fan of the riots they have at Jack's house, but I don't think I'm ready for afternoon teas yet, or sewing circles."
John smiled, "I know I'm not ready for bridge clubs either, but some of the Gamma Parties get wild enough we watch the fun from up here and that's close enough for me." He nodded down to the frat across the street.
Mary remembered the party they had left the day they got engaged.
John saw Betty coming so they went back downstairs to meet her. John introduced her as a prospective resident and the happy bride to be, Betty remembered the public proposal and congratulated her all over again.
Betty wanted Mary to go up to the third floor and pick her room so they could get it painted and the carpet cleaned before they moved in. "Our rooms get a little better attention, one of the campus maintenance men lives here, his wife is a accounting major, we do all right with repairs and the dorm budget, everybody has something to offer."
"Do you have a dorm basketball team?" Mary smiled.
Mary got to meet a few of the people that lived there. It was an eclectic collection. Some had been married for years, one older couple had retired and decided since they were both going back to school to do the whole thing, several had young children, and just as many didn't. They were all encouraging, Mary felt like this would be a nice place to live, they understood privacy, something she and Jack hadn't had at all.
Mary went back to her dorm. Her room seemed almost foreign to her. This was the room she had lived in for over two years, she had moved in here the second semester of her freshman year, and here she had stayed. Now it didn't seem like her room. She was lonely, the laughter and chatter from the hall sounded phony to her. Her life had changed dramatically in the last few days.
Now she was planning to get married.
"Mary Mary quite contrary" She repeated the little chanted rhyme her granddad used to sing to her when she was being a difficult little girl. Mary found herself homesick. She laid on her bed and looked at a poster on her wall of the American Ballet company doing 'Swan Lake'. It was her favorite.
The ring of her phone broke her reverie. "Jack?" She answered it. "Oh, hi Mags... No I'm not disappointed. . . Sure, I can help, be there in a minute."
Mary walked to the lounge, expecting to help Maggie stuff insurance forms in envelopes. She found a bridal shower in progress. The girls from the dorm, and several others were there, as well as Mary's mother and her aunt Stacey. She was shocked.
"I didn't expect, I thought, thanks." She stammered.
Peggy was on the phone most of the night, she called everybody in her family about the strange happenings on campus, in the house and in Dale's class.
"It sounds like its all very exciting." Her stepmother said. "Are you dating this boy Dale?"
"No, mother, we are friends. He's sweet, but I don't want to get serious. Are you coming up for the house parents day?"
"Yes dear, we got the stuff in the mail the other day, I heard your other mom and dad will be there too, I hope that's all right." Peggy was a little surprised, they had all claimed to be friends, maybe they really were. "That would be great!" She had doubts, but she was willing to play along. "Where will you be staying'?"
"You're real mom is making reservations through her work so we get a discount on the motel, I think its the Nation's Inn. So we'll see you Thanksgiving Friday. Should we bring real formal clothes, the paper says dinner is 'casually formal'. What does that mean?"
The bridal shower wasn't exactly traditional. There were few gifts, but the ones she got were, ahhh, unusual. Glow in the dark prophylactic, edible undies, a book called One Hundred Things To Do In A Bathtub, and a set of rubber handcuffs that worked.
"I only used them once." The girl said that gave them to her. "There is no key, you have to call a locksmith or the police."
Mary and the rest of them laughed at the handcuffs. Her mother was having a wonderful time, she was acting like a college girl, giggling and smirking at Mary and the silly games they played. Her mother was teamed up with Maggie and a couple of the girls from her floor in the scavenger hunt, Mary was set off by herself to watch and judge. The prize was dinner for the winning team that night at the Gourmet Room, the coed g-string topless restaurant.
The scavenger lists were a thing of beauty, some items were in the Smithsonian, others you'd have to go to Turkey to get. There was a time limit, and the only rule was- No Felonies to obtain items. They were off!
Reports of minor violence from the library filtered in, somebody came in to say the campus radio station had been hijacked by a girl in a scavenger hunt looking for a picture of an Army Elvis.
It was Homecoming Week, nobody even noticed, this was 'normal'.
Peggy had heard that term, 'casually formal', tossed around the house quite a bit. But she had never really understood what it meant, the reception held for Poi Kareem was formal formal, some of the house regulars were in tuxedoes, and the former governor was dressed in a very conservative suit. But the open house billed as casual, people were there from the town, but the house people were all nicely dressed. She told this story to her stepmother, they agreed that casually formal meant something in between.
"I would love to meet a real prince. What's he like?" Her real mom asked.
"He's very polite, very tall and dark, and handsome. He's very religious." Peggy described him pretty well.
"Oh. He sounds wonderful. What's your friend Dale like?"
Peggy thought about it. "You remember what I said about Kareem, the prince?" Her mom said yes. "Well, Dale's exactly the opposite." They laughed to each other over the phone.
"Are there any pretty college girls in the house Sis?" Her brother asked her. He was a few years older than Peggy, and he went through girl friends faster than he went through jobs. Peggy told him about some of the female residents, "Sounds like a winner, I'll be up that weekend."
Peggy asked him if he had to work on weekends. "They told me this was my last week. Maybe I can find a job around campus."
Mary's mom was a natural at this kind of insanity. They all piled into her car and drove for twenty minutes, to a giant church white elephant sale/farmer's market/helping mission just south of town. In this treasure house of the lost and neglected objects of modern life, they found a great deal of what was on the list, including a movie poster of Elvis in the Army. The polka dotted elephant (missing one tusk), a race car with driver, a fondu pot with skewers, and a few other strange and obscure things that prove space aliens work for TV shopping networks.
They headed back to campus with half an hour to spare, just in time to watch a heavily decorated pine tree lean over and pull half its root> out of the ground, the first causality of this year's homecoming.
The judging of the scavenger hunt turned out to be a duel for second, the brainstorm of the charity flea market won hands down, second place was pizza party and it was won by one thing, the Elvis Commemorative plate was a nicer picture than the Elvis record cover. Cindy and her crew won the pizza, the other group received a round of applause for their effort.
"Mary, you win too, all the junk that doesn't have to be returned to the rightful owner, is yours! Congrats girl." The group gave her a standing ovation.
Her mom's team was ushered out to the parking lot with gift certificates for their dinners.
Peggy had run out of people to call. She smelled popcorn, judging by the darkness in Dale's room he was still asleep, Peggy followed some of the others downstairs, the popcorn was flowing again. This time it was green and gold.
"Homecoming again." Sighed Harrison. "I love homecoming. You never know what to expect. Remember the year the Teek's all sat on poles in their yard for three days trying to win the spirit award?"
Colleen laughed, "They lost though, two of the guys refused to sit on a phone pole naked except for green paint."
"It was a good effort." Rob nodded.
"I can't believe this place gets that crazy." Peggy said munching.
"My dear, this campus loses all self control, it is a tradition. We are fairly sedate compared to other universities our size the rest of the year, then we run amuck for a week. One year the president won the spirit award for skydiving into the pep rally in green boxer shorts and a gold fright wig towing an American flag while the P.A. played the theme from 'Rocky'! It was different!"
"President Kleptor never looked better." Keith said laughing.
Peggy spit popcorn all over laughing.
"The board of trusties just rolled their eyes and accepted it." Harrison added.
Mary's mom had a grand time at the Gourmet Room, she danced and ate and drank and flirted and got arrested.
"Wait a minute. My MOM is in jail?" Mary screamed at Maggie.
"Calm down. She's in Cindy's room taking a shower. She was arrested on a misdemeanor, lewd conduct I think. She paid a ticket and they let her go, the restaurant didn't want a scene during homecoming, the place was packed."
"Hold on, why did you let her get arrested?"
"Mary, there were about eight cops, and a police dog....
"For MY MOTHER!" Mary was raving.
"Well, not just her, but they had her drivers license and she was a little wild with that naked wrestler...."
"MAGGIE! SHE'S MY MOTHER!!!!"
The card game started, Kremin showed up, he said he wanted some good popcorn for a change. Peggy made a show out of reloading the machine and making a fresh batch.
"I am impressed. She can cook. I may steal her from Dale." He looked around. "Where is loverboy?"
After he got his popcorn Kremin and Harrison went upstairs to roust him out. In a few minutes Kremin came back downstairs in a hurry, "Peggy, go upstairs to Dale's room, Rob find Georges and Miss Alice, Dale's sick, he's burning up!" Kremin followed Peggy up the stairs. Rob and Keith charged out of the room hollering for the maid and butler.
Minutes later they had all been shoved out of Dale's room, Miss Alice R.N. was in charge. She leaned out the door to tell the butler to call Doctor Hedges.
Peggy sat and watched Kremin pace and Harrison eat popcorn.
Nothing happening was worse than waiting while something happened. After awhile the doctor arrived and went in. The butler stood guard. Peggy went back downstairs to tell the others the doctor was in and bring Harrison some more popcorn.
A few minutes passed. Miss Alice came out and handed the butler a paper, he left, then the hall was deserted. The three sat on the steps and looked at Dale's door. The chauffeur pushed passed them with a small bag Kremin recognized as being from the pharmacy down the street, then in a few more minutes the butler came back up with a tray of things from downstairs. Peggy was wringing her hands and twisting her hair, Kremin was now pacing in tight circles, Harrison went to the bathroom.
Benjamin came upstairs and asked how it was going. She told him and he left with the message after telling her that there was a prayer service in the meditation room for Dale, she nodded.
Kremin looked at her, "I haven't prayed in years, maybe now would be a good time to start again."
He followed Ben downstairs. Now Peggy was alone in the hallway.
It wasn't all that bad. Mary's mother wasn't used to much drink, loud music, half naked young people, and the general fun of a bunch of girls out on the town for the night. The wrestler kinda egged her on, and his g-string coming off could have been an accident, but she didn't start the fight at the bar, and her car wasn't intentionally parked ma fire lane. So she was released with a minor fine and a warning about knowing her limit of fun.
But Mary didn't see it that way. After her mother felt a little better Mary started in. Cindy started to defend her but Mary's mother stopped her and later Maggie from coming to her rescue.
"Are you finished young lady?" Her mother asked calmly after her tirade.
Mary nodded yes.
"I can't make any excuses, I can't explain what happened, but, I will say this. Today is the first time since your father had his stroke that I really had fun. Yes we have some good times, but I always have to worry about him. Today I knew he was home with your sister and your cousin Karoline, so I wanted to have a good time. I may have went a little overboard."
For the first time Mary could picture her mother dancing with a naked wrestler while the police raided the place. She laughed.
Her mother hugged the three girls and they all laughed together. "Your cousin might be up here for Homecoming weekend, see to it that she doesn't have this much fun." Her mother chuckled.
Peggy was relieved when the ambulance men carried Dale out of his room. He looked a lot better than he had when she had first ran into his room after Kremin told her he was sick to find him sweating and breathing fast feeling hot to the touch. Now he just looked asleep, but he was still pale.
Miss Alice took her out of the medic's way, the doctor followed them down the stairs. "He'll be fine dear, he has a virus, the doctor gave him medicine and he'll keep him at the hospital overnight or so to make sure everything is OK. We'll go see him in the morning. Now everybody come downstairs for some tea so we can all calm down. Mister Ristor said he'd spend the night at the hospital in case there's any news. His parents have been called and are on their way, we'll have them a room here if they want it..." She towed Peggy and Harrison downstairs still talking.
The informal dining room was quiet, people sat and sipped tea, or stood in small groups and held their cups. This was the first time Peggy ever remembered seeing all the house people in a room at the same time. The butler was standing looking out a window at the fishpond, he seemed to be thinking about a happier day.
In a few minutes Peggy walked toward the kitchen, she didn't want tea. As she opened the door she came face to face with the butler. She glanced over her shoulder at the butler, standing by the window.
Tuesday morning was rainy and cold. November in the Midwest was just getting around to being November in the Midwest, and was making up for lost time. Mary wondered where Jack was. She had tried his room, then the house.
Nobody knew where he was, he had came in after practice last night but didn't stay long. Now nobody had seen him for some time. Mary walked to the music annex. She still had the key, but there was no note from Jack, though the room hadn't been disturbed. She sat on the bed for awhile, then went to campus. Her mailbox had something in it for a change, notes congratulating her on her engagement, a bill for a credit card she didn't have, and a letter with a couple of dollars in it from a secret "Buy yourself a little something to remember your engagement" the letter said in simple but neat handwriting.
She had been getting these letters on and off for years. A few other girls had gotten them as well, the same writing, mailed on campus, always at a time when you either needed it or didn't expect it. A nice touch from somebody who knew a lot of people, always anonymously.
Peggy stood and stared at the butler. This one was identical to the one by the window, a mirror image, a clone, "Twins." Peggy said softly. The butler put his finger over his lips. Peggy nodded and slowly closed the kitchen door.
"How is Master Hinerick? Nobody has told me since I was upstairs earlier." He said softly.
"You were, no, he, was upstairs when the doctor left." Peggy was trying to sort it out. "Miss Alice said he'll be fine, he had some sort of virus, he'll be out tomorrow."
"That is excellent news. I am very worried about him miss."
"I need to get back in there before somebody comes looking for me." He nodded to her, "When Dale gets back, I would love to hear this story."
The butler smiled that toothy smile Dale had seen before. "I think WE would like that miss."
Peggy took her soft drink and went back into the dining room. The butler was still looking out the window. He didn't even glance her way.
The others slowly started to filter out of the room. Kremin called with Dale's room number and told them he was sleeping peacefully.
Peggy walked back upstairs. Miss Alice was cleaning up Dale's room from the mess they had made. Without a word Peggy went in and helped her change the sheets on his bed. They both stood and stared when the butler walked in and took down the Washington picture and replaced it with a framed advertisement for Coney Island. Then the butler walked out with Washington under his arm.
Miss Alice looked at the new picture over the nightstand. "He's worried about the boy." Peggy stood near the older woman and looked at the illustrations of the old 'Steeplechase' and the Cyclone.
She ran into Jack in the history class. The old lady teacher started talking before the class was even fully seated. She started on how the divisions within college sports came about, first geographically, then by school size. "The 1890's saw the beginning of the end for mass formations that literally killed players in the name of the sport, the first meeting of what was to become the Big Ten conference discussed banning such formations, but many schools continued to use them in one style or another until in 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt called for the schools to either clean up the game or it would be abolished. Northwestern, Stanford and other schools had already stopped playing football. In 1905 alone the 'Chicago Tribune' counted 18 dead, and 159 serious injuries on the field of play. An organization to oversee the game was formed, in 1910 it became the N.C.A.A. we know today. The game was saved and so were the players."
Miss Amberjoyce showed more slides, the class was amazed that her expertise seemed to have no limits, she knew strange facts, and answered any and all questions with enough specific information to satisfy anybody. She waxed poetic over the 1901 Michigan Wolverines that scored nearly a point a minute. Beating Ohio State by 86 points, 107 over Iowa, around eight thousand yards in offense that season.
The class whistled at these numbers.
"In the first Rose Bowl, they annihilated Stanford 49-0. Miss Amberjoyce maintained her classroom demeanor, her monotone, only a hint of excitement crept in as she talked of the invention of Homecoming, in 191O.
Dale ate a pretty good hospital breakfast, although he wasn't sure why he was in the hospital, with an IV in his arm, and Kremin asleep in the chair under the TV. But the nurse brought him his breakfast, and left one for Kremin as well.
Kremin stirred awake. "Huh? oh, hi, you're alive. Damn I feel like hell." He drank the coffee on his tray and took the muffin with him, he gave Dale the rest and said he'd be right back.
Dale didn't feel like some more creamy farina or some more bland scrambled eggs, but he didn't let the nurse take them anyway. He almost jumped out of bed when his parents excused themselves around the nurse and walked in.
"Mom, Dad, you're here! Why? I'm fine. I think." He blurted.
They all hugged and his Dad patted Kremin on the back. "You have some wonderful friends, I was going to stay but Kremin here volunteered to sleep in the chair while I stayed with your mother down the hall. He promised to come get us as soon as you were awake."
"We got to see the Mansion you live at. Its wonderful" His mom said.
Cont in Two Dorms Part 24
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