Soul Dancing with the Brass Band (The Brass Band Series) (9 page)

 

Ruth and I agreed to meet at the coffee shop. We wanted to pick up the keys together since this “home away from home” was a first for me. Independence, here I come... or as much as someone could claim when their parents were
still footing the bills.

Kenny and a couple of his buddies were waiting for us on the bench out front, enjoying watching the college girls walk by. They had pulled a U-Haul full of apartment stuff for me and volunteered their labor.

“Oh, did I forget to tell you our apartment is on the second floor?” I teased as we all walked back to the truck. They really didn’t care one way or the other; they were there to taste the adventures of college life.

It only took a couple of hours to get everything moved into the apartment. It wasn’t even noon when we finished setting up the bed frames, so we all decided to check out what was happening on campus. I had noticed a bulletin on the community board for flag football sign-up, and, being a tomboy, I thought it might be fun to find a team. Shortly after walking toward the intramural fields, Kenny and his buddies decided to dump us and head over to the girl’s dorms to check out the sunbathers.

“I talked to Bennett before I left K.C.,” Ruth blurted as she broached the subject of Bennett Taylor for the first time.

“Really?” I said, as we approach
ed the fields.

“Yeah, he told me to say hello, but I wasn’t sure if I should bring him up again…after…you know,” she said, while trying to read my reaction.

“It’s okay, Ruth. I’ve done plenty of thinking about him during the past couple weeks and my heart isn’t broken anymore. I was kind of swept away... I mean, he’s a great looking guy with everything a girl is looking for, but something wasn’t quite right…well, besides the fact that he dumped me!” We both laughed and let the subject change as we approached the intramural fields.

Ruth stopped to take a seat in the bleachers to guy watch. She wasn’t the least bit interested in exercising to the point of sweating.

“I need to track down one of the coaches, Ruth. Are you going to be okay here, alone?” She waved me away like I was a buzzing fly, so I began my hike in the direction of the sign-up tables.

It took me about fifteen minutes to work my way to the front of the line. The girl behind the table shaded her eyes and looked up at me.

“There’s only one team left that has openings for girls, but that coach is taking a break right now. I think he actually went across the street to have a smoke,” the girl informed me, turning up her nose at the idea of cigarettes.

I thought about walking across the street to interrupt him and his groupies. I really wanted one of those spots, but decided to take a seat on the curb and wait for him to come back instead.
How long does it take to smoke a cigarette
? I wondered, as I sat overheating in the sun. My best alternative to baking alive was to scoot down the curb about 4 feet into the shade of a tree. I knew I would be invading another guy’s personal space by moving, but decided it was a better option than drowning in my own sweat.

I slid over and for a few minutes sat staring straight ahead thankful to be cooling down. But due to the weird jerky movements in my peripheral vision, I couldn’t resist looking at the guy next to me. When I glanced over I found him to be almost as wide as he was tall, but not fat. He was more like a boulder with arms and legs. With unkempt black hair with a streak of white falling over his cherub face, I noticed he was smiling right at me.

“Hi, my name’s Gilbert,” he said as he stretched out his oversized hand.

I shook it willingly, but as I pulled my hand away from his, a bottle cap was stuck to my palm. I opened my hand and stared at it.

“Oh, that’s my defense system,” Gilbert said as he tossed a bent bottle cap down the sewer grate near us. He then pulled another cap from his pocket and with a snap of his fingers, shot and hit an empty Coke can across the street with amazing accuracy and ferocious speed.

“My name’s Hillary
and wow, you’re quite a shot,” I said as I pointed toward the can he dented with his last shot. “Are you here to sign up for flag football?” I asked as I watched another bottle cap go flying into a plastic bottle lying by the curb.

“Wish I could, but no, I’m not allowed to play anymore. Last year, I was making a run
toward the goal line when a member of the opposing team grabbed me by the shorts. He ripped a big, gaping hole in the back. Mind you, it was only my backside showing and I’m not particularly shy. What was I going to do anyway? I couldn’t make my shorts magically reappear, so I went for the score and got a standing ovation. I’d never had a standing O before, so I grasped my fifteen seconds of fame by taking a victory lap.”

“My fur-band keeps the sweat from running down my face,” he continued, while pointing to his one eyebrow that extended over both eyes and laughed at his own joke. “Unfortunately, the faculty didn’t find anything as funny as I did. Someone got puckered and they decided to call it ‘indecent exposure’. I’m lucky they didn’t expel me. So no, I can’t play flag football.”

Gilbert pulled another hand full of bottle caps from his pocket and continued. “I should spend more time studying anyway. I’m in the PhD program, quantum physics is my field.” His pockets were bulging with bottle caps and I began to hope he wasn’t drinking all of the beer from which the caps came.

“Well Gilbert, I’ll probably see you around campus then. I’m a mathematics major, so we share some of the same buildings.” I stood to stretch my legs.

Somehow the coach had snuck past me and people were already lined up waiting to talk to him. I figured it just wasn’t meant to be and Gilbert’s story of losing his shorts in front of the student body made flag football seem much less appealing.

 

 

During the summer I had received a letter from the university about student aid and opportunities to work on campus, so I had arranged an interview at the campus library.

Since it would be my first job working for someone other than my parents, I wanted to make a good impression. I typed the application, rehearsed every possible scenario over and over in my mind and arrived early for my interview. When the secretary called my name, I stood up and walked into the Director’s office with confidence. I kept reminding myself, back straight, firm handshake.

It wasn’t long before it became obvious I had the job and I mean obvious! The man interviewing me, Mr. Delaney, was an old family friend.

“I played college basketball at Emporia State with your Uncle Paul,” Mr. Delaney remembered fondly with a smile and a far away gaze.

But as he continued on and on with Kate this and Kate that, it dawned on me that he had a huge crush on my mom and time had done little to diminish his feelings. He was reminiscing like it had been the best time of his life.

“Your Uncle Paul and I were the stars. You should ask your mom about it. I spent a lot of time over at their house.”

Mr. Delaney was tall, but I don’t know if I would say
star quality
. I had some serious questions for my mother.

We spent my interview chatting about what my mom had been doing for the last twenty-some years. By the time I assured him for the third time that my parents were still happily married, he weaseled a promise from me to bring Mom by to see him
the next time she was up for a visit.

My new job wouldn’t be anything demanding, just swiping student ID cards during the late shift at the checkout counter. But even at minimum wage, it would be nice to get a paycheck, and not have to rely on my parents for spending money. After all, isn’t part of the college experience supposed to be about growing up before you’re thrown out into the real world to make it totally on your own?

 

 

Chapter 9

 

 

THEY NEEDED
me to start work ASAP, so I scheduled my orientation for the following morning. When I arrived, I found four nerdy, sorry… studious looking students that all appeared to be upper classmen.

“My name is Anne Marie,” the administrator said as she handed us all a packet of forms to fill out. “I am the one you will receive all of your work assignments from. At the beginning of your shift, report to my desk. I am located outside of the research offices at the end of the main hallway.”

As she continued, it slowly began to dawn on me, that this was a much more interesting job than the one I thought I had applied for. Dear Mr. Delaney was a smart guy. He must have gotten me this position… now Mom would be sure to thank him when she was on campus for parent’s weekend. I was almost more excited to begin my new job than to start classes.

 

 

Monday, I arrived at the library a little after three for my first day of work.

“Good morning, Hillary,” Anne Marie said, handing me a packet. “Here’s what I’d like for you to do first. When you finish this, which should take you the rest of the afternoon, you can come back to see me. If it’s after 5:30, someone else may be here and they can let you know if we have any other urgent requests.”

I took the packet and laid everything out on a reference table in the corner of the library. There was a detailed map in the packet of the entire library and a list of books I was supposed to find. When the first book was located, I had to scan the requested pages and email them to the university that had placed the order. Then I had to find the second book, and so on, until I got to the end of the list. The map gave me a pretty good idea where to start looking, so I took off on my first search.

Libraries can be musty places, especially in old areas where most of the books aren’t often opened. The third book on the list was one of those books and proved to be nearly impossible to locate. It wasn’t on the first four floors of the building like all of the others, but on an odd “half floor” at the library’s far north side.

Wow, now this reminds me of childhood
! I thought as I stepped onto the glass-floor of the room. The old library in my hometown had a glass floor just like the one I was standing on. I still don’t understand
why glass
, but this room was long and narrow with a ceiling that was so low it made me feel claustrophobic.

It took me a few minutes to find the book since someone put it back in the wrong spot. As I reach
ed for it, I remembered something else from childhood. You had to tap your fingers on the edge of the bookcase to discharge static electricity before touching anything on the shelf or you’d get a hell of a jolt from the glass floor.

I tapped and pulled the old dusty book off of the shelf and because the binding was so limp and broken, it fell open...so... I read:

 


This book comes to you as a friend who knows you, not for what you seem, but for what you are and are capable of becoming
.”

 

Never had a book introduced itself to me before! It made the book seem like a living, thinking entity rather than print on paper. The warm feel of the old leather fascinated me, so I closed my eyes and let it fall open again. The pages were worn and faded to yellow, but the print was still very legible. My heart fluttered as I began to read again,

 


Science and religion are united in the conviction that all forms of life express one principle. Science calls it energy or light. Religion calls it God. Beginning logically with that premise, we may see that this is not the way of the world but a way that discloses a new world: not merely an imaginary world, but a tangible world that exists right here and now.

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