And Lastly....Number Three
For anyone dropping in unawares, if I could invite you to visit the blog entry titled "Readers' Choice" that would be great!
This is the third and last of the Not Yet Novels in question. It has been through numerous incarnations and is also the one closest to completion (meaning I am maybe halfway through, if I don't change direction on it again).
May I present............................
The Baer Boys
It's a great speech from what might be the greatest play of all time. And I thought I was doing it pretty darned well. Hell, from where I stood, down stage center in the Angus Bowmer Theatre in Ashland, Oregon, I thought I was nailing it.
To be, or not to be―that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
And by opposing end them?―To die,―to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand...
"Excuse me," A voice came from the dark. It was followed by the flick and snap of paper and a muffled whisper. "Ah, Mr. Baer?"
I shaded my eyes against the harsh white lights. It wasn't much help in seeing the person attached to the voice, but it's kind of a reflex when you're talking to somebody in the house.
"Darin," I said. "Darin Baer."
"Mr. Baer, have you ever made a decision?"
"A decision," said the voice.
"About something quite important."
"Sure," I said. "I mean, of course I have. Do you want me to start again from the beginning? Or just where I left off?"
"That won't be necessary," said another voice from the dark. "Thank you very much."
"I can put more indecision in it," I said. "Or decision. I can do both. Or either."
About two hours and five beers later I made a decision. I decided to go back to college. I was thirty-six years old and had been trying to make a living as an actor for almost twenty years. Six years at Western Oregon University and thirteen part-time jobs later I had my secondary education certificate.
After all, those who can do.
You know the rest.
I was leaving, practically out the door, when the phone rang. I could have ignored it, just kept going. After all, it really wasn't my phone, not then. But I didn't keep going. I backtracked and picked up the phone.
"Theater room, this is Darin Baer."
"Oh good. I was afraid I might have missed you. Mr. Baer, could I ask you to come to the principal's office please?"
It was a voice that gets a man's attention, the aural equivalent of a finely manicured female fingertip attached to a fine female tracing figure eights on your belly. Yeah, that kind of voice.
In my experience such ravishing tones are most often distributed to women who are from a personal appearance standpoint are strictly made for radio, or, as in this case, the telephone. To be fair, the same can be said for a lot of guys, yours truly being a prime example. I've been told more than once that I can sound more suave than Cary Grant and more disarmingly charming than Hugh Grant, but the bathroom mirror reminds me every day that I'm a skinny guy with lopsided shoulders and eyebrows that for some perverse reason have started to go bushy.
"The principal's office?"
"You will find it just past the counselors' office, at the end of the hallway," said the Voice. "One of the ladies in the front office can direct you."
"I'm on my way."
I didn't need directions to the Westview High principal's office. I had been there before, just not recently. I paid my share of official visits to Principal Sturdevant's office during my career as a student. The person doing the summoning back then was Sturdevant's secretary, Mrs. Crumbkaeuer, a wizened apricot pit of a woman who, according to school lore, was something over one hundred years old and drank a quart of Johnny Walker Black Label each and every day. Her age may have been exaggerated, but, judging by her voice, which was gravelly to the point of boulder-strewn, a couple of fifths and a carton of Camels might have been a closer estimate of her daily vices ration. Or maybe the woman never touched a drop or lit up at all. All I'm saying is it wasn't a fingertip on any body part sort of a voice.
I locked up the theater room and headed for the administration building.
The office was hopping with kids, support staff and a few lost looking parents. I didn't see Mrs. Cahill, the lady who had sped me through check-in that morning, registering my presence so I could get paid the eighty-three dollars and forty-eight cents that is the daily stipend for high school substitute teachers. She had also given me the keys to the theater room. Now nobody said boo as I went past the counters, around a corner and down the hall. I figured The Voice, if she was stationed in the same spot Mrs. Crumbkauer used to stash her scotch, should have her desk in the big open area at the end of the hall, just outside the principal's office.
There was a desk but it was unattended so I couldn't see if my Ravishing Voice/Lumpy Exterior theory held up in this case. But whatever the current secretary looked like, she certainly kept a nice, clean desk. Computer monitor, spotless deskpad, black lucite pen cup with one pen in it, a telephone. I looked for a name plate; every desk in a school office has the occupant's name displayed on or above it. Except this one didn't.
"Is that you, Mr. Baer?" It was The Voice, this time combined with a faint background of music. It took me a second before I realized the voice and music were coming from the phone on the desk. An intercom.
"That's me. I mean, I'm me." I waved at the phone. "I'm here."
"Please, come on in. The door just to your right."
I stepped into the sound of a string quartet and the look of professional success. The walls of the office were covered chair-rail high with deep-toned wood paneling and from paneling to ceiling painted in a greyish-green, with some sort of dimensional treatment to it. Thanks to a short term live-in relationship I had with an ambitiously domestic—hence the short term—female named Rachel, I've seen enough decorating shows on television to know a mysterious technique had been applied, but I hadn't paid enough attention to be able to tell you its name. Along one wall of the office were what I think are called lawyer's bookcases, the kind with beveled glass doors hinged at the top. In the middle of the floor was a plush looking oriental rug and in the middle of the rug was a massive desk with carved detailing. Everything in the office, with one exception, gave off an aura of refined, confident masculinity.
The exception was the woman standing behind the desk. There was nothing even remotely masculine about her.
She had shoulder length chestnut hair and eyes to match, maybe just a shade lighter. A perfect sprinkling of pale freckles—I am partial to freckles nicely done—ran across her cheekbones and nose. She wore a conservative dark blue suit and a crisp, cream colored blouse buttoned to the top, but the Made-for-Business outfit was not able to conceal a damned feminine figure.
She pointed a tiny remote control at one of the bookshelves and the string quartet faded.
"I can't seem to get anything but the classical station," she said. It wasn't an apology, more a statement of fact. She came around from behind the desk and offered her hand. I can't identify perfumes any better than I can paint treatments, but I'll tell you this: she smelled good. "It is nice to meet you, Mr. Baer," she said as we shook hands. "My name is Natalie Willoughby. I am the principal here at Westview." The principal was The Voice. So much for my Rule. She gestured to a chair in front of the desk. "Please, won't you have a seat?"
She sat. On the edge of the desk. For about half a minute she seemed to be studying me. I tried to look worth studying. Well, mostly I tried not to stare at her legs.
"Mr. Baer," she finally said. "I want you to know how much I appreciate you helping us out on such short notice."
"I'm a sub," I said. "That's my job. Besides, I live just a few blocks away." I motioned vaguely in what had a one in four chance of being the direction of my home. "I am sorry about missing first period."
"Well, that certainly was not your fault," she said, which was true. Usually I get called for my substitute jobs either the day before or at least a couple of hours before school starts. This morning the call had come just in time for me to make it in by second period. She crossed her legs. Did I mention she had freckles on her knees too? I probably shouldn't have been looking that close, but I was and there they were. "I hope the rest of your day went well?" she said.
"Hmm?" This was not fair. She had asked about my day, right? "Oh, it was great. Just great." Which was, from a substitute teacher's perspective, true. Like the saying pilots have about any landing you can walk away from being a good one, for a substitute teacher any day you make it through with your will to live intact and the inclination to lobby Congress in favor of mass sterilization held in check is a great day.