Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Great Times," Chapter 13

Copyright 2006, Terry F. Phillips Sr.

All rights reserved


Chapter 13

Connie’s boarding house wasn’t a long trip by the “L” that competed with buses and cars in Chicago.

Soon, the two found themselves entering a rather dark hallway. Little light was a good thing, Ted realized as his eyes became accustomed to the dim light - it hid a threadbare, patterned carpet with the design of animals and woodland scenes woven into it.

Although Connie was in the presence of a strange man, she did not think about the situation.

Ted did. He hoped he wasn’t becoming too trusting with this strange woman.

It seemed he could trust her and she said she was from a small Iowa town, but what if she was part of some kind of criminal ring that preyed on strange men.

Maybe he wasn’t the first man to enter this darkened hallway with a blonde beauty.

He didn’t have many valuables or cash on him - or in the world, for that matter -- but he wanted to keep the contents of his wallet secure. He wished he didn’t have the money belt about his waist. It was deceptively thin and contained $200, all his worldly wealth, except for the imitation leather suitcase he had placed in a rented locker in the railroad station.

About that time, he noticed a commotion in the hall in front of him.

Two badly dressed, short men were arguing. They were both poorly dressed and in need of haircuts.

While he was distracted, someone jumped on his back from behind, in an apparent attempt to knock him to the floor.

“Grab his wallet,” one yelled, then laughed.

About that time, he heard an animal sound and the sounds of retreating footsteps.

“Are you OK?” Connie asked as she helped him to his feet. Leaning on her, he realized she was solidly built. This was no wispy girl he had spent the afternoon with.

“Sure,” he said. “Just what happened, exactly?”

Ted was standing now and rubbing the back of his head. He bumped it on the wall when his feet slid out from beneath him.

“Oh, those goons were just having some fun, I imagine,” she said. “They work with the circus, but haven’t found work for a while. I don’t know, though. They may have rolled you, if …”

She stopped talking and look down.

“If you hadn’t stepped in,” Lane said. “What was that all about, anyway? I don’t know any other girls who could do what you did.”

“Part of it was fright,” she said. “I’ve arm-wrestled those two before. They know I could take them, if I had to.”

“You - arm-wrestled - them,” Ted repeated. “What do you people do for kicks around here? Have Saturday night fights where the men take on the women?”

“That’s the kind of reaction I usually get,” she said, obviously trying to be patient. “Look, Mr. Lane, I don’t think I have anything to explain to you. Let’s just see Mrs. Davis, my landlady. That is, if you’re still interested.”

She was obviously annoyed.

Connie knocked at a few doors down the hallway. The door was opened by a sixty-ish grandmotherly-type of lady with short gray hair, wearing a house dress and an apron.

“Connie,” she said. “What brings you around this time of day? It’s not the kids in 216 is it? I told their mother to keep them quiet after 8 p.m.”

“No, Mrs. Davis, we just had a run in with the kids in 232. But, it’s OK. I showed them who is the boss.

“I brought you someone to meet. This is Ted Lane. He’s looking for a place to stay - at the right price, of course.”

The last part had been a private joke between Connie and the landlady.

Mrs. Davis insisted on being paid rent when it was due, but she was also a good listener and had taken a liking to the would-be radio singer. She was known to make small loans to “her kids” as she called her tenants, when they were between jobs or otherwise don on their luck. If she liked you, she would never put you out on the street just because you couldn’t pay for your room and board.

“Well, I have the room across from yours still available -“ then she paused. “Now, you two aren’t keeping company are you? I won’t have any scandal in this house,” she said pointing her finger in Ted’s face.

He noticed it was red from too much time spent washing dishes and mopping floors.

“If you stay here you keep to your own room at all times, do you understand, Mr. Lane?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Ted said, reddening slightly.

He liked this Mrs. Davis already. She was plain-spoken and didn’t care whose toes she stepped on.

That could be abrasive, he thought. But, Connie seemed quite taken with her. Or with her inexpensive boarding house, anyway.

“We aren’t seeing each other, Mrs. Davis,” Connie volunteered, rolling her eyes. “Trust me.”

Ted thought he saw a hint of disappointment in the older lady’s eyes. He was a little disappointed at Connie’s words, too.

“You know how difficult it is to find a place to stay these days,” Connie said. “Ted just started at the station today.”

“Well, that’s OK, then, if you say so, dear,” Mrs. Davis said. “Let me show you the room, Mr. Lane, and see if it meets your satisfaction.”

Ted found the room entirely acceptable. It was chilly, but he didn’t plan to spend a lot of time in the room anyway. When he was there, he planned to sleep and a few extra blankets would keep away the cold, he thought.

The room was small, but it had a large window in the wall to the left of the door. He walked over, felt the glass and realized it leaked cold air. Probably the reason for the cool room, he thought. A hand surreptitiously held over the steam radiator indicated it was plenty warm, so Mrs. Davis didn’t skimp on utilities. He correctly assumed her dining table would also be filled with good things to eat.

An iron bed stood across from the door. The only other furniture in the room was a wooden bureau and mirror and a small stuffed chair next to an old floor lamp.

“It looks swell,” he said, expansively. “How much is it?”

The arrangements were worked out and he learned the price included both room and board, so home-cooked meals would be an unplanned benefit. That should make his paycheck go farther, though housing was much more than he planned. He could live much more cheaply in South Bend, he decided. Still, he hadn’t met anyone like Connie in Indiana, so the trade-off might prove very worthwhile.

“When will you move in, Mr. Lane?”

“As soon as I can retrieve my bag from the depot,” he said. “I am traveling light.”

“Well, supper is at six,” the landlady said. “Don’t be late or there might not be anything left!”

Connie was waiting in the doorway to her room when Mrs. Davis left.

“Come here, Ted,” she said. “I want to show you something.”

She pulled him into her room, quickly looked down the hall and shut the door.

Surprised, Ted had nothing to say.

“Ever see anything like this – in a girl’s room?” she asked.

Ted looked at the weight lifting equipment. There were free weights, an incline bench and a bench for preacher curls.

“Now you know how I handled those guys,” Connie said. She could be demure and athletic at the same time.

“How would you like to watch me work out?” she asked, huskily.

“Um, OK.”

“How about now? You can help,” she said.

Before Ted knew what happened, she stripped down to her underclothes, turned away from him and slipped into loose-fitting workout clothes.

“Not too sexy, but they were my brother’s,” she said.

Ted noticed that even the baggy clothing could hide her sensuality.

“She is a minx!” he thought, trying not to be too bug-eyed.

She took her place on the floor, face down with her arms under her shoulders.

“Get on top.”

“What?”

“I want you to climb on top,” she said. “Then we’ll see how many push-ups I can do for the two of us.”

After 25, she lay down on the floor and Ted rolled off.

She quickly pounced on top of him and kissed his lips.

“One of these days, I’ll try push ups with you underneath,” she said, kissing him again.