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Second Time Around

Chapter 12 - "And away we go!"
(Wow, a quote from the old Jackie Gleason show. No, not the honeymooners; it was his variety show that he had on Saturday nights, on CBS.)

By Arli J

Edited by Radio Rancher
Based on Characters from Pinochle, by E Walk

When we walked into the diner, I looked around. There were a few people in the booths and at the counter, having their breakfast. I didn't see our young waitress friend. Gregg led the way to a booth by the front window. We could see our car parked outside.

A middle aged woman in a white uniform approached our table. "Good morning, gentlemen? What can we do for you today?"

Gregg spoke up. "I think we'd like to start with coffee, black, please. Then we'll see what looks tempting on the menu."

"All right, sir. I'll be right back with your coffee. As she marched down the aisle toward the counter, I could almost hear the sound of jack boots. I looked at Gregg and raised one eyebrow. "Did you get the feeling that you should say, "Jawohl, gnaedige Frau!"?

"No, that would never have occurred to me!" He grinned at me. "And, anyway, I'd have shredded my tongue trying to say it." We were both chuckling now.

"Sorry, I spent quite a few years working with Germans when I was younger, and there's a certain attitude that just gets to me."

We picked up the menus and started checking the breakfast specials. Gregg looked over the top of his menu. They've got French toast and sausage links today. Do you think we dare order something French?" He was grinning.

"I think we're safe, and that sounds good to me, too."

The waitress returned with our coffee. "Have you gentlemen decided what you would like for breakfast?" I was listening closely. Was there really a trace of an accent there, or was it just my imagination? Gregg saved me from having to answer.

"We'd like the number 3 special, please."

"Very good, sir." She jotted the order and turned sharply to return to the counter. We just looked at each other and grinned.

When we finished our breakfast, Gregg went to the counter to pay, and I pulled out my wallet. I couldn't bring myself to leave the same size tip I had left for our friendly young waitress, but I couldn't be too hard on this woman. I left a five on the table, and we went out and got into the car.

Gregg sat there for a minute, before he looked over at me. "Well, Harley, this is it, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I guess it is. I'll have to admit that I'm going to hate to leave Fremont. It seems like such a wonderful place to live."

"It really is, but there comes a time when everything has to end. My time here has ended, and I'm ready to move on." He smiled at me and started the engine.

We didn't talk much as he drove through the town and began the series of changes that led to the main interstate. Once we were on the main highway, he seemed to relax and become a little more conversational.

"I wonder what's been going on in Ithaca, since we left. It looked as if there might be a little excitement brewing there."

"Well, with the Mayor, the FBI and the President of the United States involved, I imagine there's going to be more than a little excitement. As soon as we get home, I'm going to the Journal office and see if I can get copies of all the issues since Thursday. The Journal isn't the greatest newspaper, but its local coverage is usually pretty reliable."

"I think I had enough excitement to last me for a while, being escorted to the airport by State Police officers. I have to tell you, I was a nervous wreck by the time the plane took off."

"Honestly, I don't think that bothered me nearly as much as my first trip in a plane. I don't think I'll ever get over that!"

He laughed. "You get used to it, especially if you hang around Beau too long. He hates to waste time traveling, when he has more important things to do, and he nearly always does. I sometimes think he'd take a plane to the bathroom, if he could!"

We were both laughing now, and whatever tension there might have been between us before seemed to have melted away. We drove for a few miles in silence. Then he spoke up, startling me out of a very pleasant daydream. "I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to need to stop and walk around every once in a while. The leg is really doing all right, today, but I can only sit in a car for a couple of hours before I have to get out and walk around. What do you say, we stop at the next rest stop for a cup of coffee? You can think of me as your little dog who needs to go potty every so often on the way." He grinned at me.

"No, I think that's a very good idea. My hip gets achy, if I sit too long, so we can just walk our dogs together."

A few miles down the road we saw the first sign announcing the next rest stop. We drove on, counting down the miles, sign after sign, until we got to the turnoff to the rest stop. Gregg drove into the parking area in front of the restaurant and pulled into a parking place. There weren't too many cars there, since it was relatively early in the day.

We got out and walked around for a couple of minutes, just stretching our aching legs. I was glad, in a way, that we had this common problem. This way, neither of us had to feel guilty about inconveniencing the other.

We went in and sat down at the counter. A young man, who was cleaning off the counter at the other end, called to us, "Hi, guys! Need coffee?"

"Yes, please!" I was looking at a rack of very tempting donuts behind the counter. The man brought our coffee and a pitcher of cream and set them in front of us. "Anything else I can get you?"

I was feeling guilty, as I looked at Gregg. He must have known what I was thinking, because he smiled at the counter man. "I think I'd like one of those cinnamon donuts, too, please." Then he grinned at me. "I know we had breakfast a little while ago, but I can never resist a donut!"

"How did you know that's what I was thinking?"

He chuckled. "Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said, 'I really want one of those donuts'?" I lost it right there. I had to get up and go to the men's room. How he can say things like that, with a completely straight face!

We finished our coffee break, went outside and strolled around a little more before we got back into the car. He pulled out of the parking lot, and we continued on our way. The mood was definitely lighter in the car now.

The road went on and on. Traveling on an interstate highway is definitely not the best way to see the country. The big thrill of the trip was watching the signs telling us how far we were from the next Stuckey's candy store.

About noon, we stopped at a rest stop and got our lunch. Then we just sat outside on a bench in the shade and rested for a while before we got back into the car. Gregg looked at me. "I'm sorry to give out on you so soon, but my leg is beginning to give me problems. Would you mind driving?"

"Not at all! Why didn't you say so earlier?"

"I didn't want to seem like a wuss, and I know you have problems, too."

"My problem is mostly in getting up and down. Once I'm seated, I'm fine. I'd be glad to drive. But will that really help your leg? You're still in the car."

"Yes, if I'm not driving, I can change position from time to time, and that helps a lot."

We changed places in the car, and set off again. I couldn't get lost; we had a couple of hundred miles before we had to make a change.

The afternoon dragged on. Gregg dozed a couple of times, and we didn't have much to say when he was awake. Finally, about six o'clock, I had just about had it for the day. Gregg was napping again, so I waited until he woke up. "I'm pretty well bushed. What about stopping at the next stop that has a motel, getting something to eat, and just calling it a day?"

"That sounds good to me. I'm getting kind of hungry. They usually have a restaurant at those motels, don't they?"

"Yep! I've been following the signs. There's one about twenty miles ahead, I think."

We drove until we reached the stop, and pulled up in front of the motel. Gregg was not doing too well, as he got out of the car. Neither was I. This might prove to be more of a trip than we had planned on.

We walked around the parking lot, getting the kinks out, before we went in to the motel. There was no sign of a desk clerk, so Gregg rang the little bell on the counter. The clerk emerged from a room in back. "Hi, how can I help you?"

"We'd like a room for the night. Do you have something with twin beds?"

The clerk studied the board of keys behind him. "I have a nice room on the back side, away from traffic. It has two doubles. Will that work for you?"

I spoke up at this point. "That will be just fine." I signed the guest card. I had to ask Gregg for his license number. When I finished it, I handed it to the clerk. "Can we get a wake up call about seven?"

"No problem, sir." He jotted a note on the guest card. "Anything else I can do for you?"

"How is the restaurant here? Do they have anything you would recommend?"

"It's run by a Greek family, sir. I would recommend everything they have on the menu. But watch out for the baklava! It sneaks up on you. You think you could eat two or three pieces, but—trust me!—one is more than enough, after the dinners they serve!"

We laughed and thanked him for his advice. He handed me the key to our room and gave me directions to get there. We found the room and went in. It was very pleasant, and, as he had said, sheltered from the traffic noise on the highway. The door to the bathroom was in the back wall. I looked at that and the placement of the beds. "Gregg, would you mind if I take the bed closest to the bathroom? I have to get up in the night, sometimes a couple of times, and I hate to disturb you, stumbling around in the dark."

He laughed. "The only way you're likely to disturb me is if you fall on me. I'm a pretty heavy sleeper, usually, and tonight I'll probably be comatose!"

I dropped my suitcase next to the inner bed, and he set his next to the outer bed. He looked at me with a pleading expression. "Now, could we, maybe, get something to eat?"

I couldn't help laughing; he looked so pitiful. "Well, if you're in that desperate a situation, I guess we could go find the restaurant."

I locked the room as we left and shoved the key into my pocket. We walked around the motel building and over to the nearby restaurant.

The desk clerk was right; the food was delicious, and the baklava was a perfect finish to an excellent meal. We lingered with a second cup of coffee. Neither of us seemed able to move. In my case, it was more nerves than anything else. We had shared a house, first in Ithaca, then in Fremont, but now we were going to be sharing a room. I was worried about the intimacy of the situation, not sure of what I should say or do. It seemed that Gregg's thoughts were along the same line, because he glanced at me several times with an almost worried expression on his face.

Finally, we ran out of idle conversation. We just sat there for a minute or two, and I stood up. "Well, let's get back to the room." His expression suggested that I had told him he was on his way to a firing squad, but he got up and followed me. I paid for dinner and left a tip for the waitress. Then we went out into the evening.

It was a beautiful evening. The sunset and the warm breeze made a pleasant setting for our stroll back to the room, and it seemed that neither of us was in any hurry to get there.

When we reached the room, I fished the key out of my pocket and opened the door. I thought for just a second that I might have to shove Gregg into the room. I tossed the key on the dresser by the door and went over to my bed and sat down. "I've been dying to get my shoes off for a couple of hours now." I proceeded to take them off.

He grinned. "Me, too!" He followed my example. "I wonder if they have cable here."

"I should think so! Most motels do, now." The TV was across the room from the beds, and there was a leaflet on the shelf under it. I went over and picked it up. "Here's the listing of what's playing."

I handed the paper to him, and he studied it for a minute. "Oh, they have a movie channel. What time is it now?"

I checked my watch. "Almost quarter of nine."

"Would you believe they're showing 'Nunsense,' with Rue McClanahan as the Mother Superior? I love that movie. It's really hysterical!"

"I've never seen it. What's it about?"

"There's a convent in New Jersey, 'the Little Sisters of Hoboken,' and fifty-two of the nuns died of botulism from a bad vichyssoise soup. They've buried forty-eight of the Sisters, but they ran out of money, so they put the last four into the convent freezer. Now they're holding a benefit to raise money to bury the last four nuns."

I was almost doubled over with laughter. "Please tell me you're kidding!"

"Nope. And that's just the beginning. But I'm not going to tell you any more about it. You'll have to see it to believe it, anyway."

"Okay, I'm game, but I think I'm going to strip down and get comfortable before the movie starts. That way, I'm ready for bed when it's over. And, if I follow my usual pattern, I'll sleep through more than half of it, anyway."

He looked at me. I could see his hesitation in his face, but he said, "I think that's a good idea. I'll do the same."

We both stood on opposite sides of our beds facing away from each other, as we undressed to our boxers. It struck me that we were acting like a couple of seventh graders, changing for gym for the first time. I wanted to laugh, but I wasn't sure he would see the humor in the situation.

When we turned around, I caught my breath. Oh, God, he's just as beautiful as I thought he was when he came out of the shower! I had to divert my thoughts somehow, so I reached for the remote control on the table between the beds. Of course, I couldn't reach it, so I wound up crawling across the bed. He was chuckling. "Wouldn't it be easier to just walk around?"

I could feel my cheeks getting hot. I hoped he didn't notice my blush. I didn't want him to know what I had been thinking. I got the remote and stretched out on my bed. He lay down and got comfortable on his bed, and we started the movie.

I don't think I ever laughed so hard in my life! The situation was completely ridiculous, and the characters were hilariously funny. And the names—Sister Hubert, Mistress of Novices, Sister Leah, who dreamed of becoming the first nun/ballerina, Sister Mary Amnesia, who couldn't remember who she was (a crucifix had fallen on her head!), Sister Robert Ann, who came from Brooklyn and drove the convent car. She bragged that she could not only drive it, but she could strip it faster than any mechanic! Sister Mary Myopia, the archery instructor, Sister Julia, Child of God, the cook who had poisoned the fifty-two Sisters.

As the story went on, I was laughing harder and harder. Gregg, who had seen the movie several times, was enjoying it, but I think he was enjoying my reactions to it even more. There was no chance for me to fall asleep during this movie! I was worried in a couple of places that I might wet my boxers, but I really hated to go into the bathroom and miss even a minute or two of the action.

When the movie finally ended, with Sister Hubert leading the whole cast in a rousing gospel number, 'I'm Holier than Thou,' I was worn out from laughing so hard. I rolled over on my side, after I caught my breath. "Gregg, thanks for sharing that with me. That's one movie I'll never forget!"

"Oh, I'll make sure of that! I have it on tape, and it's packed and on its way to Ithaca."

I shook my head. "I don't think I'd survive too many performances of thatmovie!"

"That's just the beginning. There's 'Nunsense, Two,' and I have that one, too."

I groaned. "You're really trying to send me to an early grave, aren't you?"

His expression changed instantly, from laughter to deep concern. "Oh, God, no! I'm sorry! I just thought you'd enjoy it."

Now it was my turn. I realized what I had said and how it must have affected him. "No, Gregg, I'm the one who should be sorry. That was a tactless thing to say. Please forgive me."

He smiled. "There's nothing to forgive. I'm just being a little silly. But now, let's get some sleep."

I hit the remote, turning the TV off. Then I reached over and shut off the lamp on the table between the beds. As I slid under the covers, I could tell by the rustling that Gregg was doing the same. We lay there in silence for a few minutes. Then he spoke softly, "Good night, Harley."

"Good night, Gregg. See you in the morning."

Lying there in the darkness, I couldn't stop my mind from replaying the events of the day. I was tired, but sleep just seemed to escape me. I heard Gregg turn over, and in a few minutes he was snoring softly. I smiled to myself. Gradually, the warm darkness rose up around me, and I slept.

Editor's Notes:

That was interesting. I wonder what happened to the cute and nice waitress. I'm glad they didn't get raked over the coals by the German person. Hey, not all German people are grumpy.

I certainly hope that Gregg and Harley will find it within themselves to open up with each other a bit and admit that they each have feelings that are more than those of just casual friends. That of course would be a lesson well learned by everyone. Namely, don't hold your feelings in. After all, each of them really cares about the other one, and as it turns out, everyone but them knows it. You can see it in the way they sneak looks at each other, and the blushes that they each show. I realize that it will take time, but if one or both of them doesn't say something, it is going to be a rather tense and possibly disturbing road trip. I don't necessarily expect them to jump each other's bones at the drop of a hat, but I think one or possibly both of them need a wake up call, so to speak.

I love the story and I can hardly wait for the next chapter. Luckily, I don't have to wait; I have it right here, Let me just move the mouse and open it... Click...

Darryl AKA the Radio Rancher

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