Allan had logged on to his computer every night for almost two-weeks, but there had been no sign of Carl. There had been no offline messages, either. He sighed deeply and wondered whether or not he ought to send one to his English friend. He decided against it. After all, what was the point? To Allan it seemed obvious that the boy was disgusted by his homosexuality and had decided not to chat to him again.
Strangely enough, his last conversation with Carl had made him think and he had, instead of just getting up, going to work and coming home again, over the past few days, actually taken a look around this town to which he had been sent.
It was one such visit to the town following a hard day in the office that he first noticed the building whose telephone number he had taken from the 'phone book and had programmed into his cell 'phone to call for take out. He smiled and made a mental note to call in person on his way home for a pizza.
There was a theater with six screens showing the most recent movies and Allan noticed that it opened 24-hours. Maybe one time, when he felt less tired, he would call in.
Allan had noticed the usual type of stores lined the streets of the town and he also noted, with interest, that there was a nightclub and a number of bars. The sight of a bar made him feel thirsty, so he decided he might as well have a drink and walked into The Hot Spot, as it was the first one he came across.
The interior was like a hundred others with tall stools lining the bar and Allan ordered a beer taking in the surroundings as he did so. A pool table stood in an open area at the far end of the long room and two young men were engrossed in a game. The bar wasn't particularly full for the time of day and he wondered if The Hot Spot was an apt name. He found a chair by the window and placed his bottle down on the table.
The evening newspaper kept his attention and the music on the jukebox filled his head as Foreigner blared out I Want To Know What Love Is as though their life depended on it and Allan drank his first beer in record time, quickly followed by a second and he was well into his third before he had even contemplated the crossword.
"New around here?"
Allan looked up from his newspaper and into the blue eyes of a tall, slim built man aged around 25 with shoulder-length dark hair and holding two bottles of the beer he was drinking.
"Fairly," was Allan's one word reply.
"Thought I hadn't seen you before. Mind if I sit down?"
"Well, actually..." began Allan, but the man held out a beer and smiled. Putting a bottle in front of Allan he sat down. "Welcome to the neighborhood, my name's Richard."
Allan didn't have any time to object as the man called Richard took a drink from the neck of his bottle and asked. "So, what brings you to town?"
"Yeah? Doin' what?"
"Ah, must be that new place just opened up a few months ago."
"Yeah, a new branch of the firm."
"So, are you heading it up, or something?"
"No, just helping get it underway."
"What about you? What do you do?"
"I work in my Uncle's repair shop a few blocks away on 13th and 4th."
"I'll have to remember that."
"You do that; and pass the word to that company of yours. We can do contract work. Fancy shooting some pool?"
Allan glanced to the opposite end of the bar to see the two young men who had been playing walk away from the pool table.
"It's not really my game," he said, looking back at Richard.
"No? So what kind of games do you play?"
"I'm not really a player of any sports."
"What kind of an American are you?"
"One that doesn't play sports," replied Allan, defensively and Richard laughed.
"Guess there has to be one," he smiled, taking another drink from his bottle.
"I shouldn't imagine that I'm alone."
"I doubt it. Only I never met one before."
"Well, there's a first time for everything."
"I agree, but I think my first time for walking over a cliff edge will be postponed for a while."
Allan smiled. He was beginning to warm to this stranger.
"So, who's Carl?"
Allan was jolted back to a defensive mode at the mention of the name of his English Internet friend.
"You wrote the name at least a dozen times on that newspaper of yours. Unless it's an anagram for a crossword clue."
Allan looked down at the newspaper. The word "Carl" stared back at him in black ink and in his own handwriting. Richard was quite right, it must have appeared a dozen times and Allan could only hazard a guess that the Englishman was subconsciously playing on his mind.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Carl. He your son?"
"No, he's not my son."
"Thought maybe you were divorced or something."
"Because I wrote the name Carl on my newspaper?"
"Yeah, why not? Divorced dad thinking about his kid."
"Well, I'm not divorced and Carl isn't my son."
"So you are married, then?"
"No, I'm not married. I've never been married and I don't have any children."
"So, who's Carl?"
"A friend, if it's any of your business."
"No, none of my business at all, I was just curious."
"He lives in the UK."
"I must have been thinking of getting I touch with him."
"Like you said, it's none of my business."
"Sorry. I haven't talked to him for a while, so I guess I got defensive at the mention of his name. To be honest, I didn't know I'd even written it."
"Must be a good friend."
"Not really, I barely know him. I helped fix a computer bug he had one time is all."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Computer bugs. Bastards."
"Oh, yeah, they are."
"We get people coming into the store with them all the time."
"I can believe it."
"Some take some getting rid of, too."
"Yeah, this one did."
"What did you use?"
"Program. Clean Sweep is a good one"
"Oh! Well, no, the one I used was E-Radicate."
"Yeah, that's a good one too. It did the job."
"Seems to have done."
"Good. Sure you don't wanna shoot some pool?"
"No, but thanks." He glanced at his watch, "To be honest, I really must be going."
"Okay, maybe another time."
"Yeah, maybe. Thanks for the beer."
Allan stood up and walked to the door, glancing back before he left, he saw Richard raise his bottle and Alan smiled.
What the hell was going on back there? Was he being picked up? Why did he leave? What did he have to rush home for?
The call broke into Allan's thoughts and he turned to see Richard heading towards him.
"You forgot your newspaper."
"Oh, thanks. It really didn't matter, you didn't have to come after me with it."
"Well, thanks again."
Richard smiled. "See you around."
The younger man turned around and headed back in the direction of the bar and as Allan watched him he heard himself call out.
"Hey! Fancy a pizza?"
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