Pronghorn, Chapter 18: After the Meeting

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa left Arturo’s office after another backslapping hug and firm handshake, and he did so with a smile on his face. Damn, but it was good to see him again, he thought as he made his way back to the elevator and out through the Hill Country warmth–full heat, now, with the work of the sun through the day–and back to his car. Despite the sun-shade up in it, the car released a blast of hot air into Asa’s face when he opened the door, and he felt sweat stand out across his body as he sat in the driver’s seat. His smile did not waver, though. I actually have a chance of getting a job, even if it is only part-time work and in the fall, he thought.

At that point, his smile lapsed, and he said aloud “But what the hell am I going to do until then? I still owe on my student loans; I still have other bills to pay.” He shook his head. “How am I ever going to get clear and get moving?”

He started the car, relishing the cool, conditioned air that emerged from the vents shortly after he did. He drove out from the college, around the roundabout and back across the creek–there were still children swimming in the Caida de Roca–and turned back onto Park, heading west. Noting where his fuel gauge sat, he pulled into a gas station at the corner of East Park and South Main. As he began to put gas into the car, he called his folks’ house. His mother answered.

“Hi, Asa!”

“Hi, Mom. I think I’m done looking for jobs right now and am heading home. Did you need me to pick up anything at the store?”

“Where’re you at?”

“Getting gas, Mom. Did you want anything?”

“Well, I could use a half-gallon of milk–unless you’re drinking it, in which case, a full gallon. I need eggs, too.”

“Bacon?”

“Actually, no. Your dad can’t have it anymore; too much risk on his heart. All the salt.”

“Ah. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Please do. And thanks for heading to the store.”

“No problem. Love you, Mom.”

“Love you, too, honey.” Asa’s mother hung up. The pump had stopped, as well, and Asa made ready to drive out. He stopped, though, as he saw someone pull up at the next pump: Reverend Anna Kerr. She wore a white shirt and a high-waisted tea-length skirt in the red-and-green plaid of her stole from the day before–Good look on her, Asa thought–and she noticed Asa’s attention in short order.

“Well, hello! It was Asa, right?” She stuck out her hand around the side of the pump. Asa took it; her handshake was strong and confident, and her smile as they shook hands was broad and warm. “Glad to see you around town!”

“And you, Reverend.”

“Oh, please, we’re not at church. ‘Anna’ will be fine.”

“Alright, then, Anna, I’m glad to see you.”

“I could tell,” she replied, and laughed. Asa’s cheeks flushed red again, and he stammered out “I-I didn’t mean any offense.”

Anna waved a hand. “None was taken, I assure you. It’s not like you cat-called or anything.” She started pumping gas into her own car, an older silver coupe. “You look like you’ve been job-hunting.”

“How could you tell?”

“You’ve still got on a tie. Not many reasons for someone newly back to town to wear one in the current mild warmth.” She laughed again. “How’s it been going?”

Asa leaned back against his own car, a teal hatchback. “Decently enough, I suppose. I handed out a lot of resumes, put in at the school district and the college. I actually used to go to school with the department chair at the college, so that’s good.”

“I’m glad to hear it!” The pump on her side clicked off. “Will I be seeing you again on Sunday? I got the distinct impression that you weren’t really into what we were doing–at least, not as much as the folks around you.”

Asa considered briefly. “It’s likely.” Ah, what the hell. “If it wouldn’t be too forward, I might like to see you earlier than that.”

“Oh, would you, now?”

Oh, I fucked that up. Asa stood silently for a moment. He could feel himself redden again.

Anna laughed again. “How does Thursday for lunch look?”

Asa did a double-take. “Really? I mean, yes, it looks good. Did you want to meet somewhere, or should I come pick you up, or–”

“I’ll be at the church. Come on by about a quarter to eleven; I usually eat early. Nothing fancy, mind, or too heavy; I have to work that afternoon, and I don’t want a heavy belly dragging me off to sleep.”

Asa nodded. “That makes sense. I’ve had so many students basically be zombies in the early afternoons that you’d think I was teaching a Romero flick.”

Anna laughed again. “I’m sure I’ll hear all about it on Thursday. See you then!” She climbed into her car and drove off.

Asa stared after her for a second. Then he smiled and got into his own car, starting it up and turning to head to the grocery store. It’s been a good day. I’ve got a solid lead on at least one job, and I’ve got a date for later in the week. Best day I’ve had in a while.

As he turned into traffic, merging onto South Main to head for the newer grocery store, his smile fell again. Of course, I have to wonder what’ll happen to ruin it. I know something’s coming; I just don’t know what it’ll be. And that worries me.

Did I bring you as much pleasure as a bottle of wine does? A glass? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!

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