Continued from the previous chapter, here.
The next day saw Asa Pemewan rise early and take care dressing once again. He skipped a tie, for he was not going to look for work that day, but he did have an appointment he wanted to keep. Provided it is still going to happen, he thought. I imagine Anna has a fair bit to do right now.
After dressing , Asa checked his emails, noting that a few more job applications he had put in before had been rejected. No surprises there. The doctorate seems to be working against me every way I turn, anyway.
That done, Asa made to place a phone call. A quick online search revealed the number he would need to call: that of the Smitherson Chandlery. He dialed, and the phone rang once…twice…thrice…a fourth time…and voicemail picked up. The recorded voice was cheerful, with a lilting cadence.
“Thank you for calling the Smitherson Chandlery. We can’t currently make it to the phone, but if you’ll leave your name, your number, and a brief message, we’ll return your call as soon as we can.”
The expected beep followed, and Asa cleared his throat before saying “This is Asa Pemewan calling. I heard about Bartholomew’s passing, and I wanted to extend my sympathies to the family for the loss. Please do let me know what, if anything, I can do to help.” He left his phone number and hung up. Puts it in their court. And if I don’t hear back, I’ll head to the one office on Monday, and the Chandlery if it’s not open.
Several hours remained for Asa before his appointment–lunch date–with Reverend Anna Kerr. Asa took the opportunity to drive around the town, looking at what the Tuesday storm had done and how the people were recovering from it. Pronghorn Creek was still swollen, of course, with several of the local bridges–low-water crossings, really–still closed off. It was clear that at least one person had sought unsuccessfully to get around the black-and-orange barricades that had been placed to stop people from driving into the running water; a waterlogged truck stood with its doors open, clearly having been dragged up onto the bank of the northern branch of the creek. I hope the people who were in it’re okay, even if they’re idiots, thought Asa as he turned his teal hatchback around and continued.
Some of the roads in town still had tree branches fallen across them. Others had been cleared of larger debris, although twigs and leaves and fragments of bark and splintered wood still festooned the pavement across much of the town. The city offices themselves were being frantically repaired; a tree had fallen into the building, curving one wall inward, and many of the panes of glass that had let civil servants look out over Pronghorn had been shattered. Many of the storefronts Asa had gone into over the past days were similarly broken, sheets of plywood going up to keep out the weather now that the storm had passed. He could not help but smile a bit as he drove past Rufus Hochstedler’s antiques store, the roof of which had clearly collapsed into the showroom. The Browning didn’t do you much good, did it, you asshole?
Asa caught himself thinking thus uncharitably and shook his head as he drove on. I really shouldn’t be happy about it. Rufus might be an ass, but maybe his family isn’t, and they suffer if his business does badly. Driving further, he found crews at work clearing debris from roads and yards, and the schools–he was able to drive past both–seemed to be clearing. Fortunately, the public schools were out of session, and the college was only lightly attended at this time of year. I hope Sergeant Gonzales is okay, he thought as he drove by Pronghorn Community College. I figure Art is, off in San Antone.
Asa found himself thinking back to graduate school, where he had met Arturo and the two had been fast friends. He smiled thinking of one conference they had attended together, each wearing a shirt that had the other’s face emblazoned on it–each advertising for the other. There was another that had seen them get extravagantly drunk at lunch in San Angelo–and while a high-school language competition was going on at Angelo State University. Art painted two or three of them an interesting series of colors, then. And there were others when the two of them…
Another head-shake dispelled the thought. Not the kind of thing to have in mind with what I’m about to do, I think. And those days are long behind me, too. He glanced at the clock in his instrument panel. And it’s getting to be time for me to go to church and see if Anna is still up for lunch with me. And if anything’s open today; I haven’t seen a lot of places ready for customers.
A red light called Asa to stop. Trucks from the Red Cross drove past him as he waited for the light to change. It’s good to see them now thought Asa, and when the light changed again, he pulled out, turning left, whence they had come. I hope they do some good for the folks here.
And I’m glad that I’m not in a position to need them. Much as I do need, that kind of thing’s not part of it. Asa cleared his throat again as he proceeded towards the church his parents attended, ready to pick up the preacher, his heart beginning to race as he went on. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. It’s just lunch, after all. Even if it is with a good-looking woman.
Asa shook his head yet again, driving on.
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