Continued from the previous chapter, here.
Asa Pemewan drew a deep breath as he made to answer the questions the Reverend Anna Kerr had put to him. “The work yells at me, really,” he said. “Even now, I can’t help but see what’s on your bookshelves, and I keep thinking how to read what you read to get some idea about who you are and what you are. I keep looking for things we’ve both read, thinking about what the fact of our shared readership shows about the communities in which we participate entirely independently of where we are in the physical world. What your choice of words says about you and your history, and the history of the people who taught you to talk and to read, all of it and more floods on me at any given moment, and I can’t shut it off. It won’t be shut off; it is the lens through which I look at the world, bending all the light that reaches me and throwing some things into relief even as it hides other things from me entirely.”
He paused. “If the work you do is like that for you, then I understand, and I’ll not keep you from it. I couldn’t, in any event, and I’d be a kind of ass I try very much not to be if I made the attempt at doing so.” He stood to leave.
Anna stood, as well, and she came around her desk once again. Looking up at him, for he was slightly taller than her, she said “It is, and I’m glad you understand.” She reached up and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll call you when things settle down a bit, and we’ll get that lunch. Or dinner. And we’ll split the check.”
Asa reached up to touch his cheek where she had kissed it. His eyes were wide, as if looking somewhere else. “Yeah.” His hand dropped, and his attention returned to where he was, where Anna stood. He nodded. “Yeah. That’ll be good. I’d like that a lot. A whole lot.” He made a short bow with his head and left, tripping over his feet a little as he did so, and making his way back to his teal hatchback in something of a daze.
Starting the car but sitting in it only, not yet driving, he thought That went…oddly. I’m not sure what to make of it. She seems interested, but I could be reading too much into that. I’ve done so more than once before. His mind flashed back to his undergraduate days. There was Allison; she gave me her phone number, and I thought she wanted to go out on a date. Turns out, she only wanted to set up a study session; she had a boyfriend. I wonder what happened with her.
He shook his head again, breaking his reverie. “Best not to think about it” he said aloud, and he put the car in gear. His stomach rumbled a bit as he did so, and as he left the church’s parking lot, turning back onto the street to head towards downtown, he said to himself “I do need to eat. I wonder if anything in town is open, or if I ought just to go back to the house and get something there.”
Driving on, Asa found more repair work in progress, and he saw that the Red Cross trucks that had passed him before were out distributing food and cleaning supplies to the people at work. Best head home, then. Here, I’d be in the way more than anything else, and that’s not what folks need at the moment.
When he reached his parents’ house, Asa took a look at his phone. Several texts had come in while he was out; he’d silenced his phone for the date that did not happen. One of them was from Art Martinez: “Checking to see if you weathered the storm. Let me know if you’re well.”
Asa smiled a bit. Of course an English professor punctuates texts he thought as he replied. “I’m well. Town’s messed up, though. Check on campus.”
A reply came quickly. “Main ofc. noted closure, no injuries. Have a paper to write anyway. Good to know you’re fine.”
Asa headed into the house. His mother noted his entrance. “You’re back quickly. What happened?”
“Anna had to work, as you might expect. We’re taking a raincheck; she says she would like to get together, but with the storm and the cleanup…”
“Well, that makes sense.”
“Red Cross is in town, too. They’re passing out food and such downtown. City hall’s trashed; a tree fell through it. Lots of businesses are going to be hurting, too. Windows are out in many, and Rufus Hochstedler’s store’s roof fell in.”
“I hadn’t heard that.”
“Yeah. I saw it when I drove by. Got a text from Art, too; he says the college is closed, but nobody got hurt there, so that much is good.”
“That is good.”
Asa’s father popped in at that point. “What’s good?”
“The college didn’t have anyone hurt by the storm. Campus is closed for cleanup.”
“Right.” Asa’s father paused. “Wait, what’re y’ doing home? Thought y’ had a date with Rev’nd Kerr.”
“She’s got to work. The storm, you know.”
He nodded. “Makes sense. Anything we can do to help?”
Asa shrugged. “Red Cross is in town. Might donate to them. Otherwise, staying out of the way’d probably be good.”
His father nodded again. “Also makes sense. And we’ll want to head to the city for groceries in the next few days. Power outage played hell with the coffin coolers in the stores here.”
“Did we lose any food?”
“Nope. Kept everything closed; it stayed cool. Not everyone did, though; neighbors found out their freezer doesn’t seal. Had most of a deer in there, too.”
Asa winced at the image that formed in his mind. Glad it wasn’t us.
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