Phone Calls and Landfall

My dreams were distorted, misty things – nothing was clear, from the faces to the settings, and I could make sense of little that occurred. I do remember that, when Alex jostled me awake, I was standing in a room at night by myself, having a very heated discussion with the shadows that surrounded me. The words were all gibberish, but I wasn’t aware of that until I returned to reality.

“It has been an hour,” Alex said as he returned to his crossword. I mumbled my thanks while noticing that he had made little progress. Ignorant old man that I was, I attributed that to him having difficulty understanding the clues. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I just finished a losing fight with a brick wall,” I replied. My eyes gravitated to my bag on the floor between my feet and I considered taking another round of medicine.

“You said you need to make a phone call?”

“Right, yeah, I do. Watch my stuff, I shouldn’t be long.”

My head swam slightly as I got to my feet but I just placed the blame on getting up too quickly. I allowed things to come back into focus before moving towards the bank of payphones next to the cafe at the back of the ship. Along the way I earned a few odd looks but heads quickly turned back when confronted with my gaze. I already felt like hell, I didn’t need any reminders that I looked little better.

All four phones were in use when I arrived, which caught me by surprise. Most of the days that I walked the streets in Vancouver I got the definite impression I was the last person on earth without a cell phone. I figured any day Baby Yap outlets would be opening up next to all of the Baby Gap stores.

A kid who looked like he should have been in class was the first to hang up and I took his place as I pulled the scrap of paper with Dawn’s phone number on it from my pocket. The receiver smelled a little like pot when I brought it to my face and I shook my head at another wasted pack of brain cells.

“Hello?” I could hear water running and cutlery colliding in the background and tension in her voice. I immediately regretted calling.

“Hey, it’s Nate.”

“Oh, hey!” The change in tone, the sudden appearance of warmth, made me feel ten feet tall. “I thought you were leaving for Victoria today – is everything alright?”

“Yeah, I’m actually on the ferry now. We’re probably about fifteen minutes from Nanaimo.” I paused to collect my scattered thoughts, trying to put them in some semblance of order. “I just wanted to call to let you know that, if you’re interested, Channel 9 should have highlights of the fights tomorrow night. It’ll probably come on around midnight and Alex is on the card at Olson’s Gym.”

It wasn’t the best reason to call, but it was better than admitting I just needed to hear her voice.

“That’s great! I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay up that late, but I’ll do my best!” There was an awkward pause as we both searched for what to say next. “I better get back to cleaning up – I have a student coming over in an hour and I’d hate for her to see my place in its current state.”

“Of course, no problem,” I said quickly. “I won’t keep you any longer, I just wanted to let you know about the recap since I forgot to mention it last time.”

“Thanks, I promise to try to check them out. Good luck to you both, I’m sure it will go great.”

I thanked her and hung up before turning the scrap of paper over to double check Gregor’s number. I threw another quarter in the phone and dialled again.

“I hope your boat is running late,” he said when he picked up on the third ring.

“That’s not really what I was hoping to hear,” I replied as I turned to look out the window at the outlying islands of Departure Bay in Nanaimo. “Where are you?”

“Stuck in the middle of downtown – some idiot ran a red light and now everyone else gets to suffer. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Alright, good luck.”

I let the phone rest in its cradle for a moment before picking it back up to make one last call. No paper was required for this one. The machine picked up after the fourth ring.

“Hi Cara and Mel. The sleeping bags are in the hall closet, behind the vacuum cleaner. I left forty dollars in the plate cupboard for dinner tonight but you’ll have to make something for tomorrow night. There are plenty of veggies in the fridge and meat and soup stock in the freezer, so just take something out when you get home and it’ll be thawed in time. Have fun, but not too much fun. I’ll see you on Sunday.”

The phone safely back in its home for a final time, I headed back to join Alex with a slight smile on my face. I was under no delusions as to what went on in my absences and the girls knew they held no secrets from me. As long as whatever mess they created was sorted out by the time I got home, and everybody had all of their limbs still intact, I was happy.

“Want to go outside to watch the docking?” I asked as I hoisted my bag to my shoulder.

“Yes – I could use some fresh air as well.”

“Well, we might be getting a fair bit of that – Gregor is stuck in traffic and there’s no telling when he’ll get here.”

“That is no problem,” Alex said as we stepped through the automatic sliding door and the cold, salty breeze welcomed us with an overly excited hug. “The fight is not until tomorrow night, so there is no rush. It is good to take things slowly.”

“True enough,” I replied as we reached the railing at the front of the ship and looked down to watch the bow line up with its waiting berth. “Speaking of which, how are you feeling about the fight? If what Bomber said is really bothering you, don’t feel like you have to hide it from me, okay?”

“I would hide nothing from you.”

My eyes were on the water when he spoke, so I missed the expression that accompanied his words. I wouldn’t have understood it if I had seen it anyway.

Regardless, everything would become all too clear later that afternoon in the hotel.

The End

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