“Charlie and the Baseball Man”
Lorne Sutton did not know if Charlie really did see a spider in her shower or was just messing with him again. She had demonstrated little that would encourage trust.
Charlie was nervously shaking outside the bathroom entrance, when Lorne inspected the inside of the shower. “Nothing here, young lady,” he said.
“Look harder! He’s in there all right, and I want to hear the sound of snapping spider bones!”
Where does she get stuff like this? Lorne grabbed the shower curtain to pull it to. At that moment he noticed a quarter-sized spider just at eye-level. Had he been alone, he would’ve grabbed his chest and collapsed into the tub. But this moment did not call for natural behavior. He needed to return to his Sunday school days and summon “the peace that passeth understanding down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart!” He chose not to sing the song aloud, but what he did do was calmly walk over and take a small piece of toilet paper which he used to capture and smush the arachnid.
“I told you there was a spider. You didn’t believe me did you?” Charlie said. She stepped into the bathroom to taunt him.
Lorne nodded. “Charlie you can gloat another day, but right now, I suggest you move away from the sink.” She never saw the spider that was a mere three inches from her hand. No one knows how far her scream carried, but Lorne assured the clerk that all was well. Just a spider attack. He also informed the guy that he needed to change his records to show that he and a Miss Sandal had switched rooms. His response? “Whatever.”
Lorne slept for about 40 minutes before waking with a migraine and a cough. He had experienced both ailments but not at the same time. Each cough seemed to widen the crack in his skull. And, his nose was running to beat the band. He spent the rest of the night taking hot showers to ease the throb in his frontal lobe.
Lorne and Charlie neglected to exchange room keys, which is how Charlie managed to barge into his room the next morning and announce, “I have no hot water!” Lorne had just climbed out of the shower and was wearing a towel. He glanced up to see Charlie, who was wearing no robe this time.
What she did have on was a pair of white, flannel pajamas with a pattern of red and blue balloons. Charlie was the only thing Lorne had managed to focus on the entire night. That girl in her balloon pajamas was the cutest image he had ever seen… and he had once seen a panda cub roll down a slide. Staring at her made it difficult for him to express any anger over her making such an abrupt appearance. He did manage a sneeze.
“You look absolutely terrible!” she said. “Here, let’s get that towel off of you and get you back in bed.” Lorne was in no mood for jokes, nor would he consider staying in the motel for another night. He assured her that they were moving down the road.
Charlie gave Lorne an assortment of over the counter pills that she promised would get him over the mountains. He made it known that he would refuse anything that would make him sleepy. She assured him that was not a problem. “Just so you know, I’ll have you at your folk’s house by nightfall just in time for your family’s Christmas Eve party.
They were about 20 minutes down the road when Lorne pulled over to let Charlie drive. “It’s weird how the pills that kept you awake, knocked me on my rear,” he said. She explained that her body chemistry was different from his.
Lorne was not conscious during Charlie’s few pit stops. And, he missed out on the late breakfast and the early supper. He had no memory of snow plows at Snoqualmie Pass. He was fairly conscious when Charlie stopped in the driveway at her folk’s house.
“I can do this,” he told himself. He would meet Charlie’s folks, unload the truck, take the $300 and spend the night in the Walmart parking lot. That was the plan. He climbed out of the passenger seat, took two steps and grabbed the side of the truck.
Charlie came around to help him. “As soon as everything stops spinning,” he said, “I’ll unload your stuff, and then try to escape before anyone notices we’ve arrived.” She had him put his arm over her shoulders and then grabbed him around the waist. “Just keep step with me, and I’ll guide you to the porch, Mr. Spider Smasher Man.”
There were Christmas lights all over the place which grew brighter at the opening of the front door. Rayford and Charlotte Sandal, her parents, came rushing down the driveway. “Punkin! You made it,” her dad said and then moved in for a hug. He was moving from light to dark and when he noticed so he had failed to notice Lorne until the moment of the hug. “And, who’s your plastered passenger?” he said.
Lorne waved off the insult with his free hand. There was an awkward pause that hung like a fog from the movie about, uh, you know, fog?
Lorne did his best to improve his posture, but could do nothing that might help with his loss of self-respect. “Okay, listen up!” Charlie said. “I’m only going to say this once. This is Lorne and he picked me up at the dorm to haul me here, only I got sick and we had to stop and stay the night in some town, and he used up all the hot water, ‘cause it was his turn to get sick, and after I gave him my drugs, he fell asleep, so I had to drive, and the snow hit hard near Snoqualmie Pass, but I followed a plow all the way.” She looked up at Lorne and said,” Did I leave anything out?”
Lorne said, “I don't know. Uh, the spider and your scream?” The quick quip gave him a sense that he must’ve been getting better.
After a head scratching pause, Mr. Sandal said, “You mean you don’t know what town you spent the night in?” Charlie did a perfect eye roll. “It was a cheap motel near a town with a fish name.”
“Oh, no!” her dad said. “Don’t tell me you guys stayed at Maggie’s Motel in Fishtrap! Did you see any spiders? ”
A voice came from behind the gawkers. Lorne thought it familiar. “Okay, you’ve had your fun. Rayford, you bring Charlie’s stuff into the house. And, let’s get this boy inside. Now scoot!”
“Now scoot?” Son of a gun. Lorne beamed, as much as was in him to beam, and then suddenly backed away. “Mrs. McNatt, you don’t want what I got,” he said.
Vera stepped forward and threw her arms around him. “Tish, tosh. You’ll never be too sick for me to hug you, young man. Besides I’ve already had the grunge. In fact, I may have passed it along to Charlie by loaning her my grizzly bear blanket.
Charlie didn’t act the least surprised that Lorne knew her grandma. Vera picked right up on his puzzlement. “Now, don’t get too upset, son. I could not let you spend another Christmas alone. You refused to join me, so I had to trick you to get you here.”
He felt a bit of a tickle in his heart. Must’ve been one of the aortas. It was caused by a ridiculous hope that the whole thing was a scheme to match him up with Charlie. And, get this, perhaps it was even Charlie’s idea. He knew he had to ask Charlie about that. One thing he’d learned from their brief time together was that Charlie had a “tell”. She never looked him in the eye when she was – for lack of a better word – LYING!
Charlie’s dad came in the front door with a flat screen TV. “Punkin’, what’s going on? Why'd you bring everything home with you?"
She looked so surprised. “You mean I didn’t tell you? I failed chemistry and decided to quit college and come home. I’m pretty sure I told you that.”
Rayford looked at his mother-in-law. “Did you happen know that, Mom?” Vera looked away and said, “It’s news to me.”
“Well, Li’l Missy, I’ll have to ponder this for awhile. You and me are going to have a sitdown,” he said.
“Yes, let’s take this up later, Father. As for now, I’ve got a sick man here.” Vera and Charlie’s parents went out to the truck. Charlie led Lorne over to the loveseat and plopped him down. Then she joined him, snuggling up close. Really close. “So, how are you feeling, Baseball Man? What can I get you?”
“Let’s try the truth,” he said. “Was this a scheme to get the two of us matched up.” Charlie laughed a fake laugh, “Whoa, you must think you’re hot stuff, Baseball Man? She looked over at the side table to study one of those plastic flipping Santas.
“Okay, let’s say it was a plan to get us together? Would that be such a bad thing?”
Lorne was looking deep into her eyes when he said, “I don’t know, Not if it was your idea instead of your grandma’s.”
How on earth did that come out? It had to be pills. Charlie feigned surprise. “You caught me off guard, Sir. I’ll need to ponder this.” With that she somehow found a bit more room on the loveseat to scootch in closer still.
I hope this Christmas was one of those that you will recall fondly for many Christmases to come. Mark