Clash of the Worlds: The Invitation Extended
End of a Day’s Work
"Is that you, Alex?" echoed a female voice through the apartment. "Ah, it must be," the voice continued, answering its question. "There's only one person in this apartment who turns on the TV upon his arrival home, and that to a sports channel. And it's not me," the voice chuckled at the sound of "Strike three!"
"Yes, Carol, it's me," answered a male voice. "And that's not funny."
"Welcome home," Carol said, entering the front room. "You sound tired. Had a hard day?"
"Any day is a hard day these days, Carol. Don't you know that?" Alex asked he perched on the edge of the sofa, eyes glaring straight into the TV.
"Hm, you're tired and angry – disgusted. What's wrong? Work getting to you?"
Without turning about, still glaring at the TV, Alex responded, "Not the work so much as the people, and that makes everything else wrong. Sometimes people are just plain hard to get along with."
"That's not like you, Alex. I've known you with a loving attitude. That's why I moved in with you, you being kind and helpful, and good looking to boot," Carol smiled.
Jumping to his feet, snapping off the TV, Alex turned toward Carol, "It's just been a tough day, Carol, that's all. Nothing seemed to have gone right all day. I think maybe a little rest will be helpful," he concluded, headed towards the bedroom.
"I'm sorry," Carol said. "I was just welcoming you home. I was about to let you know that I stopped by your favorite Chinese restaurant on my way home from work this evening to get a bit of your favorite Chinese food for you – broccoli beef," Carol enticed.
Stopping short of entering the bedroom, Alex replied, " Thanks, but I'll have to enjoy it after a bit of rest if you don't mind. "Keep it warmed up for me, will you?"
A deep sigh, Carol returned to the kitchen, Alex to his bedroom.
Carol Extends to Alex Jessi’s Invitation
"Welcome again, Alex," Carol said, browsing through a Woman's Day magazine, and catching a glimpse of Alex entering the kitchen. "You feeling better?"
"Much," Alex returned, turning on the kitchen TV. "How long was I out?"
"About ninety minutes," Carol answered.
"Really?" Alex asked. But was he responding to Carol, or the sports commentators on the television commenting on the last game?
"If you're hungry," Carol suggested, "That broccoli beef is still waiting for you there on the counter. But you'll have to nuke it a minute or so."
"Thanks," Alex said lowering the volume on the TV. "I think I will," he said placing the carton in the microwave.
"Beep, beep. Beep, beep, beep," sounded the microwave, Alex setting the time for a couple of minutes. He then turned toward Carol.
Carol turned toward him, smiling, "What's up?"
"You're a pretty lady. Someday I just may ask you to marry me."
"Really? Now, how many other women have you popped that question?"
"Yes, there have been a few, in the days of my foolish youth."
"Yeah, as you related to me occasionally about those days."
After a brief pause, Alex's ears having turned toward the television, Carol then changed the subject, "Alex, have you given any more thought to go with me to that church supper Friday night. It's all free."
"Church? Your friend at the hospital had been after you again, right? What's her name?"
"Yes. And Jessi's her name, and you've never met her, and I told her we would both come."
"We? Both of us?" Alex responded. "Then I guess that settles it, you speaking up for us both. Church. Hm, I haven't been to church in years."
"Since your youth?"
"But it's at a restaurant," Carol repeated.
"Yeah, but still a church thing. Last time I remember I had anything to do with a church," Alex recalled, "I was still in high school, my junior… no, my senior year."
"Hm," Alex smiled, his eyes rolling, "I was sitting in that balcony there, beside a pretty girl. Ah, Alicia was her name."
"Oh," Carol said. Pushing the magazine aside, she gave Alex her attention at the coming on of another one of his stories.
"I wonder what happened to her?" Alex said. "Ah, I wonder if she's still in West Coast," shaking his head, "For sure she's married, with bunches of children of her own. (Maybe even some grandchildren by now.) She wanted to get married after high school."
"To you?" Carol asked.
"I think so. At least I believe Alicia wanted to. But I guess I wasn't ready. I just wanted to ‘get out of Dodge.' I mean I just wanted to escape that old town, where I've hung around all my life."
"Yeah," Carol nodded, "I know what you mean. But what about that time in the balcony?" she asked. Itching to hear the story, she then listened with eager ears as he began, accompanied by the low volume television talking baseball.
Alex Reminisces His Youth
"Eat, drink and be merry," was all that penetrated the ears of seventeen-year-old Alex Grater, Jr., sitting amidst the congregation in the balcony that Sunday morning at West Coast's Hill Avenue Church. Captivated by his present company, Alicia, sitting next to him, it was difficult for him to concentrate on anything else.
He, that "tall, dark, and handsome" of a figure, every girl adored and every guy envied, dated other girls through high school. He had no desire for a steady; he rather enjoyed catching the looks from everyone who saw him and the particular girl he was with at the time.
His admiration of the lovely girl sitting next to him closed his ears too much of the pastor's sermon that Sunday morning. He didn't even hear, "you fool, tonight your soul will be required of thee..."
However, at the hearing of "barns filled with plenty," he whispered to Alicia, "That's me. That's what I'm going to do, get my ‘barns' filled with plenty, to the brim, so I can take my ease and ‘eat, drink, and be merry' all my life. Do you want to join me?"
"Why Alex Grater?" Alicia asked. "Is that a marriage proposal?"
"Only if the answer is yes," Alex chuckled.
"Hmm," Alicia paused for a moment, as the sermon concluded.
Rising for the final hymn, and after the benediction, turning toward Alex, she asked, "Just how do you plan on ‘filling your barns?'"
"I got it all figured out," Alex continued, putting forth his plan for his future. "I'll get the best paying job I can…."
"Doing what?" Alicia interrupted.
"Ah, anything," Alex answered, "As long as I can make the ‘big money,'" he said quoting the contestants of that popular television game show. "Hmm, I just may even have to leave West Coast to do so, even across the country. But that'll be okay, and start afresh somewhere else."
"Hm, you don't plan on college?" Alicia then asked, a little surprised.
"Na. I can't afford college. Neither are my parents able to send me. I've not seen much wealth all my life, just pinching and scraping all the time. I'm kind of tired of it."
"Mid-central!" Alex's dad exclaimed when he first heard of his son's plan to move.
"That's right, Dad," Alex said again.
"Of all the places on Earth! You know it gets mighty cold there. Come winter, for sure you'll be hightailing it right back here quicker than you left."
"Well, Dad, it will sure be good to see you and Mom again after being away for awhile, and Sissy," Alex simply replied, "And take in this West Coast sunshine, and smog," he chuckled.
The day came when his parents did say goodbye to their only son. A year after his graduation from high school, Alex launched his current job. Walking toward the corridor to board the plane, Alex looked back momentarily to his parents. Embraced, they appeared again to be praying. One last wave of his hand and he was gone. On that warm summer day, having said goodbye to his friends – high school "sweethearts," etc. – he flew out of West Coast for Mid-central, where he would begin that new life of his dream.
Alex’s True Pastime
"Ah, but you know, Carol," Alex continued, enjoying his broccoli beef. "Those church-going days for me have long since passed. Since I've been here in Mid-central, I haven't been to church. How will it seem for me now to even walk into a church building again?" he paused, glancing up at the TV airing the game, and munching another bite of broccoli beef.
"It's at a restaurant, Alex," Carol reminded, "As I told you."
"I know, as you told me, again. And as I tell you, again, it's still church – a religious function," arms folded across the tabletop, and situated where he could more easily see the TV, Carol staring at him.
"Hm," Alex continued, "And there it is," he pointed toward the T.V., "My religion – sports – my church," Alex smiled. "Whether it's baseball, football, basketball, or hockey… Hm, you name it...."
"No," Carol interrupted, "You just did. And how you love football. I've seen – and heard – how you and your friends scream your heads off watching your favorite team play," she rose to her feet. Switching off the TV, she continued, "And then playing their archrival, uh, here or there," she paused. "There's no telling what you'll do. That's when I just have to leave."
"And leave you usually do. But…"
"Yeah, well… but," she paused, back up against the counter, facing her boyfriend, she asked gently, "What about Friday night, Alex?"
Alex sighed, "You're bringing that up again, uh."
A brief pause and then Alex replied, "Um, okay… well, I promise I'll at least think about it; we got a whole week. But, there is a home baseball game Friday night..."
A deep sigh from Carol, arms lifted in disgust, she left the room.
("That a boy, Alex," grimaced that evil one aspiring a hateful glare. "You go that game.")
Go to Chapter Ten
© 2018 Charles Newcombe