mainly working on outlining the plot. Would it help if
I gave you a sketchy outline of where I'm going, or
would it be better for you to see how things are going
to unfold? If you've read "Nowhere Man" you have some
idea, although there will be a lot of differences between
that story and this one.
When I came home from class and saw the bottle of champagne sitting on the dining room table, I knew that Aaron had taken the job.
I set my Land's End bag on the table and took off my jacket, hanging it in the tiny closet next to the front door. But my eyes kept moving to the champagne, waiting expectantly for a celebration. Aaron's celebration.
He was in the spare bedroom that served as our joint office. Well, mainly Aaron's office, with my books, papers, and my forlorn laptop piled on a card table in the corner. As usual when he has good news, he was on the phone with his mother, Lily, in Florida.
"I know, Ma. It's amazing. You should hear some of the perks they've offered." Aaron looked up at me and winked. I had to smile back at him. He was bursting and it was always hard not to get caught up in his excitement. "Shea just came in. Yeah, we're due for a little celebration tonight. And maybe I'll take the boy to dinner tomorrow. I don't have any classes on Fridays, so I'm going to stay home and savor this whole thing. No, I don't know yet. We'll have to go out to Indiana and look for a place. Maybe a house. I'm sick of living in cramped apartments."
I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. "I saw the bottle. Congratulations."
"Thanks, Baby," he whispered. "Yeah, Mama, I have to run. Give Papa my love." I raised my eyebrows and he noticed. "Oh, and Shea says the same from him, only double. He'll talk to you sometime later, okay?"
"That's me. Always the afterthought," I remarked, only half kidding, after he hung up the phone.
"Never!" Aaron insisted. "First, last, and foremost."
That's what he always said. It was such a cliche with Aaron that he even had it written into our commitment ceremony. First, last, and foremost. There were a bunch of times during that ridiculous faux-ritual when I almost lost it and started laughing out loud, but that moment was the worst. I mean, what the fuck do you do when someone says that to you when both of your families and every single person you know are standing there, all trying not to laugh as well? So I said what I always say.
"Me, too. Only double."
Lame, I know. Not the eloquence you'd expect from a guy with a Ph.D. in Contemporary Lit from Columbia. But then Aaron was a Distinguished Professor in Film and Media Studies. Or he would be now that he'd taken this new job.
"So," I said. "Indiana."
"Indiana," he affirmed.
"Rural Indiana," I add.
"It'll be great, Shea," he replied. "Indianapolis isn't that far away. And you'll be closer to your folks in Cleveland."
I didn't say anything, but he must have known how I felt about this.
"Listen, Baby. You know I've been feeling restless lately. This is going to be a wonderful opportunity for me." He paused. "And for you, too, of course. You'll see."
I wanted to point out that we hadn't yet completely unpacked all the boxes of books and old clothes from when we moved to Boston from Philadelphia two years before, but I didn't. The last thing I wanted to do it put a damper on Aaron when he was on such a high.
Or mention what was first, last, and foremost in my own mind.
Which was to wonder what the hell I was going to do in Indiana.
"So," I said. "I suppose I better let my chairman know that I won't be back next year." There were only two weeks left in the semester, but I'd already received my class assignments for the fall.
But Aaron was staring into space, smiling to himself. Lost in the contemplation of this new success. "What did you say, Baby?"
"I said that I better let them know I won't be teaching here next year."
"Oh, sure. You'll have to do that. I've already notified my department. Needless to say, Lester wasn't very pleased!"
"I bet he wasn't."
Aaron's conflicts, both personal and professional, with Lester Bannon, the Chair of his department, had inflated over the two years we'd been in Boston to a battle of epic proportions. At least as epic as sniping over funding, teaching loads, and office space could become. But macho head-butting aside, snagging Aaron for their Media Studies and Film Production Program had been a coup for Lester personally and for Boston State as an institution. Having Aaron Blumenthal on their faculty attracted media attention and also attracted first-rate students. He was an Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker and that counted for a lot in the insular world of Film Studies.
"You should have seen Lester's face!" Aaron gloated. "When I told him what Eastern Indiana was offering in the way of salary and perks, I thought his big, bloated head was going to explode!"
"That would have made quite a mess," I commented. "Lester's prized oriental rug would have never been the same."
"Nick congratulated me, though," Aaron continued. He and Nick Foradis, the Director of Graduate Studies in the department, had become allies in the war against their arrogant Chair. "He's been sending out feelers for a new job, too. The whole place is going to hell. I'm getting out just in time." Aaron looked up at me. "What's for dinner? I'm starving!"
I took a deep breath. "I thought you said we were going out? To celebrate?"
"Tomorrow. Nick and his wife and a couple of the others are going with us to Tino's for dinner. The reservation is for 8:00. But tonight -- it's just you and me and that bottle of champagne!" Aaron leered, which made him look a little like a sexy Groucho Marx. If that's possible.
"I just got home. Let me see what I have in the fridge."
"Good boy. Whatever you come up with is fine." Aaron reached for the phone again. "I need to make a few more calls. Wait until Sid hears about this! He's going to shit! And I also have to let Kenny out in L.A. know what's going on. One of the things E.I.U. is offering is more funding for the new project. Now Kenny needs to get off his ass and get me a deal for distribution. That's what agents are supposed to do."
"Maybe he's waiting for you to finish the thing." Aaron had been working on and off on his documentary on gay adoption for the past two years without much progress.
Aaron looked up at me and frowned. "Now that I have that funding... no problem." Then he punched in a number and swiveled his chair away from me.
I'd been dismissed.
I left the office and went to the kitchen to make dinner.