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Steve Joos

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Downhill feelings--and other cries for help (Part One)
By Steve Joos
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

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Recent stories by Steve Joos
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This is a week in the life of a troubled teenager, a relative and her roommate--who also happen to be his next-door neighbors. This story takes place when I was in my teens (the early 1970s) and hooefully, that will be the only time you will know that.

Monday night after the Chicago Auto Show: Clock-watching is not the sign of a good worker, usually. However, some people can fool you. Take Sandy Clark for example. She spends about six hours a day putting together a radio program and she peeks at her watch whenever things start to drag. Of course, timing is also part of her job. She has to be ready to go on the air in the late afternoon and for four hours, keeping people up on the time is another part of her job. Nancy Gallagher also glances at her watch whenever it gets close to the end of one of her class periods. All this held against these two, Sandy has been on the radio since high school and Nancy a pretty decent high school history teacher, even if she's not that far removed from her own school days. Sandy's on until 6 p.m, which means that it's getting dark this time of year. When she gets home from work, Tim Fenton is waiting. "Hi Tim," she says to the boy across the hall, sometimes peppering him with a sports trivia question. Tim just grins, waives, answers the question and goes into his mother's aparetment. "That's something I'll never be able to figure out," Sandy said to herself. "How that kid has so little to say." A faint FM radio was the only noise penetrating the room as Sandy walked in, finding a note from her roommate. "Gone to a meeting," it read. "Be back at 8:00. Your supper is in the oven and the fridge." I was a littel later than that when Nancy arrived. "Where were you?" Sandy asked. "At a meeting," Nancy perked. "You don't know how long-winded parents can be. It's cold out there tonight." Outside, a quiet figure stared into Sandy's picture window. Whoever it was, they first glanced into the Clark-Gallagher pictuer window and then glanced into the Fenton's before turning and walking past the parking lot, giving the area complete surveillance. "How'd you like the Auto Show Saturday?" Sandy asked Nancy as the young teacher got ready for bed. "I thought it was okay," Nancy replied. "Thanks for the tickets." "You're welcome. Hey Nance." "Yeah?" "What was with Tim?" "Why?" "When we were coming back Sturday night, he was acting really nervous." "Well Sandy, how'd you feel if you rode home from the Chicago Auto Show with your history teacher?" "I'd be embarassed," Sandy laughed. Tuesday: March in Northern Illinois can be cold at times and on this day, Nancy was kicking around the kitchen trying to stay warm and cook breakfast at the same time. It was 7:30 a.m. when she stumbled across the hall to the Fentons' door. "Hi Aunt Alice," Nancy said when Mrs. Fenton answered the door. "Is Tim ready for school?" "Just a minute," Mrs. Fenton said. "Tim! Your ride's here!" "Wha-a-t?" Tim said sheepishly. On seeing his first cousin and history teacher standing in the doorway, Tim shrugged, rolled his eyes and got his coat and books. "We'll see you tonight," Mrs. Fenton chimed. The commotion across the hall did little to disturb Sandy's sleep until the clock radio hit 8 a.m. "Buzzz! This is WFXD News!" "Okay Chandler, I'm coming," Sandy mumbled to the voice on the radio, recognizing it as one of her co-workers at the 5,000-watt local radio station. She could also hear Tim complain about the weather outside and thinking that Nancy was aksing for trouble by ferrying Tim to school every morning. After Tim got away from Nancy upon their arrival at Foxwood High School, two of Tim's, ahem, classmates were waiting for him. "Know where Fenton lives?" the dark-haired one asked. "Where?" "Those apartments over off Mulberry." "Figures" the light-ahired one said. "I saw him at the Auto Show Saturday, with Gallagher and some other chick." They were waiting when Tim got to his locker. "Hey Fenton! Where were you Saturday night?" the dark-hairded one asaked seeringly. "None of your business, Baker." "How'd everything go Friday night?" the light-hiared one aksed with a smirk in his voice. "Fine until your bunch shwoed up." "Hey Tim," Baker aid. "We just wanted you to have a little fun." Tim glared at the two, slammed his locker shut and stormed down the hall. Like some other members of the cool crowd at Foxwood, Baker and Vernon like d to give Tim a hard time, something which had been going on for most of Tim's school days. WFXD studios, Tuesay morning: "This pool is stuffed!" the young announcer exclaimed, slapping his forehead. "What's that?" Sandy asked. "Oh this state tournament pool," Randy Ferguson snorted. "Everybody's picked Chicago Christian." "Well, it's a long time between now and the state finals," Sandy grinned and went to her desk. Moments later, she burst away from her desk crying while casting an anonymous letter aside. "What's your problem?" Randy asked as she bblew by him. "Now what did I do?" Nancy moved quickly down the hallway, grinning when she caught Tim talking to the girl he had gone out with Friday night. "Maybe it wasn't such a fiasco after all," she thought to herself, only to see the situaion deteriorate, thanks to Baker and Vernon. "What's going on here?" she asked firmly. "Nothing Mrss Gallagher," Baker innocnetly said. "I was just trying to apologize to Abby when these guys started hassling me," Tim said. "Aw, Miss Gallagher, he's nuts," Vernon said. "We just wanted to know what he does on Saturday nights." "And why is that your business Scott?" "Just curious." Baker and Vernon started to back away as Nancy gave both a dirty look. She then turned sadly to Tim. "I'm sory." "There's nothing to be sorry about," Nancy said. "In a way, those guys deserve it. Now hurry up, you'll be late for home room." Tim was waiting as Nancy came back from her graduate class that evening. "Hi," she said quietly. "Now do you see why I feell the way I do towards that place?" "I've seen it all year Tim," Nancy replied with a sigh as she unlocked her apartment door. "You want to talk about it? Come one in, I won't bite." Tim faked a look at his watch and loked out the picture window. "That's okay," he stuttered. "Terry Vernon saw me with you and Sandy Saturday at the Auto Show!" Tim bolted out of the apartment across the hall. "So?" Nancy said, stopping Tim before he entered his own apartment. A car pulled into the driveway, making Tim jumpy. "Thanks for taking me to the Auto Show. I gotta do my homework!" Nancy looked out the window. Tim had been frightened by a Meals on Wheels driver. Nancy walked back into her apartment and found a distraught Sandy sitting at the kitchen table. "Have you been crying?" she aksed. "Yes, why?" "What's wrong?" "This," Sandy thrust the letter at Nancy. "I left Randy Ferguson wondering what was going on this afternoon." "Oooh," Nancy said. "That's nothing. At lunch this afternoon, Tim was trying to patch things up with his blind date from Friday night when..." Nancy was cut off by the ringing of the phone. "Hello?" "Clark and Gallagher's?" "Hi Terry." The caller quickly hung up. "Who was it?" Nancy asked. "Some kids from school trying to show how cute they aren't," Nancy said with more than a little exasperation. Nancy slumped down in a chair and tugged on her pants, pulling her socks closer to her knees. "You know some of the kids razz Tim about you," she told Sandy. "Me?" "You or his English teacher." "Why? Tim's more like a kid brother to me." "Well, we all know that, but that's just how teenagers are. He hangs around here all the time and we seem to be the only ones he thinks he can pour his heart out to." Sandy dried her tears. "I wrote in my diary once about how Tim gets so depressed and when he does that, he becomes so bitter," she said. "He knows that's wrong and I hope it all works out for him. We all just have to keep praying that it does." The two roommates sat up that evening a little longer, not wanting to fall asleep although both knew they had to. "Hety Sandy," Nancy asked about midnight. "Yes?" "Would you put that instrumental album on?" "The insturmental?" "Yearh, the one with all the musak on it." "Okay." Nancy filled the request and started off to her room. She heard a voice quietly singing along with the J.C. Penney elevator version of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" It was Nancy's. If they only knew that things had worsened outside and that someone had planted a note addressed to "Miss Gallahgher" in their mailbox. Foxwood, like many ohter good-sized towns, has its early-to-bed people, its night people and everyone in between. Sometimes, all kinds of people can't get to sleep, no matter how hard they try. This was one of those nights for Tim. He stumbled into his room for about the third time, trying to sleep. He looked at his clock radio for the time. "One a.m. Wonder what I can pick up now?" He thought to himself. On went the radio, going down low enough so only Tim could hear it. He rolled around for a while, trying to get to sleep. "Tim?" his mother called from another room. "Yes." "Are you all right?" "Yes." There were times when Tim could get along with his mother. This time, he didn;t even want to try.It was a long night that showed up the next morning. Wednesday morning: "Are you going to bed or are you sleeping in here?" Tim's mother asked. "Huh?" "Tim, it's a quarter to eight!" "Okay, see you tonight mom!" Tim rushed out the dor, nearly knokcing Sandy down. "Wher are you going?" she asked. "School!" Tim replied. "I'm late for school." "Well it's too cold to walk. I'll take you." Tim reluctantly took Sandy up on her offer and quietly walked to her sleek green Cougar. "Are you nervous?" "You're prettier than Nancy." Sandy peppered Tim with questions throughout the brief ride to Foxwood High and let him out at the side door. Baker and Vernon were waiting as Tim stumbled half-asleep to his locker. "Looks like you were out pretty late last night Fenton," Baker sneered. "I couldn't get to sleep lat night." "Sure Tim, sure Tim," Venon chuckled. "What was her name?" Tim just slammed his locker shut and walked away. "Come on Tim," Baker howled. "Who was the girl in the green Cougar?" Tim stopped in his tracks. He didn't turn aruond to look at Baker and Vernon, he just glared. End of Part One.              

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Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 2/21/2007
Enjoyed the read Steve....maybe you could go over it one more time and so a little "spell checking"...your fingers sometime did what mine does all the off to read part two now!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 1/25/2007
Excellent story!

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