Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sim State U Ch 2 Two Years at Landgraab Pt 2

A month after the night Gareth told all of Lori's childhood secrets to Harvey, there was another strange death in the dorm. This time, it was in the middle of the night and only Gareth was around. He’d had a late class and was too wide awake to sleep. Deciding he wanted something to eat he went to the dining hall. The little fridge in his room was empty. But it was after midnight and the cook was gone so he planned to grab a snack from the dining room refrigerator. Breanna was there quietly eating cereal. It was surprising to see her up this late and Gareth hurried to speak to her a moment. Before he could say anything to her, though, she collapsed without a word to the floor. He ran over to where she was curled up beneath her chair, but he knew right away she was gone because the Grim Reaper was already floating into the room.

“Unbelievable!” Gareth said out loud, asking of no one in particular, “What is going down in this place?”

The Reaper shrugged. He went over whatever was written on his clipboard, then crossed something out and made a call on his cell. The why’s of the matter were not his area of expertise. He soon disappeared along with the unfortunate Breanna.

Gareth could not believe there had been a second death and he was upset that he had to be the one to see it. He felt very bad about Breanna; she had evidently been so unhappy. Although he looked tough, that was misleading; Gareth was a very upbeat and friendly person. He was tenderhearted as well. Those were some of the reasons Melanie was becoming so crazy about him. She tended to be caustic and suspicious herself, somewhat like Harvey. Gareth’s sunny disposition and kindness were very attractive to her. She hadn’t known him well at all before the party at the end of the summer, mostly she’d seen him at school and over at Lori’s when he was there with Trey. Assuming the way he dressed and talked were an indication of his personality, she had not been attracted to him at all. 

Then at the pool party he’d approached her and been tentative, courteous and very sweet. Melanie knew he had been dating Holly, but when she saw Holly flirting and dancing with Andy, she decided to just see where it led. As they talked, she realized he was nothing like she had thought. She noticed for the first time, too, that he had piercing baby blue eyes and great cheekbones. His body was seriously buff; he worked out all the time. In fact, she was getting seriously hooked on the guy. He was interested in everyone and always wanted to help out in any way that he could. For instance, after a while he had been the only one who would let smelly Joe sit next to him; he sometimes could be seen saying a few words to Vamsi, and he said good morning to the old cook every time he went in the dining room. In fact, he was the only one who got any words at all out of that guy, who always smiled at Gareth and said, “Well, hello, there, young man!”

When Gareth told her the next morning what had happened, Melanie was more worried about him than about what happened to the poor dead girl. She felt bad about that fact, but it was true.

 Everyone wondered about this second sudden death, but no one knew what was going on. They’d called the law, but the police didn’t seem interested and put both deaths down as “accidental”.

“Excuse me, accidental?” Harvey was his sarcastic self, “As in, they accidentally fell down dead?”

“That’s so stupid,” Melanie agreed.

“How can they do that?” Lori questioned.

“Just like that, evidently,” Gareth was disgusted, too.

Again, there were no answers, only questions.

Tension was high in the dorm, between the tragic death of Breanna and finals around the corner, everyone looked for ways to cope. Perhaps that was why, near the end of the semester, shy Colby Goth went streaking. Lori had known him since their childhood days, but she felt sure she did not want to remember him naked for the rest of her life. So she did not look up. Harvey had been playing pinball while a silent Vamsi watched, or at least, stared at the wall. To say he was surprised to see Colby do this, of all people, was an understatement. Being Harvey, he did not allow his astonishment to show. Darting all over the small dorm in great bursts of speed Colby would stop from time to time and do a rather good version of the hula. No one that Harvey had seen streak in the past two years had ever gone on this long, Colby seemed to think it was an endurance test. Then again, he'd had been exercising a lot and was in really good condition. Maybe he just wanted everyone to know it. When he finally flashed by yet again, Harvey glanced over and remarked quietly,

“You know, Colby; it’s fun to be shocking; it’s fun to be naked. But you don’t want to make it your life’s work. Seriously, dude.”

Colby ran off but that seemed to calm him down because within minutes he got dressed and headed to the television.

It was now the end of the sophomore year. Nearly time to turn in their term papers and Harvey had been at his computer every moment he wasn’t in class, doing an assignment or sleeping.

Feeling somewhat neglected and with her own term paper done early, Lori skulked around outside his door on the second day.

After several hours she knocked finally, asking in a soft voice,

“Shouldn’t you be taking a break by now, Harvey? I’ll make you something to eat if you want.”

He came to the door,

“I really need to finish this tonight, honey. You’re supposed to be encouraging me.”

“I am! I want you to finish it, but you need nourishment and you need to take a little break. You should get up out of that chair and away from your computer or your eyes will be out on stalks. Please, Harvey? Just for a half hour?”

“You’re just lucky you’re so cute,” he came out the door, locking it behind him. Lori took him by the hand and pulled him farther into the lounge.

He caressed her cheek and hugged her gently,

“I've missed you too, Brat.”

She began to sweet-talk him and, although Harvey knew that’s what she was doing, he didn’t mind going along with it. He knew she just wanted a little cuddling and extra attention. He was happy to give her that.

“So where’s my grub, woman?” he asked finally.

Lori sighed. Her mother had told her that the old saying “the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach” was not an old wives’ tale. “You’re father fell in love with my fried chicken as well as my…er, as well as me. So learn to cook, and make sure you learn to cook comfort food. You’ll have to disguise any healthy food you make, but it can be done.” And perhaps her mother was right.

“There’s not much food in the fridge out there, but how would you like a western omelet? There are no bell peppers, but I spied some canned ham in there.”

“Actually that sounds really good,” he admitted, subconsciously rubbing his stomach, “I don’t know when I ate last. Breakfast, I guess.”

“Yeah, a can of instant meal, and it’s after midnight now, hours and hours with no food. If you’re going to pull an all-nighter, you need fuel,” Lori confirmed, working at the counter. 

Harvey flipped one of the chairs backwards and sat on it watching her.

“You always cook like this? I mean, except for my birthday cakes, you haven’t cooked while we’ve been here.”

“I cook much better than this, in fact; my mother taught me well. But the supply of groceries in this kitchen is pretty slim. I never have time to cook anyway what with classes and assignments, and you can’t get in the kitchen when the old cook is here anyway.”

“My mother loves to cook, too; so that’s what I’m used to, good food. But a lot of girls now don’t really want to spend many hours in the kitchen with their careers taking up a lot of their time.”

No one could ever believe Harvey could put away the food he usually did. He had broad shoulders but a lanky frame. But he also exercised like crazy.

“Not me, darlin',” Lori was finishing the omelet which smelled really delicious to Harvey, “I love to cook and bake.”

“You know, I guess maybe…” he started, but she was bringing over his food and silverware and a napkin.

“I know you always drink milk with your meals, let me just make sure it’s still fresh,” she ran and got him a tumbler of cold milk.

Then she sat down across from him. The dining room was deserted, except for them.

He forked into his omelet. It was topped with melted cheese and filled with the ham and bits of onion, and the omelet itself was light and delicate.

“Now what were you saying?” she asked.

He finished chewing and then looked at her.

“This is really good. I think you might make an excellent wife, say two-three years from now, for a hard-working young man who has a good job and a place to live."

She grinned at him,

"Ya think?"


The next day Melanie and Harvey were doing their assignments in the dining hall. When they finished Melanie, thinking of Colby’s recent adventure, asked Harvey,

“Do you think Lori would ever streak? I mean, she says not.”

He laughed, “No, not happening. She likes to tease; streaking is too much exposure with no control for the Brat.”

He leaned back in his chair and thought further about it,

“She’s kind of crazy about me; but she wouldn’t like to make me that happy.”

Laughing, Melanie said, “You really do know her, don’t you.”

“Pretty much, but she can surprise you big time.”

Melanie looked away, her laughter dying, and thought of Lori’s “Brian thing” as Melanie called it. Melanie wanted to believe that Lori had let go of her old obsession. She certainly seemed wrapped up in Harvey, even washing his clothes along with hers at the Laundromat. For his birthday, both years they'd been here, she’d made him a cake by waiting until the old cook went home at midnight to use the kitchen. She was very affectionate with him, hugging and kissing him, holding his hand, leaning against him, often making the first approach. Whenever she went to the store she always managed to pick up one thing or another for him. Nothing particularly expensive, but thoughtful of his wants and needs. And, probably most significant, she never mentioned a word about Brian to Melanie. It was true the girls didn’t have much time together, even though they were in the same dorm. It was amazing to Melanie, in fact, but between classes, assignments, their term papers, sleeping and eating, and admittedly the time they spent with Gareth and Harvey, she and Lori had very little chance to talk to each other in depth. And just forget about getting a chance to talk to the other kids at Pinenut dorm except once in a while by phone or when you crossed paths on campus.

Melanie watched Harvey now, trying to be subtle about it. There was a time, almost three years ago now, that she had been “hopelessly in like” as Lalique put it, with Harvey. For a while she had eaten her heart out over him. It had really bothered her that Lori had not seemed to appreciate him at the time. Now she knew that, whether things worked out with Gareth or not, she would never feel that way about Harvey again. He was a wonderful person, attractive in an exotic way, too funny and extremely smart, but they were all wrong for each other; she knew that now.  They were way too much alike. Still she cared about Harvey as a good friend and wanted him to be happy. So she worried from time to time that Lori would drop him at some point and run after Brian. No one knew where the sexy guitar player was to this day. At least practically no one. Lori could be so obstinate when she had an idea or wanted something that she would not and could not let it lie. Back when she had wanted Brian at 16, Melanie had known that one way or another she would get him eventually or die trying. Lori put the dream aside before their senior year when Brian left, but even then Melanie believed it would only be for a time. She assumed that once Lori was old enough she would want to see Brian again. Then they got to college and Lori went back with Harvey and Melanie was happy but unwilling to let go of her apprehension. To all appearances things were different now, but perhaps they only seemed different. If only Brian would stay away.

As for Lori, she did not feel the same about college as the other kids, Melanie knew. Her grades were excellent, she was an extremely intelligent girl, but she didn’t really care about a career at all. All Lori really wanted was to get her degree to please her parents, marry a man she loved and have a home and kids. That wasn’t very politically correct now, but Melanie knew, if anyone did, that was what Lori wanted. Melanie was just scared that she still wanted it with Brian. However; it was possible, maybe even probable, that she truly had let go of this “Brian thing” and was in love with Harvey and committed to him.

“Well, I’m going to go meet her; she’s on her way back from class and I don’t like her walking alone since all this happened,” Harvey said suddenly, looking at his cell, “Later, Mel.”

She nodded. Should she just be upfront and ask Lori about it?

The next day they were all running around taking the finals. Harvey, Lori, Gareth, Melanie and Colby had all been talking about who it was that might have murdered Joe and Breanna. They now felt sure that it was murder, although they could not deduce what “weapon” had been used.

They considered possible suspects:

Lucy Lam, the rogue cheerleader was frequently an irritant to everyone in the dorm, even to the old cook--but was she a secret sociopath? 

She’s okay,” Gareth argued, “Just a little high strung.” Of course Gareth was the only one among them who talked to her much. Usually he was able to get her to stop and listen to a joke or two.

 What about the old cook?

“Blake is really a good guy once you talk nicely to him,” Gareth huffed.

“Blake? His name is Blake?” Harvey asked incredulously.

“Blake Menon; yes, that’s his name,” Gareth sounded a little defensive.

“Well if you think he’s not a suspect, we’ll cross him off the list, Handsome,” Melanie comforted him. In her opinion if Gareth said it was so, you could take it to the bank.

And Vamsi Mellon? She didn’t look as though she had the presence of mind to kill anyone, and she had no motive. Motive didn’t mean anything, though, if she was deranged. 

Spencer Grundstrom?

Colby spoke up,

“Nah, he’s just a regular guy, doing homework and going to class like the rest of us”. Colby had talked with Spencer a number of times, so they took his word on it.

There was a new girl who had moved in to the dorm when Breanna died, Emmy Landry. Colby also talked to her and had a small crush on her. He didn’t think she qualified either since she hadn’t even been in the dorm when the murders had been committed.

“Hey, what about Llama Aaron or the Cow, what’s his name?” Melanie asked.

“They can irritate you to death,” Harvey said, “But I can’t see them as murderers. They’re more likely to be victims, especially the Cow with that electric buzzer. One day he zaps the wrong person and, hey, it's steak tonight!”

“That’s not funny,” Gareth was stern.

“It’s a little bit funny. Anyway, I just can’t help myself, Gareth.”

That left only the maid, KayLynn.  She wasn’t there enough to take a dislike to anyone, but she did have caustic materials with her when she came.  No real motive, though, unless….

“Hey, did we catch the mail and pay the bills yesterday?” Lori asked suddenly. Colby shook his head no and dashed out to the mailbox.

Harvey dismissed this idea,

“The first murder was months ago. If we forgot to pay one week, I don’t think she’d have waited all this time and murdered two people just to get reimbursed for an unpaid invoice.”

Everyone nodded in agreement. They were disappointed that they hadn't solved the mystery.

“Well, continue to lock your doors; and don’t go out in the middle of the night to the dining room unless you have someone with you. I don’t see what else we can do at this point,” Harvey said.

“We could double up in our beds; two people to a room. You know, safety in numbers,” Gareth suggested eagerly.

Lori rolled her eyes and scoffed, “Oh? And who would bunk together, Gareth, you and Harvey, you and Colby? I’m sure Melanie and I would just love to cuddle up as close as kittens in a dinky twin bed.”

Melanie clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh.

“Well, no, I thought maybe Melanie and I could be roommates and you and Harvey could, then maybe Colby could talk Emmy into…” Gareth’s enthusiasm dwindled noticeably as he trailed off, “Or not.”

“We’ll just have to take our chances alone in our rooms,” Lori said sounding braver than she felt, “No doubling up. I just hope nothing else happens.”

“Another innovative idea bites the dust,” Harvey said, shutting the notebook he’d been using to write everything down. He stood up, faced the large oil painting of Ezra Landgraab, who had donated the dorm years ago, and brought his fist to his chest like a gladiator,

“We, who are about to die, salute you.”

“That’s not funny, Harvey,” Gareth protested.

“You’re right, Gareth, you’re right. I know you’re right.”

Nevertheless, this second murder had unnerved their parents who began to think about where the kids might be safer. They were two years in and all making the dean’s list every semester so John and Melora, Remington, Errol and Olivia, Shep and Madeleine and Glenn hated to interrupt the process. Yet something had to be done after two mysterious deaths in the dorm. They had to know their children were safe.

Next update: Sim State U Ch. 3 Two Years at Pinenut

To follow Lori Lassiter and Melanie's move go HERE

To follow Harvey, Gareth and Colby to Horrible House go HERE 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sim State U Ch 2 Two Years at Landgraab Pt 1

It was the first day and the first class for the five freshmen. Excited and a little nervous, they wondered how things were going for their other friends at Pinenut Plaza. This day Gareth, Harvey, Melanie, Colby and Lori all had the same class because they hadn’t chosen their majors yet.

In honor of this new start, and because she was sick of getting headaches from having her hair in a chignon, Melanie cut it all off in a short choppy do. It gave her a sophisticated yet gamin look, totally different from her previous appearance. Ever the modernist and always supportive, Gareth applauded her and said she looked way too cool. Lori had trimmed off a couple inches of her hair, as well, making Harvey secretly anxious that she would get carried away and cut it really short. He much preferred long hair on her, but he would never have told her what to do because it would be a waste of his time.

“She’s a snotty little brat,” Harvey thought with a smile, “But she’s just so yummy.” He accepted Lori the way she was for the most part. That was his gift to her and she didn’t fully understand it yet.

They had all changed some since they began college; the girls were a little taller and had definitely filled out. The guys were taller, too, and they had begun to look like men instead of boys.

The very first thing, Harvey and Lori snagged two rooms that were just across a narrow hall from each other. They never knew that they had chosen the exact two rooms that had once belonged to Mike Lomax and Lucy Burb. By that time Mike and Lucy were rooming together in a house across campus.

Gareth’s room was right next to Lori’s, but opened on the first lounge instead of the small hall. Colby’s was two rooms up from Harvey toward the front entry and Melanie’s was two rooms from Gareth’s but at the other end. None of them were used to such tiny rooms or beds, although Gareth's room at home was not much bigger and he had a single bed there, too.

Harvey's room was green, like most of the other rooms. He had lots of sci-fi and monster movie stuff up, plus here and there a poster of a beautiful singer or actress.

Lori put a touch of yellow in hers and some school pennants even though she wasn't much on sports.

Gareth surrounded himself with sci-fi, too as well as heavy metal rock posters. He was really into fitness but there weren't many posters that he could find of people in the gym.

Melanie had music and art, her two favorite things.

Colby loved surfing and tennis and longed for the day he would get to California and hang out at the beaches or become a a tennis pro. Whenever that was since his dad, Remington, had said, "Fuggedaboudit, you're going into the family business."

The first day after their class everyone ate in the dining hall. The requisite mac and cheese was being served. Amazingly, Joe Wade still had not graduated and still didn’t bathe.  The fact that the weather was quite warm yet he was wearing a long sleeved shirt and sweater didn’t help. Especially when one considered the fact that he’d been wearing that sweater for five or six years now.
An all too common occurrence was food being offered too many hours after it was cooked. The cook removed it from the counter when it turned rancid and green and the flies came, but sometimes it was already on the table being consumed when it suddenly turned. He also served burnt chili from time to time, at least the problem was recognizable since the chili was black thus it was easily avoided.

After the first few days the kids made themselves ramen noodles, protein drink, cereal or a microwaveable dinner; a wise and safety-conscious move.

Harvey the Pinball Wizard had to immediately check out the two pinball machines in the dorm.

They’d all been so busy with class assignments, learning where everything was and the routine and choosing their majors that they were really exhausted by the end of the day. But at least everyone now had the majors they wanted; Harvey's was Mathematics, Lori's was Drama, Gareth's was History, Melanie's was Economics and Colby chose Drama. So Harvey and Lori hardly saw each other all that first day after their class. He caught up with her right by his own door.

“I didn’t get to say goodnight, Brat.”

He hugged her and soon they were kissing with enthusiasm when they heard Gareth speak. He was at the exercise machine down the hall.

“Man, do I have to see this?” he complained.

“No,” Harvey stopped for a moment, “You could close your eyes.”  

He resumed kissing Lori and heard Gareth reply,

“Yeah but dude, I get motion sickness when I ride this thing with my eyes closed.”
Harvey didn’t let go of Lori, but said over his shoulder,

“Hate it for ya, Caswell.”

Once his time on the machine was done and thinking Harvey had a pretty good idea, Gareth showered and found Melanie in her room.

“Didn’t want you to forget to dream about me, tonight,” he winked.

“Like I could do that, Handsome."

Adventures in Dining.
In spite of the risky food, the dining room at Landgraab House was busy, being the place where most of the kids did their assignments, and where they drank coffee, espresso and nectar. Sometimes they chanced it and ate what the cook put out, they were especially willing to do this when there were pancakes or omelets. Two lounges were available to them, and in fact they did uses them a lot, but still, people spent time every day in the dining hall. Often they would be there several times throughout the same day, tempting their fate and greeting friends…

Unhappily one of the last days of the first semester, Lori found a cell phone picture of herself walking in front of the dorm in one of her favorite outfits, the one Harvey called "Carmen"  It had been tacked up on the dining room bulletin board with the note, “Drama Much?”.  She was furious.

“Did you see what someone put up there?” she asked Harvey, throwing the crumpled up photo down on the table. Harvey opened it back up and looked at it, then shrugged.

“I didn’t do it,” he replied, calmly sipping his coffee.

“I know that, Harvey! I just wish I knew who did do it! What are they trying to say—that I dress outrageously or that I’m a drama queen?...or both?” she sat down at the table. She sputtered and complained for a few minutes, getting more and more upset. 

Finally Harvey reached over and took her hand,

“Honey, what do you care? You know you like to dress outrageously. That’s fine, but if people comment you have to just suck it up and say “so what?’ And if they think you are a drama queen that’s only their opinion. It’s probably more of a comment on drama majors in general than you in particular.” He paused then teased,

“And, anyway, we know how you dress really has nothing to do with being a drama major, you’ve dressed that way for years.”

Lori deflated, calmed down with Harvey’s words. She smiled at him,

“What would I do without you?”

“Go careening out of control into the universe,” he reached for his coffee with the other hand. Lori was still holding on to him. Continuing to look at him, she opened her mouth as if to say something, but then she stopped.

She held his hand against her cheek for a moment; then gave it back to him.

“I’ve got class, I’ve got to go,” she stood up and came over to his side of the table, put her hands on his shoulders and kissed the top of his head.

“You’re my best and dearest friend, Harvey. Truly you are.”

He smiled as he wondered about her unspoken words of a moment ago,

“You bet your life, Brat.”

The first day after their class everyone ate in the dining hall. The requisite mac and cheese was being served. Amazingly, Joe Wade still had not graduated and still didn’t bathe.  The fact that the weather was quite warm yet he was wearing a long sleeved shirt and sweater didn’t help. Especially when one considered the fact that he’d been wearing that sweater for five or six years now.

There was plenty cuddling and kissing during the first semester by the two couples.

Real drama did come to the dorm after a couple months. It was a frightening event, the death of Joe Wade. No one knew what happened. He just crumpled up, waved goodbye sadly and expired. Of course, his dorm room had to be fumigated before anyone could move into it. 

Breanna seemed especially upset, although one couldn’t be sure because she did have a habit of weeping frequently, anyway. She often liked to stand for hours in front of a blank TV screen and Joe was the only one who had seemed to understand. Gareth couldn’t get past her to go to his room and became irate for at first he didn’t really see what had happened. Then he saw Joe on the floor. Another student with a punk hairdo decided that this was an excellent time to discuss his vacation plans at length with Melanie. Harvey and Lori just stood there for a moment in shock; then gazed across the room at each other. They wanted to be together as usual, but Breanna and Gareth were in the way in one direction and they were unwilling to go around the Grim Reaper and step over Joe. It seemed callous under the circumstances.

Afterward Harvey stretched out on Gareth’s bed and they talked about how weird the whole thing had been.

“Like, man, he hadn’t been sick, you know. I mean physically anyway,” Gareth pointed out. This whole thing had freaked him out.

“True; and I don’t think body odor is terminal,” Harvey observed.

“It’s not funny, man,” Gareth frowned,

“I’m sorry. You’re right, I know you’re right,” Harvey apologized. Gareth knew that was merely Harvey being Harvey. He had a dry sense of humor and he just thought that way. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about people, he did; no one was a better friend to Gareth than Harvey. But he tended to be sarcastic.

As for Joe and how he died, they would wonder about it for months, but there were no answers forthcoming.

Students were always looking for ways to have fun when they weren’t in class or studying, and games were an important part of their life at college. All kind of games from RPS to chess to electronic games and even the piano and synthesizer were useful amusements.

Lori kept trying to learn the art of winning at pinball; Harvey usually gave her hints and tricks, but there was no way she could equal him. He’d spent hours and hours as a kid on a huge elaborate pinball machine in his backyard. He was good at any game, but he excelled at pinball. Watching him one evening, Lori thought it might be his ability to concentrate, tuning everything out, living totally in the moment. When he was finished he would just walk away, he didn’t even blink. It was like he could switch gears that fast and that easily. Lori admired him more and more each day and in every way. They’d only been back together a couple months but already they were as close as they had ever been, in fact, closer. 

Of course Harvey still loved to tease her whenever he could; pricking holes in her pretensions. Like that day she had worn a new outfit that she thought looked really exotic and sensuous. She couldn’t wait to show him. She had always tended to like colorful, bohemian clothing. This was a violently red skirt that sat very low on her hips. Lower, in fact, than anything she’d ever worn. And she’d paired it with a black ruffled top that stopped above her waist. She hoped it looked enticing to Harvey; sometimes she liked to torture him a little. When she’d twirled around for his benefit, he took a moment to regard her and then asked,

“Well, it looks to me like you’re losing your skirt, Brat; how do you keep that thing from falling right off when you walk?”

“Oh, I guess it must be because I have a REALLY BIG BUTT!” she snapped and sashayed off swinging her hips.

She could hear the grin in his voice as he called after her, “I gotta admit you are looking so hot in it.”

That was the remark she’d wanted in the first place but typically Harvey had to give her a hard time before he said it.

In the early morning hours one day Llama Aaron invaded Gareth Caswell’s shower.  Afterward, Gareth told Melanie about the incident. They had all become used to other people being with them in the showers at the same time, Melanie thought, but one of the cows or llamas arriving to watch would certainly have made her take pause. Not Gareth.

His reaction had been to finish his shower and dress, cock both his index fingers like guns the way he always did and say jovially, “What it is, my man?” as he walked out.

Melanie repeated this to Lori, snickering.

“My gosh, Melanie, that’s so Gareth, you know. Always upbeat!” Lori pointed out laughing.

“What do you think Harvey would have done?” Melanie asked her.

“Oh, Harvey would have spread his arms and shook what he had, showing off. Then he would have said something cutting on the way out like, ‘Hope you got a good look, Loser’,”
Lori elbowed the giggling Melanie and added, “And Colby would have blushed and told Aaron, “Oh, wow, man, I’m so sorry; I’ll get out of your way. Please pardon me for living. Oh, and have a nice day!” 
At that the girls laughed so hard it made Lori snort which caused them to break into even more laughter.

Harvey, over at the pinball machine, thought it sounded like they were being tickled with a feather.  He looked at Gareth, raising his slanted eyebrows in mystification. Gareth was standing right next to him, observing Harvey’s game and he shook his head, 
“Who knows, man? Women are beautiful but incomprehensible beings.” 

Harvey grinned, “You’re right, Caswell; enticing, yet deadly. Think of those beautiful sirens in the Odyssey, using their songs to make men mad, or the once beautiful Medusa the Gorgon with Perseus. Of course, don’t forget Samson and Delilah.

Gareth was always amazing, “In Judges 16:15, it tells what a witch Delilah was,” and he quoted from memory, “‘Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it,” he laughed, “Sick to death of it, man, that part always cracked me up!”

Harvey had to agree. “I used to wonder about that. I mean three times? Even if she was beautiful, I used to wonder how she wore him down.”

“Yeah, nagging,” Gareth laughed. Then he grew a little more serious. He always liked to offer educational facts to the conversation whenever he could,

“There was a famous siren named Lorelei in Germany, you know. Actually she was kind of a mermaid, luring sailors with her beautiful singing. They would crash on the rocks in the riverbed.”

Gareth was silent for a moment as Harvey looked at him.

”It’s a famous legend; you can Google it. Seriously, man.”

Harvey’s gaze turned rather unfriendly and Gareth pointed out,

“It’s kind of a coincidence.”

When Harvey still glared at him, Gareth added,

“I’m just saying.”

Finally Harvey spoke in his quiet way,

“Lori’s real name is Melora, not Lorelei.”

“Yep, I know. Lori’s a great girl. I’ve known her since we were babies,” Gareth paused a moment, “When we were about four years old we were coloring at her house and she kept leaning over and smacking me on the side of the head. I found out later it was just that she liked to see my curly hair bounce.  She tried to cut my hair once too, but I yelled really loud and my Mom came.” There was no animosity in Gareth’s voice or face.

Harvey’s answer was to start playing again, trying not to laugh.

“She did it to Trey, too, although not very often. When she was about seven she wanted to stage a play outdoors and said he would have to play one of the parts and me, too. I said, okay. But she wanted Trey to play a super hero and have this bath towel pinned around his neck for a cape.  He wasn’t having any of that so he waited until she went in the house for a minute and cut up the towel using his dad’s garden clippers. When she saw what he’d done she pitched a fit crying. Then she bit him and dug her nails into his arm, squealing the whole time. Melora had to come out and pull her off him like she was a burr,” Gareth reported this with an amiable smile on his face, “You know who got in the most trouble? Trey did; for getting into his dad’s clippers. They said he could have hurt himself or us. Here he was with bite marks and bleeding claw scratches on his arms and shoulders. Course, Lori got in trouble for biting him, but they didn’t do that much to her. Well, her mom swatted her on the butt once or twice as she carried her into the house. Oh, she was grounded from watching the TV for a week. Big deal, she’d rather read anyway.”

Finally Harvey was mesmerized, “So, what did they do to Trey? Put him on the rack?”

Gareth laughed,

“Oh, no. He couldn’t go outside for a week—and you know Trey; all he lives for is basketball, soccer and fishing—he had to replace the towel out of his allowance, and  he had to write a paper on why he should never play with scissors or clippers. His dad said if he would have just come and told them he didn’t want to wear the towel, none of it would have happened.”

Harvey shrugged, and Gareth went on like he couldn’t stop himself.

“She poured applesauce on their couch when she was three and she was smoothing it in with a spoon when Melora--”

“WHY are you telling me all of this?” Harvey finally turned from the game and crossed his arms, looking at Gareth.

Gareth looked down a minute and then back at Harvey,

“I wasn’t kidding, Harvey, I love Lori like a sister. But it looks to me like you are getting super serious about her nowadays; like you might be really falling in love with her.”


“So I just thought you should know she is sometimes sort of, well, a handful. I just don’t want you to, like, get married to her and wake up one morning with a towel pinned around your neck, applesauce on your chest, all your hair cut off and getting scratched, bitten and smacked in the head when you protest.”

Harvey started to laugh and soon he was laughing so hard he nearly fell down and Gareth helped steady him. For a minute he couldn’t even speak. Lori and Melanie turned around to look at them, but stayed seated. When they turned back Harvey said, wiping his eyes.

“Gareth, I thank you sincerely for this warning, and I will, in fact, keep it in mind.”

“Then why are you laughing?” Gareth said suspiciously.

“Well, first, the mental picture of Brat as a tiny little girl terrorizing every kid in the neighborhood is just too funny. I mean I knew her when she was five, too, but I guess I never saw this aggressive side. Second, the image of me lying in bed while Lori covers me with apple sauce could possibly become one of my favorite fantasies.”

“But all of it’s true!” Gareth was loudly indignant and then lowered his voice to almost a whisper, “I’m not making it up, man.”

“I’m sure you’re not, good buddy, but I’ll tell you; I think I can handle it. My eyes are pretty much open when it comes to Lori. Saying she’s a handful doesn’t even cover it.”

“You just don’t know, Harvey! If you knew--” Gareth insisted and then caught himself and backed off, “Well, it’s true that I’ve never seen anyone get her to calm down as quickly as you do.  It’s kind of amazing, in fact. I mean, don’t get me wrong; she can be real soft and sweet, but when she gets upset—Jeez Louise! She’s mean as a snake and twice as dangerous!”

“So I’m curious though…what other things did she do?” Harvey grinned. He stepped aside and let Gareth play while he watched.

“Well, let me think. Oh, yeah, our first day of kindergarten she chased this little boy around one of the round tables trying to kiss him. It was Evan Ross, remember him? Anyway, he kept giggling but his eyes were rolling back in his head he was so scared. Then there was the time she was on the bus, I guess it was about second grade, and Toby Gray was picking on a little kindergartner and she hit Toby smack on his head with her lunchbox. I think my mom said Melora got a call from the school for that one.   

Actually, Mom thought it was funny, but Melora didn’t. Come to think of it; my mom always had a weakness for Lori, too. You aren’t the only one fooled. All the other neighbors thought Lori was the sweetest little thing they ever met. 'Look at that little face; isn’t she precious?' Gareth said the last remark in a falsetto singsong, then went on,

“Two sides to her, I guess, like a split personality. I’ll never forget when I was over there one time and she wanted to make us boys up like clowns so we could play circus. She loved fooling with makeup and pretending. Trey thought “Hey, the circus, oh, cool” and said okay and she had these big red lipstick circles on his cheeks and nose. When she decided that the lipstick didn’t make the clown circles red enough, she got her mom’s red nail polish out and... “

Meanwhile at the other end of the room, Melanie commented, “Yeah, Colby is a sweetie. We just have to find a girl for him somehow,”

“But not one who will stomp his heart,” Lori added, “Seems like the nicer the guy, the worse he gets treated.”

Vamsi walked past the doorway to the first lounge, evidently on her way from the cafeteria. What a miracle she was even out; she usually stayed in her room all the time until late at night. Lori guessed she was terminally shy. She looked at Melanie who shook her head slightly. When Vamsi closed her door Melanie whispered,

“No, Colby is too quiet to go with a shy girl. They’d never even get to the hand-holding stage. Besides, what if she’s not really shy, just stuck up?”

Down at the other end of the room Breanna was at her usual place in front of the blank television. There were two lounges and two TV’s and sometimes she left one and went to the other. They had always wondered if it was some kind of meditation for her. When she did come out of her trance, she often cried uncontrollably, or talked nonstop to anyone who would listen, especially now that Joe was gone.

“Talk about strange. She needs to get back on her meds,” Melanie murmured.

“I feel sorry for her when she’s crying, though,” Lori whispered back, “It sounds so pitiful. Once I asked her if I could help and she just looked at me like she didn’t know who I was and ran to her room.”

“That just illustrates my point. She probably did NOT know who you were.”

They heard the guys snickering over by the pinball machines again.

“What is their problem?” Melanie asked.

“I don’t know. Men! 'Can’t live with them; can’t procreate without ‘em!' I actually got that from an article online, Lori admitted.

Melanie laughed, then said,

“They’re probably telling disgustingly nasty jokes.”

“Yeah, when I lived at home Trey had Gareth over one time and I heard them…”