Toby Williams: Chapter Seven

by admin on March 30, 2011

Toby Williams

Chapter Seven

Find the nerve, find the nerve, find the nerve… kept echoing in his head over and over again. By this time, Toby was too far gone with Jill to not do otherwise. It was going on week three of the mental and physical torture that love had introduced into his life, with a new development, stress positions. He found himself many times throughout the day sitting on his hands, trying not to fidget as he was thinking about her. This was sometimes embarrassing as people would look at him like he was mentally challenged, especially at school, and when he took time to think about it, he did.

When he would sleep (if you want to call waking up every hour on the hour sleep), it would be in the fetal position; something he never remembered doing in his teenage years. He prepared to lie flat in his back utilizing as much as the bed’s area as he could. He would wake up with Charlie horses and with his arms tingling and numb from the lack of proper blood circulation. He would roll over and off of the bed and stretch the pained leg, trying to exorcise the pain out of it. Next would be his arms and hands. He would bring these back to life by vigorously opening and closing both hands while pumping both arms up and down, like he was weightlifting back in Marshall’s gymnasium. Eventually, feeling would return to his limbs and the pain would go away, leaving him winded from the mini workout he endured to regain usage of his limbs.

But the true stress position, the one he had no control over was at school, his peers. Todd, Steven, Cliff and of course Melissa took notice of his physical appearance right away. He hated being in the uncomfortable position of having to explain anything to anybody, and the four of them could be ruthless when it came to them extracting information from people. He has seen them at work; he was part of them, and he had gone to work on people with them enjoying their ‘victims’ meltdown from the barrage of questions and snide remarks directed toward him or her. Only this time it would be him in the receiving end; as stressful a position he could think of at the time, sitting in the food court where this had all began three weeks ago. Had it only been three weeks? It seemed like months ago. Such was the workings of Love’s torture.

And so the game begins. It doesn’t help that Jill is right behind them again, working at the cashier station again. A wave of déjà vu washes over Toby when Melissa starts in on him first. Special torture.

Melissa: “Has anyone seen Toby? And who invited this pale looking raccoon to our table,” referring to the lovely bags under his eyes. “Can’t you guys read the sign over there? ‘Please don’t feed the animals?’ And you call yourselves writers! You can’t even read!”

Todd: “Sorry, Mel. Unfortunately our fearless leader has taken a hiatus from this world. Should be back by the holidays.”

Cliff: “We can only hope.”

Todd: “We can only pray”

Steven: “What if he died or something? How would we know? His phone doesn’t seem to work anymore.”

Melissa: “I know. I’ve left messages,” This came out jokingly, but Toby could feel the disappointment behind her words. “We knew him well.”

Steven: “He will be missed. Shall we pray?”

Cliff: “Excellent idea, oh Dark One. Shall we join hands?” And thy do, leaving Toby out of the circle they had formed. All he can do is sit back and take it. It actually relaxes him, their kidding around.

Steven: “Dear patron lord of writers, please take care of our lost brother Toby, for he know not what he do. Please never let his pen run dry, “This brings out a snicker or two of laughter, then Steven goes on. “Please let him not be without paper. Show him the error of his ways. Like the taking of animal flesh into his digestive system –”

Melissa: (interrupting) “Wrap it up, brother of ours”

Steven: “And let his current troubles not keep him from those who love and miss him. Amen”

Cliff: “Amen.”

Todd: “Amen.”

Melissa: “Hallelujah!”

More laughs ensue, then the four release hands looking at Toby for a response.

“Are you guys done yet? Are you through,” he says, trying to hold back a smile. He knows what is coming next.

“Not even close!” they all say at once, having done this before with others once that question was asked. This time, it was even more enjoyable because it was one of their own. Even Toby had to giggle at this. He thought carefully about his next few words, and then he spoke, shocking them all, finding the nerve.

“I am not going to be dishonest, my friends. I am crushing on the Sbarro cashier, something you may or may not be aware of,” A chorus of ‘get out of here!’ and ‘say it isn’t so!’ come from the listeners causing Toby to regroup his thoughts before proceeding. “I haven’t been… on my game, if you will as of late, and I want, no, I do apologize for my fledging camaraderie among you, my intellectual equals.”

Melissa is the first to retort. “Apology accepted. You may rejoin the sacred circle.” She is sitting across from him when she stands up and extends her arm out to him, leaving her hand out for him to shake. He takes her hand and their eyes lock, once more making Toby feel strange inside. During all these last couple of weeks, that talk he was meaning to have with her never took place. He’ll have to follow up with that; find some nerve.

He is standing as he takes his hand back, then suddenly without any advance warning, he is gone from the table, feeling the eyes of the four on him as he takes a much needed deep breath and heads towards Sbarro’s checkout line. His legs are rubbery, his breathing becomes rapid and he can feel the start of perspiration on his brow; all of this before reaching the halfway point. Not a good sign of things to come is his last thought before he is in the short two person line, grabbing a kiwi-strawberry bottle of Ocean Spray as a makeshift purchase.

The line moves quicker than he anticipated, with him standing before her in all of two minutes. Pushing the Ocean Spray in front of him, he makes the mistake of looking directly into her brown eyes, and he is at a lost for words. Again.

“Looks like you needed something to drink after all,” Jill says. “Are you sure you don’t want two? You look like you could use two.”

He wipes his brow before answering. “No. One is fine,” and then finding the nerve, “I lied, Jill. I don’t even want this one. What I really would like, without any clouded judgment or regret, is to ask you out. Only I can’t seem to find the appropriate words. Maybe I should have a do-over. Let’s just chalk this up to mindless babbling. I’m sorry-“

Toby doesn’t get a chance to finish his last sentence because an angel’s finger is pushed up against his lips, silencing any word or sound that would have been created. In that one brief moment of contact, with that one touch, she had him, and when she speaks he hangs on to her every word, savoring the sound of her voice.

“All you have to do is ask,” She is blushing as she says this.” What took you so long? You   know, it’s not polite to keep a lady waiting.” She removes her finger from his lips, smiling that smile of hers, the one he saw a few weeks ago. His hearing is gone, that has to be it. There is no way Jill Harbour has been waiting  for him too ask her out, yet there he is, doing that exact thing, blowing his mind in the process.

“Please excuse my hesitation. I’m fairly new to this,” And he starts to feel more confident with his wording and thoughts. This shows as he straightens himself up, standing upright and brushing back his hair with a swipe of his hand. “Would you care to escort me to the movies this coming weekend? It can be a film of your liking, of course.”

Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes, silly. Take my number and don’t cherish it; use it.” She writes her number down on the back of a Sbarro napkin, writing the letters J-I-L-L with a huge exclamation mark behind the last L.

The deal has been sealed, Romeo. Let’s keep it moving. I’m starving here.” This comes from an elderly man behind Toby who has a tray of baked ziti and garlic bread topped off with the ever popular kiwi-strawberry Ocean Spray fruit drink to help wash it down.

“Sorry about that, sir,” Julie says apologetically. “Step right this way.” Her fake customer smile is in full bloom as she ushers away Toby with one hand, waving on the man with the other. He walks back towards his peers who at this point are all staring at him with looks of ‘what happened?’ on their faces (all of them but Melissa; hers is along the line of ‘how can you do this to me?’). He sits down and continues eating his now room temperature cheese pizza, not looking up, not wanting to answer the inevitable questions that he is sure are on the tips of all their tongues. This silence only last thirty seconds or so before they start up again.

Melissa: “Well? When are you going out?”

Toby: “Saturday.”

Todd: “Movies?”

Toby: “Yes, the movies.”

Cliff: “Don’t forget the popcorn. Goobers are the deal sealer.”

They share a brief snicker in unison, then resume.

Steven: “Does she go to church?”

Cliff: “Does she eat all her green vegetables?”

Todd: “Does she clean behind her ears?”

Cliff: “Does she floss?”

This goes on, with each question becoming more absurd than the last one. Melissa puts a stop to it though.

“I think he’s had enough. Let’s just hope our long lost friend remembers who his friends are as he treads precariously down this path he has foolishly chosen.” She shoots him a look he interprets as ‘we need to talk’, and they do. This he knows.

“Why thank you for the kind and caring words, Melissa my mistress. Let’s finish our greasy fare. What say you, oh forgiving posse?”

They all agree to. After they are through eating, the books, paper, and pens come out signifying think tank time, essay and topic time. Still applying stress on Toby, the group votes unanimously for him to chose the topic of the day. He decides to have them write about the value of friendship and the definition of a friend should be. He knows this will give them plenty to work on; he knows how all of their minds work individually, and them being busy trying to outdo one another will keep their minds off of him, if at least temporarily. About halfway through his own work, he takes the time to look back over at the eatery where Jill worked, catching her in the middle of a cash transaction with a young twenty-something couple. How a polyester shirt and a dorky matching hat can make someone so attractive, he wonders. Surely on anyone else, it would be without a question unflattering. He is still admiring her when she unexpectedly looks up and notices him staring at her. Too late to turn around, he mouths ‘hi’ to which she responds with a pinky and thumb to her mouth and ear ‘call me.’ He nods his head and is about to mouth something else when a tapping of a pen brings his attention back to the table.

The mysterious drummer was Melissa. She pierces him with eyes that speak volumes of betrayal, and then uses her pen to point to her paper then to his. He gets the message; he doesn’t need to be told twice. Putting pen to paper, the topic comes back to him, friendship. For the last six years, he had fought off getting close to people at school, yet here he is, surrounded by people who know him better than anyone on this planet, maybe even his parents. People who look out for what they believe are his best interests. People who take the time to listen to him and he in return listen to them. Most importantly, people who don’t judge him harshly for any decisions he makes, and forgive him for any problems those decisions may have caused. He continues writing the work he previously started, thinking of the members at the table, his friends. Building on that, the rest of the work comes easily.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Pixie 09.24.11 at 10:28 am

love Toby’s story, Greggy,it is time for Chapter 8….waiting;)

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