Current Occupation: Retired
Former Occupation: Technical Writer and Teacher
Contact Information: I am the Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books, in Baltimore and a compulsive writer, which falls more in the category of stuff-I-do than stuff-I-get-paid-for. Recent books include MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY, and AMERICAN ZEITGEIST, both as published by Apprentice House (Loyola University), and a chapbook, JACK TAR’S LADY PARTS published by Main Street Rag. Forthcoming from FutureCycle Press in 2018 is another chapbook, ME AND SAL PARADISE.
The Same River Twice
“…people as confident as Roxanne often seemed to get the better of me, even if it was only by not listening.” – “Some Women” by Alice Munro
I thought Jackie was dumb as rocks, if you want to know the truth, but the teachers all liked her because she volunteered to decorate the gym for high school dances, and they gave her B’s that probably should have been C’s or D’s, but that never stopped her from talking down to me, as if I didn’t understand. Mainly it was her looks that gave her the confidence, and being an extrovert on the cheerleading squad. She was a wiry little blond girl, not ugly but not a knock-out either, but she thought of herself as good-looking, a catch. Her long hair spread down to her shoulders like a cowl and was always neatly combed, if dry as the straw in an Easter egg basket.
So anyway, all these years later I ran into Jackie at my 50th high school reunion. Hadn’t really thought of her in years, though there was a brief time at the beginning of the century when e-mail groups flourished, and there was a Potawatomi Rapids Class of 1967 group that I joined from the same sense of curiosity everybody else did, only to realize there was a reason we hadn’t stayed in touch – just no chemistry. The email group petered out within a year.
Speaking of Chemistry, that’s what I do; it’s my field. I teach at Algonkian College in Virginia. In fact, I’ve met Eric Betzig as a colleague. He was at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn at the time, may still be. He won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with two other scientists, for their work in single-molecule microscopy. I even attended a lecture by Bill Moerner, from Stanford, one of the other two co-winners.
I’m not a name-dropper, but I thought it was pretty cool and I mentioned it to Billy Shuster, another of my classmates, now a retired pharmacist. I saw Jackie out of the corner of my eye making sarcastic little baby movements with her mouth to Sherry Morris – nyaa-nyaa-nyaa – and rolling her eyes at me as if I were some sort of snob. What had I done to offend her? Did she think I was boasting? Or was it Billy Shuster she was mocking?
“Jackie!” I sang out. “Jackie McNulty!” I used her maiden name.
She turned to me then as if only noticing me for the first time, and she blushed at Sherry, and I knew it was me she’d been scorning. If she had a job, this was its description, “mean girl.”
“Justin! So good to see you back home!” Jackie hadn’t left Potawatomi Rapids. Her husband, Blake Rodgers, had died fifteen years before. Blake had taken over his father’s plumbing business and now their son Randy ran it.
“I’d ask you to dance,” Jackie smiled, “but I remember you never did go out on the floor with the rest of us.”
And just like that she put me in my place.