May 18, 2013 | 01:45 PM (BD Time)
18 May, 2013 Saturday
This slight story has an emotional impact that will give you a warm feeling toward Jerry, who is playing a much harder role than the one he reports to his mother. Notice how the author's telling of the story directs a sympathetic spotlight on his main character.
"Hello. That you, Mom? .. Oh, I'm sorry, operator, I thought I was connected with . . . No, I'm trying to get long-distance ... What? Centerville, Ohio, twelve ring five, I told that other operator ... What? . .. I am holding it."
He fished nervously in his pocket for a pack of cigarettes, pulled one cigarette out of the pack with his thumb and forefinger, and stuck it swiftly between his lips. He glanced at his watch and scowled. The game had been over for a half hour. The snake dance would be coming down the street this way any minute now. With his free hand he tore a match from the paper safe, and propped the telephone receiver for a moment between shoulder and ear while he struck the match on the Hap. As he put the match to the tip of the cigarette, a thin voice rasped vaguely inside the receiver, and he whipped out the match.
"Hello. Mom?.. Oh, I'm sorry," he mumbled. "How much?" He took a handful of silver from his pocket and began to drop the coins into the slot of the pay telephone. He could hear someone speaking above the echoing reverberations inside the phone.
"What? Oh, Mom? Hello, Mom.
This is Jerry. I say, this is-Can you hear me now? . .. Sure, I can hear you fine . . . Sure, I'm all right. I'm fine. And you? . .. That's fine.
"Mom" -and his voice seemed to falter for a fraction of a second. Then:
"How is he? Is there any change?"
There was a tiny silence.
"Oh." His voice was a little duller when he spoke again. "I see. Yeh. This afternoon, eh? And that other specialist, he said the same thing? Umhmm ... Oh, sure, sure. No, of course, Mom, there's nothing to worry about. No, I'm not worried; I only just called to find out if there was any change, that was all. . . . Did they say if he could ever-I mean, can he move his arms any yet?" He gulped. "Well, that doesn't mean anything, really . . . No, of course, all those things take time. Sure, a year, or maybe even less ... What?"
He took a second cigarette out of his pocket and thrust it between his lips nervously. He lit it from the stub of the first one and ground out the stub beneath his heel.
'What money? Oh, you mean I sent you last week? Now, Mom," impatiently, "I told you all about that already in the letter, didn't I? . .. Sure it's a scholarship. I got it for playing football. And so naturally I didn't need all that money you and Pop had been saving up for me to go to college, and so I just thought maybe, with Pop being laid up now for a while and all ...
"Where? Why, right here." He frowned. "No, this isn't exactly a dormitory; it's-I live here in the fraternity house, you see. Sure I'm in a fraternity. It's the one Pop wanted me to join, too, tell him . . . No, honest, Mom, it doesn't cost me a cent for my room. It's on account of my football."
He opened the folding door a little.
He thought he could hear the band in the distance.
"Who, me? Homesick? Not so you'd notice it." He laughed. ''I'm having the time of my life here. Everybody's so swell. I know practically everybody here at Dover already. They even all call me by my first name. Say, if you don't think I'm sitting pretty, you ought to see my fraternity house here." He gazed out through the glass door of the phone booth.
"Every night the fellows sit around and we drink beer and chew the fat till ... Oh, no. No, Mom. Just beer. Or usually we just go down to Semple's for a milk shake ... No, that's only the drugstore. . . No." He smiled slowly. "I promised you I wouldn't drink, Mom."
In the distance now he could hear the sound of the band approaching.
"Well, Mom, I gotta hang up now.
The gang'll be here in a minute. We're having a celebration after the game today. We played Alvord-took 'em sixteen to nothing. . .. Sure I did, the whole game; you oughta seen me in there. I made two touchdowns. Everybody's going down to Semple's after the game, and I gotta be ready, because of course they'll all want me to be there too. Can you hear the band now?"
It was growing louder, and the eager voices in the snake dance could be heard above the brasses, chanting the score of the game in time with the band...
"Now, listen, Mom. One other little thing before they get here. Mom, see, I'm going to be sending you about ten or twelve dollars or so each week from now on until Pop is better. . .. No, Mom. Heck, I got plenty. Sure, they always fix you up with a soft job if you're a good enough player. The alumni do it. . .. Here they are now. Hear them?"
The band had halted outside. Someone led a cheer.
"That's for me, Mom. . .. Sure.
Didn't I practically win the game for them today? Hear that?" He kicked open the door of the phone booth.
He held the receiver toward the open door of the phone booth. They were calling, "Jerry!" "Hey, Jerry, hang up on that babe!"
"Hear that, Mom? Now good-by.
And look, by the way, if you should ever happen to see Helen," he added carelessly, "tell her I'm sorry I couldn't ask her up to the freshman dance like I'd planned, but with the football season and my scholarship and all-Tell her, Mom. She-she didn't answer my last letter. O.K., Mom. Tell Pop everything's O.K., see? Now don't worry . . . 'By."
He replaced the receiver slowly on the hook and stared at the mouthpiece a moment. As he opened the door and stepped out of the booth, he could see his reflection for a moment in the tall mirror behind the soda fountain-the familiar white cap, the white jacket with "Semple's" stitched in red letters on the pocket. The crowd was lined along the soda fountain, shouting, "Jerry!" "Milk shake, Jerry!"
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