CHAPTER Two: I DON’T DRINK

      Greg supposed he had to consider himself awake. The sun was shining full into his room, and his eyes were trying to both open (to greet the day) and close (to outwit the sun). His mouth felt awful. He sat up, after some effort, and looked around him.

   He was still in the clothes he wore at dinner last night, and they didn’t smell good. A glance around the room (a glance  he was immediately sorry he’d made) let him know that most of his dinner, and probably all of the wine he had consumed, was on him, on the bed, or on the floor. It and he were kind of messes.

   Making his way tentatively across the room, he opened the front door, to be greeted by the full brightness of the sun. “Oh, god!” he groaned.

   “Does that mean that God is a woman?”

   “What?” he said, not seeing anything clearly, but feeling the brightness almost like a pain  in his temple.

   “You addressed me as God. I am a woman. Ergo… “

   Greg shielded his eyes with his arm, trying to see who was talking. “Okay, not God.  A girl…”
   “Young woman!”

   “Conceded; young woman. Older of Anderson’s daughters…”

   “Not that old!”

   “Stop that! Young woman’s name… Victoria?”

   “You remembered! Victoria is okay. I prefer Vic. Not Vicky, under any circumstances.”

   “Victoria! Vic. Can you work with me here? I’m having a little trouble focusing this morning.”

   “Because you’re drunk!”

   “I don’t drink.”

    “You did, and you are – or more accurately, probably, you were.”

    Greg sat down on the porch steps. “Why do you say that?”

   She moved a little out of the direct sunlight, so he could see her better. “Have you looked at yourself? I think you are still in last night’s clothes – which are dirty, by the way –you haven’t combed your hair, and you are looking very disheveled for 8 o’clock in the morning. Besides which, the aroma of grapes coming from your direction is almost knocking me over!”

   He tried – not too successfully – to smile at that. “Okay, I did have some wine with the guys last night…”

    “Do you have any coffee?” she interrupted him.

    “Coffee? No, that’s one of the things I forgot yesterday. Why?”

    “Because you need a cup – or a gallon. Go inside and clean yourself up a little bit, while I go over to the house and get some. I’ll bring it over.”

     He started to protest, but she was already halfway to her house before he got any words out.

 

   Vic’s mom came into the kitchen as the coffee was brewing. “You were out early, dear. And what’s with the coffee? You don’t usually drink it.”

    “Oh, it’s not for me. While I was out walking, I met our new employee. He forgot coffee in town yesterday, so I said I’d bring him a cup.”

   “That’s a nice gesture. Don’t make a pest of yourself, though.”

    “Oh, I’m sure he was glad to see me, and I know he’ll be even gladder to get this coffee.” She filled a thermos, blew her mother a kiss, and was out the door. Greg came out his door just as she was approaching.

   “Service with a smile,” she said, pouring some of the hot liquid into the thermos cup, and offering it to him. She sat down on the step.

   “Received with a somewhat forced, but nevertheless, sincere smile of my own. My eyes itch, and my head still hurts a bit.” He sat next to her.

   “You smell better,” she said.

   He almost said that she smelled pretty good, too, but caught himself in time. Hardly appropriate thought to have about a high school girl he barely knew. She did smell pretty good, though.

   “So, you’re not a drunk? Daddy wouldn’t put up with that.”

   “No. As I said, I don’t drink.”

   “But you did! What happened?”

   He shifted around, uncomfortably. “We were just talking, and the wine kept being passed around. I’d never had it – well, I’ve had wine with meals, but never to just sit and drink. It didn’t taste like alcohol, just fruity. I don’t remember much.” He paused. “As a matter of fact, I don’t even know how I got home.”

   “Those guys! I’m going to really give them a piece of my mind!”

   He put a hand lightly on her arm. “Please don’t. They didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s all over now.” He laughed. “And I’m pretty sure I’ll never drink red wine out of a jug, again!”

   She didn’t seem to mind his hand. “Red wine drunks are the very worst!” Anything else is bad, but not so bad.”

   He noticed his hand, and casually let it slide into his lap. “And how does a high school girl know what kind of drunk is the worst?”

   She made a little snorting noise. “An almost out of high school young woman who has been raised in the country learns all kinds of things. Knowing things isn’t the same as doing things, if that’s what you’re implying.”

   He laughed. “I wasn’t implying anything.” And, changing the subject: “What about Tim and Rusty? Are they okay this morning?”

   “Sure. I heard them leave for home about 6 o’clock.”

   “It didn’t bother them?”

   It was her turn to laugh. “Probably not. They drink it all the time, I suspect. You were the one who wasn’t used to it.”

   They sat in the sunshine for a few more minutes, not talking. “I guess I better clean up the house,” Greg said. “It needs it. Then, I think I better go back into town, and get some things I forgot yesterday, coffee included. I can’t have the manager’s daughter bringing me my coffee every morning.”

   “I wouldn’t mind,” she replied.

***

   Her dad was on the front porch when Vic got home, drinking his own cup of coffee.

   “How’s our boy doing, honey?’

   “What do you mean, Daddy?”

   “Hot coffee service first thing in the morning?”

   She didn’t want to lie, but she didn’t want to say too much, either. “Oh, I saw him when I went out this morning. He forgot to get coffee in town yesterday, so I offered to get him some.”

   He gave her a stare that she knew meant she hadn’t fooled him. “Well, that’s partly true, but I saw him when he came out of the house this morning. He didn’t look so good, like maybe he had slept in his clothes, and had a pretty bad hangover?”

   “He’s not a drinker, Daddy! He was just getting to know Tim and Rusty, and he’d never had dago red.”

   “That’s not a term I like to hear my daughter – or anybody else – use.”

   “I know, Daddy, and I don’t use it, but everybody around here does – the boys at school, and even Rusty and Tim. My point is, he never had wine in amounts that could get him drunk. He learned his lesson pretty quickly and convincingly. He said that it’s the first time he’s ever been drunk on anything, and I believe him!”

   “We’ll see. Let’s go in, I think breakfast is about ready.” He paused. “Maybe I should talk to the boys about it.”

   “No, don’t, Daddy. I said I was going to give them a piece of my mind, and he told me not to. He said it was his fault, and it’s over.”

   “We’ll see,” said her dad, again.

***

   Later, on the drive back in to town, Greg noticed some of the mail boxes. As Chuck had said, they were set back from the road beside dirt tracks, most of which seemed little more than wheel ruts leading off into the sagebrush. Certainly there were no inviting driveways. There was a little traffic on the road.

    Probably, he bought far more in town than he really needed. He didn’t like the drive any more this time than he had the first, and thought he would prefer to repeat it as seldom as possible. He did remember coffee.

 

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