As it turned out, that morning was about the last chance I had to do much magazine reading while I was in the hospital. That afternoon Arlene and another nurse helped me get out of bed for the first time in weeks. I really was pretty weak, and it was all I could do to slowly go a few steps on crutches. It just about wore me out, since I hadnít had exercise of any kind in all that time. But at least I could manage to go to the bathroom, well, with a little help, and that meant that I didnít have to deal with a bedpan any longer, which is one of the most impossible things anyone ever tried to do. Dr. Bronson gave me a few exercises to build my muscles back up a little, and that was pretty tiring, too.
Later that afternoon, Mr. Corrigan showed up at my bedside again. "After I left here this morning, I sat down with Alex Groves, the high school principal," he said. "Heís about as tickled to have someone for that position as I am."
"Well, Iím glad to hear that," I said. "Iím looking forward to meeting him."
"Heís busy with some other things this afternoon, but he hopes to come by in the morning." Like I said, he didnít think very much of the guy we had teaching the auto shop courses, and neither did I. We were both pleased when he announced back at the first of the year that he was leaving for another district, so we had subs in both the classes for most of the rest of the year. I donít think the kids learned much of anything the whole second semester."
"Thatís not real good," I shook my head.
"I donít think so, either. We talked about setting up another class, sort of an Auto Shop one and a half, for the kids who feel like they got shorted, or we may have some of the Auto Shop I kids from last year sit in on your second semester. Weíre still working on it. Heíll be dropping by later today with the textbooks that we use for auto shop, so I guess thatíll about have to be what you build your lesson plans on. He thinks there may be some older lesson plans in the files someplace but heís doubtful."
"Well, darn," I shook my head. "Iíd sort of hoped to have something to build on. Itíll be a pain to put some together from scratch."
"Thatís true, but it also means that you donít have to fix someone elseís mistakes. Anyway, we did some schedule shuffling. Youíre going to have three sections of Auto Shop I and one of Auto Shop II. Because youíre scratch-building your courses, we decided to give you an hour of study hall supervision to go along with your conference hour. Thatíll give you a little time to figure out how youíre going to stay ahead of your classes. Since we have a seven-hour schedule, that leaves one hour free, so youíre going to have one section of U.S. History, thatís a freshman level class. One of the teachers, Mrs. Hochstatter, has agreed to let you crib from her notes on lesson plans, so at least youíll have that going for you."
"Good, thatíll be a big help," I told him. "I doubt that I can pull together all the lesson plans Iím going to need before school starts, but a month should give me a good head start."
"Somehow, I think youíre going to do just fine with it. Thereís something about you, Mel, that makes me think that youíre going to get along well with your classes and that your students are going to learn something useful from you. Thereís another issue Iíd like to raise with you, even though itís a little early, but itís going to involve some preparation. Driverís education is a summer course here, and of course the pay is extra. When we lost the auto shop teacher last winter we also lost our driverís ed teacher. We had to bring in someone from Hawthorne and pay more than we wanted to so we could have the class this year. Would you be interested in taking that on, too? It involves a special certification, but youíd have all winter to get it."
"I suppose," I said. "I canít say as Iíve had a lot of experience with it, except for teaching people who already know more or less how to drive to turn left quickly. Thatís probably a skill youíd be just as glad that the average kid doesnít pick up."
"Well, true," he grinned. "But the thought crossed my mind that the way some of the teens hot rod around these days, it might be good to have someone who could give them an example of what can happen if they do."
"Could be," I said. "But you have to understand that driving fast involves driving carefully. Thereís a lot more to it than just standing on the gas."
"My point exactly, except that some of these young fools havenít learned that yet," he said. "I guess what Iím saying is that you may be able to jam some sense into their thick skulls."
"Teenage boys Ė donít depend on it," I laughed. "Letís just say that Iím willing to consider it, though I donít want to say yes or no until I know a little more about it, and thatíll involve getting out of this bed."
"Understood," he nodded. "Iím probably pushing you a little bit as it is, but Iíve had to do hospital time, and I know how bored you can get with nothing to do."
"Car accident or something?" I asked.
"No, I was a Marine Reservist before the war, and I wound up in the First of the Sixth Marines on Guadalcanal. I got shot up some, and spent some time in a hospital in New Zealand and more here in the States before they discharged me. Are you a vet?"
"I was in Okinawa, but as a mechanic," I told him. "Arleneís seen more than I have; she was an Army nurse in a front-line hospital in Korea."
"Youíre both vets?" he said, a little surprised. "Thatís something you donít often see, a woman vet. After you get up and around, Iíll have to introduce you around out at the Legion."
"I canít speak for her, but Iíll be looking forward to it," I told him. "Iíve never had much to do with vets groups, but being in college and on the road kept me from it."
"Iíll make a point of inviting her, too," he said. "Have you got her looking for a place for you to stay?"
"She was looking around some last night, I know that," I told him. "She didnít really find anything much that she liked. I might as well tell you that after you were here yesterday I asked her to marry me, and she said yes, so sheís looking for a place for the both of us."
"Well, thatís good news," he said. "I was afraid that an awkward situation might come up, but it looks like youíre already solved it. Are you getting married soon?"
"It wonít be until after Iím out of here, but probably not long after," I told him. "We really havenít talked about the details, but I donít have any family Iíd care to have at a wedding, and sheís not getting along too well with hers right now. They werenít too happy about her taking off to go racing with us."
"Well, I have to say that I wouldnít be very happy with my daughter if she announced that she wanted to drive a race car for a living," he shrugged. "But I donít think that would stop her, either. Anyway, if you like, Iíll track your girl down before I leave. A friend of mine has a small house for sale not far up the street from the school. I know he wants to sell it, but I think heíd be willing to rent it out for a while."
"Sounds pretty good," I told him. "If she doesnít come in here before you leave, look her up and tell her about it. I told her to make up her own mind and Iíd go along with it, since I canít do much else right now."
"When youíre dealing with women, thatís usually a good idea anyway," he smiled.
Mike Corrigan had seemed pretty stiff and formal the day before, although friendly enough; I guess that was because in his mind he was conducting an interview. Today he seemed a lot more open and relaxed, and we wound up just shooting the bull for quite a while. I told some racing stories, of course, but a few others, and he had a few to tell, too. While we didnít talk all that much about Bradford directly, I felt like I learned an awful lot about it from him that morning, about what the town was like and what the people in it were like. For the most part, it seemed to me that it had to be an awful lot like any other town, anywhere. When he finally left, I felt like Iíd made a friend.
Alex Groves showed up that afternoon, carrying textbooks for the auto shop and history classes. Alex proved to be a pretty decent fellow, too, and it seemed to me like we were going to get along just fine. He was another veteran, North Africa and Italy in the Air Corps in his case. He told me that he hadnít been able to find anything to do with lesson plans for the auto shop classes, although Mrs. Hochstatter was in the process of putting together new lesson plans for the history classes she taught. She was willing to pass along the old ones. This was years before there were Xerox machines sitting in all the schools, and when you needed a copy of something it was a pain in the butt to deal with so mostly you did without. We spent some time talking about what he wanted me to achieve out of the classes I taught, and some of the problems and people I was likely to have to deal with.
When Alex left, the first thing I did was to go through the textbooks for the auto shop classes. I didnít really need to read them word for word at that point, but just skim them to get an idea of what they covered and in what depth. I really wasnít all that impressed with them; some places they seemed pretty superficial. I figured they would be about all right for the Auto Shop I course, which like Livonia was more of a "how to maintain your own car" class. Auto Shop II was supposed to prepare kids to learn to be mechanics, and I didnít feel like the book they had did a very good job of it. I figured it would give me something to work from, although I had my own ideas about how I wanted to teach the class. Before very long, I had Arlene find me a tablet of school paper, and I started making notes about what I wanted to do in the classes. Itís not quite as simple as it looks when youíre the student, and I could see that I had a lot of work to do.
That evening, Arlene came in after visiting hours Ė it was no great trick, what with her being a nurse at the hospital. "I went over and saw that house Mr. Corrigan told me about," she reported. "Itís not a bad little place. Itís one story, about thirty years old, and from what I could see it was in pretty good condition, and even has a one-car garage. Itís a little on the small side, though, only two bedrooms, and those arenít very big."
"Well, itís not exactly like we need a big place right now," I told her. "That just means weíd have to find more to fill it up with."
"We could be needing a bigger place sooner or later," she said. "Mel, I know we havenít talked about it, but what do you think about having kids?"
"I havenít really thought about it, to tell you the truth," I told her. "I just assumed that Iíd get married and have some sooner or later. It sort of goes with the territory, you know."
"You know, itís funny," she said. "I never really have thought about it all that much, either, other than to assume that sooner or later Iíd get married and have some. I mean, I was always looking toward something else, my nursing certificate, getting the job done in Korea, then it was the racing. But now, I canít say that Iím totally anxious to have kids, but I wouldnít mind having some sooner or later. A little later, though, if we can manage it. I think that considering what weíve had for a romance, maybe we need a little time for ourselves before we get too carried away with raising a house full of kids. Iím saying maybe not right away, but put it off for a year or two."
"If thatís what you want, I have no objection," I agreed. "Like I told you, Iím planning on turning my back on the racing. Itís not going to make a difference whether I have a wife and kids, or just a wife. I can go along with spending some time with you before we add to the family, but if thatís not how it works out Iím not going to mind."
"You know, we think a lot alike," she said. "Maybe more alike than we think. What I was considering about this house was that it would do fine for us for a while. Even if we had a couple kids, it would still be big enough while theyíre little. It could be several years before we outgrow it. It seems to be a decent neighborhood, and itís close to the school. From what I can find out, the price is not too bad on it, either. Iím about half tempted to buy it, but I donít think we should do that unless youíve had a chance to look at it. Iím thinking about offering to rent it for six months while we make up our mind and get financing."
"If you like it that much, Iíd say letís go for it," I told her. "Maybe you want to get an option to extend the rental for another six months, just in case."
"Good idea," she said. "Itís getting a little late to call now, but Iíll work it out in the morning. Anyway, I also talked to Catherine Corrigan, sheís Mikeís wife. They only live a couple doors away. She seems like a nice lady. She said that they have a couple pieces of furniture and some other stuff in their attic that theyíd loan us to get started, so thatís a start on that. They even have boys in high school, and she offered to get them to move the stuff for us."
"Sounds like weíre off to a good start," I said.
"Oh, thereís more," she smiled. "How do you like your mattress? Soft or firm?"
"I like it on the firm side, but not exactly like a board," I told her.
"Iím pretty much the same way," she smiled and went on to explain. "One of the nurses here at the hospital, JoAnne, has a bed and box springs in her attic that sheís willing to loan us, although the mattress has had mice in it. I figure we want a new mattress anyway, and thereís a place here in town where we can get one."
"Sounds reasonable to me," I told her. "I have had my fill of lumpy, crappy tourist-court mattresses that a million people have used to screw each other silly. Iíve been in some places where I donít want to think about how many times thatís happened."
"I have too, and youíve been sleeping on them longer than I have," she said. "Thatís something else Iíll have to deal with tomorrow. Actually, I donít think weíre going to have to buy very much. People around the hospital, and now around the school are learning that we donít own much of anything, and Iím getting all sorts of offers on things we can use."
"Small towns are like that," I told her. "Word gets around, and people want to help out."
"Thatís not all," she said. "After I got off work tonight, and before I went over to look at the house, I decided that the time had come to make up with my folks a little, so I gave them a call."
"I take it they didnít slam the phone in your ear."
"No, not at all," she smiled. "Things were a little tense there for a moment until I told them that I was getting married to a school teacher and had a job as a nurse. I think they were just worried about me being out and around on my own. Now that Iíll have a husband to keep me in line, I think thatíll be the end of the problems with them. But, I guess Iím just as glad that weíre going to be a little ways away from Schererville, since I donít think I want my mother dropping in without warning all the time. I mean, especially if she found us having sex in the middle of the living room floor or something."
"Actually," I laughed, "All it would take is her finding us like that just once and she probably wouldnít bother us without warning again."
"Thereís a thought," she laughed with me. "We might have to give it a try sometime. At least, sometime after we get you out of here. Iím looking forward to showing you your new home town."