The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
T R Healy
“My, my, what have we here?” Callas asked as Tuttle locked his road bike to a post outside the law library.
Tuttle turned around and saw a tall student with a shaggy mop of coal black hair that nearly covered his ears.
“I’ve never seen a bike like this before,” he said, staring at the small pear-shaped logo painted on the frame.
“I bought it at a shop in Denver from a guy who designs and builds his own bikes.”
“That must’ve cost you a few dollars.”
“More than a few.”
Callas stepped closer to the sky blue bike and grazed his fingers across the gleaming handlebars. “Is Denver where you’re from?”
He shook his head. “I’m from an old mining town several miles from Denver.”
“Would I have heard of it if you told me?”
“I doubt it. Most people in Colorado have never heard of it.”
“This your first year in law school?”
He nodded as he slipped one of the straps of his backpack from his right shoulder.
“I’m starting my second year,” he said, extending his right hand. “George Callas.”
“I’d like to take your bike for a spin some day.”
“Sure,” he said. “You want to ride it now?”
“Sorry. I can’t now but maybe some other time.”
“Whenever you wish.”
Callas started to step away then paused. “You know, Alan, some friends of mine are having a little get-together tonight. Why don’t you come by and I can ride it then?”
“Tonight you say?”
“Oh, around nine,” he stammered, not really sure. “It’s a week night so we can’t party too late.”
“All right, George. I’ll try to be there.”
Smiling faintly, Callas then wrote down the address of the apartment where the gathering was to occur, emphasizing that his new acquaintance should get on Carmel Street because it was the quickest way to the apartment.
Tuttle looked at his watch. It was almost a quarter to nine but he was confident he would make it to the gathering on time. Callas told him the apartment was not quite a mile and a half from the law library and already he figured he had covered half that distance. Briefly he stood on the pedals as he maneuvered his bike over a safety bump in the middle of the street then sat down, pedaling slowly as if he had all the time in the world. It was sweltering out and very dark. Back home he often rode his bike at night but he was not comfortable riding now because he did not know his way around the city. He had only been in town two and a half weeks and almost everywhere he went was foreign to him so he proceeded cautiously. The last thing he wanted to have happen was catch a tire in a pothole and fall off his bike and twist an arm or a knee.
“Be careful where you go,” his mother cautioned him time and again when he rode his bike as a youngster, “you never know what you might find.”
As he passed a bronze statue of a soldier on a horse, illuminated like a Christmas tree, he still could not believe he was more than two thousand miles from home. Nor could he believe he was in law school. He struggled mightily to graduate from high school, finishing in the bottom quarter of his class, and was advised by Mr. Cameron, his counselor, to enlist in a branch of the armed forces rather than go to college. He didn’t take his advice, though, and enrolled in a community college for a year then transferred to a four-year school where he put considerable more effort in his studies and graduated with honors. He was tempted to return to his high school and show Mr. Cameron his degree but resisted the temptation and resolved never to repeat the lame performance he had there.
Shortly he came to Carmel Street and started down it, pedaling even more slowly because it was so narrow and dark. Again he was concerned about potholes. He was not quite halfway through the second block when something struck his back tire, causing his handlebars to wobble a little. He assumed he had kicked up a stone and continued on then, after only a couple of seconds, he was hit in the back of the neck and spilled off his bike and landed hard on his left elbow. He screamed loudly, more in embarrassment than in pain. All he wanted to do was get back on his bike, but as soon as he started to, another stone stung the side of his left arm. Frightened, he closed his eyes, as if hoping what was happening was all in his imagination, and heard what he thought was laughter as he was pelted with more stones.
Tuttle, squinting, made out the young nurse beside his bed. Her smile seemed as bright as the scarlet ribbon in her hair.
“How are you feeling?”
“Where am I?”
“In the emergency room at Saint Luke’s Hospital,” she answered, folding a wash cloth into a neat square. “Don’t you remember being admitted here?”
He shook his head. “The last thing I remember is getting knocked off my bike and lying in the street.”
“I don’t know how long you were lying there but I understand a bus driver saw you and called for an ambulance. You’re lucky you weren’t run over by a car.”
“I don’t know what the hell happened. One moment I’m cruising along, not really thinking about anything in particular, and the next I’m sprawled out on the street with stones being thrown at me.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t suffer more than a cracked rib and some cuts and bruises.”
“My rib is broken?”
“I’m afraid so,” she said, smoothing out some wrinkles in his blanket. “It’ll be painful for a while when you take a deep breath.”
“Damn. I can’t believe this happened. I’ve never had anything bad happen to me while riding a bike. I’ve had some close calls with cars and motorcycles but never anything where I got hurt.”
“You should have known better.”
“Really, sir, no one with an ounce of common sense rides a bike after dark on Carmel Street. It’s known by people in the area as ‘blood alley’ because of all the incidents that have occurred there this summer.”
“I just moved to town three weeks ago.”
“Well, it’s too bad someone didn’t warn you about riding there. Then you probably wouldn’t be lying here with a broken rib.”
Tuttle was released from the hospital later that afternoon and returned to school the next morning. It was a couple of days before he spotted Callas in the library and immediately he walked over to the table where he was studying. He was so angry he could not speak for a moment and just stood beside the table until Callas looked up from the casebook he was reading.
“Oh, hello there,” he muttered, with a hint of a smile. “I’m afraid I forgot your name.”
He nodded indifferently. “What happened to you the other night? You never showed up to the little get-together I told you about.”
“You know damn well what happened.”
“If I did, I wouldn’t have asked you.”
“My bike was stolen and I got a rib broken.”
“Don’t pretend with me, Callas. You specifically told me to get on Carmel Street---“
“Because it’s the shortest distance to the apartment where my friends and I were.”
“Because you knew other riders had been attacked there by punks in the neighborhood and you figured there was a good chance I’d be attacked too and you were right!”
“You set me up, you prick. I don’t know why but you did and I promise you one day I’ll get even.”
“You’re hallucinating, Tuttle.”
“One way or another you’ll pay for what you did. You sorry prick.”
As the bus lumbered around a corner, Tuttle leaned back in his seat, which was patched with electrician tape. Again he stared out the window, wondering if he would make his Torts class on time or if he would be late because of all the traffic this morning. He was late on Monday and it looked as if he would be late again.
In another moment, a bicyclist appeared alongside the bus, crouched low over his handlebars, and immediately Tuttle looked to see if the guy might be riding his bike. He wasn’t, though. He was riding a Schwinn with two broken spokes.
Right away, Tuttle reported his bike was stolen but doubted if it would be recovered. Over a dozen bikes were reported stolen every week, according to the police sergeant he filed his report with, and seldom were any found. He still could not believe what happened on Carmel Street. It had taken nearly three years to save enough money to buy his road bike and he knew because of all the loans he had to take out to attend law school he would probably never be able to afford another bike. Certainly not one as fine as the one he bought in Denver.
Tuttle, looking up from his mug of beer, saw Callas enter the bar with two other second year students and walk over to a table near the lone pool table. At once, his pulse raced, the vein in the middle of his forehead throbbing furiously. Every time he saw him he wanted to punch him in the mouth but was afraid he might then be asked to leave school, and he couldn’t risk that so he kept his hands in his pockets. Instead, he just glared at him, hoping his anger would somehow register with the bastard.
“You know that guy?” Josh Cogen, a guy in his Contracts class, asked as he sat down next to him at the bar.
“Not really,” he said, not wishing to reveal the mean prank Callas pulled on him the other night. “I’ve just spoken to him a couple of times.”
“He’s not someone you want to know.”
“You know him?”
“No, thank God,” he groaned after ordering a beer. “But this second year guy I know from back home sat behind him in a class last year and told me what a jerk he was. He just couldn’t keep his mouth shut. I guess he was always making snarky remarks about people behind their back then acted surprised whenever he was confronted.”
“There are a lot of people like that around here.”
“Yeah, there are, but he was someone who always went a little too far, according to my friend,” he continued. “There’s this Welsh woman, Blevins, who teaches Civil Procedure, and last year someone tied a dead cat to the bumper of her car and I understand she drove all around town until it was brought to her attention.”
“Callas did that?”
Cogen shrugged. “Blevins never found out but Callas was in her class.”
“So you think he was behind it?”
“I do, Alan. It’s the sick kind of thing he’d think was funny and, besides, I understand he’s all but admitted to doing it to some of his friends.”
Tuttle again glared at Callas, wishing he would turn around and look at him but he was too absorbed in watching a martial arts fight on the television above the fireplace.
“Do you believe in punishment, Mr. Tuttle?”
Surprised by the question, he looked up from his notebook at the teaching assistant who asked it. “Of course. Those who don’t obey the law must be held accountable.”
“That isn’t the question. Do you think someone who violates the law should be punished?”
“Maybe a more sensible approach is to attempt to cure the transgressor of those impulses that caused him to break the law.”
“That’s all well and good but I still think a criminal must pay for what he did.”
The teaching assistant frowned. “Tit for tat. Is that your position?”
Tuttle nodded, a little confused that the assistant seemed irritated that anyone in class would support such a primitive notion as lex talionis.
“It’s a good thing I didn’t have a gun,” Callas growled to a classmate as he barged past Tuttle and Cogen in the crowded hallway.
“You hear that?” Cogen asked, startled by the provocative remark.
Tuttle nodded. “Yeah, I heard it.”
“I wonder what got him so riled up?”
Cogen then approached a student who was in the Remedies class Callas just stormed out of and asked what happened.
“As usual, Callas wasn’t prepared, and he got exposed,” she chuckled. “He couldn’t answer a single question he was asked and finally was told to stand in a corner like some six-year-old. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as angry as he was. His face was crimson. I’m surprised he didn’t have a tantrum and throw a chair or something.”
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy.”
“That’s for sure.”
Cogen then turned to Tuttle. “You think he really would’ve shot Slansky?” he wondered, referring to the Remedies professor.
“Nah, he was just blowing off steam. He’s a prick but he’s not a felon.”
“I’m not so sure, Alan. Maybe we should notify campus security about what he said.”
“You’re not serious?”
“I’m dead serious. What if he turns out to be one those cretins you see on television every few months who, all of a sudden, decide to take a gun to school or their office and solve all their problems by shooting as many people as they can.”
“Callas might be a lot of things but I don’t think he’s anyone like that.”
“I don’t know and neither do you,” he declared as he led Tuttle down the winding stairwell to the first floor. “I think we should send an email to campus security so they can keep an eye on him.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that, Josh.”
“It’s better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it?”
He nodded as a nerve twitched in his left shoulder.
“We’ll send it anonymously. That way we don’t have to get directly involved.”
He remained skeptical. “I’m just not sure if this is a good idea.”
“But just think how awful you’d feel, Alan, if he does do something completely irrational and we didn’t let the authorities know about the implied threat he made today. You wouldn’t forgive yourself and neither would I.”
Still he doubted if Callas was likely to do anything that outrageous but he didn’t try to dissuade his friend from sending the email. If anyone needed a scare to be put into him, he reckoned, it certainly was Callas. The bastard.
The email was sent to campus security that afternoon, and a week later Callas was expelled from law school. Tuttle was absolutely stunned when he learned of the expulsion, not for a moment imagining such drastic action would be taken. Certainly he was relieved he would not have to see Callas again and suspected many other students were also pleased but he doubted if the expulsion was warranted. Callas was a cruel person with a very sharp tongue who often said things that could not be taken seriously. Not for a minute, though, did Tuttle believe he was likely to harm the professor who made him stand in a corner of the classroom however embarrassed he was by the punishment. He realized now he should have kept Cogen from sending the email. He just assumed all the security guards would do was speak with Callas and put him on notice that he had to be careful about what he said. The more he thought about what he neglected to do the worse he felt even though he despised Callas and would never forgive him for the loss of his bike.
“Good riddance” was the first thing Cogen said to Tuttle when he heard Callas was tossed out of school.
“Did you ever think that would happen?”
“No, I can’t say I did. And I can’t say I’m upset about it.”
“That was wrong.”
“Throwing him out.”
“Oh, you’re wrong, Alan. That was the best thing that could’ve happened to a prick like that and, frankly, I’m proud of the part we played in his ouster.”
Tuttle didn’t agree but did not feel like continuing the discussion and excused himself and headed to the library. He walked in a daze, still troubled by the expulsion. Behind the law library was a rack of yellow-painted bicycles, clunkers for the most part, that were available to students to ride for free on campus. He had never ridden one but, on an impulse, he hopped on an ancient ten-speed with almost bald tires. The bikes were not supposed to be taken off campus but soon he found himself passing under the stone arch that was the main entrance to the university. He didn’t care, though, all he wanted to do tonight was ride all out, as hard and fast as he could on the rickety bike. Hunched over the rusted handlebars, his shoulders swaying from side to side, he charged up one steep incline after another until he came to Carmel Street.
Grinning, he continued on, sure he deserved whatever came his way.
© T R Healy June 2015
laurel462001 at yahoo.com.
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