After the trip to Hawaii Murph found himself alone at the McDonald’s where, after some thirty-two years, he’d reunited with Carla. Carla had not retired, not even partially. Her preliminary goal was to plod on to sixty-six, and since she’d just turned sixty-five, it was less than a full year away. That definitely seemed doable.
Murph sat in the same booth he and Carla had shared that morning. Sipping his coffee, he thought back to that moment and smiled a bit as he mulled over their time together, some six months now coursing through three seasons though only one season in full. They had watched the leaves wither and die, then huddled and cuddled together through an unusually cold and snowy winter. The welcomed spring had not brought the desired warmth yet, but as the weather often did, thus far there had been a tease or two.
This morning, as usual, Murph had dropped Carla off at the train. He would have gone directly home to his apartment but he had a chore to run in Bayside, some ten miles down the road from the McDonald’s. Feeling hungry, he’d decided to stop. He’d brought his tablet with him, and once settled in the booth, he read what he’d written yesterday, looking at it not so much for like or dislike or good or bad as for correctness and how it advanced the story. That done, he picked up where he’d left off and worked for about a half-hour.
He hadn’t been back to Bayside for a long time. He still went to the dentist over in Bay Terrace, but usually he went with the Long Island Expressway to the Throgs Neck Expressway. If he did go with Northern, he turned on Francis Lewis Boulevard so he didn’t go into Bayside proper. By the time he got to where he was going today, he would have traveled along Northern Boulevard through Jackson Heights, Flushing, Auburndale, and Bayside.
In Bayside, he was turning right on Bell Boulevard and heading up toward the Long Island Expressway. He was going to meet a woman he didn’t know, a woman who’d read his book and contacted him through his website. She said she was looking for a ghost writer and had liked what she’d seen. Murph had sent her the links to his blog and a PDF of his Doctoral Dissertation, and he told her he’d never done this before and didn’t know if he was really interested, but when she’d told him that the potential earnings went easily into six figures, he’d decided he couldn’t possibly let the opportunity slide by without at least seeing what it was. Her address, from the way he figured it, was pretty close to the church where he had gone to Boy Scouts when he was a kid, maybe a block or two from where Mr. Gilbert, the Scout Master, had lived.
After he’d eaten and worked a little, he drove slowly along. He toured up Main Street Flushing and then went back to Northern Boulevard along the road where the Robert Hall used to be, the clothing store where his father, Nathan, a World War II POW survivor, used to begrudgingly take him to buy Husky pants. The whole area was Korean now with not a word of English to be found on any of the storefronts or businesses. It was the same physical space but a different world…