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The Quantum Connection: Chapter Nine

       Last updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 00:14 EST



    I was so giddy most of the night that I couldn’t sleep. The things discussed in the meeting were just so unreal and exciting. I had read a major portion of the Heinlein book that had been discussed in the meeting in case it came up again. By the time the phone rang with my wakeup call, I had gone over the day’s events a hundred times. I’m not sure that I ever batted an eye. I hadn’t pitched or fielded any of them either. Ha.

    I rushed through my morning ritual and was downstairs in the hotel restaurant area in line at the omelet station when Larry stepped out of the elevator. He motioned that he saw me there and proceeded through the waffle line. I found a quiet corner with a two seat table and started in on the omelet and sausage.

    “Mornin’ Stevo.” Larry sat his tray down, “Be right back. I need some more syrup.”

    I just nodded and continued to press on through the first course. I was almost ready to go back for seconds before Larry had taken his first bite.

    “D’you sleep much, Stevie?” Larry asked

    “Not really. I was kind of wound up after yesterday and I got into that book a good bit. How ‘bout you?” I finished off my orange juice and plopped the glass down on the table a little too hard.

    “Okay I guess. I never sleep that great in hotels.”

    “Hey I’m going back for round two, do you need anything while I’m up?” I asked him.

    “Nah, I’m alright right now,” he said. This time I decided to go for the waffles, but I also got some potatoes and bacon to go with them. I refilled my juice and also got a coke for chaser.

    “This place is great Larry,” I told him as I sat down. “Free beer in the evenings and all you can eat for breakfast. Way cool.”

    “Ha, glad you approve Steve. I stay here every chance I get. If you can’t get in here, there is another one at Crystal City, one at Tyson’s Corner, and a couple of them on the other side of the Potomac. I prefer to stay in Virginia if possible though. The best thing is that they have government employee rates that match our per diem.”

    “I’ll have to remember that,” I acknowledged.

    “Hey listen, Stevo. You need to do me a favor, okay?” He sat down his fork and his left hand started doing the tie thing.

    “Sure Larry, what’s up?”

    “I need you to skip the meetings today. You can hang out here and read or you can take the Metro into the city and catch some of the museums. But I need you to skip today is all.” He seemed a bit nervous.

    “Skip the meetings? Are you serious? I can’t wait to go back. Why do-” He interrupted me.

    “Listen, Steve. I got a call yesterday evening about nine o’clock from Phillip requesting that I leave you behind today. No big deal, it’s just that you would have to sit outside the SCIF all day anyway. You might as well take the day for yourself.”

    “But…” What was I hearing?

    “It’s not a big thing, Steve. You aren’t cleared yet. Just give it time. Hey, if you want to try and catch an earlier flight back and just leave today feel free. I thought you might like to have a day to see the city is all.”

    “It’s because I asked so many questions, isn’t it?” I must’ve done something wrong, maybe I could fix it somehow.

    “I don’t think so,” is all Larry said. “I’m gonna get some more coffee, be right back.”

    I sat there staring at my tray the whole minute and a half he was gone. Had I done something wrong? Did I fail my lie detector test? I couldn’t have, I answered everything honestly, even about the times I smoked pot in high school. I was truthful when I said I hadn’t done it in years. Oh my God, what did I do wrong? I was freaking out big time. Larry must have noticed this.

    “Hey, hey, Steve! Calm down son, there is nothing happening here but standard security procedures. Things just take time all right? Relax.” He scolded me.

    “Okay. You’re right. Sorry. You’re still flying back in the morning right?” I shrugged and held my hands palms up.

    “Yeah, nine thirty.”

    “Well, if it’s all the same to you, I’ll just go back as planned. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Natural History Museum and the Spy Museum. And another evening of free beer would be alright with me also.” I was hiding my concerns. Maybe I was just overreacting.

    “That’s the spirit,” Larry smiled. “Look, I gotta get going, so I will see you at happy hour.” The persistent tie fiddling continued.

    “Okay. Have a good one Larry.” I waved him off. Then I mumbled to myself, “Well hell, if I’m in no hurry I might as well have a third round at the breakfast buffet.”



    I changed into normal clothes, you know, jeans and a t-shirt. Did a few other morning and midday rituals, brushed my teeth, and headed out across the street to the King Street Metro. Larry showed me how the thing worked the other day and I was fairly certain I could handle it. The hotel lobby also had a rack of tourist maps that showed all the attractions and how to see them from the Metro. I took the blue line to the Smithsonian stop and walked out right into the middle of the Mall. The whole ride cost about a dollar and thirty-five cents. I walked out into the middle of the Mall and looked up Capitol Hill to the east and then turned around and looked back west and took in the sight of the Washington Monument. It was such a pretty day I decided to just sit on the park bench under a shade tree there at the Mall and read some. When I first sat down on the park bench I began to think about Lazarus and how much he would enjoy this place. There was a young lady jogging around the dirt track that makes the Mall perimeter and she was pacing along with a cute cocker spaniel about as old as Laz I guessed. My poor buddy was in a kennel -- a good one mind you -- but still a kennel and not home. Missing Laz almost overwhelmed me enough to go to the airport and fly home early, but I talked myself out of it. “He will be okay for one more night,” I said.

    “Excuse me?” I hadn’t noticed but the young lady had stopped for a breather right in front of me and she must’ve thought I was talking to her.

    “Uh, oh I’m sorry. Your dog, uh, reminds me of mine back home. He’s in a kennel ‘til tomorrow and I just miss him is all,” I said sheepishly.

    “Hey, that’s kinda sweet. What kind is he?” she asked.

    “Oh, he’s a one hundred percent pure bred mutt,” I laughed.

    She led the leash over in my direction and her pup sniffed my leg. I held the back of my hand down for him to lick. Once he realized I was no threat he let me pet him and tug his ears.

    “You get along with dogs pretty good it appears. Reagan seems to like you.” She smiled and stood straight stretching her neck and arms. “Well, it was nice meeting you. I am going to finish my run now.”

    “Oh, sorry to interrupt, bye Reagan,” I called to her as her and Reagan trotted off. “That tears it. Damn it all to hell.” I stood up, ready to go pack and head to the airport. I walked about five steps and then stopped, “Damn, what should I do?” I decided to call and see if there were any flights back to Dayton, so I found the nearest pay phone. One of these days I’ve got to get a cell. Fortunately, I had been using my itinerary for a bookmark and the travel agent one eight hundred number was on there. It turned out that I couldn’t get back to the airport in Dayton until five thirty, which was about the same time the kennel closed. No way I would make it to Laz tonight. “So that solves that,” I told myself.

    A post-Rain storm came through about one p.m., so I took in the Smithsonian Museums along the Mall and then went to the Spy Museum. I also hailed a cab and rode up Capitol Hill to the backside of the Capitol Building and saw the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. Then I had the cabby drop me at the closest Metro and I went back to King Street and the hotel.

    Later that evening Larry and I had the free beer and then walked down King Street all the way to the river. We stopped and ate dinner at one of the seafood shops along the way. I asked Larry about the meetings and my status and so on. He just told me not to ask. Then we talked about the sights that I had seen. The Library of Congress specifically intrigued Larry. He said he had never been there before.

    I finished Glory Road on the plane back to Dayton and went from the airport straight to the kennel. I’m not sure who was happiest to see whom, but Laz and I hugged each other dearly. He licked my face and whimpered at me a time or two.

    “Good boy! I told him. “I missed you buddy, d’you miss me?” I tugged at his ears and stroked his back. “Sit fella, sit.” He sat and allowed me to put his leash on. Then we loaded up in the SUV and were off to the apartment.

    I didn’t bother to unpack and we went for a long walk first thing. We stopped in the park by the local high school and played Frisbee some and then we went back to the apartment and sprawled out on the couch together. Laz laid his chin on my lap and I stroked his fur between his ears, gently, until we went to sleep. I belonged there, I missed Laz, and he missed me; my only real connection to the entire damned planet. Oh, sure I had grown a little closer to Larry Waterford, but it was in an employer to employee relationship. That just isn’t the same. I couldn’t cry on Larry’s shoulder and hug him for reassurance that things would be okay. Laz didn’t mind at all, and I loved him for it.

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