Chapter 1 from
68: a novel
Now available in softcover and Kindle
Ed Turner almost didn’t go in. The massive carved-oak entry doors of the
Golden Foothills Inn were fanned open, like welcoming arms, so there was no
problem negotiating the entrance with his cane. The background music—
Dionne Warwick’s “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” from 1968 he assumed—was soothing, and a path of Spanish tiles leading around a gurgling fountain provided a hospitable greeting.
Still, this was a bad idea, he thought. If Ship hadn’t hounded him after he’d showed him the invitation, he wouldn’t be here. A large plastic banner pinned above the entrance read, “Welcome to the Sentinel High School 50th Reunion! Go Titans!” This made him even more nervous. He should have been excited about the reunion, anticipating rekindling old friendships, sharing memories of the good old days. But he hadn’t been to any of his previous reunions, hadn’t kept in touch with even one student. Good God, he didn’t know any of these people. Even fifty years ago, he didn’t know them very well. Would anyone even remember him?
Ed paused, then bit his lip and hobbled his way inside, where a cheery woman sat behind a folding table, with an array of name badges in front of her. It was silly, he knew, but he’d imagined that they’d all look just like they did when he’d last seen them, half a century ago. This woman—on Medicare and Social Security and probably someone’s grandmother—was one of his former high school classmates, now in her late sixties, just like him. He let out a quavering sigh.
The woman beamed. “Hey there, welcome! I’m Dottie Arnold. Last name’s Brighton now. Remember me?”
Of course he remembered Dottie. Who wouldn’t? Dottie, the bouncy, popular cheerleader. He doubted if she remembered him. Ed manufactured a grin.
Dottie fumbled through the printed name tags, glancing up periodically with a peppy smile. “Oh, good grief, remind me who you are.”
Dottie leaned back, folded her arms and looked hard at him. “Say again?”
He said it a little louder. “Ed Turner. Maybe you’ve got me as Eddie Turner. I went by Eddie back then.”
Dottie was shaking her head. “That’s not funny, you know.” Her smiling face had turned sullen.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean it’s not funny.” She forced a smile. “Okay, let’s start over. I must have your tag here somewhere.”
“It’s Ed Turner.” He leaned in for a closer look at the name tags. “Do you need to see my ID?” This was getting ridiculous. He reached for his billfold, then remembered it was gone. Damn, it had also contained his invitation.
Dottie stopped again. “Just a minute,” she said, now turning businesslike. She scowled at him, then stood abruptly and darted around a curtain behind the table. She returned a moment later with a big hulk of a guy. He’d probably been a football player. Ed didn’t recognize him, and the man didn’t introduce himself.
“Excuse me, sir, but your humor’s a bit off base,” the man said. “Why don’t you just head on down the road? Okay?” He placed his hands on his hips like a bouncer who wasn’t in the mood to take any crap.
Ed felt his face redden with a mixture of confusion, embarrassment, and anger. He wasn’t one to make a scene, and it was tempting to just leave. But hell, he’d come this far. He leaned forward over his cane. “Look,” he said, “I’m here for the fiftieth. I was a student at Sentinel, class of sixty-eight. Ed Turner. I received an invitation. I don’t see what the problem is.”
The big guy raised his eyebrows, ran a hand over his crew cut, then blew out a big breath. He leaned over the folding table toward Ed, a lean that could be taken as aggressive. “The problem is, you’re pulling our chain and you know it. Now, please—”
“I’m sorry,” Ed interrupted. “I’m just here for the—”
“Look, buddy, do you think we don’t know that Eddie Turner died fifty years ago?”