James Arkham continues his tale of house-hunting and settling into Queztal County. Symonds remains frustrated at the former teacher’s ability to avoid the real topic—the savage crime that imprisoned Arkham nine years ago.
Anyway, it took me three weeks to get everything from Illinois to Iowa. I didn’t really have a lot when I though about it, just a bunch of books, clothes, some furniture, a few personal items that meant something to me. But my twelve years in Jackson hadn’t produced a hell of a lot to indicate my life was meaning anything.
That took me aback. I’d felt happy in Jackson. Sure, I worked a lot, like a workaholic maybe. Who else went in nearly every day over the summer? I never took a real vacation. Unless you count those two summers in Louisiana getting my Masters.
Used to be, I had dreamed of going to Europe, South America, Australia. When I was in college, travel seemed the ideal for my future. But once I was earning some money and could save to get away, I didn’t do it. I stuck around the school in my free time and did work. It gave me a purpose, a sense of being. An illusion in the end. They sacked me like bad potatoes. With or without a nonexistent silent e.
Moving, I resolved that this life was going to be different. A new state, a new lifestyle. It was time I took time to have some fun. I hadn’t exhausted my savings. The best thing about teaching is that you still get paid for the summer months after they dump you. My state pension was still in place. If I wanted to put it into the Iowa retirement program, I had time for that. For now, well, it could rest where it was. I decided I could afford some activities. I could have some fun.
Was any of this relevant?
Of course, I didn’t. Have much fun, that is.
No you didn’t, buster. But I can’t tell you that. Not yet.
—So what did you do?
Going right up front with it, Doc?
—No. What did you do to have some fun?
I bought some stuff. The typical American thing. Consume. I bought books I had been looking at but hadn’t decided to afford. Music. I upgraded my audio system, bought CDs, new ones, ones I had on record or tape. I branched out in my musical interests, if you really want to know. I bought jazz. I’d never owned any jazz before. Oh, some Spyro Gyra, Weather Report, some Wyndham Hill guys. But I jumped for the real stuff—Bird, Ellington, Miles Davis, Coltrane. There was a smooth jazz station out of Chicago we could just pick up back in Jackson. I think that got me interested, but the new stuff, the smooth stuff really just kind of bored me. The old stuff rocked.
—Swung, I think.
—Swung. They used to say good jazz really swings.
Yeah. And Kenny G just kind of blahs. Yeah. Anyway, music. I’d always listened to a lot of music. Living alone, you just get into it.
—Music rather than TV?
Oh, yeah. I was never a big TV person. That’s one of the worst problems about being in here. The only thing you guys provide for us is TV, and I just don’t watch it.
—That’s right. The reports, they said you didn’t have a TV.
No VCR or any of that stuff. Makes me odd, huh?
Yes. But television is usually part of the pattern in your kind of behavior. So what gives, Arkham?What makes you into the TV-overdosed stereotype?
Major pause. I got you thinking, huh?
I couldn’t say any of that out loud.
—So your new-job end-of-summer fun was buying things?
Yeah. I went out to eat a bunch. Every night it seemed that last week in Jackson, saying goodbye in my way. Funny, after all those years, with school over, there really wasn’t anybody—any person—to say goodbye to. Sad, isn’t it?
Well, yeah, I thought. Pathetic really. —Could that solitariness explain some things? Kind of a classic profile when you think of it.
And I was checking places out around the area once I moved to Bear River. Drove around the area… up to Dubuque, down to the Quad Cities, over to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Found some places I liked, places to shop. I bought new clothes!