Chapter 98 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

She was asleep.

It was just past 7 pm on a warm, pleasant evening in April, and Jim's girlfriend was asleep. She was ill-a virus of some kind-and the pills the doctor had given her made her sleepy. The bottle said "Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while using this medication." Actually, the cure seemed worse than the illness, as it had wiped her out for the day, and it looked like she would sleep all night as well.

Jim sat on the edge of the bed, in Lori's room at her apartment, watching her sleep. She looked so peaceful, her chest rising and falling with each slow breath. He wanted to touch her, just to let her know he was there, but he was afraid of disturbing her. At last he reached out and gently stroked her hair. She didn't seem to notice.

Outside, children played in the street. About ten of them were out there, running around, laughing and screaming and shouting. The sounds drifted in through the open window on the shoulders of a warm, gentle breeze.

The phone rang, and Jim scrambled to answer it before the noise woke Lori. He picked it up during the second ring and whispered "Hello?"

It was Peter. He said they needed a fourth for Icehouse, and were hoping that Jim might meet them at the Saturn Cafe that evening. Jim gave his regrets, saying that he wanted to spend the evening with his new girlfriend, even though she was sick.

As they talked, Jim was dismayed to see that the sound had woken Lori. She rolled over onto her stomach, and when Jim hung up the phone, he also unplugged it.

He stood by the window, listening to the outdoor sounds and Lori's deep breathing, smelling the wonderful warm spring air, watching as the twilight faded into the blackness of night.

He read the City Paper, and did a sketch of Lori's sleeping shape.

Then Jim felt hungry. He was afraid that cooking would be too noisy, so instead he put on his sandals and went out. He walked up the street to a nearby doughnut shop and got a dozen.

When he got back, Lori was awake. She had crawled out into the living room and was sprawled on the couch, watching television.

"Feeling better?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, as she flashed him one of her trademarked smiles. "What did you bring me?"

"Doughnuts," replied Jim.

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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