Day 1: Jimmy Gets Touchy
1½ hours later
Parking lot for Skekskem Dormitory
Tyudlurm University (“Home of the Fighting Grompets”)
Jimmy turned off his car’s ignition, popped the trunk from the driver’s seat, and stepped out of his car. He sighed as he stretched—he was stiff.
But Jimmy was a youthful twenty, so by the time he fetched the laundry basket, shut the trunk, and walked to the front door of his dorm building, his stiffness was gone.
Once Jimmy got to the dormitory’s door, he remembered too late that opening a door, walking through that door, and not spilling a laundry basket that was full of clean clothes, was a challenge.
So with all those things that Jimmy was doing at once, a little thing like checking to see if someone was walking out where he was walking in, was not on his mind.
One second later, Jimmy was lying on the floor, his laundry basket was overturned, and a blond girl was sitting on the floor, looking surprised.
“It’s my fault,” Jimmy said, “I wasn’t looking where I was going.” He stood up. “Here, let me help you up.”
Jimmy reached down with his right hand. The blonde took his hand.
Then the blonde smiled warmly at him. “Oh, you’re a gentleman. I like gentlemen! And you’re handsome, too!”
“Uhh...,” Jimmy said. He thought his looks were only average.
“Please let me help pick up your laundry,” the blonde said. “And I should apologize to you. Like a ditz, I decided to walk out the left door instead of the right. I’m Beth.”
“Jimmy Bailey.” He offered his hand, and Beth shook it.
Beth added, “Norman. I’m Beth Norman. And I’m really pleased to meet you.” Beth gave Jimmy a big smile.
Jimmy toyed with the idea of asking Beth on a date, but dismissed that idea. Beth was small in the chest department and her hair was too short; but she had the narrow waist and flat stomach of someone who exercised a lot, and she had the face of a runway model. A blond runway model. Add those points all up, and Beth was out of Jimmy’s league.
Apparently Beth had not received that memo. She smiled at Jimmy a lot as she was picking up his clothes, and she made a point of folding his clothes after she picked them up.
Soon they were done. “Um, Beth, nice to meet you,” Jimmy said. “Sorry about running into you.”
“Not a problem,” Beth said. “Jimmy, I really hope to see you again soon.”
“Me too, Beth,” Jimmy replied.
Yeah, but once you realize you’re out of my league, Beth, you won’t ever want to talk to me again.
That evening, when Jimmy was in his dorm room and getting ready for bed, he pulled the wooden ring off his finger, and tossed the ring on his study desk.
Jimmy never wore the ring again. When Jimmy eventually moved out of the dorm, he tossed the wooden ring in the trash.
Monday morning, before English class
Jimmy royally hated English. So it was only now, when he was a junior, that he was taking Freshman English.
Jimmy’s Monday-morning English class had a lot of students signed up for it, so was held in a classroom like an amphitheater. The blackboard and the lecturer’s desk were at the bottom and front of the room, while the students’ desks formed rising concentric arcs.
Jimmy preferred to sit in the middle of the third row. This way, he could see clearly and hear clearly, but he was not often called on by the lecturer, like people in the front row got called on.
Now Jimmy climbed the steps in the middle of the lecture hall, and was all set to sit down in the third-row seat just to the left of those steps. Alas, he found a small problem there—
Two brunette girls were standing on the steps and talking. One girl was standing where Jimmy could not get to the seat he wanted unless she moved.
Jimmy pressed his right hand against the back of the brunette who was blocking his way; he pressed his palm against her orange-and-blue “Tyudlurm Grompets” t-shirt, while his fingertips briefly touched her bare neck. Meanwhile, he was saying, “Pardon me, but I want to sit here.”
Jimmy’s push was gentle, but achieved moving the girl forward two inches as he moved sideways behind her. He was so close that his clothing brushed against hers.
Mission accomplished; then Jimmy turned around to face the front of the lecture hall. But as Jimmy was pulling his book bag off his back—
“Hey, creep!” said the untouched brunette. “I saw what you did! Keep your mitts off Krissi here. There are plenty of other empty seats in the room.”
“No, Hilda, it’s okay,” said the brunette in the t-shirt. “I don’t mind him touching me and pushing me, really, because he has strong hands.” Then T-shirt Brunette smiled at Jimmy. “Hi there, I’m Krissi. Um, I guess you already know that.”
Introductions were made. Jimmy and Krissi shook hands, but Hilda refused to shake Jimmy’s hand.
Jimmy figured Hilda was acting nasty because she was having a bad day. “Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but this seat is where I sit all the time in this class. Guys are territorial; it’s what we do.”
Hilda crossed her arms. “I’ve never noticed you sitting there before.”
“What can I say? I’m telling the truth,” Jimmy replied.
“Ahem,” Krissi said. “I’ve never noticed you before, either. But from now on, I’m going to. You’re cute.”
Jimmy didn’t reply, because he could not honestly have said You’re cute too. Krissi’s brunette hair looked like it had been hacked off with a dull knife; and she had a pear shape.
The only flattering thing about Krissi? Her t-shirt had a skilled artist—the “Fighting Grompet” on the front of the shirt looked especially grompetish.
Right then, the lecturer walked into the classroom. Krissi and Hilda hurried up the steps, presumably to sit somewhere behind Jimmy.
The lecturer continued last week’s lecture on grammar. Jimmy did not hear a word he said. Instead, Jimmy was thinking, In the same day, two girls have told me I was handsome. How unlikely is that?
Skekskem Dormitory’s cafeteria
Jimmy loaded up his tray, then he handed his meal card to the young, female cashier.
For an instant, Jimmy’s right hand brushed against the girl’s hand.
She blinked, then she beamed a flirtatious smile at Jimmy as she swiped his card in her card-reader. Then one of her hands handed Jimmy back his meal card, while her other hand fluffed her carrot-orange hair.
“Please enjoy your lunch today, James S. Bailey,” she said cheerfully.
Which was weird, because the red-haired cashier had never spoken a word to Jimmy before. Not one word.
“Thank you, Lucille,” Jimmy said, reading her nametag.
“Lucille Landers. You have nice eyes—did anyone ever tell you that?”
While Jimmy was eating his lunch, he began idly flipping through this morning’s edition of The Grompet Gabber, the campus newspaper.
Beth Norman, the girl whom Jimmy had knocked over yesterday with his laundry basket, was in the newspaper.
The story was headlined, “TU Student Gives First Aid To Injured Cyclist.” Below the headline was a photo of Beth, her short blond hair shining in the sun; the photo also showed a First Aid kit in Beth’s hand, a young man with bandages on his forehead and knees, and a bent bicycle.
The newspaper mentioned a possible reason that Beth Norman knew First Aid: she was “a sophomore majoring in Pre-Medicine.”