Walter goes for a proper dinner during a May snowstorm

The wind literally howled through downtown. Never had advancing two blocks been so strenuous, the way he had to lean forward to avoid being blown backward. One step forward, two steps back; the words of a song pretty much summed up his progress.
Finally, he opened a heavy wood door. The inside reminded him of his own place. Earth-toned carpeting, brown leather booths, wood tables, red velvet drapes, gold coloured water glasses, and a fire grill in a glass booth for grilling the steaks. “I bet they make good martinis.”
“I’m sure they do,” Susan agreed, with the tolerant sarcasm of a parent.
“See, the waiters here are properly dressed.”
Without opening his leather-bound menu, Walter ordered an eight ounce New York with a baked potato, complete with sour cream, chives, and bacon bits. They would have that. “And a dry martini.”
Predictably, Susan requested pan-fried sole with steamed rice and mixed vegetables. And herb tea.
“Not drinking?” Each stared at the wall straight ahead till their drinks came. “Ah! Now this is a martini! See, I didn’t even have to specify olives.” Walter sat back in his cushioned chair to savor the taste. Susan looked off, over his head, not bothering to even try to make polite conversation. “Do they have a newspaper here?”
“Go check.”
He noticed the bar tender reading one. “Mind if I…?”
“Not at all.” The man surrendered his paper.
“Not very busy,” Walter commented.
“We normally are. Just not tonight.”
“Good to hear that people still appreciate fine dining. I used to own a place like this.” He paused for the man’s response. None came. “Sold it.” Walter nodded, looking around. “Good martini, by the way. What do you use for gin?” Walter examined the shelves. The bartender pulled a premium brand out of the well. “That’s your House?!”

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Walter’s Nap

Spread-eagled on the bed, Walter drifted to a beach surrounded by girlie posters, neon beer signs, and legs – chair legs, table legs, and those belonging to women, both customers and waitresses, wearing bikinis. Tits the size of beach balls strained at skimpy cloth strips. He tried touching but couldn’t move his arms. A parrot alighted beside him for a kiss on the cheek. “Ouch! You bastard!” In wriggling away from Oscar, Walter fell off the bed and thunked on the floor, hitting his head on the night table. He rubbed at the sore spot for a minute, got his bearings, and then counter-attacked by grabbing a pillow, not realizing that the little bastard had chewed a hole in it. When Walter swung it at him, a storm of foam bits fluttered, not only all over the bedroom, but through the railing posts and downstairs. Oscar flew down onto his tree in the living room. Walter put his hand to the part of his face that’d been bitten. Blood. The door opened.
“Dad?! What the hell? You let Oscar out?”
“You left him out,” Walter counter-accused. “The damn thing attacked me in my sleep.”
Susan climbed the stairs and examined his face. “It’s only a little cut. You must have done something to him because he never attacks unprovoked.”
“Maybe I twitched in my sleep. Or he remembered some imagined infraction from twenty-some years ago. Like his owner.”
“What do you want to do for dinner? Go out or stay in?” Susan ignored his barb.
“Yesterday, you promised we could go to the steak house.”
“Lucky it’s within walking distance, because I’m not even trying to take my car out in this.”

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Walter is Home Alone after collecting his lunch

Walter willed his numb hands to untie his frozen shoe laces. On still-frozen feet, he hobbled to the kitchen and clunked the frozen solid grocery bags onto the counter.
“Eggs!” Oscar exclaimed when Walter took the eggs out of the bag. Stupid thing was smart. He cracked a few into a frying pan and laid out some strips of bacon, including extra fro Oscar, to help harden his arteries.
“Want some?” Oscar offered, as Walter scraped bacon and eggs into Oscar’s food dish and threw in a chunk of buttered toast and cheese, which Oscar ripped apart. “Mmmm. Thank you. Now you say you’re welcome.”
“Dad! What are you doing?” Susan burst in the front door.
“Eating breakfast. What are you doing home?”
“You fed Oscar bacon! And cheese!”
“He likes it.”
Oscar held up a strip in his foot. “What’s he usually get, diet-fruit and low-fat nuts?”
Susan opened the cage door and plucked the strip of bacon out of Oscar’s foot. Then took the cheese and bread out of his dish. “Sorry Buddy. Up.” He stepped onto her hand. She carried him over to his downstairs tree of dead branches dangling with bird toys and surrounded by newspapers. “Too high in fat – for both of you. But if you want to go on putting your own health at risk, be my guest.” Susan opened a drawer and took out some keys. “Here. If you want to go out again.” Then microwaved fish and frozen vegetables for her lunch and boiled up a spoonful of rice pasta.
“Those things’ll kill you far faster.” Walter pointed to the microwave.
When Susan left, Walter noticed too late she’d forgotten to put Oscar back in his cage. Who’d get blamed if he climbed down or flew off the wrecked something? Well, her bird was her problem. If she couldn’t remember to put it back in its cage, why should he care what the damn thing destroyed? He tried turning on the TV but couldn’t get any reception. As much snow on the screen as outside.

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Police Report (Walter & Susan continuing still)

Susan and Marion both jumped when the phone rang. Their first call of the day. [remember, Calgary had a snowstorm & few people have made it in to work]
Marion answered, and then passed Susan the phone. “It’s Doug.”
Calling her at work?! “Hi!”
“You want me to let your father in?”
“In where? Where is he?”
“Freezing to death in his running shoes and your ski jacket outside your building. Says he locked himself out getting food.”
“Leave him there.” The sighed, and then caved. “Okay. Let him in. Tell him I’m on my way.”
“He said not to rush ’cause he left your suite door unlocked. How long’s he here for?”
“Till the snow goes and he can get on a plane.”
“I’ll pop around then, after the airport reopens. Been busy.”
“Yes.” Screwing other women. But he’d made that plain from day one. He wasn’t the type for commitments.
“Do you need to go?” Marion asked.
“Yes. He can’t even work my shower taps. Who knows what he might do if he tries to cook lunch.”

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After Walter & Oscar Eat Breakfast

About to spontaneously combust, Walter tied on sneakers, and left the door unlocked because he didn’t have keys. In the elevator, he pushed L for Lobby, which did look like a fancy hotel, complete with a concierge desk, though at the moment, minus the concierge. Then he noticed the view out the front doors, or what he could see of it past the snow drift halfway up the glass. He cautiously poked his nose out and got instant frostbite. Colder than a damn meat freezer. He went back up for Susan’s ski jacket and leggings and rummaged through her drawers for wool socks.
More suitably dressed, he ventured outside amidst bums huddled under blankets. Not what he’d want to walk through every day after paying a quarter million dollars for a shoe box.
“Can you spare some change?” A purple-haired female, face and ears full of silver hoops, begged.
Instead of telling her to get off her ass and get a job – who’d hire her? – he tossed her a couple loonies and asked where he could get groceries for breakfast.
“The corner store.”
“Where’s that?”
“On the corner.” She pointed.
Smart ass. He trotted as quickly as he could, in running shoes on snow, to the end of the street and barged into warmth. His face actually hurt from the cold. He picked up a basket and collected some bacon, eggs, white bread for toast, butter, orange juice, milk, cereal, and some lunch meat.
When he got back to her complex, the front door wouldn’t open. Of course not. It would have a security lock or the bums would be in the lobby. He pressed his nose to the glass, but still no concierge sat at the desk. He probably got snowed in at home. Any other tenants coming or going would be in cars, exiting or entering the car park. If any went out at all. Not a lot of activity on the streets. He trotted around to the entrance of the underground parking to wait, so he could run in when the gate opened for a car to go in or come out.
But none left or approached. His feet froze themselves numb. The only vehicle to draw near was a police cruiser.
“Problem, sir?”
“I’ve locked myself out. I’m visiting my daughter and she forgot to give me a key.”
“You want me to call her?”
Walter stared at the cop.
“I know the jacket.”
Walter squinted at the cop’s name tag. ‘D. Palmer.’ “You must be Doug.”

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Susan finishes her conversation with Marion

“Boredom must have warped his memory [re Walter failing to remember he and his daughter did not get along]. He sold his restaurant.”
“Retirement can be tough, especially for someone who worked a lot.”
“That’s all he did. The man has no hobbies.”
“What are you going to do with him?”
“Damned if I know.”
“Hey, we should go to that new seafood place today for lunch. With half of downtown staying at home, we’d get in.”
“I should check on my father. I left him with Oscar.”

WALTER
4. PROCURING PROVISIONS

Susan’s bed didn’t turn out to be much more comfortable than the couch had appeared – though he’d fallen asleep again after attempting to shower. Almost ten by Susan’s clock, though his watch said noon. No wonder his stomach growled. And not just hunger woke him, but heat. Greater heat, now that sun and blue sky glared down from the skylight, poaching him like an egg. Whatever snow had fallen last night must have melted. He padded downstairs in bare feet and skivvies and was met by an expanse of blue sky out the kitchen window on the side of the building instead of on top. No worries about neighbours seeing him in his underwear. Not even birds flew up this high. Except the one already here.
“Good morning,” Speak-of-the-Devil greetd from its cage. “Did you have a good sleep?”
“No, but thanks for asking.”
Oscar climbed laps of his cage. “Want some breakfast?”
“I was thinking of it.” Nothing in the fridge, though. Fruit, frozen vegetables, seeds, and nuts in shells. Not even coffee left in the pot.
“Would you like an almond?” Oscar offered.
“That’s about all she has.” Walter shut the fridge and checked the cupboards. Rice cakes, rye crackers, bran cereal, cans of tuna fish. “Can you say anorexic?” But at least she had more coffee he could brew – if he could figure out how to make the percolator work before six tomorrow morning. “Here. Since you practically asked.” He dropped a few almonds into Oscar’s dish, and dabbed at the sweat on his forehead. “Looks like I have to go out for food.”

expanse of blue sky out the

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:) Walter & Susan is being considered for publication with Books We Love

WALTER IS IN SUSAN’S CONDO. THE MORNING AFTER HIS FIRST NIGHT

“How do you work your damn shower taps?” Walter yelled down from upstairs. “Fucking water either comes out freezing cold or scalding hot.”
“Turn the dial to the middle.” She rubbed the kink in her neck, and then opened the balcony door curtains. About two feet of snow had fallen. The thermometer read minus twelve. On the ground, at best, it might be two degrees warmer. She turned up the heat and closed the drapes to keep it in before sponge bathing in the downstairs bathroom sink. Judging by the quiet from upstairs, her dad must have gone back to sleep. Eight. She looked at the clock. Nobody’d be in the office, but some might try working from home and run into a problem, so she should go in. Even if not, better being bored at work in an empty office with nothing to do than cooped up with her father all day. The evening would be long enough.
She shut off the coffee maker, divided its contents between a cup and her thermos, and changed into the clothes she’d gotten from upstairs the night before. She fed Oscar and gave him fresh water then left her work number on the table. She doubted her dad would want to go out, so didn’t set out her spare keys.
“You look tired,” Marion observed, as Susan, reluctantly wearing unfashionable snow-boots, clunked into the office. “Rob must have been good.”
Susan stared blankly, then remembered the man she picked up tin the bar Friday night. An eternity ago. Susan set her purse on her desk, hung up her fur coat on the coat tree, tugged off her boots, and slipped into heels. “My father’s here. I slept on my couch.”
“You didn’t tell me he was coming.”
“I didn’t know he was. He called me Saturday morning, which was why Rod left. The phone woke him up. Like I need help chasing men away.”
“How long is he here?”
“Till the airport re-opens.”
“I thought you guys didn’t get along.”
“We don’t.”
“Then why’d he come?”

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