Fiction by Christian Shuck
September 8, 2016
“Hurry up, Ted, we’ll be late!” shouted Terri from the back door.
“I’m coming!” he shouted back, thundering down the stairs of their two story home. The Thomas’s, Ted and Terri, had moved in to the house in July, sight unseen. They weren’t given much of a choice, as they had to have an address close to the school they wanted their son, Todd, to attend. With fifth grade beginning in August, and Terri’s new job beginning at the same time, all they could do was rely on the realtor and the internet.
The house wasn’t exactly what they’d wanted, but the location and price were right. It had charm, after all. It had obviously undergone some updates and renovations, but what house wouldn’t after standing for over 100 years? The one-inch oak planks on the floor, the wide cherry baseboards and trim, twelve foot ceilings, the beautiful pocket doors that led from the living room to the dining room; they all contributed to the structure’s personality. Ted had protested, claiming the home needed too many additional repairs, but Terri made the executive decision to buy the house. She hoped she wouldn’t regret it.
Unlike their new house, Terre Haute had characteristics, rather than charm. A crude translation from French for “high valley,” the Thomas’s new city was a stark contrast from their Boulder, Colorado roots. Without the mountains, Terri felt directionally challenged. She wasn’t going to be finding those in Indiana any time soon. The air in Terre Haute was not crisp and clean. It had been tainted with years of manufacturing industry. Industry that once thrived as a direct result of the many railroad lines coursing through the town. Because the city sat in a valley, pollution hung in the atmosphere. And though many of those big, blue collar businesses were now gone, their influence was not lost.
“I really don’t want to go to this, it’s bad enough meeting new neighbors, let alone a bunch of faculty and staff from a school I know nothing about.” Ted grumbled as he finished tucking in his shirt.
“We don’t have to stay the whole time. Besides, it’s nice they have these receptions for faculty at the beginning of the year,” Terri told him. “Don’t be grumpy. You always say taking breaks from writing is important.”
“Yeah, but not when you’re on a roll.”
“Well maybe when we get home you can take me for a roll.” Terri winked at her husband and he blushed.
“God, let’s hope there’s alcohol then.” He smiled at her and she thumped him in the shoulder. They walked out the door and to their silver mini-van.
Terri wondered out loud, “Do you think Todd’s alright at his sleepover? Seems a little soon to be trusting new families with our child.”
As he climbed into the passenger seat Ted said, “He wanted to go so badly, I couldn’t say no. Although in hindsight it would have been a great way for me to stay home.”
“No, he’s mad enough we moved here in the first place. I’m glad he’s made new friends so quickly, it’s only a few weeks into school.”
As they pulled out of the driveway Ted said, “Yeah, that’s actually been really helpful I think.” Then, “Do I need to know anything more about this university?”
Terri smirked, thinking about how to respond. It wasn’t Ted’s fault, he just published a book the same time she was interviewing. Normally, in this particular kind of hiring process, the school would ask the candidate’s spouse to join the visits. Because Ted’s schedule had been so packed up to the point of moving, he never had a chance to tag along. This was what she’d always wanted, to move out of teaching and into administration. Now she was going to be Dean of the Scott College of Business at Indiana State University.
“Well,” she began, “I can’t give you a complete rundown, but I can tell you that the College of Business has a nationally ranked Insurance and Risk Management program.”
Ted laughed. “Insurance? You can get a degree in insurance?”
“You know,” Terri said, slightly offended, “I realize you’ve had your own successes to deal with recently. But it would be nice if you could try to learn a little about what I do.”
“I know what you do. You teach accounting and economic theory. Just because I didn’t realize you could major in insurance doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to what you’re involved with.”
“Fair enough,” Terri said. “I guess to answer your question, no, there’s nothing you need to know about the University as a whole. If someone asks, just say you know about the insurance program and that’s fine. Once they find out you’re a writer they won’t want to talk about the school anyway.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, darling, that you’re an intelligent, handsome, creative man.”
Ted blushed. “Awe, shucks.”
The drive to the University was short. Fortunately, their new home was only a few blocks from campus. In nice weather, Terri would be able to walk or bike to work. A bonus for Ted, since they only had one vehicle. She hoped his residuals from his recent publication would lead to an advance from the publisher for his next book and they could get another car. Or, at least a newer one.
The reception was located in the university welcome center. It was the space most often used for admissions staff to meet with prospective students. Designed to be like a living room, it was open, had three fireplaces, several conversation areas and always fresh baked cookies. A reception desk sat in the center of the room. Usually filled with paperwork and brochures, all that had been cleared to make room for a buffet of heavy hors d’oeuvres. Ted followed Terri up to the circle and they each took a small plate.
“I see the bar,” Ted whispered, trying to hide his excitement.
“Go ahead, I need to say hi to a few people,” said Terri.
Ted wandered off, almost skipping with excitement. Terri giggled under her breath, then gained her composure as she approached the University President.
“Terri, so good to see you,” said the President. Sam Boldman wasn’t short, but just below average height. He was standing next to another man, who he introduced as Bob Ganes. “Bob here is originally from Terre Haute. He just moved back to town after being away for forty years. He’s going to be picking up a class or two in your College.”
“Gosh,” Terri began, “forty years. Why return home now?” She would bring up the fact she’d been left out of the decision to hire Bob later.
“I love it here,” Bob said. “Although it’s not the same city I grew up in anymore. So much is different.”
“We just moved here,” Terri said. “But I’ve heard there is a lot of history here. I’m anxious to learn more about the community.”
“Terri and her family moved here from Colorado,” Sam chimed in.
“Goodness gracious, why the hell would you move here from that beautiful state?” Bob asked.
Terri chuckled. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lead such a great business school.”
“Please tell me you didn’t buy a house in those new developments south of town. I hate that so many folks have moved out that way,” said Bob.
“No, actually, we’re just a few blocks from here. We live near the corner of Washington and 25th Street.”
“Do you really?” Bob asked. His eyes grew wide. “That’s very near the house I grew up in. Which one did you buy, exactly.”
Terri thought for a moment. The details of her new neighborhood had not formed completely in her mind. “We’re a block west of 25th Street. The house that sits up on the hill a bit.”
Bob’s eyes lit up, and a smile crossed his face. “Oh,” he sounded as if he’d just met an old friend. “You live in the Winter house.”
Sam and Terri both asked at the same time. “Winter house?”
“What do you mean?” Sam followed up.
“I used to play in the backyard of your house when I was a boy. My home was only one more block west. My siblings and all our friends used your backyard to play baseball, build forts. It used to be just open field there, you know.”
Terri was both surprised and for some reason very comfortable. “That’s incredible.” It was all she could think to say. Just then, Ted walked up behind her, extra drink in hand.
“Brought your drink my dear,” he said, holding out a plastic cup of clear liquid with a lime in it. “Vodka gimlet.”
Sam made the introduction between Ted and Bob while Terri chugged half the glass down.
“That’s pretty neat,” said Ted. “You’ll have to come over and give us the whole history some time.”
“I’d like that,” Bob said cheerfully. “I’d like that very much.”
“Wait a sec,” Ted said. “Have we met before?”
Christian Shuck is a Greencastle native and Hope College alumnus who works in higher education as a major gift officer. Besides his contributions here, he also writes for his own blog cmshuckstories.com. He currently lives in Terre Haute.
Photo by <a href=”/photographer/hortongroup-48378″>Ned Horton</a> from <a href=”https://freeimages.com/”>FreeImages</a>