Housing A DragonbyTony155©
Turbulence rocked the small aircraft, sending Zeke's stomach into a tailspin. This is better than a roller coaster, he thought, although he wished for a smoother flight. Flying wasn't one of his favorite things to do, but it would become a necessary evil in his line of work. Thankfully, he didn't have to pay for this one. His flight from Sarasota to Detroit had gone very smooth, but the commuter shuttle from Detroit to Dayton, Ohio was rough almost from the start. Wind and rain battered the twelve seat craft, but the pilot seemed to know what he was doing and the rocking had been kept to a minimum.
Zeke thought back to the previous day when the director of player personnel for the Cincinnati Reds called him and asked him to meet him in his hotel room. He didn't read anything into it and thought the meeting would be about where he would be assigned for the upcoming season. A fourth round draft choice from the previous year, Zeke had played for a month in Billings, Montana for their rookie league team after his season at the University of Texas was completed. He had pitched well for that month, but he figured he would go back for another season. That's what usually happened. Ideally, he would have liked to start in class- AA Chattanooga, but instead, he was surprised to find out he was being assigned to Dayton, their class-A team.
He knew no one from that area and discerned he would have to find somewhere to stay for the spring and summer. Usually, the team was pretty good about finding housing for their players, usually with fans in the area who had extra room. That's what happened in Billings. An elderly couple who had season tickets for the Mustangs let him use a room in their home for that month. They were very, very nice, only charged him a hundred dollars and Zeke hoped to live with them again, but it wasn't to be.
The plane hit another pocket and the young girl to his right began to turn different shades of green. Her hand reached for the vomit bag in front of her, but stopped when the plane became stable once more. Zeke smiled at her reassuringly, hoping it would calm her. He certainly didn't want her to toss her cookies. He didn't mind the sound, but the smell would probably make him retch, too.
"First flight?" he asked. She nodded. "We'll be there soon." He looked down outside his window and saw the skyline of Columbus below him. He saw the Olentangy River snaking its way around the city and the unmistakable shape of Ohio State's football stadium. He sighed softly and thought they'd only have another fifteen minutes to go.
* * * * *
"What do you mean you're leaving?" Keri shrieked, her eyes staring daggers at the man packing his suitcase. She had come home from work to find him there.
"I told you a month ago I was tired of your shit, so I found another place to live." He continued to throw shirt after shirt into the large, leather case.
"What am I supposed to do?" she wailed. She couldn't understand why he was doing this to her. She thought things were going well for them, not perfect, but certainly better than before. She was making an effort. Wasn't that enough?
"I don't know, Keri," he replied grimly, "but it's not my worry." He shut the case and put another on the bed in its place.
"Oh, that's just great!" She was starting to get really angry. The shock had worn off. "You leave just when all the bills are due and it's your turn to pay them."
"I'll send you some money."
"Write me a check now."
"I don't have it. I don't get paid until Friday, you know that."
"That's just like you. Not a penny to your name until payday. Why did I hook up with you in the first place?" She shook her head in anger.
"Must have been my personality," he replied sarcastically. He left the small room and went to the bathroom to collect his toiletry items. Keri stayed in the room, arms across her chest and glaring in his direction.
"I can't believe you're just going to up and leave after all we've been through," she said in his direction.
"Listen, honey," he said as he returned, "it was fun for a while, but you have to admit, things sucked pretty bad these past few months."
"If you hadn't been screwing around, things might not have been so bad."
He had enough by then. "Drop it, Keri! We've been through this over and over again." They stared at each other. "Just drop it," he said quietly. His second suitcase was filled, and now a third appeared.
"Maybe we can work this out."
"Where will you go?" she asked, her voice shaking.
"My brother said I could stay with him until I find something more permanent."
"It doesn't have to be like this," she pleaded, hoping to talk him out of it.
Michael stopped packing and sighed. "Keri, it's over. It was over when you found out about Meg. We tried to make it work, but you'll never forgive me and you'll never forget. Just let me get out of your life."
Keri looked at him and couldn't disagree with what he said. She hadn't forgiven him and she surely hadn't forgotten. Why else had she brought it up? It was still an open sore in her heart. People who cared about each other simply didn't do that, or did they? She tried to forgive him, tried with all her might to forget he screwed her best friend, her former best friend. Keri took a deep breath to keep her composure.
"Send me the money when you get paid," she said callously before she left the room. And Keri didn't bother to look up when he left for the last time.
* * * * *
The phone rang and Keri jumped out of her skin. It was after eight o'clock and she still hadn't turned on any lights. Depressed and lonely, she turned to a bottle of rum for her solace. She wasn't drunk, yet, but she was on her way. Keri clumsily put down the tumbler and wove her way to the phone, answering it on the fourth ring.
"Hello," she said tiredly.
"Hey, girl. What's up?"
"Nothing, Fran. What's up with you?" Keri hoped to finish the conversation quickly so she could get back to her bottle.
"You sound funny, Keri. Are you okay?"
There was silence on Keri's end. A sniffle. "Michael walked out on me," she said softly.
"Shit," Fran exclaimed, "but you can't say you didn't see it coming."
"Oh, come on, Keri."
"I swear I didn't see it, Fran. I thought things were getting better."
"I'm sorry, Keri."
"What are you going to do?" Fran asked.
"That won't solve anything."
"I don't care." Thinking of her drink, Keri went back to her chair and took a swig, feeling the bitter warmth go down her throat. "Anyway, it's only for one night. I can get drunk one night, can't I?"
"I guess you can," Fran said. She felt sorry for her friend and couldn't tell her not to do it. When Keri found out about Michael and Meg, Fran was the first person she called. Over the past few months, Fran could see it in Keri's actions and demeanor that she hadn't forgiven Michael. She was surprised he didn't bug out sooner. "Well, besides getting drunk, what are your plans?"
"I guess I'll need to find a new roommate," Keri sighed, "or a smaller apartment." She took another drink and put her glass down. "Well, enough about my problems. What did you call about?"
"I got the tickets."
"The Dragons tickets, remember?"
It came back to Keri. They had gone together and purchased Dayton Dragons season tickets. They were baseball fanatics and were original members of the Dragons' fan club. "Yeah, I remember, now. That's great." She didn't sound very convincing.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah. I'm just tired, depressed, you know."
'Are you going to work tomorrow?"
"Of course I am. I'm not going to get that drunk." Keri managed a small laugh.
"Good for you," Fran laughed, too. "Well, I'm going to let you go. I have some more calls to make."
"Okay, Fran. Thanks for calling."
"No problem, Keri. If there's anything I can do, let me know."
"I'll be fine, Fran. I've been dumped before."
* * * * *
The small plane landed smoothly in the cold and rain of Dayton. As it taxied to the appropriate terminal, Zeke glanced at the girl and she seemed to be most appreciative of the flights end. She gave him a wane smile and he could see her white knuckled hand holding onto the arm of her chair.
"You can let go, now," he said quietly, looking at her hands.
Gingerly, she released her grip and flexed her fingers. "I don't think I'll want to fly for a long time," she murmured.
"It's not so bad," he replied. "If we were in a regular jet, we probably wouldn't have even felt a bump."
"The next time will be too soon," she said, totally unconvinced.
Once the plane stopped, it was a few more minutes before they were allowed to leave. Zeke reached into his pocket and checked the name and address of the hotel where he would be staying for the first week. The club paid for the first week of lodging, then he would be on his own. His father and brother were going to drive his car to him from their home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but he didn't expect them until the next weekend. He didn't figure he'd need his car for a while, anyway, thinking the hotel would be near the ballpark and within walking distance.
All twelve passengers departed the plane quickly, happy to be one firm, solid ground. Zeke lost track of the girl almost as soon as they left the plane as she hurried away faster than anyone else. Zeke found his luggage without any problem and set about finding a taxi to take him downtown. He thought the Dayton airport was near the city, but in reality, it was almost fifteen miles away. Soon, though, he was on his way.
He was thankful his driver wasn't the talkative type since he wasn't interested in conversing with anyone at that time. Zeke settled into the seat and thought about the past few years. Sometimes, he regretted not signing with the Seattle Mariners when they drafted him after his senior year in high school, but he had his finance degree and that was the main reason he went to college. He really learned how to pitch while he was in college, but he felt he should have started in class AA this season. But, the Reds thought differently, and here he was heading to Dayton. He missed his family and hoped they'd be able to see him pitch that season, something they were unable to do when he was in Billings. Soon, the skyline came into view as the rain continued to beat upon the windshield. Once they reached the hotel, the driver helped him get his suitcases out of the trunk of the car after Zeke paid him. Zeke tipped him before he made his way into the lobby of The Biltmore, a drab looking building from the outside, but pretty nice inside.
After he was shown his room, he closed the door behind him and put his suitcases on one of the beds. He flexed and stretched and debated upon taking a nap. Instead, he pulled out his paperwork and called his manager to let him know he was in town. He was expected to be at the ballpark the next morning for practice and meetings at nine o'clock. The meeting would start at ten and the practice would start at noon. When Zeke asked about a place to stay once his week was up, he was told to be patient, that he would learn about that in due time.
After that, he called his parents to let them know of his arrival. He kept it short and sweet to conserve what little money he had. Hanging up the phone after their conversation, Zeke laid down on his bed and took a well deserved nap.
* * * * *
An annoying buzzing noise woke Keri from her sound sleep that Wednesday morning. She opened one eye and saw it was raining, again. When would it end? Disgusted, she threw off her covers and stumbled to her dresser where she shut off her alarm clock. Michael had been gone for two days, but she found she didn't miss him that much. Maybe it was best he did leave, she thought. Truthfully, she knew she hadn't been all that happy with him, no matter how much she tried to convince herself to the contrary.
As she let the steaming water of her shower wash over her, her thoughts turned to her finances. She really needed to find a roommate quickly. When she chided Michael about his money, she really had no room to talk, although she had more money in the bank than he. She had been frivolous with her money when he was around, but no more. She would have to be more responsible now and put herself on a budget. And she hoped Michael would be good to his word and send her some money for the bills. She thought perhaps she could check the university bulletin boards for students needing housing and that seemed to be the obvious solution for the time being. If not, she would have to find a less expensive apartment, probably one with only one bedroom.
After her shower was completed, she dried herself and set about getting dressed for work. After only getting dressed in her bra and panties, the phone rang. "Shit!" she exclaimed as she went into her livingroom. She looked at the caller ID and saw it was Fran.
"Hey Fran," she said after she picked it up.
"Hey Keri," she replied. "I won't keep you but a minute."
"I've got the answer to your roommate problem."
"Really? Who is it?"
"Well, what would you say to having a Dragon for the summer?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I talked to Jean from the fan club and she says she needs some hosts for some of the players this season. They got some new arrivals this week from spring camp. What do you think?"
Keri was silent on her end for a second or two. "You're crazy."
"Come on, Keri, think about it. Whoever it is will only be around when they're playing at home. That won't be so bad. Plus, he'll probably have references from people he stayed with before. I mean, you don't have to do it if you don't want to, but it's a quick solution. At least you won't have to make any fast decisions about moving until the fall."
Keri thought about it for a few seconds. It really wasn't a bad idea, although she wasn't keen about having a complete stranger in her apartment for the summer. Still, he would be at the ballpark when she came home from work and they wouldn't have much contact with each other except for weekends. At least they would have things to talk about, like baseball, she laughed to herself. She just didn't know.
"I'll have to think about it," she finally said.
* * * * *
Thursday morning, the clubhouse attendant gave a Zeke a note to call Jean Asbury. "Who's Jean Asbury?" he asked him.
"She's in charge of the fan club here," he explained. "She's also in charge of finding you guys places to live this summer."
Zeke's eyes widened. He had been a bit worried about his housing. He hadn't heard anything from his manager since their initial talk. "Thanks," he said as he tucked the note into his pants pocket.
His practice went fairly well as he was watched carefully by the pitching coach during his throwing session. The Reds still hadn't decided whether they wanted him to be a starting pitcher or a reliever. He had done both in college, but he was more comfortable as a starter as he had been during his junior and senior years. The season would be starting soon and he wished he knew where he stood. After throwing, he did about twenty minutes of running in the soggy outfield grass near the gravel warning track.
After the practice was over, Zeke showered and dressed quickly and walked back to his hotel room. It wasn't a far walk and sometimes he jogged the distance. Once back in his room, he took the paper from his pocket and dialed the number.
"Hello," a pleasant female voice answered.
"Hi, this is Zeke Monturo from the Dragons. I was told to call this number."
"Hi Zeke. It's good to hear from another Dragon. My name is Jean Asbury and I am president of the Dayton Dragons fan club. We heard you were looking for someplace to live this season. Are you still interested?"
"Yes ma'am," he answered politely, his Arkansas drawl a bit more pronounced.
"Well, we have someone, but she wants references first. Is that okay with you?"
"Yes ma'am, that's fine. I expected that." He gave her the name and number of the persons with whom he lived in Billings. "Besides my parents, that's all I have," he explained.
"That will be fine," Jean said. "I'm sure that's all she'll need."
"She'll?" he asked. He didn't hear anything pertaining to there being a couple involved.
"You said 'she'll' like it was a single person."
"She's a member of our fan club and she is single. Is that a problem?"
"No, I don't think so, as long as it's not a problem for her."
"She wouldn't have given us her name if it was."
"That's true," he admitted. It wouldn't matter, anyway, he thought. She was probably someone's grandma, which was fine with him.
"She'll call you if she wants to meet you. If not, she'll call us and we'll try to find other housing for you. Do you have any questions?"
"No ma'am. I just appreciate the offer."
"You're very welcome. We're looking forward to seeing you pitch this year."
"Thank you, ma'am. I'll do my best."
"I know you will. Take care, Zeke."
"Thank you, ma'am."
* * * * *
Thursday evening, Zeke's phone rang in his room and he pounced on it, knowing it was about housing.
"Hello, Zeke Monturo speaking," he said, answering on the first ring.
Keri hesitated slightly before speaking. She was a bit nervous about calling him, even though the Gilkey's had given her a sweet report about him. "He never gave us any problems," Georgiana said. "We hardly even knew he was here. He was the perfect boarder." Still, Keri was apprehensive about letting a male stranger into her home. But what choice did she have? At least she knew a little about him.
"Hi," she said softly, barely audible. "I'm Keri Scopes and I was given your name from Jean Asbury of the fan club."
Puzzled, Zeke looked at the phone. He thought she sounded like a teenager. "Hi, Keri," he replied.
"Anyway," she continued, "I have a room available. I'd like to meet you first, of course, you know, to go over expenses and things like that. And I'm sure you'd like to see the room first before you decide."
"That's fine," he said. "When would you like to meet?"
"Is tomorrow night okay for you?"
"Tomorrow night's fine."
"Do you think you can find my apartment?"
"Well, I don't have my car yet. My dad's bringing it Saturday from Arkansas. Is there a bus I can take?" He really didn't want to take a cab again.
Keri thought quickly. "There's no need for you to take a bus. I can pick you up."
"Okay." He still couldn't get over how young she sounded.
"Is seven o'clock okay for you?" she asked.
"Seven is fine. How will I know it's you?"
"I'll be driving a white Grand Prix with a lot of Dragons bumper stickers on it. How will I know it's you?"
Zeke thought for a moment. "Well," he said, "I'll wear jeans, a Dragons tee shirt and a ball cap."
"Sounds good," she said, smiling on her end. He had a nice, friendly voice with just a hint of a southern drawl. "I guess I'll see you at seven."
"I'll be waiting."
* * * * *
Keri arrived promptly at seven Friday night and had no difficulty finding Zeke. He was tall and big and looked like the typical Arkansas farm boy with his suntan and light brown hair pushed under his baseball cap. She stopped at the curb and waved to him and he ambled over.
"Keri?" he asked as he looked through the open window.
"That's me. Hop in and we'll get going." She leaned over and unlocked the door for him.
Zeke got his first look at her and could tell she wasn't a teenager, but merely had a very young sounding voice. At first glance, he thought her to be around his age, but maybe just a bit older. He was never very good at guessing someone's age. "I'm Zeke," he said, extending his hand to her. She took it lightly and he let go quickly. Her hand seemed so small in his.