Technical Difficulties Episode 08byLucyH©
Zach held the door for Ryan as they stepped out of the bail bondsman's dingy office. "I like the Bikers for Boobs breast cancer poster."
"Sorry, I know this probably isn't how you wanted to spend your reading break." It was just like his sister Amy to call and ask him to bail her out when he was in the middle of having his own crisis. They'd been on the way to the pub to talk when she called.
"Nah, I mean it. Actually, it's an interesting cultural safari." Zach walked a couple steps ahead of Ryan toward the city jail, and then hesitated at the end of the sidewalk. "Which way?"
Ryan rolled the bail bond up in his hand and took the lead, crossing the jail parking lot to a side door with smokers clustered around it. A pockmarked meth addict with shrivelled lips stared at them as they passed. They didn't belong, especially Zach with his ultra-geeky "So Long and Thanks for all the Fish" t-shirt, looking at everything with wide-eyed curiosity.
Inside, Ryan slipped the bail bond into a slot for the clerk behind the bullet proof window.
"Ok, she'll just be a few minutes. Have a seat, sir," the clerk said through the speaker. They sat on the nearest grubby bench.
"That means an hour." Ryan translated. "Can I tell you the problem while we wait?"
Zach's gaze roamed around the room, taking in the peeling paint, missing floor tiles, and surveillance camera. "Of course. I kinda wondered why you didn't tell me in the car."
"Trisha asked me to marry her, and she says she's pregnant."
Zach's head snapped around so he could stare at Ryan in alarm. "What did you tell her?"
"Not now, and please get an abortion."
"And she's pissed?" Zach's posture relaxed a little.
"Yeah. And she won't do it."
"How far along is she?"
"I don't know. Didn't ask. I wasn't exactly thinking clearly."
"Hmm." Zach bit his lip. "You sure she's really pregnant?"
"She took three tests to be sure."
"What I meant was... okay, there's no nice way to say this. What if she made it up?"
"She wouldn't do that." Ryan said, though there wasn't a lot of conviction behind his words. He just felt obliged to defend her on principle.
"Most girls wouldn't, but Trisha... I could see her making it up. That or get pregnant on purpose. Think about it. She's been hinting since high school graduation that she wants to get married. Now a couple weeks after you tell me you're thinking of breaking up with her, poof. Pregnant. Either it's a hell of a coincidence, or it's a desperate move to hang onto you 'cause she knows something isn't right."
"God I hope you're right. With my sperm donor showing up and things, I've been thinking maybe I should just get snipped or swear off girls or something. Now it's too late."
"Is that why you were thinking of breaking up with her?"
"Nah. I told you, I'm just bored. Antsy. Tired of... I don't even know what. She doesn't do it for me."
Zach gave him the ghost of a smile and raised an eyebrow. "She must do it for you at least a little, if you believe she could be pregnant."
"Then break up with her already. Get it over with." He sounded cheerful.
"Then I'd be just like my sperm donor, if she's really pregnant."
"No way. You'd do the every other weekend thing, right? And Trisha might micro-manage the kid a little, but she'd basically be a good mom. She'd buy food, at least."
Ryan remembered how Zach's family fed him a lot because his own mother would forget to bring food home. Zach's parents were social workers, and Ryan's family was more like a case file. "I guess you're right. We're not my parents. I just didn't want this. I'd almost decided to break up. Almost decided for sure not to breed. Now this."
"Find out if she's really pregnant before you try too seriously to figure out what to do. I think the odds are 50-50."
The door opened and a woman in high heeled stripper shoes and not much else stalked over to the window. She shoved a bail bond through the slot. Ryan didn't feel comfortable talking about his problems with a stranger in the room. "I'll check," he said, "So how are things going with you and Rosemary?"
"Okay. Um..." Zach bounced his foot against a leg of the bench. A couple of the smokers came in from outside bickering about who bummed more cigarettes.
"What's her major again?"
"Fine arts. She's really good."
"Oh yeah? Is she using you for a model?"
Zach blushed and hid behind his hand. "A little," he mumbled.
A few feet away, the bored clerk told the stripper to have a seat and wait a few minutes.
The stripper scowled. "No, I am not having no seat. You tell him he can get his own ass home. Some of us gotta work for a livin' here. You tell him he can go across the street and finish fillin' out his own forms like a big boy."
"He'll just be a few minutes," the clerk repeated.
"Yeah right. A few minutes. I waited here three hours last time. I don't know what you guys are doin' in there, but it's not work; that much I know." She snatched her handbag off the counter.
"Nobody's forcing you to stay, ma'am," the clerk said, and didn't quite manage to get her finger off of the speaker button before the start of an exasperated sigh.
The stripper strode out. Zach stared at her back as she left. "Uh, sorry, what were we talking about?" he asked after the door swung shut behind her.
Ryan patted Zach on the shoulder. "Rosemary's art."
"Oh, right. It's just really good. I'm no art critic, so I don't know what to say about it, but she draws people and they look like people. That's more than I can say. Um... why are we waiting for Amy, anyway?"
"If I don't take her by the ATM on the way home, she's never going to pay me back for that bail bond."
"Makes sense. But why bail her out at all, for that matter? Not that I don't think it's nice to help your sister, but she keeps doing this. Maybe she could do with a good hard jolt of reality."
"I don't want her to get tempted to call that jerk, Donnie. If he bails her out, she'll feel like she has to get back with him. If she gets back with Donnie, she'll stop working and start using."
"She's working? That's great."
"Well, she's getting the occasional temp job, but it's a step in the right direction."
"Is she going to be able to get to work, though? This is what... her second D.U.I.?"
"Third, but it's her first adult offense. Besides, she never had a driver's license in the first place, so it's not like she's worried about having it suspended." Ryan almost leaned back, but then remembered how filthy the walls were. He leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees instead. "I'm sorry to keep dragging you into this freak show that I call a life."
Zach shrugged. "As I recall, I volunteered to come along for the ride. Besides, variety makes people smarter, and I have a physics exam next week." He looked up and studied the water stained ceiling tiles and flickering fluorescent light.
Ryan got lost in thought for a bit. He admitted to himself that Zach didn't seem to mind, but this was one of those times when he felt like Zach was out of his league, even as a friend. What was somebody from a normal family, with university scholarships and a respectable career ahead of him, doing hanging around with him? It wasn't like Ryan rose above the freak show - it was only luck that he hadn't been arrested since he was 15. Well, luck, and maybe some of Zach's good influence. How long would it be before they got so completely different that they had nothing to say to each other anymore?