The apartment was hauntingly quiet. Baxter settled into the couch, turned on the TV, and thought about her parting words. Eventually, he fell asleep.
Baxter found himself in his bathroom, all the faucets were running. Moreover, the toilet was in a constant state of being flushed. As he exited to the living room, he was confronted by his mother. She walked up: “Have you seen my boy?” “It’s me, mother,” Baxter replied. Mrs. Ilston stepped closer: “Have you seen my boy?” - “Mom!” - “Have you…” - MOM!”
It was three A.M. and the TV was still on. Some informercial about denture cleaning. Baxter turned it off and went to bed, restless. He got up at sunrise, unable to tell if he had slept or not, remembering only lying there, awake. How was his mother doing? Baxter felt as if that question would stay unanswered. The morning grew even more disturbing when Baxter checked his mailbox:
Don’t be scared. I saw you in the streets last week and folowed you home, finally I got myself together enouf to rite you. Theres alot I need to say, first of that I can never fogive my self for throuing you out, but a lot of other stuff too.
Meet me at the Wolfs den at nine on Saturday.
Baxter couldn’t believe that his dad had followed him here, much less that he had the audacity to write to him. This was a part of Baxter’s life that he considered over, behind him. At the same time he felt as if he owed it to his dad to at least see him, considering how far he had traveled.
Putting the letter in his pocket, Baxter went back inside. Reluctantly, he grabbed his pack of cigarettes - he had earlier decided to quit smoking - and set out for the riverfront.
The walkway was deserted, save for the rare morning tourists and commuting businesspeople, passing unnoticed before Baxter. Scenes from Atmore rushed through his mind; the first was from the time when Travis was ten. Travis was sitting at the breakfast table; the previous night his father had thrown a fit about how dirty the house was. Travis didn’t hear the end of it, he soon ran to his room and hid under the covers. He knew how these things went. The next morning, the entire house was clean, even under the couches where Travis hid the half-eaten candy his mom would otherwise throw away.
Her hands were red, slightly swollen - only now did he understand. Mr. Ilston retrieved some pancakes from the microwave and poured syrup over them, getting the counter messy in the process. At this point his mother left.
Looking out upon the Mississippi, Baxter realized how much Atmore held him back. In school, he was always ridiculed because of his memory problems. Travis could never remember anything for more than a few minutes, but learning and understanding new things was never a problem. It became obvious as soon as he moved. How easy it was now, to express his thoughts, to think freely and controlled at the same time. All he had to do was move and read more.
People never grew self-sufficient in Alabama - even in Mobile, there was a sense of parasitism that lingered over all relations. There was a feeling that people only associated because of needs, whether they be co-employees or the gossiping ladies.
By sunset, Baxter had decided that maybe his dad had learned this also - that the change in environment had made him a different, better man. Certainly his father deserved a chance, and considering how well things had gone for Baxter in the last few days it was a distinct possibility that his dad had changed. Soon it was late and time for Baxter to head back. He decided that he would spend the remaining afternoon reading and planning for Friday night.
Ever since the night before, Baxter had noticed how empty his life was, or rather how much better it could be. He was never used to having company, much less intimate company, her companionship pointed this out painfully.
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