Joe stood in front of Zack’s door knocking loudly, a plastic bag full of NHU shirts and a jacket clutched in his other hand. He’d give it a five count, and if Zack didn’t answer–
Two seconds later, the door widened a crack and out popped Zack’s head. Anger flashed on his face, his mouth open with a rude word chambered and ready to fire, until he saw the source of the interruption. “What’s wrong?!” he said, his eyes wide.
“Hi Zack. Got a minute?” Through the crack in the door he could see a very attractive, very naked co-ed covering herself with a sheet.
“Uh, that’s, uh . . .” Zack flushed. He lowered his voice and spoke close to Joe’s ear. “I didn’t, um, we . . . you know, I didn’t–”
Joe held up a hand. “I’m not your father, Zack. I just wanted to say thanks for everything.”
“What’re you thanking me for?”
“What’s the problem?” called the girl.
Zack turned. Joe noticed he had no shirt on. “One second.”
“I can get going . . . .”
“No!” Zack stepped out, wearing nothing but his boxers. Joe admired his hard, muscular body, eighteen and already built like an action figure. “I don’t know what you got going on, man, but I’m going with you.”
“Not so loud,” said Joe, flapping a hand like the words were real and he could bat them away. “And no you’re not.”
“Come on, we’re in this together. Let me just get dressed and we’ll talk, get our plan straight–”
“No talking, Zack. That’s the point. I didn’t come here to talk.” He put a hand on Zack’s upper arm, resisting the urge to squeeze just to see how hard the muscle was. “I’ve messed things up enough without dragging anybody else further into it.”
“Come on, that’s not fair.”
“No!” He said it dad-stern, one of the few advantages of being a thirty-something trapped in the body of a teen–it lent him a certain gravitas unattainable for most college-aged boys.
Zack clammed up with an audible snap. Joe went on: “I came here just to say thanks, and to see you before . . . in case . . . you know. I figured I owe you that much.”
“The only thing you owe me is letting me help you.”
The door crept slightly open. “What’s going on?” said the girl, peeking into the hallway.
“Hi,” said Joe. “He’ll be with you in a second.” He caught a glimpse of the girl’s lovely mocha body and quickly turned away, feeling like a dirty old man.
“Shut the door,” said Zack. “Please.” The girl did as asked.
“You’ve got more than enough on your plate, Zack,” said Joe.
Zack waved a hand over his shoulder. “I don’t care about any of this, man. I care about saving those people. I couldn’t forgive myself if I just let it happen and did nothing.”
“You won’t have to. This isn’t your fight. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, blank pages waiting to be filled. Play football–”
“I don’t care about that.”
“Play football,” said Joe, “get your degree, do all the things you never got a chance to do before you . . .
“Died,” said Zack softly. “You can say it: before I died.” Continue reading “Reset: Chapter 35: Sunday, September 9, 2001 (4)”