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By Jonsig Eirik
Tammy left the telegraph office with a handful of messages, and she wasn’t sorry they were the last she had to deliver for the day. The bone chilling Vancouver fog found it's way through her clothes until she hated going out in the night. But she enjoyed her job in the summer when the weather was nice. Riding around the city on her bike, delivering telegrams was her idea of a nice job. Her roommate, Joan, twenty, a year older than Tammy worked at a coffee and doughnut takeout, and right now she would gladly change places with her. Even if Joan had changed jobs with her, she would have been out on the street looking for a new one when the dispatcher found out. She buttoned her leather jacket and went into the alley where her new bike was securely anchored to a pipe railing. She unlocked it and rode to the corner stopping a moment till there was a break in the endless stream of traffic. Tonight was Friday and she could never recall a Friday night in Vancouver that wasn't busy, fog or no fog. She had several telegrams to deliver; the last was a dingy apartment close to where she lived. The stairs creaked under her modest 118 pounds; the musty smell suggested mould in corners behind the furniture. A lamp at the head of the stairs threw a dim light through an opaque fixture that was the final resting place for a few unfortunate flies. Down the hall, Tammy found the room she was looking for. The
number on the door was hanging upside down by one nail. She knocked and waited; the night latch clicked. A young man stood there. She smiled, “Mr. William Evans?” "Yes.” "I have a telegram for you, sir. Will you sign here please?" She asked handing him the receipt. He scrawled his name on it and handed it back. She noticed his hand trembled as he took the message, almost as if he knew what was in it. This was one of the things she didn't like about her job, bringing bad news to someone. She watched his face as he read the brief contents of the message, his grim expression speaking for itself. "Would you care to send a reply?" she asked “No Miss---no reply.” "I'll be on my way then. Good-night Mr. Evans," "And you too, Miss-- Good- night." She was almost to the head of the stairs when the young man called to her; she looked around and saw him beckoning to her to come back. She retraced her steps to where he was standing in the doorway. "I'm sorry to bother you Miss, but would you have time to do me a favor?" "I don't know if I’m permitted to, the dispatcher is very strict about such things." "I understand. I'm sorry I bothered you." Tammy was now curious, and by nature she was an obliging cuss, besides, she was of duty having delivered the last message for the day. "A favor you said, Mr. Evans?"
"I need some milk for my baby. I was wondering if you would stay with him while I get some. I won’t be long." "Okay, I’m through for the day anyhow." Tammy followed him into the room, to where the tot lay warmly bundled on the bed. The room felt cold, much to cold for a baby. She knew babies had to be in a reasonably warm room if they were expected to stay healthy. "I'll be back as quick as I can, and thanks a lot." Tammy could hear his footsteps down the hall and on the stairs until he reached the street. She closed the door and sat down at the table where baby oil, Q-tips and baby powder were placed against the wall. Tammy glanced in the cupboard; a can of soup, beans, two tins of diced tomatoes. What the heck did the guy live on? Or did he go out and eat. What about the baby? Where was his wife? He must have a wife. Maybe the telegram would throw some light on the subject. It lay folded on the table where he had left it. She picked it up and looked at it. It was short and to the point, MRS. JENKINS PASSED AWAY THIS AFTERNOON STOP AWAIT YOUR INSTRUCTIONS. Well she wasn't much wiser, but felt a guilty for snooping. She folded and placed it back on the table where it had been, and sat down to wait. About ten minutes went by then she heard Evans returning with the milk for junior. "I hope I haven't kept you too long, I had to go two blocks." "No. I was only going home from here, nothing exciting." "Well I'm glad I didn't have to take Billy along, and I don't like to leave him alone." "Not a good idea. The place could burn down,” This last thought was a pleasant one, provided the place was vacant at the time.
Tammy stood up and started toward the door, setting her cap straight "Good night again, Mr. Evans." "Oh -- Just a minute, I want to pay you for your trouble?" "No, this favor is on the house -- bye for now." Out on the street the damp fog greeted her. It hadn't changed any in the last few minutes. Something else had changed though; the spot where she left her bike before she entered the building was conspicuously empty. This was the second time it had been stolen within a month. The last time it happened, the dispatcher told her to smarten up and lock it when she had to leave it outside at night, even for a few minutes. But she didn't and now it was gone. She would have to report it stolen and face the music. But wait. Evans had been out and back within a few minutes. Perhaps he had seen someone taking it. It was a long shot but… She was up the stairs and knocking on the door of his room in seconds. Bill Evans stood there with a surprised look on his face. "Guess what? Some dirty crook stole my bike. It was there when I entered the building. It was gone when I came out, do you suppose I diagnosed the problem correctly?" she said Bill almost laughed. "Yes. I think you did. I feel guilty -- if I hadn't detained you this wouldn't have happened." "I'm not blaming you, Mr. Evans, it wasn't your fault. Did you notice it when you went out?" "No -- come to think of it, I didn't." "Then it was stolen right after I went into the building. Oh well-- I'll just have to report it to the cops and hope they find it." "What about your job -- how are you going to deliver your messages?"
"Oh…ride the busses till I get the bike back, or another one, only it's happened before. I'm going to catch heck from the dispatcher, he warned me to lock it up." "Someone could still carry it away, even if it was locked." "Boss doesn’t see it that way. I'm supposed to lock it up." "So what are you going to tell him -- that it was stolen while you were baby sitting for a stranger?" “That would be better left unsaid.” "Look. I got an idea that will straighten the whole mess out. I'll get you another bike." "But Mr. Evans -- I can't let you get me another bike. It wasn't your fault it was stolen, I'm not blaming you:" "I know that -- and I also know you need a bike. Vancouver is a big city to cover on foot."
"I know, but I can’t let you get me another bike. It's just plain crazy." "So it's crazy. Let me advance you the money for it. You can pay me back so much a week until it's paid for. No carrying charge. No obligation. How does that sound?" “Sounds real neat, but --- gee, I don't know what to say," "Just say you’ll take the money and buy another bike in the morning.” "Okay Mr. Evans, and thanks. You sure saved my neck. I got about eight bucks to my name. “Loosing my bike again just made me feel sick.” Bill Evans handed three twenties to Tammy. She took them, still a bit reluctant about accepting money like that from a stranger, even if it was strictly a loan as far as she was concerned. She was very grateful though that he was such a
swell guy to help her out. She thanked him again and said good night, then whistling to herself, went out into the foggy night. With a light step and a happy heart she quickly covered the three blocks to her room. She bounded up the stairs two at a time, and seeing the light through the transom tapped on the door in her own special way. In a moment Joan slid back the night latch and opened the door greeting her with two words. "You're late" Tammy ignored this comment and threw her coat on the bed and turned to Joan. "Some crook stole my bike, I better go down the hall and phone the cops." "Stole your bike! They're going to love you. They just finished bringing it back.” "That was two weeks ago -- they'll have forgot," "Oh sure. Like elephants forget" Tammy went down the hall and called the police department. She gave them all the details but carefully avoided mentioning that they had just recovered it for her a few days ago. After all there was no point in bringing that up again. She returned to her room where Joan was waiting with more questions. "What happens now; do you walk or get a pass?" "Neither -- I'm going to get a new bike in the morning." "A new bike. Are you going to get one on time?" "No -- I’m going to pay for it, see." Tammy showed her the three bills and waited for the explosion that was bound to come. She was rewarded. "Sixty bucks! Where did you get sixty bucks -- now common -- level with me. You didn't steal it, did you?"
"Aw Joan -- you know me better than that. A man loaned it to me." "A man -- you mean a stranger -- some man you don't know. You borrowed money from a man you don’t know? Are you crazy?" "Nope, he's a nice guy. He wanted to give to me outright but I wouldn't take it. We agreed on a loan." "Look -- Tammy -- Men don't throw around money like that for a past time. There 's a catch to it, you must give it back.” "But I don't want give it back. I'm going to buy a bike with it in the morning." then she added, "Besides I'll pay it back as I arranged it with Mr. Evans, some every month, until it's paid back." “So how much are you going to pay back each pay-day? I'll bet you never decided on that when you accepted the loan?" "No -- but he doesn't care. He wanted to give it to me didn't he?" "Sure -- that's what you say; if you aren't careful you'll find your self mixed up in some kind of trouble. When are you going to make the first payment?" "Probably next payday, but I'm going to drop around there in the morning." “Why, it's not payday tomorrow!" "I know, I'm going to give his baby a bath for him. He doesn't like the job." "His baby! So now he suddenly has a baby. How about a wife? Hasn’t he got one of those around too?" "I don't know. I didn't ask him."
"Well you should. For all you know his wife could come walking in and start demanding a lot of answers if she finds you there looking after the kid." "But Joan, he's okay. I'm sure of it or I wouldn't be going there to help him." "Well it’s your problem. I only hope you don't goof it up," The next morning Tammy went over to the apartment to give the baby his bath. She knocked on the door and waited; feeling a little nervous, especially after the way Joan had carried on the night before. She was prepared to make a hasty retreat if a woman with a cleaver should answer the door, soon the latch slid back and the door opened. "Well, good morning my fair lady. Step into my parlor." Tammy hesitated a moment as the young man stepped aside for her to enter, either he was an awful wolf or he was just a good-natured jolly person. "I don't know if it's safe for me to come in after that remark. I may be the poor unsuspecting fly.” Bill laughed. "I can assure you it's quiet safe, Miss, by the way, what is your name?" "Tammy," "That’s a nice name and this is little William, my namesake. Just call him Billy for short,” he remarked as he picked up the baby and put him on his knee, motioning for Tammy to sit down on a chair by the table. "He was asleep last night when I was here. How old is he?" "A little over ten months." "Where can I give him his bath?" "The best I can offer is the kitchen sink."
Tammy runs the water for his bath. He enjoyed every minute of it, splashing it all over the wall and a generous amount all over Tammy as well. But she didn't mind, it was a chore she was used to when she was home. After she had dressed the baby, she chatted for a minute with Bill then took her leave and went back to the room and changed into her uniform and went downtown town. She found a suitable bike and bought it, as well as a lock to go with it this time. No more of this leaving the bike unlocked anymore. The next morning Joan and Tammy went to Evans’ apartment, Tammy knocked on the door and they waited. In a moment Mr. Evans opened the door. He looked from one to the other. "Well -- good morning, what brings you here so early. Don’t tell me someone stole your bike." He remarked with a crooked grin, looking at Tammy. "No, Mr. Evans this is my room mate, Joan. We sort of got talking - we wondered if you needed help with the baby?” “Well now-- gosh I don't know what to say. I'm alone at the moment, but juniors not much trouble. I'll manage." “Why don't you let us help? We'd love to lend a head, give him his bath or something?" "Now that you mention it, that's one job I'm not keen on. I'd appreciate if you would do that for me." The girls went into the room and officially introduced themselves to junior by fussing over him until they got a smile from him. They prepared his bath and spent an overly long time scrubbing him from head to foot. They dried and powdered him with such meticulous care. Bill knew they both thoroughly enjoying the job, and as for junior he was in a new world with all this attention. Tammy wanted to ask him where his wife was but felt it would be improper, besides it was none of her business. She tidied up the apartment while Joan swept out the place, not
that it needed it. An hour or so and it began to take on a new look. When the girls were finished, Bill had wanted to pay them but they simply wanted to help. He thanked them and they left. The day went by quickly for Tammy. She kept thinking of the events of that morning -- bathing junior -- it was such fun; He was such a nice little guy. She thought about Mr. Evans too -young and good-looking -- how old? -- Twenty four -- twenty six -- no more. She felt a pang of jealousy -- Mrs. Evans -- the lucky girl. How she would love to have nice guy like that, but those were only fleeting thoughts for Tammy, Bill was a good friend -- he had proved that by helping her out with the bike, and she would do all she could to help him in return by looking after the baby when she had time.
Sunday morning she took extra care to do her hair just a little neater than usual, and put on a nice skirt and sweater. She slipped on her coat and went out to the street, wondering why she was a little nervous about this meeting with Mr. Evans. She had been nervous yesterday, but she had no reason to. What was the matter with her, Bill was a nice fellow. She had no cause to worry, he was probably a happily married man, and his wife would join him soon, then the baby would be with his mother. In the meantime she could help by giving Billy the kid a bath every day. Bill opened the door and greeted her. "Morning Tammy --- come in -- you look radiant this morning." Tammy cast him a shy smile but didn't say anything. She went inside and removed her coat, and laid it on a chair, she turned to Bill "I’m late this morning. Sunday is always my lazy day.” "Tammy -- I'm deeply grateful. I don't know why you are doing this for me. I want to pay you -- I'd like to." "But aren’t you forgetting about the money you loaned me. That was a mega favor."
"Even if it was a favor, a small loan is hardly payment for all the trouble you are going to." “I don’t mind it passes the time.” Tammy gave Billy his bath thinking he was even wilder than yesterday laughing all over himself and gooing at Tammy. After his bath she dried and brushed his hair till it shone. He didn't have many toys, so she found him a few jar rings in the cupboard drawer. These were as welcome as a ten-dollar toy. She sat down and watched him play for a moment, and then Bill spoke to her. "You have a way with kids, Tammy. You must have younger brothers and sisters." "I come from a big family, six younger than me." "Are your people here in Vancouver?" "No, they are in Calgary." "You wouldn’t get home often.” "That's for sure-- I haven't been home for almost a year – Well, since last Christmas." "Are you going home this Christmas?" "I'd like to, but I can't really afford it." "Well -- it's almost another month yet. Maybe you'll become rich by then.” Tammy laughed. "I doubt it. I can’t think of any wealthy relatives that are liable to kick off. They’re all broke and healthy." "That lets them out," remarked Bill as he looked at his watch, and then added, "It's almost lunch time. Would you care to join me?" "I should be getting home."
"To what -- the four walls of your room? Tell you what-- I'll slip down to the corner and get a fried chicken to go, okay?" "Okay, Mr. Evans, if you wish." "I'll be back in a minute, and the name is Bill. Mr. Evans sounds too stuffy." With that he went out the door. Tammy could hear his footsteps for a moment then all was silent, except the little noise junior was making while playing on the floor. She sat there waiting -- and wandering. Was she a fool to be coming here? Would Bill always be the gentleman he had been so far, or would he try to have an affair with her while his wife wasn't here. Tammy wished now that she hadn't accepted his invitation to stay for lunch. One thing could lead to another, and while Tammy had no objection to romance, she had no intention of getting involved with a married man, even a handsome one. Bill returned in a little while with a roasted chicken and chips, and then set the table for two, while Tammy made the tea. They sat down to eat, Tammy eating in silence, mostly to keep things informal. Bill was the first to speak. “You are very quiet. Are you always like that?" “I didn't have anything to say." "You’re the first girl I've known that didn't." "Now, Mr. Evans, that's not fair. Women aren't all chatter boxes.” "No, but I'm glad to meet one that isn't." Tammy looked at him, wondering why he’d got on this subject. He just looked at her with a crooked grin, she went to the gas stove and returned with the tea. "Okay. May I pour you some tea, Bill?" "Thank you Miss -- you didn't tell me your last name." “It's a secret. I’m not going to tell you."
"I'll find out. I'll get my detectives working on it right away," Tammy just grinned. If he wanted to find out her name she wouldn't tell him. She was bit of an imp, and it took very little provocation to bring it out. "How many have you got working for you?" "Not too many -- but I can always hire more. I would sooner call you Miss Canada or Miss Vancouver." "But I'd have to be good looking with a flashy figure before that title would be in order," She could have kicked herself the minute she said it. It was almost a direct Invitation for him to take a good look at her to see if she came up to the necessary standards. Instead he just grinned, "I'm sorry Tammy, I didn't mean that as a fresh remark. Please forgive me. "But in all sincerity though, there is nothing the matter with your looks." "Well -- thank you. I know you didn't mean anything out of line --- would you like more tea?" "Sure -- pour your own first." They chatted for a while, and then Tammy cleaned up the kitchen, washed the dishes, and fed little Billy and changed him. Then she went back to her apartment. For the next few days Tammy would drop in every morning to give the baby his bath. She often found herself wondering what the whole picture was. Where was his wife -- surely she would be back soon -- he couldn't go on like this much longer, staying at that dingy apartment all day looking after the Billy. She was often on the verge of asking him about her, but never seemed to find the courage. Something inside seemed to cry out -- Don't ask -- you will only learn that she will be back in a few days. Pay back the loan and forget him, he’s not for you. That handsome young man belongs to another woman.
What would be her last morning to bath Billy, a new face greeting her at the door. Instead of Bill, a nice looking young woman answered the door. She smiled, "You must be Tammy -- Bill has been telling me all about you; do come in won't you?" Tammy stepped inside for a moment, more from habit than any other reason. Now that the baby had his mother, her part in this play was over. She would leave in a moment. The young lady continued. "Bill stepped out for a moment -- said there was something he had to attend to -- didn't say what though--- he is like that --- never says much." Then without more than a hasty pause to catch her breath she continued. "My, how the baby has grown -- but then I haven't seen him for almost two months. And it was so good of you to come and look after him. Bill has done so well but then it's so natural for a woman -- it's so hard for a man ---. She prattled on for another few minutes, Tammy thinking back a few days when Bill had made the remark that she was the first girl he had met that was not a born chatter box -- after meeting with the young woman in the apartment; he had a reason to make that comment. The next few days went by without incident for Tammy who of course didn't go back to the apartment, where she felt she wasn't needed any more now that the baby’s mother had returned to care for him. She missed the little guy -- the way his chubby arms ended up around her neck, laughing and drooling all over himself. Mass decorations in store windows; children’s eyes a bit wider in keeping with the Christmas season. Today was payday for Tammy -- she would pick up a small present for little Billy and take it over this evening. She would also return fifteen dollars of the loan to Bill. At that rate it would only take her a couple of months to pay it back. After work, Tammy took the little toy and a payment to the apartment. She knocked on the door and waited, the door opened and Bill stood there for a second, then he threw his
arms around her and spoke at the same time. “Tammy! Where on earth have you been these last few days, I've missed you." Tammy was still recovering from the sudden shook of being embraced without warning; also hoping Bill was still in his right mind. She was on the verge of slapping his face for being fresh, but instead she said. "I just dropped by to give this small present to Billy for Christmas, also to start repaying my debt." She said holding out a twenty. "You just missed him by a day. His mother left with him yesterday; they are almost halfway home by now."' "Oh darn it, I wanted him to have it for Christmas." "We’ll send it to him. I'll get some heavy paper and wrap it then we can mail it tomorrow." Bill went out returning with a heavy piece of wrapping paper, and a bit if strong twine. When the parcel was wrapped and securely tied Bill took a pen from his pocket. Tammy watched as he wrote the name on the outside, Mrs. Emily Jenkins, following with an address in suburban Toronto. Why was he addressing it thus? Mrs. Jenkins? The name seemed familiar -- sure, the telegram she had delivered. It had concerned someone by that name. Maybe she was a relation. She would ask Bill, then she would know instead of guessing. "Who is Mrs. Jenkins, Bill?” "My sister -- Billy’s mom. You met her didn't you?" "Yes, I did. Only you're going to laugh when I tell you. I thought she was your wife." "Oh no -- but then you must have thought Billy was my son. I'm sorry Tammy. I feel like a fool for not telling you. Why didn't you ask?"
"I didn't want to pry, but curiosity got the best of me when you said the baby had left with his mother, and when you addressed the parcel to Mrs. Jenkins I knew I must be on the wrong track." "Well I'm certainly glad we got that sorted out -- after all I don’t want the nicest girl I know, thinking I'm an old married man.” Tammy smiled. It was wonderful to hear him say that. In fact if there were some way she could have gone out and reenacted the scene where he put his arms around her she would have. "Bill, how come you had the baby with you?" "Billy's grandmother, was looking after him while Emily went up north to visit her husband in northern Alaska. Mrs. Jenkins took sick about the time Emily joined her husband, so I took over looking after Billy. I didn't mind because I'd stayed there for months, often helped look after him. But to my annoyance I got a call to go to the coast on a matter of great importance, so I threw my clothes in one suitcase and Billy in the other and took off. The rest you know from the time you delivered the telegram, which by the way you may remember was to tell me Mrs. Jenkins had passed away. I would have liked to go back with Emily to help her, but I couldn't get away. Anyhow the defense department is giving her husband a couple of weeks at home, so she'll manage." Tammy remained silent, just thinking what a swell guy Bill must be to take the baby with him and look after him like that. Then he broke in on her thoughts, "But that's enough of the family album for one evening -what say we go down-town and see what's doing? We still have plenty of time to catch the late show." "I'd love to, I haven't been to a show for ages." *** "Tammy - did you notice the car that fellow was driving?"
"Which fellow?" "The star in the picture, whatever his name was?" "No, I didn't notice -- you had you arm around me too tight," "I hope you didn't mind, did you?" "I didn't mind---. Only I was beginning to worry that you weren't going to." Bill didn't say a word. He put his arm around Tammy and held her close as they walked down Grandville Street. A couple of elderly ladies passed them and Tammy heard one say, "They must be a couple of lovers." Indeed they are, Tammy thought to herself -- indeed they are. THE END