Underweight- Part III

Empty coffee mug in a cafe
Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

 

Shortly afterwards Tom and Michael left with their minds focused on the mystery of Jonathan Felder and his hatred of rain. The next few days saw plenty of rain and attempts by Tom and Michael to make sense of the questions posed by Felder to Stacey and the mystical answers he had provided. Naturally, Michael’s inquisitiveness was growing more rapidly than Tom’s. But Tom did not remain unaffected. He thought Felder an odd man with odd thoughts. But he weighed Felder’s questions more on a personal versus professional scale than Michael.

As summer approached a few weeks later, Tom dropped by A. T.’s an hour before it closed. Felder was the only other customer, and as usual was entirely devoted to his meal and musings. After finding a seat, Tom ordered hot tea and a sandwich, while contemplating a project at work due by the end of the week. Michael had been unable to make it, thanks to a pressing deadline and an unfinished story.

While waiting for his food, Tom pulled out a newspaper, hoping to employ the down time. After a few minutes of quiet reading, he suddenly exclaimed out loud, “I can’t believe they traded Johnston to the Dodgers! How are we going to compete with only one decent pitcher?”

Before he could realize he was talking only to himself, Felder looked up from three tables over, stroked his beard and cleared his throat to signal he was being bothered. Tom tried to respond with a half-smile apology, but the look on Felder’s face said more than Tom could repent for. It’s as if the downcast recluse was saying “There is more to life than sports. I used to be like you once, but now the things you hold dear are meaningless to me.” Tom couldn’t help but feel as if Felder was trying to show him pity somehow. Shuddering at the thought that he might one day end up like Felder, Tom quickly turned his attention back to his reading, deeming it unwise to attempt to engage Felder in some kind of non-verbal jousting. Shortly after their interaction, Tom’s order arrived and Felder, upon looking out the window and hearing the sounds of thunder, decided to call it a night, forgetting to take his notebook with him.

As Stacey cleared Felder’s table, she noticed the notebook. “Tom, will you take this to Mr. Felder? He left just 2 minutes ago. I think he started toward Bryon Street.”

I don’t know if that is a good idea. He might accuse me of reading it, and to be honest, that dude scares me,” Tom replied, apprehension written all over his face.

Please take it to him. I know he wants it, and he doesn’t usually forget it,” Stacey pleaded.

Alright; but I’m coming back to finish my meal.”

Tom quickly grabbed the notebook and left the café. Heading to the right, he noticed Felder was three blocks ahead, walking and looking up periodically to the sky as if expecting it to rain at any time.

Tom started sprinting to catch up with Felder and calling out to no avail. Felder was still oblivious to Tom as he reached an intersection as a  torrential downpour started. He barely glanced each way before proceeding, ignoring the “Don’t Walk” sign and began to cross the street. Tom called out one more time without success.

Out of breath, Tom looked at his watch and saw that A.T.’s would close at any minute. Deciding his chase was hopeless, he turned his attention towards his unfinished meal and headed back. Upon reaching the café, Tom saw two police cars speeding by, but gave no thought to any potential reason why.

I’m sorry Stacey, but I couldn’t catch Mr. Felder. Do you want me to leave the notebook with you, or should I just bring it with me tomorrow?”

Why don’t you just hold onto it? I’ve got enough to take care of with my three kids. I don’t think he would forgive me if I let something happen to it. I wrapped your food up so you could take it home.”

Ok, thanks. I’ll bring it by tomorrow as soon as I get off work,” Tom promised as he paid his bill, bid Stacey good night and left. After arriving home, he repeatedly decided against opening the notebook, despite his curiosity.

The next morning Michael awakened Tom with a phone call.

“Tom, listen. I’ve got some unbelievable news!”

Barely conscious, Tom only offered a grunt in reply.

Tom, wake up! Felder’s dead!”

What are you talking about? It’s too early for your jokes, Michael,” Tom said grouchily.

I’m not kidding. Hurry up and get dressed. I’ll meet you at A.T.’s for breakfast,” Michael implored.

Alright, alright, but you better not be messing with me,” Tom said.

The rain was descending as Tom reached the café. He couldn’t help but think how appropriate the rain decided to make its presence known again.

What exactly is going on? Tom said, interrupting Michael and Stacey’s conversation.

I got a call first thing this morning from a colleague that some guy was hit by a truck last night about five blocks from here. Long story short, it was our thirty-five year old local mystery man, Jonathan Felder. At least now we know his name and how old he was, but that’s about all I’ve been able to find out so far. Since the cops couldn’t locate any family members, Felder’s boss identified him. I didn’t get a chance to interview the policeman who responded to the accident yet or his boss. My editor has me working on the mayor’s re-election campaign the rest of the week, so we might never get to know much about him. I tried to tell him that Felder might make a good human interest piece, but he shot me down, saying the death of one more no-account loner isn’t worth spending much print on.”

Maybe your editor needs to get hit by a truck. Mr. Felder was a human being, too; though I’m not sure your editor is,” Stacey said disgustedly.

Can I quote you on that?” Michael asked half-jokingly as he agreed with her.

Sure,” Stacey replied angrily.

It’s a shame we didn’t get to know him,” Tom remarked while thinking of his brief interaction with Felder the night before.

Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now,” Michael replied despondently.

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