We can manage by ourselves

Tom slammed the car door and ran to the fence. Judith was in the back yard throwing a ball to King.

“Judy! Get cleaned up! We're going out tonight!”

“What's going on?”

“I got tickets to the Alabama concert at the Arena.”

“But they were all sold out when you called. I hope you didn't pay a scalper for them.”

“A guy in the shop had two tickets. His wife's folks dropped in for a surprise visit, and he couldn't go. He sold 'em to me for what he paid.”

“That's wonderful. Give me a few minutes to change. I'll put supper back in the fridge and we can eat on the way there.”

Half an hour later they were on their way.

“Where do you want to eat?” Tom asked. “A TACO KING sound okay?”

“Sure. I'd go for some Mexican food.”

“Okay, there's one a few blocks farther along.”

He pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot. He looked around the lot, then picked a parking space that was under a light and as close to the entrance as possible. Before opening the car door, he carefully scanned the parking lot for anyone standing around or looking suspicious. Satisfied, he got out, locked his door, and opened the door for Judith.

Inside, they went to the counter, looked over the menu posted on the back wall, and placed their orders. Tom then picked a table where he could face the door, and could watch his car through the window.

Judith finished a taco, picked up another, then put it down. “Tom, is something wrong? You've hardly looked at me since we sat down.”

“Sorry, Judy. I'm keeping an eye on the door and on our car. I don't want any surprises.”

“Don't let this business of watching around you become an obsession. You can’t let it dominate your life.”

“I won't. I'm just being careful.”

He picked up a taco, bit into it, and said, “Hey, these are pretty good. Lots of chili powder in them. I like that.”

“I thought you would.”

“Too much for you?”

“I wouldn’t use that much if I were making them, but they’re okay. I like them.”

“Good. Maybe we ought to try a Chinese place some time. They usually give you a choice of how much hot stuff you want.”

“That sounds like a good idea. I like Oriental food. I recall Dad saying that’s one of the things he missed after coming home from Vietnam. Mother tried to cook some Oriental meals from time to time, but somehow she never got it quite like Dad remembered it. Every once in a while we’d go to a Chinese restaurant so he could have the real thing.”

Their meal finished, they walked out. Tom stopped just outside the door and looked over the parking lot carefully. Then he headed straight for their car. He kept looking around as he opened the door for Judith.

Once on the street, he felt he could actually relax. Traffic was light enough not to be a problem, and they were on a major street. It wasn’t likely they could be attacked there.

At the Arena he drove through the parking lot, seeking a well-lighted spot near an entrance. He finally found one and parked the car.

Inside the arena, they located their seats. Judith stood up and looked around, then turned to Tom.

“Where were we sitting the night we met?”

Tom pointed. “Right over there, I think.”

“That's right. I recall it being near the concession stand.” She chuckled. “I remember you asking me if I'd like a beer.”

“Yeah, you said you'd rather have a Coke.”

“I wasn't going to accept a beer from a total stranger, but you looked kind of cute and I didn't want to turn you off.” She smiled at him.

“I'm glad,” he replied. “That concert ticket was the luckiest ticket I ever bought. Meeting you was even better than winning the lottery.”

She smiled and reached out to brush her hand across his. “That was a Hank Jr. concert, wasn't it? If he ever comes back here, we ought to go.” She laughed. “Never would have guessed I'd think of a Hank Jr. concert as romantic. You know, it's a shame this is the first time we've been back here since then. We ought to come here more often. There’s lots of other good shows here.”

“Right. We need to get out more often. But I need the overtime and the money, too.”

After a few numbers by the warmup band, the main act came on and began with their latest hit. The crowd roared its approval, and began to clap in time to the music. By the time the performers broke for intermission, the crowd was in a lively mood.

As people around them got up, Tom turned to Judith. “Excuse me, ma'am, would you like a beer?”

She laughed. “Yes, I guess by now I know you well enough to let you buy me a beer.”

He got two paper cups of beer and a bag of pretzels. He carefully threaded his way back through the crowd, trying to avoid slopping the beer or dropping the pretzels.

“Here, honey.”

He sat down and Judith held his beer while he tore open the plastic bag of pretzels with his teeth. Then he held out it to Judith.

They had just finished their beer and pretzels when the musicians returned to the stage. Again the crowd let out a roar.

Tom remarked, “They sure like these guys, don't they?”

“Why not? They're making good music. I'm really glad you were able to get tickets. I'm having a great time.”

“Too bad Bob couldn't use the tickets. I'll have to let him know tomorrow what he missed.”

“Don't make him feel bad. Next time he might sell his tickets to someone else instead of to you.”

Finally the concert was over. The crowd roared and clapped through two encores, then began to leave. As he and Judith left the Arena, Tom scanned the parking lot. No sign of any problems. Still, he led Judith directly to the car, got in quickly, and locked the doors.

They arrived home without incident. Tom checked the front of the house. Everything seemed in order. At the front door, he found that the burglar alarm was still set, as he'd left it. No one had tried to break in. He opened the door, to King's enthusiastic greeting. Everything was fine. His second line of defense was working.

Judith remarked, “Better let King run in the back yard a bit before we close up for the night.”


He slid the patio door open. King rushed out and quartered the yard, sniffing here and there. Tom stood and idly looked around the neighborhood. Everything seemed quiet. The night was clear, with a crescent moon. A slight breeze rustled the leaves of the oak tree. All in all, it had been a good evening. He thought, Maybe this is going to work out after all. So long as we're careful, we shouldn't have any problems. Judy was right. I don't need the Justice Cooperative.

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Copyright © 2004, Joseph P. Martino
Revised: 04:03:12