The Rosie Project Page 48

I drove past Tillman Hardware. It was closed on Sunday, and my father and brother would be at home with my mother. My father was probably straightening pictures, and my mother asking my brother to clear his construction project from the dining table so she could set it for Sunday dinner. I had not been back since my sister\s funeral.

The service station was open and I filled the tank. A man of about forty-five, BMI about thirty, was behind the counter. As I approached, I recognised him, and revised his age to thirty-nine. He had lost hair, grown a beard and gained weight, but he was obviously Gary Parkinson, who had been at high school with me. He had wanted to join the army and travel. He had apparently not realised this ambition. I was reminded how lucky I was to have been able to leave and reinvent my life.

\Hey, Don,\ he said, obviously also recognising me.

\Greetings, GP.\

He laughed. \You haven\ changed.\

It was getting dark on Sunday evening when I arrived back in Melbourne and returned the rental car. I left the Jackson Browne CD in the player.

Two thousand four hundred and seventy-two kilometres according to the GPS. The handkerchief was safe in a zip-lock bag, but its existence did not change my decision not to test Margaret Case.

We would still have to go to New York.

I met Rosie at the airport. She remained uncomfortable about me purchasing her ticket, so I told her she could pay me back by selecting some Wife Project applicants for me to date.

\F*k you,\ she said.

It seemed we were friends again.

I could not believe how much baggage Rosie had brought. I had told her to pack as lightly as possible but she exceeded the seven kilogram limit for carry-on luggage. Fortunately I was able to transfer some of her excess equipment to my bag. I had packed my ultra-light PC, toothbrush, razor, spare shirt, gym shorts, change of underwear and (annoyingly) bulky parting gifts from Gene and Claudia. I had only been allowed a week\s leave and, even then, the Dean had made it difficult. It was increasingly obvious that she was looking for a reason to get rid of me.

Rosie had never been to the United States, but was familiar with international airport procedures. She was highly impressed by the special treatment that I received. We checked in at the service desk, where there was no queue, and were accompanied through security to the business-class lounge, despite travelling in economy class.

As we drank Champagne in the lounge, I explained that I had earned special privileges by being particularly vigilant and observant of rules and procedures on previous flights, and by making a substantial number of helpful suggestions regarding check-in procedures, flight scheduling, pilot training and ways in which security systems might be subverted. I was no longer expected to offer advice, having contributed \enough for a lifetime of flying\.

\Here\s to being special,\ said Rosie. \So, what\s the plan?\

Organisation is obviously critical when travelling, and I had an hour-by-hour plan (with hours subdivided as necessary) replacing my usual weekly schedule. It incorporated the appointments that Rosie had made to meet the two father candidates - Esler the psychiatrist and Freyberg the cosmetic surgeon. Amazingly, she had made no other plans beyond arriving at the airport to meet me. At least it meant that there were no incompatible schedules to reconcile.

I opened the schedule on my laptop and began outlining it to Rosie. I had not even completed my list of activities for the flight when she interrupted.

\Fast forward, Don. What are we doing in New York? Between Saturday dinner at the Eslers and Freyberg on Wednesday - which is evening, right? We have four whole days of New York City in between.\

\Saturday, after dinner, walk to the Marcy Avenue subway station and take the J, M or Z train to Delancey Street, change to the F train -\

\Overview, overview. Sunday to Wednesday. One sentence per day. Leave out eating, sleeping and travel.\

That made it easy. \Sunday, Museum of Natural History;Monday, Museum of Natural History;Tuesday, Museum of Natural History;Wednesday -\

\Stop, wait! Don\ tell me Wednesday. Keep it as a surprise.\

\You\ll probably guess.\

\Probably,\ said Rosie. \How many times have you been to New York?\

\This is my third.\

\And I\m guessing this is not going to be your first visit to the museum.\

\No.\

\What did you think I was going to do while you were at the museum?\

\I hadn\ considered it. I presume you\ve made independent plans for your time in New York.\

\You presume wrong,\ said Rosie. \We are going to see New York. Sunday and Monday, I\m in charge. Tuesday and Wednesday it\s your turn. If you want me to spend two days at the museum, I\ll spend two days at the museum. With you. But Sunday and Monday, I\m the tour guide.\

\But you don\ know New York.\

\Nor do you.\ Rosie took our Champagne glasses to the bar to top them up. It was only 9.42 a.m. in Melbourne, but I was already on New York time. While she was gone, I flipped open my computer again and connected to the Museum of Natural History site. I would have to replan my visits.

Rosie returned and immediately invaded my personal space. She shut the lid of the computer! Incredible. If I had done that to a student playing Angry Birds, I would have been in the Dean\s office the next day. In the university hierarchy, I am an associate professor and Rosie is a PhD student. I was entitled to some respect.


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