Wednesday, July 15th, 2076
About halfway through her speech Al had stopped eating, and by the time she'd finished he'd forgotten about his food completely. Unable to help himself, he moved his scarred hand to reach for hers, only to have it collide with his mashed potatoes, which sent his plate skidding into his beer, which overturned and poured itself off the edge of the table onto the head of her startled monster. Saved, he congratulated himself as he sat beck in his chair licking his grease-stained fingers and trying to figure out how to even respond to all of that.
"Well, reckon there's a hell of a lot a body could say ta all o' that, an' don't rightly know where ta start. Guess first thing is, ain't nothin' ya could tell ol' Al that'd make me think any less of ya....'cept maybe ta question yer judgement tyin' yer fortunes ta some crazy moleperson what's entangled with them Valerian hippies. But I'll allow it was a noble thing ya did."
Hearing - again - of her ordeal had been the hardest part of her story for him to bear. He was no stranger to pain, but had had few experiences he'd compare to hers. He wanted to ask her what had become of her torturer, but this wasn't the time or the place. So he decided to just say the next thing he knew he was supposed to say, and congratulated himself on his ability to fake a tolerant attitude. "An' I'm real sorry ta hear ya ain't caught up with yer girlfriend." What he wanted to ask was how many girlfriends, or boyfriends, or whatever friends, there had been in the past eight years. He knew, however, that he had absolutely no right to ask, and in any case the figure might be high, hell, maybe higher than he could count on both hands. Well, that might be a stretch. In any case, he put that thought out of his mind - something he was good at.
There was a silence, and he knew she figured it was his turn. "Well, I'll clear up one misconception. I sure warn't hidin'. Sorry ya couldn't find me. Honestly, never figured you'd be that inclined ta look, leastways not after much time had gone by an' new faces had come 'long. Carried that letter 'round...till real recent, actually...an' like I done said t'other night, never had cause ta get anything goin' with anyone else...but what with...well, with things I...well...knew yer all sincere an' such, but assumed maybe yer eyes were bigger'n yer stomach, so ta speak, when it come ta long-term....shit, I didn't reckon ya'd care fer too long, an' I warn't hidin'...jist don't like the man in my bizness. Hell, ain't no Guthrie paid taxes since Andrew Jackson, an' ain't gon' let 'em git a line on me now...live with a small footprint, 'specially grid-wise..."
His voice trailed off as he realized he'd tried to say way more things at once than he could possibly handle, and made a mess of each one. This wasn't how it was supposed to go.