Bill grew up in a small town. He was the kid that delivered your paper, did well in school (class valedictorian), participated in sports (lettering in soccer, hoops, and hardball), played in the band (All-State first saxophone), and was elected to the student council (Treasurer as a Junior, President his Senior year). His parents were relatively common people – Dad worked at the local mill while his mother was a hairdresser. And Bill got along with everyone. He was a good kid, and when he went off to university in the fall of ‘89, everyone expected great things from him.
But being away from home for the first time with nobody peering over his shoulder was a chore. Things at home had been regimented to the point of absurdity. Sure, Bill had time for friends, but it was all scheduled into his mental planner, each minute of the day given over to some activity. He enjoyed structure, needed it in order to manage all that he did, though Bill would have found it hard to admit this (whether from ignorance of this fact or stubbornness, it cannot be said). So finding himself with time to spare and a wealth of opportunities not previously afforded him, Bill fell “off the wagon” so to speak.
It happened in increments. He missed his first class in week three of the semester. Having stayed up too late watching television, Bill had chosen to sleep in, preparing himself better for the classes later in the day. And it was only a single class, nothing that couldn’t be made up. But, in discovering that it was indeed easy to catch up after skipping that one, failing to show up for other classes came far more easily to him.
And Bill discovered he was not alone in this endeavor. Many of the other new students in his dorm were doing the same, sleeping the days away, waking in time for supper at the cafeteria in preparation for a night of drinking and partying. Soon, Bill found himself falling into this same schedule, spending the nights with his new friends – friends like he’d never had before because they were so much more worldly than Bill had believed himself to be – drinking until three or four in the morning, and then sleeping it off in order to start again the next evening.
Bill’s grades began to suffer, as did his wallet. Drinking cost money. So Bill had to find a job. Without a car, he was forced to seek employment within close proximity to the campus. There were buses that ran during the day to the nearby towns, but he understood that most jobs for which he was qualified would no doubt expect him to work the closing shifts, and he didn’t feel like taking a cab back to the dorms – depending on where he was, that could come out to a twelve-pack of PBR.
Near the back entrance of campus Bill found what he was looking for. “Dave’s Romantic Supermart,” though when you peeled away the sign’s rhetoric, it was really a porn shop. Not the highest-profile job one could get, but it was close to home, it would pay for beer, and he got two free movie rentals a week, which beat driving to the next town and paying for the latest Amber Lynn or Christy Canyon flick like he had down home.
Things went well for the first few weeks at the job – though his grades continued to be lackluster. But then one night, it all went to hell. It started with a phone call to the store. Bill picked up and gave the greeter line, just like his boss had told him:
Thank you for calling Dave’s Romantic Supermart where we have all of your romantic needs and the latest triple-X features. How can I help you?
There was a long pause before Bill replied.