This continues an excerpt from Mad Science Institute, a novel of calamities, creatures, and college matriculation. (type “J” to skip back one post; type “K” to skip ahead one post)
Mad Science Institute will be available 12/16/2011, but you can read the beginning here first!
From his parked pickup, Dean took a moment to study the front door of the Ichiban Sushi Buffet while he wondered if he might be going crazy. McKenzie always had that effect on him. That fact, along with his desire not to spend the rest of his life twiddling his thumbs in some little cow-town as a professor’s husband, was probably the reason why they had never been able to stay together. The trouble was, he was even worse off without her, and he knew it. There had been plenty of women in his life, but McKenzie was different. She was like a drug addiction, and withdrawal always left him shaken and stupid.
The first time she had dumped him, he had transferred to the fire academy just to get away. The next time it was his turn to break it off, but that hadn’t stopped him from needing to escape the pain again, so he joined the army and shipped out to the Middle East. When he returned, they got back together, but the long distance between their lives was too much to overcome. When they split up again, Dean crawled so far into a bottle that the chief had to give him a choice between the psychologist’s office or the unemployment line. The thing that hurt Dean the most was that he knew each of these breakups wounded McKenzie just as deeply. Even when he got angry, he couldn’t stand to see her in pain: anything that injured her felt like it hit him twice as hard. Over the years, their romantic collisions had left a lot of debris on the road behind them.
When he had seen her on the street yesterday, he had realized that he never wanted to lose her again. Still, he feared something was terribly wrong. She had seemed so distracted and worn down, and her request that he take over her job was both bizarre and worrisome. He didn’t know what was happening, but he knew he wanted to be the guy who would save her from it.
After work, he had swung by the bank to open his safe-deposit box to retrieve his great-grandparents’ wedding rings. Damn the consequences, Dean thought. McKenzie was the woman he would spend the rest of his life with.
The sushi buffet had just opened for lunch, but when he walked in he found that McKenzie was already seated in a booth with a good view of the parking lot so she could see him coming. They exchanged a deep, warm hug, and then sat down as she slid a plate of sushi across the table at him. “You have to tell me what’s going on,” he said.
He watched as the conflict played out across her face. “You can’t help with it. It’s best you don’t know.”
“Dammit, why?” There was silence between the two of them. She looked like she wanted to answer, but when it became clear that she wouldn’t, Dean went on. “This idea of yours,” he said. “Me running your school? It’s crazy.”