Peter had an enormous amount of energy. It was spring. Bike sales would only increase towards summer and he was busy with tune-ups. Now open on Saturdays, he had less time to be with Jennifer, but still managed to finish tiling his bathroom, with her help. It was beautiful and simple. He’d sprung for a periwinkle rectangular strip near the top of the wainscoting, through the tub and shower, bordered by thin, shiny, black tiles bordering the top and bottom. The rest of the bathroom was in semi-gloss white six by six inch squares.
The ceramic college would have spring break March 20th. Jennifer looked forward to a less populated studio. Roxy was going to New York City with boyfriend Chris. Her crowd wouldn’t be causing chaos in the workspace next to her, dropping items off at all hours of the day and night, interrupting Jennifer as she worked, to take a note or answer a question about Roxy’s whereabouts, as if Jennifer was her secretary. Every time Roxy and Chris went to the “City” they took dozens of Chris’s well-crafted teapots and cups to galleries and hawked Roxy’s items at Grand Central Station to catch the Friday morning and evening commuters. Sometimes Roxy, alone, went to Wall Street for the early traders exiting the city. Jennifer admired her chutzpa. A junior in the ceramic school with a professorship in mind, she was marketing her work already and Jennifer wasn’t. But through these efforts, her nuclear comrade was paying her back, one hundred dollars every couple of weeks, for the bail Jennifer had fronted her at the protest.
It had been five months since her arrest at Mirion Tech’s nuclear construction site. Meanwhile, in Jennifer’s mind, being the mysterious banner maker still disturbed her. Jillian noticed Jennifer wasn’t eating well and loosing weight. Peter noticed too. With her biking workout of ten miles, four days a week, she wasn’t consuming the amount of calories needed. It impacted her speed and energy, frustrating and making her feel defeated. She lived for Saturday nights and Sundays with Peter. Even pain in the ass Dr. Freeman wasn’t humorous to her anymore, just an irritation. Over-shadowed by fear of complicity, she’d go to jail for a long time, for making the banners and assaulting the cooling tower. So much for her dreams of ceramic stardom, she’d be a felon. Maybe she and Jillian should try selling mugs on Wall Street and at Grand Central Station. She needed to accumulate funds for attorney fees.
So, during spring break Jennifer threw, trimmed, glazed, and fired two different styles of mugs in three different colors; shiny blue, stony white, and satiny green. After the first two weeks of the term when both women knew where they stood class-wise, they planned a few days at Jillian’s father’s apartment on Lexington Avenue in New York City, when he was at his weekend home in Downsville, New York.
Thursday they headed East, with baggage, and sixty-five mugs in Jennifer’s Karman Ghia. Stopping for an early lunch in Binghamton, New York at eleven, they ate steamed mussels in tomatoes, basil, and fennel with garlic bread at an Italian bar Jillian knew. They hit the city well before rush hour at two p.m., parking in Jillian’s father’s garage spot, and de-camped. Hitting Wall Street at three-thirty when the traders started to leave, they sauntered down the sidewalk with mugs threaded through broomsticks, supported by a guitar strap. Continuing on the street through the exodus of assistants, secretaries, and receptionists, they netted, one hundred dollars. And forty-five more mugs waited for them back at the apartment for their next foray.
Tomorrow they’d look for same day Broadway tickets in Times Square and find a cheap Indian restaurant with good curry and samosas. But that night they decided to buy falafel wraps as they were walking home to get to bed early. They’d hit the trains Friday morning in Grand Central Station and go back to Wall Street during lunchtime. Afterwards, purchasing their discounted Broadway tickets for that night or a Saturday matinee.
Jillian’s father’s apartment was a fifth floor walk up; a one bedroom, with a living / dining room next to a miniscule kitchen. There was no T.V., only a small 1970’s aqua plastic radio on the sofa end table. So it wasn’t until they hit Times Square, after their Wall Street mug sales, when the news hit, spread over reader boards thirty feet high:
PENNSYLVAINIA’S THREE MILE ISLAND NUCLEAR PLANT MELT DOWN RELEASES RADIOACTIVITY INTO SURROUNDING DAUPHIN COUNTY AREA
Jillian grabbed Jennifer’s arm.
“You’re safe! You have nothing to worry about now.”
Jennifer turned and saw the reader boards, giant “ticker tape” neon spreading news for two city blocks above them. She couldn’t believe it. A real live nuclear accident now in the U. S. of A.! Their defense would win. It was all she could think about.
“Would you make the decision about the tickets? I’ll see anything on Broadway. I’ve got to get to a pay phone and call Stan.”
With twenty people in front of them in line, Jillian watched Jennifer run through three lanes of traffic to an empty pay phone down the block.
Fingers scrambling for coins in her purse, she finally dialed Stan’s number, “Did you hear? Three Mile Island- a melt down!”
“Yep! It’s a miracle. Did you know The China Syndrome is breaking box office records? And the bond markets have devalued the Mirion Utility bonds to ‘C’! Maybe the country will finally wake up. I’ll get in touch with Stella and Ralphie and we’ll get together soon, figure out a strategy.”
Back in line, Jillian was one person away from the ticket seller and no Jennifer.
“Bette Midler – Divine Madness, Zoot Suit, or Evita are available tonight in nose bleeds or spitting distance,” twanged the clerk.
Having dodged two taxis crossing the street in her haste to return to Jillian, Jennifer was bent over catching her breath at the ticket booth.
Panting and pointing at the display on the kiosk, “Do you like Bette Midler?
“Jillian looked with concern at her roommate, curious about the phone call, “So what’s the story, Jen?”
After collecting her breath, Jennifer continued, “I guess they had a pretty good release of radioactivity, krypton, and radioactive iodine; Krypton’s half-life is ten years, radioactive iodine is eight days. It’s not as bad as it could have been, but it’s serious enough to clear our names.”
“Ladies! Please!” the ticket seller barked.
Holding their nosebleed, Friday night, Bette Midler tickets in one hand, Jillian hugged Jennifer on the sidewalk, as people streamed around them, traffic snarled, and cabbies bellowed.