Chapter 4: Nora Gott’s Place
Wulf finally pulled up in front of a rather palatial looking building, which was the home of his grandmother Gott. It still seemed strange to him that he shared the surname of someone he had never met; but his mother Noel had changed her name back to her maiden name after his father had left. Seeing his own name on the buzzer in the front hallway, he rang the bell.
Steps came down the hall, and the door was flung open. A handsome older woman stood there, dressed very properly in a business type of suit. She looked him up and down, unsmilingly. “Hello, I am your grandson Wulf,” he finally said, in as friendly of a voice as he could muster.
“First, do not address me as grandmother- I have informed my colleagues that a distant relative would be staying with me, and you will not disabuse them of that fact.” She glared in pointed disapproval of him- his size, his long reddish hair, his unkempt casual clothing of jeans, boots and t-shirt, and finally reluctantly stepped back to allow him entrance.
Walking past her, Wulf was astonished at the palatial splendor, at least to him, of her gleaming condominium. As he had slowly driven here through the endless traffic and noise, the buildings had gotten steadily worse and more squalid, with trash strewn streets, and broken windows and tenements. But then, all at once, just as he was really close to his grandmother’s location, everything had miraculously- become really nice! It was startling, really: one moment he was navigating his old jeep through burned out cars and junk, next to rotting slum buildings; the next, and he was in a rather dazzling neighborhood of immaculately restored vintage buildings, perfectly kept parks and lawns, and lush flower beds! The vehicles changed from old sedans with smashed out headlights and rusty bodies, into perfect high end cars with expensive, status-conscious emblems on the hoods, and garage doors that slid open smoothly when their owner drove up in his sleek ride.
The hallway, and next to it the kitchen here were in good keeping with what he had seen on the last mile or so of his journey- gleaming stainless steel, endless cherry wood cabinetry, and deep carpets made up the vision. ’Why the disparity, the huge difference between so near to here, and then here itself!?’ he thought.
“If you are through gawking, I will show you to where you will be staying here,” said his grandmother in a cold voice. She led the way down the hall, past a huge living room of sumptuous carved chairs and opulent sofas, the largest television screen Wulf had ever seen (he had seen very few, and had never owned one), and finally past several doors he assumed were bedrooms. Finally, she came to the last one, and opened it.
A very small room was revealed, with no furniture whatsoever. The one small window looked out upon a brick wall. “I had to remove my storage items from this room for you, I hope you appreciate it!” Her expression showed plainly that she did not think he appreciated her immense effort. “You may use this bathroom,” - she pointed to a door across the hall, and none of the others!” ‘More than one bathroom??’ Wulf thought amazedly. He set his bags upon the floor of the room.
“May I call you ‘Wulf’?” she asked, without a hint of a question in her voice. “Good, but really, I don’t expect to see much of you while you are here- we can have nothing in common, since I am a respected professor in a highly distinguished university in a major city, and you…” she trailed off, but the supercilious look upon her face left no doubt as to what she thought about him. “ I don’t “cook” (she said the word as if she were swearing), but I suppose you may in the kitchen down the hall, but of course you must also clean up every bit of whatever type of mess you make, immediately. Also, keep it quiet- I keep very late hours for my study and research, and must necessarily sleep very late into the day. “Do NOT disturb me!” this last was said very definitely, and was accompanied with the most vicious glare the youth had ever seen, at least from a human being. Attacking animals had looked at him like that… And, turning abruptly, she was gone, shutting the door rather loudly behind her.
Shaking his head, Wulf opened his bag, first taking out the sleeping bag that he always carried along with him everywhere. He removed a number of books that he had also brought with him, that he could not imagine being without. History books, both ancient and modern, along with early American history and the constitution were there, along with Plato’s Republic and The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. There were also novels, from Dickens to Tom Wolfe. Nora Gott would have been amazed indeed to see this fraction of the books devoured daily by her grandson, most of which she herself had never read, and would have considered “obsolete”. But still, she would have been very shocked…
Many a pampered historian and English literature professor within the ivy walls of the nearby University of Chicago would have been dumbfounded by the knowledge gained by this hulking youth from what they would consider a worthless, flyover backwater. He read not for grades, or for status in academia and the approbation of his peers- Wulf read with a huge hunger for knowledge, and truth! He wanted knowledge for it’s own sake, and his voracious reading was one of the passions of his life, just as surely as hunting and experiencing nature with himself within it, and a part of it.
There was his grandmother’s voice at his door again, raised shrilly so as to not necessitate opening the door to be heard. “Young man! I have enrolled you into the Hyde Park High School. It begins classes in just two days; so be ready to go on Monday. 8 o’clock AM sharp!” And with that, her high heeled footsteps receded noisily down the polished wooden floor of the hallway.