Here is another story, based on an idea I had in College, based on some people I have known.
Church and Grill
If ever there were two people not meant for each other, it would have been Steve and Katie. It was one of those mis-matches so blatantly obvious that when they arrived in Divorce Court the Judge wondered out loud how the pair had met in the first place.
“If Chuck Towhee hadn’t bought that damn store to begin with, we wouldn’t be here today!” Katie blurted out.
Judge Williamson was about to bang her gavel on Katie’s outburst but she restrained herself. After all, the Judge asked the question and she now had an answer.
Chuck Towhee, that is to say, Coach Towhee, purchased Piketon Grocery to supplement his income as football coach and health teacher at Piketon High School. He purchased it from Jeannie Shor after her husband, Emil, literally dropped dead of a massive heart attack the day before Memorial Day, 1977.
Perhaps a little explanation is needed.
Piketon, Ohio is a small community just off of US 23 about 65 miles South of Columbus. It would have been a town which would be easily forgotten but for the fact that it was the closest town of any size to the nuclear fuel plant set up by the government in the early 1950s. Although most of the development of housing and the like went to Waverly, Piketon had a boom, too. Some of the workers who had helped build the plant stayed to run the plant and were perfectly happy to plant roots in Piketon.
There was, and still is a certain charm that smaller communities have that one doesn’t find in the big cities. For one, everybody knows everybody else. Yes, everyone also knows everyone’s personal business, too. Every piece of gossip, every snippet of news, every indiscretion was known, at times even before the deed was complete. Katie Kuhl had an indiscreet moment with Steve Mulligan which would have landed her in a heap of trouble had they not been convinced by Ed Welch to marry almost then and there. Pastor Welch, owner and proprietor of Ed’s Church and Grill performed the ceremony well ahead of any possible rumors that Miss Kuhl was possibly a harlot or that she was “in a family way”.
The Piketon Grocery, or as it became known, Chuck’s Bargain Center, was born well before Wal-Mart was even thought of in a town too small to have merited a Wal-Mart. The fact that there was a ‘Church and Grill’ just three doors down from the Bargain Center was testimony to the size of the town.
Emil and Jeannie Shor owned a successful small Kosher grocery store in East Pittsburgh in an area referred to as Squirrel Hill. He had fought in the war against fascism and had saved a fair amount of money to invest in a new venture, choosing the remoteness of Piketon just after his release from the Army in 1947. He purchased the IOOF building on Main Street and outfitted it with the fixtures he needed to open a fair-sized grocery store, selling meat and produce from local farmers whenever he could. He and his wife played down the fact that they were Jewish. It was a small town on the fringes of the Bible Belt and was not necessarily amenable to Jews.
Emil Shor couldn’t have picked a better time or a better place to start a business. Within just a few years the Atomic Energy Commission had chosen a site just outside of Piketon for their fuel plant. There was a boom… an influx of workers and their families which pushed the small town to its limits. The Shors quickly found that their investment had more than paid for itself. Piketon Grocery became crowded, especially on Saturday mornings. At the peak, Piketon Grocery had employed a dozen locals who were paid a fair wage for their troubles. Needless to say, Emil Shor had become quite well respected by the townsfolk and was able to maintain a fair business in the face of new competition from the new Kroger and the Big Bear which opened 5 miles up the road in Waverly in the early ‘60s.
By 1975 the Shors were just barely keeping their heads above water. They were down to just one employee, Iris Darden, who lately seemed to be forgetting more than she ever remembered in the first place. Iris disappeared after work one day, reappearing several days later driving the wrong way on a one way street in Portsmouth. The police understood and helped the family find a nice place for Iris to spend the rest of what remained of her life.
Katie Kuhl walked into Piketon Grocery the day after she graduated from High School and was promptly given Iris’ job. The Shors knew the Kuhl family since before Katie was born. She was smart. College smart. Her parents, though, had a limited income and couldn’t afford to send her where she needed to be. The Shors came up with a solution. They would employ Katie and slip her some extra money so that she could attend Junior College at the same time she was working for them.
For two years, the arrangement worked, mostly in favor of the Shors. Katie proved herself to be an eager and willing worker. Further, she came up with a few ideas which actually started pulling the small market out of the doldrums. She was a natural shopkeeper.
The arrangement came to a sudden end at just after 10am on the 30th of May, 1977. Emil was in the back, stacking crates of fresh strawberries when he collapsed. He had been complaining of chest pains on and off that morning. Jeannie paid no attention, thinking that it was something he ate. When she heard the crash, Jeannie rushed to the side of her stricken husband who was clutching his chest and gasping for breath. Katie called the ambulance. By the time the ambulance from the funeral home arrived to transport Emil to the Hospital in Waverly, it was too late. Emil had passed on to his reward.
The store was closed for a week in mourning. When it re-opened, Jeannie Shor didn’t have her heart into it. She and Katie stumbled on for a month by themselves. In that month, Jeannie decided that she needed to sell the store and move to Pittsburgh to be with her family. Two days after she listed the store, it was sold to Chuck Towhee with the strict provision that Katie Kuhl was to remain employed at Piketon Grocery as long as she cared to.
Chuck Towhee was starting a new phase in his life. For the past 10 years, he had been a teacher and a coach at Western High School in western Pike County. He was fairly competent as a coach, leading the Western Frontiersmen to winning seasons for 9 of those 10 years. The Piketon Comets weren’t quite as lucky. When Coach Strausbaugh finally retired from his job as Head Coach of the Comets effective at the end of the school year in 1977, the School Board actively recruited and hired Coach Towhee in anticipation of winning seasons for the next decade or so.
Coach’s wife, Janet needed something to do, so, Coach Towhee decided that the opportunity to own a small grocery store was just what he needed to supplement the family income and keep Janet busy. He also had an assistant coach, Steve Mulligan, who he couldn’t leave behind. Mulligan was the Steve mentioned at the beginning of this story, the same person who was so mis-matched with Miss Kuhl.
It would be cruel and quite incorrect to label Steve Mulligan as being ‘retarded’. Rather, it should be noted that he was, perhaps, ‘a few bricks shy of a load’ so to speak. He had been a good football player, having been one of the principal reasons Coach Towhee had the record he had had, but he wasn’t College material… by any stretch of the imagination. He had, in fact, passed High School by the skin of his teeth. His Football skills were A+, his grades were D-. He would have been an embarrassment to any school he attended, no matter how desperate they might have been for a star player, so, he went back to the farm, returning to help Coach at Western during football season. This year wasn’t going to be much different in as far as the coaching, but his parents wanted him out of the house (it had been 5 years, after all) and he really did need the change of scenery.
So Coach provided Mulligan a job at the grocery and rigged one of the upstairs rooms into an apartment so that Mulligan would have a place to stay.
The people in the courtroom were amused by Katie’s outburst. Instead of banging her gavel to restore order, Judge Williamson pulled her glasses down and looked at those gathered over the top of the frames. She was quiet, she was effective. She got the message across. The courtroom went silent. “Now, Mrs. Mulligan, just how did you and your husband meet?”
It was mid-July. The sale of the store was complete and Katie was already working hard for the new boss and her husband. Coach Chuck had already changed the name of the Piketon Grocery to ‘Chuck’s Bargain Center’. Mrs. Shor came in for one last look around on that day. Her household goods were packed and on their way East. She was following, intending to stop at her cousin Edna’s in Wheeling that evening before going on to her new house.
Jeannie and Katie stepped outside after the walk-through for hugs and advice. Jeannie handed the younger woman a check. “Here. Here’s a gift for you from Emil’s insurance. Use it to finish your school and come up to visit me from time to time.” Katie peeked at the check and just about dropped on the spot. It was for $8,000, roughly what she had made working in the past year. “You need to find yourself a nice man and get settled down, too.” Jeannie continued. “Someone like him…”
It was at that moment that Steve Mulligan drove up, got out of his car and entered the Bargain Center.
Now, Steve Mulligan, despite being a bit deficient in the head, was quite the handsome man. He was the ‘farm boy’, dressed in denim, standing just over 6 feet tall. He was muscular but at the same time he had an ‘aw shucks’ attitude not normally associated with tall, blonde, muscular men like him.
Katie didn’t need to be told twice. Steve Mulligan was lust at first sight. “I think I should go back in and help the new customer…” she told the older woman. “Oh, and thank-you. You and Emil have been so good to me.” With that, the women hugged and exchanged kisses on the cheeks. Katie went back into the store. Mrs. Shor got in her car and smiled. She thought that maybe she had finally played matchmaker.
At first, Katie didn’t see the dream who had walked into the store just minutes ago. After doing a quick visual scan, her dream came out of the storeroom wearing an apron and talking with Coach Chuck.
“Katie Kuhl, I’d like you to meet Steve Mulligan. Steve, this is Katie. You will be working for her…with her here at the store.”
Steve seemed a bit shy, but offered his hand to Katie. Something in him instantly liked what he saw.
In some senses, Katie was a totally unremarkable woman. She wasn’t a stunning beauty, but she hadn’t been hit with an ugly stick, either. Katie was taller than most at just under 6 feet and was decidedly skinny. Not anorexic, but skinny. She carried herself well and had a great personality which was reflected in her face which was at the same time friendly and welcoming. It was her personality which was helping to win customers back into the store from the chains up the road.
Katie related the story to the Judge. It was now just over two years later. Labor Day was approaching as was the start of the next quarter at U.C. She wanted to get this business over with so that she could go back to school to earn her degree.
Steve was there, too, dressed in and looking rather uncomfortable in the suit he was wearing. Coach was waiting for him at the practice field.
“Is that how you met, Mr. Mulligan?” Steve nodded in affirmation. “Let the record show that Mr. Mulligan agrees with the story told by Mrs. Mulligan.”
The morning after meeting her future husband, Katie Kuhl went up to the First National Bank, opened up another separate bank account and deposited the gift from the Shors. She was not about to tell anyone about her good fortune and she sure as sin was not going to withdraw the money for school until she was darn good and ready.
She walked into work later that morning knowing that she was hot. She had money in her pocket and was about to start working with someone who was new to Piketon. He didn’t know her. It would be a fresh start from having to deal with some of the older customers who came in just to leer at her. The hormones were kicking in and starting to take control.
Being on the tall and skinny side had worked against her up to this point in her life, at least in terms of obtaining some male companionship. She had tried being flirty in High School, especially with that Henson boy, but no one took any notice of her. The Henson boy had gone off to College and was spending the summer with a girlfriend who he had met there. That girl could have been Katie’s twin. Here was Katie, two years out of High School and still stuck working at the store, fending off flirtation from men more than twice her age.
Steve was hardly less excited. His hormones were starting to take control, too. In the five years since he had barely graduated from High School, Steve had finally met someone close to his age without Mrs. in front of her name. He had gone to his class reunion about a month ago and felt besieged by women who had never previously paid attention to him who were also ‘between husbands’. Katie was someone new, someone different, someone who didn’t know him. It would be a fresh start.
The first day that Katie worked with Steve, she tried hard not to stare at or even look at him. Steve had the same problem. Their eyes would inadvertently meet from time to time, just long enough for both of them to notice and deliberately break eye contact. Katie showed him how to find stock and where to put it. They worked the cash register and made sure that change would be properly counted back to the customer, and they went over what to do when someone came in to ‘buy on account’.
They closed the store that evening, sweeping and finally locking up. Katie drove home in the Gremlin the Shors helped her buy to her parents’ house about three blocks up and two over. She didn’t have to go to the bank tomorrow so she would walk as usual. Steve walked up the stairway adjacent to the former IOOF hall and into an apartment that Coach Chuck had built specifically for him.
The apartment was rather bare. It had just been painted the week before. Steve could smell it and the other smells associated with new construction. The apartment was furnished, after a fashion, with what could charitably be called ‘nouveau Goodwill’. He had the basics, linens, pots, pans, dishes and eating utensils. There were other little things here and there which had been sent with him to help him get settled. He rattled around for the better part of an hour, fixed himself something light to eat, then decided to take a walk around downtown Piketon.
All the further he got was two doors down to Ed’s Church and Grill. It wasn’t Sunday, so the Grill part was what was open when Steve walked in. He had money in his pocket. Coach made sure he had money in his pocket. He walked right up to the bar, grabbed a stool (next to an older man nursing a Whisky Sour) and ordered up a beer. He didn’t care what kind, he just wanted a beer. Ed himself asked for and got identification, served the young man and struck up a conversation. What they had in common was football. Ed was the star quarterback for the Comets back just after the War. He went to and flunked out of college inside of three years, went into the Army for another three, then came back to Piketon where he found a job at the A-Plant. After 10 years, he bought into the bar and found religion at just about the same time, hence, the status as a Church and Grill.
Steve thought that it was an odd arrangement. Ed carefully plotted out the whys and the wherefores of the arrangement, after which, Steve still thought it an odd arrangement. At about midnight, Ed decided that he had had enough for the night and encouraged Steve to go home.
The following week followed much the same pattern as had the first day. Steve and Katie would work at avoiding eye contact, and close the store. She went home, he went to the Church and Grill. By Saturday morning both of them had come to the conclusion that eye contact wasn’t as threatening as they thought it was earlier in the week. She started to flirt, he started to respond.
When August came, Steve’s routine became a bit different. Coach needed him out on the field in the mornings. When he got back home after practice and working the evening shift, he found himself too tired to go to Ed’s on a regular basis. It was on a Tuesday when she suggested that he walk her home. She still didn’t know enough about Steve to engage in a long conversation, but she did know that she could trust him. After several walks home in a week, she invited him to come up to the house and swing on the porch swing. After a few sessions on the swing, her parents started to come outside and join the couple as the summer waned into fall.
Joe and Eleanor Kuhl sat in the visitor’s portion of the Courtroom behind their daughter. He thought that Steve was a nice young man when they met him. He had a great work ethic, could talk about anything as long as it was about sports, and could chug down a beer with the best of them. They cringed as Katie was telling Judge Williamson the events which led up to their marriage.
The Piketon Comets got off to a great start that year. By mid-October the team had yet to lose a game. There was excitement in the community. Business at Chucks picked up considerably. The whole town loved Chuck and by extension loved Steve, too. Chuck’s was closed on Friday nights for the games. The town would go to the game, watch the Comets beat their opponents, then go to the School for a dance, home, or to Ed’s.
The night that they whipped Jackson was the night that the hormones took complete control of Steve and Katie. They were giddy with excitement, their Comets having beaten a team from a much larger school. Ed’s was crowded with perhaps a few more people than usual. After a couple of drinks, Steve and Katie left Ed’s and found themselves lip-locked on the landing outside of Steve’s apartment. Inhibitions were cast aside. Before long she was in his apartment in nothing but her underwear watching his manhood grow.
It was the first time for both of them. When they were finished, both of them became wracked with guilt. They had been taught that what they just did was for married people only. It was prohibited. She was certainly going to be a mother in… she counted on her fingers… July! They were certainly seen on the landing… someone would tell. She was sure of it. He was sure of it. For the better part of an hour after doing the dirty deed, they were naked in front of each other wondering how the moment of passion they had just experienced would play out. Eventually, she showered to get the aroma of sex off of her, dressed and went home.
Saturday dawned. They went to work, still seething with guilt about what happened the night before. Each customer who came in was certainly in on what had happened. News traveled fast in Piketon. It was the unwritten law. The day played out slowly. They avoided each other, afraid that the news would travel faster if they were seen working together. After closing the store, she walked directly home. Alone. Both of them spent the night in shame for what they had done the previous evening.
“So, you had sex with him once and decided to get married just to avoid embarrassment?” Judge Williamson was attempting to understand.
“Yes, your honor…” the reply came from both parties.
The Kuhls exchanged a glance. They had indulged regularly during their own courtship and had presumed that their daughter had indulged well before she got married. As it was, the daughter’s courtship lasted a week.
On Monday evening, Katie and Steve confronted each other in the Bargain Center parking lot. “I don’t know about you…” she started, “…but I feel as if Janet was watching and judging me all day.”
“Coach was all over me at afternoon practice…” Steve told Katie. “He knows. He hasn’t said anything, but he knows.”
They discussed their plight for several minutes before deciding to adjourn to Ed’s. Ed was his usual jovial self. They were his only customers that evening. The television wasn’t working so the usual Monday Night Football crowd had decided to watch the game at home. “So, what’s with you two?” Ed asked as he served them.
It came out slowly at first. Neither Steve nor Katie was comfortable about the subject, especially with someone who was a man of the cloth… sort of. After about half an hour of stumbling around, Ed offered the perfect solution. They needed to get married. This week, if possible, but it had to be quick. Ed never mentioned that he had heard absolutely nothing in the rumor mill about the events on Friday night. He was more interested in making a quick buck.
“Tell you what…” he told them, “… go to the courthouse, get a license, and I’ll hitch you up Thursday night for… how about a hundred bucks.”
The deal was sealed. They made plans to go to the Pike County courthouse early the next morning, then telling people their plans that evening.
“Didn’t that seem the least bit foolish to either of you?” Steve and Katie both had hung their heads.
“It seemed a good idea at the time, ma’am…” Katie quietly replied.
Katie thought about it when she returned home on Monday night. Her parents were in the living room watching the game. During the next commercial she mustered up the courage to tell them that she was going to get married on Thursday evening. The game became unimportant. The TV was turned off as Katie explained that she felt as if she and Steve had a good working relationship and that she wanted to be with him all of the time, not just at work. The word love was never mentioned. The Kuhls were accepting parents. They gave some advice and their blessings, then turned in for the night.
She thought it was too easy. It was too easy. Although she was determined not to be an embarrassment to her family, she had planted the seeds for the divorce that evening. Good sense and intelligence were starting to come back to her.
The second thoughts came back to her the next morning as she drove Steve to the County Court House in the Gremlin. She looked at him as they drove into town. He had a look of determination on his face. He was not going to say no. His course was set.
She pitied him. At the same time, she admired him for his determination. She wondered if marrying him was the right thing to do. Of course it was the right thing to do. Most of her friends were already married and raising families, why should she be any different? Her kids would be beautiful. She just knew it. In nine months, the first one would be…
They filled out the paperwork, paid the clerk and went back to Piketon and the Bargain Center. It was a done deal. They were married on paper, Thursday night they would be standing in front of a preacher and getting married for real. She was starting to get cold feet. “Steve…” she started to tell him about her feelings.
He just smiled at her. She couldn’t say no to that smile.
The week dragged. Preparations were made. Steve’s parents came in on Wednesday night and helped him prepare his apartment for his bride-to-be. Thursday evening, the Bargain Center closed early and everyone went to Ed’s Church for the wedding and the Grill for the reception. Katie’s dad slipped Steve several hundred dollar bills, Steve’s dad slipped a couple hundred to Katie. Wedding presents.
After the festivities, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Mulligan went to their now shared apartment where they spent their wedding night collapsing into bed, totally exhausted. They had the weekend and plans to spend it at the Holiday Inn just outside Portsmouth. They made it there, all right, exhausted. They shared the bed but they didn’t share each other until nearly a week after the wedding.
It was on Tuesday night. She finally mustered up the courage to undress and present herself to him. He showed an interest but not the ability to follow through on that interest. They groped around and that was about it. They both fell asleep aware that there was something not quite right going on, here.
“Exactly when did you first have relations after you married?” The Judge was fascinated with what she was hearing.
“In November, ma’am.” Katie paused, then re-affirmed what she had just told the Judge.
The football season was over and the Comets of Piketon High School were undefeated for the first time in 20 years. Katie had almost given up on the notion that she would make love to her husband when he came into the living room while she was reading. He had on his first erection since their tryst just over a month previously. They performed, although not really to each other’s satisfaction, but they were at least having sex.
The lack of intimacy was only part of what Katie found to be maddening in that first month she and Steve were husband and wife. There was the constant war over the toilet seat. He had the habit of just tossing his clothes on the floor. He talked with his mouth full. He expected her to wait on him hand and foot. They never really did much, either. She would have liked to have gone out to see a movie or something similar, but he didn’t even think of asking. She thought more and more about the money given to her by Mrs. Shor. How could she take advantage of what amounted to a free College education when she was expected to be the perfect housewife, cleaning up after an inconsiderate farm boy to whom she was married?
Still, she soldiered on. Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent at Steve’s parents. There was no debate. The New Year was celebrated in front of a 13 inch black and white television. Katie had been invited to several parties that evening, but Steve wouldn’t hear of it. Every event over that first year was flatly ignored, except for the start of football season.
Thankfully, there was no child. When Katie’s first cycle occurred less than two weeks after her first encounter, she celebrated by going to the family Doctor and asking for a prescription for The Pill. She hid them so that Steve wouldn’t catch on to her little deception. She hid other things, too, like books. She loved to read, but he didn’t approve of what she read. By the time the couple had reached their first anniversary, it became apparent to everyone around them that they would not be a couple by the same time the next year.
Katie’s deteriorating relationship with Steve was affecting her work at the Bargain Center, too. Coach Chuck had apparently forgotten his pledge to Mrs. Shor and was effectively running Katie out of work. As a result, business slowed to a crawl. Not only did customers miss Katie, but they found that the general lines of merchandise once available at the store were no longer available. Katie had a knack of purchasing just what her regular customers wanted. Chuck took over Katie’s job as buyer for the store even though he had no idea as to what he was doing. It showed.
The football season started. The Piketon Comets were not the same team that they were last year, further hurting business at the Bargain Center. Coach Chuck dropped his name from the business in mid-October on the advice of some die-hard Piketon football fans who were disappointed with the 0-6 record posted to date. Coach Chuck’s dream was falling apart at the seams. The Boosters Club was already fishing for another coach for the ’79 season.
As Thanksgiving approached, the store went into its final dive. Steve managed to finagle a job with Ed at the Church and Grill. Katie started making some plans of her own. On Thanksgiving morning, Katie drove Steve to his parents’ farm. After they got in and mostly settled down, Katie excused herself by saying that she had forgotten something in the car. She drove back to Piketon, gathered her personal belongings from the apartment and settled in with her parents for the weekend.
Steve returned on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving in a borrowed car. He noted two signs in the Bargain Center’s front door: “CLOSED”, and “BUSINESS FOR SALE”. He went to talk with Ed for a little bit about his job, then decided to gather his personal belongings and head back to the farm.
“You’ve been living apart now for seven and a half, almost eight months now, right?”
“Yes ma’am” Katie replied.
Judge Williamson asked if Katie had lived with her parents for the entire time. Katie told the Judge no.
Katie bounced back. Just prior to her escape Thanksgiving morning, she had arranged to take a job at a department store near where she had been going to Junior College in Portsmouth. She was able to take some of the money she had saved on her own (apart from the gift from the Shors) and found a small apartment. Christmas was spent with her parents, the New Year was spent with friends at Ed’s. She managed to re-enroll in College for the Winter and Spring quarters. She planned to transfer to the University of Cincinnati in the Fall as a Junior majoring in Business Management.
Steve lived on the farm for a couple of months. The local feed store in Rarden had a job opening in February. He filled the opening. It was hard work and low pay, but he was able to manage to move into a room in Rarden and start to carve out a life on his own.
Katie eventually asked for a divorce. The hearing was in front of Judge Cassandra Williamson in the middle of August. Katie, Steve, their parents, Ed, Coach Chuck and several friends were there to watch the formal dissolution to the already dissolved marriage.
Judge Williamson finished listening to the story, told from several different viewpoints. She excused herself for a short recess. When she came back, she asked Steve and Katie to approach the bench.
“I’ll stand by what I said earlier about the two of you being mismatched from the start…” she began. “Both of you went into your marriage with the best of intentions, but for the wrong reasons. You both made a mistake and you both tried to correct that mistake. That’s admirable. We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human. The trick is not to make a bigger mistake to cover for something relatively minor.”
The Judge looked at those gathered then summoned Ed to the bench.
“Mr. Welch. You are the proprietor of a business called Ed’s Church and Grill?”
“Yes ma’am!” he eagerly replied.
“Are you an ordained minister, Mr. Welch?”
He hemmed and hawed for a moment. “Well, ma’am, not exactly…”
“I’ve done a little digging before this morning and found that you are, in fact, not ordained in any way, and are not authorized to perform marriages in this or any other state. How many marriage ceremonies have you performed, Mr. Welch?”
“Including this one, your honor?”
“Including this one, Mr. Welch.”
“You may sit down, Mr. Welch.”
Ed returned to his seat, a bit red-faced at what had just been revealed.
The Judge returned her attention to Steve and Katie. “Since the two of you were never really married in the first place, it is as if this whole episode never happened. Therefore, I am granting an annulment .” She banged her gavel. “Case dismissed.”
Steve approached Katie outside of the Courthouse and apologized for what had happened. Katie apologized back, taking some of the blame for herself. She noted that he was still wearing the ring she had given him on the day that Ed married them. He took it off, placed it in the palm of her hand and then gently squeezed her hand into a fist so as to retain the ring. “Guess I won’t need this any more. I hope you can find someone else to give this to some day.”
She smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I hope you find happiness, too. And if you can get Ed to give the hundred dollars back, you keep it.”
Steve and Katie then went their separate ways.
Steve was able to apply the lessons he learned from Katie at the Bargain Center and eventually was able to open up his own general store in Rarden. It was a success, thanks to some occasional advice from the former Mrs. Mulligan. A new Mrs. Mulligan came along about a year after the old Mrs. Mulligan and within 10 years there were six little Mulligans running around terrorizing Rarden.
Katie was able to finish her degree at U.C., taking a job at Proctor and Gamble upon graduation. While on the job, she continued her education, eventually ending up with a Ph.D. in business administration. She currently teaches business administration and management at the University of Pittsburgh and maintains a close relationship with Jeannie Shor. She never married, instead, she chose a male companion with whom she shares bed and board. The ring which was returned to her in August, 1979 is still sitting in a safety deposit box in Waverly, Ohio along with a stock certificate for $8,000 worth of stock purchased in 1986 in some company called Microsoft.
The IOOF building in downtown Piketon was purchased and razed in 1982, replaced by a Dollar General store. The store was run for a while by a former football coach and health teacher at Piketon High School named Charles Towhee. One glorious season, one total flop, but he did make some friends along the way… and he learned quite a bit by the mistakes that he made. Coach Chuck passed in the winter of 2008 as a result of a traffic accident. His funeral literally shut down the Town of Piketon for a day. He was well remembered.
As for Ed, well, he gave the money back to Steve, then went and got the proper papers to become an ordained minister of the word of God. He recently retired, but he still owns the Church and Grill, and has been known to marry the occasional young couple who might need some help. The word around town is that he’s a lot more cautious about his business, making certain that the parties involved will be well matched before performing any ceremonies.
He had already made the mistake of performing a marriage ceremony for a mis-matched couple once. He learned well. He never made that mistake again.