Something to link to

I wondered where this blog went.

Actually, this blog has been dormant for quite some time as I have branched out into other areas and into other stories.  If you want a good look at where I was, read some previous posts.  Much of what was my first stab at writing a novel is contained on this page.  The story changed quite a bit since.

As of this date, I have completed and published (on Amazon.com) a full-length novel:  The Legacy of Miss Annie Darden Coggins, which shares little with what is written here.  I am in the process of writing several other stories which I plan to publish in some form or another within the next 4-6 months.  For the moment, I am in the process of reclaiming this site for future use.

Stay tuned…

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Rebooting

I have taken some time over the past couple of weeks to do some other writing.  In the meantime, I have decided to take another look at Stealing Wayne Jensen, fleshing in some details and doing some tweaks here and there.  So far, I have worked on the first chapter.  Enjoy!

Chapter One

Summer night air has a particular aroma to it, especially when coming through an open car window at 55 miles per hour.  Almost in the middle of August, 1974, the ‘little gold monster’ was headed between Chillicothe and Athens, Ohio, its lone occupant was enjoying the aroma of the night air as he was pondering a parting which had taken place roughly twenty minutes earlier.

Wayne Jensen was half-way through his twenty first year and had just parted from the company of Beth Carpenter, a young woman who had just started on her twenty first year.  Wayne was on the way back to a shared apartment where he had a job as summer staff at the College Public Radio station. 

After crossing the Scioto River on the two lane steel truss bridge, he decided to take the direct route to  Athens via US 50 instead of slogging down to Jackson, then cutting over on the Appalachian Highway.  There was less traffic on 50, especially at 10:15pm.   The trucks which traveled this road were usually sitting at home at night, resting from their daytime occupation of hauling wood from the surrounding area and taking it to the paper mill.  He figured, correctly, that there would be less worries about traffic and that there would be more room in his mind to mull over the day’s events.

Something had gone wrong.

Not terribly wrong, though, nobody was hurt, but something had gone wrong none the less.  He had the day off.  She had the day off.  It was her Birthday.  They had arranged to spend the day together, go out to eat at the Fox Farm Inn, and then…

Everything went according to script until the ‘and then’ part.  And then, he would present her with a unique brooch in the shape of an owl (“Owl remember you” was what he was going to say, perhaps) and then, if he got the right signal from her, he would ask her to marry him and promise to present her with a ring on Christmas.  They were, after all, the best of friends from the time that Wayne Jensen stole Beth Carpenter’s heart at the beginning of the third grade.  Steadies through both Junior and Senior High Schools, they remained in touch through their first two years of College, he in Ohio, she in Illinois.

He squirted his ‘little gold monster’ around Rattlesnake Knob (half the hills in this area of Ohio were named Rattlesnake Knob) and into the long sweeping curve which ran into then elegantly out of some bottomland attached to an unnamed tributary to the Scioto which was now marching off to the South and West. 

The gift was given and graciously received, but that was it.  There was no proposal, no moment of truth.  The question wasn’t even asked. 

There were a couple of reasons, the primary of which came down to a ‘Catch 22’ on Wayne’s part.  He realized that he was old enough, but not mature enough to handle what needed to be handled for a marriage, but at the same time, being cognoscente of his situation meant that he actually was mature enough to ask what wasn’t asked.  Besides, there was sex involved.  He knew he was armed and dangerous, but sex meant children and he wasn’t ready for children.

Then there was Dorian.  She was the voice student he had met back in April.  They went out a couple of times… the third time, as he was about to give her a kiss goodnight at her dorm room, she introduced him to a whole different style of kissing by literally ramming her tongue into his mouth.  The normally reserved and oh, so polite Wayne Jensen had his hormones jump-started that evening in a most spectacular way.

Now, four months later, he had hoped for a similar display of affection from Beth… but it didn’t happen.  When they parted, it was with a nice, clean kiss like they had exchanged from time to time in the past several years , followed by a hug which may have lasted more than a bit longer than usual.  Then he was back in his car and going down the road to Athens. 

He didn’t realize that the next time he would see her would be 35 years, eleven months and twelve days later.  If he did, he might have turned the car around right then and there, headed back to her parents’ house and he may have convinced her to elope with him that very night.

She might have done it, too, had it not been for the fact that she was of a similar mind.  She had met an engineering student named Jim Christopher back in April, and the pair ended their second date with the same results, this time her hormones had been jump-started in much the same spectacular way.

Familiarity kept the two childhood sweethearts at a distance from each other, neither willing to admit having been awoken, both desperate on the inside with the desire to consummate the relationship they had had for so long a time in an entirely different way.  Both of them were too polite, too considerate of the other to even consider doing what they desperately wanted to do with each other.

Wayne was quite aware that way too often, lovers used each other until one or the other would throw the other away.  He had been tossed by the voice student at the end of the semester, her excuse being that she was promised to someone else.  Within the year, she was engaged to a divorcee she had met at work.  Wayne vowed never to treat Beth that way, but ended up being tossed out himself several times in the next few decades.

Beth was aware that there were people who used others for their own gains and never suspected her engineering student to be one of those people.  She wasn’t going to ‘use’ Wayne for her own pleasure.  It was only after several decades of being firmly attached to Jim Christopher that she found out that he was a user of people and that she had, indeed been used.  It made her feel dirty and unacceptable.  Therapy worked wonders for her as she worked her way through her sixth decade. 

He let off the accelerator as he approached Londonderry.  “Do you love that woman?” he kept asking himself.  He kept answering with the same line, “Of course you do, you idiot!”  Another portion of his mind kept him in line.  Love means different actions at different ages.  The hormones were talking, and then, the logic was talking back. 

His back and forth was being repeated in a bedroom in a house on Delano Avenue by a woman who was thankful that a certain question she had anticipated had not been asked, yet, amazed and perhaps a bit crushed that it had not.

The same smell of the summer night air came wafting in through Beth Carpenter’s open window as she recalled the first time she ever met Wayne Jensen, and how she watched as he grew from being the little boy she thought so cute in the third grade to the man that he had become.  She loved him.  At first, he was the twin brother she always thought she wanted.  He wasn’t like her own brother.  Wayne was the equal with whom she could share parts of her life.  They went through puberty together, their relationship changing with the changes in their bodies.  They found ways to be together, clandestinely at first, then more openly later.  There were the Junior High dances at the YMCA, followed by post-game dances at the High School.  Beth was always stunning.  She attracted the attention of quite a number of the other boys in school and could have spent her time picking and choosing whom she would tease and toss next.  But that was not in her nature.  She only had eyes for Wayne.  

She called her best friend, Debbie, and they talked for the remainder of the hour that it took Wayne to get from Londonderry to Athens.  Debbie listened.  Debbie was good at listening and was preparing to make a career out of listening and suggesting solutions to the problems of others as a psychologist.  Right now, she was an amateur, listening to a friend who had just turned 20 and who was in a quandary as to what to do next.

“Let him make the next move” was her advice.  Beth Christopher decided that her friend Debbie was right.  She would let him make the next move.  Summer became fall, then there was winter, followed by spring.  Wayne never made the next move and soon he was almost forgotten. 

“Let her make the next move” was what Wayne had decided as his plan of action as he and his ‘little gold monster’ skated out of McArthur, headed out of Vinton County.  Summer became fall, then there was winter, followed by spring.  Beth had not made the next move and soon she was almost forgotten. 

They spent the next thirty five years avoiding each other, raising families and finding out that maybe there were some people worth hanging on to after all.  And that they did, but only by a whisper in the middle of the night… a mere spider’s thread which would keep them together, though apart.  They were on the same path, with slightly different roads.  They carried a part of each other through the years, although neither knew it, or if they knew it, they wouldn’t admit it.

Wayne would never be without a gold car.  Ever.

Beth held on to the owl she received on her 20th birthday and would, when times were a little tough for her, would drag it out of her jewelry box and wear it… although over time, she came to forget exactly why the owl meant so much to her.

At about 11:25pm, Wayne pulled up to his apartment in Athens.  He went to his room and switched on his radio to listen to whatever talk show host would interest him at the moment.  He could do that.  He knew he could be a talk radio host and do it quite well.  He was conversational by nature.   He wasn’t aware that he was training himself for what would soon be his career.

Beth settled in for the night at her parents’ home on Delano Avenue in Chillicothe.  She fell asleep half expecting to hear a whisper at her window in the early morning darkness inviting her to go away with him forever.  Certainly there would be some practical considerations, but, none of them were so large that they couldn’t be overcome.  She could transfer her credits and the two of them would spend the next couple of years in married student housing sharing their love and earning their degrees.  Yes, she admitted to herself that she loved him and yes, she was willing to give herself to him body and soul for the rest of her life.  She was mature enough and ready for marriage – her eyes wide open to both the joys and the pitfalls involved in the arrangement. 

She woke up in the morning disappointed, perhaps a bit hurt.  Over time, the disappointment and the hurt evolved into anger which was piqued from time to time in the coming years, especially when she felt trod upon by the man she eventually did marry.  That morning she went back to the hospital as a volunteer, as she had been for several years.  She had a passion for providing comfort for those who were ill and in need.  She was still a few years away from it, but she was on the path to becoming a nurse.  And after caring for her father when he became ill from smoking for too many years, she became a nurse in an oncology ward.

He turned off the radio, having had his fill of talk.  He recalled the good times he had had with Beth Carpenter and almost decided to go back to whisper into her bedroom window a plan for both of them to elope.  On the other hand, he half expected to hear her knock on his door that night, or for her to be waiting for him at the door to the studio when he went into work.  He woke up disappointed.  Perhaps he was a bit hurt.  The disappointment and the hurt eventually got lost in the shuffle of life and career.  He would remember her from time to time, fondly for the most part.  Eventually, those who knew Wayne Jensen would know of his disappointment and would know that she was a distant memory best left alone. 

Those who knew Beth Carpenter were aware of her feelings about Wayne Jensen and knew that he was a subject best left alone.

On a warm late summer night thirty five years, eleven months and twelve days later, Wayne Jensen and Beth Carpenter would find the answers to what they had been missing for most of their adult lives.  They would find each other.  More importantly, they would find themselves.

But on this night, both eventually settled down from the inner turmoil which surrounded them that evening and breathing deeply of the aroma of the late summer air laced with honeysuckle, drifted into a deep and restful slumber not knowing what lay ahead of them.

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New Story

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.”

“One.”

“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.

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Ellen – A Story

I never expected Will to call me ‘Dad’.  Will is my stepson.  Until the word sprang from his mouth that afternoon in August, I never expected to hear the word coming from his mouth directed toward me.  Ellen is probably responsible.

I first met Will on the same day that I met Lynne, his mother.  She and I had arranged a ‘safe’ date at a pizza place where Will would be easily entertained with a fist full of quarters.  His mother and I ‘hit it off’ while Will was happily shoving quarters into machines and killing space aliens… something that would be expected of a young man of 11. 

Up until I met him, Will had left a somewhat fragmented life.  He was the youngest of four children, his eldest sibling being 10 years his senior and struggling with life in general and attempting to pull together a family of his own.  Will’s father lived apart from the rest of the family as he had for the previous three years.  He had somehow decided that he would rather live out his life alone instead of having to deal with his third wife and four of his five children.  He did take an interest in Will and would have the boy with him on weekends… just as long as he went back to his struggling mother and the rest of the family during the week. 

Will came to depend solely on himself, preferring to closet himself within the bosom of his family rather than having to deal with the world in general.  When I came into Will’s life, I was the interloper, the outsider, if you will.  He attempted to minimize his contact with me.  When we did have contact, he was, well, not exactly rude, but he seldom had a kind word for me.  I tolerated the abuse.  Will was only trying to carve out his own identity.

Will treated my own son in much the same way, although it didn’t start out that way at first.  Will met Scott on a trip to the zoo.  At first, Will tried the silent treatment that Scott couldn’t let stand… Scott being the type of person who was everybody’s friend.  Scott kept chipping away at the wall Will had built around himself until the pair just happened to catch one of the animals pooping.  Nothing will get a couple of pre-teen boys involved with each other faster than the sight of an animal pooping at the zoo.  They developed a friendship which Will would not admit to.  Scott pulled me aside on one of his parental visits and told me that when they finally were in the same school, they would have lunch with each other a couple of times a week. 

It was now three years since Will came into my life and we had reached a truce, of sorts.  He resigned himself to the fact that I married his mother and that he was going to be living with us until he was at least 16, at which time we were going to buy him a Camaro, leaving him to wander the streets in search of whatever remains of the fabled Thunder Road.  The truce is one of sorts because of Will’s father.  About a month and a half before I married Will’s mother, his father died.

I couldn’t even begin to imagine what sort of pain that a newly-minted teenager would be going through with the loss of his father.  It was bad enough losing mine when I was 40, so, I tended to leave Will alone for the most part.  Absorbing the sarcasm just became part of my job… unrewarded.

Will didn’t want to go on the trip we took last summer.  In some respects he seemed to go out of the way to make the other three people in the car miserable.  On the other hand, his older brother reported that Will had called him on several occasions, commenting favorably about the trip.  It was the first time that Will had ever been outside of Texas aside from a quick dip into Oklahoma just to say that he had been in Oklahoma at some point in his life.  Understandably, I was not looking forward to making any sort of a trip this summer. 

Lynne and I took our sweet time arranging for the trip to San Antonio.  Because of our work schedules and available vacation time, it was decided that I would take the boys and the camper to San Antonio on Thursday (after a quick shake-down on Wednesday) where she would join us on Friday evening.  The car and the camper were duly loaded with the appropriate gear and the three boys headed out toward the Alamo City.

Will quickly claimed what had become his little corner of the back of the van, ensconced with his usual video equipment and his stash of Dr. Pepper.  A couple of hours later we arrived at Lake Bardwell, parking the camper in the same space where Will and his father had spent a golden Fall weekend just prior to his father’s demise.  I knew the spot.  I had been there that weekend as well, as had Scott.

Will almost immediately grabbed the tackle box and the poles to go to claim his favorite fishing spot.  Scott and I were left to set up the camper.  Neither one of us minded.  It provided us the opportunity to bond.  We made the adjustments, Will enjoyed the relaxation.

We left somewhat early the next morning and headed south.  The drive was long and hot as are most drives in Texas in the summer.  We got in on Thursday afternoon before rush hour.  Scott and I set up the camper while Will found that there was fishing available less than 25 yards behind our camping space.

Little did we know that less than 100 yards away, a small motorhome was being set up by a divorced woman named Linda and her daughter, Ellen. 

Ellen was somewhat shy and reserved for a fourteen year-old just out of the eighth grade.  What I found out later was that Ellen’s parents had split two years prior to our encounter, her father moving away with no forwarding address.  Ellen was devastated by the loss of her father.  She wanted him back desperately but had no way of telling him.  She became less sure of herself as a result, becoming withdrawn from many of the friends and activities she had previously embraced.  The trip to San Antonio had been suggested to Ellen’s mother as a way to give Ellen a break with the routine of the past two years, perhaps giving her a kick start in order for her to get into a better mood before becoming a High School Freshman.

The day was warm.  The swimming pool was inviting.  Just after supper the boys and I decided that the pool had waited for us much too long.

We put on our swimsuits, grabbed towels, and then headed to the swimming pool for what we said would be no more than an hour.  It was the perfect plan.  After the pool, I expected that Will and Scott would settle into some violent video game while I would sit outside of the camper reading until the expected mosquitoes became too much of a distraction.

We arrived to find that the pool was quite busy with students who were making their way across the country.  They were foreign students speaking some French, some German and some Japanese.  The three of us managed to find places where we could cool off without being involved in an improvised game of aquatic four-square or being splashed by the German guys who were attempting to impress their female counterparts by doing ‘cannonballs’ without regard to the other occupants of the pool.  I eventually settled back to ‘enjoy the view’ (at least as well as I could without my glasses) while the boys continued zigging and zagging. 

Eventually I tired of being in the water and decided to sit next to our towels while the boys continued their romp.  Within minutes of my stepping out of the water, Will had decided to stake out his territory in the water on the broad steps leading into the pool.  Scott scooted from place to place, bouncing from one end of the pool to another.

It was then that Ellen and her mother came into the pool enclosure.  I don’t know why I noted their arrival, I just did.  My first impression was that of a young teenaged girl dressed in a cover-up accompanied by a woman who had, perhaps, just entered her forties with just a little more body weight than she should have had.  The girl was not a striking beauty, but she did exude a certain confidence and inner beauty which no doubt would serve her well once she transitioned into adulthood.  Perhaps I had noted a certain amount of gawkiness which could be attributed to her age, projecting traits which I knew would come sooner or later in her life.  The girl and her mother took advantage of a nearby spot to place towels and other gear prior to using the pool.

As Ellen was removing her cover-up, I noted that she was ‘casing’ the pool – looking for a likely place to make her entrance.  Without waiting for her mother, Ellen then made a beeline and placed herself right next to Will.

I knew what didn’t happen next.  Will was going to be making a quick exit and would be telling me that he needed to get back to our campsite as quickly as possible.  It’s what I expected.  Ellen had invaded his personal space, his bubble, quite deliberately and quite firmly.

Will stayed put.

A girl had sat down next to him and for some reason he didn’t move.  I kept waiting for it, but it didn’t happen.  Scott was at the other end of the pool, providing a convenient excuse for his step-brother to shuffle away from the invading creature.  But Will stayed just where he was.

“Hi!” she offered.

Will sat in silence for a few seconds.  “Uhhhh…hi.” He finally offered.  He was going to be a tough nut to crack, thus becoming a challenge to the newcomer. 

“I’m from Houston.”  Ellen was attempting to get a conversation started.

Will said nothing.

“Where are you from?”  She made another attempt.

“Dallas…” he finally replied.  He then actually looked at her.

“I’m Ellen.”

“I’m Craig… no… I’m Will.  Will McGee.”  He knew that I was watching him and that I knew that he would try to use the name Craig Sanchez to hide his identity.

The back and forth between Will and Ellen continued in a tentative manner over the course of the next few minutes; the combatants probing for possible advantage over each other as the battle was taking place. 

I looked at Ellen’s mother.  She was intently watching her daughter and the creature she chose to sit next to.  She noted my look.  We smiled at each other, nodded in acknowledgement then continued to watch the drama unfold in front of us.

After about 10 minutes, I noted that Will and Ellen were thoroughly engaged with each other, oblivious to everything else going on around them.  By this time, Scott had stepped out of the pool and was drying himself off in preparation to going back to the campsite.  I asked him to grab $3 from my wallet to bring back to me so that I could buy some ice for the coolers.  He came back with the money.  I set him the task of making the purchase and filling the coolers, telling him that I would be back at the campsite in just a few minutes.

Scott left.  Will and Ellen were now exploring the pool, showing off to each other when Ellen’s mother scooted in my direction.

“Were both of those your boys?”  Ellen’s mother had come up behind me, trying to look inconspicuous.

“Yes and no…” I replied.  “The boy in the pool is my wife’s son, my step-son.  The other one is my son from a previous marriage.”

“Oh…” she said with perhaps a bit of disappointment in her voice.  “I’m Linda.  Linda Thomas.  Ellen’s mother.”

“I’m Don Baxter.  Will’s step-father.  The other one, my son, is Scott.”

“Scott seems so much older than Will…” she observed.

“They’re actually less than six months apart.  Scott’s beard just came in sooner than Will’s.  Scott just turned 15 a couple of months ago.”

“So, they’re not older boys, then…” by the tone of her voice, she seemed to be somewhat relieved.  “Ellen just turned 14 in April.”

I sat quietly for a few moments and looked again to see where Will and Ellen were at the moment.  They had seemingly created a new bubble for themselves.

“Will is normally shy around strangers.  Your daughter seems to be an exception.”

“She’s usually shy herself…” came the reply.  “She’s been that way ever since her father left.”

“Left…” I asked.

“Divorced…” she told me.  “…about two years ago.  The bastard hasn’t been seen or heard from since.”

“Will’s father died about six weeks before I married his mother.  The two of them have something in common.  I don’t know which would be tougher… dad just leaving or dad taking the dirt nap.”

Linda chuckled at the term ‘dirt nap’.  She then offered a bit of background:

“Ellen’s father is an engineer.  We married just over 16 years ago and settled into a house on the west side of Houston.  Ellen came along and for a while, life was fairly good.  After she started school, I found a job as a History teacher at a nearby High School.  Her father was jealous that there was another income in the house and started to create friction.  Then he started drinking.  He missed Ellen’s eleventh birthday party and we were officially divorced just before she turned 12.  Neither of us has heard from him since.  Luckily the house was paid for.  We’re getting along just fine in most respects… it’s just that Ellen had become withdrawn.”

Linda looked at Ellen and Will for a few moments.  They were still oblivious to their surroundings.

After spending a few minutes filling Linda in on Will’s background, she sat quietly for a few moments.

“Maybe Will is the best thing for Ellen and Ellen the best thing for Will.”

“Could be…” I replied. “For the moment, let’s just see what happens.”

I hung back for a few more moments before excusing myself to head back to the camper.  Will would come in his own sweet time.  Sure enough, about an hour after sunset, Will came ambling back into camp.  Without saying anything to me, he went into the camper to kill electronic monsters with his step brother.

The next morning I was up relatively late.  It was already 7:30.  As I slipped on something acceptable so that I could walk to the bathroom, I noted that Will was not in his bed.  As if anticipating my question, Scott informed me that Will had left the camper about an hour previously.

I had a sneaking suspicion as to where I could find him.

The bathroom was only about 50 yards away.  As I approached, a smile briefly crossed my face when I saw Will and Ellen on one of the benches outside, both seemingly intent on a conversation which was none of my business.  I scrunched up my face so as to seem non-committal.  I said nothing.  I didn’t want to embarrass the lad.

By the time I had completed a brief version of my morning rituals, Will and Ellen had dispersed to places unknown.  That left me in a quandary.  Should I hunt the boy down so that I could prevent harm coming to the girl, or should I trust him to his own devices?  I decided to trust.  It was physically the easier thing to do, besides, to this point in our relationship he had not given me any reason not to trust him.

Any fears that I had were dissolved when I arrived at the campsite to find Will casually eating a raw toaster pastry and drinking from a small container of milk.  Will acknowledged my arrival by telling me that he couldn’t sleep.

After clearing his mouth, he tentatively asked me if I would mind it if perhaps, maybe, he could go into town with Ellen and her mother instead of hanging out with Scott and me all day.  I recalled what Linda had told me about being a History teacher.  Without telling of my knowledge, I agreed.  The only reminder I had to give him was that his mother was coming in on the train that evening.  I gave the boy a pair of twenties I had stashed away in the event that he became hungry or wanted to purchase a souvenir.

He took his time finishing his breakfast so as not to look too anxious about his ‘date’.  I recalled my first such encounter some forty something years ago.  I had to be ‘cool’ about the whole thing as an adolescent;  Will expected me to be ‘cool’ about the whole thing as an adult.  One misstep and I would be the terrible step-parent condemning the poor boy to a life of hard labor.  At least this wasn’t one of those ‘formal’ dates where I would be expected to pin a corsage on the girl’s dress in the vicinity of her breast.  That was awkward with a capital “A”.

Will went into the trailer, rummaged through his bag, then came out again wearing a clean… well, perhaps the term would be cleaner… T-Shirt.  He came out at about the same time as Ellen and Linda came to pay a visit.  Will and Ellen headed to the campground office, resuming what seemed to be an animated discussion when they believed themselves to be out of earshot.  Linda and I exchanged information which might be handy at some point later in the day.  She then headed to the camp office at a rapid pace so that she might catch up with her two charges.

Scott, in the meantime, had snoozed through most of the goings on.  He came out of the trailer half-dressed just about the time Linda had caught up with Will and Ellen.

“It’s just the two of us, isn’t it, dad?”  Scott was in the process of wiping the last of the sleep out of his eyes.

“Pretty much…” I agreed.  “Let’s get ready and get this show on the road.”

Scott and I followed about an hour later, heading into town on the local bus.  We spent a good portion of that afternoon apparently just missing Will, Ellen and Linda.  I did see Will out of the corner of my eye from time to time.  He knew that I saw him.  He made every attempt to pretend that he wasn’t where he was at the moment, hoping that I wouldn’t notice.

We returned just after 6.  Will’s mother had checked in from time to time just to see what we were up to that afternoon.  I gave her the general idea of what was going on but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her son… our son… was spending a good portion of the day with a girl he had met just the night before.  There would be time for that in the morning.

Will appeared at our campsite about half an hour later asking about dinner.  Scott and I were in the process of preparing a light meal.  He asked if Ellen could come.  I granted permission and suggested that perhaps her mother could come as well.  Will disappeared, coming back less than 10 minutes later with Ellen and Linda.  We had a nice camp meal of hot dogs with a chaser of chips and beans with the company of what seemed to be several thousand flies. 

While Scott, Linda and I did an improvised clean-up job, Will mentioned that a film was going to be presented in the camp’s recreation room… he and Ellen would be there saving seats for us.

Scott followed just minutes later, giving Linda and me time for a chat.

“Thank you…” she started.  “Will has been the perfect gentleman all day.  He’s bright, polite and quite the talker!”

I couldn’t imagine Will being a talker.  He seldom threw down less than ten syllables at me at a time, many of them being on the edge of being blatantly insulting.

“He speaks well of you, too…” she continued.  “He’s lucky to have you around to set a good example.”

I smiled and accepted the compliment.  The thought crossed my mind that maybe I was getting through to the boy.

We bantered a while longer about various and sundry topics.  I felt a bit sorry for Linda, slogging along alone with the burdens left by an absentee husband.  At the same time, I expressed my admiration  of her for doing a good job with the burden she had.  What I didn’t express was that I was thankful for the blessings which my new wife had brought into my life.  After bantering, we decided to join the kids at the movie.  We arrived to find Scott hanging on the back wall.  Will and Ellen were stretched out on the floor intent on the movie and sharing a bag of popcorn.

Will never particularly cared for popcorn.

Not long after I had arrived at the movie, my phone rang.  Will’s mother, my wife, was arriving early at the train station.  I indicated to Linda that I had to go.  She said go… that Will would be OK until we got back.  Scott decided to come with me.

The pick-up went quite smoothly.  The only problem came when Lynne realized that Will was not with us.  I assured her that Will would probably be safe at the campsite by the time we arrived.  I also filled her in about Will’s encounter with Ellen.  Scott enthusiastically endorsed what I told Lynne.  She was a bit skeptical about the fact that Will had found a friend which he had warmed up to in less than a day, being doubly skeptical that the friend that Will found was of the opposite gender.  “Play it cool…” I told her.  “Give him some room.  Trust me.”

When we arrived, Will had already returned to the trailer, instantly morphing into the ‘Mama’s Boy’ mode when she arrived.  No mention of Ellen, no sign that there even was an Ellen or that she ever even existed.  None of us brought up the subject that evening.  The next morning, though, Ellen and Will were exchanging cell phone information at their trysting place in front of the bathroom.  Again, I looked as if I were not interested.

When I emerged from the bathroom, Ellen was alone on the bench.  “Where’s Will?” I asked her.

“Back at camp…” she replied.  Ellen looked me over for a moment.  “Will said that you weren’t anything like he expected.” She told me.

“Oh… In what way?”

“He told me that he expected a step-father to be on his case all the time.  You aren’t.  Why?”  She had a genuine concern.

“It’s not in the contract…” I told her.  “He needs room.  I give it to him.”

“You understand, then.”

“Yes, I understand,” I told her, “I was a fourteen year old boy once myself.  My parents made such a fuss over me the first time I found a girl who I could talk to.  I wish that they had given me the same room I’ve given Will.”

“Maybe they were afraid that you would do something… you know… foolish.” She offered.

“Maybe…” I acceded.  “But that didn’t mean that I didn’t need the room.  There’s also the matter of trust.  I trust him to make the right decisions.  I trust you, too.  In the three years I’ve known Will, I’ve not had a moment where I could say I didn’t trust him.”

“Why do you trust me?”

“Trust is granted until you prove otherwise, young lady.  It’s a gift, freely given.”

Ellen smiled in understanding.  She thanked me for the little talk, then headed back to her own campsite.  Just as she was leaving, Lynne was headed toward the bathroom.  I waited.  She went in hurriedly, coming out a couple of minutes later in a more relaxed manner, sitting on the bench next to me. 

“Was that Ellen?” She asked.  I affirmed her inquiry.  “She seems a pretty girl,” she continued, “did you invite her and her mother to breakfast, maybe?”

“I’m giving everyone some space.” I told her.  I then filled her in on what Linda had told me about Ellen and their situation.  I also filled her in on some of my feelings when I was fourteen.  Then she understood why I was giving the kids some space.  As this relationship was going to last only a couple more days at most, she agreed with my judgment.

After a few false starts, we spent the rest of the day poking around San Antonio.  Will didn’t complain much about being with us… I had expected a certain level of complaints from the boy in most situations.  One thing I did notice, though, was that Will was spending more time than usual with his cell phone, texting, presumably with Ellen.  I found myself wishing that I had had a cell phone when I was his age instead of the rotary dial phone attached to the kitchen wall.

We returned and had a camp supper.  Afterwards, Will announced his intention of seeing the evening’s movie offered at the recreation center.  Lynne and I opted to stay behind and rest.  At least that’s what we told the boys.

Sunday morning, the same routine at the bathroom.  Will was there when I got out.  “She’s going home today…” Will told me.  There seemed to be a hint of disappointment in his voice.

“So, go over and spend some time with her.” I advised. “Maybe they’d like some help tearing down.”

“Okay… but don’t tell mom… at least… I don’t want her to make a fuss over me.”

I assured him that there would be no fuss made over him.  Besides, I wouldn’t have to drag him along when his mother and I went to Church.  I texted Linda to tell her of the arrangement;   She texted back to acknowledge.

 The rest of that Sunday went rather smoothly.  I noted that Will seemed perfectly content with the adventures we had planned for the day.  Mid-afternoon I received a text message from Ellen’s mother.  Apparently, Will and Ellen exchanged a kiss as they were leaving.  I showed Lynne the message.  She held up her end of the bargain I had made for her by not making a fuss about the whole thing.

We returned from San Antonio later that week.  Four weeks later, school started.  I had noted in that period that Will didn’t seem as withdrawn or anti-social as he had been previously.  He was more outgoing and personable, especially towards me. 

As I was preparing dinner after the first day back at school, Will came in and stood next to me, very quietly.

“Dad, is it possible for us to visit Houston when we have Fall break?”  His request, and the fact that he called me Dad caught me totally by surprise.

“Perhaps…” I told him.  “We might even be able to arrange a visit with someone you know.”

Will looked at me.  He knew that I knew.  He was also quite thankful that his mother hadn’t made the fuss he had been expecting. 

“Thanks…” he said as he returned to his room to shoot more of his electronic monsters.

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Timing

It’s weird, writing a blog about a portion of a story which is within 45 minutes of happening… in the story line, that is.  Wayne and Beth are about to meet under the light of the waning moon after quite an eventful day. 

I’ve spent part of my week doing some revisions and cleaning up a few things.  One little quirk in the system showed itself when I changed Mac to Bill and did so automatically.  I read along in the story and suddenly found myself sbillk dab in the middle of an unintentional mis-spelling.  There were several of them.

In the weeks to come, I will post some of the revisions on this site, as well as a short story based on something I observed while on vacation in San Antonio a couple of weeks ago.

Thanks for watching!

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Off on a tangent

Looking at some of the other stuff I’ve mused about in the past couple of years, comes this little gem…  hope you enjoy:

The New Adventures of …

The recent call by conservatives to revise the Bible (to bring it back in line with conservative values) raises several questions regarding material left out of previous versions of this venerable tome.  Conservatives are seemingly adamant about going back to more accurate translations of “The Word of God”.  It is well known that certain writings were left out of the Bible and that some of those writings were referenced in the best –selling book The DaVinci Code.  Well, while they’re at it, why not include Books NOT included in the King James Bible, or portions of chapters NOT included in the books not excised.

As example, the following passage from the Book of Exodus which may bring to light some of the greater reason Pharaoh wanted to kill Moses (Exodus 2:14-15) other than the fact that Moses had slain an Egyptian (Exodus 2:12).  The text was from an oral tradition written in Greek in the 2nd Century B.C., discovered and translated into the Old English roughly 75 years prior to issuance of the King James Version of the Bible by an Italian Monk living in England by the name of Julius White.  It was passed down by his heirs, finally seeing the light of day just after World War II and translated into modern English by the prominent Oxford scholar Theodore Healy.

It should be noted that Moses’ companions are not mentioned in any other part of the Bible.  Seemingly at the end of this passage it will be assumed that the companions were seized and executed, with Moses alone escaping punishment from this escapade.   It should also be noted that the archaeological records indicate that in addition to pumping water from the Nile to irrigate their crops, Egyptians of the era also devised means of providing running water, especially to the homes of the wealthy and to Pharaoh’s Palace.

Exodus 2 (addendum)…

15.  The Lord, God, appeared to Moses and told him that Pharaoh expected three of the Children of Israel to resolve a problem with the fountains at Pharaoh’s Palace.

16. “Select two assistants well prepared in the art of flowing waters to assist you” saith the Lord God.  “Go to Pharaoh and demonstrate my power in repairing his running waters.”

17.  And Moses went to the people and selected Lawry of the untamed hair and bald-headed Kurleh of the portly stature to go with him to Pharaoh’s Palace.

18.  The three arrived at Pharaoh’s Palace and were presented unto Pharaoh.  Pharaoh asked, “What manner of slaves are these Children of Israel who have been sent here to repair my fountains?”

19. To which Moses replied, “We are Royal plumbers sent here by our God to ensure the integrity of Pharaoh’s fountains so that Pharaoh will know of the pride of the Children of Israel.”

20.  “Indeed,” added Lawry, “The Children of Israel are flushed with pride, just as your fountains soon shall be.”

21.  Whereupon Moses opened his hand and smote Lawry on his face and exclaimed “Oh, a person of  wisdom, I perceive!”

22.  And Pharaoh was somewhat amused.

23.  The three children of Israel, thus dismissed from Pharaoh’s presence were escorted to Pharaoh’s to affect repair on Pharaoh’s plumbing.

24.  There were found various pipes and tools necessary to make the needed repairs.

25.  Lawry, seeing need of a pipe, asked Kurleh to bring him a length of pipe.

26.  Kurleh picked up a length of pipe and swung it around to better transport said pipe to Lawry’s hand.

27.  And the hand of the Lord God of Israel spared Moses from being hit on the head by the swinging pipe, having called Moses at the last moment to bend down to the floor to retrieve a tool at a moment before the pipe would have smitten Moses on the head.

28.  The miracle repeated itself several times before Moses discovered how close he had come to being smitten by the pipe.

29.  Moses discovered his good fortune but failed to see that his fortune was due to the intervention of the Lord God of Israel.

30.  In his blindness to the fact that his fortune was due to the intervention of God, Moses summoned Kurleh to him and proceeded to have Kurleh atone for his action of nearly smiting Moses on the head.

31.  “I will instruct you to be more careful in succeeding instances, Kurleh.”  Moses then placed his hand palm down in front of Kurleh and admonished him to select two of Moses’ fingers.

32.  Kurleh selected Moses’ index and middle finger.

33.  Moses then proceeded to curl the rest of his fingers into a fist, then thrust the chosen fingers into Kurleh’s eyes as the Lord God caused a noise like unto a plucked lyre to accompany the blow.

34.  In that time in Pharaoh’s kitchen, Pharaoh’s chefs were preparing food for a great feast prepared in Pharaoh’s ovens.

35.  Pharaoh’s servants became greatly distressed with a perceived drought as there was no water in the water basins with which to prepare the great feast.

36.  Then it was discovered that there was no such drought present in the ovens belonging to Pharaoh, the ovens having become great rivers of water, halting the cooking process and ruining the bread and the meat intended for the great feast.

37.  When the servants went to Pharaoh to report the trouble, Pharaoh and his guests were seated, watching the river Nile flow past them through the great window in Pharaoh’s living room.

38.  Then, of a sudden, Pharaoh and his guests found themselves watching water flow like a torrent directly toward them in Pharaoh’s living room.

39.  And Pharaoh was greatly inconvenienced.

40.  He realizing that his feast was ruined by the plumbers Moses, Kurleh and Lawry, summoned them to him for justice.

41.  The servants found Kurleh imprisoned by a maze of pipes.

42.  Lawry was busily attempting to extract his friend from the maze of pipes.  Moses was not present for Pharaoh’s servants to discover, having fled to the Children of Israel to find the Lord God, and was thus spared Pharaoh’s wrath.

The passage ends at that point.

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The saga expanded.

Rain in Texas in July.  Who’d a thunk it.

I had one of those roundabout reminders of times past shoved in my direction in the past couple of days and it gave me pause to think and make the following addition to Chapter 6, backing in to the last couple of lines in Chapter 5:

Just before eleven, she heard the yellow van she had seen earlier at #12 coming down the lane.  She went to the door of the office to look.  At least the driver was dressed this time.  As Wayne Jensen was pulling out of the campground, Cathy, her daughter in law, was pulling in.  Beth noted that the drivers of both cars stopped, had a short exchange of words and moved along.  Cathy pulled into her usual parking spot and after gathering her belongings, came into the office.

“Hey mom…” She said as she came in the door, “Why didn’t you tell me that you knew Wayne Jensen?”

“It was a long time ago, Cathy,” she said with a somewhat wistful sigh, “a long time ago.”

Chapter 6  

His mind was a whirl of thoughts and suppositions as he dressed and prepared himself to go into town.  He had his usual uniform, the slacks and the polo shirt on within 5 minutes of arriving at #12.  He tarried a little bit, allowing those who he had planned to visit enough time to get up, get to work and have that mid-morning cup of coffee.

He put away the equipment needed to make the breakfast he never made for himself.  It had been nearly 36 years, and there she was, as big as life.  Beth Carpenter.  His heart was still pounding.  “So what do I do?”  He asked himself.  “How do I feel about her?”  He had no immediate answers.  He had had some hints through the past several years that Beth was still in the general area.  He had heard through the grapevine that she had been widowed.  Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had a notion that perhaps they would meet again.  Perhaps…

The morning’s encounter put an end to the ‘perhaps’ once and for all.  The problem of what to do next became immediate.  They were both unattached.  “How would she feel about…”  He started to muse, “How do I feel about…” He continued.  His thoughts were unorganized and plentiful, bouncing around in his head in much the same manner of a fistful of ball bearings in a paint can.  It was one thing to have a fantasy to fondly remember; it was quite another thing to have that fantasy living a quarter mile walk down a lane from one’s campsite.

His thoughts turned wistful.  “What if…” popped into mind.  He reviewed his career to date.  Would the path that he took be any different?  Would he be the success that he had become?  Would she have eventually turned him aside as Alice had?

The questions kept coming hard and fast.  Wayne finally had to close his eyes and say to himself that enough was enough.  His basic instinct was that he had feelings for the woman in charge of ‘Safe Haven’.  His task was to sort those feelings and to do what was appropriate for the situation.

He paused and offered a prayer for guidance.

After puttering around the campsite for a while and doing some exploration around the pond which was somewhat adjacent to the site, he thought it best to get into town.  After all, it was a quarter till eleven.  Certainly the mid-morning coffee breaks were over by now.

He got into the driver’s seat of his van, checked to see if the papers he wanted Dave to look through were in place, then piloted himself down the lane toward the county road.  As he approached the exit to the park, he noted the Honda CRV belonging to the Christophers driving in.  He rolled down his window and signaled Cathy Christopher  to stop.

“Hey…” he started, “… about last night… ummmm,  your mother-in-law and I had a conversation…”  He was uncertain about how to continue.

“Oh, you met mom, then!”  She was cheerful.  She always appeared to be cheerful.

“Yes… I met Beth, that is to say, Mrs. Carpen – I mean, Christopher.”

“You already knew her?” she asked, catching the slip of Wayne’s tongue.

“Yep…” he tersely replied, not knowing how much to tell the young woman in what was in reality a chance encounter.  “We know each other… we have known each other.”

“Where from?” was the cheery question.

“From… school.  We were classmates at one time.  By the way, I’m… my name is Jensen.  Wayne Jensen, not Otis Byrd like I told you last night.”

She looked at him with a quizzical look.  “That’s where I’ve heard you before… you’re Wayne Jensen from the radio, right?”

He nodded in affirmation.

“And you know Beth?  She never told me…”  Cathy was at once excited to know that she was face to face with a celebrity.  “Son of a gun!”  she sputtered.

“I’d appreciate it if you kept it quiet… keep it in the family, so to speak.”

“Oh, no problem!” she assured him.  “Can we take pictures to have after you leave?”

“Why not…” he offered, “… we can take some a little later this week.”

“Cool…” She said.  “Will see you later, then!”

“Be seeing you!” he told her as he rolled up his window and piloted his vehicle out of the campground and on into town.

Wayne Jensen pulled his yellow minivan into a space behind St. Paul’s Church.  He stuck his head into the office to let the secretary know that he was parked and that yes, he was Vivian Jensen’s long-lost eldest son.  The secretary wouldn’t be around in another half hour, but she appreciated knowing that there would be an unfamiliar vehicle in the lot when she left.

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More revisions

There are more revisions to be made to this story.  I’ve just spent about an hour this morning enriching the story with physical descriptions and a name change for Mac and Brenda. 

As I have been looking into publishing this story in book form (there are services out there which will allow me to do just that), I felt as if I needed to be careful about some of the names I have put into the story.  Mac and Brenda Preston had been modeled mostly on Mac and Brenda Porter – he being the chief engineer at WBEX, she being a Realtor.  Both are lovely people.  In one sense, Brenda may like the ‘promotion’ to clinical psychologist, but I refuse to burden her with the title.  Mac is somewhat self-effacing and really wouldn’t like being ‘named’ in a book.

There are a couple of other name changes I will be making as well over the next several weeks… Dave Burke for one… I don’t really think that Tom Burke, the owner of the Cross Keys Tavern (and a part of the Goosetown Astonishers) should be transformed into a really good corporate lawyer.  I have great memories and great respect for both Mr. Burke and the Cross Keys Tavern which go back way too many years.

Anyhoo, time marches on.  I’ll be back here from time to time with updates about the stories and the characters.

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A revision.

I had recieved a comment from one of my readers regarding one of the story elements.  I tried on a revision to Chapter 11 in regards to Wayne’s encounter with Sandy Hastings  just to see how it went and it seemed to go quite well.  Note that the wardrobe malfunction is no longer included:

Chapter 11

Dave sounded a bit urgent on the phone.  “We need to get this residence thing settled, Wayne.  Are you looking for a place, yet?”

“I’ve got a Realtor lined up for this afternoon…”

“Great.  Just call me if you get something lined up so I can get this paperwork started, pronto.”

“Will do, Dave.”

“Oh, and I’m going to need some ideas as to who you’re going to need to run the business.”

“I’m coming to town and will be running that list up to you in just a few.  Just a warning, though, I will be bringing in my Texas crew… giving them the right of first refusal.”

Wayne rummaged through the camper, came up with his previous day’s work, got the laptop and drove down to the office.  The office door was locked.  He presumed that she was otherwise detained, so he left a note and went ahead into town.

Dave’s assistant let Wayne directly into the office.  “Just out of curiosity, Dave, is it possible that the leases of Truman’s other stations are on the public record?  If so, it may be interesting to see what kind of money changed hands.”

Dave said that he would look into it, the two exchanged information then busied themselves in different directions. 

Wayne called Mac and called off their session at noon.  He then left Dave’s office and went to Citizen’s Federal to see about transferring money from his Dallas accounts to Ohio.  The bank’s director, Norm, was an acquaintance from High School.  The two of them talked for about half an hour while the banker was filling out the necessary forms for the transfer.  Norm Shor had never had so much money transferred in on a personal account before.

Wayne ambled over to the Real Estate office.  He was running just a bit early… well, an hour early… and invited Sandy to lunch. 

“I heard a story that you and a certain Beth Carpenter were seen having breakfast at Bob’s just a couple of hours ago.”  She was definitely fishing for information, Wayne noted.

“It was probably my evil twin.  No, wait a moment, that was me.”

“How is she these days?  Still mourning her late, lamented husband?”

“She’s fine.  Holding up well.  It sure was swell to see her.”  His voice was oozing with a certain amount of sappiness.

“Oh, I imagine it was.  If you see her again, give her my love… Oh, by the way, still planning on seeing Miss Groves this weekend?”

“Oh, crap,” he thought, “I must remember to ease out of that commitment.”  He was already planning to spend the better part of Friday and Saturday with Beth.  “I’m not sure what will happen this weekend….” He finally said out loud, “I’m sure that I might run into Miss Groves at some point.”

She asked several other questions regarding Wayne’s marital status and what he might have planned.  He was deliberately ambiguous, wanting to keep the woman at bay.  The pair then walked a few blocks to a new place on Water Street, had lunch and returned via Wayne’s minivan.

“Let’s take my car…” He suggested, “… just tell me where to go.”

She agreed, provided he swing by the office for a minute so that she could get some information.  When she got back out of the office, she gave Wayne an address and they were off.

The conversation on the way up to one of the better neighborhoods centered on Wayne’s requirements.  What he really needed was just an address, at first, but if something really good came up, he might just buy then and there.  He needed something quick and something he could pay for in cash, if need be. 

They pulled into a cul-de-sac and stopped in front of a nice, two story home.  It looked modest enough.  Nicely placed, out of the way with a vacant lot next door.  They got out of the car and walked up to the front door.  Sandy pulled a key out of her purse and recovered the house key from a safe mounted on the front doorknob.

The entrance to the house was a small tiled foyer with a small office to the right and a formal living room with a fireplace to the left.  Straight ahead, was the choice of a stairway leading up or a passageway leading to the kitchen.   To the left of the kitchen was a formal dining room.  To the right was a family area and off of that, looking straight through to the rear of the house was an indoor pool.  There was a view of what remained of the back yard through the back glassed-in wall of the pool which looked out over the valley and the farmland below.

Wayne was awed.  He had nearly forgotten about the view one gets from the top of a hillside and pondered taking a hike to the highest section of land at Safe Haven.  He went to the window and just stared at the awesome view, somewhat muted due to the privacy glass.  “Would you look at that…” he murmured to himself.

Wayne felt Sandy behind him, practically on top of him.

“It could be the perfect place for a romantic after-dinner swim…” she suggested.

“Could be…” Wayne agreed.  He sensed what was coming next.  He felt a pair of fingers walking up his back.

“Care to try it out?” She asked.

Wayne smiled.  He had been there before.  He knew just what she wanted.  She wanted Wayne Jensen – opportunity.  He knew because he had had similar confrontations with other women with the same idea.  They would try to get close.  They would try to lure him in not knowing that someone else had tried the same tactic a week, a month, a year ago.

Now it was Sandy Hasting’s turn.  She was someone he had known since the seventh grade, the girl that every seventh grade boy speculated about concerning the contents of her bra.  She was the perennial cheerleader in High School and in College, unattainable to nerds like Wayne Jensen.  And now it was her turn to try to lure him into her orbit and join the world which had become Wayne Jensen.  The money and the fame were an aphrodisiac which she couldn’t resist.

“Maybe another time…” he casually remarked,  “besides, we haven’t seen the rest of the house.”

He turned toward the front of the house, slipped by her and went upstairs.

She was just slightly flustered.  She was ready to go for the kill, but he had dismissed her initial advance.  “Perhaps a more direct approach would work…” she thought to herself.  She adjusted her outfit to show a bit more cleavage as she followed him upstairs.

He could not help but to notice the adjustment when she entered the Master Bedroom.

“Nice, but I’m spoken for…” he commented.

She formed a quizzical expression on her face.

“The fact of the matter is, Sandy, that I have been hounded and flashed by any number of women who have made some interesting suggestions.  Before you do something stupid by trying to get me to do something stupid… just don’t.  I’m just a guy looking to buy a house.  That’s all.  Just sell me a house.  I might even be your friend later, but I’m just not interested any further than that.  Okay?”

Sandy’s hopes for a romantic encounter were dashed.  After a few seconds of silence she sheepishly answered, “Okay…”  She discreetly covered up and concluded the tour.

When they had finished, he turned and headed downstairs to the front door.  The agent followed him down and out to the car.  After they got in, she suggested another place that was available in-town.  As he headed to the next address he asked, “Is there a pool, there?”

“No, no pool.”

They drove along for a couple of minutes in silence.  She was still a bit embarrassed by the episode at the house.  Wayne picked up on her silence and asked, “Do you know what my mom always said?”

“No, what did she say?”

“She always told me to be sure to wear a clean pair of underwear when I left the house, so that if I had an accident, the Doctor in the Emergency Room wouldn’t have to deal with my dirty underwear.”

She didn’t react, so he continued.  “My dad, on the other hand, told me that if I was careful, I wouldn’t have to wear underwear.”

She tittered just a bit, but the tension is broken.

“I’m not wearing any underwear myself, right now…” he confessed.

Sandy Hastings finally laughed out loud.  After a moment or two, she looked at him and asked, “Are you serious?”

He said nothing as they parked at the second address.

The pair looked at several places that afternoon without further incident.  Wayne made notes about location and pricing while she ended up being the model of professional courtesy.  By 4:30 they were done.  Wayne escorted his erstwhile seductress back to her office.

“Look, Sandy…” He told her, “I don’t dislike you.  You need to understand that I get indecent propositions on almost a daily basis.  My high-profile divorce made things even worse.  Everyone, it seems, wants to have a piece of me… thinking that the Wayne Jensen they hear on the radio is the same Wayne Jensen that they want a piece of. 

“I’ll have to admit that I was a little tempted… just like I was tempted that afternoon you came up to the station and tried to, how was that… pay me back for the dance I deejayed for your class.”

“Oh my God, you remembered that?” She exclaimed.

“I also remember that it wasn’t until well after you left that I finally figured out what you were doing.”

“That was Buddy’s grandmother who came in just after I got there, wasn’t it?”

“And that was Buddy’s grandmother who left less than ten minutes after you did…” Wayne Chuckled.  “It was a good week before it dawned on me what you wanted to do.”

“I guess in a way I haven’t changed much since then, have I…”

“I haven’t changed that much, either, Sandy.  That was the point I was trying to get across.  We change but we don’t change.”

Sandy smiled and looked at him in a knowing sort of way.  “You still have a ‘thing’ for Beth, don’t you?”

Wayne heaved a sigh.  “Yes… yes I do.  I guess I always did, probably always will.

“You know something, you’ve crossed my radar every once in a great while.  I’ve always liked you, even when all the other guys were taking bets as to whether or not you had something other than you stuffed in your bra.”

She smiled and reflected for a few moments.

“You were always okay, too.  Even before you were on the radio.”

“Thanks…”

“Can we be friends?” She asked.

“Sure…” He replied. “By the way, I liked the house, the first one we looked at.  You’re welcome to come up and have a visit after I buy it… the only condition… no funny business.”

“You want the house, then?”  She was unsure of what she had just heard.

“I’ll make an offer and get the money to you tomorrow.”

She gave him a nice wet kiss on the cheek before heading into her office to start on some of the paperwork.

Wayne watched her go into her office then headed back to Dave’s.

“I saw five different places this afternoon and have narrowed it down to two that I may be able to close on tomorrow, providing the cash talks loud enough.”

“I’m sure it would, that is, if what’s been published about what you make is true.”

Wayne asked if he could access the internet to check his bank balance.

“Sure, you can plug in your lap-top over there, if you like…” Dave was busy looking over the print outs of the information that the agent had provided Wayne.  “Hey, what do you know?  It’s the old Feldon house.  Tell me, did the place still have the indoor pool?”

Wayne was busy starting up his laptop.  “Yeah, nice view from up there, too.”

“So, did you take advantage of… ‘the view’?  After all it did cost the better part of 20 grand as I understand it.”

“Twenty grand to put a hole in the ground and put a roof over it?  Was that all it cost the Feldons?”

“I wasn’t talking about the pool, Wayne, the 20 grand was for Sandy’s boob job.”

Wayne covered his face and quietly laughed for half a minute.  “Now what would make you think that I would notice that Sandy Hastings would have had… augmentation?”

“The place has been for sale for over 3 years and Sandy has been known to… entertain there from time to time.  Husband five found out about it, hit the roof, then hit the road.  It’s been a running joke up and down Paint Street for at least the past couple of years.  So, tell me.  Real, or tissue paper?”

“For the record, mind you, and this is one of those strict attorney/client things, they looked real and I passed on the offer.”

Dave smiled and laughed to himself.  He knew his friend well enough to know that he had, indeed, passed on whatever was offered.

Wayne spent another minute or so on his laptop, jotted down some information and handed the information to his attorney.  “That’s my balance as of this moment.  Do you think that I have enough?”

“The amount should be sufficient to start a small war, my friend.”

Dave paused for a moment or two.

“The word on the street is that Buddy is really anxious for you to buy his radio stations from him… and that you can practically name your price.  It seems that the old man is who really wants it to happen.”

“I wonder why.  I haven’t seen Truman for a good 20 to 30 years.”

“Well, apparently, Truman keeps up with you and has done so for quite some time.  You know that his stations were among the first to carry your show after you went independent, right?”

“I knew that…” Wayne replied, not knowing where this was all leading.

“I made a few other phone calls to some of your affiliates… and in every case, it was mentioned that there was a call from Truman Howell just before a station signed up.”

“That’s interesting.  I worked for the guy for just a few years, and some of the people I’ll need are still working at some of the stations he’s owned…  I wonder why he’s been pulling strings?”

“Has there been any indication that he’s been involved with your network?”

“Not that I know of… now, I’m really baffled.  I wonder if Mac might know something…”  Wayne reached for his cell phone and dialed Mac directly.

“Mac?  Wayne… look, I’m up in Dave Burke’s office and we have some questions for you… a mystery you might be able to solve.  Can you come up in a few minutes?”

Wayne hung up the phone.  “Mac just said that he may know something.  He’ll be up in a bit.”

It was the summer of 1959 and John Jankowski needed a job.  He had just turned 18 and had just graduated from Vinton High School.  He drove his ramshackle pre-war Plymouth to Chillicothe and found himself face to face with Truman Howell at Howell’s little radio station. 

Truman liked what he saw in the young man.  He was a live wire, well-grounded and well-spoken.  While most interviews went for 10 minutes at most, Truman spent an hour with John Jankowski, hiring him on the spot.

Jankowski hustled.  Not only did he work the sign-off shift six days a week, he also came in nearly every morning and sold advertising.  He had the knack.  He was also able to bend Truman’s ear.  “Add an FM station to the station you already have…” the young man advised his employer.  When Truman did so, John Jankowski went to work and created another stream of revenue.

In the fall of 1962, John Jankowski, now known to the people of Chillicothe as John Jay, or alternatively, Jack Jay, or “Wild” Jack Jay, left town to take a position offered to him at a radio station in Dallas, Texas.

He worked his magic again.  In 1973, “Wild” Jack Jay purchased a faltering station in the Dallas area, then turned it around in less than 6 months.  In the years ahead, he was able to purchase several radio stations in Texas and Oklahoma, eventually branching out into other parts of the Midwest.  In all that time, he never lost contact with Truman Howell.

Whenever there was a trend, John Jankowski knew of it and advised Truman.  Truman reciprocated.  In the summer of 1972, he told John Jankowski about a kid he had just hired out of High School named Wayne Jensen.  Jensen became a talking point between the two for quite some time… both followed the career of the young Jensen boy with great interest, sometimes traveling to the city where he was working at the time just to listen.

At some point in 1988, John Jankowski advised Truman to purchase space on a satellite.  “Don’t lease, purchase…” he advised the older man.  Truman took the advice.  John Jankowski took his own advice and purchased space on a satellite himself. 

Two years later, he purchased a radio station in St. Louis, Missouri and moved the station’s star attraction to Dallas to host a talk show over a network of stations tied together with his satellite space.

In 2000, “Wild” Jack Jay decided that he would rather raise horses than run a string of radio stations.  Before making his move, he had a long talk with Truman regarding Wayne Jensen.  The conversation took place in a conference room at a radio station in Florida and lasted several hours.  Truman decided to invest in the future of an independent Wayne Jensen Show, anonymously, and made plans to assist young Jensen if assistance was needed in the future.  “Wild” Jack knew the radio business and knew where it would be headed in the next decade.  He and Truman carefully planned for the eventuality which was unfolding ten years later.

About three minutes after Wayne called, Mac appeared at Dave Burke’s office, nearly out of breath.

“Did you run up here?”  Asked Wayne. 

“Sort of.  I had been studying something in an old file right when you called.”  He took a moment or two to catch his breath.  “I almost forgot about it, but about the time you were getting big in St. Louis, Truman Senior asked me to see what it would take to lease or buy a transponder on a satellite.  This file is the purchase agreement for a transponder – a permanent arrangement with provision for a second transponder in case the original fails.”

Wayne furrowed his brow.  “So if the stations are sold, does the transponder go with it?”

“Apparently so…” Mac continued.  “Truman told me at one point that he had a plan to run all of his stations from here, but he never really carried through with the idea.

“So here’s the deal.  Buddy wants to sell the station, but Dad has told him the price, which includes the transponder.  But after talking with Buddy about it the other day, I found out that Senior told Junior that if Wayne here were to buy the stations, he’d pay considerably less than what Darrin Stevens has offered.

“There was a note on the inside of this folder, Wayne.  I think that Truman Senior bought the transponder in the event you needed it. “

“In case I needed it?”  Wayne was puzzled.

“That may explain a few things…” Dave interjected.  “Mac, were you aware that Truman called many, if not all of the radio stations carrying Wayne’s show before they signed on the dotted line?”

“I didn’t know that…” Mac replied.

“Wayne, what was the deal when you worked for him?  Was there anything you can think of which might have given the old man some kind of a reason to hold something like a satellite for you?”

“All I remember was that I worked my ass off in each of the stations he owned for at least a year, and then he’d ship me off to the next stop.”

The three took a moment to think, then Wayne resumed.  “I sometimes wondered if maybe he was grooming me to take over his little chain of stations.”

“Maybe now’s the time…”  Dave stated quietly.  “Maybe he knew you would be a success.  Maybe he pushed you along a little bit.”

“You know, for Wayne to even have a radio show like the one he has, he has to have access to a transponder…”  Mac took over.  “It’s available and it can carry your show from here, or for that matter, anywhere, starting tomorrow if you would like.”

Wayne pondered for half a minute, then pointed his index finger to Mac.  “You’re hired.  Dave, see what Truman wants for the property from me and promise it to him if it won’t break me.  Let’s get Buddy involved in the deal.  Can the four of us get together for a planning session at, say, seven tonight?”

The session was agreed upon, provided that it lasted no longer than 11.  Buddy was called, briefed on the situation as they knew it and was invited to the session at Safe Haven.  He gratefully accepted. 

When the four re-convened, business took precedent over the beer.  David provided a tentative business plan.  Mac provided a rough outline of the additional equipment he would need aside from what was already at the radio stations.  Wayne listed a number of people who could be convinced to help in the enterprise.

Buddy listened intently, especially to the background information.  At one point, he interrupted.

“All the sudden, this makes perfect sense, boys.  I’m willin’ to bet a dollar to a donut that Stevens knows about that transponder you’ve just told me about.  That would explain why he’s been itching to get his hands on all of Daddy’s stations, and why Daddy’s been dragging his feet on the deal.  If he has our stations, he has Wayne, here, by the nuts.  I’m bettin’ that Stevens has a lender standin’ by, just a waitin’ for Wayne, here to sign on his dotted line.

“I did some diggin’ the other day about you, Wayne…” the younger Truman Howell continued, “and I come to the conclusion that you could walk into Citizen’s Federal and walk out with $20million without battin’ an eyelid.”

Truman Junior’s revelation stunned Mac.  Dave and Wayne already knew that Norm Shor had made an offer to loan Wayne whatever he needed earlier in the day.

Wayne looked the man in the eye.  “If I were to make an offer for all of the Howell radio stations tomorrow morning for, say, a pledge of $10million, would your father take it?”

“Daddy told me just before I came up here tonight that if it was you doing the buying, he’d take $5million cash and a percentage for the next 10 years.  There’d be other considerations, of course.”

Dave quietly spoke up.  “Your father called me this evening and told me the same thing.  Wayne, it’s up to you, now.”

The pressure was on.  He was talking about a lot of money as far as he was concerned.  He certainly had much more than $5million invested in various places and had the money to lose, if necessary.  He had the lives and the well-being of the people he already had working for him to consider, as well as the lives and well-being of people he had never met.  It would be a tremendous undertaking and he wasn’t positive that he would live up to the challenge. 

He also thought of the opportunity which had literally been handed to him just moments before.  Yes, there was risk involved, but Wayne Jensen had taken on risk before and had met the challenges.  Besides, he had surrounded himself with some talented people.

“Let’s do it,” he finally said.  “Dave, you have a roster of my people in Dallas.  Bring up whoever will come.  Truman, tell your dad that I accept, and let’s string Stevens along for just a bit longer.  Mac, do what you’ll need to do to get that satellite ready for work next Wednesday.  I’ll be doing some digging myself.  Our next planning session will be on Monday afternoon, four O’Clock.   Be there.”

A name was needed.  Dewey, Cheatem and Howe was considered, briefly.  “Funny Uncle Productions” was the name finally decided upon and the three of them were to be the initial stockholders.

Wayne pulled out a $20 bill and tossed it on the ground between the four of them.  Mac followed, and then Dave.  Truman Junior threw in his twenty.  “I’ll be the treasurer,” he told the others.

“By the way, Truman,” Wayne interjected, “What you said about the bank… I opened a credit line and transferred money in earlier this afternoon.”

“I’ll get the paperwork going in the morning and make it official…” Dave told the other three.  “Mac, see what you can do toward getting uplinks going as soon as possible.  Wayne, if the Warner is available to lease at the price Sandy told you about earlier, get in there.  From the looks of it, Wayne, Darrin Stevens tried his best to steal your radio show from you.  Gentlemen, by this time tomorrow, we should be in the process of stealing it back!”

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Some notes on the story…

Thanks for your interest… tab back to the beginning to start.  But we already knew that, didn’t we?

The idea for “Stealing Wayne Jensen” has been swimming around in my size 8 head for quite some time.  There are people I know contained here – perhaps one or more of you.

“Beth” is a composite of several people whom I have known for some time, much of her based on the Lovely Miss Carol who puts up with me for no discernable reason.  When I met her, we both came to the conclusion that we had led parallel lives and that we’d best put our heads together now, for the rest of the journey.

I am “Wayne”, but then again, I’m not.  Mr. Jensen has been much more successful in a very competetive business than I had ever hoped to be.  I gave him more than a small share of good luck and a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

“Chillicothe” is based on a small town in Southern Ohio – “Allen” is based on a town in the Dallas Metroplex and there is mention of several other mythical cities in Ohio and West Virginia thrown in there, too.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Carol, to my family and to those of you who have encouraged me on this endeavor.  Oh, and stay tuned.  Carol and I are plotting out a story about the death of a homeless man found in his car next to the branch library in Frankfort, Ohio (another mythical city)

Be Seeing You!

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