Velvet; the conclusion of the previous story

Chapter 1

Velvet

It was the first day of school.  I strolled into our faculty preschool workshop, glancing at my watch.  9:05.  Damn.  Five minutes late.  Principal Hardass will have another letter in my file.   I slid into the back row, glancing at the young teacher sitting beside the one empty seat.  My lucky day.  I thought.  This might be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  

She looked at me and smiled, holding out her hand toward the empty chair.  I smiled back, drooling a bit.  God, she’s pretty.  

Superintendent Simon ending his opening remarks.  He turned toward our guest speaker introducing the theme of individualization of instruction.  

I turned to the glamorous woman beside me.  Holding out my hand, I whispered, “Bobby Porter.  I teach math.”

She gave me another smile.  I was falling in love.  I caught the flash of a diamond from her left hand.  Shit, I cursed to myself.  

“Jennifer.  Jennifer Jordan.  My first year as a high school English teacher.”  Jennifer shook my hand.  Her skin was velvet.

“Welcome to Eula High School.”

She gestured at the short, tough looking man on her left.  Then she turned back to me and smiled again.  I melted.

“You probably know Hank.  Hank Huntley is the head football coach and head wrestling coach.  He’s my fiancé.”  Jennifer held up her left hand.  I took it.  More velvet.  I lifted her hand close to my eye so I could see the tiny diamond.

“Lovely.”

I reached across and shook hands with Hank.  “Hi, Hank.  Good to see you.  Congratulations.  Lovely woman you found here.”

Shit, I thought.  I thought getting acquainted with this new teacher might be fun, but apparently, Miss Perfect Proportions is already attached.  Oh, well.  Perhaps I can still give her a shot, see if she is susceptible to an advance from another guy.  

  The guest speaker was beginning.  I glanced, stared really, at the woman beside me.  I saw a pretty blonde, the kind with a perfect nose, bright red lips I’d love to kiss, and hair cascading to her shoulders.  Jennifer was average height, average weight, better than average, spectacular breasts.  Strong legs bursting seams on her tight, short skirt, completed my image of a perfect woman.  

Jennifer was the kind of a woman I avoided.  If I ever fell in love and married someone like our new English teacher, I know I’d spend the rest of my life hoping she could resist the approaches of every man who saw her.   And every man who saw her would approach her.

I missed most of the lecture on individualization.  Leaning back in my chair, I drank in the beauty of the woman beside me.  On her left, Hank Huntley missed most of the lecture too.  I heard him talking football with his offensive line coach on the other side of him.  

I did hear our speaker offer us a teaching technique.  He suggested we divide our class into groups of three; assigning rolls of a director, a scribe, and an evaluator, a person who couldn’t talk until the end.  I took notes.  I’ll use this, I thought.  

We were given a break for coffee and donuts.   I watched the two coaches take three each, then join the defensive coaches at a table while I sat with Jennifer.  A question and answer session would follow.  I had questions.

“Tell me about college, Jennifer.”

“I graduated in May from Northwestern College in Orange City.”

“How was Northwestern?”

“Swell.  I knew everybody.”

“How was your football team?  How’d you do against the Hawkeyes?”

“We’re a small school, Bobby.  You’re thinking of Northwestern University in Chicago.  They beat Iowa by two touchdowns.  I rooted for them.”

I frowned.  “Nobody in Iowa roots against the Hawks; do you know the penalty for treason?”

“Treason?”

“Sure.  You live in Iowa and root against the Hawks.  That’s treason.”

“Unless you’re a Cyclone or a Panther.”

“You are neither.  You’re guilty of treason.”

“So?”

“And the penalty for treason.”

“Death?”  She smiled.  Perfect.  I took back the breath she’d stolen. 

“Worse.  You have to go out for dinner with Bobby Porter.  Friday night?”

“Can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Hank’s football team is playing.”

“So we’ll go out Wednesday night.  Hank’s team will be practicing.  You can go out for dinner and go up to my place for a glass of wine.”

“Can’t.”

“Why not?

“I don’t drink alcohol.  I took a pledge at Northwestern never to drink or smoke or … .”

“Or what?”

“Can’t say?”

“Why not?”

“Don’t know you well enough.”

I moved close and whispered, “Sex?”

Jennifer nodded her head.

“You pledged not to have sex?”

Jennifer looked down.  

“Darn.  That spoils my plan.”

“Sorry.”

“Okay.  We’ll go up to my place and neck for a while.”

She laid her smooth hand on top of mine.  Velvet again.  We watched the end of the lecture.  My heard rate accelerated to one hundred twenty four.  

Chapter 2

Second Happiest Man

In the spring of my junior year in high school,  I sat, with a group of college boys in the back seat of my friend’s beat up old Pontiac.  As we waited for the carhop to bring our food, a Nash Rambler American pulled into the slot beside us.  A sign on the door read, “Lee Ann Meriwether, Miss America 1955.”  

I stared at the most beautiful woman in America.  Lee Ann, in the back seat of the Rambler saw me, Bobby Porter, in the back seat of the Pontiac.  The alluring woman gazed into my eyes and waved.  Lights flashed in the colors of the rainbow to extol her smile.  A mutual feeling of affection passed between my first true love and me.  

Minutes later, we drove away, Lee Ann blew me a kiss.  I returned the gesture.  My hand wiped away a tear.  I felt dreadful for breaking the heart of that gorgeous woman. 

Now, I was about to begin my fourth year of teaching.  Jennifer Jordan, our new high school English teacher at Eula High School formed a definite challenge to my memory of Miss America of 1955.  Her engagement to Hank Huntley, our muscular ox of a football coach troubled me.  

As the faculty applauded at the end of our high school teacher’s meeting I couldn’t imagine the reason.  My first thought was,   This applause must be in recognition of the beauty of Jennifer Jordan.  

As she and I walked together toward her classroom, I reviewed the guiding principle of my romantic life.  If a man married a magnificently beautiful woman, he would spend the rest of his life knowing that every man who saw his wife would fall in love and pursue her as an object of the man’s affection.  On this day, Jennifer Jordan sent my rule circling down the drain like a sink full of dirty dishwater.  My rule gave way to my hormones.  This woman was too beautiful for me to ignore.

As we walked, I resisted the temptation of taking her hand; of feeling again, the velvet of her skin.  

I could sense that Jennifer had a concern.  She stopped, turning to face me.  I fell in love with that look of unease on her face.  

She said, “I heard nothing of Mr. Hardback’s lecture, Bobby Porter.  What will I do?”

I reached out and took her hand.  She held my fingers.  

“I feel so bad for you, Jennifer.  You won’t be able to teach your first period English literature class on Monday.”

She looked puzzled.  “He didn’t tell me how to teach, did he?”

“You learned that in Orange City, at Northwest College, right?”

“Right.  But what did he tell us for the rest of the hour; when you were busy trying to seduce a betrothed woman?”

“Nothing new.  Today I heard the same lecture for the fourth time.”

“You heard nothing, Bobby.”  She raised a finger to my face.  “You were whispering sweet nothings to me for an hour.  Anyway, how does that help me?”

“Mostly, he was telling us never to go up the down staircase.  You already knew that.”

“And what else?  You distracted me a lot.  What?”

Her face looked sad.  Most women are pretty ugly when they frown.  Not Jennifer Jordan.  She was still perfectly beautiful, but so sad.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to hold her; to make her feel better.  

I took her hand again.  “Okay, I’ll tell you what.  You come up to my classroom; room 104.  I’ll spend ten minutes telling you everything he said in his hour and ten minute lecture.  You can hold my hand some more and make me the second happiest man in this school.”

“Second happiest?”

“Yes.”

“Why second happiest?  Who’s the first?”

“Easy question.  Don’t you know?”

“No.  Who’s the happiest man in this school?”

“Hank, of course.  Hank Huntley, your fiancé.   He gets to take you home tonight.  He gets to take you to bed.  He’s the luckiest guy in the school.”

“You’re wrong about that, Bobby Porter.  We don’t have sex.  Remember?  I told you about my pledge?”

“The one where you promised never to have a glass of wine with me?”

She nodded her head and looked beautiful.

“The one where you promised never to smoke?”

“Yes.”

“That’s a good one.  I hate kissing girls who smoke.”

She nodded her head.

“That’d be the pledge you made to save all your sex for me?”

“Not quite the way it went, Bobby.”

She giggled.  I fell in love with her again.  This woman understands my humor.  Is it too soon to ask her to marry me?

She stopped walking.

“This is my classroom, Bobby.”

Jennifer gave me a little hug and kissed my cheek.  Her lips were velvet.  I fell in love again.  

“You’re sweet, Bobby.  I’ll stop by this afternoon.  You can tell me what I missed out on while you were trying to seduce me.”

“And dinner Wednesday?”

“I’ll check with Hank.”

“Not a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“Two reasons.”

“Yes?”

“First, you seem like the kind of woman who thinks for herself.”

“Okay.”  She giggled again.  “Second reason?”

“If you tell Hank, he’ll beat me up.  He’s 250 pounds of massive muscle.  He’d hurt me.  Better to just go out to dinner with me Wednesday and then go to my apartment and make out for a while without talking it over with Hank.  It’s the merciful way.” 

A song flittered through my brain.  My eyes adore you.  

I thought, I will grant your every wish, Jennifer Jordan.

“I get your No Sex rule.  From this day forward the no sex rule is our rule.  Now keep me alive and unbruised.”

She said, “I’ll consider protecting your life, Bobby.”  I saw a twinkle in her eye. 

“Good idea.  You think about it.  Make your own decision.”

Jennifer touched her hand against my cheek.  Again I felt the velvety touch of her fingers.  I reached up and touched my fingers against the back of her hand.  I almost fainted at the touch.  

“I’ll stop down later,” she said.  “You can tell me what I missed in our meeting.  Room 104?”

I smiled.  A crooked smile.

“You got it.”

  

Chapter 3

Kiss

           She told me she’d meet me in my classroom to talk about school rules.

I wondered if Jennifer Jordan would show up like she promised.  I understood her problem.  We had talked away Mr. Hardass’ lecture on high school policies.  His lecture covered the same points every year.  I think she appreciated my promised to highlight his words.  

I kept busy, writing lesson plans for my first week of math classes, watching the clock; dreaming of Jennifer.  Why do I make plans for a week, I wondered.  After the first day I’ll be at a different spot.  If I need a sub, I’ll have to write new plans for that day.  

4:00 p.m. was teacher dismissal time.  I wonder if she knows that.  I spent the entire principal’s lecture attempting to convince our gorgeous new faculty member, that going out with me would be a good thing for her to do.  

I watched the clock.  3:00.  3:10.  3:15.  3:17.

If Jennifer doesn’t come by 3:35, I’ll go get her, I told myself.  

I raised my eyes and saw 3:34.  Footsteps.  The click of high heals in the hall.  She was here.  Soon to become the most alluring woman ever to teach in Eula High School, Jennifer Jordan peaked into my classroom.  Her blonde hair and glowing face caught the afternoon light reflecting it like one of those magnifying mirrors.  I stood, walking to greet a welcome ray of sunshine into my world.

“Hi Bobby,” she said in her soft, musical voice.  Like a note from a Carolina wren, my name touched me.  She held out her arms to offer me a hug.  I embraced her perfect body, blending with mine for a moment or two longer than a typical hug between acquaintances.  She reached up on her tip-toes to kiss me.  Her lips landed between my cheek and my lips.  Close to where I wanted it.  

I became conscious of her fragrance.  What?  Lavender.  Like a wondering bee searching for pollen I moved closer toward the lavender flower.  

I took Jennifer’s hand, leading her to a seat in a student desk in the back row, away from easy observation from a passerby in the hall.  On the way, I grabbed a dozen sheets of used, clean on one side, mimeograph paper.  

We sat side by side.  I pulled my chair close to her.  She slid her chair so that it touched mine.  I glanced down and saw her long, bare leg stretched below her short skirt.  It looked strong and smooth, perhaps one of the two most perfect female legs on earth.  

I warned myself again, Never marry this kind of woman, Bobby.  You’ll spend the rest of your life fending off all other guys.  

“Okay.  Here’s what we missed when you were trying to seduce me during Mr. Hardass’ lecture.”  

I wrote, Don’t go up the down staircase.

“Wait.  That’s completely backwards, Bobby.  It was you attempting to seduce me.”

“Just look at you,” I said.  “Your legs stretching below that short skirt are the most enticing I have ever seen.  Your tight skirt covers perhaps the most bootylicious back side in existence.  Your breasts couldn’t be more perfect.  Your chin, those fleshy lips, cute little dimples on your cheeks.”  

I reached out and touched her nose with the tip of my index finger. 

“Your nose is flawless, a fantastic fit for your face.  I have no idea where you picked up those sparkling green eyes that speak so loudly of the fire in your soul.  Not to mention long blonde hair that captures all the light in a room and returns it in a perpetual glow.  No, Jennifer, every part of your sensuous being sends out a message of seduction.”  

She reached out with her right hand, spreading long graceful fingers delicately on my right wrist.  “You, Bobby Porter, are so full of shit.”

That’s when she turned toward me and kissed me, her lips gentle on mine.  I lifted my left hand to her neck, twining my fingers in soft, blonde hair.  Our kiss connected my lips to her luscious red lips for at least a minute.  I traced my tongue along the line of her lips and felt the tip of her tongue touch mine.  Finally, she pulled away.  

Jennifer reached out and touched the paper.  I saw her tremble.  She read.  “Okay.  I know about the staircase.  What else?”

I wrote shaky lines:

   2.  Skirt length:  < 6” above the knee.

   3.  Teachers  skirts below the knees.

   4.  No cleavage.

   5.  Three strikes:  If a student misbehaves in your class warn him.  Then if he or she doesn’t shape up, warm him or her again.  After the third warning you can send the student to the office.  Three office referrals in a semester and the student loses credit for your course and gets a failing grade.”

   6.  Be timely with your grade reports and midterm letters.

“These are the big rules.  Now we can talk about them.”

I smiled at Jennifer.  God she was beautiful.  My heart was falling in love with Jennifer Jordan.  My brain said get out, Bobby.  Get out before she breaks your heart.  
Chapter 4
Rules

As we sat side-by-side in the back of my classroom.  Jennifer Jordan, this woman whom I had known for only a few hours had surprised me with an impromptu kiss.  She yanked the spirit from my body, sending it sailing across the ceiling like a paper airplane.  I watched from above as my body interacted in the passionate kiss with this gorgeous young English teacher.  

Then she leaned back in her chair.  I searched for coyness on her face and saw only a shy, Why did I kiss this man?, look.   Finally, ignoring the clanging bells filling my classroom, she said, “Alright, tell me the rules of our school.”

I stuttered and stammered and finally said, “Okay, first rule:  Never go up the down stairway.”

“I know that, Bobby.  You told me three times already.”

“That’s because it’s such an important rule.  You can really screw up traffic flow if you do it wrong.”

Jennifer chuckled.  I loved that she thought my stupid humor was funny.  

“Okay.  Second rule.  Skirt length < 6” above the knee.”

I glanced at her bare thigh.  

“Third rule.  Teachers skirts below the knees.”

I reached down and laid my hand on her knee, gently rubbing her velvety skin.  

“If you wear that dress on Monday, Mr. Hardass will put a letter in your file.”

“Okay.  I have another dress.”  She placed her hand on mine.

“Third rule.  No cleavage.”  I glanced at her chest.  “You are in very good shape.”

“Thank you.”

“I meant … “

Jennifer smiled again.  “Are there any rules about guys?”

“Nope.  Just girls.  Control the girls and the guys won’t be tempted.”

“You told me a while ago, didn’t you.  About my body seducing you?”

“Exactly.”

“Nothing about the real me?  My brain and what’s in my heart had nothing to do with your attraction to me?”

“Everything.  Your sense of humor.  Your bewitching smile that won’t go away.  Your sweetness.  Your intelligence.  I don’t know about your heart yet.  But I’d like to search for it someday.”

Jennifer smiled again.  She understands my joke. I thought.  I love her sense of humor.

“What else?  What else did Mr. Hardback say?”

“Discipline.  Three strikes.  I already told you that rule.  Kids get three chances at bad behavior.  Then they are out.”

“Gottcha.”

“My advice is be tough for the first week.  Later, you can loosen up.

“Okay.  Next?”

“Sixth rule.  Be timely with your grade reports and midterm letters.  That one’s for me.”

“For you?”

“Sometimes I suffer from deficient planning disease.”

“What?”

“Deficient planning disease.  I give a geometry test near the end of the semester.  It takes ten hours to grade and I only have nine hours to work before grades are due.  My grades are due at 3:00 and I turn them in at 4:00.

“That screws up the secretaries since the report cards are due out Thursday.  So  they don’t go out until Friday.  Then the parents start calling the school and Mr. Hardass has to take the blame.  He gets perturbed at me again.  That’s when he sticks another letter in my file.”

“How awful!”

Jennifer looks so sad about my predicament.  I put my hand on Jennifer’s hand to comfort her.  Her skin feels like velvet.  She put her hand on my hand to comfort me.  I put my hand on her hand because I’ve made the mistake of falling in love with a truly delightful woman, one who happens to be betrothed to our football coach, the strongest, toughest man on our faculty, a man of whom I am very much afraid.  

Jennifer pulled her hands away.  

“Amazing!”  I said.

“What’s amazing?”

“You pulled your hands away and a piece ripped from my heart.”

“You’re crazy!”

“About you.”

She ignored my declaration of love.

“What else?”

“Faculty meetings.”

“Faculty meetings?”

“Yes.  Every Monday morning except when we don’t, we gather together in the home-economics room to spoil the week.  Oh, and be on time.”

“Isn’t that obvious?”

“That was for me also.  Sometimes, I’d forget and come late.  Finally, in December, he put a letter in my file.”

“What did the letter say?”

“Bobby comes late to faculty meetings.”

“You should be more prompt.”

“I am.  The letter in the file worked.  That and my trick.”

“Your trick?”

“Yea.  I pretend the meeting starts at 7:15.  If I’m on time, I’m 15 minutes early.”

“Does it work?”

“Like a charm.  I was never late, all last semester.”

“Congratulations.  Does Mr. Hardback have a grudge against you.”

“We hate each other.  It’s mutual.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright.  I’m getting used to it.  By the way, if you’d like, you can pretend the meetings start at 7:15 also.  Then we could neck or hold hands or talk together about school rules or sex or something.”

“You have a one track mind, don’t you?”

“I’m sorry.  I fell in love with you.  I couldn’t help it.  You are the most perfectly prepossessing woman I’ve ever met.”

“You know I’ve made this pledge about no sex until marriage.  And I’m engaged.”

“And he’s at football practice and everybody else has gone home.”

“So maybe you would kiss me again?”

“I leaned toward Jennifer Jordan and tilted my head.  Our lips came together and we began where we left off.  I felt her tongue touch my lips.  I touched her teeth.  Her mouth tasted sweet, fresh.  She touched mine.  Our tongues twined.  After five minutes, I reached out and pulled her body into mine.  She pulled me into her.  

Then she said through the kiss, “Wednesday.  What time?”

“Come to my apartment after school.  We’ll talk about school rules and sex, whatever.”

“I’ll need to freshen up a bit after school.  4:30?  Where do you live?”  

“810 11th Street, a block north of you.  You can walk.”

“I’ll find it.”

“What about Hank?”

“He won’t be able to come.  He has football practice.”

“I mean, you’re engaged.”

“Maybe not for long.”

“Problems?”

“I’m not sure I want to spend my whole life with someone who can’t kiss like Bobby Porter.”

Chapter 5

First Date

The clock on the wall above my Mac said 4:35 p.m.

She’s late, I thought.  I wonder if she’s coming.

I heard a knock.  Opening the door, I gasped.  The vision stole my breath.  Her dress was short and tight.  Her cleavage stimulated my imagination.  

Jennifer greeted me with a kiss and an embrace.  My hand touched her bare shoulder.  Her skin was velvet.  

After a couple of minutes, she pushed me away.

“We can’t spend all our time necking, Bobby.  We have to do other stuff too.”

I smiled.  “Wanna put a puzzle together?  I got a new one for Christmas.  A Rocky Mountain lake; still sealed in the box.”

She smiled at my humor.  “We should talk some more about school rules from Mr. Hardback’s talk.”

“Right.  We could to do that.  Then have sex.”

Jennifer shook her head; waving her finger at me as if I was a naughty little boy.  

“My pledge.”

“Right.  I forgot.  You pledged to wait until marriage.”

I lifted her left hand and kissed her palm.  

“Your ring!”

She almost giggled.

“It’s gone.”

“I gave it back.”

“Did you tell the big guy about me?”

“If I’d told him about you, I’d be going to your funeral next week.”

“You didn’t tell him his kisses were inadequate?”

“That would be hurtful.  I couldn’t do that.”

“So, you and I can do whatever we want tonight?”

“Sure.  Just no sex until we’re married.”

“Are you proposing?”

“I should have said, ‘unless!’  Okay?  Besides, I don’t want you to think I am fickle.  Being engaged to two men in a week sounds capricious, don’t you think? ”

“Capricious?  That’s not in my vocabulary, but it sounds like a good word.  I’m guessing it has something to do with fickleness.”

“You’re pretty wise for a mathematics teacher, Buddy.”

A smile popped onto my face.  “I love being around you, Jennifer.  Any other rules I should know?  Can I touch your breasts?”

“Maybe someday.  Not yet.”

“Alright.  It’s good to know.”

“Why don’t we go out to eat?  Have you chosen a place?”

“Cibo’s Restaurant and Lounge in Cedar Rapids.  It’s dark.  We can go incognito.”

“The food?”

“Steaks, Lamb Chops, I love their Blackened Chicken Pasta.  It’s spicy.”

“I like spicy.”

“Shall we go?”  I took her hand.

As we approached my Ford Ranger, Jennifer pulled me to a stop. “Your pickup?”

“Sure.”

“Your John Kerry for President bumper sticker?”

“Of course.”

“You’re proud of it?”

“A problem?”

“I shook hands with George W. Busch four times.”

“I’m a Christian.  I forgive you for your indiscretion.”

Jennifer frowned.  Perhaps my humor crossed a line?

“I’ve driven a van for the John Kerry campaign.”

She was still frowning. “Is this going to be a problem?  I’ve been a Republican all my life.”

“My parents voted for Nixon. … The first time.  Then they figured him out.”

“My parents voted for Eisenhower.”

Jennifer smiled again.  I sighed in relief.  God she is beautiful.  How could I be falling in love with a Republican?

We stood in the street, professing our opposing political beliefs.  

“Shall we go out and discuss our politics over dinner?”

“Not a good idea.  Political arguments can’t be good for digestion.”

“Then we’ll talk about something else; how you became so beautiful, your childhood as a precocious child, adventures where I almost died.”

I opened her door.  “Adventures where you almost died?”

“There are many.  Most involved my stupidity.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”

I held the door and Jennifer climbed into my Ranger.  I loved the bench seat.  She glided to the middle and fastened the seat belt.  I slid behind the wheel, her leg against mine; a Republican woman and a Democratic man, close beside each other.  

She asked, “How did you know I was a precocious child?”

“With your beauty, every teacher loved you.  Nobody loves an ugly little kid.  It takes a great teacher to love the smelly kid with dog poop on his shoes.”

“You’re right.  Every one of my teachers adored me.“

“Many of mine prayed every night that my parents would move.”

“I believe that.  How can I be on the verge of falling in love with you?”

“Obvious.  It’s because of Janet Bailey.”

“Janet Bailey.”

“Right.”

“Janet Bailey is the reason I broke my engagement with Hank Huntley and I’m on a date to have dinner with Bobby Porter?  Explain.”

“Yup.  When I was 20, I robbed the cradle and dated 15 year old Janet Bailey.  She was the second girl I ever kissed.  Janet taught me how.  We had a completely chaste relationship, but the girl taught me how to kiss.”

“I’m not sure a lot of kissing makes a chaste relationship, Bobby.”

We parked in Cibo’s dark parking lot.  Jennifer pulled me over to her and kissed me.  A minute later, she said, “I’m in debt to Janet Bailey.”    

I held her hand as we walked to the restaurant.  We took seats side-by-side at a table for four.  

“You know I’m breaking my rule, Jennifer?  For years, I’ve been picky about who I date, avoiding really beautiful woman.  And now you.  You may be everything I’ve looked for; everything I’ve spent my life looking for.  You can’t help being beautiful.  You are smart and I love your sense of humor.  You’ve heard all of that before.”

“I never get tired of hearing a handsome man tell me all of that, but you’re right, let’s talk about something else.”

“School?  How was your first week with the kids?”

“These kids are wonderful.”  She smiled a happy smile.  “The first day we wrote  and they wrote pretty good stories.”

“What I did on my summer vacation?”

Jennifer smiled.  “That’s old school.  I gave them twenty minutes to write about their greatest success last year.”

“Passing geometry?”

“Actually, two of them wrote about geometry.  Both of them beamed with pride at the achievement.  One of them said he was proud that his extra effort earned him a comeback.  The other blamed it on a teacher who helped her when she needed it.  Way to go, Mr. Porter.”

“That’s cool, Jennifer.”  Now I smiled a happy smile.  “Makes me feel three of us accomplished something.”

She reached over and kissed me on the cheek.  “You’re a good man, Bobby Porter; a good man who can kiss.  And I don’t think I’ve ever kissed a Democrat before.”

“See what you’ve missed out on?”
Chapter 6
John Kerry

Jennifer Jordan and I returned home to my apartment after our first date.  Lying on my bed we listened to my sound system.  Adele sang softly, as if she were in the room.  Adele sang, ‘Make You Feel My Love.’  I whispered in Jennifer’s ear, “You may be everything I need.”  

We were both fully clothed.  My arms surrounded the charming woman lying beside me.  Our arms held our bodies together.  

Jennifer pulled her lips away from mine.  Disappointment flooded my mind.  She leaned on her elbows and gave me a peck on my lips, then looked into my eyes.

“Can we be serious, Bobby?”

“You want to talk about the Iraq War?”

“Actually, that’s exactly what I want to talk about.”

“Okay.”

“Mom and dad supported the Vietnam War.”

“That was a Democratic War.”

“My parents thought we needed to be in Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism.”

I lifted up my head and kissed her again.  I liked the way she kissed me back.

“I respect that thought but, in retrospect, I think we jumped into Vietnam after someone made the claim that the North Vietnamese attacked two of our destroyers in 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin.  Lyndon Johnson was president.  That was right after Kennedy was killed.  So the Democrats started it.  Seems as if your Republican parents would have been opposed to that war.”

She kissed me again.  “Nice.”

“The kiss or the war?”

“The kiss.  I hated the war.”

We hadn’t gotten to the Iraq War yet, but I was in no hurry.  

“Every college kid and every boy of draft age opposed that war.  There were protests all over the country.  Mom and dad love the USA.  When a bunch of kids demonstrated against the war, they thought it was unpatriotic.  Dad fought in Korea.  It upset him when people like John Kerry threw their medals into a bond fire.”

“First, Kerry didn’t really do that.  He pretended to throw his medals in a fire, but he really didn’t do it.   I agree.  It seemed fake.   He was there.  He fought in the war and when he came home he decided the war was immoral.”

I put my hands on her cheeks and pulled Jennifer over to kiss me again.

“Mmm.  That’s nice.  What about the fake attack that earned him a silver star?”

“I read about that.  Guys on the boat back up Kerry’s claim.”

“We could argue about that.  Maybe it’s easier to put that stuff to the side and agree that we probably won’t agree.”  

“We could talk about school.”

“Okay.  Rules?  Your classes?  My classes?”

“Let’s talk about your classes.  I talked to Randy Deerfield yesterday about your sophomore English class.”

“Really?  What did Randy say?”

I kissed her again.  She licked her lips.  “Sweet.  What did his say?”

“He said he’s in love with his English teacher.”

“Randy’s a lot cuter than you.  Wish he was a bit older.”

“Don’t mess around with your students.  That’s the quickest way to lose all you’ve worked for during the last four years.”

“Just kidding.  But your advice is unimpeachable.  Every year I read about a teacher or two who messes around with a student.  He goes to jail and then they yank his teaching certificate.”

“Or she.  Sometimes a female teacher messes around with a student; either male or female.”

“I was just teasing you, Bobby.  I’d never, ever fiddle with a student.  Anyway, I’m in love with someone else.”

“Really?  Who would that be?”

“Can’t say.”

I reached down and grabbed her butt.  Then I kissed her.

She grabbed my hand and pushed it away.  “Do you have permission to do that?”

“Sorry.  Just teasing.  How are his kisses?”

“Hard to say.  Kiss me again.  I’ll make a judgement.”

I kissed her.  

A minute later, she lifted her lips.  “Mmm.  That was nice.  I think his kisses are almost equal to yours.”

“Maybe I need more practice.”  I wove my fingers through her blonde hair and pulled her to me.  

“You can practice all night and you’ll never be any better than he is.”

“Who?”

“Twenty questions.”

“A prize if I guess right?”

“Okay.  A kiss.”

“Deal.  Teacher?”

“Yes.”

“A guy?”

“Of course.”

“In this school?”

She nodded.

“Hank?”

“You know better.”

“High School.”

“Yes.”

“Married?”

“Hope not.”

“There are only three of us who are single.  And Neal Fry is Gay.  Have you kissed Neal?”

“No.  That’s seven questions.”

“That wasn’t a question.  I was just being funny.”

“I’m an English teacher, Bobby.  I know a question when I hear it.  Seven.”

“Mr. Girsch is 62 years old.  I’m guessing you haven’t been kissing the other English teacher.  I’m going to take a wild guess and guess you are comparing me with me.”

“You win.”  She leaned down, let the entire weight of her body rest on me and kissed me.  I allowed her to lead as I accepted my prize.  My head was giddy by the time Jennifer rolled off me and held me close on the bed.

“I love you, Bobby.  I can’t believe I fell in love with a Democrat.”

An hour later, I woke up.  Jennifer’s body was up tight against mine.  I smelled lavender.  I remembered her voice, sexy and solid and gentle.  This woman was beautiful, she smelled good, she sounded good.  Her skin felt like velvet.  

Twenty minutes later, I was asleep again, when she gave me a little kiss.

“Uhuh?”

“I have to go to the toilet.”

“Are you spending the night?”

“Better not.”

“You’re welcome to stay.”

“I pledged to avoid sex until I married.  If I stay, I may not be able to keep that pledge, Bobby.”

“Then stay.  By all means, stay.”

“I’d love to.  Also tomorrow is a school day.”

“Just have them write a story.”

“Then I’d have to read a hundred stories.  I couldn’t see you all weekend.”

“You could put them in groups of three; have them read their stories to each other.”

“Mmm.  No.  I have to go home.”

“I’ll walk you.”

“Sure.”

We walked tight together, hip-to-hip, as if we were in three legged race at the carnival.  

A half block away, she pulled me to a stop.  

“Oh! Oh!”

“What’s wrong?  That Mustang; in front of my house.  It’s Hank.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I should go home by myself.  We’ll talk it out.”

“He might hurt you.”

“He’d never do that.”

“We could avoid the problem; go back to my apartment; you can spent the night.  I’ll promised to avoid this sex thing.”

She paused, backing away from her apartment.

“Okay.  I don’t want to face him tonight.”

We turned and walked back to my apartment.  

Chapter 7

A Democrat and A Republican

After school one night, we walked to my house.  We avoided holding hands.  If somebody saw us the whole town would know we were an item in a day.  I grabbed a package of hot dogs out of my freezer and threw a package of day-old whole wheat buns in a grocery bag.  

“Do you like mustard and catsup on your hot dogs?” 

“Mustard.”

“Onions?”

“Not if the evening includes kissing.”

“Chips and dip?”

“Love it.”

“Carrots?”

“Sure.”

I pulled four carrots from the vegetable drawer, pealed them with my potato peeler, and quartered them.

I drove us to a county park in Grundy County, building a fire and roasting a hot dog.

“Can I help?”

“You want to set the table?

“I can do that.”

After Jennifer ate two of my hot dogs, chips, and a couple of carrots, she said, “Maybe I’ll keep you around.  You seem to have some domestic skills.”

“I make great grilled cheese sandwiches too.  Sometimes with avocados.”

“Do you do laundry?”

“When I’m desperate.  You?”

“It’s a girl think.  Besides, all Republican women know how to take care of their men.  I think it’s a plank in the platform.”

“Republican men have the good life all figured out, don’t they?”   

“Do Democrats believe in men doing housework?”

“The women do and us guys are following along, but I don’t think it’s included in our platform.”

We put our food away and took a walk, hand in hand around the park.  In a remote section of the park I kissed her.

After five minutes, she said, “My neck is getting stiff.  Can we take this discussion to my apartment?”

I didn’t argue.

  

Later that night Jennifer and I were lying together in her bed.  We were both fully dressed except for our shoes.

Jennifer asked, “Our dates seem to take place a county or two away from Eula.  It’s like we are having an affair.”

“It’s probably better if we don’t rub it in to Hank.  He hasn’t used all of that muscle to kill me yet.  I’d just as soon avoid death for as long as possible. 

I asked again about touching her breasts.  Again she turned me down.  

“I made a fourth pledge at Northwestern, Bobby.”

“No smoking, drinking, sex, and … ?”

“I was a member of the young Republicans and I pledged I would never kiss a Democrat.”

“One down, one to go?”

“You think I should take up smoking?”

“For sure not.”

“Drinking?”

“A glass of wine now and then wouldn’t hurt you.”

“I don’t have the urge.”

“What about the pledge not to have sex.”

“You tempt me, Bobby, but I’m resisting.”

“Good.  I would not want to tempt you to sin.”

“I don’t think it’s a sin.  I just think … or thought it would be better to wait.”

“Do you still feel that way?”

“Let’s talk about politics.”

“Okay.”  

“I’m dating a Democrat and you don’t seem as evil as I thought you’d be.”

“Maybe sex would be like that too.”

“And maybe you really are evil, you, you, … Democrat.”

We were holding hands.  I glanced at her face and her profile next to me on the bed.  Jennifer is so beautiful.  Hell, I keep describing her as “Most Beautiful,” and she still wins that prize hands down.

“Is that the worst insult you can think of?”

“Don’t you know, I’m falling in love with you, Bobby Porter.”

“How could you fall in love with a … Democrat.”

“It goes against the basic premises of my life.  I don’t understand it.”

She rolled over and surrounded me in her arms, pressing her body against mine, she kissed me.

“And how could you fall in love with a Republican?”

“It goes against every premise of my existence, Jennifer, but you are so damned lovely and you respond to my kisses like you’re a kid on a visit to the candy store.  And you laugh at my jokes.  I made a list.  Only two negatives.”

“Yes?

“First, there’s the Republican thing.  I’m adjusting.  We might work our way through this.”

“And second?”

“Second, your beauty is flawless.  No woman on earth has a more beautiful face.  Your figure sends my subconscious into contortions.  There are your breasts that you won’t let me touch.  Your legs that feel like I’m rubbing my hands along a piece of velvet cloth.  You are smart.  I love our intelligent conversation.  And you are the only woman I know who laughs at my stupid jokes.

“As I’ve said before, you are so sumptuous that forever, every man who meets you will attempt to seduce you.”

At that moment, our peace was destroyed by heavy pounding on the door.  

I glanced at the round white alarm clock with the bell on top.  12:12 a.m.

“Who’s that?” I asked

“Hank.”

“Don’t let him kill me.”

“Go hide in the closet.  Quick.”

She stripped off all her clothes and threw them in a pile in the corner.  Oh my God, I thought.  Thank you, Hank Huntley.  

Jennifer pulled on pajama’s and a robe.

“Hide in the closet, Bobby.  Now!”

I hid.

She opened the door.

I heard Hank’s deep voice, “Jennifer, we have to talk.”

I heard the door close.

“What are you doing here in the middle of the night, Hank?”

“We have to talk.”

“No, we don’t have to talk.  I decided I don’t want to spend my life with you, Hank.  It was time to end this.  We don’t need to talk it over.  It’s over.  What part of over do you not understand?”

“Jennifer, I love you.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  You are so fucking sexy.  I was willing to wait for our wedding, but now, I ain’t willing to wait any more.”

I heard a scream.

“No, Hank.  Leave me alone.”

I came out of the closet, peaked through the door to the living room.  Hank had ripped off her robe.  He had gathered her in his arms.  She was beating on his chest with her fists.

In two long strides, I was in the living room.  Here goes my death, I thought.

I doubled up my fist and swung from my waist smacking Hank Huntley a solid blow on his ear.  He dropped to the floor, spasmed a couple of times and lay still.  A one-punch fight might have saved my life.

Jennifer threw her arms around my neck.  Her tears running down my cheek, her sobs filling the quiet apartment.  Her body nestled into mine.  

Three minutes later, she said, “What do we do now?”

“Call the police?”

“No!  I can’t.  Hank would lose his job.”

“Should we call an ambulance?”

“I don’t know.”  

“We could tell them he fell as he was trying to rape you.”  

“You could drag him down the stairs.”

She looked out the window.  “His car is on the street.”

“Your call.”

“Can we get him in his car?”

“Let’s do it.”

We drug the big coach down the steps, his feet bouncing on the steps.  Before I closed the car door, he was groaning like he was about to regain consciousness.

Jennifer locked the bottom door, below her stairway and the door at the top of the stairs.

We heard his car start and drive away.  

We lay in her bed, she in short sexy pajamas, me in shorts and a t-shirt.  Her head rested on my chest.  

She rolled away from me.  I wrapped my arms around her as we spooned.  She pulled my hand to her breast.  It must be time.

  
Chapter 8

Home Visit

On Fridays teachers were dismissed at 3:30.  I had loved Jennifer Jordon for a month.  She walked into my classroom at 3:35.  I glanced up from my seat at my desk and gasped for a breath.  You’d think I’d become used to her beauty.  Jennifer stood at the door to my classroom wearing a plain tight pink skirt and and a white blouse with lovely pink flowers and green leaves.  Her high heals highlighted the muscles of her perfect legs.  I forced a breath into my lungs.

In a voice just louder than a whisper, I said, “My God you are beautiful.”  Jennifer smiled.  I struggled for another breath.  

“That skirt is really sexy,” I told her.  “Is it a special kind?”

“It’s called a pencil skirt.”

“Must be the old kind, with the sexy shape to fit your fingers.”

She walked up to my desk and kissed me gently.”

“I’m ready to leave for home, Bobby.”

“Sure you don’t want me to come along?”

“I want you with me every minute; but Mom and Dad and I need to talk.”

“About?”

“About you.  And Hank.  They don’t know I broke off our engagement.”

“And they don’t know about me?”

“They don’t know about you.  How will I do this?”

“You want me to tell you?”

“You know me better than that, dear one.  I have to figure this out myself.  What would you suggest?”

“Tell them your engagement is over, but not a word about me.”

“When they learn about you, they will not understand that I’m in love with a Democrat.  Dad might have a stroke.”

“I could come along and help.  ‘Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Jordan.  Your daughter decided she liked my kisses so she broke her engagement with Hank Huntley.  She and I are planning on spending the next seventy years together.’  Think that’d help?”

“Dad would spend the rest of his life in jail.  After he shot you, he might even shoot me.”  

“Maybe you should stay here for the weekend.  We could go squirrel hunting; put some meat on the table.”

“Dad would probably go with you.  He loves to hunt squirrels.  Anyway, I’d better go.  Walk me to my car, Bobby.  I want you to kiss me goodby.”

I shoved all the paper from my desktop in a drawer, grabbing a set of geometry tests to grade on the weekend.   I walked to the door, resisting the temptation of taking Jennifer’s hand.  We walked the two blocks to her apartment.  After she started her car, I glanced up and down the street.  It was empty so I put my head in her window and kissed her goodbye.  

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you,” I said.  “Concentrate on your driving.  I don’t want anything to happen to you.  Call me.”

“I will.”

She drove away.  I felt sad.  

Eula High School’s new English teacher had changed my life like metamorphosis changed the life of a monarch butterfly.  I was unrecognizable.  Oh, outside I looked like the same crazy high school math teacher I had been in the spring.  Inside, Bobby Porter was unrecognizable.  

I strolled on home.  In my apartment, I sat down in a stuffed chair and put my feet on the old beat-up, unmatched hassock.  My weekend companion will be 85 geometry tests.  I thought.  At least I’ll catch up on some work this weekend.  I could go see Hank’s football team play.  They play Parkersburg tonight.  The Falcons are reigning state champs.  Hank’s tigers are playing well.  We could win this game.  I hope so.  Hank has to feel bad about losing his fiancé.  Only Jennifer and I know why.  Our stealth is saving my life.  Perhaps his terrific football team gives Hank a good feeling about a part of his life.  He was really a nice guy.  I don’t want him to feel bad.  I just don’t have a death wish.  

An hour later, I had finished the first page of seven.  Only 510 pages to go.  I sliced some colby-jack cheese, added butter to the outside of a slice of whole wheat bread, and married an avocado with my cheese.  Five minutes later I sat down to a tasty and somewhat healthy avocado and cheese sandwich and a glass of skim milk.  

Coolness grabbed the late September evening.  I dressed in a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a warm jacket and a pair of cargo shorts.  In the stands, I found a seat beside Jill Perkins a first grade teacher.  

Just before half time, my phone rang.  It was Jennifer.  I answered and said, “Can I call you back?”

I left the stands, walked to the back fence, and clicked on her number.  

“Hi.”

“Hi to you, beautiful.”

“How do you know?”

“For a month, you’ve been beautiful every time I’ve seen you.  Why would you change?”

“I love you,” she whispered.

“You too.”

“I talked to Mom and Dad.”

“Yes?”

“They wondered if Hank did something mean?”

“I told them I just figured out I wasn’t in love; that I wanted to spend my life with someone I loved.”

“And then.”

“And then, Dad wanted to know if I’d found someone else who I was in love with.”

“And you told him?”

“I told him.”

“And he said.”

“He said, ‘You’re a big girl, Jennifer.  You have to do what makes you happy.’”

“Mom said, ‘If you’re happy, we’re happy.”

“Big surprise.”

“It was almost as if they knew Hank and I weren’t meant to be.”

“Wow.”

“I want to drive to Eula tonight and spend the night with you.”

“I’m willing, but I don’t want you to die in a fiery crash on the highway.”

“Better spend the weekend with your parents.  Give them hugs for me.”

“Might be too soon for that.  You can meet them soon.  They might love you too.”

“I have a plan.”

“Yes.”

“Your dad and I can go squirrel hunting.  And I’ll compliment your mom on her apple pie.”

“That’ll do it.  You’re so funny.”

“You’re the only girl I’ve ever dated who loves my humor.”

“How many girls have you dated?”

“Three.”

“Thank God for Janet Bailey.”

“She learned to kiss at an early age.”

“I wonder who taught her?”

“Maybe her sister.  They were close.”

“Oooo, Ikkk.”

“Boys would never do that.  Girls?”

“Not that I know of.  Gross.”

“Hank’s team is ahead at the half.  21-10.”

“I’m happy for him.”

“Me too.  He deserves something good in his life now that he’s lost you.”

“Mom’s calling.  I have to go.  Thanks for calling.”

“You called me.”

“You’re right.  Love you.”

“And I love you.  I’m glad your folks understand about Hank.”

“Good-bye.”

“Bye.”

Twenty-five years later, our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, graduated from The University of Northern Iowa.  Beth and her boyfriend had both signed teachers contracts in Gandy Center, a little farm town an hour northwest of Des Moines.  They were to be married in June. 

Before the wedding, I asked Craig Jackson, Beth’s soon-to-be husband to go for a walk around the block.

“What’s going on, Mr. Porter?”

“I’d like to broach a subject on which I have a little experience and throw out some un-asked for advice; if you’ll allow me.”

“Certainly, Mr. Porter.”

“First how about we move on to you calling me Bobby.  We’d both be more comfortable.”

“Sorry.  I’ve called you Mr. Porter in my math classes for three years; it’s hard to change.”

“I want talk to you about marrying a beautiful woman, Craig.  In my opinion, the woman you’re marrying is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of my wife.  Marrying a beautiful woman comes with a problem, Craig.”

“What’s that, Mr. Porter?”

“I married the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known, and that includes Lea Ann Meriwether, Miss America of 1955.  When you marry the most lovely woman in the county, you have to make sure your job, every day will be to make her happy and let her know how much you love her.  Every man she meets will attempt to take her away from you.  Either don’t marry my daughter or make a plan to live up to the challenge.  

“My daughter inherited Jennifer’s beauty, Craig.  You and I are living with the same problem, Craig.  Do it right.”

Elizabeth appeared behind us.  

“I heard that, Daddy; don’t worry about Craig and I.  I could never be with another man.”

“Why do you say that, darling?”

“This is private, Daddy; just between the three of us.”

“Yes?”

“When Craig was a senior in high school, he dated an eighth grade girl who taught him how to kiss.  You probably remember her.  Sally Bailey.  No boy I’ve ever met can kiss like Craig, Daddy.  I’ll never find another man like him.”

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Fifteen and Pregnant – from my novel Hog Wild

Fifteen and Pregnant

I was fifteen when I met the man with the handsome mustache and the beautiful Oldsmobile convertible. In the summer, I worked two days a week at the Eagle Grove Dairy Sweet making ice cream cones, sundaes, and shakes. It was a Wednesday evening when JR stopped for an ice cream cone. He got my attention by paying me a five dollar bill and telling me to keep the change. That was about four dollars in those days.  His rugged body, handsome face, and dark mustache had already caught my eye; this was not one of the boys I usually dated.

Two nights later, he was back. It was almost closing time when he came to my window and ordered a chocolate peanut butter milkshake.

“That sounds different,” I said.

“Ever had one?”

“Never in my 18 years,” I lied, about my age, not my lack of experience with peanut butter and chocolate.

I have a pretty good figure. I might get away with a little lie. Some people say they think I look eighteen.

“Want to try one?” he asked. “I’ll buy.”

“Sure.”  I glanced at his car.  “That’s a cool convertible you have there.  Olds?”

“Yep. An 88. Great car. Want to go for a spin?”

“How old are you? You may be too old for me.”

“You’re eighteen. I’m four years older. I guess we’re both legal age.”

His lie covered the truth that a handsome twenty-eight year old man left his wife at home and invited a fifteen year old girl on a date. I was pretty naive.”

JR drove me toward an old gravel pit. I leaned back and thrilled at the feel of the wind flying through my hair. We parked and sipped our milkshakes.

“This is tasty, JR. These are the first two chocolate peanut butter shakes I’ve ever made.”

We sat and talked. JR worked at the coop in Webster City. Said he was from Fort Dodge, played football in high school, and went to the Junior College. He told me his dad had 1200 acres where he grew corn and soy beans and raised pigs. He wanted to go to Iowa State and study engineering. I was impressed. He was a cool guy. Then he kissed me. The boy could kiss. None of my classmates could kiss like that. That night, he was kind of shy, but a month later we were parked at the pit and he didn’t act shy at all. The next month, I missed my period. Then I found out he was really twenty-eight.

I was scared. I was pregnant.  And I was mad.

“Why would you lie to me?” I screamed at JR.

He looked down and didn’t answer.

We talked about marriage. I told him I was too young. He told me he had a wife.

I wanted to get an abortion.  He didn’t want me to.

Finally, he offered, “Karla, I have a deal for you. Have the baby. Sarah’s wanting to have a child, but we can’t seem to get pregnant. It seems obvious now that it’s her fault since you got pregnant damn fast. You have this kid. Sarah and I will adopt it.”

“And how does that help me? I think I need to make a trip to Planned Parenthood; should of made the trip months ago.”

“I’ll make you a deal. You have my baby. My wife and I will adopt it. And I’ll pay your tuition and give you $400 a month for all of your college.”

For five minutes, we sat in JR’s convertible listening to the chirping of the crickets and frogs.

I asked, “And what guarantee do I have that you’d follow through?”

“Easy. Obviously, I don’t want my wife to know all of this. Here’s my business card. It has my home phone and my cell phone numbers on it. If I don’t produce, you call my wife. She will shoot me dead. I do not have 1200 acres; more like 3000. I can afford to send you to college and pay you a stipend and if you need any extras, let me know. It’s worth a lot to me and Mary to have a child. Also, I’ll draw up a contract. It’ll say that you agree to give birth to the baby and give him up to me. You will also agree to never contact my wife or the child. If you do, you will owe me all I’ve paid you plus a $100,000 penalty. I will agree to pay your college tuition and $400 per month toward room and board. Do we have a deal?”

“I want to see the contract.”

“Ok. Fair enough.”

JR took my hand. “One more thing.”

“What?”

“Can we make love one more time?”

I said. “We already made love one time too many.”

I gave up my baby boy. I traded him for my college education. His father and stepmother got to hame him. JR paid for my college and for my law degree. He and Sarah named my son, Cletus.  It isn’t the name I would have chosen, but he owned it so I loved it.

During his high school years I watched Clete play football and was tied in knots as I attended his wrestling meets. I never missed driving from Des Moines to Gandy Center to watch an athletic event. It was hard to keep up. I subscribed to the Gandy County Gazette and made a scrapbook. Every time his name showed up in the paper I clipped and pasted the article.

By the time Cletus graduated from high school, I had been married for three years and divorced. I had dated other men, but no one I loved; only Clete.

Today, I think of myself as the best employment lawyer in the state. I make a difference in people’s lives, especially young women who are abused by employers who think they own the woman.

One spring morning I awoke to the ding of my phone. CLETE’S BIRTHDAY flashed upon the screen. I thought, My son is twenty-six today. I wish I could send him a card. I brushed aside a tear, showered and dressed for work. Depositions today. I need to look good.

That afternoon, my secretary interrupted the deposition, “You have two visitors, Karla. They won’t tell me anything. The young man is determine. He insists he must see Karla Freeseman.”

“What’s his name?”

“He won’t say. He says he and you used to be very close twenty-five years ago.”

“An old boy friend?”

“Not unless you were robbing the cradle. And the woman. She must be eighty-five. Spry as a spring chicken, though.”

“His mother?”

“He called her Aunt Hattie.”

“I’m almost finished with this deposition. Tell them I’ll see them in five minutes.”

The secretary knocked on my door.

“Yes?”

The door opened.

“Ms. Freeseman. This is Cletus and … .”

“Hattie. I’m Clete’s aunt.”

A chill came over my body.  I swallowed hard, sitting at my desk, keeping the straight face that lawyers are good at.  I couldn’t make myself get up and shake hands with them.  “How do you do?” I forced out of my mouth.  “Won’t you have a seat?”

Clete and Hattie sat. My secretary left, closing the door behind her.

I was speechless. I’m never speechless, but at the moment I could not talk.

Cletus broke the silence, “Hi, Mom.”

I reclined in my chair. My hands were clasped casually in my lap. I had the expression of a trained attorney who never showed emotion.

Then I looked my son in the eyes and said, “What took you so long?”

“I didn’t know you existed until two weeks ago.”  He was staring straight at my face.  “It’s taken me two weeks to gather the nerve to come here.”

“What do you want? I’m not giving you any money.”

“I don’t know. I mean I don’t want money from you. You’re beautiful. Are you a great lawyer?”

“The best employment lawyer in Iowa. If you have a problem with your job or if your boss is harassing you sexually, I’m your gal.”

“It’s not a lawyer I’m looking for.”

Another pause.

“I watched you graduate from high school.”

“You were there? In Gandy Center? You saw me?”

“You didn’t get many awards or scholarships.”

“People thought I was dumb. But I’m not. I’m good at figuring things out. I can fix things.”

“You didn’t go to school after high school. If you are smart, then why didn’t you go to school? Be a professional? Maybe an engineer or a tech specialist?”

“I didn’t think I was smart enough.”

“You’re young enough. You could still go to school.”

“I’m pretty old.”

“You are twenty-six today. I celebrated your birthday. I celebrate your birthday every year.”

A shy smile crossed Clete’s face.

“August is not a month of holidays.  On my birthday, there was always a card from Hattie and often John and Sarah.  They gave me a card and some cash. I always knew that Aunt Hattie loved me, but nobody else ever did much to make me feel important.”

“I always remembered your birthday,” I said. “I celebrated every one.”

I leaned forward toward my son.  “I told you I wouldn’t give you money, but if you really want to go to school, I might help you. If you can earn good grades.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because you are my son.”

“And you … are my mother.”

Clete’s hand was on the desk.  I reached across and touched it. “You are my son and this is the first time I’ve touched you in twenty-six years.”

Clete looked at my face. He must have seen the parallel lines of tears leaving lines of black mascara down my cheeks. I looked at his eyes. My son’s vision must have been blurred by the tears welling in his eyes.

For a minute, it was quiet. Then Clete rolled his wrist and took my hand in his.

“That’s the first time I’ve touched my mother in twenty-six years. It feels right.”

After another long pause, Clete asked, “What about my dad? Can you tell me who he is?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“Yesterday, I was an orphan with adoptive parents who never really liked me very much. Now I have a mom and I think you like me — at least a little.”

There was a moment of silence in the room.

Then, “It would be nice to know my dad.”

The room was silent for two minutes.

“I made a promise never to tell who your father was. I was fifteen years old and I knew I couldn’t do much for you. We would have had a huge struggle together, Cletus.” I squeezed his hand. “I got a chance to give you up for adoption to a young couple. I thought you would have a much better chance for a successful life with them. I cried for days after I gave you up.

“Your father gave me money to go to college and law school. He called it a scholarship and deducted it from his income taxes. He was very generous. We never talked, but whenever I needed money for tuition or books, I wrote to him and he sent it. The money took the stress away from paying for college”

Hattie asked, “So you were the recipient of the Ralph Rawlins Memorial Scholarship, named after my father?”

“That’s the one.”

“So my adoptive-father is my real father?” asked Clete.

“I didn’t tell you that.”

Dad Loved His Boat

Dad Loved His Boat

A Tribute to Don Riggs

 

I remember being sixteen

My father owned a boat, thirteen foot, mahogany plywood.

His old five horse Johnson motor ran because Dad tuned it well.

I understood his boat and outboard were prize possessions.

My father owned a boat, thirteen foot, mahogany plywood.

It carried him and me over many miles of river and lake.

I understood his boat and outboard were prize possessions.

Dad was proud of the boat and confident in the Johnson motor.

It carried him and me over many miles of river and lake.

When I was eleven it sailed us through monstrous Canadian waves.

He was proud of the boat and confident in the Johnson motor.

Dad trusted the motor with the lives of our family.

When I was eleven it sailed us through monstrous Canadian waves.

When I was sixteen I hinted about the canoe.

Dad trusted the lives of our family to his motor.

He loved the boat, but he loved his son more.

When I was sixteen I hinted about the canoe.

Dad sold his boat, his prized possession.

He loved the boat, but he loved his son more.

He sold his boat and bought a canoe.

Dad sold his boat, his prized possession.

No hesitation, he sacrificed for me.

He sold his boat and bought a canoe.

On that day, my father professed his love to me.

No hesitation, he sacrificed for me.

Dad taught me generosity.

On that day, my father professed his love to me.

He led me on a life-path of altruistic giving.

Dad taught me generosity.

He gave all he loved for his son.

I followed his life-path of altruistic giving.

As I remembered being sixteen.

When the Dog Finally Dies

When the Dog Finally Dies
by Jim Riggs

“You know you are free when the kids graduate from college, and the dog finally dies.”  The famous quote is correct about the freedom that not having a dog gives to our lives.  I know the words ring true, but I still miss the dog.

The dog is gone.  We travel.  We visit friends.  We have no worries about what to do with a dog in a motel or a campground, about the dog messing up our neighbor’s lawn, about our barking dog destroying the peace of our neighborhood.  The mail man and any one else in uniform can feel safe on our front porch.  We can walk the trails in our national parks, where dogs aren’t allowed, even on a leash.  We have no concern about our dog escaping from his kennel and exploring the town’s back yards and garbage pails.  We have no more trips to the police station or the dog pound to pay a fine and collect our wandering hunter.  We will never again suffer the loss of finding our companion broken, in a pool of blood beside the highway.  I know the adage is true, but I still miss the dog.

Labrador retrievers are noted for having back problems as they grow older.  KC was 3/4 lab and 1/4 Irish setter.  The setter blood made our dog calmer than if he had been a pure-bred lab.  We loved his intelligence and his sincere will to do our bidding in his decade of life with us.

When the pain in KC’s back wouldn’t let him jump into the back of my little Ford Currier pickup, it was not too bad.  A boost from me and his seventy pounds came right aboard.

When it got so bad that he couldn’t walk up the back steps of our home and he whimpered whenever he lay down, I called the vet.  The degeneration was causing too much pain.  I knew the time to put him away had come.

My friend, Doctor Cal DeVries, the small town veterinarian and my friend and neighbor, made his house call to take care of the chore.  I pointed to the back of my pickup and commanded, “Kennel, KC.”

My dog tried.  He got his front feet on the tailgate and whimpered with pain.  I gave him a boost and he responded with another effort and another whimper of pain.  I held KC’s head in my lap; petted him as Cal gave him the shot.  KC looked up at me with big, brown, trusting eyes, and seemed to say, Why are you doing this to me?  In a moment he relaxed and was gone and my eyes were wet with tears.

An hour before, I had driven to the bottom of the hill in the timber behind the house.  I dug a big hole as KC explored the nearby underbrush.

Now, I slid him into the shallow grave, covered my longtime friend and companion with dirt, and said a little prayer of celebration for his life.

I thought of moments that we had shared.  He loved to run beside me as I biked around the little Iowa town.  I recalled the day we met the preacher’s old English sheepdog with his face full of hair.  KC ran to greet him wagging his tail, anxious to sniff.  The sheepdog attacked and I had to kick it off KC to defend my dog.

I remembered a walk around the edge of Pine Lake State Park; a hike without my gun.  KC was hot.  He broke through the thin ice on a large puddle, laid down, and lapped up the cold water.

Another day he met my son’s kitten.  My lab, who hated cats, was introduced to Doug’s growing kitten.  Eventually, he realized that this cat was out of bounds.  KC lay on the kitchen tile, his head on the carpet as the kitten batted him in one side of his head and then the other, like a little boxer, working on a much larger and helpless opponent.

Adults need an excuse to act like kids.  Men need a reason to wander through the fields and wild country.  As a young man, my Labrador retrievers and my shotgun gave me a socially acceptable reason to spend every spare moment exploring the fields and the wilds.  I was a hunter.  I had an excuse.  I followed my dog on the trail of wild birds.  I fed my family the wild game that I harvested.

Once the dog was gone and would not to be replaced, was there a reason to hunt pheasants any more?  I tried walking a field without a Labrador retriever leading my steps.  I was lost.  The dog in pheasant habitat was like my fish locator on my fishing boat.  He showed me there was hope.  His twirling tail and nose on scent told me pheasants were near.  His body language told me, Be ready.  Birds are close by.

It just wasn’t the same without him.

I cleaned and oiled my Winchester pump and put it away.  I still needed my dog as an excuse to be an adult spending much of his time walking wild country.  Bird watching, hiking, camping, canoeing, fishing, duck hunting, deer hunting, and trapping were all reasons I had used to explore nature.  Many of these reasons, I still would use. One day, I decided to give a shot at recording some of the neat things I saw.  I bought a camera and film and headed to the timber and a new phase in life, a phase without my dog.

A Boy, a Dog, and a Model A Ford

A Boy, a Dog, and a Model A Ford
by Jim Riggs

I celebrated my sixteenth birthday in November, a few months earlier than many of my Parkersburg High School classmates.  That was the semester I passed driver’s education.  Becoming a licensed driver would have been easy, but I lacked motivation.

Our family vehicle was Dad’s pickup, the vehicle he used to earn our family income in his refrigeration repair business.  When I wasn’t in school or playing whatever sport was in season, I was his chief helper.  As we drove on service calls, Dad handed me the keys and said, “Drive.”

He never had to ask twice.

I knew that borrowing the pickup to cruise Main Street or taking some girl on a date was not going to happen, so graduating from a learner’s permit to a driver’s license seemed to have little reward for the effort.

That spring, Dad and I had some car talk.  He thought I should have a car, so that I could learn some principles of auto mechanics.  He found a boxy, 1931 Model A Ford at Kyhl Chevrolet, a car built with the idea that any owner could take care of his own car and keep it running.  A previous owner had converted this car to a pickup by cutting out the back end and building a wooden box sticking out the back.  My first car cost me $25.

I bought a gallon of cheap paint at the John Deere Dealer, sanded the rusty finish, and brushed on a coat of John Deere yellow trim paint.  Two large headlights came from a bar across the front of the radiator.

I got around to getting my license.  Soon, I was driving around town in a bright yellow Model A Ford, with my dog, Squirt, in the passenger seat.  Squirt was half Brittany spaniel and half Labrador retriever.  He had a bit of the heft and aggressive personality of a Lab with the coloration and pointing ability of a Brittany.  The companionship and the loyalty that flowed between the sixteen year old boy and his dog was omnipotent.  I felt proud sitting in the driver’s seat of the oldest car on the streets of our little farming town, with my liver and white Lab-Brittany hunting dog.  Squirt was equally proud of riding shotgun.  Neither of us could know the trouble that would surround us and that Model A before winter came.

I had fun with the car, but it was never the lesson in mechanics for me that Dad had hoped it would be.  In fact the old car taught me that mechanical tasks were not my forte.  When something went wrong with the old car, I lifted the hood which opened on both the left and right sides, and attacked the problem with a Crescent wrench.  This rounded almost every one of the bolt heads, making them impossible for anyone to remove.  Dad’s dream of getting me a car to help me learn to be a mechanic had the opposite affect.  It nudged me in the direction of becoming a teacher.

The windshield wiper was connected to a lever inside the windshield that the driver moved back and forth by hand as needed.  Starting my Model A was always an adventure.  There were three ways to start this Ford.

First, I tried the battery powered starter.  I shifted to neutral and adjusted the spark advance lever beside the steering wheel.  Then I reached up with one foot and stepped on the starter button while pressing the throttle with other foot.  I never had the money for a good battery, so usually the battery was dead and using the starter was not an option.

The second method of starting a Model A was with a crank.  The crank was a squared off Z-shaped metal bar with a connection in one end that fit into a hole in the front of the engine.  I understood the theory.  I set the spark and hand throttle levers beside the steering wheel, shifted to neutral, turned on the ignition, and spun the crank as fast as I could spin it.  In theory the engine would spin, the pistons would compress the gasoline in the cylinders, the spark plug would fire at just the right instant, the gasoline would explode, pushing the piston and the engine would continue to run on its own.  I was a strong kid, but I never was man enough to get my Model A running by cranking it.

The third technique was the one that was successful for me most often.  I shifted to neutral, set the spark lever and the hand throttle, turned on the ignition switch, and pushed the car down the hill past Adel Wiegman’s house.  As it gathered speed, I jumped on the running board, climbed into the moving car, pushed in on the clutch.  Shifted to second, I popped the clutch, and, if I was lucky, the engine burst into life.  It was great when it worked.  When the car wouldn’t run, I left it sitting at the bottom of the hill until Dad came home and he and I figured out how to get it running.  Usually, he just hooked a chain to the front bumper and pulled it with his pickup until it started.

I had a terrible time repairing my Model A.  The only bolts that were removable by me were the ones that held the wheels on the car.  On regular occasions I jacked it up, removed the wheels, and changed flat tires.  New tires almost never found a place on my Ford.

No tubeless tires for my Ford.  Tires and tubes were hoarded like hard candy.  I scoured the countryside for used tires, learning how to change and repair them.   Old pieces of tire could be cut with a sharp knife and beveled with a file to form “boots” to cover cracks in a tire that might force a hole in my tube.  I patched holes in tubes just as I had on my bicycle tires, but often the roughness of the boot would wear a hole in my carefully patched tube by the time the car had traveled a mile.

My spare tires were almost never alone in my wooden pickup box.  I acquired a couple of extra rims and kept them mounted with air-filled tires.  When a tire failed me, I jacked up the Ford, removed the wheel, and bolted a spare tire on the hub.  These tires were very narrow and much larger in diameter than a modern car tire.  Driving through deep mud was their purpose.  Often my spare failed me quickly.  When the last of my spare tires lost its air, I removed the wheel, gathered up a couple of big screw drivers, removed and patched the tube, adjusted the boot, reinserted the tube, rolled the wheel to the filling station for air and then back to my antique automobile.  I always celebrated when I made it home without using all of my spare tires.

Henry Ford’s great idea of a Model A with big narrow nineteen inch tires that would give a lot of clearance on mud roads of America was a wonderful plan, but for me, I could not get those big narrow tires to hold air.

The Model A’s bad starting caused a tragedy during the middle of that summer.  The battery failed.  The crank was too much for me.  The push down the hill, past my friend, Adel Wiegman’s, house, with Squirt running beside the car was not successful.  I continued to push and jump in the car for more attempts at making the machine run until I got almost to the intersection with Highway 20.  That’s when I missed my dog.

As I hollered, I heard a screech of brakes.  I saw Squirt came running out from under the dual wheels on the back of a gravel truck traveling down highway 20.  I ran to the highway and my whimpering dog limped to meet me.  Thank goodness, he didn’t look badly hurt.  Then, I saw the wound.  He was bleeding from the left shoulder.  I picked him up and carried him the three blocks up the hill to our house.  I set him down in the kitchen, covering the wound with a towel, pressing on the shoulder.  The front of my white sweat shirt was solid red, saturated with the blood of my dog.  I called the vet.

“Bring him out,” he said.

A dozen calls around town, located my dad.  He was home in five minutes and we drove to Dr. Sipes office.

He sewed Squirt back together, but was not optimistic about his chances.  I spent the night on a blanket beside my dog comforting him in his pain; encouraging him to live.  Morning found him better.  Squirt got stronger.  His strength began to return.  In two weeks, he was running around on three legs.  In a month, his shoulder was still swollen, but otherwise he was back to normal.

Squirt still exhibited pride as we cruised the streets of Parkersburg on the days my Yellow Ford was running.

The last day in the life of my Model A Ford was almost the last day of my life.  After school, I loaded Squirt into the Model A and headed toward the dam to do a bit of fishing.  We drove down Main Street and then a block east and then back north to the railroad tracks.  The Illinois Central and the Northwestern tracks ran parallel to each other on the north edge of Parkersburg.  I slowed down for the Illinois Central tracks and accelerated toward the Northwestern tracks.  I glanced to my right.  From behind the railroad station, I saw the biggest, meanest looking train engine I had ever seen.  The big black engine steamed for the crossing.  It looked like a tie race.

I’m dead, I thought.

The spongy brakes on my old car crossed my mind as my foot left the accelerator.

I’ll never stop in time.

I hit the brakes; the car skidded sideways, and stopped at an oblique angle.  The left part of my bumper was almost over the tracks.  Squirt summersaulted to the floor along with my tackle box and fish bait.  The cowcatcher on the front of the engine struck a glancing blow to my left front bumper, knocking me backwards, tearing off the air horn mounted on the fender.  I shifted to reverse and backed away from the tracks.  The train stopped several blocks up the tracks.  The engineer walked back and surveyed the damage.

“You are a lucky lad, son.  I am really happy to see you alive.  Three people died in the car we hit yesterday.”

I helped him fill out the report for the railroad.  Then we tied my chain from the train to my bent bumper.  I backed up the Model A to pull the bumper away from the wheel.  A half-hour later, the train headed on it’s way, west out of Parkersburg.  I looked both ways and crossed the tracks, driving down to the dam to tell my fishing buddy, John Cleary, about my brush with death.  Then I headed home.  My desire for fishing seemed to have dissipated.

I drove as far as the Methodist Church when the car quit running for the last time.  My yellow Model A Ford had had enough.  We diagnosed its problem as a broken timing chain.  Eventually, we bought the new parts.  Dad wanted me to tear down the engine and overhaul it.  I tried.  Once again, the rusty bolts on the engine slipped on every wrench I tried on them.  Rust held all parts of that yellow car firmly in place.  Penetrating oil seemed unable to permeate its rusty bolts.  Henry Ford’s great car was advertised as fixable by any common man, but mine was never fixable by me.

How do real mechanics ever remove those bolts?  I wondered.  I never succeeded in removing the rusty bolts and the encounter with the train turned out to be the last trip I took in my Ford.

So far, the encounter with the train was my last as well.

A year later, my Ford was gone and my dog began to be more troubled by his injury.  After a stay at the veterinary hospital in Waterloo, Squirt became very ill.  One night he wanted out.  He walked out in the tall grass behind our house.  He wouldn’t come to me.  Later, I thought he was looking for a place to die.  The vet suggested Pepto Bismo.  I woke the druggist at Midnight.  His anger turned to concern as he heard my story.

In the morning we took the dog back to Waterloo to see the vet.  As we neared the city, Squirt went limp in my lap.  My dog was dead.  He got limp and he was dead.  Later that morning, I called the vet.  My speech was broken.  Tears streamed down my face as I told the lady on the phone, “We won’t be in today.  My dog died this morning.”

In the fall we traded my yellow Model A Ford for a 37 Chevy .  The Chevy usually started when I stepped on the starter.  The black, four door sedan became one of my most loved cars.  I didn’t miss the Model A at all.

I still miss Squirt.
Jim Riggs
8-23-2016

Clod Fights

Clod Fights
by Jim Riggs

Early spring or early autumn were the favorite times for our gang of eleven year old boys to gather for clod fights.  Any time we could find the ammunition worked for us.  Sometimes they were planned and sometimes the results of an impromptu throw by a random boy.

Lee and Larry Baker’s grandpa lived next door to them on Ankeny Street, two blocks from my house.  Their grandpa had a garden behind their house that was often filled with a formidable supply of dirt clods.  The soil was rich and the clods were solid black and held together well.

Larry and Lee and I were cautious kids.  Larry decreed and we all agreed that we didn’t want to put out an eye or hurt anybody too badly, so we outlawed rock fights.  Our rules forbid throwing a rock at anyone and hitting above the waist was strictly prohibited.  Clod fights were a favorite and well-governed activity.

So we had two strict and universally understood rules.  No throwing rocks or faucets or other hard stuff, and no hitting above the waist.  A clod striking a boy above the waist usually led to an immediate apology from the perpetrator before the game continued.  Fairness surrounded the activity as if we were modern professional golfers, calling our own fouls.

The Laughlin boys lived down the block from Larry’s and across the street from his grandpa’s house.  One day in late August, they joined us in a clod fight and started throwing rocks.  We explained our rules, but the Laughlin’s chose to ignore them.  We retreated from the battlefield and began plotting new strategies against them.   It was our duty to teach them a lesson.

Grandpa’s garden had a good supply of over-ripe vegetables.  We gathered a batch of tomatoes and stood in his yard across the street from the Laughlin house, calling the boys to come out and face us.  Our numbers were growing.  Boys from blocks around heard the commotion and came to join us in our battle against unfair tactics.

The Laughlin boys wouldn’t show their faces,  so we began throwing ripe tomatoes onto their broad, front porch.  For some reason, our tactics irritated their mother.  In loud voices, we suggested that they were cowards to hide behind their mother’s skirt.

It didn’t take long for the police to arrive.  I don’t think the cops understood our point about the Laughlin boys not fighting fair.  We tried to explain that they had been throwing rocks and faucets.  The policemen listened, but they didn’t get it.

Eventually, my father got involved.  Dad seemed to think it would be a good idea for us boys to go over to the Laughlin’s, apologized to their mom, and clean up the tomatoes off their porch.  He thought pails of soap and water and brooms would work well.  And they did.

~ 1948

Hero

 

Nearly every road in the state of Iowa runs either east and west or north and south.  But, sometimes an old stagecoach trail followed a river or traced a level contour around a hill and years later the trail became a road or highway that was an exception to Iowa’s checkerboard of one mile by one mile squares of farmland.

Some superstitious citizens of the state of Iowa will not build a house whose walls do not lie in north-south and east-west directions.

“It’s bad luck.  God don’t want walls going in crooked directions.”

The Madison to Adamsville spur line leaves the Illinois Central Railroad tracks at Madison and heads northwest through a bunch of small towns.  Each town has a siding to drop off car loads of coal and pick up grain cars full of Iowa corn.

My friend, Gerald Gardner, and me got  some day jobs unloading some of those coal cars.  A lot of them were loaded with big shiny-black chunks of the heavy fuel.  Some of the pieces were the size of couch pillows only a whole lot heavier.  Gerald and me could barely lift those big pieces of coal and we had to heave each chunk over the side of the car where it slid down the chute that lead to the bin in the basement of Kelsey’s Elevator and Grain Company.  When we got near the bottom of the car we had to lift them fifty pound chunks over our heads to throw them onto the coal chute.  Gerald and me decided that working as a team made sense.  We’d each grab an end and lift that hunk of coal and swing it into the chute in one fell-swoop.

Some of the coal cars contained stoker coal.  Stoker coal was small pieces of coal just a bit bigger than the charcoal people use in barbecue grills.  Kelsey’s sold it to businesses and rich people who loaded it in a bin and used a feeder belt to keep it coming into the furnace all night long.  It seemed like the modern, efficient way to burn coal.   Gerald and me would use coal scoops to throw the flat, tennis ball sized pieces of coal on the chute.  Later we’d go down in the dusty pit with bandana’s over our faces like western outlaws and we’d move our pile of coal to the edges of the bin so we could go back up to the coal car and have room to start all over again.  Unloading a car full of stoker coal also made us real strong.

We was getting a buck and a half an hour, but the best part of the job was we was building muscles and strong backs that made us both all-conference linemen on Claysville’s conference champion football team.

Gerald was left guard and I was left tackle and we’d get in the huddle and I’d tell Cass Evert, our quarterback, “You just call a running play around the left side.  Gerald and I will make a hole.”

Nobody we played was as tough as the two coal men on the left side of the Claysville line.

I was telling you about the railroad and the crooked streets in Claysville.  The Madison to Adamsville or M & A Spur Railroad cuts the town of Claysville in two from the southeast to the northwest.  I lived in the third of the town on the southwest corner.  Most people would say I was from the wrong side of the tracks.

Gerald grew up on the rich side of the tracks.  His dad was a banker.  Gerald used his coal money to buy gas for the ‘57 Chevy his dad bought him when Gerald got his license.  Gas cost about 20 cents a gallon.  He could fill up his tank and drive a couple of weeks with two hours pay from unloading coal.

I used half of my pay for stuff I needed for school.  The rest went into our family’s grocery fund.  It took a lot to feed Ma and me and my two little sisters.  Karla was twelve, Konnie was five, and I was seventeen.  My name is Karl.  Karl Kline.  Mom was Sara Kline and pa was Evert Kline.  We did pretty well until I was twelve and Pa fell off a grain elevator he was building.  He was pretty busted up, but he lived for a week.  He knew he was going to die and he told me, “Karl, you will be the man of the house when I am gone.  You’re going to have to work really hard to take care of this family.  I know you’ll do that.  Always remember that I want you to get a good education too.  You go to class, pay attention, and study harder than anyone else.  I’ll be watching, even though I’ll be dead.  I’ll be watching you in sports too.  You are good at baseball and basketball and I think you’ll be a football player, too.  You work hard and have fun and make me proud, Karl.”

I started to argue.  I started to say, “You ain’t going to die, Pa,” but Pa, he put his finger to my lips and shook his head.  I didn’t say no more and neither did he.

Them was the last words I heard him say.

After Pa told me all of that on his death-bed, I didn’t have much choice.  I had to work to support my family, study to be a great student, and give my best to becoming a good athlete.  I had to make Pa proud.  I knew he’d be watching me.

You might notice that my English ain’t perfect.  That’s one of my goals for my senior year.  I’m taking fourth year English and my grammar is getting better, but I still have a ways to go.  I’d like to go to college.  I’d have to get a scholarship and a bunch of loans, but dad would be proud if he looked down someday and saw me walking across a stage with my college degree.

I was telling you about the railroad and the crooked streets of Claysville.  The roads beside the M & A Spur RR run parallel to the railroad tracks.  We lived in a two bedroom house on Railroad Street on the south edge of town.  Our house was a poor person’s house on the “other side of the tracks.”  Ma had a bedroom, the girls shared a bedroom, and I had a room in the basement with a folding bed.  We had an oak kitchen table with a leaf that stayed in it all the time.  In our living room we had an old worn couch, an easy chair, a rocker, a wooden coffee table, and an end table.  The room was full.  There was almost no space for people.

Our old house was up on the hill in the good side of town.  When Pa was killed, Ma couldn’t keep up the payments so she sold the big house and bought our little place on Railroad Street.  The new house included about three acres of ground.  It had space for chickens for eggs and meat, a couple of pigs that thought they was pet dogs, a cow that kept us in milk and calves that we raised for beef.  We didn’t have to buy a lot of groceries.  Ma canned lots of our vegetables and fruit that neighbors shared with us.

On the north side of the tracks, Oiley Street ran parallel to the tracks and to Railroad Street.  The other streets in town ran either north and south or east and west.  When they hit Oiley Street, they made strange-shaped blocks.  Many of the city blocks were trapezoids and some were just triangles.

The block formed by Oiley and Brown and Grant streets formed a right triangle.  The acute angles of this triangle were about 50 degrees and 40 degrees.  At the corner of Oiley and Grant a tall pole held a shield-shaped sign that said, “PHILLIPS 66.”  A sign along the front of the building said, “Harmon’s Phillips 66 Service.”  The front of the station had a wooden frame overhead door and a red brick section with a door leading into the office.

My friend, Kenny Lange, worked there after school except during basketball season.  Kenny pumped gas, washed car windows, checked oil, and took money for gas.  On the basketball court Kenny was a shooter.  He never saw a shot he didn’t like.  I saw him drain a hook shot from the other team’s free throw line in the last second of the first quarter against Beaman.  He could pass, too.  If the other team had him covered he would hit me in the post with a pass so perfect that I could just take one step and lay the ball in the basket.

Kenny had two sisters.  Jackie was my age and Bonnie was two years younger.  The Lange kids liked to swim.  One day, several of us guys were down at the creek swimming at the BBB.  BBB is our acronym for Bare Butt Beach.  When Jackie and Bonnie and Nadine Zimmerman showed up.  They saw our pants lying on the bank  so they tried to get us to come out of the water.

“We won’t look,” they promised.

The girls had on swimming suits and they swam for a while and teased us a lot before they headed home.  We felt lucky that they didn’t take our pants with them.

Jackie was nice, but she was kind of fat.  Bonnie was slender and strong and she was a great basketball player.  She liked to challenge herself to join the guys in pickup games.  She held her own with her basketball skills.  Besides, we liked to guard her really close.

Sometimes, on a hot summer day a bunch of us swam at the gravel pit north of town.  Bonnie and I got involved in a game of tag one day.  As other people left it developed into just a two person game.  She tried to shove me under and then swim away.  She was a good swimmer, but I was better.  I could always catch her and shove or pull her under the water.  I was sure to hold on to make sure she got to the surface again.  The water was twenty feet deep and I didn’t want anything to happen to her.  I was beginning to like her a lot.  I think Bonnie and I had something good going on between us.  My problem was I didn’t have any money to spend on girls.  Any money I got went for food, school, and savings for college.  It would be a long time before I’d see any extra cash for a girl friend.

You know about my town, you know about me, and you know about my friends.    This whole story is about my trip to school one day along Oiley Street past Harmon’s 66 Station.

I was late for school.  I was very late for school.  The day before had been the first basketball practice of my senior year at Claysville High School.  Football should have left me in top shape, but a hundred laps and a hundred line drills had left me drained.  I don’t even remember taking a shot after warm-up drills.  That night I did my homework and went to bed.

When I woke up my temperature was over 103 degrees and I felt really sick.  Ma wouldn’t let me go to school.  I slept until ten and took my temperature again.  Ma was at work so I figured 100.2 was close enough to normal.  I had already missed physics and English classes.  I ate some milk-toast and headed over the tracks and up Oiley Street past Harmon’s 66.  I was carrying my gym bag with clean shorts, a shirt, and socks for basketball practice and my algebra book.

Oiley Street headed northwest and passed another triangular city block.  This was filled with the Claysville Carnegie Library.  We were proud of the library.  It was a beautiful brick building that curved along the long hypotenuse of the triangular block.  It contained the best selection of fiction and reference books of any library around.  We felt lucky to have it in Claysville.  Us people from the other side of the tracks couldn’t afford to buy books so having a great library was wonderful.  I spent a lot of my free time there.

I passed Harmon’s and headed up Oiley Street toward the library.  As I turned up Grant Street I noticed something strange.  A pickup truck was parked across the street from the library.  There was a guy sitting in the forest green ‘49 Chevy.  He was writing on a clipboard and looking at the Claysville State Bank building across Grant Street from the library.  My first thought was, “This guy is a bank robber.”  I glanced at his license to see if he was a local.  The plate was smeared with mud.  I couldn’t even see the county number.  Several banks had been robbed around Iowa and southern Minnesota during the past six months.  Something told me, “This might be the guy.”

Before I got even with his truck, his door opened and a young man got out of the truck.  He was six foot tall and weighed about 210 pounds.  I was six foot three and weighed a solid 220.  The guy had curly blondish hair like you get if you’ve been out in the sun a lot.  He walked toward the bank.

I was even with the library when the robber turned the corner, I turned and jogged back to his pickup.  I pulled a bunch of rough weeds and rubbed some mud off his rear plate.  It read 77-2408.  I wrote the number on my algebra notebook.

I thought, “This guy is from Polk county.  77 is the code for Iowa’s capital county.  He’s a bank robber for sure.  I’m getting the town cop.  I’m turning this guy in.”

Karl Kline was about to solve the series of small town bank robberies.  I stuck out my chest a bit.  I was going to be a hero.

Then the bank alarm began to blare.  It was so close and so loud.  It seemed to be coming from the inside of my head.

Suddenly, the young blond guy came running around the corner of the bank onto Grant Street.  He was headed for his pickup and ignoring me.  This robber was not going to escape.  I imagined he was a running back from Madison.  I dropped my bag and launched myself.  It might have been the finest open field tackle I have ever made.  I hit him waist high and he went down hard.

I didn’t see it coming.  I was on top and in control when his fist hit me in the mouth.  My teeth cut deep into my lips and I tasted my blood.  I almost cried out with pain.  Then I was on my back and the bank robber had a gun in my face.  He was going to kill me.

“Maybe the cops will come and save me.  At least I’ll be a hero for stopping him,” I thought.

“One move and you’re dead.”

I didn’t even breathe.

The robber slowly stood. His pistol was pointed at my body.  His hand was steady.  He couldn’t miss.

“You are under arrest kid.  You helped your partner escape, but we’ve got you and we have ways to get you to tell us about your buddy.  The easy way for you is to finger your partner right now.  Who is he?  Where does he live?”

I stammered.  “I … I thought you was a bank robber.   I was sick and I’m late for school.  I saw you sitting in your pickup and got suspicious.  I wrote down your license number and when I saw you running, I tried to be a hero.”

I looked up when I saw the flash of Herald Jenson’s camera.  Harold was editor of the Claysville Herald.  He just took my picture.  I was going to be famous.

Friday’s paper had my picture on the front page.  The headlines read, “Local Star Athlete Tackles FBI Agent.  Foils Capture of Bank Robber.”

Eula HS Faculty Meeting #4 Mail and Carnival

Eula HS Faculty Meeting #4  Mail and Carnival
by Jim Riggs

Jack Riker and his wife, Darla, spent a week and two weekends climbing scaffolding and painting their two story house.  They scraped and primed bare spots, and painted a finish coat.  Darla painted every day.  Jack joined her after school and on weekends.  The young math teacher and his wife worked long hours trying to finish before the snow fell.  On Sunday afternoon, they painted together till dark, fried grilled cheese sandwiches, and collapsed in bed, side by side, touching only index fingers.

On Monday morning, Jack awoke early, squinted his eyes, stretched tight muscles, and stared at the clock.    5:10 a.m.  Too early to get up. . . . Oh, darn.  Darla and I have to move the scaffolding.  

He looked across the bed to his left.  She’s sound asleep, he thought.  She’ll kill me if I wake her.

Jack dropped his feet over the side of the bed and walked across the carpet to the bath room, lifting the seat on the toilet, garnering relief.  He dropped his pajamas in a pile, stepped into the tub, turning the shower to a spot he knew to be lukewarm.  Too much hot water and Darla won’t have any left, he thought.

He padded naked into their bedroom and kissed his wife awake.

“Go away.”

“Gotta move the scaffolding.”

“Didn’t we move it last night?” she mumbled.

“We were both too tired.  Now we have to hurry.  I have my 7:30 teacher’s meeting.  Mr. Hardass will have a kitten if I’m late again.  He’ll put a letter in my file.  ‘Mr. Riker has no respect for the rules and is extremely unpunctual.  He persists on being late for teacher’s meetings.’  He’d love to have an excuse to fire me.”

“He can’t fire you.  You’re a good teacher.”

“I think so, but too often, I open my mouth in our faculty meetings; point out how foolish he’s being.  Narcissistic people don’t like to be told that they are inadequate.”

“You need to keep your mouth shut during those teacher’s meetings, Jack.  We need this job.”

“You’re right, Darla.  I’ll work on it.  Now we need to move the scaffolding and I have to start my week with a faculty meeting that will, for sure, piss me off.”

Darla put on her old, paint-covered shorts.  She was braless in a painty sweatshirt.  In twenty minutes the scaffolding was secure in a new spot.  Five minutes later, Jack was dressed in slacks, a sport shirt, and a solid pair of oxfords.  Darla poured him a bowl of Cheerios, set out a half-gallon of skim milk, and an envelope of Splenda.  At 7:14 he kissed his pretty wife goodbye, grabbed his briefcase full of advanced algebra tests, and headed down 11th Street toward school.  At 7:28 he walked in the back door of the century-old, thick-walled schoolhouse. The 7:30 bell rang as he slipped in the door of the home economics classroom, just on time for the start of the teacher’s meeting.

“Well, good morning, Mr. Riker,” said Principal Hardball, greeting the math teacher with a frown.  “You’re cutting it plenty close this morning, aren’t you?  Remember, I warned you that the next time you came late to a faculty meeting you’d get a letter of reprimand in your file?”

Riker ignored the man he felt was an ignorant excuse for a principal.  He pulled up an empty desk to the back corner as far from Mr. Hardball as possible.

The boss-man called the meeting to order.  “Alright staff, we have a full agenda this morning.  The first issue is beginning to become a real agitation.  Faculty mail boxes.  Some of you seem to think they are storage compartments for you to cache the accumulation of trash you don’t have room for on your desks.  Postboxes need to be emptied every night, so that when the mail comes in the morning, Miss Buxsom has space to deposit the professional correspondence that you receive.

Also, It appears that some of you are getting personal letters at our school address.  That must stop.  Letters that are delivered here should be official business only; preferably stamped from mass mailings.  Certainly not hand-written.

“And Mr. Riker,”  He stared into the back corner of the room where the math teacher was slumped low in the chair.  “For two days now, you’ve had a package in your mail box.  It looks official and is probably something that requires your immediate attention.  It is filling your box and should be removed before you report to class today.  Understood?”

“Gotcha.  I haven’t picked up my mail for a couple of days.  It’s rare that I receive a piece of mail that doesn’t end up in the recycling bin.  Thanks for letting me know.”

“Every day, Mr. Riker.”  He pointed his index finger toward the back corner of the room.  “You must check your mail every day.  Sometimes professional support people pay extra to get your mail to you on time.  If you don’t even pick it up, it means they have wasted their money.  We must not be responsible for that.  Pick up your mail.  If this doesn’t improve, I may have to put another letter in your file, Mr. Riker.”

Will this man never quit harassing me?  thought Jack Riker.

Miss Angelina Frenchy, the Spanish teacher raised her hand and waved it to attract Mr. Hardball’s attention.  He followed her waving hand down to her cleavage and said, “Yes, Miss Frenchy?”

“I’m confused, Mr. Hardball.”

Principal Hardball said, “What’s new about that, Miss Frenchy?”

She continued without acknowledging the insult.  “I received a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Watt, Donna’s parents.  The address and the return address were both hand written.  Should I write to them or call them and ask them not to send hand-addressed letters to the school or would you like to handle the situation through the office?”

Mrs. Sally Mae Teachall interrupted.  “Why don’t you handle it through the office, sir.  The whole situation is nonsense, so if you handle it through the office none of the parents of our students will think we are unfit to be teachers of their youngsters.  I move that you handle the situation.”

“Second,” said Miss Frenchy.

“All in favor say aye,” said Sally Mae.

“Aye.” came a chorus of voices.

“Opposed say nay.”

Silence.

“It’s carried unanimously, Mr. Hardball.”  said Sally Mae.  “You can give us a report next Monday.  What else do you have on the agenda, sir?”

Mr. Hardball looked as if he had just been run over by a school bus.  He stuttered, “A…a…a.  Two other things.  The first item is similar to the mail problem.  Emails.  It’s come to my attention that some of our staff are using your school email for private purposes.  This is strictly against school district policies, staff.  You may use school email to communicate with students or with parents or with other teachers on official school business.

“Last week one of you sent an email reminding other teachers to vote in the school board election.  It is widely known that the teacher’s union has endorsed one of the candidates for the board.  This is very close to asking other teachers to vote for the endorsed candidate.  Completely unethical and completely against the school rules.  The teacher involved received a letter of reprimand and knows that she needs to be very careful about any further use of school email for personal use.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Hardball.” interrupted Mr. Riker.  “This is ridiculous.  We all know who you’re talking about.  We all got the email from Ms. Darwin.  We all know that she was awarded Iowa Teacher of the Year by the governor.  You mean Ms. Darwin wins Teacher of the Year and gets a letter in her file for asking other teachers to exercise their constitutional right to vote?  It is not only ridiculous, but goes counter to our constitutional rights as citizens.  I think we should call in ISEA lawyers and file a suite against the school district.  I also think we as a faculty should write a letter to the editor explaining how Iowa’s Teacher of the Year got a letter in her file for asking teachers to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

“Mr. Riker, I resent your insolence.  We all know the rules.  Your arguing against the enforcement is insubordination.  When this meeting is over, I’m instructing Mrs. Jepson, my secretary, to write a letter for your file.”

“And when I receive it, sir, I’ll send a copy to the attorneys at our State Education Association and the school district can expect a lawsuit as a response.  You might want to send your letter to the school attorney before you mail it to me.  Save the district a bunch of money.”

“Enough of your defiance, Mr. Riker.  We’ll talk of this later.”

The room became very quiet.  Mr. Hardball’s face was the color of fresh beets.  He said, “One other thing on the agenda.  The school carnival.  Saturday night is the school carnival.  All of you who are coaches are expected to have a booth and be there.  It’s our one big fundraiser for our athletic teams.  Any of the rest of you staff, come and help out and spend your money.  Bring your children.  They’ll have a good time and the money goes for a good cause.”

“What’s that, Mr. Hardball?” said Mrs. Teachall, looking over her reading glasses, a fiery glare in her green eyes.

“Your support buys new supporters for the boys athletic teams.”

“Hardly fair to girls, sir.” said Mrs. Teachall.

“Not your problem, Mrs. Teachall.  Not your problem at all.”

“It is my problem, sir.  I have girls in my classes who will work at the carnival and not benefit at all from the fruits of their labors.”

Mr. Hardball glanced at the clock.  “We’re out of time now, staff.  We’ll look into the jock problem later.  Now let’s gather in a circle.

The teachers formed a circle, reaching their hands toward the center.

“On three, ‘Go get ‘em.’”

“One, two, three.”

“GO GET ‘EM!” the teachers yelled in unison.

Mr. Riker stopped in the office and picked up the troublesome package.  In his classroom, he pulled the opening strip and removed a shirt he had ordered from Eddie Bauer.

That man doesn’t have enough to do, thought Jack Riker.  Twenty years from now, after we have parted company, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and find the man harassing me in my dreams.  

Jim Riggs

1-31-2016

Short Skirts – Eula HS Faculty Meeting Story # 3

Short Skirts

Eula HS Faculty Meeting Story # 3

 

Principal Steven Hardball called the teachers meeting to order.

“Alright staff.  We have a lot to do before we hit the classrooms for a new week of imparting knowledge to these rascally children the people of Eula have trusted us to care for.  The big item on our agenda today is the school dress code; in particular we’re all concerned about skirt length.  For three years, we’ve had a simple rule.  A skirt may be no more than five inches above the knees.  Any higher, and the girl is sent home or to the locker room to change clothes.

For three years we’ve had this rule in Eula High School.  How many girls have been sent home?  Tell me.  How many times have we enforced this rule?

“Seventeen,” came the voice of the math teacher, Mr. Riker, from the back of the room.  “I’ll guess seventeen.”

“Wrong.  The answer is one.”  Principal Hardball raised his index finger of his right hand and held it high in the air.  “Yesterday, I confronted Marjory Menken about showing too much of her sexy legs in our hallways.  None of you has ever sent a girl to the office to go home to change a short skirt.  You teachers get big bucks for patrolling the halls of this school enforcing our rules.  It’s time to do your job.  Do your job or heads will start to roll around her.”

“Sir?”  came the voice from the math teacher in the back of the room.

“Do your job, staff.”

“Mr. Hardball?”  came the voice again.  Louder this time.

The principal looked up at the room full of teachers and noticed Mr. Riker’s hand in the air.

Mr. Hardball glanced back at his agenda and continued his directive.

“Starting today, I want each of you to carry a ruler with you.  Carry a ruler and use it whenever you see a female student with a skirt you think might be too short.”

“Mr. Hardball,” came the booming voice of Mrs. Sally Mae Teachall.  “You have a question coming from the back of the room.  I think you should answer it before the question is mute.  Mr. Riker seems to have a pertinent question.”

Principal Hardball moved his eyes to Sally Mae Teachall, focusing on the ponderous breasts of the veteran English teacher.  “I’ve already taken a question from Mr. Riker, Sally Mae.  We can’t have individual teachers dominating the discussion.”

“He only made his guess at the answer to your question, sir.  If this was my class, I’d be pleased to have the discussion.”

“Well, this is not your class, Sally Mae.  This is my class.  I’m in charge here and I don’t like your insubordination any more than Mr. Riker”s.”

“Mr. Riker has shown no sign of insubordination today, Mr. Hardball.  He simply wanted to ask a question.”

“Alright, Sally Mae.  I need to get on with this discussion so to quiet you, I’m going to let Mr. Riker make his comment.”

He turned his head and lifted his eyes toward the back of the room.

“Mr. Riker?”

“Thank you, sir.  You suggested that we get big bucks for patrolling the halls.  Two points:  First, we do not make big bucks.  Second, I think the public would agree that we draw our salaries for teaching math and chemistry and English and Spanish and history and music and physical education.”

Mr. Hardball’s neck began to glow red.

“Your job, Mr. Riker, is to do whatever you are ordered to do by the school board, the superintendent, and me.  Check the fine print in your contract.  We are your bosses.  What part of subservience do you not understand?”

“I consider my bosses to be the parents of my students who would like their children to learn mathematics so they can go on to college or the world of work and be able to do the job  Measuring skirt length would more than likely get me and the other male members of this faculty in serious trouble for messing around with the legs of our female students.  I think the parents would rather have me teach mathematics.”

“Parents will understand that we have a duty to make sure these kids graduate with good moral standards,” argued the red-faced principal.  “They will understand that teaching good morals means not allowing immorally short skirts.”

“Mr. Hardball,” interrupted Ms. Frenchy, the young Spanish teacher who often tantalized her male students by wearing overalls over a skimpy halter.  “The skirt that you wanted to measure on Marjory Menken was the same skirt she wore to church last Sunday.”

Mr. Hardball pointed at Angelina Frenchy.  “I am running a school here, not a church.   Remember, Jesus was a sexual perv who loved wanton women.”

A groan drifted through the room.

Mr. Hardball continued, “Didn’t you all see the movie?  Jesus standing around the well, talking to a prostitute.  He had a reputation.  We in this high school have moral responsibilities.”

Mr. Hardball pressed on, attempting to defend his position.  “Besides our current rules have dress code rules about boys as well.  We’ve written up some of our high school boys for having holes in their jeans and wearing them too low.”

Mrs. Sally Mae Teachall said, “Is it true that you tried to make Marjory Menken kneel, so you could measure her skirt with a ruler, Mr. Hardball?  And that she refused to let you do it without her parents being here.”

“It’s true.  She must wear the same skirt tomorrow.  Her parents are coming at ten o’clock and watching as I measure the skirt.”

“Be careful not to touch her leg.  You could lose your job and go to jail,” warned Mr. Thomas Jefferson, the American history teacher.

“What if Marjory stops off at the home economics class and has Ms. Seward lengthen the skirt?”  asked Angelina Frenchy.  “That’s what I’d do.”

“We all know you’re a devious woman, Angelina,” said Mr. Hardball.  “Now, you’ve used up our time and we never even got to the second item on our agenda.”

“And what’s that, sir?”

“We’ve had complaints that some teachers are leaving school early and therefore, beginning next Monday, we will add an extra fifteen minutes to the school day.  School will end for teachers at 4:15.”

“You can’t punish all of us for the actions of a few.  We learned that in Education 101 in college.”

“Time to go into the world and define the morals of these urchins in our hall ways, gang.  Circle up and join hands now.”

The teachers formed a circle.

“On three, ‘Go get ‘em.’

“One, two, three.”

“GO GET ‘EM!”  The faculty yelled in unison.

 

Eula High School Faculty Meeting #1

 

 

Our Monday morning high school faculty meeting had reached the spot on the agenda for teacher concerns.

Mr. Hardball, the tough little principal with the blonde flattop that marked him as ex-coach, said, “It’s almost time to get to class, folks.  Any concerns from you teachers before we begin another week of getting these wild and woolly juveniles in line?”

Mrs. Teachall looked over the top of her reading glasses, met the young principal’s gaze, and raised her hand high.  Sally Mae was a buxom English teacher with long steel-gray hair she kept wrapped in a stiff bun behind her head.  With determination that demanded attention, ignoring Mr. Hardball’s suggestion of a shortage of time, she waved her hand.  The front was pulled tight and greased to the top of her head.  If you touched the hair it sprang back in place like coiled steel spring.

“I have a concern, Mr. Hardball.”

The principal sighed and glanced at the clock.  “Go ahead, Mrs. Teachall.  Make it brief.  We don’t have a lot of time.”

“Last Friday the faculty restroom was occupied and besides it was getting atrociously smelly.  Somebody has been smoking in the little room since the board policy changed so as to not allow smoking on the school grounds.  You must put a stop to that smoking, but that isn’t the concern I wish to pursue today.”

She paused for a deep breath as Mr. Hardball said, “And what, pray-tell, is your problem, Mrs. Teachall.  Please be brief.  We don’t have all day.”

She exhaled her deep breath and began again.  “Since the smelly little faculty toilet was occupied and I was almost late for class, I was forced to use the student rest room.  I was appalled, Mr. Hardball.  I was appalled.  The doors of the stalls were hanging loose, the water was running in the sink, four letter words were scratched into the mirror, the walls beside the toilets all had writing on them and one of the toilets had run over.  There was water all over the floor.  And I don’t think the water was pure.

“You wouldn’t believe what was written on those walls, sir.  One had a thesis on the drug culture that described drug and alcohol combinations I’m sure none of us has ever even dreamed of trying.  Actually, it was very well written and might have scored a high grade in my composition class.

“Another wall was filled with an essay of complaints about this school that ranged from personal attacks on most of our teachers to a suggestion about how badly the writer felt for your wife, since she was forced to sleep with you each night.  It was repugnant, Mr. Hardball.

“One of the stalls contained a list of phone numbers and statements like, ‘Want a good lay?  Call 555-1567.’  I called that number and got Robby Imacat, the president of our student body.  I recognized his voice.  I disguised my own voice and told him, I was an eighth grader and wanted some good sex.  He asked if I got his number off the rest room wall in the high school.  I said yes and he said, ‘That number is doing a good business for me./  I made a date with him for next Thursday, Mr. Hardball.  You must contact the authorities to follow up on the situation.

“Anyway, I think we need to start punishing these girls who are destroying public property in our school.”

Mr. Hardball said, “You’ve brought up some good points, Mrs. Teachall.  I shall speak with the custodian about doing a better job on the women’s rest room, but you all know how independent he is.  The man has a sixth grade education and he thinks he is overworked and underpaid.

“Whoever is smoking in the faculty restroom, you must stop, for your own good and for the good of those of us who are required to breath the second hand smoke.  Stop now, before I am forced to take more serious disciplinary action.

“Mrs. Teachall, in regard to your date with Robby Imacat, you better clear that situation with local police.  They know how to handle that sort of affair.  I will need to stay out of it since his father is on the school board.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Hardball.”  This was Miss Frenchy, the Spanish Teacher.  “I called that number and had a date with Robby.  I have to say the sex wasn’t all that great.”

The faculty let out a collective gasp, as if doing a choral reading.

“Just kidding,” said Miss Frenchy.   “I was only trying to add a little levity into the morning.  You all know I wouldn’t date a student.”

Mr. Hardball looked at his watch.  “I’m afraid we must table this topic for now.  You all must go to your classrooms and give our students the skills to face life.  Circle up and join hands now.

The teachers formed a circle.

“On three, ‘Go get ‘em.’

“One, two, three.”

“GO GET ‘EM!”  The faculty yelled in unison.

 

 

 

 

Writing; Stories; US Travel Novels, After Prison