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One Angry Town

A Tiny Town Fights over Water


A Jessica Thorpe Novel



By William Wresch

Copyright 2018 William Wresch

Smashwords Edition




Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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Chapter 1

Prior to the Phone Call


They say life is like a highway. If so, it is a very complex highway, with lots of exits, merging lanes, new routes appearing out of nothing, and plenty of dead ends. Sometimes you see an exit that leads to beautiful green fields, and you head for that, only to have a semi crowd you into another lane, and maybe even off this highway and into another road leading who knows where?

Getting pregnant in high school certainly moved me to a new highway, and having a second child by another man two years later moved me again. Two divorces by age nineteen certainly led to my current road – a trailer and a job tending bar. But don’t feel too sorry for me. I like my trailer, and my job has its good points. And as for those babies, well, they grew up to be beautiful girls that I am grateful for every day with them.

But I have been on this road for many years, and since the road is in the northern edge of Wisconsin, it can be an empty and lonely road. I was due for a change. It was coming, but of course I didn’t know that. And I certainly didn’t know it would involve a fight over water. My signal for the highway change would be a phone call, but the phone call did not come until June. So I had the first half of the year to deal with the mess I had made in January. There was no way I could look back at January without being embarrassed by what I had done and not done. The militia activities and my involvement in them left me lots of road rage to clean up.

But first there was the surprise – Zeke. If any man had shown courage and virtue during those militia events, it was him. His police department may have questions about him, but I didn’t. This man was a hero. And now he had invited me to visit with him in Waukesha. I may be a high school dropout, but I am smart enough to know when to say “yes.” Clark approved my request for two weeks unpaid leave. I hoped I might never be back.

I hear there’s a book that starts out about the best of times and the worst of times. My time with Zeke would best be summed up the best of nights, the worst of days. Let me start with the nights. Zeke’s shift started at seven in the morning, so he was done most days by five, even if he was still jailing some poor bastard. Some nights he would take me out to dinner, showing me the better restaurants in town. And some nights I would cook for him, showing him I had a few skills of my own. Yes, I had spent most of the last twenty years cooking for kids, but I did know how to get beyond mac and cheese when I had the time. After dinner we would watch a movie on TV, and gradually put the moves on each other, so by the time the movie ended, we practically raced to the bedroom. And there, Zeke was fabulous. He had the perfect combination of great strength and great tenderness. In the future when women rule the world and we genetically design our husbands, they will use Zeke’s DNA. The world will be filled with happy women.

But the sun rose every morning, and after breakfast and very long kisses, he would go off to the cop shop and I would be left on my own. It was during the daylight hours that I discovered two problems. First, Waukesha is an endless chain of streets and highways, including an interstate, all leading to other streets and highways. I would drive past a long row of apartment complexes, turn a corner, and there would be another row of apartments. I could never tell one place from another. I kept the maps app out on my phone, but that just made me and my Dodge Ram a traffic hazard as I tried to watch for street signs, followed my maps app, and occasionally looked up when cars that seemed to know where they were going beeped at me. It was a wonder Zeke or one of his friends didn’t pull me over. When you are born and raised in a town of under 100 on the northern edge of the state, mile after mile of concrete can be disorienting.

The second problem was finding a job. I wanted to work, both because I wanted my own money, but also because that is how we find our place in the world. It is how we connect. If I was going to be a citizen of Waukesha, I wanted to find a role there. Granted I had never finished the eleventh grade – having Tiffany ended that – but I had worked many years as a waitress and as a bartender, and given all the bars and restaurants in Waukesha, you would think one would want me. Well, no, maybe you would know better. I would think there was nothing taught in twelfth grade that would make me better at carrying a plate from the kitchen to a table, or better at pouring a beer, but then that is just my opinion. As I answered ads and talked to people I discovered that I was competing with lots of young people, all of whom had finished high school and some of whom even had college degrees. Since all the young people in Marinette County move away at the first opportunity, I was completely unprepared for this new kind of competition. To put it most simply, Waukesha didn’t need me or want me.

As much as I loved being with Zeke, we could not live 24/7 in the sack, although in a perfect world… Anyway, he wasn’t surprised when I told him I was going back to Amberg. I had kept no secrets from him. He knew I was struggling to find my place. Hell, I was struggling just to find his place again whenever I went out. We had a good final evening together. I cooked something I was good at, I wore a cocktail dress even though we weren’t going out, and I lit some candles. He did his part by coming home with flowers and a bottle of wine. He looked at me throughout the meal, and made me proud of being me. After another day of being told I was too stupid to work, he made me feel good about who I was. We danced in the living room after dinner, managing one dance before our hands were all over each other and he carried me into the bedroom.

We didn’t get much sleep that night, and in the morning we took forever in the shower, never quite ready to stop holding each other. Finally we got dressed, me wearing a bright cotton dress even though it was January, but I wanted his final view of me to be bright, cheerful, and desirable. We stood in the driveway kissing forever, and I know he was late for work that day, but I hope he didn’t mind. I started the long drive home by getting on the wrong damn highway, in part because I was crying too much to read the tiny print on my maps app.

I stopped that afternoon in Green Bay and had dinner with my girls. We talked about men. They are at an age where they are still my daughters, but they are old enough to also be my friends. I slept at Tiffany’s apartment that night, the two of us still talking about men. In the morning she went in to the clinic where she works, and I drove the rest of the way back to Amberg.

Did I see Zeke again? Sure. He came up several times that spring, and we really rocked my trailer. But each visit was a little shorter, and a little more distant from the last. We knew it was fading away, and finally we said good bye knowing it was the final time.

My one constant during that spring was my job at Amberg’s one and only bar. I worked five days; Morgan worked two. About mid-April Clark decided he should come back from Florida. He owned several business in the area, so we did not see too much of him, but he did sit at one end of the bar every Friday and Saturday night talking to old friends and pouring a beer now and then.

When I wasn’t pouring beers, I tried to mend some fences. I was free most mornings, so I went down to the Wausaukee IGA three or four times a week to buy a little of this and a little of that, but mostly to look for the two women who had confronted me during the militia events. Eventually I found both of them, and I stood and apologized. I had never said hurtful things directly, but I had stood by as others had, and there was no excuse for that. I was guilty just by standing with those people. My apology was sincere, and both women listened to me. The forest ranger’s wife did forgive me and said she hoped we had seen the end of that whole affair. But the woman who said she was Jewish did not forgive me. She said her kids had been called names because of me.

That hurt. I knew any pain a child endured, the mother endured far more. I bought a card and spent two days writing a note to the lady, again apologizing, and explaining my kids had also been called names because we lived in a trailer, and I understood how much that hurt the children. I carried the card in my bag for almost three weeks before I found the woman again. This time I again apologized, and I gave her the card. While she read the card, I thought about her children, and I started crying. By the time she was done with the card she was also crying, and we ended up hugging and crying right there in the IGA. That didn’t make things right. I had brought pain to their house, and that could not be forgotten, but it did ease the pain for her and for me. Things would never be good between us, but at least they were less bad.

What else happened that spring? I had a few arguments at the bar. Every weekend we would get a few militia guys stopping in for a beer as they went from here to there. I think they expected me to smile and give them a hug. I tried to be pleasant, but they seemed to want more. Especially if they arrived in the evening, they seemed to expect an invitation to my place after closing, where we would “party.” I said “no” clearly and repeatedly, and when pushed hard enough, I reached under the bar for broken pool cue. Rapping it on the bar as I said “no” seemed to make my point clear enough.

The other arguments came from people who seemed to drive up from somewhere just to tell me I was a racist bastard. If they kept a reasonable volume, I explained that I agreed racism was bad, and I was trying to help local loggers with a situation they were having. Sometimes that worked, and once I had to use the pool cue to emphasize my points. Once Chuck White was in the bar when one of these guys started. About his third sentence into his attack on me, Chuck just told the guy to fuck himself. That resulted in a long stare-down before the guy finally finished his beer and left.

Speaking of Chuck, my one joy that spring was him and the other loggers. They filled my bar with broad shoulders and big smiles. They were all getting Forest Service contracts, which meant they were current on all their bills and went home to happy wives. My small role in those contracts got me smiles and more hugs than Chuck’s wife Melissa would have liked. But that’s her problem.

So, now that we are all caught up on my spring, let me introduce the events that led to Amberg’s next crisis.


Chapter 2

The Phone Call


While things didn’t change much at the bar, elsewhere in Amberg there were two events that had people talking. First, the Four Seasons Club was reopening. This is the large hotel along the Menominee River. It comes complete with a nine hole golf course, a large restaurant, and a ballroom. Every four years it is resold, remodeled, and reopened. For two or three years everyone is hopeful, but soon bills go unpaid, staff leave, and the place closes yet again. But some company in Chicago had sold it to some other company in Chicago and it was reopening in June. That would be great for the local high school kids. They would have summer jobs as wait staff or grounds crew.

The second, and more surprising event, was the sale of the fishing lodge on Town Corner Lake. This was the place owned by Jimmy’s brother and used as the headquarters for the militia leadership back in January. Jimmy had said his brother had tried to unload it, and apparently he had succeeded. The new owner had a history of success as a fishing guide to the rich and famous, and he was going to give this place a try. Why he would be more successful than past owners was unknown, but at least for a season or two a few more people would be passing through town, and maybe they would eat a burger at one place and have a beer at another. Who knew?

Anyway, in late June I got a phone call from Mrs. Swanson. She and her husband were former cooks at the Four Seasons Club two or three owners back, and were now catering for people, although you have to wonder how often their skills were needed, given the small size of Amberg and the few major social events that happened around here. But it turned out they were now catering for the fishing lodge. She and the new owner of the lodge, a Mark Baker, had been talking about doing something special on Saturday nights, the final night of the weekly charters. She had recommended a nicer meal and a hostess. He asked if she had anyone in mind. She did, and that’s why I was getting this call.

We talked for over an hour about what I would do, what I should wear, and when I would do all this. She said I would be paid $200, which meant my answer was “yes,” of course, but I did need to clear it with Clark. Clark agreed instantly, both because he thought Morgan would bring in more business on Saturday than me since she was a “hottie,” and because he was as curious as anyone else about how this new lodge owner was going to run his business. I would be his inside source.

So Saturday, a little after three I drove over to the Swanson residence. She would fill me in on details as we drove over to the lodge. Mr. Swanson was capable of speech, but it was an activity he generally left to Mrs Swanson. First things first, trying to think of what a “hostess” wears, I had selected a floor-length red satin gown I had acquired in January. It had half-sleeves, a looser skirt that would be good for walking around the room, and an off-the-shoulder neckline, which this evening would be not very off-the-shoulder. How my wardrobe was greatly expanded by the militia is a long story and oddly enough connected to the lodge we were about to return to. All that mattered at the moment was that Mrs. Swanson saw my dress and declared it perfect.

The plan, once we got to the fishing lodge, was simple. I was to go to the bar and make drinks for the men, then I would sit with them at dinner, and later I would make drinks again. After eight years of tending bar, this was all simple. And the fact that I would be doing it for just five men meant I would be doing far less this evening and getting paid far more than I would have been back at the Amberg bar.

And that is pretty much how things went for the evening. We arrived at the lodge around five. I helped the Swansons carry things from their car into the kitchen, and then I went to see what shape the bar was in. This was all simplified by the fact that I had spent a week in this lodge back in January when the militia was renting it. I knew the layout well. The lodge was built around a great room – a huge open space with leather furniture, a massive stone fire place, and a wall of windows looking out over the lake. It appeared the new owner had bought the furniture with the lodge, since I saw little that was new. Just as well, the furniture was high quality and very comfortable. What was new? It was a fishing lodge, so fish now hung from all the walls. If it had fins and could be stuffed, it was on one wall or another. I thought it was silly, but it wasn’t my home – or my business.

There was a beautiful bar at one end of the room, and I checked to see if it had all the mixers and ice that would be needed, but I should have known Mr. Swanson would have taken care of that. He did bring out a new bottle of scotch while I stood there, but everything else was ready. So I took up my position near the bar, and waited for one of the men to come down from the rooms on the second floor. I had been told there were four customers, plus the owner. That level of business I could handle easily.

Finally near six the first two men came down the open staircase at the other end of the room. I stood with my hands folded in front of me as they crossed the room. “Hi, I’m Jessica” was my opening line. I took their drink orders, asked their names – Dave and Bryan – and learned they were from Minnesota while I mixed their drinks – Scotch for one, a local beer for the other. This was going to be simple. I encouraged them to sit in the leather chairs while I got their drinks, I brought the drinks over, and we carried on a conversation like we were old friends. Craig arrived a little later, I introduced myself, brought him his drink, and we were rolling. When I wasn’t getting their drinks, I sat on the arm of a chair near them, and we just kept talking – their week of fishing, their lost lures and the ones that got away –basically the same conversation I would be having back in the Amberg bar, but at a slower pace with less background noise.

Mark, the owner, came in next and sat with the others. He just wanted battled water, so I got a glass, filled it with ice, and opened the bottle for him. He spent a little time adding to the introductions of the three customers, explaining which kind of fishing they had liked best, and there was some banter back and forth about who had landed – and who had lost – the biggest fish of the week. Basically they had all had fun, and they enjoyed each other’s company. The fourth customer – Zachery – didn’t arrive until nearly seven, explaining he had trouble packing, at which time I was told by all that Zachery had been late for everything this week, one more thing to laugh about. In short, the people and the occasion were pleasant, I monitored their drinks and brought more when needed, and the time passed like lightening.

A little past seven I noticed Mrs. Swanson standing at the far edge of the room – my signal that dinner was ready. I deferred to Mark on this one. I just asked him directly – it appears dinner is ready, should we go in? He said we should, I offered to refill any drinks, and we all walked to the dining room. This had been my favorite room in the house, and I was a little afraid of how many fish I would now find dangling from everywhere, but it wasn’t too bad. This room was oak paneled with nice beams across the ceiling. They left the chandelier from before, and the wall sconces, so the lighting was good. The one odd addition was a huge fish hung on the far wall. When Mark sat down at the head of the table, it was essentially hanging just behind and above his head, so I saw it every time I looked at him. Maybe that was the point.

Since Mark becomes important in this story, maybe I should describe him. He was about five ten. I noticed in my heels, I was about the same height. He had a fairly square face, not bad looking, with dark hair now going gray. But there were two main features to the man. First he had obviously spent many years in the sun. His skin was deeply – and I would guess permanently – tanned. It made it hard to be sure of his age. I would guess mid forties, but he could be ten years either side of that. His other feature was his shoulders. Are fish really that heavy? He looked like he had spent a lifetime pulling whales from the depths. It was not a bad look, actually. His shoulders were covered in a pale polo shirt. All the men had gone with polos in various colors, two of them had also worn blue blazers for the occasion, and all of them had worn good pants – no jeans. As Mrs. Swanson had explained to me, they had felt they wanted something nicer on their final night, so they had showered, shaved, and put on the best clothing from the bottom of their suit cases.

Dinner went very well. The Swansons served a three course meal – salad, then a nice steak with potatoes, then desert. Red wine was set in front of the men, white for me, food pairings be damned. As back in January, as hostess I decided the pace of the meal. Mrs. Swanson watched from the hallway, standing behind my left shoulder. When I noticed that everyone was done, I lifted my left hand a few inches, and she and Mr. Swanson cleared and brought the next course.

Table conversation started around fish, but early on someone asked if I was from Amberg, and then it was endless questions about the place. I was most comfortable talking about the early days, so I told story after story about the quarry and Bill Amberg, and some of the characters that had lived in the town back when it was in its prime. I was a little concerned I was talking too much, so periodically I would pause and look to Mark. Did he want to jump in and talk more about fishing or something? No, he had questions about the old days too. So I pretty much talked nonstop for two hours, long after the desserts were gone and the brandy had been poured.

Finally I decided not to press my luck. I mentioned I had heard they normally had a drink in the library after dinner, and I offered to bring them anything they wanted. They got up and walked across the hallway, I walked back to the bar and got a tray of drinks. For the next two hours I sat in the room with them and got drinks as needed, and added to the conversation while they sat around the table and played cards. When not fetching drinks, I sat with my back straight and my hands in my lap, feeling very good about my hostessing skills.

About midnight the card game broke up. The men walked back to their rooms, all of them first stopping to shake my hand and thank me for a great evening. Only when they were gone did it occur to me the Swansons had left hours earlier. Mark walked with me upstairs, apologized for not being clear on how long things might go. He had a spare room for me, and as we stood outside it, he told me I had done a perfect job. He hoped I might come down around seven, when we would join the men for breakfast and see them off. I agreed of course, and went in to bed.

I set my phone alarm for six, and got up feeling pretty good. I discovered that this room too had a great shower, and I stayed in it longer than I might have, but if felt good. I had no change of clothes, but at least I felt fresh. I did what I could with my hair and my makeup, and was downstairs just before seven. The Swansons were already in and a large coffee pot was working on the sideboard of the great room. I stationed myself by it and prepared coffee as men came down. Rather than sit, they stood with me by the sideboard and we talked more about the town and they thanked me for the stories I had told. By seven thirty all the men were down sipping coffee. I saw Mrs. Swanson standing in the hallway near the dining room, so I announced – this time without checking with Mark first – that breakfast was ready.

There’s not much to say about the next couple hours. Breakfast was sausage and eggs in a pie crust. The men finished the meal and then finished packing. They brought a large SUV up and filled it with fishing rods in long cylindrical cases, plus tackle boxes. Fortunately, being men, they hadn’t brought much clothing, so it all fit. They finished with pictures of them, and of them and Mark, and of them and me, there were handshakes and a couple hugs, and they were off.

The Swansons finished about the same time and offered to take me home, but Mark said he would take me home after we had talked. He also asked Mrs. Swanson (steadier hands?) to take a picture of me and him using his cellphone. Later, that was the picture that ended up on his website.

Once they were gone, he motioned me to a glider on the porch facing the lake, and said he would be back with coffee. I offered to go get it, but he just pointed at the glider. So I sat. June can be funny up this far north. I have seen ice on lakes in June. And cold winds. But that June morning was warm – already into the seventies – with little wind. It felt good to sit there and look out at the lake. Although I have to admit that night on the lake in January did come to mind. But the lake looked so different now, it was easy to ignore those fears and enjoy the sunshine.

Mark came back and quickly offered me a job. He handed me my coffee (cream, no sugar – he had noticed how I took my coffee) and then he handed me a wad of bills.

“The men thought your time with them last night was the highlight of the week. They took up a collection, and there is your tip – one hundred fifty from them, and two hundred from me.”

I put the cash in my lap and sipped my coffee. “I liked them. Talking to them was easy.”

“Maybe that’s why it worked so well. It was easy for you. You naturally interact well with people.”

“Mark,” I had to laugh at that. “I have been a bartender for eight years and a waitress before then. ‘Interaction’ is what I do for a living.”

“I would like you to do it here. I thought the way we did it this weekend worked pretty well. What did you think?”

He had me at “what do you think?” I was allowed an opinion. He would listen to my ideas.

“I’m trying to understand your schedule. They arrive, what, Monday or Tuesday? And you take them off fishing every day?” He’s nodding as I talk. I also notice he is not interrupting me. I like this guy. “I assume most nights it’s men talking about fish, and I am guessing by the way things went last night, that by the end of the week they have talked about all the fish they want to talk about, and want a change as they prepare to go back home. It could be a classier meal with a woman at the table, or it could be a trip into town for burgers and beers with the locals, couldn’t it?”

“I tried burgers and beers a couple weeks ago. Forgive me for saying this, but these guys are paying two thousand dollars a head, and they want something a little better than what they can find in Amberg or Wausaukee.”

“I have lived in this town all my life, so believe me, Mark, I am an expert in what it does not have. I would need permission from my boss at the bar, but if you want to try this a few more weeks, I’m in.” And that settled the matter.

After that, we just sat and talked for another couple hours, where he was from, the places he fished in the area, how he had gotten into the business. Not to say it was all about him. He was curious about me, and I got to brag about my daughters, and I told him a little about January and how his lodge had been used. Time passed. We talked. It felt comfortable. Eventually I asked him to take me to the Swansons so I could get my truck. We parted with a handshake and a promise to call in a couple days.


Chapter 3

An Old Problem Returns


It turned out Clark was fine with me taking off every Saturday, and in fact he gave me Sunday off too. I was beginning to wonder if he had something going with Morgan. But that was his business. My business was to serve drinks and provide conversation to fishermen. Over the next several weeks that generally went well. Not that everything went perfectly. One week they didn’t want me at all – they were there to get away from the wives, so no girls allowed on Saturday. On a couple other weekends you could tell one of the guys was unhappy. He had come with some plan to land the biggest musky, or the most brook trout, and that hadn’t happened. I would see it in general attitude, but also in his treatment of me. I went from being a hostess to a serving wench, and I was treated accordingly.

But overall, I was having a good time. It also got so my favorite time was Sunday after the guys left. Mark and I would sit on the glider and just talk. He would ask about the latest on my girls, and I would ask how the week had gone, and we just sat quietly, sipped our coffee, and talked. It must have been the fifth week when he sat closer to me, and I have to admit I was happy he did. While we sipped our coffee, he held my hand, and I slid a little closer to him. Somewhere in there he leaned over and kissed me. I kissed him back, and then, being the hussy I am, I said, “Let’s go upstairs.”

That changed our weekends some. Now when I came over, I went up to his room and left my things there, including something nice to wear to bed. Sunday morning, after everyone was gone, we went back up to his room and stayed there for a good part of the afternoon. Did I love this man? Not yet, but I felt very good being with him. He felt good in my arms, and I liked how he held me. I enjoyed our time together, even though it was just weekends.

In late July I returned home on a Sunday afternoon, an overnight bag in one hand, a bag of groceries in the other. There, sitting on my porch, was Jimmy. To say our relationship was complicated doesn’t even come close. He had scared me, raped me, and then I had come to feel sorry for him and eventually to care about him. How’s that for complicated? But he had driven off and left me in January, and now, six months later, all I felt was embarrassment and regret. I didn’t know why he was back, but I was annoyed and I didn’t try to hide that.

“You have no right to be here.”

“Old lovers always have rights. We had some good days here.”

“And some really bad ones.”

“Let’s not talk about those. Let’s go in so we can talk.” If I hadn’t had an armload of groceries, I probably would have argued with him right then and there, but I wanted to get into my trailer. I gave him the bag of groceries, found my keys, and went in. He was right behind me and set my bag on the kitchen table. He also closed my door.

“Let’s sit and talk.” He pointed to the couch. I sat on the far end of the couch. That was a mistake. He just sat practically on top of me and put a hand up my skirt.

“Don’t do that.” I grabbed at his hand. “Just say your piece and go.” Meanwhile he had his other arm around my shoulders. Why is every guy an octopus?

“I missed you.”

“You had me. You left me. Remember? They want me, they don’t want you, good bye? Off you go, leaving me in bed.”

“That was a mistake. At least I should have spent the rest of the week with you.”

“And then left me.”

“Let’s not talk about that.” Sure let’s not talk about the jerk he has been in the past, when he is here now and groping me. He was leaning against me so that my left hand was basically trapped against his body. My right arm was free and I thought seriously about punching him. He must have seen what was coming. “Don’t.” It wasn’t an order the way he said it, it was a request. “I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do. But it has been six months, and I have really missed you.”

“What I want you to do is back off. If you have something to say, say it.” He gave me a couple more inches breathing space, but he kept his hand on my thigh, slowly sliding it up and down my leg. His touch was light. I’ll give him that.

“I am up here on business. My friends found me a job with a Madison lobbying firm. Since I am a former local official, it is my job to talk with other local officials when a client requests it.”

“Here?”

“There is a company that wants to start bottling water just north of Amberg. I have appointments over the next three days to talk with town chairs and county supervisors.” I had no idea what to say to that. Was I supposed to be impressed? He had a job. Don’t we all? But I didn’t have a chance to talk anyway. Now that he had explained his exalted position, he was leaning into me again, and his mouth was on mine. Now what? I could fight him off, but he had a hundred pounds of dead weight on me. And I didn’t feel like wrestling. I let him kiss me.

“Jimmy,” I said when he came up for air. “We aren’t lovers anymore.”

“That’s my loss.” Something about the way he said it made me think he was telling the truth. So I let him kiss me again. One thing led to another. In truth, if I didn’t want to end up down that pathway, I should never have let him in my home. But I had, and here we were. We walked down to my bedroom, I changed into a nightie I knew he liked, and we got into bed, him using the position he liked most, with my arms pinned to my sides. I don’t know what laying with him makes me, I just know I did it. Maybe I’m just trailer trash – an easy lay.

When he was done, we went to the kitchen like it was the most normal thing to do after sex with a man you haven’t seen in six months. I made him a couple hamburgers and made myself a salad, still walking around in my nightie. He pulled on his pants and went out to the car for a folder he wanted me to see. We looked at it after eating. We sat on the couch again, him with his bare belly hanging out, me with my nightie not covering much of anything.

What was in the folder? Voting records. He wanted me to be impressed with what he knew and how he could use it. He had bar charts for various years, color coded maps of the county, tables of numbers. What did it all say? Nothing that wasn’t already obvious. This was a Republican county. There might have been one Democratic ward in the city of Marinette, but every other part of the county was Republican and had been for years. But I was supposed to be impressed, so I did what women have been doing for centuries. I asked dumb questions.

“So this area around here votes Republican?”

“Yes, that’s what the color coding means. And this table here shows that it has been that way for twenty years.”

“How does that help you with your visits?”

“It makes things much easier. We know they are pro-business to start with, and since this project has already gotten support from the governor’s office, they should just fall into line. They won’t fight their own party. There would be consequences.”

“Yes, I guess that would be true.” Dumb questions, feigned interest. I had worked my way through the female catechism. My real question was whether he would be leaving now. Since he hadn’t bothered putting his shirt back on, I guessed he would be staying. Three days? I needed to get that under control.

“Jimmy, if you are staying here, I need you to do some things.”

“Yes?” I could see in his expression that agreement was not guaranteed. And I should have seen real pleasure that I was allowing him access to the trailer – and to me. Instead, it looked like he had just assumed I was available to him. What had I ever seen in him?

“I will not do your laundry. I will cook, but you will do the dishes. When we are in bed, you will not trap my arms like you did today. I will put my arms where I want and how I want.”

“Okay.”

“Good. There are dishes in the sink now.” I pointed toward the kitchen. You would think I had just asked him to plow the back forty. But he slowly got up, and then pulled me up.

“Give me a kiss, and then get ready for bed. I will be all over you in ten minutes.”

I cleaned up in the bathroom, changed into a fresh nightgown and straightened the bedding. He was back with me so fast I was pretty sure I would have to rewash the dishes, but at least he had made the effort. And once in bed, he didn’t try to control me.

I could live with whatever it was we were doing. Was this pity sex? My hormones gone wild? Really bad judgment? Yet another mistake in a lifetime of mistakes? I would think that all through another day. I put my head on his chest and fell asleep.

He was up early the next morning. He was taking this lobbying thing seriously. I got up and made him some eggs while he showered. He grabbed my ass, said pleasant things, and was out the door by seven. He had a breakfast meeting with some town chairman. Yes, I had just made him breakfast, but you don’t get a belly that large by limiting yourself to one breakfast.

I went back to bed. I didn’t open the bar until two on Mondays. This was my time to relax. Did I lie in bed dreaming of the man I had spent the night with? No. Did I think about the man I had spent the weekend with? No. I just went back to sleep. Too much male companionship was tiring.

About eleven I woke up again and got rolling. I took a shower, washed my sheets and a load of clothes, had lunch, and then headed for the bar. I had news, maybe big news. The town was going to get a bottling plant. That had to mean at least a few jobs in a town that desperately needed any jobs at all. But could I tell people about it? I certainly did not want to explain how I knew about this plant. So I kept my mouth shut. The Packers were about to start training camp, so that was the focus of my conversations from two until I closed at nine. We really needed help at linebacker. Maybe two of our draft choices would make a difference. After having that conversation with at least twelve guys over the course of seven hours, I was ready to close and go home.

Jimmy was sitting in his car waiting for me. He followed me into the trailer talking all the way. He had had a really good day. He wanted to celebrate. He had brought me a bottle of white wine. God forbid a woman prefer another color. White was ours. I didn’t have wine glasses, so I got out two water tumblers. He poured and I sipped. If you work in a bar, you make a choice early. You either drink with the customers, or you don’t. I don’t. When someone insists on buying me a drink, I accept, take one sip, and then leave the glass out where it can be seen. When it is still full nearly two hours later, they get the idea that they are just wasting their money when buying me a drink. It had kept me from becoming a full blown alcoholic.

I did the same for Jimmy. I sipped the wine and set the glass down. He insisted we sit on the sofa. I was wearing jeans and a polo shirt like I always did when tending bar in the summer, so he didn’t have quite the same thrill when he put his hand on my leg, but that didn’t stop him. He had talked to two town chairmen and two county supervisors. They understood the importance of the project and fully supported it. Normally I might have been expected to ask a question or make a comment about his prowess, but he was on a roll. He talked nonstop for nearly an hour, his hand on my thigh, his eyes staring straight at me as he talked. I nodded when the time seemed right. Nothing more was expected of me.

Finally he wound down, took my hand, and led me to the bedroom. I changed into a nightgown and lay down on my bed. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and once I kissed him, but other than that, he just did what he did. It was over fast and we both went to sleep. Had we gone from pity sex to ritual sex? I don’t know. Besides, I was asleep.

Jimmy was up early again the next morning. I made breakfast, he showered and then did some grabassing while I cooked. He left practically whistling a happy tune. And no, I understood I was not the reason for his happiness. I was nice to have around, but he was happy with his work. He was “influencing opinion leaders” as he had put it last night somewhere in the midst of his monolog. Good for him. I noticed he had not done the dishes for either breakfast. I did them and then went back to bed. Since Clark was giving me Saturday and Sunday off, I was expected to work the rest of the week. But I had until two to relax before seven more hours of Packer conversations.

Work went as it always did, except the linebacker question seemed less important. Somehow the conversations were about a backup quarterback. What if Rodgers got hurt? So we spent seven hours discussing who might be coming to training camp for a tryout.

Back at home, Jimmy was waiting for me, but his mood seemed less elevated. He had less to say, and tonight’s bottle was bourbon rather than wine. He poured a couple inches in two tumblers. I sipped a bit of mine. He drank his. As a sympathetic lover it would have been my job to ferret out the problem – what’s wrong honey? But I wasn’t sympathetic. At best I was mildly curious. Eventually what came out was that one of the town chairmen had not been respectful to him. Jimmy had been kept waiting. There had even been a reference to the militia problem last January. It had been six months. Couldn’t people forget and forgive? Let’s move on and get some people good paying jobs.

Before he got too depressed or too drunk, I took his hand and led him down the hall. I slowly put on a very short nightgown, put my arms around him while he was still standing naked, kissed him like he was the last man on earth, and then pulled him into bed. With a little encouragement he was able to perform. That was my tonic for him. No sympathetic words, just good sex. Through his bourbon breath I heard him say “I love you” and then he fell asleep.

Wednesday was his last day and it appeared he had lots of meetings. He also seemed a bit nervous. He showered, put on a tie (even though no one wears a tie in July – not in Marinette County), and he ate his breakfast without saying anything to me. His mouth was moving, so I guessed he was practicing his presentations. Any bar charts or colored maps today? He was out the door by seven. I did the dishes and was back in bed by seven fifteen.

What was the Wednesday Packer chatter at the bar? Cornerbacks. Why were ours slow and short? We had the lowest interception ranking in the league. But that was because our line couldn’t pass rush – or so said the more argumentative. In short, I spent another seven hours pouring beer, making pizzas, and talking nonsense.

Jimmy was waiting for me when I got home. It was clear he had had another bad day. I was concerned enough to ask him what had happened. He said “Let’s just go to bed.” At this point I started getting nervous. Jimmy has hurt me in the past. I was pretty sure we were past that, but he was really in a foul mood. I got undressed and put on a red satin nightgown, then went to hug him as I had the night before. He picked me up and put me face down in the bed. Then he sat on me, pinning me. When he pulled the pillow case off a pillow I knew what was coming.

“No, Jimmy. Don’t do this.” But of course I was in no position to stop him. I was trapped face down, unable to move. He grabbed my arms, pulled them behind my back, and tied my wrists with the pillow case. The knot was tight, and it hurt. “That hurts, Jimmy. Stop it.” But he just took off another pillow case and shoved it in my mouth, tying it behind my neck.

“I think I have listened to enough today. I don’t need to hear any more from you.” Then he rolled me over onto my back, and got on top of me with his arms wrapped so tightly around my shoulders I could barely breathe. He entered me, but took forever to reach a climax. I have no idea if he was tired, or if he just wanted me to feel him inside me, but he kept at it and at it and at it. Finally he was done.

At this point he pulled the top sheet off the bed and rolled it up. He wrapped it around my ankles and tied it tight.

“Welcome to my world. Can’t go where I want to go, can’t do what I want to do, and if I open my mouth, I get in trouble. How do you like it?” Can’t go where you want to go? Try being pregnant, dumb ass. Try having two babies. Try life in a trailer. Can’t say what you want? Try being any woman on a date. For that matter, try sitting on the couch with you listening to your drivel. Lying there bound hand a foot I finally figured out Jimmy’s problem – he was the dumbest human on the planet.

“It’s not so nice, is it? Try it for a while.” Was he done yet? I couldn’t think of any other place he could tie me. I just lay there. I hoped he would untie me or at least take the gag off. But he left me like that all night. Nice guy. He fell asleep with one arm under my neck and the other on my ass, periodically fondling me. I laid my head on the pillow and tried to sleep, but between the bonds, his hand on my ass, and his bad breath, I was awake all night. No, Jimmy, this isn’t very nice. Why are you doing this?

He was up at six thirty and went straight to the shower. I lay in bed and waited for him to come back and untie me. He came back and dressed. Then he took out his phone and started taking pictures of me. “I have a good collection of pictures from January, but these will make a nice addition.” He turned me various ways and raised my nightie or pulled the top lower exposing my breasts. I’m thinking, yes, Jimmy, I have tits. This is news to you? You could be lying here with me, holding them if you wished. Instead, you are taking pictures. Moron. He easily took a dozen pictures. I just laid there and waited. There was still the chance he would untie me. He didn’t. He finished taking his pictures, loaded up his overnight bag, and took it out to his car.

When he came back he sat on the edge of my bed and stroked my hair. “Thank you for this. You are a good girl and may be the best lay I have ever had. I do wish I could take you with me. I don’t think I will be back any time soon, but I will have these to remember you by.” You come back again, and I’ll put a bullet in you to remember. He then had the gall to kiss me on the forehead, and take one more picture of me. A kiss on the forehead? Really? I heard his car back out and I knew I was on my own.

I felt like I had just participated in the biggest fool contest. He was a moron, but then, I had let the moron into my house. So what did that make me? At least he was gone now, and according to him, gone for good.

Now what? My first problem was not the linens wrapped around me, but fatigue. I had gotten almost no sleep, and breathing through the gag was hard. I was dog tired. I decided I would just rest a bit. I laid my head down and was asleep almost instantly. How long was I out? Several hours. I was tempted to just sleep a while longer and worry about all this later, but the gag hurt too much. I needed to get free.

The solution was simple enough – find a knife and cut my wrists free. The knives were in the kitchen, I was in the bedroom. I decided it was too dangerous to stand and hop to the kitchen. I might fall and hurt myself. So I would get down on the floor and slide on my ass. Not easy. Not fast. By the time I got to the kitchen I felt I had run a marathon. I rummaged around lower drawers and found a knife. Thank god. I had no idea how I would get myself up to anything higher. Now my job was to cut the pillow case and not my wrists. It took care and patience, meaning I was on that kitchen floor for a long time. About the time I thought I would collapse from fatigue, I felt the fabric tear and I was free. I untied the gag next, and then my ankles. Then I collapsed against the wall in my kitchen, completely exhausted.

What did I feel at that moment? Some fear. He might have hurt me. Some embarrassment over the pictures he had taken. But mostly I felt anger – at myself. I had let the man in. I had opened myself to him. What a moron. I must be the stupidest woman in the world. Who else would sleep night after night with the world’s dumbest man? “I can’t do what I want to do.” Boo hoo hoo. The reason you are still called “Jimmy” is because you are still a child. And furthermore… At which point I stopped myself. Why should I spend any time on what I would say to him, since I will never see him again? He can deal with his problems on his own. Moron.

I stopped carrying on imaginary conversations and slowly got up on my feet. I went and took a long shower – my response to the dirt the world seems to throw at me. I ended up opening the bar a half hour late, and I am afraid I snapped at a guy who wanted to talk running backs, but I made it through the day.

Maybe that’s the best I could say about that day and about that encounter. I made it through. As for what had made Jimmy mad, and what was happening with the bottling plant, I never gave either another thought.




Chapter 4

Recovery


What was my response to the visit from the moron? I just kept going. Training camp got started, and then the first exhibition games, so Packer conversations at the bar were nonstop. I was fine with that. I could name all the players and tell what college the new guys were from. I could make a good argument for a three four defense, and then turn around and justify a four three. I could talk Packers and the hours passed.

But it was the fishing lodge that helped me recover from Jimmy. I loved the place. Every hour there was a joy. The lodge was beautiful, the people were kind. They liked me and my stories. I almost felt like a teacher. I got so when an old person came into the bar I would ask them to tell me what they knew about the old days, just so I could add to my stories.

And then there was Mark. I started getting to the lodge earlier and earlier on Saturday just so I could see him. And I was careful with how I dressed. One weekend I even wore the navy blue satin evening gown Becky had ordered for me. It was strapless and tight in all the right places. The four fishermen really had their tongues hanging out as I served their drinks and sat with them at dinner. But I was mostly pleased with how Mark looked at me. It occurred to me I could wear the same dress every weekend since the fishermen kept changing, so it would always be new to them. But it would not be new to Mark, and I wanted to keep him interested. Based on how he treated me in bed that night, the gown had done the job.


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