Isolde woke up drenched in sweat. The sun was beating down on her and her hair was plastered to her forehead. Her hip ached and she had a crick in her neck from lying on it wrong. She looked at her watch. 9:00 it said. “Damn,” she thought. And then, “I really have to pee.” She sat up and looked around. She was in a field that had recently been mowed. The stubble was about four inches high. There was a woods line about 100 yards to her left. To her right, she could see houses in the distance. She stood up stiffly, and was about to walk to the woods for some privacy, when she heard a tractor coming down the road. “Oh, super,” she thought. “Just what I need is some Bodine farmer running a hay rake through all my shit.” She bent over and started gathering her equipment as the tractor pulled up near her.
“Hey! You can’t camp here!” the tractor man yelled.
“I’m not camping. I’m leaving.” she yelled back.
“What?” he asked. He then added, “Lemme shut this thing down. I can’t hear anything over the racket.” So saying, he turned off the motor and jumped down from the driver’s seat. “Now, what’d you say about grieving?” he asked.
“Not grieving,” she replied. “Leaving.”
“Oh. So soon? I mean you just got here. You weren’t here yesterday when I was mowing.”
“Yesterday, I was on the Eastern Shore. The other side of Easton,
she said and then immediately wondered why she had told him that.
“My landlord lives over there,” he said. “you’re not from him, so what brings you here?”
“I had a fight with my friend last night, so I walked out. Listen. Is there some place around here where I can pee? I really have to go.”
He put his hands in his pockets and looked around. “Sure,” he said. “You can pee anywhere you want. That’s what I do.”
“Oh my God!” she thought. “This guy really is a Bodine.” Aloud she said, “Seems kinda public, don’t you think?”
“Gimme your tent. I’ll throw it over the tractor wheels and seat, and you can pee under there, he replied. He grabbed the tent by one corner and started to drag it over toward the tractor.
“Maybe he’s not such a Bodine after all,” she thought. What she said was, “Thanks. That will have to do, I guess. Turn your back, if you don’t mind. There are some things a lady likes to keep private.”
“Okay,” he said. With his back to her he went on. “Sister of a friend of mine when we were kids used to say, “If they haven’t seen it before, they won’t know what it is. And if they have, they’ll understand.”
Isolde came out from beneath the tent. “Who was your friend?” she asked in what she hoped sounded like a casual tone.
“Oh, a guy I went to school with. We used to play ball in the afternoons. His sister would steal his Playboy magazines out from under his bed while we were out playing. He knew it had to be her, ‘cause she never put them back in the right order, and if it would have been his mom messing with them, she would have thrown them out.”
Isolde took a deep breath. “I think you better sit down,” she said. “I know that girl. I am she.”
“No shit?” he replied. “It really is a small world, isn’t it? Okay. Don’t tell me your name. Lemme see if I can remember. It begins with an I. Izzy? Nah, that’s the bee lady in the chick flick. Irene? No, that’s the girl in the Ledbetter song. Irma? No, that was, um – Shirley McClaine playing a whore. I – um – Is – Is – something. Isolde! That’s it! You’re Isolde!” he exclaimed.
“Yup, that’s me.” she said.
“How’d you wind up here? I heard you got married to some corporate guy and had a kid and all,” he said.
“Yeah, I did. But he ran off with some bimbo secretary, and my daughter got pregnant and moved in with the guy and I got hooked up with a crazy-ass mechanic musician whom, I might add, pisses me off constantly, even though I love him…” and she might have gone on like this for an hour, but they were interrupted by a shout from the road.
“I thought you said you said you were gonna make this hay today,” yelled the man. They looked up to see a white Cadillac convertible pulled up on the other side of the tractor.
“Hey, Bob,” the tractor man said. “I was just talking with an old acquaintance. I want you to meet…”
“We’ve met,” Bob and Isolde said in unison. “Put your junk in my car, so Jackson here can get back to work,” said Bob.
“Is that your name? Jackson? It’s kind of unusual. Is your father named Jack?” Isolde asked.
“Nah, he calls everybody that. Says it was very hip during the war,” the tractor man replied.
“Well, what is your name then?” asked Isolde.
“I thought you two knew each other. The way you were sitting, it looked like you were having a heart-to-heart talk when I drove up. But since it seems you have not been formally introduced, let me do the honors,” said Bob. He went on, “Isolde, I’d like you to meet my tenant, Terwilliger. Terry, say ‘Hello’ to my dancing partner, Isolde, and get on your tractor and go back to work.”
“You, young lady, need to hop in my car and go for a little ride. There’s a salmon-colored VW beetle a quarter mile back. It’s jacked up in front and has a pair of legs sticking out from under it. I think you need to go talk to the other end of the legs. And you need to wash your face and comb the hayseeds outa your hair. You look like you spent the night in a cow pasture.”
“God!” Isolde thought. “He’s just like Grandpa Stoltzfuss. He takes charge without so much as a ‘by your leave.’ “ Aloud, she said, “Well, I do need to get cleaned up. And I wanna get the rest of my stuff. But I don’t want to talk to George. I’m still mad at him.”
“Why are you angry with him? And is it really worth leaving over? You two looked so in love last night,” Bob replied. “He seems like a nice enough guy. And he’s a damn good musician,” he went on. “Which is why I’m here. I want to hire him and his cohorts for a little idea I have, if they’re interested.”
Isolde perked up. “What kind of job?” she asked.
“Nope,” he said. “I’m only telling it once. Besides, if you’re leaving him it’s none of your business. Now if you were his manager, with a contract and all, it would be different. ‘Course then I’d have to tell him he’s a fool for falling in love with his manager, but I don’t suppose you are, so there’s no need in worrying about that.” He sat back and smiled to himself.
Isolde didn’t reply. She was thinking that if this guy was talking about a permanent gig, George was going to need a manager. And she knew just the person for the job. Besides, she didn’t really want to leave George. She just wanted him to get a car that didn’t break all the time, and to help her around the house once in awhile.
Bob eased the car into the driveway behind the VW. “Hey, Jackson! You’ve got company,” he called cheerily. As George slid out from under the car, Bob said, “Look what I found down the road a piece.”
George stood up, blinking in the glare of the sunlight. “I cleaned the living room and kitchen,” he said. “And I bought a mousetrap.”
“Just ONE??” Isolde exclaimed. “You’re gonna get rid of the mice in this place with just one trap? Are you out of your mind?”
“Well, it’s big enough for three or four,” George said. “I baited it with peanut butter. That’s what the guy at the pet store said would work best.”
It suddenly dawned on her that he had bought a cage, like for a pet mouse or hamster. “You can’t domesticate field mice. They’re wild animals,” she said.
“Why not?” George asked. “They’re used to being in a house, and they’re used to being around people. Besides,” he went on, “I didn’t want to kill them. It doesn’t seem right, making a capital offense out of being what you are. That’s why I could never stand the priests and all their ‘mortal sin’ business.”
That brought Isolde up short. She had never told anyone about her sinful behavior as a teenager. The closest she had ever come to telling was when she was talking to Terry just this morning.
“You know what, George? We have to talk. But right now, I’m gonna go wash my face and brush my hair. Grandpa …” she almost said Stoltzfuss, but caught herself before it slipped out. “Bob, here says I look like I spent the night in a cow pasture.”
“Well, I think you’re pretty any way,” George said to her back.
He turned to Bob and said, “She is, you know. What brings you here? You’re the guy who was at the party last night. And how’d you find me, anyway?”
“Well, like a short arm, it’s kinda hard to hide a salmon-colored VW. You don’t see too many of those around. Especially with a license tag that says ‘POLKA’.”
George grinned. The personalized tag had been a birthday present from Isolde last year, and he was especially proud of it.
“Anyway,” he went on, “I’ll tell you both after Isolde comes back out. It looks like maybe you two are done fighting. For awhile, anyway.”
Isolde came back outside, carrying an open can of Coke in one hand and a folding chair in the other. She had a spiral notebook under her arm. She set the Coke down on the ground, and unfolded the chair. As she sat down, she said, “Okay. What’s the story?”
“What’s the grocery notebook for?” asked George.
“Well, if I’m gonna be your manager, I need to take notes, “ she told him.
“Manager? Since when do I need a manager? And to manage what?” asked George.
“Whoa! Whoa! Isolde, you’re getting way ahead of things,” interjected Bob. Then he said, “Do you have an extra chair for the old guy?”
“Be right back,” Isolde said. And she went back into the house. She reappeared at the door, carrying two kitchen chairs. She had a Bic pen in her teeth.
“Horge,” she said around the pen, “I ‘ought one ‘or ‘ou, too.”
George took the chairs from her and she took the pen out of her mouth. “Bob, here, has some kind of proposition for you. But listen. Did you get the brakes fixed?”’
I just finished putting the new line in when you guys pulled up, but I need to bleed the air out yet,” he replied.
“I can help you with that later,” she said. “Right now, we need to hear what Bob has to say. Okay, Bob, the floor is all yours.”
So Bob began. “This may take a little while to lay out, but the general gist is I want to hire you and your cohorts for a permanent gig. Now, don’t get too excited, ‘cause I don’t think there’s gonna be a whole lot of money in it for the first year or so, but here’s my plan. As you may have surmised, if you looked at your check from last night, my full name is Robert A Koening, and I own that little park near Easton where we had the crab feast. As I said last night, I used to be a clarinet player. I worked with a polka band in this area – maybe you have heard of them – The Rhinelanders. We used to play regularly at Bopst Park, here in Pasadena, and in the years just after the war at Glen Echo and Gwynn Oak Amusement Parks. In those days, every amusement park had a dance hall. It was usually called a ballroom, but that was stretching things a little. Anyway, there was a large European population in both Baltimore and Washington, so there was a lot of interest in bands that played European dance music. Not just polkas and tarantellas, but schottisches, waltzes, humoresques and mazurkas, too. I was a lifetime member of Musician’s Local 40-543 in Baltimore, so when I inadvertently became a one-armed musician, they couldn’t kick me out. I still get a semi-annual check from the Musician’s Performance Trust Fund. I really don’t need the money, so I donate it to the German Orphan’s Home on Bloomsbury Avenue in Catonsville. I don’t like to just give them money, so I buy old instruments and have them refurbished for the kids to use. But I digress.
I am also good friends with the zoning board of Talbot County. I have spoken unofficially with them and they are unofficially in favor of my idea. I want to build a small dance hall on the park grounds. People can come and enjoy the outdoors, have a little food, and dance. I know they won’t come out every night, or even every weekend, but as word gets around, we can build up a clientele. During the week, we’ll offer dance lessons, as well. Eventually, I want to hire people to teach kids how to play the music, too.
Also, I own a wooden roller coaster, an old merry-go-round, and a miniature train. Right now, they are all apart, and stored in a warehouse in Canton. I want to bring them into the park, and hire mechanics and technicians to set them up and maintain them. I have a line on a Ferris wheel, but have to hold off on that until I get FAA approval for a structure that high in the approach zone for Easton Airpark. I also own several helicopters and intend to offer a shuttle bus service to the airpark for helicopter rides. If you and your friends are interested, I’d like you to be the house band. When you were not working at Koening Park, you would be available for weddings, parties and such. You’ll need a manager, of course to handle your books and all that – you do
have one, don’t you?”
He paused, and removing a large bandanna from his hip pocket, wiped his brow and the top of his bald head. George opened his mouth to say something, but Bob went on. “There is one hitch; I have a friend who plays clarinet. I want you to let him in. I’d have brought him along to introduce you, but right now, he’s busy making hay on one of my properties.” He nodded toward Isolde and said, “Your friend here met him, and they seemed to hit it off pretty well.”
Isolde’s heart took an extra beat. She opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it, as if she had lost her train of thought, which wasn’t far from the truth. She had not stopped thinking about Terry ever since she had left him to ride home in Bob’s car. She pictured him sitting up on the tractor seat, his shirt sleeves rolled above his elbows, and his bronzed arm muscles rippling as he maneuvered the tractor and hay rake across the field. As soon as Bob had started talking, she realized there was no need to take notes, and had been letting her mind wander while he waxed eloquent about his ideas for the amusement park. She had just decided that, when this was over, she was going to make a pitcher of iced tea to take to Terry, and was wondering how she was going to get out of helping George with the brakes, when Bob’s mention of him snapped her back to the present.
“Yes. Manager,” she said. “Not Terry. Me. I would be the manager.”
“Well, that’s sort of what I was getting at,” replied Bob. “But anyway, he went on, “I think Terry ought to stop by here when he gets done haying.”
“That’d be great,” said George. “Does he know anything about helping with a brake job?”
“Why don’t you ask him when he gets here?” Bob said.
With that, Bob got up, and mopping his brow once again, walked back to his car.
“I’m gonna go make some iced tea,” Isolde said. “When Terry comes by, I imagine he’ll be thirsty.”
George was crawling back under the car and called out to Isolde, “Why don’t you hook up the hose, too? I expect he’ll want to hose off the mowing dust.” George thought about how when he was a kid he used to help with the neighbor’s haying. At the end of the day, they would jump into the pond, clothes and all, to wash the dust and seeds off. He remembered how good the cold pond water felt.
Isolde put the tea bags and hot tap water in a pitcher and set them on the front stoop to seep in the sun. As she was uncoiling the hose and connecting it to the faucet, she had a sudden mental image of Terry standing there, dripping wet with his sodden clothes clinging to his body. She imagined his denim shirt open at the collar, clinging to his pectorals, and the khaki trousers, all wrinkled and creased against his legs, showing a huge bulge at the crotch. And then, suddenly, a new limerick popped into her head. There once was a man from France Whose penis hung down in his pants. He had so much bulk, he could hardly walk, But the girls loved the way he could dance.
She was giggling to herself as she came around the house to the front, dragging the hose.
“What’s so funny?” asked George. He had emerged from under the car, and he stood there, wiping his hands on an orange mechanic’s rag.
“Oh, nothing. I was just daydreaming about Koening Park,” lied Isolde. She immediately felt a strange sensation at the base of her skull; she had never lied to George before and it briefly crossed her mind that something was suddenly different. But the thought, fleeting as it was, was gone just as quickly as it came. She looked up at George and smiled. “Isn’t it great?” she asked. “Bob offering you a steady gig?”
“I was thinking,” said George, “he doesn’t need to hire mechanics to look after the Amusement Park Rides. I can twist wrenches there as easily as anywhere else. I wonder if Bob has a park operator’s license that I can work under.
“Why don’t you ask Terry,” suggested Isolde. “He seems to know the old man pretty well, and probably knows that, too.”
“I’ll just do that little thing,” said George. “Don’t let me forget, okay?” he added. He wondered why she had said, “…he seems to know the old man,” when it was Bob who had said he knew Terry, but then he remembered Bob had said they were talking this morning. Then he wondered where she had spent the night, but remembered she’d said, “…in a cow pasture…” and put the sudden pang of jealousy out of his mind. Then he thought to himself, “Why am I all of a sudden wondering about her?” But what he said was, “I’m gonna take a shower and get some of this grease out of my hair. Would you fix me a glass of iced tea?”
“Okay,” was the reply
This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than Lushstories.com
with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/novels/george-isolde-and-the-brass-ring-polka-2.aspx">George, ISolde and the Brass Ring Polka Band Ch V</a>