George had been sitting on the front stoop, nursing a bottle of Boh when Terry pulled up. He stood up and walked toward the car. Sticking out his hand, he said, “Hi. I’m George. Welcome. Bob said you were making hay today. There’s a hose ‘round back, if you wanna knock the dust off.”
Terry shook hands and said, “Name’s Terwilliger, but everyone calls me Terry. A hose doesn’t do very well. I was thinking maybe I’d run over to Mago Vista and jump in the river.” He cocked his head toward the house, where Isolde was emerging from the front door, carrying a pitcher and two glasses. “Do you and your wife want to join me?”
“I thought those beaches were all private,” replied George. “I don’t want to go over there and get run off like some kid.”
Terry grinned. “Bob has a couple of rental places on the water. One of them is empty right now, and he said I could use it.”
George turned to Isolde. “Well, what do you think? You wanna go swimming?”
“I thought you had to finish the brakes on the polka wagon,” she replied.
“Aw, shit! Yeah, I do. Hey, Terry, could you give me a hand? I’ve gotta bleed the brakes on my VW.” George said.
“If the bleed valves aren’t stuck, that shouldn’t take too long,” said Terry.
Isolde walked over and, handing Terry a glass, said, “I made some iced tea. You want some?”
“Sure,” he replied. “Did you put anything in it?”
“You mean like Long Island Iced Tea?” Isolde laughed. “No, just a little lemon and sugar.”
George shook his head. Why anyone would put something sour in iced tea and then add sugar to it seemed to him a silly dichotomy. He liked his tea with just lemon. Or if the tea was hot, with cream and sugar, like the British. He said, “If one of you guys will work the pedal, I’ll get these brakes bled.”
Terry climbed into the driver’s seat and proceeded to pump the pedal vigorously. After four strokes, he felt a little pressure and held the pedal down. Meanwhile, he said to Isolde, “I see you got yourself cleaned up. You look a little more human than you did this morning.”
“I feel a little more human,” Isolde laughed. “I must have been a sight after spending the night in a hayfield.” She raised her voice. “Hey, George! We got a mouse in the cage. He must have gone in there while I was in the shower.”
Terry had a mental image of Isolde in the shower, with her arms raised washing her hair as the water streamed down over her breasts. His own nipples hardened at the thought. He took a swig of iced tea and said, “You ready for me to pump again?”
“Yeah. Go ahead,” came the voice from beneath the car. Then he said, “Did you put some water in the cage for him?”
“I did, but he was kinda freaked out,” she replied. “I think he’s too scared. I think this domestication plan of yours isn’t gonna work.”
“Domestication? What are you guys doing? Catching field mice and trying to make pets of them? If you need a pet that badly, I’ve got a spare cat or two in the barn that I’d gladly let you have, “ said Terry. To himself he thought, “They’re both nuts. Maybe they deserve each other."
Isolde said, “Only if it were a kitten. But then the mice would have to be babies too, and they are adults, or at least teenagers, by the time we catch them, and that’s too late. So, thanks anyway, Terry, but I don’t think a cat is a good idea.”
“Okay. Pump again,” George said from beneath the car.
They finished getting the brakes bled, and Isolde started toward the house. “Where are you going?” George asked. “We have company.”
“Well, if we are going swimming, I need to find my bathing suit,” Isolde said, as the screen door banged shut behind her.
“Hey, grab mine, too!” George shouted after her. To Terry, he said, “I realize this is your invite, and that kinda makes it your party, but do you mind if we take the VW? I’d like to test drive it and make sure everything’s cool.”
“Not at all,” Terry replied. “I haven’t ridden in a beetle in years. Every once in awhile it’s good to remind yourself why you used to hate something.” He grinned as he said it, hoping George wouldn’t get upset about his disparaging the car.
“Oh, you’re right about that. Occasionally, some Bodine brings a John Deere M or a Farmall A into the shop and we draw straws to see who has to work on it,” countered George.
Terry burst out laughing, and clapped George on the back saying, “You know what? I think we’re gonna get along just fine. Those old Deeres do have a kind of distinctive ‘Thump-Thump” sound, don ‘t they?”
“Yup. And you can hear it for about half a mile on a quiet morning, ”George said. “Bob said you play clarinet. Do you read?”
“Read or fake – either way. It all pays the same – not enough usually,” he said. He went on, “I also play the saxes, although I’m not wild about soprano or alto.”
“I thought maybe you might. Seems like most clarinet players double on sax,” said George. Then he asked, “Do you play anything else?”
“Oh, I mess around a little with keyboards, but I’m not good enough to do a whole gig on ‘em. After a couple of charts, I’d be scuffling pretty badly,” Terry chuckled. “So I take it, Bob laid the whole scene out?”
“Yeah, he did. Sounds like a lot of it is still in the pipe-dream stage, though,” replied George. “I can’t see how he’s gonna get it all together in time for next season. And it’s way too late this year for anything to happen, unless he’s gonna heat that hall and do a huge advertising blitz.”
“Well,” Terry said, “he has pretty deep pockets, and a lot of friends in high political places – as high as they get in Talbot County, anyway.”
“I guess that’s not saying too much. But for this trip, it just might be enough.”
Isolde reappeared in the doorway wearing white sandals and a very skimpy yellow two-piece bathing suit. She had on a pair of bright red oversized heart-shaped sunglasses. Her outfit was topped off with a floppy broad-brimmed yellow sunhat that matched the bikini. “Well, boys,” she called out in her best Mae West voice, “why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”
“Good God,” thought Terry, “this girl is a firecracker.” He suddenly realized he was staring and his ears turned crimson. He turned, and was about to walk back to his Jeep for his towel and swim trunks, when Isolde said, “Hey! Looks like you got a little sunburn on your ears, Terry.” He spun around, all set to be defensive, when George, unable to contain himself, burst into uncontrollable laughter. He was clutching his stomach and was bent double. Terry was caught totally off guard by George’s mirthful reaction. Just what he was expecting, he didn’t know, but it certainly wasn’t that. He stood there, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water.
George, managing to pull himself together, laughed, “She does that kind of shit to me all the time. I’m glad somebody else is around to get the brunt of it, for a change.” Then he added, “Close yer mouth. You’ll catch flies in it.”
Isolde ducked back into the house and came out with her backpack slung over one shoulder. “Which car?” she asked.
“The bug,” Terry said, as he gathered his trunks and towel form the Jeep.
“Did you get my trunks?” George asked.
“Yeah. I threw them and a couple of towels and some clothes and the rest of that cold case of Boh into my pack.”
“Then we’re all set. Pile in, everybody, “ said George.
Isolde got in the back in her usual place and said to Terry, “You’re in the suicide seat, so be ready to bail if he hits a mailbox.”
“Won’t be the first time,” said Terry.
“Oh?” inquired George and Isolde in unison.
“I was visiting a friend of mine in West Virginia once. We were on our way to Summersville in his pickup when he said, ‘Here. Hold my beer. I’m taking a shortcut.’ Next thing I knew, we were upside down in a ditch and I was covered in beer.”
“Good Lord!” exclaimed Isolde. “Was anyone hurt?
“Nah. We just crawled out of the truck and fished around inside until we found the rest of the beer. After we drank it, we hooked his winch to a tree and got the truck out of the ditch. Then we drove on in to Summersville and got a fresh six pack.”
George turned onto Mago Vista Road and said to Terry, “Okay. I’m gonna need some directions soon.”
“When you get to River Road, hang a right and just go to the end. I’ll let you know which driveway,” Terry answered. “Bob tells me you have a little band. What do you call yourselves?”
“That’s a funny thing you should ask. I’ve been thinking we’ll have to pick a new name. Right now, we’re the Danube Trio, but that won’t work with four people.”
Isolde spoke up. “I think it’s high time you changed it anyway. I always thought that name was pretty lame.”
“Well, it’s better than what Will wanted. He wanted us to be ‘The Danubians’, but none of us is black. And when Dan suggested ‘Krautmeisters’, all I could picture was old war movies, killing off a lot of Germans.”
“Well, if you really want to shake people up, you could always call yourselves Hitler’s Springtime,” quipped Terry.
They all laughed and George said, “Yeah, but if we got big and he heard of us, Mel Brooks would probably sue us for royalties.”
Terry said, “When I was in college, I played with a Klezmer band called The Meshuganas. We did the Borscht circuit between semesters.
“What’s the Borscht circuit?” asked Isolde.
“That’s what we called the Poconos. It’s where all the Jewish resorts are. They even had kosher kitchens at those places,” said Terry.
“Where’d you go to school?” George asked.
“Oh, I went to a little Ag school in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. A placed called Delaware Valley College.”
“So you weren’t a music major?” Isolde said.
Terry laughed. “No,” he replied. “I majored in something where the big money is: Agriculture,” then he rolled his eyes.
“Well, at least farmers don’t starve to death,” George said.
“That depends on whether you think you can eat soybeans or hay,” Terry replied.
“At least you can get a good tan,” said Isolde.
“Yeah. And sunburned ears,” quipped Terry and they all laughed. Isolde thought of how Terry had looked at her and was glad she had been wearing the sunglasses. Otherwise he might have seen how she was looking back at him. She liked that he could laugh at himself. That was one of the things that had drawn her to George, too.
“I wish you could have seen your face,” George said. “That was, as they say in the ads, ‘Priceless.’”
“Well, that’s one way of putting it,” thought Isolde. Terry’s eyes met Isolde’s in the passenger side mirror and, for an instant, she thought she saw him wink. He turned and said to George, “How can you see anything out of this side mirror?”
“I can’t,” he replied. “But it’s bent, so I don’t use it.”
Isolde wondered if he really had winked, or if she was just imagining things. She thought again of how intently he had stared at her and she got goosebumps on her arms and she could feel her nipples tightening. George looked at her in the rear view mirror and said, “Are you cold? We can stop and put the top up if you’d like”
“No, thanks. I just had a little chill is all,” she lied. “I’ll be all right.”
“God,” she thought to herself, “I just lied to him again. That makes twice in how many – about eight – hours.”
“See those three driveways coming up?” Terry said. “Take the middle one and hang to the left side. There’s a huge pothole on the right.”
George did as he was told, and they soon came to a house nestled among the pine trees near the water’s edge. “Well, looks like this buggy’s gonna be good for another hundred thousand miles,” he said as he shut off the engine and set the parking brake.
The three of them got out and Isolde said, “Is there plumbing inside? I’d like to go pee before we go down to the water.”
As with most houses in Mago Vista, the front faced the water. When they pulled into the driveway, the first portion of the house that became visible was the back. Someone had attempted to disguise that by planting a large rhododendron at the back corner of the house, bordered by azaleas on the three sides visible from the driveway. Mostly what that served to do was draw attention to the back door, with its small concrete stoop and about six feet of concrete walk that led out into the yard, and stopped abruptly.
As they walked around the house to the front porch, Isolde surveyed the small front yard. There was a walkway that led to the top of a set of wooden stairs that, she assumed led down to the water’s edge. She could see the Magothy River shimmering below them, and what she believed to be Gibson Island in the distance. There were half a dozen small boats visible out on the water, with people in them, fishing. There was a large grouping of azaleas at the edge of the embankment, on either side of the walkway that blocked her view of the water’s edge.
The front porch was half as wide as the entire house, and had storage room beneath. There was a porch swing across one end of the porch, and two rockers with their backs upturned toward the wall to the right of the front door.
“Sure. Hang on,” Terry said and disappeared around the end of the house. Presently, he reappeared, holding up a key between his thumb and forefinger. “George and I have to go inside and change anyway.”
Terry opened the front door and they went in. The door led directly into a living room, furnished entirely in Arts and Crafts movement Mission Furniture. Against the far wall were two rocking chairs, behind the door was a matching straight chair with its mate to the right of the door. In the corner opposite the door was a library table with a phone on it and two, what appeared to be, dining room chairs. The left end wall was taken up by a huge fireplace. There was a large triple window facing across the porch and looking out onto the river. Beneath the window was a mission-style couch. The entire room was painted a muted tan. Isolde spun around in the middle of the living room and exclaimed, “It’s wonderful! It isn’t at all what I would have expected when you said it was a cabin. Where’s the bathroom?”
“Through the doorway and down the hall to your right. It’s the door on the left, past the stairway.” Terry added, “If there’s no paper on the roll, there should be some in the cabinet under the vanity.” He walked through the living room into the kitchen. There was a crab net propped against the opposite wall with a note pinned to it. He plucked off the note and read,
“Case of beer in fridge.
Also two chicken necks.
String under sink.
You’re on your own for crabs.”
Terry smiled to himself and slowly shook his head. ‘That old man knew when he suggested the cabin that we all three would show up together. Sometimes it boggles me, how he knows what I’m gonna do when even I don’t” He turned to George and said, “Open a couple of beers while I go get our stuff.”
George heard the toilet flush and called down the hallway, “I’m opening a couple of beers. Do you want one?”
Isolde came out of the bathroom, pulling up the back of her bikini bottom with both hands behind her. “Get out of my backpack!” she yelled. “I didn’t give you permission to go in there.”
“I didn’t,” George said. “They were in the fridge.”
“Oh, well in that case, yeah. Thanks. I’ll have one.”
George was hurt that she had assumed he had gotten them from her pack. He firmly believed that everyone needed and was entitled to private space. In the ten years they were together, he had never gone into any of her things without her telling him to. “I never even suggested it by asking permission,” he thought. “I always waited for her to suggest it or tell me to.” He wondered why she would think he’d suddenly changed. Then he wondered if maybe she was hiding something, but thought, “No. She doesn’t act like that when she has bought me a birthday present and is hiding it. Maybe she’s just having her period. That must be it. She’s been more amorous than usual the past couple of days and she always gets that way just before. That’s probably why she went off on me last night, too.”
In reality, Isolde had not had to go to the bathroom. She had gone in there to be alone and to think. She felt torn by, and a little scare of, all the lascivious thoughts she was having about Terry. She sat on the toilet without even raising the lid and thought about George. She really loved him, she supposed, but he was such a child in so many ways. Next to him, Terry seemed so grown up, so self-reliant and assured. “And, God, he is gorgeous!”, she thought. “I can’t wait to see him in swim trunks.” She felt a familiar stirring in her lower abdomen. Then she thought to herself, “No! I can’t do this to him. He may be childish in some ways, but he is a good and kind and loving person.” She stood up and splashed some cold water on her face. Without consciously thinking, she flushed the toilet, and hooked her thumbs in the rear waistband of her bikini and eased it up a little higher as she pulled open the bathroom door with her toe.
Terry came in the kitchen with Isolde’s backpack and his towel in one hand, and his swim trunks in the other. He set everything down on the kitchen table and picked up the beer George had opened for him. He raised the bottle high. “A toast,” he said, “to the newly formed unofficial, as yet, Brass Ring Polka Band.”
“I’ll drink to that,” said George, taking a sip. “By the way, that’s a great name. At risk of making a bad pun, the words fit together and have a kind of ring to them.”
“Skoal,” said Isolde, and took a long swig from her bottle. “That’s a super name. How did you come up wit it?”
“Well, we were talking about names earlier, and I got to thinking about the park. It dawned on me that Bob has a merry-go-round – one of those old kind – you know, with horses and stuff. And then I was thinking about the brass ring you were supposed to try to grab on the merry-go-round. So it just sort of came to me,” Terry explained.
“Well, it certainly is apropos,” said George. “After all, isn’t that what we hope we’re doing? Seizing the brass ring.”
“Speaking as the newly self-appointed Band Manager, I like it from a marketing standpoint,” said Isolde. “It immediately tells people what kind of band we are, and it alludes to our amusement park home base.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” said Terry. “But, it does kill two birds with one stone. Speaking of stones, if we want more to eat than stone soup, we better go catch some crabs before it gets dark. I’m gonna claim the downstairs bedroom and change in there. You guys can make whatever sleeping arrangements you like. There are two more bedrooms upstairs. Feel free to go exploring.”
Upstairs, George and Isolde found a master bedroom that was nearly as big as the living room. “If he calls this a cabin, I wonder how big his house is,” said Isolde.
“Probably bigger,” George said. “I think he lives in that big old farmhouse down the road from us. Would you dig out my swim trunks, please?”
Isolde turned around to see George standing naked in the middle of the room. “George!” she exclaimed. “Do you want to get arrested for indecent exposure? There are windows all over the place.”
“This window just faces the back yard. They’d have to look pretty hard to see anything. Besides, if they haven’t seen it before…”
“…they won’t know what it is,” Isolde finished for him. “Here, Silly. Put on your trunks.” She handed them to him. “I left my beer downstairs. I’m going back to it before it goes flat. C’mon down as soon as you’re ready.”
George decided that, since it was already out, he might as well use it. Clutching his trunks in one hand, he walked across the head of the stairs into the bathroom.
Isolde got to the bottom of the stairs just as Terry was thinking the same thing as George. As she stepped off the bottom step, she caught movement out of the corner of her left eye. She turned her head just in time to see Terry’s bottom disappearing into the bathroom doorway. “Nice ass,” she thought to herself, but didn’t say anything. She went into the kitchen and picked up her beer. “Well,” she thought, “he did say to explore.” She began opening cupboard doors and found there were eating utensils, plates, bowls, glasses and mugs for four in one of them. She took a glass from the shelf and held it up to the light, inspecting to see if it was clean. She decided it was and poured her beer into it.
“I see you found the dishes,” a voice said from behind her. She whirled in surprise to see Terry standing in the doorway. He was wearing what at first she thought was a thong, but soon realized was just the skimpiest, tightest Speedo she had ever seen outside of magazines. He looked like a bronzed Greek god. He was evenly tanned from head to toe. The blond hairs on his chest, forearms and legs contrasted with his evenly tanned skin. Every muscle in his shoulders, chest, abdomen and legs was well defined. None of them bulged like a body builder, but each was chiseled as if by Michelangelo, from marble. She suddenly realized she was staring, and blushed.
“I’m sorry,” said Terry. “Is the swimsuit too skimpy for you?”
“No, you’re… You surprised me, is all.” She had almost said, “You’re gorgeous,” but managed to catch herself. “He moves so silently,” she thought, “like a cat.” He took a swig of his beer, and she could see his biceps as he raised the bottle to his mouth. She opened her mouth to say something else, but George appeared behind him in the doorway. “Oh. I see you’re ready,” she said to George. “Let’s go, then.”
“You’ll want something on your feet, George,” Terry said. “This part of the river is pretty heavily used, and there may be broken glass. There should be some tire sandals in the upstairs hall closet. I’ll go grab you a pair.”
While Terry was gone upstairs, Isolde looked at George. She couldn’t help noticing the differences between his physique and Terry’s. George’s skin was pale, except for his forearms and hands, which were dark. They had a grayish tinge, from the constant ground-in grease. His legs were thin and wiry, and while he wasn’t fat, his skin just hung on his torso, with no hint of the muscles beneath. His swim trunks consisted of an old pair of cutoff khakis and hung on his frame, almost as if they were too large and wanted suspenders or a belt to hold them up.
“That one crab net isn’t going to be enough for all of us. I wonder if there are any others around anywhere,” he said.
Terry, appearing in the doorway carrying a pair of sandals, said, “There should be a couple more somewhere. They’re probably either under the porch or stored across the thwarts in the canoe.”
Isolde wondered what a thwart was, and felt a limerick coming on. The first things that popped into her head were rhymes:
But she didn’t feel like pursuing it just then. “I’ll work on it later,” she thought to herself, “after I find out what thwart is when it’s a noun.”
Suddenly, an entire limerick popped into her head.A young lady and her cohort In a canoe, tried to make love on a thwart. They did so much tipping The whole thing went flipping And they had to get towed back to port.
She smiled to herself, but it wasn’t nearly as funny or satisfying as most of her limericks were. She had never had an in toto
limerick experience before. It felt strange; something was missing. More, it felt as if something had been taken away from her. She suddenly realized that most of the fun of making up limericks was the little feeling of victory and humor when the final line came together. She hoped this wasn’t a portent of some major change. Oh well, she thought, there’s no way to test that, is there? I mean if I try to test it, then I’m thinking about a limerick, so it isn’t possible for the limerick to suddenly materialize. And if I’m not thinking about it, and the limerick doesn’t materialize, then that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. She had a fleeting image of herself as Pooh Bear, trying to count honey jars, and in frustration saying, “Oh BOTHER!” She decided she was trying to prove a negative, and that she was not going to think about it anymore.
All this was going on in Isolde’s head as she followed Terry and George outside. They walked around the side of the house with Terry leading the way, and went over to the canoe, lying upside down on a pair of saw horses. Each taking an end, Terry and George turned the canoe upright. Isolde watched as several garden spiders scurried for cover. Sure enough, inside it along with some paddles were three more crab nets. George handed one to Isolde, and took one for himself. Terry turned to Isolde and said, “Did you bring the string and the chicken necks?”
“I’m sorry. I guess I was daydreaming,” she said. “I’ll go get them.”
She dropped her net on the ground and ran back up the front steps. George picked up the net. Terry just stood there, watching her go up the steps.
“There is something about watching a woman go up a flight of stairs, isn’t there”, said George. “You’ve been looking at her a lot today – I think you better get used to her. She’s definitely gonna be around for a while.” And so am I, he mentally added, though he did not say it.
“I’m sorry. I think maybe I have been alone on the farm for too long,” said Terry.
“Oh, I guess it’s okay. As my mother used to say, ‘A cat may look at a queen.’ And I have to admit, this particular queen seems not to mind.”
“Yeah, my parents used to say that too. Well, here she comes with the bait. Let’s go get us some crabs. They usually hang out in the marshy area to the left, at the foot of the steps,” Terry said.
Isolde came back from the house, carrying the chicken necks, a large kitchen carving knife and the ball of twine. “To cut one of the necks in half, and to cut the string,” she said when George looked at the knife.
At the foot of the steps, to the right was a picnic table. Beyond that, was a fire ring lined with rocks and a short stretch of sandy beach. To the left was a small inlet, surrounded by a marshy area. There was an old pier extending out into the inlet.
“This is nice,” she said.
“I like to sit out here in the morning with a cup of coffee and a book, and watch the sun rise over the water,” replied Terry.
Isolde thought that sounded like heaven. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been able to get George to sit still long enough for her not to feel guilty just sitting and reading with a morning cup of coffee. That didn’t count, of course, the mornings he slept late because he’d been out playing the night before. But since she usually went with him, she slept late on those mornings, too.
“The pier used to extend to open water, but over the years it has silted in,” Terry said. “We thought about dredging it, but decided it was kinda nice to have our own little crab bed. A friend of mine who is a bass fisherman, saves the heads for me, and about once a month, I throw a bunch of frozen ones down there, to thaw and keep the crabs interested in sticking around.”
There were lots of crabs around the pier in the marshy area, just as Terry had predicted, and by the time the light was fading, they had a dozen legal Jimmies in a bucket Terry had found by scrounging around under the porch.
“There were some steaming pots under the porch where I found the bucket”, Terry said. “but it has gotten so dark I won’t be able to see under there. I know there’s a flashlight in the cabin somewhere.”
“I have one in my backpack,” Isolde said. “Lemme go get it.”
Taking the stairs two at a time, she ran back to the house, and soon reappeared, carrying her trusty pack. She reached in and fished around for a moment, and brought out a flashlight, which she handed to Terry.
“Do we want to start a fire out here and cook them outside?” she asked.
“If you guys can stand the mosquitoes, that will be okay. They don’t seem to bother me. I guess I don’t taste good, or something,” Terry answered.
“Let’s give it a try,” said George and Isolde in unison. Isolde added, “I saw a spray can of Deep Woods Off in one of the kitchen cupboards. Oh, and there were a couple of containers of Old Bay in there too.”
“While I get the pot, Old Bay and stuff, and some more beer, why don’t you guys start the fire?”
Terry went up toward the house, and George and Isolde gathered kindling and firewood off of the ground. There were lots of pine branches lying about, and they soon had a large pile of wood and cones. Isolde dug some newspapers and 3 in 1 oil out of her pack, piled some pine cones and a few pieces of wood on top, and squirted oil on them. Then she dug out a pack of matches and had a merry, if slightly smelly, blaze going in no time.
“The oil will burn off soon, and it won’t stink anymore,” she said to George.
“I don’t mind the smell and it will help discourage the bugs,” he said. And then, changing the subject, he said, “You know, in the ten years we have been together, I have never ceased to be amazed at the stuff you have in your pack. It seems you always have whatever we need at the moment, yet the pack never gets empty, nor does it ever appear to be any fuller. It’s like a magic Santa Claus pack, always full, no matter how many stops he makes delivering toys.”
Isolde just laughed. “You have no idea how much time and energy I spend every morning, thinking about what I’ve used out of there the day before, that needs to be replaced.”
Terry came walking back with a large crab pot filled with all the other items. He said, “I brought us two beers each. If we want more, we’ll have to trudge back up the hill. I couldn’t help overhear you too talking about that pack. How ever did you decide what you needed in it in the first place?”
“Oh, that was easy. When I first started to carry one, I was about ten. But I never had what I needed, and it was always full of stuff. So every night, when I got home, I would gather whatever I wished I’d had with me that day, and put it in. In exchange, I’d pick an equal volume of junk to take out. After about five years of that, sometimes having to put back in things I had removed the day before, and lots of times of doing without, I knew what I needed, and what was superfluous.”
Terry threw back his head and roared with laughter. “I can only imagine how tough those five years must have been,” he said.
“Oh it wasn’t so bad. … Well, except for a couple of embarrassing occasions when I was twelve, before I got used to knowing when my time of the month was coming. But, to quote someone I heard recently, ‘You do what you have to.”
“That sounds like Gramps Koening talking,” Terry said.
“GRAMPS?” George and Isolde exclaimed in unison. George turned to Isolde. “Isolde, we’ve been beset by a clan! Geezle peezle! I shoulda smelled a rat when he told us Terry played clarinet! That’s what Bob said he used to play!”
“Well, George, you had your sick car on your mind,” Isolde said soothingly. “Besides, I’m not so sure ‘beset’ is the proper verb. More like ‘blessed’ I suspect.” She beamed and gave a huge smile to Terry as she said it. Terry grinned back and winked.
“Well, you’re probably right,” George said. “But Gramps, Man, I just can’t get over that.”
“Now, don’t either of you DARE tell him I call him that. He’s not my grandfather by blood, and he gets all upset with me when I bring it up. He says it reminds him of all the idiosyncrazies of his off spring. The first time he said it, I corrected him. Don’t you mean idiosyncrasies? I asked. Absolutely not, he told me. Normal people are idiosyncratic; my kid and her spouse and daughter were idiosyncrazy.”
“So is he, or isn’t he your grandfather?” George asked, bluntly.
“Well, it’s a little complicated. My dad was married to his daughter, but had a mistress on the side. She was my mother. She gave me up for adoption at birth, because she had a one-year old at home, and his father had been killed in a hunting accident. Bob and his wife took me in, and raised me as if I was their son. When she died of cancer, he wanted to get out of the house they had shared together. So I said I’d rent the farm, and he bought a house in Easton. That was about twenty years ago. She had a ton of money from her family – I think they were Tilghmans, or one of those other moneyed shore families – anyway he got that, of course. He invested it in real estate all over Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore, so now he’s sitting on a pile of bread too. Actually, this place is one of his rental properties.”
George remembered how his mother had scrimped and saved to make ends meet when he was a kid. Whenever he asked about his father, her mouth got all pinched up like she was angry, and she wouldn’t answer. After a while, he quit asking.
That explains why Terry calls it a ‘cabin,’ thought Isolde. He grew up under surrogate parents who played on a whole different level from us poor mortals.
They ate the crabs, and were just sitting at the picnic table, watching the fire die down, when George stood, and said, “I’m going for another beer. Do either of you want one?”
“No, thanks,” replied Terry, and Isolde said, “Sure.”
Terry and Isolde watched, as George made his way through the darkness toward the house.
After several minutes of awkward silence, Isolde said, “I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just gonna blurt it out. This is dangerous. I think you are incredibly attractive, and I could easily get way too involved with you.”
“I guess I haven’t been exactly subtle about that either, have I,” said Terry. “I think you are intelligent, strong, and drop-dead-effing gorgeous. What’s not to like?”
“Thank you. I guess, in a way I am pretty, but when I look in the mirror, all I see are the flaws. I don’t feel particularly intelligent, and God knows I don’t feel strong, or self-assured or any of that. I have doubts and misgivings inside my head all the time. Oh, I manage to put up a good front, but that’s all it is. Inside, I often wonder if I am doing the right thing, and whether I am gonna have regrets in the morning, so to speak.”
“You would never give me regrets in the morning. I’d love to wake up next to you, and roll over and take you in my arms and make languid morning love with you.”
Isolde tried to remember the last time she and George had made love in the morning, but couldn’t. It had been too long ago, and like all of their love sessions, disappointing for her. He always came so quickly, she thought. “I’m gonna put another log on the fire,” she said, and stood up.
She wondered what it would be like to be held in Terry’s strong arms, to feel that solid chest against her, and to wrap her arms around him. She could feel butterflies in her stomach at the thought, and her crotch felt damp. Good thing it’s dark out, she thought. She picked up the largest log she comfortably could in one hand and placed it atop the glowing coals. She thought of a line from the movie, The American President, and unconsciously said it aloud. “This has disaster written all over it.”
“I disagree,” said Terry. “Oh, George will be upset if we act on it, but he’ll soon get over it. I think he isn’t really so much in love with you as dependent upon you. I think he thinks he loves you because he is in love with the idea of being in love. And I know most of what you are afraid of is hurting him.”
“That is part of it, but also I am afraid of hurting you – and myself.” she added. “I can’t…”
“You’re right you can’t,” he interrupted. “And I can’t stop either. And we shouldn’t try to. This is our destiny. We are soul mates. I’ll bet you even think in limericks, just as I do.”
“Why yes!” she exclaimed. “Yes, I do!”
She had a sudden urge to kiss him, and she leaned over and went for his cheek. He turned his head toward her and when their lips met it was as if an electric shock went through her right to her toes. She quickly pulled away from him, and sat straight up looking at him, her eyes wide open, as a deer stares into the headlights of an oncoming car. He stared back unflinchingly. Even in the moonlight, his eyes were a shockingly electric blue. She looked deep into them, and felt a touch of vertigo. She felt as if she were wearing nothing at all, and that he could see not just her face, but deep within her soul. She remembered how his stare earlier that afternoon had set a fire at the core of her very being. She had never felt that way with George. With him, she had always just felt comfortable and serene. From the first time she had met George, everything had felt smooth. Even that first night, when they went to bed together, and the next morning, there was none of the nervousness she had with every other lover; wondering if her flaws would put him off at the last minute.
There had been no emotional roller coaster with George; no incredible highs, and no terrible lows. But the way she felt with Terry now, only just having met and doing nothing more than talking with him, she felt more intense than she had ever felt with George. God, she thought, here I am, a 35 year-old grown woman, and he makes me feel like a teenager in the back seat of a car somewhere. All I want to do is go further, but I am so certain it will be wrong. We’re not talking about some imaginary ‘mortal sin’ here; we’re talking about WRONG. Right here, right now, in this life. She had never felt so strong an urge to continue, and she couldn’t stop doing what deep within her psyche she knew was courting disaster. ‘Because all relationships end, sooner or later, and if Terry and I get involved, that ending will be our destruction.’
When he got to the house, George flipped on the overhead light in the kitchen and stood there blinking in the glare. As he waited for his eyes to adjust, he mentally replayed the scenes from the day, and had a sudden realization. She’s going to have an affair with him, he thought. And then, No, it won’t be an affair in the strictest sense of the word, because we aren’t married. We aren’t even betrothed. In fact, I suppose in the eyes of the law, she and I would be considered an affair. Or maybe not. I don’t know what Maryland says about separation. But the fact remains - they are going to screw, and there isn’t anything I can do about it. If I try to stop them, or make it difficult, she will anyway, but that will just add to the guilt I’m sure she will feel regardless. If I encourage them, I’m telling her that I don’t care and that would be a lie. I wish she wouldn’t. I hate the thought of her opening her legs and taking him inside her. I wonder if he will hold off, long enough for her to cum too. Probably. Jesus! With that build, and tan, he makes me feel like a slob. Captain Ahab’s great white whale, except I don’t have that kind of charisma and power. I’m more like a beached white whale, thrashing around helpless, in the sand. But I just want her to be happy.
What is the old adage – if you want someone, you must set them free. If they are truly yours, they will come back, and if they don’t, they were never yours to begin with. If I give her up what will I have lost anyway? The love of my life is all. No, that’s not true. If I had to choose between her and playing music, which could I do? Oh, if there were some emergency, I’d go to her in a minute – that’s a no-brainer. But what about if she said, “George – I’m tired of going to gigs with you, and I don’t want to sit home alone. I want you to play a little less, and be with me a little more.” What then? In my heart I know what then. I’d do it—just as she asked and then I’d regret it. He thought about Rick’s line near the end of Casablanca, “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, sooner or later you’d regret it, and for the rest of your life.” So really it’s music that’s the love of my life, isn’t it? Terry’s a good guy. I can sense that about him – and he is just as smitten by her as she is with him. He has less to lose; he doesn’t know me from Adam. After all, we only met just today. And I don’t think he’d screw her over. I can sense it in my bones. I think I’ll just play dumb, and pretend I don’t see what’s going on. I hope they are at least a little discreet, and I hope it doesn’t hurt too much, and I hope I can keep my cool. This is strange. I feel jealous, but mostly I just am sorry for myself that I’m not the one she’s mooning over. Am I being selfish? I wonder. I just want her to be happy.
He grabbed two bottles of beer from the refrigerator, and went back outside.
When he reached the bottom of the steps, Isolde and Terry were sitting next to each other talking. Then, for a fleeting instant, they kissed. George felt his face burning, and tears welling up in his eyes. He blinked them back and was glad it was night. Following his decision not to notice, he called out brightly, “Here’s your beer, Isolde.” He held it out as he walked toward the picnic table. He went over and sat down on the side opposite them. As soon as he sat down, he felt a mosquito bite into his upper thigh. He swatted at it, but missed. He could hear them buzzing around his ears, too. They didn’t seem to be bothering either Isolde or Terry, but they were certainly getting ready to settle down for a feast on him. “Would one of you guys please hand me that Off?” he asked. “These mosquitoes are chewing me up.” Isolde reached down the table and snagged the can. She shook it and passed it over to George, saying, “There’s not much in here, I’m afraid. I hope it’s enough to drive them away from you.”
George assumed they had used it up while he was gone, and had a mental image of Terry rubbing it on her back for her, and felt a pang of jealousy. “I don’t know why they aren’t bothering me,” she went on. “Usually the mosquitoes are after me like ducks on a June bug. Maybe it’s because I got so much oil smoke on me when I started the fire.”
“Or when you put that last log on, you got another covering of smoke,” Terry said. “As I said earlier, they never have much cared for me; I’m just not the right flavor.”
Isolde thought to herself, I wonder if George saw us kissing. But she put it out of her mind, because she was sure if he had, he would have at least said something – he’d probably try to make a thinly veiled disparaging comment in the form of a strained joke. That was his style, she thought.
George tried to get the Off to work, but apparently all the propellant was gone. He shook the can vigorously, and could hear a tiny bit sloshing around, but when he pressed the nozzle, nothing came out.
“Looks like I’m going to be forced to go inside behind screened doors,” said George. “I can’t get anything out of this can, and the mosquitoes are eating me alive.”
“I want to sit here in the moonlight while I drink this beer,” Isolde said, “and then I’ll be in, too.”
“I’ll keep you company for a while,” Terry said.” Just so long as you don’t keep me up past my bedtime,” he added, grinning.
Isolde glared at him.
As George climbed the stairs back toward the house, he thought to himself, I suppose they’re going to do it down here tonight. I hope she gets splinters in her back.
Isolde took a swig of her beer, and, as she did, she felt Terry’s arm around her. She set the bottle down on the table, and turned to him to speak. He put his hand under her chin and said, “Don’t talk; just kiss me.”
As their lips met, she felt that electric tingle again, only this time it wasn’t so much of a shock as it was warmth. She could feel it going all through her, from her scalp to her toes. She wrapped her arms around his neck and opened her mouth, begging for his tongue. He answered her wish, and their tongues intertwined, each searching for the other. She could feel her entire body coming alive. Her skin felt tingly all over, and she could feel her vagina begin to swell, and she was getting wet. She stood, and breathlessly said, “I wish we had a blanket. I want you so much.” Terry kissed her again, more gently this time, and then she said, “George keeps his old Navy blanket in the trunk of the VW. Why don’t you go get it?”
“Do you really think I should?”
“Yes” She said, “and hurry. I want you so badly. I need to feel your arms around me, and I want to feel you in me.”
While Terry went for the blanket, Isolde watched a cloud heading toward the moon. She lay on her back on the bench, and watched to see if it was going to hit or miss it.
George heard the car trunk slam and thought to himself, he’s probably come back to the car to get my blanket. I wish I were asleep, and couldn’t hear them. He felt tears welling up in his eyes again, and decided to just let them come. As Terry passed the house, with the blanket under his arm, he saw George through the kitchen window, sitting at the table. It looked like his eyes were wet.
When Terry reached the bottom of the steps, he didn’t see Isolde. He thought at first she had gotten up and strolled past the fire pit to the beach, but when he got closer, he realized she was lying on the bench, snoring gently. He walked around the table to her, and lightly caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. “Come on, Honey,” he said softly. “I think it’s time for you to go to bed.” As she sat up, he wrapped he blanket around her shoulders, and kissed her softly on the cheek.
“Um-m-m,” she said, “that’s nice. But you’re right. It’s time to go in.” She stood, and turning to him, said, “ Kiss me goodnight, before we climb the wooden hill.”
Terry took her in his arms once again, and they kissed a long, soft, lingering kiss. Isolde felt the warmth building in her again, and after some moments, broke the kiss off by pulling her face away from his. “I want to make love with you,” she said, “but not here. Not like this. And not with George waiting for us. I want it to be right.”
“George seems like a really good guy,” Terry said. “Even in just this little time, I’m growing to like him. I don’t want to hurt him either.”
Arm in arm, they slowly made their way up the stairs and across the yard to the front steps. At the bottom step, Isolde extricated her arm from Terry, and, giving him a quick peck on the cheek ran up the steps and into the house.
“Well,” said George, “You didn’t stay out there nearly as long as I expected.”
“The bugs started getting to me,” Isolde lied, “and besides, it’s been a long day. I fell asleep, watching to see if a cloud was going to hit the moon.”
“So did it?” asked George.
“I don’t know, Silly. I was asleep,” she said. “I’m beat. I think I’ll go to bed. Try not to stay up too late. You’ll get your sleep schedule all messed up and then, come Monday, you’ll hate yourself.”
“I’m gonna have another beer before I go to bed,” George said. Then he added, “Goodnight, Isolde. Sweet dreams on you. I’ll be up after a bit.”
Terry went over to the refrigerator and got out two bottles of beer. He took the cap off one and held it out to George. “Thanks,” George said, as Terry uncapped the other.
Terry sat down at the table, and opened his mouth to speak, but George held up his hand, stopping him. “Don’t say anything for a minute,” George said. “I have something on my mind, and I gotta get it out.”
Oh boy, here it comes, thought Terry. This band is gonna fall apart before it gets together, and it’s all because I’m thinking with the wrong head.
“I may not be the most sensitive guy in the world, nor the most perceptive, but I’m not totally blind, either. And, as I have often said, “I’m crazy; I’m not stupid.” I see how you and Isolde look at each other, and I saw her lean over to kiss you when I came down the stairs tonight. I know you two are gonna eventually wind up in the sack together. Now, don’t get me wrong here; I’m not giving you permission. I don’t have the right to give permission, because she isn’t property. I don’t own her; no one does. She is a human being, and fully capable and within her rights to make up her own mind. People don’t own people. So I thought sure you two were going to fuck tonight when you both stayed down at the beach. But, unless you’re Speedy Gonzales, which I doubt, I don’t believe you did any more than a little heavy necking. Don’t think it doesn’t hurt, because it does, but I can’t blame you. If I’m going to blame anyone, I have to blame Isolde, but I don’t blame her either. You seem like a hell of a guy. You’re smart, well educated, and Lord knows you have a physical appearance that makes me look dumpy. And I’m certain Isolde didn’t wake up this morning and say to herself, “I think I’ll go find a hunk today to fall for head over heels.” So, no, I don’t blame her, either. Hell, Man, if I were gay, I’d have the hots for you too.”
Here, Terry gave him an inquisitive look, and George grinned and went on, “Don’t worry. I’m not. So all I’m asking is two things: first, be discreet. I don’t want it thrown up in my face. I don’t think I could stand that. And second, don’t hurt her. Don’t just dally with her emotions and dump her like some two-bit whore. If you do I swear, I will hunt you down like a dog. I mean it. I will do whatever I have to, to find you and make you rue the day. Okay, that’s it. I’ve said my piece. Now, what were you going to say?” He tipped his bottle up and took a long pull.
“I was going to offer to back out of the whole deal,” Terry said. “I want to form a band with you. If Bob says you’re a good musician - which he does, by the way - I trust his judgment. But I can’t be so close to Isolde on a daily basis, and pretend there isn’t some attraction there. Attraction, hell – that’s putting it mildly. There is an incredible electric energy. And yes, it is mutual. When she leaned over to kiss me, she was going to just kiss my cheek, and I turned my head. When we shared that little kiss, it was as if the heavens had opened up and a bolt of lightning had struck. And she felt it too. As you may have gathered, we came very close to doing it tonight. That was why I came back up to the car – to get a blanket. But, she really does care for you. And I have to admit, I’m beginning to like you too. I think that, despite our obvious differences, you and I are more alike than either of us realizes as yet. I have to admit, I didn’t expect you to take the thought of my involvement with her so stoically. I wonder, if the roles were reversed, could I be as big a person as you have just shown yourself to be. I like to flatter myself that I could, but you’re a tough act to follow. So here we are; we have to play the cards we’re dealt. I promise you, I will never knowingly do anything to hurt her. I don’t know if I love her; I don’t know her that well. But you are right; if we stay in such close proximity, sooner or later, we will wind up making love together. And we may even wind up just fucking. And there is a difference – at least to me there is. Even with someone you love, sometimes you just want to knock one off, you know? And because I am beginning to like you, I am beginning to care how you feel about this whole business. So – I’m gonna go out on a limb here – I promise to be discreet. When and where we finally do wind up in bed together, you will never know unless you ask me, or unless she tells you. But if you do ask, I will not lie to you. So if you decide someday to open that can of worms, you’d better be sure you want to know the truth.”
“Fair enough,” George said. “So when do we want to try to get together with Will and Dan for rehearsals?”
Their conversation was suddenly interrupted by a round of applause from the hallway. “I came back down to get a glass of ice water,” Isolde said, “and heard you talking. Because it sounded serious, and because it involved me, I have to admit to eavesdropping. So may I have a word here?”
“How much did you hear?” George asked.
“Everything,” Isolde replied. “I never meant to hurt you, George. You really are sweet, and I do love you, but I’m not in love with you. I thought I was, and I thought I knew what love is, but now I realize I do not. There is no electricity between us. And I don’t love you, Terry – at least I can’t say I do, because I really don’t know you. Maybe someday, but only time will tell. And you’re right, George. Someday, Terry and I will probably wind up making love with each other. So I want to promise too. I promise that I will be discreet. I will never throw it up at you, and I will never force you to witness it, or even to admit to anyone else that it is happening. And if you ask, I promise I will never lie to you. And to you, Terry, I promise I will never throw it up in your face when George and I are having sex. And this I solemnly promise both of you: I will never make comparisons. You are each unique individuals, and you each have your good points and, I’m sure, your bad, both in bed and out of it.”
Both George and Terry looked at her incredulously.
“Close your mouths, you two; you’ll catch flies,” she said. She then went on, “As I said, I love you, George. I love making love with you, and I love being with you, and, yes, I even love your stupid car. And I’m not going to stop doing the things I love just because Terry, here has come into our lives. But I can’t ignore the electricity I feel with him, and I can’t stay away from him, either. For a while, at least, I have decided to have sex with both of you. Not both at once, mind you, but individually and polyandrously. That is, if you will both have me.” She stopped and stood silently, looking from one to another of them.
George was the first to answer. “Well,” he said. And then, “Well,” again. “I was mentally prepared to have you dump me for Terry, and I was prepared for you to carry on an affair that I would pretend I didn’t know about, so maybe what you are suggesting isn’t so very far out of line. Of course, we won’t be able to live together. I don’t think I could stand the thought of you two in my bed together, and besides, where would I go? But you make reasonable money temping, and I imagine you could find a place that wasn’t too far away from either of us.”
“What about you, Terry? What do you think?” Isolde asked.
“I suppose I could give it a try, providing the logistics can be worked out. After all – I’ve been thinking that in essence, I’m contemplating sharing you with George anyway, only this way, it would all be more honest. We wouldn’t have to go sneaking around.”
“I have the logistics all figured out,” said Isolde. “Here it is, almost the end of August. George’s lease is up for renewal in September. Monday morning, I’m going to talk to Bob to see how much he would charge for this place. I’m gonna lean on him for off-season rates, of course. This house - and it is a house, even though you refer to it as a cabin, Terry – has three bedrooms, two full baths, and no shared bedroom walls. We could all live here under one roof. There is no reason Bob could not rent your farmhouse out and give us a year-round rate here. I suspect that, if we work out some sort of money pooling for the stuff we all use – like rent and utilities – we will discover there are certain economies of scale. And we are all going to need more cash to put into the gas tank and bridge tolls if we’re gonna commute to Easton.”
“I suppose renting out the farmhouse makes sense,” said Terry. “I was sort of wondering how I was going to afford a hired hand to help out with that place when I start spending a lot of time putting the amusement park rides together and maintaining them.”
“You never said you could do the mechanical stuff at the park!” exclaimed George.
“You never asked,” Terry replied, matter-of-factly.
“So do you have an Operator’s License?” asked George. “I just sort of assumed we’d have to work under Bob’s.”
“Bob doesn’t have one. All through high school, I worked part-time at the old Carlins Amusement Park, in Baltimore. The summer after I graduated, I worked there full-time, and took the test that fall. When Bob started buying up old rides, I renewed it, so I could supervise their disassembly and packing for storage.”
“Maybe this crazy pipe dream is more realistic than I thought,” said George.
“Well,” since we are going to set up house here,” said Isolde, “I’m taking the bedroom with the queen-sized bed. And right now, I think I’m going to go use it. Com’ere, you two. I think it’s time for a group hug and I want a kiss goodnight from each of you.”
Grinning like Cheshire cats, Terry and George both stood up and came around the table toward Isolde. They all wrapped arms around each other, and stood there, in the middle of the kitchen, basking in their newly found camaraderie.
She kissed George good night. It wasn’t a chaste kiss, either; it was a deep one, with open mouths. Then she kissed Terry the same way. As she turned to go, he swatted her ass, and said, “Hie thee off to bed, thou little hussy.” She giggled as she went into the hallway.
George turned to Terry and said, “On that note, I think I’m going to bed too. This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Good night.” He walked out the doorway and into the hall.
“Goodnight, Louis,” Terry said, and switched off the kitchen light.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/novels/george-isolde-etc-ch-vii.aspx">George, Isolde (etc,) Ch VII</a>