George woke up full of welts, and itching all over. His back and neck were stiff from sleeping hunched over. He scrunched up his face, and could feel the dried salt on his cheeks. He rubbed his chin and cheeks with his right hand as he turned his left arm toward the light filtering through the front window, and peered at his watch. It said 3:15. He got up and walked into the house as he tipped the bottle up and chugged his now warm beer. He set the empty bottle on the kitchen counter. He turned off the kitchen light, and went up stairs. On his way, he stopped off at the bathroom and peed. He noticed the bedroom door was closed, and considered for a moment peeking inside to see if they were sleeping, but thought better of it. He went into his bedroom, closed the door, took off his clothes and fell onto the bed on top of the sheets. He didn’t even notice there were sheets on the bed. He was back asleep within minutes.
George was naked, and walking down a long dark hallway, toward a door at the far end. There was light spilling around the edge of the door, and he could hear laughter coming from within. It sounded like a party was going on in there. He kept passing doors staggered on his right and left. Each one was dark, but behind each door, he could hear couples having sex. Behind one would be a squeaking spring bed, and behind another, moaning. Behind one of the doors, he heard a headboard rhythmically slamming against the wall. It was in the same tempo and keeping time with the polka music being played on a calliope in the room at the end of the hallway. He walked and walked, but got no nearer the end, and passed more and more doors on either side.
George woke up. He was soaking wet with perspiration, and he had to pee again. He looked at his watch, but it was too dark to tell what time it was. He knew it must have been very late, because the late night sounds had stopped, and the early ones had not begun yet. He got out of bed and walked over to the open window, and looked out into the night. The moon was far to the west and very low, so he figured it must have been about 4:30.
Actually, he wasn’t far wrong. It was four forty five.
He went into the bathroom and closed the door. He really did not want to wake up, so he sat down to pee. That way he didn’t have to be cognizant enough to aim. As he passed Isolde’s bedroom on the way back to his own, he heard Terry cry out. He was suddenly wide awake. He went into his room, and quietly closed the door. Climbing under the sheet, he put his pillow over his ears, so he would not hear any more. He lay awake for a long time, wondering what he had done wrong in his life to deserve this, and what he had done wrong to Isolde that made her do this to him. Chapter XI
George woke up to the smell of coffee and bacon. He sat up in bed and looked at the watch. 9:30.
Oh SHIT! he thought. I’m late for work. I’d better call. He pulled on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, and went downstairs to the kitchen.
“Good morning, Sweetie,” Isolde said brightly.
“I gotta call work and tell them I’m gonna be late.” George said.
“I already called them. I talked to Fred, and he said that since you are trying to get moved, you can take the day off, “ Isolde replied.
“Trying to get moved?”
“Yeah – well, I called Bob this morning – his number is taped to the telephone– and it is all set up for us to move in here. So then I called Fred, to see if you could get off to make the move. He said that things are not terribly busy at the shop, and you could take as much time as you needed. Of course, he isn’t going to pay you for the time off, but he isn’t going to hold it against you, either.”
“That’s the only problem with working Flat Rate,” George said. “You get good money while you’re working, but if you don’t work, you don’t eat. I suppose I could work salaried for one of the big dealers, like Jerry’s or Len Stoler, but then I wouldn’t get the chance to work on anything interesting.”
“That reminds me, “ Isolde said. “Did you ever hear back from the Maserati guy in New Jersey? I know you wanted to see if he had a manual for that car in the shop.”
“Oh, yeah,” George said. “The manual came in on Friday. I forgot to tell you, what with the gig and all. The durn thing’s in Italian. I think I can figure out what I need to from it though, ‘cause most of the motor is like the 3.4 and 3.8 liter Jaguar engines. Ignition is neat, though. It has two coils, and two sparkplugs per cylinder.”
“Well, I don’t know anything about that, but I’m glad you are going to be able to get somewhere with it.”
“So what did you tell Bob? And how did it go last night? Um – don’t give me any details, but did you come?”
“George, Honey, why are you doing this to yourself? I told you I was not going to throw it up in your face, and I don’t want you beating yourself to death over what Terry and I do together. Let’s just say things went well and let it go at that. Would you please stay with me tonight?”
George was disappointed that things had gone well. He knew that meant she came at least once, which was more than had ever happened with him, and it made him feel inadequate. “So. What did you tell Bob, and what was his reaction?” he asked, by way of changing the subject.
“I told him our plan; that we three were thinking about living here together, and Terry wanted to get a hired hand to live in the farmhouse, so he could spend time working on the rides.”
“I take it he did not ask about sleeping arrangements?”
“Well, actually, he alluded to them, and I non-commitally alluded to what we are doing about them, but neither of us came right out and said it. I think he was trying not to pry, and frankly, I think he had an approach avoidance problem about the whole concept.”
“Well, so do I,” George said.
“I do too,” said Isolde. “I have never done this with anyone before, and - no pun intended – I’m just feeling my way. I think we all are. Terry is still upstairs. He didn’t want to see you first thing this morning. I think he feels guilty, and he was worried about how you were going to react.”
“I’m gonna take him a cup of coffee,” said George.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” Isolde asked. “It isn’t gonna bother you to see the bedclothes all messed up, where we were sleeping together? I was going to take the sheets off and wash them.”
“If it bothers me, I think I’d better get used to it, don’t you?” replied George.
He went to the bottom of the stairs and yelled up, “HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR COFFEE?”
“Black,” came the muffled reply.
As George was taking the coffee up the stairs, he noticed his hand was shaking. This is pretty strange, he thought, and is going to take some getting used to.
After he left the kitchen, Isolde thought to herself, I wonder how I can keep George from hurting so much over this. I can’t change. God, that was incredible last night! I don’t think I have ever had so intense an orgasm. I hope they can work out their problems with this arrangement, and I really hope the band thing takes off. I‘m not gonna tell George just yet, that I told Fred about it. I’ll do that if it really does look like it’s gonna work. I don’t want to build up his hopes. And I’m not gonna tell him he thought it would be a great thing for George to be able to work both mechanic and music jobs without having to worry about taking time off from one to do the other. Fred really has been good to George these past two years; not like that other asshole he was working for. Paul would never have given him this time off. He would have made him come in and get his tools and given him his walking papers. Oh that reminds me. I gotta go get the papers from the Baltimore County Courthouse. I think George is gonna really be surprised when I tell him about the divorce – I hope he doesn’t think I just got it because of Terry. I wish now I had told him when I filed, three months ago. Oh well, no use crying over spilt milk. Yeah Mom, I know I stole that saying from you. I wish Mom was still alive. I could have talked to her about – no, I couldn’t. In all the time she and Dad were together, she never even thought about messing around on him. Is that what I’m doing? Messing around? I never said to George that I’d be in a committed relationship. We never made any vows or promises to each other. Is that the way it works? You move in with someone and one day, ten years later, you wake up and you might as well be married? What’s gonnna happen with all of us? This is just so scary.
Her thoughts were interrupted when the phone rang. She went into the living room, and picked up the receiver.
“Hi, Isolde. Bob here. When he gets his lazy ass out of bed, tell Terry he needs to get in touch with the crane people, and set up a schedule for erecting the merry-go-round center post. Also tell him he needs to contact Canton Storage, and arrange to have the rest of the stuff brought down here from the warehouse. When do you think George can get cut loose from Fred’s place and move his tools down here?”
“I talked to Fred this morning. George doesn’t know I told him about your offer, because I didn’t want George to get his hopes too high – just in case this thing falls through.”
“I’m only gonna say this once, Isolde. Sometimes you are too tentative. Grab the brass ring when you have a chance. As they used to say in the sixties, ‘If you can’t go big, don’t go at all.’ And remember, if you think failure, you already have one strike against you. It’s like the driver in traffic who stops short, because he thinks he might have an accident. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sooner or later, he will have that accident, because somebody is gonna rear-end him.”
Isolde laughed. “I do have that tendency – whenever I’m faced with an opportunity, it’s the self-doubts and second guessing that kill me. I’ll pass your messages on to the boys, though. And, Bob, thanks – for everything.”
“Don’t mention it. I’m only looking out for number one. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it was gonna make money.”
“I think you are doing it because you love it, but if you want to put a dollar sign on it that’s your rationalization, not mine.”
“Young lady, you are entirely too perceptive and outspokenly honest for your own good. ‘I'll take your statement under advisement.”
“So long, Bob. If you think of any other little chores, give us a buzz.”
“Good bye, Isolde.” Bob chuckled to himself as he hung up the phone. They need her, he thought, to keep them straight, probably in more ways than one. I’m sure either she already has, or soon will be, doing them both. If they can live with it, what’s it to me? And if she gets pregnant, well – either one of them would probably make a pretty good parent, and if they stay together, they for damn sure will make a good trio of parents.
When George arrived at the bedroom doorway, he was surprised to see the bed made, and Terry sitting in the chair, writing on a small note pad. The room smelled vaguely of sex, but there was no other indication that anything other than sleeping had gone on in there. He was thankful that the bed was made. “Here. I brought you a cup of coffee,” he said, holding the cup out to Terry.
A peace offering? Terry thought, but didn’t say it. What he said was, “Morning, George. I was just making a list of stuff to get done this week. I need to get hold of the guys in Canton to start moving the things from the warehouse. How soon do you think you will be able to get your toolbox moved to the park?”
“Well, I have this 1960-couple Maserati 3500 GT in the shop. The manual just came in on Friday, but it’s all in Italian. I have to get the motor rebuilt and back in it, and I’d like to get that job done before I leave Fred’s. To be honest, I want to get a chance to test drive it. I haven’t told Isolde yet, but the guy who owns the car wants to sell it cheaply, and if I like it, I may put the VW on the market.”
“A Masi, huh? You’re a glutton for punishment, you know that? I hear they’re fun cars to drive, but they break a lot.”
“Well, I figure it’s no less reliable than my ancient beetle, and it’s a Hell of a lot more car when it’s right. So, what the hey.”
“Hey, Man – it’s your funeral. When you get pissed at it, do I get to say I told you so?”
George laughed, “Yeah. Hey – sometimes I am my own worst enemy.”
“Just remember, you said it first, not I.”
“I think it’s gonna take a couple of days to get the motor back together and shoehorn it into the car, and then I figure another couple of days to get the car sorted out – So, tentatively, let’s say next – no, wait – I’m gonna lose a day or two getting all my shit moved here from Pasadena, so let’s say two weeks.”
“Moved? You mean we’re gonna do this thing? How do you know? Did you talk to Bob already this morning?”
“Nah. Isolde set it all up, while we were both being a couple of lay-a-beds. Apparently, she talked to Bob this morning; she told me that everything is all set, and we should start moving stuff today.”
“Well – I smell bacon. Let’s go down to the kitchen and find out what that little vixen has cooked up - in more ways than one - while we weren’t looking.”
Isolde was standing at the stove, moving the bacon around with a fork, when George and Terry came back down into the kitchen. They walked up behind her, and each put one arm around her waist. “Look,” she said, “I love you guys, but if you want any breakfast, you’ll have to give me some space. Terry, didn’t I see a toaster in one of these cupboards?”
“Yeah, I think there’s one around here somewhere,” he replied, “But we don’t have anything to put in it.”
“You dig it out, and get it cleaned up, and George can run over to the 7-Eleven and get us some bread and eggs. Oh, and butter – don’t forget butter.”
“Where did you find the bacon?” Terry asked.
“It was in the freezer compartment. I was digging around, looking for coffee, and I found the bacon in there, too.”
“Super!” Terry said.
“I’ll be right back,” said George, as the screen door slammed behind him.
“I was gonna fry some of the fish for breakfast,” said Isolde, “but since we have bacon, I think we should save the fish for either lunch or tonight’s dinner. Is there something I can save the bacon fat in? It will add good flavor to the fish.”
“There used to be a cup with a broken handle around here somewhere. That’s what I always used. I hope none of the tenants has pitched it.”
“Oh, tenants reminds me – Bob called back a few minutes ago. He wants you to contact the crane company to set up a time for them to erect the Merry-Go-Round, and he wants you to start moving the stuff out of the warehouse.”
“Moving the rides was on my list of things to do this week. And that reminds me. George tells me that we are moving in here, starting today. What kind of a deal did Bob set up?”
“I’ll tell both of you over breakfast. And, unless my ears deceive me, that sounds like a VW pulling into the driveway.” She looked out the window over the sink, and saw George getting out of the car.
Looks like he has more than just breakfast, she said.
“Do you need a hand?” she called out.
“No – I’ve got it. I bought you a paper and some 3 in 1 oil to put back in your pack.”
“You didn’t have to do that, but thank you.”
George brought his purchases in, and Terry started making toast. Isolde took the bacon out, and put it on some paper towels to drain. She took a bowl off the shelf, and broke four eggs into it. “Is there any milk?” she asked.
George opened the refrigerator, and took out a carton of milk. He opened the end and sniffed. “Not unless you intend to make sour milk biscuits or pancakes,” he said. “There’s some cream in here though – It smells ok. Will that do?”
“Sure. I‘ll just water it down a little.” Isolde said.
She mixed the eggs and liquid up with a fork, and poured it all into the frying pan. By lifting first one side of the pan then the other, she swirled it until the bottom was completely coated.
As the egg mixture started to firm up, she tilted the pan until all the liquid had a chance to begin to solidify. Then she crumpled the bacon across it, and started folding the cooked portion back over top. In a few minutes she had an omelet that was done perfectly. “Somebody bring me a plate,” she said. “this has to come out of the pan now, before it gets crisp on the bottom.”
George grabbed three plates from the cupboard, and handed her one. He set the other two at their places on the table. Terry had set the utensils with one place on each of three sides. He didn’t want any hassles with George over who did or did not get to sit next to Isolde, or, for that matter who got to sit across from her, where he could look at her.
Isolde split the omelet into three portions, and placed one on each of the other plates, and they all sat down to eat. No one seemed interested in saying any sort of grace, so they dug right in.
“Okay,” Isolde said, “ So I’ve been busy making phone calls this morning. I talked to Bob, and told him my idea of all of us living here, under one roof, and added your suggestion, Terry, about finding a tenant for the farmhouse who could act as a hired hand. He liked that idea, and said he could cut some slack on the rent, for the right person. He also lowered the rent for this place; I have to go meet with him today to sign the lease. He said it would be best to have the place in my name, in case you too had some kind of falling out. I think he meant over me, but he didn’t say it, and I didn’t broach the subject. I also did not tell him about our – um, sleeping arrangements. I did mention, though, that this place is ideal, since it has three bedrooms. I also went out on a limb – I wasn’t gonna tell you this, George, but when Bob called back, he talked me into it. When I called Fred to ask about getting you some time off, I told him the whole scenario about the Brass Ring Band, and Koening Park, and everything. Well – not EVERYthing.” She smiled to herself, and went on, “Fred says you can work there as long as you want to, but he’d like to have a little notice so he can keep the repair bays filled with mechanics. He also said if you ever want to come back, he’ll find a place for you, even if he has to hang a bay from the ceiling.”
“It sounds like this guy Fred thinks pretty highly of you, “said Terry.
“He’s a good guy to work for but funny, in that you never know quite what he thinks of your work until you hear it from someone else,” George said. He kind of smiled to himself; he was pleased that Fred had said that.
“So, while I’m here playing domestic goddess, and running around playing attorney and signing leases and such, why don’t you two start moving stuff over here? While I’m out, I’ll pick up a few groceries. Terry, is there any food you dislike?”
“I’m not real big on artichoke, and I don’t eat slime, so okra is out. Other than that, I’ll eat whatever is in front of me. But can we take time to drink another cup of coffee before we dash off?” Terry asked.
Isolde laughed. “Sure. Here, refill mine too, while you are up.”
“I’m curious,” George said. “How much rent is he asking, if you don’t mind saying?”
“I don’t mind at all. You guys are gonna help pay it,” Isolde said. “Nine hundred a month, and the utilities are on us.”
“That’s dirt cheap!” Terry exclaimed. “I wonder why so low.”
“I asked him that, and he said it was just coming out of one pocket and going into the other, since all three of us will be on his payroll,” Isolde explained. “When he told me that, I asked why he didn’t just pay us less, and include the place in the deal, but he said it gets too complicated at tax time if he does that. That’s also why he wanted only one name on the lease, because he would be listed as the employer for all of us.”
“I’m surprised he wanted a lease at all,” George said.
“It all has to do with the way the state and the fed have rental income set up,” replied Terry. Í have a lease on the farmhouse, even though I am an employee, and even though we’re related by marriage – sort of.”
“I don’t know how to ask this diplomatically, so I’m just gonna put it out there, Terry,” said George. “Did you ever know your Mom?”
“No,” Terry said, “or at least not that I remember her. Bob knows who she is – or was – he told me she died about ten or eleven years ago.”
“Wow,” said George. She must have died at about the same time as my Mom.”
“I remember asking Bob at the time if she died of anything I might have inherited the genes for, but he said she just worked herself to death. Apparently, after her husband left, she was raising the boy, and working two jobs, and just got her health and resistance run down. By the time she realized her flu wasn’t getting any better, and went to the doc, she had a full-blown case of pneumonia.”
George was struck by the similarities between Terry’s mother’s death and his own. “I think that is really what killed my mom,” he said. “She was down with the flu, I remember, and we didn’t have money for a doctor, and she was taking some stuff she got at the grocery store, and drinking a lot of whiskey so she could sleep. Then, one morning, she didn’t wake up.”
“You never told me that,” said Isolde.
“You never asked, and it isn’t the kind of thing that comes up in everyday conversation.”
“How did you deal with all that “ Terry asked.
“Well, I was in my twenties, and living at home while I was going to college on the GI Bill, so I did what anyone would do; I called the VA to find out how to deal with getting her buried and all that stuff. They put me in touch with Social Services, and those guys handled it all from there. Turns out, she had an insurance policy for about two grand that covered funeral and burial. I got a little more from her employer – half a year’s salary, as I recall – enough to buy a good roll-around tool box and some tools I didn’t have. So I dropped out of school and started twisting wrenches.”
“What was your major?” Terry asked.
“Oh, I was majoring in Music Ed, but my heart wasn’t in it”
“Nah. So you get a degree to teach. Whadaya get – elementary strings, with intonation problems that’ll set your teeth on edge and give you migraines, middle school kids with their hormones going wild, or high school marching band competition. Any way you cut it, there’s no real music in teaching public school music. And since when did music become a competitive sport, anyway?”
“O-o-o-o. Did I hit a sore spot?” asked Terry.
“Well – I guess it’s like a bruise – it only hurts if you push it. I have some very definite ideas about the educational system in this country, as you’ll probably find out,” George said.
“Jesus!” Isolde said. “Don’t get him started, or we’ll be here all day!”
“We’ll have to talk about that sometime,” said Terry. “I have a few ideas of my own.”
“Well,” Isolde broke in, “Not right now. Right now you two have to skedaddle, and I have sheets to wash and beds to make, a lease to go sign and groceries to pick up. It’s time we all climbed on our horses and rode off in a cloud of dust.”
“Hey! Wait a minute,” said George. “What about kisses, all around?”
“Get away from me,” said Terry.
“Not you, Dickhead, her,” George laughed.
Isolde threw her arms around first George, then Terry, and gave them each a big kiss.
“Now GO, you two, before I sic the dogs on you.”
They all laughed as George and Terry went out the door.
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