Escape to Paradise

One of my passions is ballroom dance. I’ve been doing it for more than 40 years. I’m nowhere near competition level but I consider myself rather competent. Another passion is cruising. I’ve been on 18 cruises. I like traveling and I hate living out of a suitcase. This way I get to unpack once, but I’m in a different place every day. Food is provided and pushed all the time, there is constant entertainment, and they make my bed. What’s not to like? All but two of my cruises were specific dance cruises. See passion number one. A new passion I’ve picked up in retirement is writing. I don’t claim any talent at this but I enjoy it. Since I’m not trying to support myself, I can write whatever I please and not care what anyone else thinks. Even with this attitude I’ve had seven short stories picked up by magazines. Six have been published, I decided not to let go of the seventh one.

This story is a combination of all three of my passions. I get to write about a cruise and ballroom dancing. It also involves abusive partners, mystery, the scent of ginger flowers and very strong drinks with tiny umbrellas. Well the last two items are up to you. So pull up your chaise and tropical drink of your choice and enjoy.

This story appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review on January 21, 2020.

Escape to Paradise

 At 8 pm on a Thursday in January, there was a knock at Jenna’s door. She looked through her peephole and began shivering. It was Dusty. Dustin Randall, her ex-boyfriend. Dustin, the ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t let go. Dustin, the ex-boyfriend who nearly put her in the hospital the last time he beat her. Which would be the LAST time he beat her, she had decided. She had packed her bags and left him. First, she fled to the Women’s Center. They helped her get an apartment. She never gave him her new apartment location. Someone must have ratted her out.

 “Go away, Dusty!” she shouted through the door. She was aware he could hear her through the cheap thin material.

 “Come on, baby. Let me in,” he wheedled.

 “You’re not supposed to be here. I have a restraining order.”

 “Yeah, my daddy’s getting it dismissed. Come on, babe. I just want to talk.”

Jenna closed her eyes and prayed for strength. The results of their last ‘talk’ had not yet healed, leaving lingering yellow and green marks on her face and arms. 

 “I’m calling the cops!” she yelled.

 “And what are they gonna do? They’re all on my daddy’s payroll.”

 “My lawyer said I could call the State Troopers. They don’t kowtow to your family.”

 “You don’t want to make me mad, Jenna. You know how I get. You just bring the misery upon yourself. Don’t make me hurt you.”

 “Go away! I’m done with you. I don’t ever want to see you again. Can’t you get that through your thick head?”

 “You know I can’t do that, honey. We belong together. You and me. You belong to me. And I aim to keep what’s mine. Now open this fucking door!” Jenna had just finished dialing 911.

 “911 Emergency. What is the nature of your emergency?”

 “There’s a man trying to break into my apartment,” she whispered.

 “Are you able to get out of the apartment?”

 “No. He’s at the only door.”

 “Do you know the identity of the intruder?”

 “Yes, my ex-boyfriend. I have a restraining order against him.”

 “I’ve already dispatched the police, in the meantime..,”

 “No. The police are on his daddy’s payroll. They won’t do anything. Can you send the State Patrol?”

 “Sorry, ma’am. We’re only connected to the police. Your police department is not owned by any family. They will protect you. I suggest you get into the most secure room you can and barricade the door. The police should be there in five minutes.”

 Wham! Jenna dropped the phone at the sound of Dusty trying to break the through the door. She could hear the faint squawk of the 911 operator still trying to talk to her. Jenna scurried into the kitchen, clawed open a drawer, and pulled out the revolver she had just bought. Checking that it was loaded and that the safety was off, she put her back against the wall directly in front of the door. With arms extended, holding the gun with both hands, Jenna pointed it at the door. The end of the revolver trembled violently.

 “Dusty, go away! I have a gun.”

 “And what do you think you’re gonna do with a gun? I ain’t scared of you, girl. You ain’t got the balls to shoot me. We gonna have us some fun. You ever heard of being pistol whipped?” Wham! A huge crack appeared in the door. 

Wham! The thin veneer of the door shattered. Dusty pushed his arms through, knocking the plywood out of his way. He leered evilly when he saw Jenna ten feet away, scared out of her wits. She usually thought he was so handsome, and he usually was. But when he got that evil look on his face, she knew she was in trouble. He forced his way into the room. Before he said anything, Jenna fired the pistol at him three times. All three missed, mostly because she turned her head to the side and closed her eyes as she fired.

 “What the fuck, girl? You gonna pay for that.”

 Jenna fired the remaining three shots. At least one hit him because Dusty went down howling in pain. Bright red appeared on his thigh. She could hear sirens in the distance.

 Dusty looked at Jenna through the grimace of pain on his sweaty face.

 “You have just signed your death warrant, bitch.”

***

 The police swarmed in a few minutes later. They immediately recognized Dusty and knew what was what. Jenna was disarmed and taken into custody. They called an ambulance for Dusty. She called her lawyer from the police department. Since she was in her own apartment, had a restraining order and a broken-down door her lawyer could bully the night cops into not booking her but releasing her to him. Mr. Randall would probably fire them.

 As he drove her to a friend’s house he said, “Too bad you didn’t kill the bastard. Save us all a lot of trouble.”

 “He said he is going to kill me. He means it, too.”

 “Well, he’s going to have to wait. Violating the restraining order, breaking down your door, communicating threats. We might put him away for a while this time.”

 “No, we won’t,” Jenna said with defeat in her voice. “His daddy will just paper over it. He’ll be bandaged up and out on bail by morning. He’s never going to stop. Not till one of us is dead.”

 “That’s just defeatist talk. Come on. There’s a new judge who isn’t owned by the Randalls and I think I can get this before him. We might get that ass some serious time.”

 “You really think so?” For the first time there was hope in her voice.

 “Yeah, I do. Here we are.” He pulled up in front of Arlene’s house. Arlene was Joyce’s half-sister. Joyce was Jenna’s best friend. Joyce’s apartment would be the first place Dusty would look. Dusty didn’t know Joyce had a half-sister which made it a perfect hideout. Arlene opened the door as they got to the porch. 

 “Come on in, honey. That bastard acting up again?”

 “Ms. Connors, thanks for taking Jenna in like this. Remember, for both of your safety, the Randalls mustn’t find out she’s here.”

 “I ain’t scared of Dusty Randall. Let that punk set foot on my property. I got a shotgun and I don’t miss. I’d love a chance to blow his ass clear across North Carolina.”

 “I love your fighting spirit but please, lie low. Good night, Jenna. Get some rest. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He left.

***

 When her lawyer called the next day, the news was as expected—not good. They had released Dusty on bail that morning. He never went to the jail. His family arranged for him to be held overnight at the hospital. The Randalls were making noises about suing her, but her lawyer explained NC law was on her side. The broken door, the recording of the 911 call and the all-important restraining order proved that she was within her rights to defend herself, with deadly force if necessary. The good news was that he had the case placed before the new unbiased judge. The bad news was that the case wouldn’t be heard for another month. Until that time, Dusty was free to do as he pleased. 

 “He knows where I work. I can’t take a month off. He’s going to find me and kill me.”

 “We’ll work something out,” he said.

***

 On Monday morning, Jenna drove her five-year-old Honda Civic to the State Employees’ Credit Union where she worked. She didn’t see Dusty’s Camaro anywhere in the parking lot, but still waited for the security guard to come out to escort her into the building. She worked in an office, not as a teller, so Dusty would have to get past the security guard and locked doors to get to her. She knew he was crazy enough to try it, though. 

 After work, the security guard walked her out to her car. As she pulled away, she thought she saw Dusty’s blue car a few blocks behind. Since he didn’t get any closer, she figured he was trying to tail her to her apartment. As planned, she drove straight to her attorney’s office in a highrise. It had the benefit of a gated parking lot. The gate guard watched as she entered the building. Once inside, she went through the building, out another little-used service entrance, across an alley to where Arlene was waiting. Tomorrow Arlene would bring her back to enter through the side entrance and she would take her car to work. Jenna knew this would not work for long. Dusty was a lot of disagreeable things, but stupid was not one of them. Crazy, but not stupid. That’s what made him so dangerous. He would figure out there was a ruse and discover it. But she had a few days.

***

 “Aruba? You think I can afford to go to Aruba?” Jenna exclaimed over the phone to Joyce. It was Wednesday evening.

 “Yes, you can. My brother and his fiancée are having to cancel. They can turn the tickets over to us. They’re willing to let them go for half-price. It’s a steal. And it leaves this Saturday. You can get away from dickhead and relax. By the time you get back, it’ll be 14 days closer to the hearing. Less than a week to go at that point.”

 Jenna was hesitant. She had vacation time and her boss at the credit union was very supportive and concerned about her situation. It was a near certainty that she would approve the time off. But a cruise? Such a luxury seemed almost obscene considering the trouble she was facing. But then again. Fourteen days without having to hide, look over her shoulder, be constantly on edge would be heaven. 

 “How much?” she finally said. Then, “I’m in.”

***

 Jenna packed in her apartment on Thursday night with a State Trooper guarding her. She realized she hadn’t obsessed about Dusty for several hours and was feeling a little happy again. Just one more day to go.

***

 As she ate her lunch on Friday at her desk, as she usually did, Jenna heard a commotion out in the lobby area of the credit union. Someone was shouting. She walked over to the security station near her office and looked at the console, which had a view from all the security cameras in the building. Sure enough, in the lobby was Dustin Randall, red faced, probably a little drunk facing off against two security guards. He ranted while they just impassively stood in front of the door that gave access to the rest of the offices. Her boss showed up beside her.

 “That asshole needs to get shot, and not in the leg,” she said. “You’re doing the right thing to get out of town for a few weeks. Send me a postcard. I can stick it on my refrigerator as my inspiration to get back into my bikini.”

 As they watched the camera footage, Dusty seemed to wind down his rant and give up. He turned as if to leave, but it was just a feint. He swung back around with a roundhouse punch aimed at the first security officer’s jaw. The officer reacted in time and only got a glancing blow. Immediately the guards jumped on Dusty, taking him to the floor. In no time they cuffed him, with him screaming obscenities and Jenna’s name, waiting for the police to come pick him up. Jenna revised her estimation of Dusty. Looks like he is stupid, after all. Well, she thought, this will keep him tied up until tomorrow. It looks like I will get away.

***

 “Wow, I didn’t realize how big it is,” Jenna gaped at the Ocean Flyer, pride of the Cormorant line, as they were boarding.

 “Yep, just us and 2,000 of our closest friends,” joked Joyce. 

 Once on board, they hustled up to the Lido deck for the buffet lunch. Sitting at a table, looking out over the palmed resorts of Fort Lauderdale, Jenna momentarily wondered if she was just having a wonderful dream. She was so afraid she’d wake up to find Dusty breaking down her door. This is paradise.

 “Forget him,” Joyce said, placing her hand on Jenna’s. “At least for the next 14 days. Relax, unwind, get drunk, flirt with some cute guys. That’s what vacation is for.”

 “You’re right. Tell the waiter I’ll have a margarita. And find me some cute guys.” They both laughed gaily. 

***

 There were so many activities on board the ship they hardly knew what to do first. They would be at sea for two days before any island stops so they’d have plenty of time to explore. Jenna found one activity that she considered a must.

 “There’s an orchestra playing ballroom music in the Queen’s Lounge after dinner. Let’s go.”

 “Ballroom? Seriously?”

 “Yes. I took lessons for a couple of years, BD, Before Dusty. I let that get away. I want to reclaim something that he has no part of.”

 “Okay,” Joyce said dubiously. “But you’re buying the drinks. And if it’s all old folks, I’m outta there.”

***

 It turned out there were mixed ages in the lounge and several single men. That immediately caught Joyce’s eye. She and Jenna were attractive young ladies, so they quickly caught the attention of the men present. A very attractive fortyish man came to their table.

 “I’m Jack, a ship dance host. May I have this dance?” He held his hand out to Joyce. She giggled girlishly and accompanied him to the floor. Two minutes later, after she had walked all over his feet, he resignedly returned her to the table. 

 “Sorry, guess I should have told you I don’t know how to dance,” she said to him sheepishly. Jenna could tell he was biting his tongue. “You should ask Jenna here. She’s a bona fide ballroom dancer.”

 “Joyce! I am not. I haven’t danced in two years.”

 “It’s like riding a bicycle. It comes back easily. May I?” the host asked. Jenna allowed him to lead her to the floor. She could tell it was a foxtrot.

 “I only know American style foxtrot,” she said. It impressed the host she recognized it was a foxtrot and that she knew there was a difference in styles. He beamed, took her in dance hold and moved off. Slow, quick, quick. Jenna found that it came back. They floated around the room effortlessly. This is what dancing is all about, she said to herself. It’s like flying. Just skimming along, free and easy. We’re like Fred and Ginger. Oh, how I have missed this. When the host returned her to her table, he commented it was one of the best dances he’d had recently and hoped she would allow him to dance with her again later. She smiled and assured him he was welcome anytime. She felt like she was glowing.

 “Ooh. He likes you,” Joyce giggled. “And so debonair. Looks like Cary Grant.”

 After another song, a young man, upper twenties, their age, came to their table. He was cute, and Jenna found his nervous look endearing.

 “I’m nowhere near as good as you, but do you want to dance? I’m Drew, by the way,” he said to Jenna. It was a rumba. Jenna figured even a novice could probably handle it. 

 Drew proved that he had a basic understanding of the dance. He only stepped on her a few times, but mostly he did basic moves. This gave her an opportunity to talk to him.

 “So, are you enjoying the cruise?” was all she could think to say. She grimaced at how trite it sounded.

 “Slow, quick, quick,” he said. “Can’t talk. Counting. Slow, quick, quick.”  She giggled and allowed him to finish the dance without further interruption. 

 He returned her to her table and asked Joyce to dance, but she said no. She decided she wasn’t a ballroom dancer and was content to just watch. Plus, she was on her third hurricane.

 Drew came back a couple more times that evening to ask Jenna to dance as did Jack. The third time Drew returned her to the table, Joyce asked him to stay awhile.

 “Shtay awhile,” she drawled. “It’ll shave ush all time.” He looked at Jenna and she just grinned. Joyce was a lovable drunk. Drew pulled up a chair and sat by Jenna. 

 “Look at that old couple,” Jenna pointed out a couple in the crowd. It was a waltz so nearly everyone was dancing. “They aren’t doing anything fancy, but they look so happy. They’ve probably been dancing with each other 50 years. It’s so romantic to be so comfortable and in sync with someone. Her eyes are closed. She’s probably remembering the handsome boy she fell in love with.”

 “Her husband or some other guy?” Drew asked. Then he winked and laughed.

 “Oh, you,” Jenna chided and swatted his arm lightly.

 “You are such a romantic,” he said. “It’s nice to find that. I’m afraid I don’t see it all that much.”

 “Drew. You have a southern accent. Where are you from, anyway?”

 “Well, I grew up in Winston-Salem. That’s in North Carolina. Now I work for a bank in Charlotte. Me and my buddy Bill decided to take a cruise together. He’s probably up in the disco putting moves on underage girls. He’s a mess.”

 “Hey, we’re from North Carolina, too. Just outside Greensboro. And I work in a bank. Well, at least, a credit union.”

 “Wow, howdy homegirl,” he laughed. They heard a snore and noticed Joyce was out. 

 “Well, I guess I need to get Sleeping Beauty to bed. Come on, girl. Up.” She grabbed Joyce’s arm and dragged her up. Joyce stumbled a little, and Jenna put her arm around her. 

 “Let’s go, babe. Goodnight, Drew. I hope to see you around the ship.”

 “Night.”

***

 Midmorning next day found Jenna ensconced at a small table on the Lido deck enjoying the sunshine and a breakfast of fruit. 

 “I swear I’m not stalking you. Really. Cross my heart.” Jenna looked up and Drew stood by her table with a tray of food. 

 “Well, good morning, have a seat,” she invited.

 “Thanks. Where’s your other half?”

 “In bed with an ice pack on her head.”

 “Ouch.”

 “That’s what she said,” she quipped. “How about Bill?”

 “Oh, he’s out at the pool chasing a bikini.”

 “Already? It’s barely past 10,” she asked with surprise.

 “I guess the early bird gets the bimbo,” he said.

 “You don’t seem to think much of Bill, sometimes.”

 “Don’t get me wrong. I love him like a brother. It’s just he has no judgment. He just thinks with his, well, his smaller head.” Jenna couldn’t help but giggle. 

 After breakfast, Drew went to check on Bill. Jenna thought a walk along the deck would be nice. As she neared the front of the ship she saw people gathering at the rail and pointing. She went to see what was going on. Just fifty yards away she saw a family of dolphins leaping about playing and having a marvelous time. Everyone was exclaiming and taking pictures. She was as charmed as anyone. She looked up and saw people on other decks had also noticed the dolphins. About two decks up she noticed a handsome man, a very handsome man with an evil leer. He was staring at her. It was a face she knew all too well. It was Dustin Randall. She froze for a second and then bolted. She raced as fast as she could back to her room. Once inside, she bolted the door and slumped to the floor leaning against it. Her heart felt as if it would burst.

 “What’s going on?” Joyce croaked blearily from her bed.

 “Oh my god, Joyce. Dusty is on the ship.”

 “What? He can’t be? How would he even know?”

 “Hell, his family knows everything that goes on. They probably had your phone bugged or something. I just saw him on deck, staring at me.”

 “Are you sure it was him?”

 “Joyce. I lived with him for six months. I know what he looks like. He’s here. He’s come after me. What am I gonna do?”

 “We need to see the captain.”

***

 They soon found out that no one can just ‘see the captain’. The purser’s office directed them to the security office. 

 “So you think your boyfriend followed you on this ship?” said Chief Security Officer Nigel Scott.

 “Yes.”

 “Has he made contact or threatened you in any way?”

 “No. But I have a restraining order that he can’t come within a thousand feet. Anywhere on this ship is inside that. And he knew I was coming on this ship.”

 “What’s the name?”

 “Dustin Lee Randall.” The security officer pulled up a computer file.

 “No one by that name on the manifest. Does he have an alias?”

 “Not that I know of.”

 “Well, there’s no one with that name listed. And our security is too tight for any stowaways. Maybe you just made a mistake.”

 “It wasn’t a mistake. You took pictures for our key cards when we got on. Let me look through the pictures and I’ll find him.”

 “I can’t let you go through our files, miss. That’s about a dozen breaches in security protocols. And even then, there are about a thousand men on this ship.”

 Jenna pulled out her phone. She didn’t have service on the ship but the camera app worked. 

 “Here’s his picture. Can you look for him for me?”

 “Miss. I have more important things to do than look through a thousand pictures trying to find a person who isn’t even on the ship.”

 “Oh, please. I’ll never be able to relax if I think he’s here. He’s said he will kill me.” She hated playing the damsel in distress, but this was an emergency.

 “Okay, look. Go to the purser’s desk and buy some phone minutes. Send his picture to this number.” He handed her a scribbled number. “When I have some free time, I’ll try to run through the guest photos. All right?”

 “Yes, thank you.”

 Jenna followed his instructions and then locked herself in her room. 

 “So you gonna stay here in the room the rest of the cruise?” Joyce asked, hands on her hips.

 “What else can I do?”

 “Oh, babe. Get over it. Go and live it up. There’s like a hundred people around you all the time on the ship. He’s not going to try anything here. Plus, there are hunky deck crew, totally kissable, too, standing every few feet on the deck. They can surely take care of him. You’re safe here. Safer than anywhere else. Don’t let him take this away from you.”

 “You think so?” Jenna was unsure. 

 “I’ll be right beside you. If I see him, I’ll scream bloody murder. Everyone will be watching. Probably taking video.”

***

 Joyce was recovered by the evening, but sipping only ginger ale. She raised an eyebrow as Drew approached their table in the Queen’s Lounge. 

 “Mind if I join you ladies?”

 “Please, sit,” offered Jenna. After a moment, Joyce gave Jenna a pointed look. A look that said ‘go for it’.

 “I’ve got a roll of quarters I need to throw away. I’ll be in the casino if anybody needs me,” she said airily and walked away.

 “Is it something I said?” Drew looked puzzled.

 “No, just Joyce being Joyce.”

 They danced to several songs. While he was nowhere near the skill level of the dance host, Jack, he was competent. Jack claimed a few dances, but he had to work the entire room. After about her fourth dance with Drew, Jenna said, “You should probably dance with some other ladies or people might talk.”

 “Let them talk. I enjoy dancing with you.”

 Jenna knew she was blushing, but it was nice to be getting positive attention for a change.

 “You seem preoccupied. I hope I’m not boring you,” Drew breathed.

 “Oh, it’s not you. I just had a bad moment today. I thought I saw my boyfriend.”

 “Boyfriend? Um, am I in the way?”

 “My ex-boyfriend. He’s been harassing me. I think he’s on the cruise, the bastard.’

 “I don’t want to get mixed up in any weird domestic stuff. Why don’t I go sit at another table?”

 “Don’t go, Drew. He’s not going to cause any trouble. I alerted the ship. They’re looking for him. As Joyce said, we’re always surrounded by like a hundred people. What’s he going to do?”

 “You sure. I don’t want to cause you any trouble.”

 “You won’t. You’re the nicest thing that’s happened to me in a while. I’m enjoying it.” Drew smiled self-consciously. She thought she saw a hint of a blush. It was adorable.

 “We’re stopping at the private island tomorrow. Care to explore it with me?” he asked.

 “I’ve already talked with Joyce about hitting the beach.”

 “Bring her. If I can pry Bill away from his bikini bimbo, we can make a foursome.”

 “Sure.”

***

 Drew showed up at the gangway the next morning alone. 

 “No Bill?” Jenna asked.

 “The bikini apparently held more promise. I swear she’s not even 17.”

 The three of them left the ship and were soon walking along the sand under palm trees. It was the middle of January and here she was in paradise. Bright sunshine, sparkling water in a shade of blue only seen in the Caribbean, gentle breeze softly scented with tropical flowers and coconut. If only I could stay here forever, Jenna thought. Stay here with someone like Drew.

 “Listen, you kids. I don’t need a sunburn as my souvenir, so I’m going to park it in a chaise under a palm tree. I’ve got a novel full of heaving bosoms to keep me occupied. You go have fun.” Joyce shooed them away. So they explored. Jenna had a delightful time. Drew turned out to be quite charming.

***

 That evening the purser found her at her dining table and asked to see her for a moment.

 “Security Officer Scott has checked the photo you provided against the passengers. It doesn’t match anyone on board. I’ve talked with the captain. Our security team will remain on alert, but we feel sure it was just mistaken identity. It’s happened before. Please try to relax. Here is a complimentary pass from the captain for a day in the spa. Please enjoy.”

 Back at the table, she told Joyce that there was no sign of Dusty. 

 “I was sure I saw him.”

 “Your nerves have been a mess, girl. You probably just saw what you fear. Kinda like your worst nightmare.”

 “I guess.”

***

 After dinner, they went back to the room to freshen up. Joyce said she had actually won money at the casino and would try her luck again.

 “Anything beats watching you and Casanova make cow eyes at each other.”

 “Joyce!” Jenna was shocked.

 “Hey, I just call it like I see it. He’s way hunky. I say go for it. I’m okay with the old bra on the doorknob, but I’m not spending all night in the library. Make it a quickie.”

 “Joyce! You’re scandalous. I’m not bringing Drew back to my room.”

 “Okay. Go to his. But mark my words. Sex is in the air.” She leered playfully and left before Jenna could throw anything at her.

 Jenna changed to a dress a little less formal than her dinner wear and headed for the lounge. She left her room and began walking up the long narrow hallway. You could see nearly the entire length of the ship here. It was dimly lit and kind of spooky. There was no one about except a gentleman coming from the direction she was heading. She started out. She suddenly noticed the man’s limping walk looked familiar. Her heart flew into her throat as he got close enough for her to make out his face. Dusty!

 She turned and fled back to her room. She could hear his running steps behind her.

 “Jenna! Stop, damn you!”

 She zipped her card in the lock and quickly slipped in the room and bolted the door. As she leaned back on the door, sobbing, she slid slowly to the floor. Would this nightmare never end?

 Once she was relatively together, she called the security desk. She explained that regardless of what they had told her, someone matching the description of her ex-boyfriend had just chased her back to her room. She realized she was sounding hysterical but couldn’t help it. Before long Security Officer Scott, her room steward and the ship’s doctor were in her room. 

 She accepted a sedative from the doctor. “He called my name. I know his voice. Why doesn’t anyone believe me?”

 “I’m sorry, miss, but I just don’t see any way he could have gotten on the ship. I have passed the photo you gave us to all ship’s personnel. If he is on this ship, we’ll find him. There is a suite available on the King’s deck. Entrance to the deck is key carded. We can upgrade you and your roommate there for extra security if you wish. No charge, of course,” the security chief offered. 

 The purser had paged Joyce, and she burst into the room.

 “What’s happened? Jenna, are you okay?”

 “No. Dusty IS on board. He chased me down the hall.”

 “Oh, shit. Sorry, guys,” she apologized for her colorful language.

 “I was just telling Miss Davenport that we can upgrade the two of you to a more secure deck.”

 “It’ll be a bitch to move all this stuff again,” she groused.

 “Don’t worry,” he said. “Your steward can arrange for some porters to transfer your belongings.”

***

 By nearly midnight, they had moved into the new suite.

 “Nice digs,” noted Joyce. “We actually can turn around without bumping butts.”

 “Yeah,” Jenna said wanly. She was a little spaced by the sedative. Joyce sat on the bed beside her.

 “Jenna, level with me,” Joyce said seriously. “What’s going on? Did you really see Dusty? Or do you just think you did? I mean, be honest. How could he have gotten on the ship with no one knowing? It doesn’t make sense.”

 “Not you, too,” moaned Jenna. “No one believes me. Do I have to turn up with a fucking knife in my chest to make you believe me?”

 “Oh, no, baby.” Joyce tried to soothe her, taking her in her arms. “I believe you. If you say you saw him, then you did.” Jenna just folded herself into a ball in Joyce’s arms and cried.

***

 Drew found them at a table during lunchtime the next day. He came up to their table, smiling.

 “Ok. This time I am stalking you. What happened last night? I missed you in the Queen’s Lounge.” He suddenly noticed her pallor. “Oh god, what’s happened? The boyfriend again?”

 “Yeah, he attacked her last night,” Joyce told him. 

 “Oh my god. I thought the ship said he wasn’t on board.”

 “Apparently the ship fucked up,” Joyce said tersely. 

 “I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

 “Well,” Joyce said. “I gotta take a leak. Stay here while I go.”

 “Your friend has a way with words,” Drew murmured, trying to lighten the mood. Jenna just looked at him. 

 “She’s just angry. Dusty has ruined her vacation, too. He poisons everything.”

 “I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this. You are such a nice lady.”

 “Thanks. I think I’ll go back to my room.” She got up to walk away.

 “Shouldn’t you wait for your friend?” 

 “Oh yeah. Walk me to the elevator? They restrict my deck entry. I’ll be safe from there.”

 He walked her down to the nearest elevator.

 “I know you’re feeling low right now. But I hope you come to the Queen’s Lounge tonight. It’s just not the same without you. I’ll miss you.”

 Jenna made a half smile. “I’ll see.”

 The elevator opened, and some people got off. She got in, with a group of people, pressing ‘King’s Deck’ on the panel. Drew seemed quite taken with her, she thought. She was somewhat taken with him, as well. Too bad the cruise was such a bomb. She could really do with two weeks of mindless flirting.

 The elevator stopped. A few people got off, a few got on. When the elevator stopped on the Queen’s deck, most people got off. It required a key card to go further. As the last person exited the elevator, Jenna glanced in the mirrored wall and almost died on the spot. The reflection showed that Dusty was right behind her in the elevator. 

 “I said I’d kill you,” he hissed. He grabbed for her arm, but she evaded him, and dove out the rapidly closing door, screaming. By the time security personnel had arrived, the elevator was long gone. One of the deck crew lifted her in his arms like a child and carried her to sickbay. 

***

 Hours later, Joyce helped Jenna climb into the bed in their suite.

 “It’s going to be all right, babe. Don’t you worry. Joyce is here and everything’s going to be fine.”

 “No, it’s not. They think I’m crazy. You do, too. Everyone does. Maybe I am.”

 “Now, that’s crazy talk. You know I’m with you on this. You just get some rest.”

***

 The next day, the ship’s doctor, purser and captain came to see her.

 “Miss Davenport,” the captain began. “We are terribly upset that your vacation has been marred by problems on this ship. My crew and I have done everything we can to ensure your safety, but I don’t know what else we can do. Tomorrow, we will dock in Curaçao. There is an American embassy there. If you wish, my staff will assist you in contacting them to arrange air transport back to your home destination. Unfortunately, we cannot offer a refund since the voyage is nearly half over, but if you have purchased trip insurance, our ship’s doctor will assist you with filing.”

 Jenna thought for a few moments. “Yes, I’d like to go home. Joyce, I want you to stay. There’s no need to ruin both our vacations.”

 “Nothing doing, hon. We’re in this together. I go where you go. Besides, I’d have a crappy time without you here to enjoy it with me. Looks like it’s time to pack.”

***

 “You up for dinner in the dining room tonight?” Joyce asked later that day.

 “Yeah, I think so. Might as well use it while we can. I have enjoyed the food on this cruise.”

 “You and me, too. A couple more days and I’d have to break out my fat britches.”  Jenna had to laugh.

***

 After dinner, Joyce said, “Come on. I’ll go with you to the Queen’s Lounge. You know Romeo will be there looking for you. And don’t worry. Neither of us will leave you for a second. Total protection. But you need to unwind a little.”

 “You don’t like the music. I hate to make you go through that.”

 “Oh, hell, girl. I’ve gone through much worse for a lot less. Just buy me a couple of hurricanes and I’ll be fine.”

 As soon as they found a table in the Queen’s Lounge, Drew showed up.

 “I was so worried about you,” he said to Jenna. “Are you going to be okay?” She had taken a half a sedative tab after dinner, so she felt she had a grip on her nerves. For now.

 “Thanks, Drew. You’re a dear. I’ve enjoyed meeting you.”

 “That sounds a lot like goodbye,” he said, puzzled.

 “It is. I’m leaving the cruise tomorrow. The captain said I can get a flight back to the US from Curaçao. I just don’t feel safe on the ship anymore.”

 Drew’s breath caught quickly. “Are you sure that’s the right thing to do? To just toss the whole vacation?”

 “I don’t know what else I can do. Constantly look over my shoulder waiting for him to attack me? That’s not a vacation. 

 “Joyce, talk some sense into her. She’s just giving up.”

 “Why do you care?” Joyce asked. Drew got quiet. 

 “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know I’m not allowed to have an opinion.”

 “Joyce, you don’t need to be rude,” Jenna said. “Drew, I’d love to stay. I’ve had such a nice time with you, but it isn’t working. I’m a nervous wreck.”

 “Well, it’s just that you’ve become kind of special to me these past few days. You seem to understand me and are so nice. Aw crap, I don’t know how to say it. I like you. And I’d like a chance to know you better.”

 “Drew, don’t start. We’re from different worlds.”

 “What different worlds? Charlotte and Greensboro are what, a couple hours apart? Maybe we were meant to meet.”

 “Oh brother,” Joyce said dryly. “I’m on the Love Boat.”

 “Well, at least, can we dance?” he asked. They danced several dances. Drew seemed determined to keep her dancing. He really is taken with me, she thought.

 A rumba came on. Drew pulled her close, very close. She realized she enjoyed dancing this closely with him. His face was close to hers. He kept looking into her eyes. Oh god, she thought. This feels like one of those trashy novels Joyce loves. He leaned in, as if hoping for a kiss. What the hell, she decided. Give him a nice memory. She opened her mouth to him. Maybe the sedative was just kicking in, but she was feeling a bit lightheaded. Or maybe it was the kiss. Damn! He’s good at this. A moment later, he had his mouth by her ear. 

 “Oh, Jenna. I think about you so much. I’ll be lost without you. Won’t you reconsider leaving me?” he whispered in her ear.

 “I’m not leaving you, Drew. It’s this ship. I can’t be on a ship with my ex. And I’m sure he’s somewhere on board.”

 “Jenna, you’re tearing me apart.”

 “Drew, please don’t make this any harder for me.”

 They remained in the lounge until the band quit at 11, but Jenna could tell the life had gone out of Drew. She’d been unaware of how deeply he felt. She liked him, too, but he was way ahead of her. The ladies gathered their belongings to leave. 

 “Will I get a chance to see you tomorrow?” he asked. She would swear there were unshed tears in his eyes.

 “We’re doing an early breakfast. I’ll be at Lido at 7.”

 “Okay. Bye.” He looked down at the floor. She felt awful.

 “Drew, you’ll be okay. Just do like Bill. Go chase some bikinis.”

 “I’m not interested in bikinis,” he said like a truculent little boy.

 “Joyce, go on. I need to talk to Drew.”

 Joyce looked at Drew. “She has a curfew of midnight, young man. Not a minute after. Got it?”

 He gave her a half-hearted grin. “Yes, ma’am.”

 Jenna laced her arm through Drew’s. They strolled up the incline out of the lounge into the central part of the ship. He turned right, and they went through the double doors out onto the deck. There was a half moon out. It cast enough light on the water that you could see the outline of an island in the distance. It was quiet and romantic. Drew dropped her arm and propped both of his on the deck railing, looking down into the dark sea.

 “Drew, I’m sorry.”

 “Are you? Was I just a game?”

 “No, Drew. You know I care for you.”

 He petulantly snatched his arms off the railing. He jammed his hands in his pants pockets and started walking away, down the deck. Jenna followed. 

 “Drew, I’m not trying to hurt you.” He passed a windbreak and stopped again at the railing. She came up to him. It was darker here. He pulled her gently into himself. She had to admit she liked his arms around her. It had been a while since she felt safe in a man’s arms. He was leaning in again, so she helped and reached her mouth toward his. She also had to admit she liked kissing him. She was becoming lightheaded again. Maybe she shouldn’t have taken that half tab. But it was hours ago. It should have worn off by now. She realized she had trouble keeping her balance. Drew supported her.

 “What’s wrong, hon?” he asked. “Like my kisses that much?”

 She found that she couldn’t get her tongue to work to answer him.

 “That’s okay, baby. You don’t need to say anything. Dusty said you always talk too much.”

 What? her brain flared. She tried to struggle, but could not control her body.

 “Shh, honey. Everything’s okay. It’s just time for you to take a swim. You’ve been depressed and talking crazy the past few days. I’ll say I tried to get to you but you jumped before I could stop you. I had a bit of trouble dosing your drink tonight. That bitch of a roommate of yours wouldn’t take her eyes off me. I can tell she’s hot for me. She’ll need consoling after you go overboard. She’s not bad looking. I can probably get her in bed in no time. Whadaya think?”

 Jenna was paralyzed and could only look at him with eyes wide with terror. 

 “You were so easy. You just ate up my sad little boy routine. Dusty said you’d probably spread your legs for me before the week was out. I was hoping for some of that before you went over, but you had to mess it up. He ain’t even on this ship. He’s back in Greensboro. You were crazy to think he’s here, but it works in our favor. Now the whole ship thinks you’re nuts. Anyway, this is where we part ways.” He put an arm under her to lift her over the railing.

 She heard a click and realized it was a gun being cocked.

 “Stop right there, Mr. Wilson.” It was the Chief Security Officer Scott. “Release Miss Davenport and turn around slowly.” When Drew released her, she fell to the deck. The momentary deflection of the guard’s attention gave Drew the moment he needed. He jumped past the guard and raced down the deck. Two burly deck hands cut off his exit. They cornered him. With a crazed look back at Jenna, he dashed to his right and sailed over the railing. A deckhand ran to the side and threw over a life preserver, the other ran to the wall and rang the man overboard bell. The security guard came and propped Jenna up. “Good thing I kept an eye on you.” Once again, a deckhand picked her up like a child and carried her to sickbay. 

***

 Jenna was sitting by her attorney in a courtroom twenty days later. It was the beginning of February, so she was the only one in the courtroom sporting a suntan. She got it during fourteen glorious days in the Caribbean. Once she had realized Dusty wasn’t on the ship, she could relax. She realized she had experienced hallucinations, but they had seemed so real. The ship’s doctor said that was common in survivors of abuse. The final eight days had done her a world of good.

 “Guilty,” the judge intoned. “Sentencing to be on…” he looked at the court calendar. “The 24th of February. Bailiff, take him away.” The bailiff led Dustin Randall in an orange jumpsuit from the courtroom.

 “Your honor. I’m Mr. Mills from the District Attorney’s office,” said a man approaching the gate separating the attorneys from the courtroom. “We’d like to request a delay in sentencing of Mr. Randall until the disposition of our case. I have three warrants for the arrest of Dustin Lee Randall, his cousin Andrew Scott Wilson and his father, D. Jarratt Randall. We plan to charge them with multiple felonies including bribery, racketeering, wiretap, suborning felonies, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to hire a murder, attempted first degree murder, kidnapping, assault with intent to kill, witness tampering. And there may be more.”

 “Your honor,” the Randall lawyer objected. “These charges are all hearsay. A spurned woman violently attacked young Dusty and now they want to drag the Randall family name through the mud. The family has suffered enough. I move to drop the charges as baseless.”

 “Objection overruled. The charges will stand. Sentencing is delayed. Since we relate the counts to the current tort, the clerk will calendar them on my court dates. Court adjourned.”  

The Cornfield

Here’s a new story never before seen on my blog that has been published. It is in Ariel Chart Review, October 20, 2019. You can look it up if you want to. It’s free on the web. It’s easier if you google “Ariel Chart Magazine Cornfield”.

I don’t know where this story came from. Many of my stories have a background, some thing that sparks the story. If this one did, I can’t remember it. I’ve been thinking the past couple of days trying to remember what gave me the idea, and I just can’t remember anything.

Update: a reader has reminded me that I told her I got the story from a Melissa Etheridge song. It was “We Got Nowhere to Go”. I remember seeing a homoerotic music video of it on Youtube. I was touched by the hopelessness of the song and the feeling of empathy for the characters. I hoped to capture some of that in my story. Thanks, Cate.

The publication of this story was interesting also. I submitted it to Ariel Chart in September. I quickly received a message from the editor who read it that she liked it. A lot. She really wanted to publish it, but there were several changes they wanted. Without the changes they couldn’t use it. The changes were minor, so I agreed.

First, there was an overt implication that sex occurred. She asked that I take that out. I didn’t think the magazine was prudish, but what do I know. They’re Australian. So, I took it out.

Second, it didn’t have an ending that worked. It kind of just petered out. Or died. She wanted me to give it some kind of resolution. I did and it really made it a much better story.

Finally, was the length. It was somewhere under 3200 words or so. She said her managing editor would absolutely not accept anything from her over 3000 words; could I cut it back? That took a bit of work. Taking out the references to sex reduced it some, but the resolution at the end added some words back. I did a line by line edit to get it down. It’s now a very lean story. But I managed to turn it in to her at exactly 3000 words. What I’m putting here is not exactly the story that appears in Ariel Chart. I’ve added 6 more words to the last paragraph that I think gives it a nicer finish. So now, in all it’s 3006 word glory, here is The Cornfield. More to follow.

The Cornfield

            Dylan Westfield was a great guy. Everybody liked Dylan. What’s not to like? He was affable, charming, a friend to all. The girls fawned over his long, lanky frame and easy good looks. His hair shone yellow blond like newly mined gold, his blue irises had little radiating spokes of silver, making them sparkle like starlight. And his daddy being the richest man in town didn’t hurt. The girls idolized him, and the boys flocked to him.

            There were certain things everyone knew about Dylan. If you were in a jam, he’d bail you out. At the tavern he always picked up the tab. He didn’t date much, but never talked trash about the girls he went out with. And one thing everyone knew about Dylan was he hated Logan Thomas. No one knew exactly what Logan had done to draw the ire of the most popular, easiest going guy in school, but it must have been awful. If Logan even walked into the same room, Dylan’s expression would cloud. It was like shutting off the sunlight.

            Logan seemed to return the dislike tenfold. Maybe it was Dylan who had offended him. No one knew. The beginning of senior year had seen the boys thrown together in the same class and suddenly the sparks flew. The one thing everyone knew about Logan Thomas was he despised Dylan Westfield. 

***

            “Thomas!” Dylan yelled angrily. “I’m gonna kick your sorry ass back to hicktown where you came from.” School had just let out, and they were in the parking lot. Dylan and Logan were chest to chest like two bantam roosters ready to fight.

            “You and what army, you prissy little rich kid? Gonna get Daddy to fight for you?” Logan sneered. He was a couple inches shorter than Dylan’s six feet, but you had to give him credit for never backing down. Working in his father’s garage gave him the muscle to back it up. It was obvious words had been spoken before the crowd started gathering. Dylan stared at Logan with a coldness that accentuated the silver in his eyes. That iciness would make anyone shiver. Logan was red-faced with his anger. His jet-black hair was near shoulder length, almost touching the frayed edges of his denim vest with the POW and MIA patches. In his t-shirt, jeans, and ragged sneakers, he stood in stark difference to Dylan’s classic elegance. 

            “Keep your grubby hands off my car. I just had it waxed and I don’t need trailer trash like you smudging the shine. Now back off!” Several of Dylan’s larger friends loomed up beside him. Logan, realizing retreat was sometimes the better part of valor, glared at Dylan but backed away. Eventually he turned and continued through the parking lot to begin his long walk home.

            “You okay, D?” asked Big Tommy Shaw from the football team. “Me and the boys would be glad to go rough him up for you. Just say the word.”

            “No, let the little shit go. I’ve got better things to do than worry about him.”

            A girl wearing entirely too much makeup and an over the top pink cashmere sweater and wool skirt, despite the day’s heat, came gliding up to him. She laid her hand on the fender of his new sports car.

            “Ooh, I love red cars,” she purred. “Give a girl a lift home?”

            “Marlee, you live two blocks from here.” There was only a little exasperation in his voice. “But hop in.”

            The school took up two entire city blocks of town. Dylan jack rabbited his roadster along each of the four boundary streets, circling the school, working through the gears, trying to get up to fourth before slamming on the brakes for the next stop sign. Marlee squealed her pleasure, eyes agleam at being in Dylan’s car and at being with Dylan.  With the top down, they gloried in the cool wind and afternoon sun.  He took a circuitous route through town, finally ending up in Marlee’s driveway. He turned off the car, and they sat for a minute listening to the ticking of the cooling engine. Marlee pushed her lower lip out in a pout.

            “How come you haven’t asked me to Harvest Fest yet?” He figured that was coming. Truth be told, he didn’t want to go to Harvest Fest, or anywhere, with Marlee. He wasn’t even sure what he saw in her to begin with. She acted cheap, common. All the things he despised. He’d only dated her a few times, among other girls. But she had decided that they were a ‘thing’. He’d hesitated to set her straight, knowing it would be a scene. He hated scenes.

            “Look, Marlee. I’m not even sure I will be around to go to Harvest Fest. My family has plans. If I can, I’ll get in touch with you.”

            “Promise?” she asked like a four-year-old trying to extract a guarantee for a treat from Mommy.

            “Of course,” he said. Disaster temporarily avoided, he thought.

***

            Logan walked along the state road, beside a cornfield on his way home. The stalks and leaves were turning brown. The pickers would be by any day, reducing the fields to stubble. Then the vista of sweeping plains and distant rolling hills would again be revealed. Once again everyone could see what a shit hole they lived in. Welcome to Butt Hole, Iowa.

This being a Wednesday he didn’t have to show up at Dad’s garage. He had a late study group on Wednesdays. At least, that’s what he told Dad. He was so lost in thought the loud rumble was almost upon him before he processed it. As soon as it registered, his heart was in his throat. He fought the urge to plunge into the cornfield, avoiding the bullies about to beset him, but that was the coward’s way out. The pickup with ridiculously high tires throttled down as it pulled up even to him. He continued walking, refusing to acknowledge the truck or its crew. Big Tommy Shaw was driving. Without looking, Logan knew that his right-hand man, Doug Mason would ride shotgun. Some mixture of football punks would ride in the back.

            “Hey, trailer trash. The trailer park’s the other way. You lost?” Tommy shouted, to hoots and snickers from his cronies. Logan walked on.

            “Hey, dick face. I’m talking to you.” Tommy didn’t like being ignored. Logan eyed the cornfield. If the guys jumped from the truck, he felt he could probably lose them in the field. Probably. The drying leaves rustled louder than when they were fresh and green.  He suddenly felt a thud, as someone hit him in the side with a soft drink cup, half full. Fortunately, it struck him broadside so when the plastic cap popped off, the soda splashed away from him.  He stopped and stared at the cup. There were ominous “oohs” from the truck bed as if daring him to retaliate. He bent down and found a fist-sized rock with nice jagged edges. He turned to face the truck.

            “You know, Tommy, I could probably get Dad to give you a discount on the body work your truck’s gonna need,” he said hefting the rock, and then looking at it pointedly. Tommy’s tricked out pickup was his baby. It was bright blue without a speck of dust. Logan knew just how to hurt Tommy the most.

            “You wouldn’t dare, faggot. I’ll kill you if you touch my truck.”

            “Well, I got a head start, and it’s a big cornfield. You’ll have to catch me first,” he hefted the rock again as if deciding where to start.

            “I’m warning you, Thomas. Don’t mess with my truck.” A succession of loud beeps suddenly interrupted him as Dylan’s roadster shot up into the gap between Tommy’s truck and Logan.

            “This pissant causing you trouble, Tommy?” Dylan called across to the truck.

            “Yeah, the fucker’s threatening to scratch my truck.”

            “Really!” There was the ratcheting sound of Dylan setting the emergency brake. “I think it’s time Mr. Thomas was taught to mind his manners in the presence of his betters.” He climbed out of the car and Logan took a step back.

            “Want any help, D?” Tommy asked. All the boys were getting excited now.

            “No thanks. I been wanting to kick this peckerwood’s ass for a long time. I plan to enjoy it.” As all the boys hollered, Dylan charged Logan. Logan seemingly caught Dylan’s arm unawares and swung him around. Releasing, he let Dylan stumble into a pile of kudzu in the ditch bank. And with that, Logan was off like a shot through the cornfield. The noise of the boys shouting their disappointment at losing the afternoon’s entertainment quickly faded in the background. He could still faintly hear their shouts of “Coward!”

            Logan slowed down to ease his breathing. No one was giving chase. He sighed. Just another day. He rolled with the emotional punches just as he did the physical ones, whether from his classmates or his dad. It was just how things were.

            The afternoon sun could not penetrate the thick canopy of cornstalk leaves, creating an oasis of coolness in the shadow. The rows were parallel to the state road, so he continued walking in the direction he had originally been travelling. Maybe I should walk a few rows inside the field every day. Avoid unnecessary conflicts, he thought. But then, the cornfield wouldn’t be here much longer.

            It wasn’t as if everyone hated him. He had friends. But the ‘in’ crowd had made him their whipping boy. The jocks, the rich kids, the social elite. What kind of threat was he? He never bothered them; he definitely didn’t want to be one of them. He was just marking time until he could escape this hellhole. Leave Iowa far behind.

The corn field abruptly ended at a dirt path, a path tractors and other farm equipment used to maneuver between fields. He turned left to follow the path. After a few miles of twisting through the fields, he would find his house.

            And no, he was not trailer trash. The Thomas house wasn’t nice like the rich kids, but it was respectable and paid for. Dad said it was his castle and couldn’t no one throw him out. Dad frequently made such pronouncements, usually after putting away a six-pack of beer. Logan had long since figured out that Dad was what was called a ‘functional alcoholic’. He owned his own business, made it successful, never showed up to work drunk or laid out. But evenings and weekends, he was drunk more often than he wasn’t. And he was a mean drunk. Along about the fourth beer you could see a change come over his face, an ugly sneer would form. That was the time they all made themselves scarce. His rages were unpredictable, triggered by anything or nothing. He knew Dad slapped Mom around, but weirdly, he never did it in front of the kids. However, he had no qualms about knocking Logan and his siblings around while Mom watched with worry. As the oldest, Logan took the brunt of it, often putting himself at risk to protect the younger ones. He was seventeen and just beginning to realize he could take on his father and best him in a fight. But he was unsure if he could ever really raise a hand to the man. He was so conditioned to back down.

***

            Logan rounded a curve in the path, about a mile in from the state road and straight ahead he saw a gleaming red sports car. Dylan Westfield was standing beside the car, leaning against it with arms crossed, as nonchalant as if it was not odd to see a pricey sports car parked on a dusty farm path. And Dylan was staring at him. Logan felt his pulse quicken.

            He continued trudging along the path, never looking away. He slowed slightly as he neared the car but kept moving ahead. When it looked as if he might pass by, Dylan abruptly stepped forward, blocking the path. He forced Logan to stop. Dylan regarded him with his arms still crossed, a wry grin on his face.

            “They almost got you today. You need to be more careful.”

            “Yeah, thanks for the bail.”

            “Always. What would I do without you?” He opened his arms and Logan stepped into his embrace. They stood for a few minutes, as if drawing strength from each other.

            “It’s just so hard. I hate this stupid game we’re playing,” Logan mumbled into Dylan’s shoulder. “Having to act like I hate you all the time.”

            “I know, babe. It sucks. But we have our plan. It’ll work out.”

            Releasing Logan, he walked to the trunk of the little car.

            “By the way, nice ride,” Logan said. “Birthday present?”

            “Yeah, thanks, maybe I can give you a ride sometime.”

            “Not likely. What would people think?”

Opening the trunk, Dylan removed a blanket and a cooler. They walked over to a grassy spot near the edge of the field. The stalks blocked the lowering sun, casting a shadow over their little picnic area. After spreading the blanket, they both sat down.

            Dylan opened the cooler and took out a couple of beers. He also had a bag of chips.  He sat the bag between them and passed Logan a bottle.

            Logan looked at Dylan.

            “Trailer trash? Really? You called me trailer trash? I gotta admit. That stings.”

            “Well, you called me prissy.”

            They both burst out laughing at the same time. Logan held his beer out. Dylan tapped it with his and they drank.

            After the beers, and most of the chips, they laid on the blanket, Logan on his back, Dylan on his side, looking at him.

            “Hey, babe. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. You know I didn’t mean any of it,” Dylan said.

            “I know. I was just razzing you.”

            “Promise?”

            “Yeah.” Logan heaved himself up on one elbow. “C’mere.” Dylan scooted closer so they could get their arms around each other and laid back in a kiss.

            When they finally came up for air, Dylan whispered huskily, “Oh man, I needed that.”

            “Me too.” They resumed kissing and exploring each other’s bodies. After a while they simply rested in each other’s arms, relishing the quiet of nature and the simple joy of touching.

            All too soon the creeping shadows said the day was done. They both had worlds requiring their return.

            “When will this end?” Logan asked plaintively.       

            Dylan smiled at his undeclared lover. “Soon, babe. Just a few more months and we can leave this punk ass town.”

            “It’s so easy for you to dream. Any dream I’ve ever had was quickly stamped out by my bastard of a father. I don’t think I know how to dream anymore.”

            “We’ll make it. I’ll dream for both of us if I have to. I meant to tell you, I got early acceptance at Dartmouth. The letter came this weekend. You’re coming with me. We’ll use your money to enroll you in classes to become a certified mechanic. You already know all that stuff.”

            “Suppose it’s not enough?”

            “You worry too much. I’ll pay our way until you’re on your feet. If you’re too proud to let me support you, then keep track and you can pay me back. We love each other and this lets us get out of this shit hole state and be together.”

            “I’m afraid to hope for it. What’ll we tell our folks?”

            “I’d say we tell your dad nothing. That asshole doesn’t even deserve a ‘goodbye’. I think my dad’s figuring it out. He’s not going to want a fag running the company, so he’ll probably offer me a shitload of money to stay away after college. I plan to take the money and then come back and milk him for more. Surely, he can spare a few million for his least favorite son. And Mom still loves me, and she’s loaded, too. More money than Dad. Money will never be a problem for us.”

            “But I mean how much longer at school? I’m tired of pretending to hate you.”

            “Yeah, it’s getting old. But we agreed that this was the better way. The so-called popular crowd already hated you, so there was no real way we would ever be friends. But if we didn’t do something, people would figure it out just from the way I stare at you. This way, I can look at you, drink in your beauty, interact with you, even touch you, and no one’s the wiser.”

            “Yeah, but it’s killing me.”

            “I know, me too. But it’s the only way I can figure. Don’t you think we’re worth it?”

            “We are so definitely worth it. You are worth it. I’ll do whatever it takes to be with you.”

            Dylan leaned in for a long, lingering kiss.

            “That’s what I need to hear. We’re strong. We will prevail.”

            After a few moments of silence, both boys stood and without words stowed the blanket and empty bottles in Dylan’s car. When everything was cleared, Dylan sat in the driver’s seat of his shiny red roadster. Logan leaned against the door, holding Dylan’s hand as if it were a lifeline. He hated the stinging of unshed tears as he kissed his lover goodbye.

            “See you tomorrow, babe. And I promise. No more trailer trash. I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

            “It’s okay. I may still call you prissy, though. This car is so prissy.”

            “Yeah, and you love it,” Dylan laughed and sped away down the dusty lane. The sky was a glory of reds and purples desperately trying to hold on to the day. Logan couldn’t take time to notice the beauty. His family expected him home soon. No, not home. Just a temporary stopping point. His real home was elsewhere, with the boy with golden hair, icy blue eyes, infectious grin and a shiny red car.

Sturm und Drang

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” This quote from MacBeth is an apt opening for today’s offering. I can’t call it a story because it has no plot, just a slice of life. But not only full of fury, also full of venom and bitterness.

Facebook has become today’s version of Jerry Springer. People seem to have no qualms about saying or doing anything in public, as long as they feel they are getting attention. An innate need to matter, to be heard. But some of our thoughts don’t need to be heard. They should lie unspoken in the junkyard of our minds.

I have taken this little psychodrama directly from Facebook. I’ve made no changes except for names. Punctuation seems to be a fading convention, its lack sometimes making a thought difficult to follow or parse. I’ve added no help. The spelling was sometimes erratic, but I’ve made no changes to that either.

My only regret it that, alas, I am actually related to some of these people. But then, as I say every year at Thanksgiving, oh god, I hope I’m adopted.

Sturm und Drang

Characters:

            Bobby Branson – subject of much of the discussion

            Chrissie Carter Oaks – Bobby’s former fiancée

            Ethel Branson – Bobby’s mother

            Mary Lane – Chrissie’s best friend

            Randall Oaks – Chrissie’s husband

            Chad Branson – Bobby’s brother

            Sally Branson – Chad’s wife

            Ashley Branson – Bobby’s sister-in-law

            Johnny Branson – Bobby’s brother

            Jessie Branson – Bobby’s cousin

            Steph Branson – Bobby’s cousin

            Brandy Laws – Bobby’s cousin

            Katie Allen, Donna Walls, Josey Gardner, Mike Rawls – Bobby’s friends

Facebook

May 4

Ethel Branson:            To all my FB friends Ethel Branson and the late Milton Branson proudly announce the engagement of their son Robert Branson to Chrissie Carter. Please pray their marriage will be blessed by GOD.

A person wearing a hat

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June1

Bobby Branson:          The weekend is here going to spend these two days off spending some much needed time with my soon to be wife Chrissie Carter. I love you baby from the moon and back counting the days down.

June 6

Bobby Branson:          What you find out in the end the love hurts the most. The wedding got called off I’m single again and this crap sucks. But I know I will always have my mama and my brothers to try and pick me up I love all of y’all.

June 6 and following

Chrissie Carter:          Take the pic off. It has my child in it.

Mary Lane:                 Ok retard. For 1 this is not ur child take it down 2 ur being a fucking child this is not ur kid so take it down im not playing ur nothing but a perv taking someone elses kids pic and putting on ur facebook really grow the fuck up she don’t want ur perv ass so leave her and her kid alone and take the pic down or ill make sure u regret it and im not one to play with so u better take it down right now u fucking perv.

Chrissie Carter:           Mary Lane get into this with us girl.

Mary Lane:                 Hes fucking stupid girl.

Randall Oaks:             You’ve got till Saturday to get the fuck picture off your Facebook page.

Katie Allen:                What the fuck are you gonna do?

Donna Walls:              Exactly.

Randall Oaks:             You fucking perv you will never have the chance to be with her she going to be my wife in a few weeks.

Chad Branson:            All I can say to this is good luck with that shit. She’s about the most useless thing called a female I have ever met and thank you for taking one for the team and getting her out of circulation. You’re alright in my book.

A few weeks pass

Chrissie Oaks:            Bobby take the pic off your page stop being a spiteful asshole. Take my daughters pic off your Facebook so I can move on with my life and be happy with my husband.

Chrissie Oaks:            This dude is sick in the head I think and has a thing for kids. I think that’s why he won’t take it down. what ya think Randall Oaks.

Katie Allen:                If you really think that, why on earth would you agree to marry him? Take family pictures? To make his mama happy? No, bitch. You did it just to fuck with good people because you are scum of the earth and ain’t got a lick of common sense.

Randall Oaks:             He’s a piece of shit.

Chrissie Oaks:            Oh I agree but think about it he won’t remove a pic with a child that is not his. It kinda screams that he has a thing for children. And woman that are way outta his field.

Mary Lane:                 Ya its gross damn thats y I called him a perv lol. Right u dont want him he needs to move on damn plain and simple.

Chrissie Oaks:            I think deep down he really is. He has no life and all he is doing is trying to fuck with my child.

Mary Lane:                 Ya i know its rediclious.

Chrissie Oaks:             It sure as hell is. I think this is what he does in his free time.

Randall Oaks:             You one thing you don’t do a fucking post pictures of my wife and child.

Brandy Laws:             When this fucking picture was taken your “wife” was with Bobby. Shes got shit to answer to. Faking a pregnancy and using this families good nature then saying this shit.

Sally Branson:            At least until the next sucker comes along. Then she’ll move on from you like she did Bobby.

Mary Lane:                 He just needs to remove the pic is all and this all will stop.

Donna Walls:              She sure as hell didnt mind when she was using his house as a resting place when she was out leaving hoeing around y’all all better back off.

Randall Oaks:             No bitch she was with me so you need to get the fuck out of it. My wife ain’t a hoe.

Sally Branson:            I beg to differ.

Donna Walls:              Wow he pulled ur wife from u? Some kinda scam y’all got goin.

Donna Walls:              Randall tell that to the guy she brought out here and was in camper for 3 hrs.

Ashley Branson:         She is a hoe. And nothing more. Bitch only knows how to hoe round and use people.

Mary Lane:                 Horing around really with no vehicle get a life.

Sally Branson:            She didn’t need a vehicle. I saw the men coming by to pick her up.

Randall Oaks:             Yep it was me and it’s not your business.

Mary Lane:                 Ya cause she choose to leave and thats her choice u cant make someone love someone they dont.

Mary Lane:                 And thats not men thats a big deff.

Sally Branson:            Then why does she keep coming back to his place. What about the “gay” best friend. What about the “brother”. And she slept with Bobby. All in the course of 2 months. Wow!!! My family, my business.

Mary Lane:                 K well i know nothing about them i only know about Randall and Bobby no one else and i talk to chrissie just about everyday.

Donna Walls:              None of y’all know what the hell is going on but the shit that flowing out her mouth which isnt nothing but fucking lies.

Chrissie Oaks:            All you fucking do is use Bobby for your personal shit and make him feel bad when he won’t kiss your ass over your child. The dude needs to take the pic of my child down before I have her father involved in it.

Katie Allen:                Oh so kinda like you did?

Donna Walls:              No the mf would come get her thats why she had everyone stay in the house. So y’all get a life. Grow up.

Chrissie Oaks:             All you do is stay fucking drunk so don’t tell us to grow up.

Donna Walls:              Wow u don’t know me I don’t drink. I believe u got drunk at my house.

Mary Lane:                 he needs to take this pic down its not his daughter and none of this would be going on right now get the big pic much.

Brandy Laws:             None of this would be happening right now if your so called friend wasn’t a con. All she did was use him and you’re here like a blind puppy.

Chrissie Oaks:             Mary Lane is one of my closest peoples and knows everything about me.

Sally Branson:            It’s funny how Chrissie injected herself into Bobby’s life & his family bent over backwards to try to help her out. They were rewarded with nothing but lies from her for their good deeds. She is a manipulator & a con artist & a compulsive liar. This is the behavior she shows after all she had done.

Chrissie Oaks:             Look here you crazy ass crack hoe bitch stay outta it.

Sally Branson:            I’m a crack hoe? That’s funny. You’re just a straight up con artist whore. I’ve seen you first hand bringing men in the camper, leaving the house for weeks with different men just to beg to come back. Faking pregnancy. Stealing jewelry. Should I keep going…

Chrissie Oaks:             At least I didn’t put drugs before my kids.

Sally Branson:            Funny I still have my kids. No you put everything before your kids or you would still have them.

Chad Branson:             Exactly.

Donna Walls:              Ashley Branson, Katie Allen look at this shyt.

Chrissie Oaks:             Donna Walls, get everyone in it why don’t you let’s have a big fuck fest

Donna Walls:              Heck u did.

Donna Walls:              All lies tell I’m pulling the truth.

Brandy Laws:             You fucking tagged your damn friend into this shit.

Donna Walls:              What about the pic u had Bobby pay for.

Chrissie Oaks:            Mom wanted that taken I didn’t want that fucking pic taken for shit. So therefore I made her happy.

Donna Walls:              More lies.

Randall Oaks:             Look at the picture he looking at the child inappropriately.

Chrissie Oaks:             omg it’s true.

Brandy Laws:             Doesn’t matter if its not his daughter he treated this crazy bitch and her daughter like they were damn on a pedestal. They were automatically added into the family and showed love and this woman was treated like family.

Randall Oaks:             Yep i was the men she left with and had a lot of fun with I’m the daddy of the baby’s and the one she’s married to hahaha.

Chrissie Oaks:            You don’t know a damn this all I want is my child’s pic removed off Facebook it’s not his kid he has no rights to her nor will he ever. So therefore it needs to come down and everyone needs to stay outta it.

Brandy Laws:             I know everything of whats going on and i know you’re a conniving bitch that only lies. Saying you’re pregnant and then faking a miscarriage saying you feel kicking and that its twins, then 3, then 4. You’re a dumb bitch that thought no one would be smart enough to see through your half assed lies.

Mary Lane:                 He just needs to take this pic down plain and simple that’s y i got involved its not his kid it shouldn’t be up on his facebook at all and i know how it feels when someone does this shit cause im going through the same shit so if he just takes it down it will all be done and over with on my end.

Sally Branson:            Maybe if she would just give the ring back it will all be done & over with.

Randall Oaks:             The ring is gone lol lol

Ashley Branson:         Warrant for her arrest cause it wasnt paid for. I have a good lawyer who will help you Bobby Branson.

Mary Lane:                 Ya and they had a plan to give it back and for the pic to be taken down and he refuses to do so and if i remember correctly he told her she could have the ring and that he didnt want it back so u dont know everything either. What men exactly huh? Were u there? Can u say what they were wearing or what they looked like? How tall? Cause if not then u dont really know then now do u?

Sally Branson:            I saw enough from my house.

Ashley Branson:         She a fuck whore and dont deserve a good man. Bitch need to give the ring back her lying cheating ass.

Randall Oaks:             She don’t have the ring it on the side of the road since it’s a fucking lie from his mommy that said it was a mommy’s day present.

Sally Branson:            More lies.

Chrissie Oaks:            What no one understands is the ring is lost I lost it last night and can’t find it at all it’s insured they will give another one it have a life time warranty.

Brandy Laws:             You mean you pawned it. Give the money that was spent on the damn thing back. All this could easily go to the law in 2 seconds. Y’all wanna threaten to press charges when there was nothing wrong done on Bobby’s part at all.

Mary Lane:                 Just have him take this pic down and im out thats all i want.

Randall Oaks:             I fucking trashed it since it was a lie about it being a present.

Ashley Branson:         It wasnt a present or gift. The bitch promised to marry him and due to her cheating and hoeing around. It is owed back to Bobby Branson cause she is a trashy slut.

Brandy Laws:             I think your bitch is lying to you hunny.

Ashley Branson:         Yeah whatever all lies just like everything you ever told him. Lies about being pregnant and everything. Lying ass bitch.

Randall Oaks:             She is pregnant I’ve got pictures of my baby’s.

Sally Branson:            I need to see that to believe it.

Ethel Branson:            If she is pregnant then post picture. When baby is born we will DEMAND a DNA test and if it is Bobby’s. We WILL see you in court.

Josey Gardner:            Take him to court anyway mom he said he trashed the ring that’s right there shows he destroyed someone else’s property she’s all up here saying she married someone else. She needs to give the ring or take her ass to court. Got proof up here screen shot it all.

Randall Oaks:             let’s go.

Sally Branson:            I wouldn’t try to act so cocky if I was you. Josey is right. The proof is all right here for everyone to read. I am ecstatic that you have taken her off of our hands. You two are perfect for each other. She looks like trailer trash & you look like a straight up drug addict. You two belong together. I hope you both get everything that you have coming to you.

Randall Oaks:             You don’t know me and so good luck trailer trash.

Sally Branson:            hahaha…Can’t you be any more original than to just repeat what I say? Oh hunny, you need to get a clue. This girl is using you just like she uses everyone else. You’re just too blind to see it. When she has used you up she’ll leave you just like everyone else. You think you are special? No. You’re just her next victim. But who knows? Maybe you’re just as sick in the head as she is. Maybe you are just as worthless as she is. All you two do is run your mouths & spread your lies. But don’t have the ass to back up what comes out of your mouths. You want to get up here & try to bully someone but can’t take it when the table is turned. He took the photo down. Now she needs to return the ring. She needs to suck it up & realize that her scam didn’t work this time. Bobby has all the proof he needs to take her to court. I’ve seen her records. I don’t think she wants another charge.

Ashley Branson:         You sure you the daddy?

Donna Walls:              it’s the one in the camper. Hell or one of the 3 guys.

Randall Oaks:             Hell yeah she been with me since she moved up there.

Sally Branson:            What about “Ricky”.

Mary Lane:                 This crazy r u sure ur the daddy really come on now lmfao right now.

Donna Walls:              U keep thinking that buddy.

Ashley Branson:         She is just a slut lying ass bitch. She dont know who the daddy is. She a slut.

Mary Lane:                 Now thats enough cause shes not and she can sit here and say the same shit about u all.

Donna Walls:              Doubt it. We all stay with our same man.

Brandy Laws:             Shit I dont go and find people online and lie to them just to have a place to live while i sleep with other people and get married to the other person knowing damn well that im gonna run off with the ring.

Mary Lane:                 Ya well i know what happened and they worked shit out thats how it rolls would us stay with someone u thought u loved but dont? She thought she loved him and she didnt and he said she can keep it so how is that running off with it?

Sally Branson:            Lies. More lies.

Mary Lane:                 Well i know what she told me so im just saying from what she told me and ive been down that road to thinking i loved someone but then really didnt so i broke it off but the only diff is he never bought me anything so.

Brandy Laws:             Would you go through marrying them and then the next day you’re apparently engaged to someone else? Then while you’re with this new person you’re asking for them back in the SAME DAY.

Mary Lane:                 Hell no i would not but i would try to be friends is what i would do cause thats who i am i have a big heart and care a lot and when i do sometimes i get screwed over and shit.

Chrissie Oaks:            I am a slut but honey you know that’s a lie. Hey look everyone get their panties outta a wad or dicks outta their asses.

Sally Branson:            Chrissie I do think that you brought all of this on yourself. Everyone is tired of being quiet while you take advantage.

Ashley Branson:         If she does have any babies they all gonna have different daddys cause she cant be faithful to one man. Lmao. YOU ARE JUST A HOE.

Chrissie Oaks:            I know who my baby daddy’s are bitch. So don’t even go there with my kids that’s crossing the line you stupid bitch.

Mary Lane:                 So damn true it is crossing the line.

Brandy Laws:             Plural, bitch? Lmao.

Sally Branson:            “daddy’s”… Exactly.

Katie Allen:                I’m dying with her multiple baby daddy’s!!

Randall Oaks:             I’m the daddy been in there every night since she moved up there when people sleep daddy plays.

Sally Branson:            You are only making her look worse. Keep talking.

Chrissie Oaks:             I like it when daddy plays it’s fun.

Sally Branson:            Wow… How weird is that.

Ashley Branson:         Exactly.

Bobby Branson:
(Screen shot)  

            Chrissie:         I don’t wanna take it off   (the engagement ring)

            Bobby:            Why not?

            Chrissie:         Because I still have hope of us.

Bobby:            I have hopes of us to but I won’t to hold on to it so I can get down on my knee again and place it on your finger.

            Chrissie:         Please just let me hold on to if for now.

            Bobby:            I won’t to hold on to it.

Mary Lane:                 Whats the date on this. Cause there isn’t any.

Bobby Branson:          Yesterday.

Donna Walls:              Yesterday.

Ashley Branson:         Exactly what I was thinking, she begging to keep the ring and keep the wedding date. But fucking every dick she crosses.

Donna Walls:              Oh its gets better she just messaged him and asked us to stop she will give ring back next Friday! Sooo who lies on this.

Ashley Branson:         She should have gave it back. She shouldn’t have even got it in the first place. How many dick already been in her before she moved there. Lol. Well its funny how she begging Bobby to still let her back just yesterday right. Bitch don’t know what she wants.

Donna Walls:             Damn how many daddys do u have.

Ashley Branson:         To many for her to keep up with obviously.

Chrissie Oaks:             Y’all can all go fuck yalls selfs my two kids are none of your business

Mary Lane:                 Damn right girl.

Katie Allen:                But its every other man out theres business right?

Ashley Branson:         Right. I bet father’s day is very busy for her. Must have to make appointments. Lmao.

Johnny Branson:         Enough is enough. She’s gone and its nobody’s business but theirs. The situation is bad enough without continuing to drag it out.

Donna Walls:              They shouldn’t have attacked him nor threatened him. We didn’t say anything until then. Sorry but we don’t stand back and let family get done like that.

Jessie Branson:           Johnny is right. Bobby just let her go, cuz. Let the ring go too.. if she can live with it then you can live without it. God has someone better for you I promise.. someone whos got her shit together.. this girls just looking to validate her fuckedupness. Idk her at all but watching ur posts is painful.. stop giving her all this power and give them all one of these (middle finger emoticon).

Chad Branson:             I agree with Johnny on this one. Glad the bitch is gone though.

Ashley Branson:         Good riddance. To unwanted bullshit.

Steph Branson:           Some people come into your life and teach you a LESSON. And I hope you learned from this one Bobby. Y’all need to block each other and move on! And stop giving your heart to shit women. Period.

Donna Walls:              Amen!

Randall Oaks:             Amen. She been with me from the day she moved up there. Sorry Bobby.

Steph Branson:           Randall Oaks you can move on too. Take her.

Ashley Branson:         Randall Oaks please keep her. Cause her ass ain’t wanted here. I mean how many other men has she promised to marry. Lmao.

Donna Walls:              Who ever they run scam on.

Randall Oaks:             I’ll be happy to so fuck off and end the childish name calling.

Brandy Laws:             Yall are perfect for each other. Both dumbasses. You’re just proving that she’s a slut.

Randall Oaks:             No she a good house wife so don’t you worry about that Plus she loves my house and land and animals I have she loves my tractor no Reasons to leave my farm.

Sally Branson:            Then why did you have her living in another man’s house.

Brandy Laws:             You just said she was sleeping with you while she was engaged/dating another man. Like I said BOTH DUMBASSES.

Randall Oaks:             No y’all are dumbass i was fucking her when she was living there then she find the love for me and moved to my house.

Brandy Laws:             Exactly you stupid adultering fuck. Jesus.

Ashley Branson:         Can’t fix stupid yall. Their comments show how ignorant they are. Perfect match for each other. I’m just glad she is out of Bobby’s life.

Katie Allen:                Randall Oaks. ARE YOU LITERALLY STUPID?! Omfg WHY WOULD YOU LET YOUR WIFE SLEEP AND GET ENGAGED TO ANOTHER MAN?!?! Like.. both yall stupid asf.

Donna Walls:              I was thinking the same thing but obviously they don’t understand intelligent things.

Mike Rawls:               Him and Bobby was hitting it. What does that.

Donna Walls:              Hoe.

Ashley Branson:         Nasty hoe. And he bragging about it. I just wish Bobby knew how trashy she was before all this.

Steph Branson:           Yalllll. Let it goooo.

Ashley Branson:         Im done. I have a graduation to take care of. Plus fun family trip tomorrow.

Chrissie Oaks:            Everyone just stop the shit. Johnny said leave it be so everyone keep my damn name outta your mouth.

Jenny Branson:           Just my opinion nobody would have had anybody’s name in there mouth if they would have just kept there legs closed but that’s my opinion can’t expect to go around and be a whore and continue to think everyone is peaches and cream love you Bobby keep your head up.

Jenny Branson:           But it’s not my business just stating facts.

Johnny Branson:         Why??? Just let it die down please!

A Love Story

            Growing up I frequently heard my parents speak of meeting when they were young but I never knew much else. I usually ignored what I considered “mushy stuff” when I was a kid. During the last few months of his life I had the good fortune of spending a lot of time with my Dad. He told me about their meeting and courtship. It was always his favorite subject. Putting it together with what Mom told me and other sources I feel I have a good feeling for how it went. It was such a neat story I wanted to record it.

            As a sad sort of coda, after Dad died I found a bundle of letters that Mom wrote to him during the first few months of basic training. I don’t know why these letters survived and none others. At first, I didn’t know what to do with them. Should I read them? They were private correspondence. I finally decided that since they were both deceased, it was okay to read them. I’m glad I did. I got a picture of my parents that I never saw. They were starry-eyed kids, so much in love. They never lost their love, but it settled down with time. But the letters spoke of the bright kind of love between a man and woman just a few months married, both still thrilled with each other and cruelly torn apart. And there were some passages that made me blush. I even found a discussion of possible names for “junior” if there ever was one. I also found bits of family gossip that I never knew. It was definitely interesting reading.

            But now, the main event. The Courtship of Mary and Alton.

A Love Story

In late 1952, eighteen-year-old high school senior Mary Reid wanted to have a Christmas party. Problem was all the Saturday nights in December before Christmas were already scheduled. So, she decided to have the party after Christmas, on December 27. Her friends told her she was crazy to schedule a party then. So close to Christmas everyone would be doing family things. But Mary was stubborn. She stuck with her plan. Saturday evening came and a few friends stopped in. Then a few more showed up. Then more and more. Soon the house was filled with people. A friend told Mary he was so glad she decided to have a party because he was sick of family gatherings.

Later in the evening, Mary’s frenemy, Edith, showed up with her new boyfriend, 22-year-old Alton Bass. The six-foot tall, handsome blond-haired blue-eyed farm boy caught every girl’s eye. He was quite a catch. He said later that he felt an instant connection with the party hostess. Within a few days Alton had broken up with Edith and paid a call on Mary. She was thrilled to be asked out by such a handsome boy, with a car, and making Edith mad was a bonus. Soon Alton had a date with Mary every weekend. He also came by frequently in the evenings after his farm chores were done. He would play cards and board games with Mary’s brothers while she finished her schoolwork. Father Reid said no courting until that was done. Alton had no brothers but three of Mary’s five brothers lived at home. They readily adopted Alton and made him part of the family.

Winter turned to spring and in June, Mary graduated from high school. She wasn’t ready to settle down and wanted to try life in a big city. She moved to the state capital, Raleigh, an hour away, found a job and boarding house and settled in. Alton was not happy about this. He was in love with petite blonde Mary. He continued seeing her. He would drive the hour to the city twice every weekend. He said he became very familiar with all the back roads. He ran off the road more than once while falling asleep at the wheel in the wee hours of the morning. He said his car only had two speeds – high and fly. He never got caught by the police, although he outran a patrol car one night.

This wasn’t working out. He was crazy about the girl so Alton asked Mary to marry him. She readily accepted. Since they had met in December they decided on a December wedding. They were married December 18, 1953 and settled down to farm life. They were in love and everything was idyllic. Then Uncle Sam called. Alton was notified in March, just three months wed, that he was needed for the peacekeeping in Korea. The country had been partitioned in the ceasefire just a month before Mary and Alton were married. No one knew if the peace would last.

Mary was frantic. Mother Mollie and father Lloyd Bass were also concerned for their son’s safety and the fact that he was their only son, and was their sole support as the one who worked the farm. The officials they spoke with assured them that Alton would be dismissed from service for “hardship” on his family. The paperwork was applied and the hearing came. A county official had to make the decision. This was a woman who for some reason did not like Mollie Bass. I have never heard my grandmother speak ill of another person except this woman. Mollie said “she dressed and acted like a man and was so ugly no man would have her.” The woman said Alton should not shirk his duty and refused to dismiss him. He entered the Army on May 18, 1954. Mary went to live with Alton’s family. She said in her letters that she cried herself to sleep every night.

Alton eventually was relieved of serving in the former combat area because he was the sole support of a farm family. By the fall, he was stationed in Japan. I have copies of some of the pictures he and Mary exchanged during the long separation. I have a picture of him lying beside a pool referring to himself as a “bathing beauty”. Another shows Mary in her Easter outfit with a note “The wind nearly took me away.”

Mary decided she did not like living on the Bass farm. She wanted to go to work. She moved back to Raleigh, got her old job back and moved into an apartment with a friend. I have a picture cut from the newspaper that shows her as the “girl flashing the big smile” as she is mailing drivers license renewal forms from the Department of Motor Vehicles in 1955.

In February 1956 Alton was told his enlistment was coming to an end. The Sergeant encouraged him to apply to Officer’s Training School and become career military. He said “I just want to go home and see my wife.”

The night before his ship left Japan Alton’s friends took him to a local tavern to celebrate. Some Navy men came in and as nearly always happened when Army and Navy mixed, a brawl broke out. Alton’s friends told him that if the MPs got him he’d be in the brig and miss his ship. They drug him to a back room and literally threw him out the window. He made his ship and spent 2 weeks sailing across the Pacific. I have pictures he took as they passed under the Golden Gate Bridge with all the soldiers waving their hats in the air and cheering. They had three days in San Francisco until air transport was available. Alton and two friends went to a café. Their waitress was blonde, pretty and flirty. She eventually became a bit suspicious of the three young men staring at her. When she cautiously approached their table one of Alton’s friends said, “Excuse us, ma’am, but you’re the first white woman we’ve seen in two years.” She smiled and turned on the charm. She got a big tip.

The soldiers’ air transport first landed in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was 20 degrees below zero and the men only had their tropical uniforms on as they had to hustle across the runway. Alton said the hangar seemed miles away.

Plane and bus and eventually in early March Alton stepped off the bus in Raleigh, NC. Mary was waiting and a mess with tears and makeup streaming down her face. She wrapped herself around him and said “Don’t you ever leave me again.” He promised and kept the promise for over 50 years. They went home and nine months later I was born.  

50th Anniversary

Mary Bass died in 2007. Alton mourned her every day until he passed away in 2016. His love for her was legendary in the community.