Our days were extremely busy; Lee was trying to become better acquainted with the area in and around the farmstead, poking about the property, inspecting and evaluating what he saw and felt, wandering down by the river, exploring the intricacies of the barn, carrying and arranging his art supplies into the small “guest” cottage or hired hand’s house, and in each and every instance, stopping, pulling out his fleshy male protuberance and pissing on the earthen surroundings, much like the male of any species marking his territory while I, working my ass off on the draft of my new novel, finally conjured a title for it. I finally, through tedious rewrite after rewrite, was able to work the theme of gambling into the story, mind you not just the banal roulette wheel, craps with dice type, but the skill and deft manipulation of a deck of 52. Understand this was not just an ordinary gambling story, but the highly unusual tale of a female card dealer plying her trade on a steamboat journeying up and down the Mississippi River, hence the title “Lady Luck!” Oh, she was a successful individual, adept at cards, and shrewd in her bets, but it wasn’t until she met up with tall, dark, handsome (and very more than adequately equipped), Jason Rockwell fresh from St. Louis on his way to Galena she really came to realize what a “full house” was; a really, really, full house, stuffed to the max and not with cards!
I was nearing ever so closer to ending the story, but was having difficulty weaving the dialogue into an appropriate ending. After all, aren’t we taught all stories must have an end; but what kind of an ending? In some cases the protagonists die, continue on in life to “live happily ever after,” or something more magnanimous such as being run out of town on a rail. This may be appropriate given the time period, yet I was not satisfied!
That night, after Lee dealt the cards and I ended up with a full house (a very, very, full house – even to the point of running over), and remaining impaled on his stiffness with his head resting over my left shoulder as he nibbled on my ear trying to encourage me play one more hand before we slept (the man is insatiable, especially if I sound “charge” on his big, shiny, smooth trumpet), I mentioned my problem to him. He mistook what I meant and started shuffling the deck again. Well, I just couldn’t refuse!
After we both climaxed, gloriously and completely, Lee apologized, “I’m sorry, you were in the middle of asking my opinion on something and I interrupted, letting some other topic occupy our time!”
It hit me! “No problem,” I answered quickly, “you answered my question and solved my problem.”
“Maybe we can solve some more of them if I’m that talented,” he murmured as I felt him shift closer still, wriggle his semi-erect cock back into position, and before he could seek a question or a solution inside me, I turned quickly to face him and saw the disappointment on his face which quickly dissolved into a happy smile when I scooted up a little and kissed him!
“One of my journalism professors, in a lecture, mentioned the Latin phrase, ‘in medias res’ which roughly translated means something like ‘in the middle of things.’ He was trying let us understand that many, if not most stories start somewhere in the middle because there is always, always events preceding what’s currently happening in the tale you’re trying to tell. Take my story ‘Lady Luck;’ someone taught her to play cards and to make relatively safe bets. Why does a story have to ‘end?’ Can’t it leave something at the conclusion, which is different from the end, which would lead readers to make their own endings or seek more of your stories, giving them a taste of what you wrote or believing life goes on, happily, but not ending quite yet?”
“Maybe,” Lee said thoughtfully, entering into the dialogue, “she has a daughter or son she teaches how to play, and he or she takes up the profession; you know, kind of keep it in the family?”
All too soon, it seemed, it was time for us to head back to the campground and spend some time with Dan and Bill. Lee also had a few more items to pick up at his parents and bring back home. He’d been giving the Pecatonica River the eye and finally asked, “Are there catfish in the River?”
I had no clue since I didn’t fish, but he decided to bring his fishing tackle home when we returned, as well. It didn’t’ take us long to resupply the camper, move clean clothing, and other essentials, such as writing material, laptops, sketch pads, and cameras to their proper storage drawers and cabinets in the camper. We took our time, driving leisurely through Lancaster, up to Prairie du Chien, and followed Wisconsin 35 up the river, enjoying the view of the river, the bluffs, and the quaint villages and small towns along the way. Whenever some particular sight caught Lee’s experienced eyes, we’d stop so he could photograph and take notes on whatever it was he was seeing much as I did when gathering material for a novel. We weren’t much different in our approaches to our art; in each case committing our impressions and stories to paper or canvas either by portraits in oil, waters, or acrylic or the printed word.
With two of us working, the setting up of camp at Riverview Campground took very little time. Once we did, I gave Bill and Dan a call to see if they were home and received their answering machine. I left a message indicating I’d call back and we’d be in town for most of the week. Evidently, I thought, they weren’t back from Nova Scotia as yet, but remembering the time table they’d discussed with us previously, I believed, if they were they should be returning home any time soon.
“How about a beer down at the ‘Riverside’?” Lee suggested. “There might be someone there we could talk to. Remember how much fun we had with Hickory and the boys?”
When we walked into the bar, we looked around and, save the bartender and one customer snugged up to it nursing a tap beer, the place was deserted!
“Where is everybody?” Lee asked scanning the room in case there just might be someone else we’d missed in our original reconnoiter.
“Funeral,” muttered the bartender.
“Herman Jenkins’ wife; services start in about fifteen minutes.”
“Up on the ridge, Hanlontown Lutheran Church.”
“I know where that is,” Lee responded, grabbed me by the hand, and scurried us out to the truck. We hauled ass out of town and with Lee supplying the directions, screeched and skidded around twisting roads, swirling dust devils behind us, until ten minutes later I pulled to a stop some three hundred yards from the church. The road was lined with cars and trucks’ giving every indication the parking lot of the church was full and this was about as close as we were going to be. Lee and I hustled up the road and slipped into the back of the church just as the casket was being wheeled down front, escorted by six pallbearers. It really was no surprise to either of us when we saw Jack, Frank, Hickory, Bill, Dan, and Samuel dressed in suits, solemnly paying tribute to their friend’s spouse, preparing to deliver her remains to the ages!
The organist and small choir, aided by the participation of the crowded mourners in the chapel, performed music appropriately funereal and respectful, not heavy dirge-like, but lighter, bright, and hopeful for what was to come for the soul being offered this day. The pallbearers took their seats in the front, off to one side while the front pews on the right were occupied by Herman and his family. The assembled family filled eight full pews behind Herman who sat with his head bowed and a son’s (I assumed because of the resemblance) arms about his shoulders. Such grief families feel at times such as these; the loss overwhelming the good life they’ve shared with the deceased. A part of them is gone, physically, never to be enjoyed again, except through memories!
Lee and I stood respectfully near the door at the rear of the church. Billy happened to glance up toward the back and spotted us. A soft smile and a nod of his head acknowledged our presence and his appreciation for it. Standing there, listening to the service, joining in the hymns and prayers, it struck me, deeply, how close knit this community was and the thread holding it all together. That thin, but resilient tie knitting together their differences into a “cloak of many colors” able to shield them from heat, cold, and the vagaries of life outside their little community was the older generation, slowly, certainly slipping away to eternity – as it should be! The leaders, the doers, the spark plugs of action, were Bill and Dan and the last thing they would do would be to abandon their friends, even in the times of grief, despair, poverty, or plenty!
The preacher came to the eulogy, that point in the service where comforting comments about the deceased and his or her relationship to loved ones and the community. In this case, he nodded to Billy and Billy slowly walked up to the pulpit. Pulling a folded piece of paper from his inner coat pocket, he carefully unfolded it, smoothed it out to facilitate reading and began,
“On this sad day, I am reminded that even in sadness, there is joy. Marcus Aurelius said, Very little is needed to make a happy life. How often Sarah would say something so similar as she lived her life. She’d look at Hermie and her large and lovingly family and tell them she had everything in life a person would ever want – a husband she loved and loved her and her children. Hermie, you and the children, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren brought her happiness, even in her last days. Danny and I visited with her and she had one request, ‘Don’t let Hermie mourn me too long. I’m really not leaving; I’ll be in his heart and so it is, when we have someone to love, we are never alone, even though they are not with us.’ Yet, I know that feeling,” glancing toward the row of pallbearers and fixing his eyesight on Danny, “when someone you love is not in your bed, waiting for you when you come home, or there to listen to you and share your happiness and your sadness, you are at a loss. It is then the support of others buoys your spirit, helps you carry your load, and gives you rest.”
Billy wiped a tear from his eyes and sat down!
The preacher stepped up to finish reading the obituary, and conclude the services. I couldn’t tell you what he said after Billy finished. I was too deeply involved in thinking through Billy’s remarks! Lee and I stood silently as the casket was wheeled out and carried by six old friends, growing old together, now giving Sarah Jenkins her finally journey to the graveyard next to the church and committing her body to the grave.
We chose not to attend the luncheon after the services, although Lee would’ve if I would’ve agreed. I just couldn’t and remained silent as I drove us back to the campground. Lee sensed something was amiss with me, fixed me a brandy and one for himself, and after each of us had a sip, while sitting outside under the awning in our lawn chairs, he said softly,
“Chad, I know something’s bothering you. Want to tell me about it?”
I nodded while struggling to keep the tears forming in my eyes at bay, “Bill’s remarks were so poignant at the funeral. In such a short speech, he emphasized and praised not only Sarah’s love for her husband and family but also directed his remarks to Danny as well. They fell in love so many years before, were separated by war, and had to wait until now to legally marry. Prior to their marriage all they had binding them together was their love and any financial, property, or health care agreements they’d committed to paper.”
I paused, took a deep breath, and continued, “Although we’ve only known each other a short while, I couldn’t endure all those years they did worrying something might happen to you and finding myself helpless to legally do anything.”
I sobbed aloud, choking out, “Lee, I love you so!”
He leaned forward, placed a hand on my knee, and said, “Stop right here- I feel the same way! Maybe this is too soon, but if I asked you to marry me, would the answer be yes?”
My melancholy was washed away as a spring rain rinsing the vestiges of winter aside, followed by a bright sunshine transforms the landscape into a vibrancy of life! My answer was an immediate “Yes!” followed by “When?”
“I have a cousin who’s a judge in Iowa in my home county and another one who’s the county clerk. Why don’t I call and see if we can get it done tomorrow?”
The next morning, at the county courthouse, we were wed! There were no church bells, no horns sounding in adulation and celebration, but four very strong words that bespoke to us and to the world the joy of all ages and signaled our love and commitment; Lee said “I do” and I responded the same when we were asked “Will you take this man to be your legally wedded spouse?” The only other words spoken in the world, no matter the language or the ages, are so meaningful or sweeter than “I do” except for “I love you!”
We decided announce our marriage only to family and friends, not that we were ashamed, quite the contrary! We just didn’t want a big fuss made. I wanted to carry Lee’s name as my own and became “Chad Bentley-Fielding.” Lee thought he ought to change his name to “Fielding-Bentley” but I didn’t want that! I was proud of his name and I wanted people to know, in the future, I’d married that Fielding Boy and I was his!
We cut across country from the county seat to Lee’s parents and gave them the good news. It was interesting watching Luke’s reaction. I thought he might be upset since he and his brother were so close; instead, he grinned and said “Cool!” and gave me a big hug.
My mom answered the phone when I called her and it was all I could do to calm her down. Of course, she wanted to have a large celebration and was disappointed when I informed her we really didn’t want one. I mollified her somewhat, telling her when my new book came out in the fall we’d throw a big party then, combining one great event with another. It seemed to satisfy her, although I wasn’t really betting on it.
“See,” she said, “remember me telling you about that killer smile you had? He seems like such a nice boy.”
Well, that nice boy was now her son-in-law!
Rather than cook that evening, we made eight o’clock reservations for a celebratory dinner at the “Rusty Scupper.” The “Scupper” had a prime rib special that evening with a fabulous salad bar and Lee and I thought it would be just perfect! The atmosphere and the view would give added ambiance to our private celebration.
We hustled to get cleaned up, dressed appropriately (not jeans but dress pants and casual shirts), and make it to the “Scupper” on time for our reservation. It seems like eating out is not the only thing there is to do on your wedding day, as Lee demonstrated as I bent over to dry my feet once out of the shower!
The host met us at the door, escorted us to a riverside table, handed us our menu’s, and left us to study them. Our waiter, dressed in the uniform white shirt, red bow tie, tight fitting black pants, and fronted by the waist high long apron, approached our table smiling with the radiance of a morning sun. Lo and behold our table waiter was Robbie! Continuing to smile, after giving us a conspiratorial wink, signaled to someone behind the bar and a bottle of champagne cooling in a bucket of ice was brought to our table. Robbie dodged our questions concerning who the gift was from and what was the occasion, as he opened it, poured us each a glass, twitched his fingers toward the bar again, and two busboys, each carrying a chair came to our table, and placed them across from us. Two more glasses were produced and, when we were thoroughly confused, snapped his fingers again and the two bus boys escorted Bill and Dan to our table! Well, so much for the quiet evening and keeping our marriage low key!
Their glasses were filled and before they seated themselves, they raised their glasses in a silent toast to us! Lee and I looked at each other, acknowledged their toast, and nodded our approval. They were seated and with Robbie standing patiently for our orders, Danny leaned over and said with a sly smile, “Welcome to the family! There’s very little that happens in our family Billy and I are not aware of – usually sooner than later!”“We’re so happy for you,” Bill said with some nostalgia. “We could only wish we’d had this opportunity many years ago.”
Thank you for reading “There’s Something About A Fielding Boy” - Chapter Seventeen
“Feeling hearts, touch them lightly,
Pour a thousand melodies unheard before.”
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