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BY JOHN C. KREIG - United States

The Palm Springs Greyhound Bus Station is not my idea of luxury travel, but I told his guy I’ve just met that I would pick him up here and I want to be good for my word. We met just last week and I have to admit that I’m falling hard which is unusual for me. Jimmy Abrams caught a bus up in Trinity County around 4:00 yesterday afternoon and it’s expected to arrive any time now. As far as I know, he doesn’t have a vehicle, a job, or a clue as to what he’s getting himself into. My dad sat with me after dinner last night and cleared the air. He said that he was worried that I might get too serious too soon with this guy and drop out of Stanford. I reassured him that I wanted nothing more than to be a Stanford grad and that nothing was going to derail what we both had worked so hard for. Then dad delivered his well-rehearsed lecture: “That boy didn’t have the best parents. They were crystal meth addicts and basically left him to fend for himself. Like half the kids up here, his grandparents had to take care of him and get him through school. Abigail looked out for him, and I suppose that he protected her from the mean kids. He got expelled a couple of times for fighting, but he wasn’t the type of kid to go looking for fights. They were always over Abigail. The kid had no confidence to speak of in high school. Judging by the way he walks and talks now, it looks like he found it somewhere. Don’t be taken in. Wait till you get to know him. That Trinity bunch he’s mixed up with is rough trade. Make sure he isn’t down here because of them chasing him out up there or wanting him to horn in on us.” “Dad, you yourself said you’re quitting after this season. That cop El Choppo has ruined it for all the small growers. The only ones left are the ones with rich backers that pay for their lawyers, and we both suspect, pay off some of the cops.” “I suppose, honey, but you just be careful.”

As I hugged my dad I couldn’t help looking down at his shoes. If you ever wanted to know how things were going financially for my father all you had to do was look at his shoes. They were stained and scuffed and torn with broken and tied back together laces. The soles were so worn that they probably hurt his feet. We all had the newest and best footwear available, but he wouldn’t even dream of getting new work shoes until after the harvest. He had sacrificed for all of us mightily, especially me. He never complained, he just worked hard, and when times got tough, he just worked even harder. I love him with all my heart, and want to help him as much as possible. Through thick and thin he was always there for me. Even when I was a rebellious teenager, he always stood by me.

The bus groans to a stop, and through the haze of diesel exhaust a rabble of tired passengers slouch down the steps and gather by the luggage door for their bags and suitcases. Jimmy is the last person off, and my heart skips a beat when I spot him. Now I know why I’m here. He has a small suitcase in each hand and puts them on the ground so that he can embrace me in a bear hug and lift me momentarily off the ground. “How was your trip, Jimmy?” “Too long. Can we get out of here, please?” “Don’t you have to get the rest of your things?” “”It’s all right here,” he replies as he bends down and retrieves the small suitcases. “Traveling light, I see,” I tell him. “It’s everything I need for right now,” he replies, and I can see he’s searching for my car and can’t wait to get out of here.

“Do you have time to stop at a grocery store, Rosalie?” “Sure Jimmy, of course.” I took him by a Walmart, and he bought so many groceries and cleaning supplies that I was afraid that they wouldn’t fit in my little Honda. With broom and mop handles sticking out the sunroof, we looked like modern day Beverly Hillbillies driving up the hill.

Jimmy’s place was back in the weeds at the end of a long s curving dirt driveway and it was fully hidden from view by anyone on the highway. It looked like it had seen better days, but all it really needed was a young man’s energy. Before becoming a total wastrel before age 30 his father worked for a home-builder down the hill and was a pretty fair carpenter. Unlike most of the homes up here, it wasn’t a manufactured home, but was rather stick built on a concrete foundation. He told me it had three bedrooms, two baths, and was 1,500 square feet in size. When we walked in the bright colors stunned me, but it was reasonably clean. He turns on the evaporator cooler, and as it started to whir we went back out to bring in the rest of the groceries and cleaning supplies. As I watched him loading the cold stuff in the freezer, hormones started getting the better of me.It had been a while since I had been with a man. Francis was a grad student and student teacher in the literature program at Stanford. He wrote beautiful lilting poetry, and was certainly attentive enough. His lovemaking was sweet, gentle, and unfulfilling. I had no plans to hook back up with him this coming semester and was searching for a way to let him down easy. What a lot of boys parading around like men never seem to figure out is that women really don’t like to have sex when they don’t enjoy it. All of that didn’t seem to matter now. I had to make the first move the other night and have had just about enough of this perfect gentleman shit.

I walked back to his bedroom, got undressed, and got into bed calling to him, “Jimmy, can you help me in here?” His toned frame fills the doorway and I can see that he has taken note of my clothes on the floor. He smiles and then chuckles saying, “You sure you’re up for this?” “Oh no Jimmy, you had better be up for this.” “Anything we need to discuss?” “Not on my end lover boy, how about you?” “All clear and ready for takeoff.” I throw back the sheets and he takes a long appreciative look while whistling low and seductive like. This is no sensitive grad student I’m messing with now. He undresses in front of me and I’m getting hotter by the second. He walks over and turns on the fan prolonging the sexual tension, and I can see that he is firmly invested in events about to unfold. Then he comes to me and sets about his business; not too fast and definitely not too slow. It’s easy to tell that he has some experience in these matters, and I give in to it. I’m having sex, and I’m actually enjoying it for the first time. He makes sure to bring me to climax and then lets himself go. I’m hanging on to him like he’s the only branch sticking out from the cliff that I have just fallen off of, which isn’t too far from the truth. I don’t want to let go.

In the hushed silence that only our slackened breathing penetrates I fear that I’m falling too fast. I rest my head on his chest saying, “Everything’s spinning on my end, how about yours?”

“Yeah, my bell’s ringing. What got into you?” “I’ve been lonely and locked up for nearly a year. I guess that I should have asked if you’ve been vaccinated.” “Slipped your mind, did it? Don’t worry. I took care of that as soon as it was available.” “Me too.” “Well, I guess it’s safe to come into contact with each other then. And, even if it isn’t, there’s no turning back now.” “I’m going to have to go soon, Jimmy.” “I understand. I suppose it goes without saying that I want to see you again.” “Then why did you say it?” “Just want you to know that I don’t take this lightly. I hope that you have no doubt that I’m all in for this, that’s all.”

By the way he wants to snuggle, I can tell he wants to fall asleep, and there’s nothing more than I would like to do than fall asleep with him but I have responsibilities at home. I should probably wait, but I’m tired of these pent-up emotions that have plagued me for the last five years, and it’s been like waiting to exhale, or at least let go, just like I did with him a few moments ago. Everything is lifting off of me and it feels like a rushing relief. My orgasm was like truth serum; once I released physically I wanted to let go of everything that’s been holding me back. I want this floating feeling to last just a little longer. I was just as free as I have ever been with Jimmy and now I realize that I am going to let the truth set me completely free.

I better hurry before he’s completely asleep. “Jimmy, I’ve got something to tell you. I need you to promise me that this stays between us.” “A deep dark secret? So soon after coitus? What did I get myself into?” “Oh sure, lover boy, joke all you want.” “Okay. Sorry Rosalie. Lay it on me. What kind of trouble could you possibly be in? This ought to be good.” “Do I have your word?” “About what?” “About keeping your mouth shut.” “Yes, you have my word.” “Jimmy, Sara isn’t my sister, she’s my daughter.” “What? Then why does everyone act like she’s Leaf’s kid?”

So, I go into the story about the worst and best experiences of my entire life. High school was a nightmare for me. I always had to take my brother and sister there and come right home immediately after classes. I wanted to be a cheerleader, but that was out of the question. When I started to fill out by my sophomore year the boys started calling the house, and dad literally ran them off. He pressured me so much about taking birth control that I felt he was invading my privacy and I deeply resented it. I know that his experience with mom is what drove him to be so laser focused on seeing that I didn’t get pregnant. He knew what a responsibility parenthood is, and I didn’t. The more he went on about safe sex, the more I wanted to have any sex. In defiance to his smothering, I didn’t take the birth control pills. I flushed one every morning and let him think that I was being his obedient little girl. When I turned 17 and was able to drive myself, I was finally able to go to dances and other school functions. Things got a little better. Then at the start of my junior year, I was voted homecoming queen. That filled my head with feelings of self-importance and was a real boost to my self-confidence. Jeremy Whitlock, the senior starting quarterback, was voted homecoming king. He was good looking, and popular, and everything that I wanted to be but felt I wasn’t. When we had our dance, he whispered in my ear that that he thought I was beautiful and that he wanted to leave with me. He would wait outside in his car, and I could slip away when pretending to go to the rest room. We could be together. Why wouldn’t I want that? Every other girl in the school did.

There was another couple in the back seat of his car when I got out to the parking lot and they seemed to be completely drunk. I could see that Jeremy had a flask of something with him when I got in. His car was nice, probably because his parents were rich and lived on a sprawling horse property over in Gardner Valley. It seemed to me that Jeremy just about had it all. And I could be his girlfriend.

We went to a house that was full of druggies and he bought some coke. The other couple stayed there while we drove to a lookout over by the rez. I took a few lines of the coke just to look cool and my head started spinning. Jeremy was inhaling far more than I was and drinking from the flask. Eventually I had a few sips of his whiskey and then he says, “Okay, let’s get naked,” and he starts stripping down. I tell him, “Jeremy, I want you to take me back to the dance.” “The dance is over, sweetheart.” “Well, I need to get back to my car. Take me back, please.” “Oh sure, you expect me to stop with my motor running, just because you say so? Give it up, and I’ll take you back.” “No Jeremy, I want to leave now.” “Oh, I’ll leave you alright. I’ll leave you right here. You can get in the backseat, or you can walk home. How do you like that?” “I’ll walk then. Why are you being such an asshole?” “Because I can be honey Who the fuck do you think you are?” The extent of his inebriation was beginning to sink in with me. I was miles from home, and I was somewhat inebriated, also. I walked towards the car as if I was going to get in the back seat and then quickly jumped in the front driver’s seat and groped around for the keys. I’d leave him there and call some of his jock buddies to get his car and pick him up after I got home. All I wanted was to get home. “Looking for these,” he said as he shook the keys in my face. Instinctively I reached out for them, and he grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the car. He was insanely strong. I fought with everything I had in me, but it was useless. He raped me, stealing my virginity, and shoved me back into the car. I was determined not to give him the satisfaction of seeing me cry as he sped back to the school. The last words I ever heard from Jeremy Whitlock were, “Get out.” I drove home and dad was asleep on the couch too tired to keep his eyes open as he waited up for me. I went into the bathroom and tried to wash the whole thing off of me; the cum, the blood, the humiliation. My tears mixed with the pounding water as I let it run over me until it ran cold.

Jeremy never looked my way again. He acted as if nothing had ever happened. I decided that I would be more careful, that I wouldn’t trust any boys, that I would stop going to dances, that if I could, I would just graduate and then get out of this town. Jeremy would get away with what he had done because, as he had so in graciously pointed out to me, who the fuck was I? Well…that plan all went up in smoke when I stared down at the blue stick that came with the pregnancy test. At first, I refused to tell dad who the boy was because I was afraid that he would kill Jeremy, not that he wouldn’t have deserved it, but Keith and Tara needed dad. He said they could run a paternity test at nine weeks, and he would find out anyway. I turned to mom, and she said she could set up an abortion, no questions asked. Just get rid of the thing and move on. Don’t let it ruin my life.

Dad then stepped up and said we could work it out, that he wouldn’t pressure me again, that he would raise the child as his own. That’s the dad I know and love, but I saw this as my problem brought about by my own naivety and stupidity. I got on the internet and discovered that there was an adoption clinic over on the coast that offered housing, meals, medical care, and $10,000 to pregnant mothers who would give up their baby at birth. I could even keep up with my high school work while I was in there. I went to school one day and didn’t come home, but rather had a friend drive me to the facility where I checked in. I was due in July and could be back in school by the beginning of my senior year. I’d make up some plausible story about my disappearance and everything would go back to normal.

I hated that place. They were so sanctimonious and efficiently calculating and they treated us pregnant teenagers like the scum of the earth. The longer I carried the baby the more attached to it I became. Dad came down every weekend and pleaded with me not to give the child up. Come June, I started listening to him. We cooked up a plan. We would say that the child was his, and if it looked like hers, mom’s. I would complete high school and go off to Stanford. My life would not be interrupted, he would see to it. He was so sorry that he had laid so much on me, and that I really wasn’t able to have a good high school experience. I thought of Jeremy and his ilk and thought that if they were the epitome of the high school experience, then who would want it? The people at the facility went ballistic when I informed them that I was keeping my baby. They threatened to toss me out, but mom came to the rescue with$25,000.00. She was part of the plan now and would say the baby was hers if anyone were to ask, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the gossiping old biddies in that town would ask. The best thing that came from all this is that mom and dad ended the war between them.

The baby came on the Fourth of July. I didn’t know the gender until I held Sara in my arms. Everything changed. I went back to high school in the fall. It’s as if nobody even noticed that I had been gone. I took the SAT’s late and crushed them with a perfect score. Stanford accepted me. My life was looking up. I helped dad as much as I could. I don’t know why it is so important to keep this secret, but dad insists that my life is easier this way. When I graduate, I was planning on taking Sara with me wherever I went. And now, because of this man I’m lying next to, I don’t really want to go anywhere. John Lennon is laughing in his grave. You know the old joke, don’t you? Question: How do you make God laugh? Answer: Make a plan.

“It’s not the end of the world, Rosalie. In two years, you can do anything that you want. The fact is you could do it now,” Jimmy said. “Yeah, I know, but dad has been so good about things that I don’t want to rock the boat. Everything is sailing along just fine.” “What about that douche-bag Jeremy? Aren’t you worried that he could come back into the picture?” “Let him, I’ll take him for all he’s worth for child support. The fact is, he probably doesn’t even know about Sara, and that’s just fine with me.” “Well, I have my own situation with Mary Jane. I don’t know what to say to her. I don’t have any idea of what to do.” “You know what you do Jimmy? You hang with her. You need to be present in her life. Everything else will work itself out. Sara was the best thing that has ever happened to me. You just watch, Mary Jane is going to steal your heart. She’ll have you hook, line, and sinker. I’ll help you get to know her. You can count on me.”

I got out of bed and went off to the bathroom with my disheveled clothing in hand. Jimmy watched my graceful movements savoring every second of it. He didn’t want to forget anything about this encounter. He didn’t want this moment to ever end, but of course, it ended way too soon.

Jimmy called my dad to inquire if he knew of anyone selling a truck. Within two hours two trucks pulled into his driveway. Clarence, a rather large and aging full-blooded Cahuilla Indian, came to the front door and stated, “I heard you’re looking for a truck. Want to look at this Tundra?” It was a white 2010, fully loaded, all-wheel drive, with a crew cab. “It’s got low miles. Only used it locally for growing weed, but my partners and I are getting out of it. The county sheriff has gotten to be a royal pain-in-the-ass. I don’t need it, anymore. Leaf tells me that you’re an okay guy, so I’d give you payments if you need them.” “How much – cash?” Jimmy asked. Twenty-five grand.” “Come on in while I get my wallet.”

Jimmy called me that evening to see if I’d go down the hill tomorrow morning with him to get Mary Jane. I could tell he was stressing and told him that both Sara and I would go. He seemed very relieved. Sara and I get to his place at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Rebecca has managed to finagle a 10:00 a.m. starting time at work just for today. When we get to her condo, she has all of Mary Jane’s things packed. Sara runs up to Mary Jane and they bound off. Jimmy pulls out a bag of weed from under his work shirt saying, “One pound of GDP, just like you asked.” “Is it any good?” “Got it from this big Indian He says it will knock you on your ass.” I cut short this high-powered drug deal by asking, “How do you want to work this, Rebecca? “MJ knows that you’re here to get her, and that’s about it.” Jimmy interrupts saying, “Rebecca we agreed that we were going to tell her together. I would really appreciate it if you would help me do this.” “MJ, can you come here?” Rebecca shouts out and both girls come running into the living room. “There’s no best way to do this, but I suppose that to just come out with it will be okay,” Rebecca says and then adds, “MJ, this is your daddy.” Mary Jane looks at Jimmy wide eyed as if he has just stepped off a spaceship. He gets down on his knees in front of her and stares into her eyes. She takes the initiative and asks, “Are you really my daddy?” Tears come streaming down Jimmy’s face and all he can do is shake his head yes. Mary Jane rushes to him and hugs him as his chest heaves with great explosive sobs. He holds her very tight and gets up on his feet, holding her aloft. “Well then,” Rebecca says, “that wasn’t so bad. I have to get ready for work.” Jimmy is bewildered. This couldn’t be this easy, could it be? I ask Jimmy to gather up Mary Jane’s things while I grab both girls by their hands and lead them outside. Welcome to my world Jimmy Abrams. Instant family coming right up.

The little girls loved Jimmy’s big truck. They giggled and whispered and had a grand old time of it in the back seat. We went by Bed, Bath & Beyond and Jimmy let Mary Jane pick out her bed and bedding. Then he asked Sarah if she would like to pick out her guest bed and bedding and she was thrilled to do it. Then we went to Walmart for some child’s room furnishings; a dresser, bookcase, and a floor lamp. Then Jimmy bought a big screen Smart TV. He was out over $3,000.00 before we got out of there with the bed of the truck practically overflowing. Back at his place, he set up the TV in the living room and found a cartoon program that interested the girls. As they sank into the couch to watch we went into MJ’s bedroom and set everything up. He was so happy that it made me happy. I cooked lunch on the stove while Jimmy and the girls played hot potato with a beach ball outside on what used to be a lawn area. Laughter rang out across the chaparral and drifted down the canyons. I was reasonably sure that Jimmy’s parenting inexperience would rear its ugly head at bedtime, so I called dad and asked if he was okay with my staying over with Sarah for the evening. “He really has a lot to learn, dad. You know how it is with little kids.” “Okay Rose, but just for tonight. We need you over here, also.”

We bathed the girls, made sure they brushed their teeth, and put them to bed at nine in the evening. The way they were wiggling and squirming I highly suspected that they wouldn’t be asleep for another hour. Jimmy went outside and toked on a joint while looking up at the full moon. Coyotes yipped in the distance. I walked up behind him and hugged him around the waist. “Two months from now, it will be the harvest moon,” he said. “God help us all,” I replied. He spun around and kissed me urgently. “Jimmy, we can’t do it with the girls in the house.” “There’s always the truck,” he replied. I went back into the house and checked on the girls who were nodding out. They didn’t even notice me. Jimmy was already in the backseat half undressed when I climbed up into the truck. Before long, I experienced the second orgasm of my life. The moon shone even brighter over the ground plane. Two deer crossed the driveway and melted into the chaparral. He held me tighter than even the last time. “You falling Jimmy?” I asked “Hard,” was all he said. A barn owl hooted, and the soft summer breeze wafted into the cab. I wondered if heaven could really be any better than this? This is the happiest and most loved that I have ever felt in my life. Could I really leave and go back to school in a month-and-a-half?

Jimmy Abrams went after the repairs to his home like a one-man wrecking crew. He had a new metal roof on it in the course of two weeks. Mary Jane loved riding in the big truck to the hardware store, and everyone working there called her MJ and were always thrilled to see her. He cleared his lot and replanted the lawn area. Then came a flagstone patio with a massive barbecue grill. Workmen replaced the air conditioning. Mary Jane insisted on her own brush to use while he painted the house. He replaced the vanities in both bathrooms and put down hardwood floors throughout the entire house. I bought him dishes, silverware, and kitchen pots and pans from the secondhand stores up in Idlewild. When I came in one afternoon, he was installing big beautiful plantation shutters on all the windows. Then he added an attractive entry door. I helped him pick out some tasteful new furniture over the internet – country casual. He pulled that place up by its bootstraps.

I slipped away every chance I got to go sleep with him. When we had a more in-depth conversation about birth control, I came clean with him and told him that I had had my tubes tied right after Sara was born. He got really quiet and wouldn’t look at me. Finally, I drew it out of him. “There’s nothing more than I would rather do than have a child with you Rose.” “Jimmy there are two wonderful children already in our lives.” “But none that came from both of us.” “Sometimes the procedure can be reversed, and there’s always in vitro. Not right now, but I would do that for you.” He smiled that quirky smile of his and I knew that this revelation pleased him very much.

Jimmy got the biggest kick out of registering Mary Jane for school while I registered Sarah. We both put each other’s name down for one of our emergency contacts. This seemed to mean an awful lot to him. Sarah was very fond of him, and he was becoming attached to her too. Everything appeared to be perfect, but of course, nothing is ever perfect.

Time raced right up until the evening before I had to drive back to Stanford in the red Civic mom had bought me to begin my junior year. Dad had a sad hangdog look on his face. Sara would cry unexpectedly. Jimmy was aloof. We took the kids out to dinner down the hill, and he barely touched his food. When I got him alone in our driveway, I confronted him. “You knew this day was coming. It wasn’t any secret.” “What would it take to get you to stay Rose?” “You can’t ask me that. You know I promised my parents that I would graduate. I love you Jimmy, but you have to give me that time.” He hung his head saying, “I love you too, for all the good it does me.” I gently shook him and told him, “Look here Jimmy Abrams. There ain’t no doubt about it. You’re going to ask me to marry you after I graduate, and I’m going to say yes. You can count on that. I better not hear about you taking up with any of these mountain hussies. There won’t be anyone sharing my bed while I’m away, and if I can make that sacrifice, then you can make it too.” He held me tighter than ever before, let go abruptly, and climbed up in his truck and sped off. I couldn’t fix this for him. He had to work through this in his own time and in his own way.

The next morning Jimmy came by with Mary Jane. I cooked a big breakfast for everyone telling Keith that the responsibility for doing the dishes belonged to him now. Everyone milled about unsure about what to do or say next. It was always like this. I walked out to the drive and opened the door to the Civic, and they all crowded around me. I hugged them all, got in the car, and fired it up. It would be a twelve-hour ride up to Palo Alto and looking out my rear view mirror at them all looking back at me, I knew that I would be crying all the way.

John C. Krieg is a retired landscape architect and land planner who formerly practiced in Arizona, California, and Nevada. John has had pieces published in A Gathering of the Tribes, Alternating Current, Blue Mountain Review, Cholla Needles, Clark Street Review, Conceit, Hedge Apple, Homestead Review, Indolent Books, Inlandia, Line Rider Press, LOL Comedy, Lucky Jefferson, Magazine of History and Fiction, Oddball Magazine, Palm Springs Life, Pandemonium, Pegasus, Pen and Pendulum, Saint Ann’s Review, Squawk Back, The Book Smuggler’s Den, The Courtship of Winds, The Mindful Word, The Scriblerus, The Writing Disorder, These Words, True Chili, Twist & Twain,and Wilderness House Literary Review. In conjunction with filmmaker/photographer Charles Sappington, Mr. Krieg has completed a two-part documentary film entitled Landscape Architecture: The Next Generation (2010). In some underground circles John is considered a master grower of marijuana and holds as a lifelong goal the desire to see marijuana federally legalized. Nothing else will do.

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