While reading Take a Lemon one day…

Hi. I’m Von, the ‘chief beta-reader’ for Take a Lemon. Which basically meant that, whenever I wasn’t being too obnoxious, Russ sent me an advanced copy and I told him what I thought was wrong with it. Then he either … Continue reading

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113c: Allowance

Jervis was totally wired that next morning, so he threw on some boxers and went down to his lab. He was too keyed up to work on his experiment so, while he keyed up some of the videos one one computer, he pulled up his ‘Esoteric Scientists’ chat window on the other.

 

JustinSherriff: Hey, Jerve, you up early this morning.

Jervis: Morning Justin. Yeah, had a great day yesterday.

JustinSherriff: Cool. A good experiment.

Jervis laughed to himself.

Jervis: No. Girl stuff. I got some.

JustinSherriff: What? A nerd like you? Bet you had to pay for it!

Jervis: No, seriously, this hot girl came on to me!

JustinSherriff: I didn’t know you wrote fiction, Jerve.

Jervis: I was as surprised as anyone, believe me. And she made me nervous, too, as my folks were home the first time, and then she would insist on running around the house naked, yesterday.

JustinSherriff: OK, enough of the wet dream. How is your experiment coming?

Jervis couldn’t quite figure out if Justin was just giving him a hard time, or what. Of course, if Justin had told him that he had spent yesterday running around naked with a hot girl, or even a kind of chunky girl, he wouldn’t’ have believed it either.

Jervis: I haven’t done much on it since I finished my big run. I’ve got a lot of details to work through.

JustinSherriff: Well, let a friend help, send me some files and I’ll scope them for you, and write up a summary. Got any good pics?

Jervis: Yeah, a few, bathroom shots. And there was this one girl who ran around naked. But she was not so hot. But I’m not sure I’m ready to let my original data out of house.

JustinSherriff: Paranoid! Well, I guess it comes with the territory. But, seriously, did the directionality stay steady?

Jervis: Yeah. That seems really locked. Every once in a while it seemed that there was a bit of reverse flow, but in general the right/left dichotomy stayed pretty steady.

JustinSherriff: Did you deliberately put the female on the right side, or was that just Freudian.

Jervis: Freudian, I guess. Or, rather, because I wanted to focus on her universe. She was hot. ‘Is’ hot, I suppose I should say.

JustinSherriff: I see. So the right brain controls the universe creation.

Jervis: Yeah. That came automatically. Nothing I could do about it.

JustinSherriff: Fascinating. How long did the dream last?

Jervis: About an hour, an hour and a half at the longest.

JustinSherriff: So it didn’t take the same time for everyone?

Jervis: No, the connections sometimes take a long time to develop. On my first try, a few weeks ago, it took me three hours to set it up, and I hardly got any. I refined my technique, though, and it’s gotten easier. Especially on repeat subjects.

JS: Oh. So you are you going to try to repeat with that ‘hot girl’ again?

JV: I hadn’t thought about it. You think I should? I haven’t even looked at all my data, yet.

JS:Sure. Life is short. And besides, you’ll be going back to college soon, no, and will have less time to run experiments, but plenty of time to go over data.

JV: I guess so. What do you think I should do…?

 

 

 

“Jervis,” Father called from downstairs, “I want to see you in my study.”

Jervis, who had been sitting in his room reading sci-fi, went down to his father’s study, incredibly nervous. He could still remember, almost physically, that time when his father had called him down, with almost the exact same tone of voice, when he had found out about that little girl. Coldly, calmly, he had had him drop his pants and bend over, and the resulting beating had left Jervis on the floor. If only that little girl had had the sense to refuse, he thought to himself. Or if I had only not been stupid enough to post the pictures on the web for all my friends to see.

Had father found out about his experiments? That was impossible. This must be about Jennifer. But Mom had given no hint that she would complain to father about that…

“Close the door and come in,” Father said, and Jervis quickly obeyed, coming and standing before his father’s desk. He was almost taller than his father, now, but it didn’t help any. His father was a powerful man, both physically and politically, as evidence by the way that he had covered up that incident, paying the girls parents off, and not even hesitating at giving his own son a beating.

“I hear that you’ve been sleeping with Jennifer Marshall,” Father said, and Jervis almost wet himself. Suzy must have talked! How could she! She didn’t do that! Not since she was in diapers. She snooped, she found out, she blackmailed him from time to time, little stuff, but she never, ever told! Neither of them did.

“Yes, Sir,” Jervis said. You might hide stuff from Father, in fact you always hid stuff from Father, but you never, ever, lied.

There was a moments silence, and then his father said, “Your mother told me, by the way. She found two wet towels on the floor of our bathroom, and then went into your room. You were not very discreet. If you don’t wish to get found out with something like that you need to put something on the bed that you can wash, a towel, perhaps.”

“Yes, sir.”

Father got up, and Jervis’s heart quailed, but Father was not walking over to him, but pacing, going to the window, and looking out. “You should have told me, first,” Father said. “But I suppose that would have been hard, and perhaps you didn’t have time.”

He turned back. “I am pleased, actually. Both because I think you need this kind of outlet and because of who you chose. She’s rather ugly, rather fat, so it couldn’t have been for her beauty. And if you just wanted to get it done, your allowance is sufficient for an occasional foray. But James Marshall’s daughter. And I saw the way she looked at you, so I know it wasn’t unwilling. That dress she had on.” He shook his head.

“Anyway, I am pleased, and I will stay pleased as long as you are careful. I don’t care how long this lasts, but I want it to end well, do you understand?”

Jervis, who didn’t, nodded anyway.

“To that end, I am raising your allowance a hundred dollars a week, but I want you to spend it all on her, do you hear?”

“Yes, Sir!” Jervis said.

“Dinner, roses, whatever she likes. She probably won’t be excited by shopping, being as how her own father is so rich.”

“What does he do, Sir?”

“Actually, he has a job up your alley. His company does investments in ‘groundbreaking research’ of all types. I don’t understand most of it, any more than I understand what you do. But he works with genius types like you, all social misfits so you might get along with some of them. Maybe you’ll get to meet some of them during your fling Jennifer. That might be interesting to you, and even profitable.”

“All in all this is a good relationship, as long as you are careful.” He paused. “You can go now.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jervis left the office, closing the door carefully behind him, and turned toward the stairs, where he saw his sister, white faced, staring at him. At his look her face changed and she frantically motioned him up, and down to her room. “What happened?”

“Mom figured it out, and told Dad.”

“Was he upset? He didn’t sound upset. He didn’t beat you?”

“No. No, he wasn’t upset at all. I guess he figures this is a good business move, somehow. He raised my allowance by a hundred, which I have to spend on her.”

Jenny nodded. They both were used to having their allowances raised for a specific purpose. And Dad wouldn’t watch to carefully, but you didn’t dare make a mistake on your spending. Suzy, too, knew the power of her dad’s belt altho, as a girl, she came in for it less, and hardly at all the last couple of years.

“So… you’re in good?”

“Good but careful. He told me I had to ‘end it well’ when it ended. What does that mean?”

“It means you need to not be a jerk and start dating someone else while you are still sleeping with her. You two were sleeping together, right? Not just playing games?”

“No, yeah,” he muttered. “You’ve gotta help me Suz. I don’t know how to do this.”

“You seem to be doing pretty well so far!” Suzy said. “You spend one dinner party with her and then, the next day, you invite her over to your bed? Pretty hot stuff, if you ask me.”

“It wasn’t like that. She did it all.” He supposed that most boys would have problems sharing stuff like this with their sisters, but when you have both been lined up and beaten, back and forth, by your father, side by side, and had your sibling watch you cry your face out… and when you’ld had to watch out for each other, and keep the others secrets for years, sharing became second nature. “She did it. Last night, and then today. She started stuff last night, and she called me today. She even somehow got her number on my phone, and got my phone number.”

“That was probably pretty easy,” Suzy said.

“How? We were with each other pretty much the whole time last night.”

“Oh? Did you go to the bathroom with her?’

“Well, no, of course not.”

“And did you check your phone when she went?”

“Oh,” Jervis said and, in his minds eye, saw the whole thing. The girl ‘having to go’ and then sitting there on the toilet with the lid down, calling her phone from his to get the number, and then programming in her number and those roses. In fact, she probably had to buy that image from somewhere. He pulled out his phone to check, but Suzy stopped him.

“Leave off with the tech stuff, bro. What were you two doing in the basement, anyway? Pretty creepy place to hang around naked, not that that has ever stopped you. But she wanted to go down there?”

“I was showing her the house, and she wanted to explore. And then she wanted to know all about what I did there.”

“Oh, right, what a come on. She was just leading you by the nose, trying to get you to think you were this macho stud scientist type.”

“Hey, she really seemed interested!”

“I doubt it, bro. But, hey, if you’re happy, and Dad’s happy, I’m happy. I guess even Mom is happy.”

“She wanted me to call her, yesterday.”

“Well, good then. Another crisis passed. For now, anyway.”

Jervis looked at his phone, “Hey, I need to get down to the lab…” he started, but just then the phone lit up with Roses.

“Hi, Jervy, I’m just dying to talk to you…”

His sister’s eyes following him, Jervis went back to his room… and stayed there.

Wow! Jennifer was so cool. And she was actually interested in his work, no matter what Suzy said. She didn’t understand it very well, but she was trying. He went out into the hallway. Everyone was asleep, so he went down to the lab very quietly. He didn’t want his mom getting on his case, not tonight. Tonight he was going to run another experiment. Just a little one…

 

 

 

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113b: First Church

“Good morning, love,” Robert said, reaching over and kissing Grace. “Ready for church?”

“I will be, eventually, I suppose,” Grace said, kissing him back but making no move to get up. “We’re not in a hurry, are we?”

“Oh, no, church isn’t till eleven. I heard Ben and Beth up a while ago, and some of the cousins and things, but no one will expect us anytime soon. I suppose we could even skip church if we wanted.”

“And have everyone sit there the whole time thinking about what we are doing here? I don’t think so. No, I think we should put in an appearance, at least. And I think if we don’t get up soon we’ll have your littles, followed by a bunch of cousins, coming in to jump on the bed or something.

She got up, leisurely, and pulled a robe over her pajamas. “Let’s go downstairs and get some coffee.”

“OK,” Robert said, pulling on some jeans and a sweatshirt. “Hello, girls!”

Two of his little cousins had been standing outside their door, no doubt listening, and jumped back in surprise when he opened it. “Robert!” they said, coming back and hugging his legs. “Breakfast time!”

“Oh, did Mom send you up?”

“No,” they said, shaking their heads, “but we knew you’d want breakfast.”

“Oh, you did, did you?” he asked, putting one of them on his shoulders. “I guess I am a growing boy!”

The three raced down the stairs, with Grace following more leisurely.

“Hey, Mom,” Robert said.

“Robert, Grace,” Mom said. “Robert, would you mind putting the drinks on the table?”

“What can I do, Mom?” Grace asked.

“Oh, Grace, if you could Scramble up a dozen eggs or so?”

“Sure, Mom,” she said.

“Boys! Calm down!” Mom said, as half a dozen of Robert’s cousins, in dress ranging from BVD’s to one already in his church suit, raced each other in and out of the kitchen, with Ben toddling eagerly behind. Suddenly a piercing whistle came from the stairs and three of the boys stopped, dead in their tracks, causing the other three, and Ben, to pile into them.

“Boys! Sit!” a male voice said, and one of Roberts cousins turned the corner around the stairs, pointing to the living room. The three boys who had stopped trooped immediately off and the other three cousins, rather awed, watched them.

“What’s with that?” Grace asked, as the cousin, ignoring his charges, came into the kitchen and asked Mom what needed doing?

“Oh, those are the other ‘Smiths’,” Robert said. “Dad’s brother’s kids. Strict disciplinarians. Kids are lucky it wasn’t there Dad that caught them, or they’d all be getting switched. Not that Samuel wouldn’t switch them, but he tends to be a bit less quick to do it.”

“I’d hate to be in that family,” Grace said.

“I dunno,” Robert said. “They seem happy enough. They’re always going places. Some families are afraid of taking their kids places, but these kids are so well trained you can take them anywhere. Watch.”

Suddenly Robert began whistling a sea shanty and one of his cousins looked up from the couch and came racing over. “Gideon, this is Mrs. Smith, my new wife. I want you to stand here and do what she needs you to do.”

“Yes, Robert,” the kid said, and turned toward Grace, with an expectant look on his face.

“Ummm, could you find me some eggs?” She said.

“Yes, ma’am,” the boy said. “How many?”

“I need a dozen,” Grace said.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and turned toward Robert’s mom, who had watched the whole exchange with amusement. “Where are the eggs, Aunty?” he asked, and, following directions, he got the eggs and gave them to Grace.

“Thank you,” she said and stood, waiting for her next ‘need’. Grace gave Robert a funny look, shrugged, and started cracking the eggs.

“I love your church,” Grace said, as the two, arm in arm, walked down the aisle to sit next to Jenny and his parents in a row that filled up rather quickly and dramatically with the rest of the Smith cousins and those from Mrs. Smith’s side of the family. “It is so pretty!”

That was true enough, Robert thought. He himself felt rather challenged when he went with Caleb, however. The preaching at his church was always technically correct, but not very challenging.

The singing was wonderful, though. The choir, led by the same man that Jenny studied under, practically filled the enormous choir loft, and sang in full polyphonal harmony. Few choir directors, nowadays, could recruit men to their choir; but this man, with his consistent emphasis on songs that employed the male voice well, always filled the bass, and often the tenor part.

Robert would have joined the choir but, before college he had been too busy and now, during college, he was away too often for practice. Maybe once he got his wife settled in Grace would join. She had a nice voice, if untrained.

“Hey!” Caleb said, from the kitchen, as the Smiths finally came home from church.

“Hey!” Jenny answered, coming up and taking his hand. “You should have heard the choir today. They did ‘When Peace Like a River’, and it was wonderful!”

Robert watched them for a second, and then turned Grace, whose arm he was holding, back toward the stairs and, in the process, turning toward his Dad. Dad, who was staring, and grinning, at the oblivious couple. “It’s about time!” he muttered. “I thought that boy would never figure it out.”

Robert grinned at Dad, and then he and Grace went upstairs. “Finally some peace,” Grace said, unbuttoning her shirt. “You sure have a ton of cousins.”

“Hopefully we will make them some more,” Robert said, taking advantage of catching her in mid-shirt and kissing her.

“Do they need any more?” Grace whined. “I’m surprised they didn’t put any on our floor!”

“They probably will, next time,” Robert admitted. “Mom and Dad often have some.”

Grace groaned, and Robert laughed. “Don’t you have any cousins?”

“Oh, yes, but most of ours live halfway across the country somewhere, so we never see them all at once. We have one set that lives in the mountains of Colorado. I will have to finagle an invitation.”

 

 

 

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113a: Faith of her husband

Sunday Morning

There was this incredibly annoying sound, and I sat bolt upright, staring around in confusion. Caleb, laying next to me, stirred and moaned, but the sound went on. Finally, across the room, half buried in a pile of books, I saw a clock radio. Grabbing a robe from beside the bed I went across the room and, finally, got it turned off.

“Morning, love,” I heard from behind me, and turned to see Caleb sitting up, yawning, stretching, and staring at me.

“Morning,” I said, coming over for a kiss… not as pleasant an experience as last night. He really needed to brush his teeth. He pawed at me but, “What’s with the alarm?”

“Church,” he said, swinging his legs out of bed and reaching for his boxers. “Sunday School.”

I groaned, remembering that his church… my new church… did, indeed, start earlier than ours. “I’ll go grab a shower, then,” I said.

“Sure,” he said, collapsing back into bed. “Let me know when its free.”

I was a little disappointed he didn’t want to come with me but, when I got to the hallway and saw a girl coming out of the bathroom, I realized why he waited. “Hey girls,” I said, coming in. Three of his girl cousins were there, and they greeted me eagerly.

“Roberta!” the youngest one said, even giving me a hug.

“You guys sleep all right?” I asked, reaching in and turning on the shower.

“Oh, no, we talked alllll night,” the oldest one said. “You?”

Luckily I was facing away from her and she couldn’t see my blush. She was too young to have any idea what she had asked. “Well, the party went kind of late.”

“Mom put us down early!” the middle one wined. “Long before the And now we have to get up early to go to church!”

“When you finish here tell Caleb, will you? He wants to come in.”

“’K”, the oldest one said, and I hung my robe up and slipped quickly into the shower.

“Finally!” a male voice said, some minutes later, just as I was finishing up. “Thanks for sending that cousinette to get me,” he said. “What is that verse about a loud greeting early in the morning?”

I laughed and reached out for a towel, starting to dry just as he pulled the curtain open. “Wow!” he said, “You look wonderful wet!”

I blushed, and dried, and grabbed my robe, while he stepped into the shower. “I’ll see you down at breakfast,” I said.

“Darling!” River said, meeting me outside the door and, dramatically, kissing me again. Luckily she had made allowance for our ‘conservative values’ and was dressed, well covered, in a bizarre set of pygamas, all covered with scenes from all over the world, including the Eiffel Tower right up the center of her chest. “Thank you for letting me stay. The little girls were quite amusing. I will shower and be in to debrief you. This boy had best be treating you right.”

She went to go in the bathroom, but I stopped her, “Caleb is showering,” I said.

“I will wait,” she said, reaching for the handle again.

“You will wait, out here,” I said. “Come to my room, we can talk now.”

“You are so plebian,” she complained, but went willingly enough to my room, and we ‘debriefed’ while I dressed for breakfast. I had just assured her, for the third time, that he was ‘treating me right’ when he, himself, came in the door.

“Well, I suppose I will have to believe you,” she sighed. And then, in an almost normal tone of voice, said, “Is the shower free?” to Caleb.

“Yes,” he said, staring at her pajamas.

“Good,” she said. A few seconds later we heard her pounding on the bathroom door, “Girls! Let me in, I need to shower. Girls!”

I giggled and closed the door, and Caleb watched as I collapsed on the bed in giggles.

As we walked, hand in hand, to the Sunday School classroom, I couldn’t help comparing the reality to my dream. There was no ‘deja vu’ like I had experience with Jervis. Everyone came up and congratulated me, of course, like they had; but not the same people in the same way with the same words or anything. And the text was nothing like I had imagined.

“We’ll be dealing with a very difficult issue, today and for the next few Sundays,” the elder said. “An issue that divides todays church, both from itself and from the historical church. Indeed, I expect that several of you are going to be very uncomfortable. But I would ask that you not only listen with an open heart to what Scripture has to say, but that you feel free to question and even challenge what I say and how I interpret it. We are going to be looking at the blessing of children.”

I sat there, very confused. Who on Earth didn’t see children as a blessing? But then he read the first text, Psalm 127-128 and I realized that we were going to be discussing ‘full quiver’. I glanced at Caleb. I knew what he thought about that. My folks agreed, although they hadn’t always… thus the big gap between Jenny and the twins. And Caleb’s folks… well, they had used birth control for a while and then, to their utter shock and disappointment, once they stopped, they had had miscarriage after miscarriage. I glanced around the room, nervously. I knew that probably most of these younger couples were using birth control. One of them, I even thought, was using the pill, which was abortifacent as well as birth control.

“But, pastor, you aren’t saying that we should just have children whether or not we can afford them?” a man asked, a few minutes later.

“What does ‘afford’ mean?” the pastor asked, leaning back. “When we look at history we see incredibly poor families having children, many children. Some of whom grow up to be incredibly important people.”

“It doesn’t matter how rich we are,” Caleb said. “God says that children are a blessing from him. Who are we to refuse one of God’s blessings?”

“It isn’t a question of refusing,” the other man argued. “It is a question of timing.”

“Timing is refusing,” Caleb said. “When you wait, you give up the children you would have had while not waiting.”

“I’m surprised to hear you arguing against birth control,” the man said. “After all your folks only had the one…”

“My parents…!”

“Excuse me,” the pastor interjected. “Samuel, you don’t know, perhaps, that Caleb’s parents were never able to have children. Caleb is adopted. They’ve never made any secret of that fact, but you are relatively new to our church.”

“Oh, oh, I’m so sorry,” Samuel said, red faced.

“No, it was my fault,” Caleb said. “I get a little… emotional… about the issue. You see, they couldn’t just not have children,” He took a breath, “What the pastor didn’t tell you is that they had miscarriage after miscarriage. I grew up where, every few months, my folks would get excited because my mother was pregnant and then, a few weeks or, once, months, later, they had to tell me that we had lost another baby. We named them all, we even have a scrapbook, and they have never stopped trying.”

I stared at him. I hadn’t even known that! I mean, I always assumed they were still trying but, a scrapbook? Names?

The mood of the class totally changed after that. I’m not sure Samuel ended up convinced, but he was incredibly sobered, and kept glancing at his wife. And, after class, when everyone else had left, he came up to Caleb. “Hey, I’m sorry,” he said, taking his hand in an almost ‘hug’ way. And his wife hugged me and cried freely.

“Oh, and congratulations!” he said. “On your marriage and all. Funny way to do it, I hear.”

“You’re welcome to come over this week,” Caleb said.

“Oh, yeah, like you want us there for your honeymoon.”

“No, seriously. We will be having open house all week and we would love for you to come. It’s part of the deal.”

“Oh, ok. We should call first?”

“No. I mean, maybe…”

Samuel laughed. “I tell you what. I have half of Monday off. We’ll come by in the afternoon, but you don’t need to feel like you need to talk with us the whole time. I do want to talk about this issue, though. It sounds like you have really thought it through and… and have some personal experience I don’t have. My folks wanted two kids, a boy and a girl. They waited, and then tried, and out we popped. I never thought… I never even thought about anything different. Today’s class was a real shock for me, but your testimony…”

The silence lengthened and, eventually, I said to his wife, “So, we’ll see you on Monday? Afternoon?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure,” she said, and we hugged again.

“The ‘young adults’ class, indeed,” River said, when we met her in the hallway. “Young they may be, but ‘adults’, hardly. How could you have relegated me to such an oblivion?”

“Well, we could hardly have taken you to the ‘young married’ class, could we? I suppose you could have gone with my parents to the class on Ephesians.”

“That must have been more interesting. What is ‘Ephesians’?” she asked.

“A book in the Bible about grace.”

“Grace? Not the girl your husband asked me about?”

“No. Grace. As in, getting a free gift.”

“Oh. And what comes next?”

“The regulare service,” I said. “But I have to go, want to come?”

“Of course,” she said. “Even I, as countercultural as I am, have to bow to the necessity of holding up our flag against boys and engaging in the time honored ritual of female going to the bathroom with female. Let us go,” she said. She was always making crude, but subtle, puns like that.

At the door of the bathroom I bumped into a girl, and I had this bizarre feeling that, the last time I had seen her, she had been in tears. I spent the whole time in the bathroom trying to figure out why and then, suddenly, as we washed hands side by side at the sink, it came to me. “Say, could I talk to you? Outside?”

“Sure,” she said, looking at me very oddly.

River, with her usual lack of social sense (although I, personally, always thought that most of what she did was on purpose) followed us outside, causing the girl to stare even more. “What’s up?” she asked, when were far enough down the drive that no one could hear us.

“I need you to ask your boyfriend something. You do have a boyfriend, right? And he goes to the college?”

“Yeah. Fred.”

“That’s right. I need you to ask Fred something for me. I need you to ask him if he recently had a really mindblowing dream.”

The girl, whose name, I remembered now, was Sarah, paled. “How on Earth did you know? He called me up and talked to me, like, forever about it. About how he was two people at once, and how he got arrested, and tortured, and all.”

“I’m not sure what is going on,” I said. “But I’d really like to talk to him about it. Actually, my husband would like to talk to him. Could you set it up?”

While the girl and I were exchanging ‘contacts’ on our phone, I felt River’s eyes on me. Finally, when the girl had left, she said, “Again with the dream. This is serious to you, is it not?”

“Yes,” I said. “Very serious. More and more all the time, it seems. I can’t figure out how we could have ‘shared’ dreams like that.”

River will help then. I will find more of these people, who dreamed. I know people, and they know people. Soon you will have an entire list of dreamers. And not the kinds who do drugs.

“Ummm, great. But we need to be careful not to let the government in on it.”

“Ah, yes, the fascist pigs. We shall be careful,” she said, tossing her head. I almost laughed and followed her back into church.

“Tess!” I said, kissing her. “Stan!” I added and, for the first time in our relationship (and probably the last) he kissed me.

“I’m so glad you could come!” I said. They had, apparently, gone over to ‘my’ house first, as their car was parked there. “Come on in!”

They came in, and we visited, but I was nervous the whole time, more so when Caleb and his dad came in from the backyard. I knew what Caleb’s dad was going to do, and I agreed, I supposed, but I didn’t have to like it…

“Ah, so you must be Tess and Stan?” Caleb’s dad asked.

“Yes, yes sir,” Stan said, a little nervously. Caleb’s dad did have a funny look on his face. A few minutes later Stan came out, white faced, and said, “Tess, can I talk to you?”

The rest of us continued with our ‘party’ nervously, waiting without trying to seem to wait, for Tess and Stan to come back. And when they did come back, hand and hand, followed by Caleb’s father.

“I, umm,” Stan said, looking nervously at Tess, “I… Mr. Jones has asked us… and I wasn’t upset, actually, altho we will still…” he gulped, and then, when Tess squeezed his hand, he said, “I would like to call Tess, her, my wife.”

“And I am thrilled to call Stan my husband,” Tess said, “but if he thinks he’s getting out of the big marriage that I want, he’s got another thought coming.”

We all laughed and ‘congratulated’ them. “He wasn’t going to sleep apart if he could help it,” Tess whispered in my ear a few minutes later, “But he wasn’t going to agree without asking me.”

“You all already knew you were going to get married.”

“And, as River is oh so fond of pointing out, we are already ‘doing it’. But your father in law sure is funny. He was so serious. Stan made him explain it to me. We could sleep seperately, me with River, Stan on a couch. Or, since he knew we were already sleeping together, we could call ourselves married and sleep together, like you two were doing. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t get all moralizing or anything. He just gave us those two choices, and told us to pick.”

“Well I, myself, like what you picked.”

“So glad you are pleased. You Christians!”

I giggled, because she said it in a nice way, not at all ‘moralizing’.

 

 

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Dominoes 112c: Exploring

Saturday Afternoon

 

“Well, I think last night was more exciting,” Jennifer said, from the bed next to Jervis, “but this was fun too.”

For Jervis today had been infinitely more fun. Mom was still gone, Suzy hadn’t come back, the door had been locked and closed…

“Show me around your house, will you?” Jennifer asked, getting up and pulling him over to the door. Jervis’s heart pounded as she opened the door and, with them both naked, pulled him into the hallway. “That’s Suzy’s room over there, I saw that last night. What is this room?”

Jervis gulped. Mom wasn’t supposed to be home for another hour or so but Suzy… he had no idea when Suzy would get home. Not that he cared about her seeing him this way, but Jennifer! That is, the two of them! “This is a library,” he said.

“How nice,” Jennifer said, pulling him past the library. “And here?”

“That’s my parent’s suite,” Jervis said, hoping she wouldn’t go in…

But she did, and pulled him in after her. “What a wonderful shower!” she said. “Come on, I could use a shower.”

And so the two of them showered, in his folks huge shower, and used his mom’s towels, which Jennifer dropped on the floor and then, as naked as before, pulled him off downstairs. “I saw all of this last night,” she said, wandering around the downstairs. “Well, except this door. What’s down here?”

Jervis, who never let anyone into his basement sanctuary except his Mom, who would come; his Dad, who owned the house and would walk perfunctorily through just on general principles, and Suzy, who waged guerrilla war against his privacy at all hours and days, but, however annoying, would never tell anyone, followed Jennifer gratefully down the stairs, closing the door behind him. He wasn’t thrilled at anyone getting to see his lab, but parading around his own house, naked with a girl in tow (or, worse, in tow behind a girl) was killing him!

“What is this?!” Jennifer asked.

“My laboratory,” he said, a little proudly, and started showing her around. If he hadn’t been stark naked, and she hadn’t been stark naked, and thus he was totally nervous, he might have enjoyed getting to show off his work. Not that he was willing to tell anyone what it did. Not really.

“What do you do with it all?” she asked.

“I’m exploring the nature of alternate realities,” he said.

“I’m finding you an alternate reality,” Jennifer said, giving up looking at the equipment and coming over and kissing him.

An hour later he heard a door upstairs and panicked. “Stay here!” he said. Mom would be annoyed but not shocked at his coming up from his lab in the buff. He did it often enough, mostly just to annoy her. So he could dart through and come back with Jennifer’s clothes, somehow, and then smuggle her out of the house… But when he got to the kitchen he saw, “Suzy?”

“Jervis!” Suzy started to say, “I wish you wouldn’t run around like that down here. One day I will bring a friend over and…” her voice trailed off and she was staring behind him. He whirled around and saw Jennifer, standing casually and, still, stark naked, just out of the door to the basement.

“Hello, Suzy,” Jennifer said. “How are you doing?”

Jervis whirled back to Suzy, whose mouth was open and whose eyes seemed almost glazed over. “Suzy, I, you…” he started, but Suzy held up her hands.

“Hey, I’m good with it. Shocked and all, but good. Just put something on, you two, before Mom gets here!”

Jervis and Jennifer went off toward his room, Jennifer walking far too slowly for Jervis’ comfort. But they made it there, and back down to the kitchen (fully dressed!) and Jennifer was sitting at the kitchen table talking brightly with Suzy by the time Mom came in.

“Well, Jennifer, Dear!” she said, and came and kissed her. “I’m so glad that Jervis was able to find your number, and that you could come over.”

Jennifer shot Jervis an amused look, but merely responded, “I’m so glad I had the afternoon free. Did you have a nice time at your function? What was it?”

Jervis listened, relieved, as Jennifer quizzed Mom interestedly on her ‘function’, but then had to keep himself from blushing bright crimson as Suzy kept glancing over with ‘knowing’ looks.

 

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Dominoes 112b: Dealing Jervis In

Robert was, quite frankly, bored with the party. He never was much of a ‘party animal’. The church had come through very nicely, mind, and the service had been well done, with the doctrinal weirdness of his father coming out subtly but, still, clearly enough. Even Grace’s mom had seemed to be satisfied, and had changed her goal for their church from a ‘ceremony’ to a ‘reception’, which she was busy planning in her head.

The kids were all enjoying themselves. They had, basically, been given free reign of the second floor, and Caleb and Jenny and a couple of their friends were holding court up there; having divided the rooms up into sleeping, games, and story telling. One of Jenny’s friends, Suzy, was even doing face painting.

Robert had, thankfully, been released from his ‘follow me around and greet all of my friends’ duty with Grace some time ago and was was now enjoying the excellent tasteful and tasty buffet. Someone had brought, or bought, these little drummette things and they were one of his favorites.

Suddenly he stopped chewing, his eyes fixed on a corner of the dining room, where a boy was standing, very much out of the way, and out of the crowd. It was Jervis. He finished chewing and, armed with his plate of drummettes and a sense of determination, he made his way over to the corner.

Jervis saw him coming and paled. “Hello,” Robert said, coming over rather close and looking Jervis right in the eye.

“Hi,” Jervis said, nervously.

“Glad you could come,” Robert said.

“I, umm, Suzy said we were all invited, and she is upstairs doing face painting, and my mom and dad are over there…”

“I said I was glad you could come,” Robert said. “I’d like to talk to you, if you don’t mind.”

“I… OK.”

“Not here,” Robert said, “Let’s go for a walk.”

“OK…” Jervis said, but he didn’t move when Robert turned toward the front door.

“Come on!” Robert said. “Don’t worry, I won’t kill you. Probably, anyway.”

Jervis, looking nervously around, followed Robert. Robert noted several very curious looks and, when he got near the door, saw Grace, looking concerned.

“So,” Robert said, as soon as the door had closed, “You’re name is Jervis, and you’re Suzy’s brother?”

“Yes. My father is Mark Adamson, the president of the bank,” Jervis said, as if hoping that would protect him from whatever Robert was about to do. They were walking down the walk, dodging a bunch of young men playing some sort of game, and Robert waited until they were well down the sidewalk and out of earshot before he said,

“What do you know about dreams?”

“Dreams?” Jervis said, sounding genuinely confused.

“How about ‘alternate universes’?” Robert asked, remembering Caleb’s hypothesis from the dream.

“You read my papers?” Jervis asked, sounding surprised and, truth be told, a bit pleased.

“No,” Robert said. “I heard about it elsewhere. Tell me about it.”

“I have this theory that there are an infinite number of possible universes, all kind of ‘parallel’ to ours, but each with a tiny difference from the next, some decision made differently, that kind of thing. In the next universe, for example, you might have turned right instead of left to go around the block, you understand?”

“More than you know,” Robert said.

“And I think communication of a sort might be possible between them. Not, like, talking and all, or radio or something like that, but something more subtle. I was working on something having to do with the unconscious.”

“Like, say, in a dream?”

“Yeah, I guess. That might work. Anyway, I postulated that we could send these rays of energy between the worlds….”

“Polarized gluons?”

“You DID read my paper!” Jervis accused. “That’s exactly what I was calling them. It’s not a proper name, you understand. They aren’t really gluons.”

“You say ‘was’. Did you not go any further with your research?”

“No I… my Dad…” Jervis grew extremely quiet and Robert thought he knew why.

“Since that incident with the little girl?” he asked.

“You… you heard about that?”

“Some. Tell me what happened.”

Robert stopped, turning back to Jervis, who had stopped and was staring at him. “No one… no one has ever asked me that,” he whispered. “Not even my Dad. He beat me…” he stopped, panicked, “Please, don’t tell anybody I told you that!”

“I won’t. It’s nobody else’s business but yours and your dad. What happened with the little girl?”

“Why… why do you want to know?” Jervis asked, and Robert saw that he was practically in tears. He walked back and stared at Jervis for a whole minute.

“I have my reasons, which I might tell you. But it seems you want to tell somebody, so tell me. It won’t go any further.”

“I almost want it to, the way the rumors are going around,” Jervis said, bitterly. “It was bad enough, what I did do, but I didn’t’ do half of what seems to be going around.”

There was another silence, and then Jervis said, “I, we, there was the family over, and the little girl came up to my room. Suzy was out visiting someone, and I was alone in my room, reading or something.”

He stopped, and, eventually, Robert said, “Keep going.”

“And I… it was really stupid. I had these cameras on my computer in my room, and they were always on. And I… I tried to talk her into taking her clothes on. I invented this game, kind of a doctor thing…”

“What happened?”

“Well, at first she started to go along, and then she suddenly freaked, I guess I said the wrong thing, or she just got a bad vibe, and before I could think of stopping her she was racing off downstairs.”

“What happened then?”

“I dunno what happened downstairs. The girl’s family left town soon afterward, much richer, I have no doubt. That is my dad’s way. But after they left the house I got called downstairs, and got a beating like none other I had ever had. And he trashed my computer. And somehow people found out…”

Jervis trailed off, and Robert thought this through. He knew who Jervis and Suzy’s dad was, of course, everybody did. The president, or whatever, of the local bank, and a powerful man. Good socially, or course, he and his family went to Robert’s church, when they went anywhere, but were always there for any particular ‘function’, such as today, working the crowd, showing the flag, being polite. Indeed, he had given Robert and Grace a substantial gift, a genuine silver serving dish, and on the spur of the moment like this they must have a stock of such gifts. Being his son would be a hard job for the wrong type, and Jervis, a well-known genius and social imbecile, was just the sort that would have a hard time.

“You asked me why I wanted to know. I would hope that it was because I am a loving Christian person that really cares about you and your problems. But I’m afraid I have some other motivations as well. Something very worrying had happened, and I’m afraid it concerns you and your research.”

“Me? You mean you think someone did something with my research?”

Robert stopped and turned to him, “No, I think you did.”

“But I didn’t! I promise!”

“Not this you, another you….”

Jervis’ eyes got wide, and he stared for several seconds before he managed, “You mean… from an alternate reality?”

“Yes, I think so. And not a good type. I’m not sure what he did could be considered good under any circumstances, but I think he made it clear that he isn’t out for our good.”

“I… I’m sorry…”

“You don’t have to apologize for him. But. You say your dad stopped your research? Would you like to start it up again?”

“Yeah, but, my Dad…”

“Would you like to start it up again?” Robert asked, again.

“Yes,” Jervis answered, finally.

“Well, I would like you to talk to Caleb. You know Caleb?”

“Yes.”

“And I would like the two of you to go over your research. If he thinks it might be what is going on, then I would like you to set up a lab, or whatever you call it, either here or at Caleb’s house.”

“My Dad…”

“I think your father will be pleased if you are out of the house, doing things socially with respected members of the community. That would be me and Caleb. And if you hang around with us, that might go a long way toward fixing your rep… as long as you keep clean. I have a younger sister…”

“Jenny, I know, she’s Suzy’s friend.”

“That’s right, and she’s Caleb’s girlfriend. And I don’t ever want to hear anything, anything, ever, about you and her, you hear?”

Jervis nodded, nervously. “I suppose some day you’ll make some woman a fine husband, but the stuff in the dream is a bit too fresh for me. OK, we’re back at the house, you go find Caleb and talk to him.”

“Now?”

“Yes, now. Can you think of a better time?”

Jervis obviously seemed to think that pretty much any time would be a better time than ‘right now’, but he trooped obediently off to find Caleb.

“Robert, what were you doing with him?” Grace asked, seconds after he got into the house, after she had dragged him off into a corner.

“I was trying to figure out if he was involved with this dream thing. You remember, he was in it, in a big way.”

“I remember!” Grace said. “I had this whole interview with him, It was horrible!”

“I didn’t know that!”

“Well, you weren’t there,” Grace said, giggling.

“No, I mean you didn’t tell me in the dream.”

Grace thought, “No, I suppose I didn’t. I had a long cry with Becky about it, though. I think she and I really got closer because of the dream, actually.”

 

 

 

Posted in 2nd Dominoes 111-120, All Chapters | Tagged | 1 Comment

Dominoes 112a: River Walks In

“Wow,” Ralph said, as he and Caleb, boxes in hand, walked together over to Robert’s house. “That was some story.”

“Yeah,” Caleb said. Two people with the same dream?”

“Three,” Ralph reminded him. “Grace’s sister, too, remember. But I guess you really couldn’t exactly call it the ‘same’ dream. There were a lot of bits where Grace and Bobbi weren’t together. You Ok with it?”

“I guess I have to be. She’s my wife now.”

“I still can’t get that part. Nobody has said the whole ‘I now pronounce you,’ bit, how can you really be married? Hi, Mrs. Jones,” Ralph added, to Caleb’s mom, as they came in the kitchen door and went off toward the stairs.

“Why, hello. It’s Ralph, isn’t it? Jenny’s boy?”

Ralph blushed a bit at that, but nodded, “Yes, Ma’am.”

“It’s very nice of you to help, Dear. You will stay for the party? And bring your family?”

“I… if we’re invited, Ma’am.”

“Of course you’re invited, Dear. It isn’t like we will have time for formal invitations, but everyone’s invited.”

“Oh, well, I’ll call them. When is it?”

“Well, they can come anytime over the next week, but we’ll be having the formal part tonight, around eight o’clock.”

“Thanks Mrs. Smith.”

The took the boxes up and Caleb sat on the bed while Ralph pulled out his phone. “No, Mom, I think they were serious, they want you all to come.” Caleb nodded at him, grinning. “Really Mom, Caleb said so. I think they’ll be upset if we don’t come, if you don’t come. Yes, with the kids. I’m sure they’ve thought of that, Mom. OK, great.”

“Sigh,” he said. “Love my mom, but she can always think of reasons not to do things.”

“Guys!” Jenny said, flouncing into the room with another box. “Are you coming?”

“Sorry, Jenny,” Ralph said. “I had to call my mom and invite them to the party.” He looked nervous as he said that, and Caleb said,

“And I had to sit here and encourage him.”

“Oh, Ralph, your family is going to come? That’s great.”

Ralph brightened off and disappeared with Jenny. Caleb, grinning, followed him.

I was carrying a box full of underwear and bra’s, of all things, when the first ‘guest’ arrived, Caleb’s pastor person. And I hadn’t close the lid, either. “Roberta,” he said, coming up and kissing me from where he stood in the kitchen talking to my mother in law. “Can I help?”

“No, sir, but thank you. This actually the last box.”

“So, you’re moving your stuff over here?” he asked, following me up the stairs.

“Yes, sir. I don’t think they’ll be room for all of it, though. We’ll have to store some of it until we do some remodeling.”

“Well, Caleb certainly should be able to handle that. Caleb! Ralph! Jenny!” he added, as we came to the door and everyone jumped up from off of the bed, where they had been sorting my clothes and books (Jenny the clothes and Caleb and Ralph the books, of course) into piles and things. He kissed Jenny, and looked around. “This might be a bit tight, but I’ve seen a lot worse. Young couples are born for cramped spaces, in my opinion. Congratulations all round, by the way. Can I see the rings?”

He admired those for a minute and then waved us to the bed. Ralph and Jenny, looking a bit out of place, joined us. “We need to go over some details of the events tonight, just to get them clear. Everyone feel free to speak up and not be embarrassed.”

“Keep in mind this is the first time any of us have done this. Now, Roberta, the girls will be coming over at six, and we figured they would meet at your house…”

I stood in my empty room, empty except for my bed, bookcases and all. Six girls stood with me, my ‘virgins’. “Ok, girls, here is what is going to happen,” I explained. You all will go downstairs and then, when Caleb comes, you will get to shout ‘the bridegroom is coming! The bridegroom is coming!” and follow him upstairs. He’ll come in here and take my arm, and then you will lead us over to his house, after we go all along the block.”

“What about the lamps?” my smallest ‘virgin’ asked.

“My mom and dad will have those for you, outside,” I said. “You two will get flashlights in this thing that the boys made, and the older girls will be carrying lanterns.”

“Can’t we have lanterns?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “we don’t have enough.” And besides, I thought to myself, they are made of glass and have real fire in them.

“I guess you can go now,” I said, glancing at my phone, and they dashed off downstairs, leaving me to my thoughts.

What had I done? This was all going by in a whirlwind. Of course, I had wanted it for years, but then it had all happned so fast. He had asked Dad, and I had… I still blushed at what I had done. That dream had really affected me. I had just known that coming to breakfast like that, and forcing him to read my journal, would work. That he would be turned on and not upset. That he would drool over me instead of laughing at me.

“He is coming! He is coming!” I heard, and looked at my watch in a panic. He was five minutes early! Then I laughed. Of course he was, he wanted to suprise me and five minutes was about all the surprise he could manage on a day like today.

It seemed forever before the door opened and he stood there.

“Behold, thou art fair, my love;” he said, and I stared at him, wide eyed. We hadn’t discussed this, either. And he wasn’t reading! He must have memorized this. He walked closer and closer as he continued, and his voice got quieter and quieter, “behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.

Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, where on there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.

Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.

Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.

Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.

How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!”

 

He had said that last almost in a whisper, and directly in my ear, and I was blushing furiously and almost missed it when he held out his arm to me. But I took it and, together, we turned toward the door, where all of my ‘virgins’ were lined up, grinning, and waiting to escort us out, down the stairs, out the door, and into the rest of my life…

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Today we are gathered together to celebrate the marriage of Caleb Jones and Roberta Smith. To celebrate, and not to ‘perform’. We are not here to ‘join’ them. Only God can join a couple in marriage, and it was Roberta’s father, and not any person from the church or the government, which authorized the joining. The young couple has joined, physically, but they will spend the rest of their lives joining socially and spiritually.

Today we celebrate a marriage, but what is a marriage? Our society has built up, and torn down, entire definitions around the idea of marriage: glorifying the Greko-Roman concept of ‘romance’, glorifying the supposed union of ‘Sodomites’ and pushing quick and easy divorces after difficult and delayed marriages.

But what does Scripture define as ‘marriage’? Well, at the risk of offending many in the audience, I would propose that marriage, in Scripture, is essentially defined as, “A permanent, committed, sexual union with a goal of producing children.” Yes, marriage may be, and often is, much more than that. Unfortunately, as well, many people call themselves married when they have far less than that. But that is, I believe, the root and core of what marriage is. Let us look at some passages…

 

..

 

“Hey, Ralph,” Caleb said. “What’s up?”

Ralph jumped up from Caleb’s bed, where he had been sitting, holding a book. The sounds of the party came faintly from downstairs, and the sounds of children playing some rather loud board game came through the wall from the next room, which was ordinarily his father’s study but was, tonight, dedicated for a variety of younger relatives to play and then to sleep. “Oh, hey, I’m sorry,” Ralph said.

“I don’t mind if you read my books,” Caleb said. “ Feel free anytime. Tired of the party?”

“I’m not that great at parties,” Ralph said, but Caleb heard something else.

“Jealous?” he asked, and Ralph looked startled. “For Bobbi?” he asked, “No! I mean…”

“No, I mean jealous of me, getting to marry and all.”

“Oh. Well, I guess, yeah. You seem to have it all together. Job, money, wife. Although you are going to bring her back here? I mean, for a while?”

“As long as it works, I guess. Why?”

“Well, when I’ve thought of marrying… You must think that kind of silly, at my age.”

“No, not at all, Caleb said, coming in, closing the door, and sitting down in the beanbag chair. “You look old enough.”

Ralph blushed. “Not old enough to get married!”

“Why not? Physically?”

Ralph blushed again, “No, I didn’t mean that. I mean, like, a job and all. How could I support a family? I spend all day in school.”

“Get a job after school.”

“Flipping burgers?”

“You make money flipping burgers.”

“Not much. Not enough to support a family on.”

“How much do you need? You already have a bed, no?”

“You mean, at my folks?”

“That’s where you live, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, yeah, I mean. You’ve got to understand how different this is, what you’re doing. How much is this party costing you?”

“Oh, not much. Most of it is pot luck from the church.”

“Oh, should I have had my mom bring something?”

“No, no. Maybe another day.”

“Oh, that’s right, the party will be all week.”

“Yep.”

They sat in silence and then Caleb said, “Say, do you want a job?”

“What?”

“I need an assistant, to do billing and all. Nights and weekends. Billing, come help on the job sites when you have time.”

“I, ummm, that would be great. But you don’t have to…”

“I need the help, and who better than my future brother in law?” As Ralph stared he continued, “I think I could guaragneed you ten thousand a year, if you work hard.”

“Ten thousand?”

“If you work hard,” Caleb said.

Just then the door opened, “Ralph!” Jenny said. “Hiding away… Oh, hi Caleb. Sorry. I guess I should have knocked, but someone told me they had seen Ralph in here, hiding away.”

“We were talking,” Caleb said. “Guy talk.”

“Oh,” said Jenny, throwing her hair over her shoulder. “That’s all right then.”

“Come on, Ralph, I think we need to return to the horde.”

“Ok,” Ralph said.

“River!” I said, seeing her come in. I ran over and kissed her, “You came!”

“Of course, darling, how could I miss it? And where is this lucky boy who gets to bed you?”

“River!” I protested, noting that several of the people nearby had heard her comment. Sevaral of the younger girls had blushed, but one of teh older, nicer, ladies in Caleb’s church had actually given me a knowing grin.

“Caleb is… I’m not sure where Caleb is.”

‘Not a good star, Darling, not a good start. Even I know that boys need a tight eye kept on them.”

“I’m sure he’s around somewhere,” I protested.

“I think that is he,” River said, and I turned. “Who is the younger boy with him. He looks cute. You didn’t tell me there would be good fishing.”

“That’s Ralph, Jenny’s boyfriend. He’s taken. Eye’s off!”

“I can look, can’t I?!”

“No!’ I said, and she laughed.

“So, here is the lucky man who caught our Bobbi!” River said, kissing Caleb… and not on the cheek, either. Caleb took it in stride, grinned, and said,

“Hello, River. I’ve heard so much about you?”

“And who is this? The brother of the groom?” River asked, and blew Ralph away with another, even more dramatic, kiss.

“No! I’m just… I’m just a friend of the family…” he husked out, bright red.

“That’s not what I hear!” River said, adding a hug to her kiss. “Congratulations, congratulations everyone!”

We had attracted considerable attentions, and Caleb was about the only person in the area without a reddish tinge to his cheek. Luckily Jenny showed up just then, “River!” she said, and the two kissed in a very socially correct way. “It’s so good you could come!”

Jenny had spent plenty of nights sleeping over with me at college, and loved River, despite all of her politically incorrect oddities… and her dress code. She had spent the whole first day at college totally pink, but had adjusted after that and nowadays, when she came, hardly even noticed. She struggled more with Tess and Stan, but even that didn’t stop her from coming to spend the night whenever she could.

“Tess and Stan will come tomorrow, if it please you,” River said to me and Jenny, “and spend the night, if you can find a space.”

“Sure, they’re welcome,” Jenny said, but I wondered how Dad would react to that.

“Say, River, do you mind if I ask you a question,” Caleb said.

“Ask away, beautiful man,” River said.

“Did you have any particularly dramatic dreams in the last few days?”

“Ah, I am sorry to disappoint you, gorgeous boy, but no, I have not been dreaming of you. Perhaps now that I have met you my dreams will improve.”

“Oh,” said Caleb, sounding almost disappointed. “Well, do you know of a Grace Trenton?”

River thought about this for a moment and then said, “Yes, yes I do. Nice enough, if you like that sort of thing. Studies in the student lounge. Very proper. Has a boyfriend… what is his name? They recently began sleeping together, or so I am reliably informed.”

“So she really exists,” Caleb said, looking at me, but I wasn’t paying attention any more.

Caleb turned to follow my eyes. “Who is that?” he asked.

“Jervis,” I whispered.

“Oh, yes, I remember him now that I see him. A genius in physics. Does track. You want me to go talk to him?”

“No!” I said, clinging to him.

“What is the matter with my Bobbi?” River asked, imperiously, and coming over and holding me and glaring at Caleb.

“It’s not me!” said Caleb.

“It’s not Caleb!” I protested, accepting the hug as I stared at Jervis. “It’s this dream I had,” I said.

“Again with the dream,” River said. “You will have to tell me about it. But why are we shuddering now?” she asked.

“That boy, there, he was in the dream,” I said.

River stiffened, “Did he do something to my Bobbi?” she asked, almost lapsing into normal speech, the way she did when the subject was, truly, serious.

“No, no, I don’t really know him.”

But River kept staring at Jervis who, eventually, noticed and, looking almost guilty, wandered away to the buffet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dominoes 111c: Calling

His cell phone buzzed, and Jervis pulled it out of his pocket, confused. Who could be calling him? He saw the name on the front, “Jennifer Marshall” and a screen picture of roses. How on Earth? Who? He answered the call, “Hello?” he asked, tentatively.

“Hey, boy. Bet you didn’t expect to hear from me so soon?” Jennifer’s voice crooned out of the phone. He surely hadn’t! He had never expected to hear from her again!

“Ummm, no. I’m glad you called.” How did you get your number on my phone? And where did you get my number?!

“You busy today? I was going to go to a girlfriends but after last night I’d rather come over and see you.”

Jervis thought, frantically. Suzy had said that she was going over to Jenny’s today, and Mom was going to some function or other this afternoon. And Dad was never home, of course. “I… if you wanted you could come over this afternoon, say, about one.”

“Will we get to close the door this time?”

“Yeah. Everyone will be gone.”

“Sounds perfect. See you then…”

He looked at his phone again. Noon. He raced upstairs, startling Mom in the kitchen.

“Hello Dear,” Mom said, and Jervis checked himself, nervously. It wouldn’t do to let Mom get suspicious.

“Hi Mom.”

“Are you hungry, Dear?”

Jervis thought of saying that he wasn’t, that he had eaten a whole box of Pop Tarts and drunk a whole jug of orange juice, but then he thought he wouldn’t say that. And besides, he had an hour. “Yeah, sure, what are you fixing?”

“I have some nice leftovers from last night,” Mom said. “I could warm those up.”

“That’d be great, Mom,” Jervis said, and sat down.

“Did you enjoy yourself last night, Dear?”

“Yeah, it was OK,” Jervis said.

“I think Jennifer liked you, Dear,” Mom said, and Jervis squirmed, nervously. How to answer that? Luckily he didn’t need to. “It would be good for you to have a girlfriend, Dear. An older girl, like Jennifer, might be good.

“I, ummm, do you think she liked me, Mom?”

“Well, she certainly seemed to be looking at you at dinner, Dear.”

“Maybe I’ll call her,” Jervis tried.

“That would be nice. I have her number in my Rolodex.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Jervis said, and meant it for real. Now if she would only leave!

“There, Dear,” Mom said, popping the barbecued rib and potatoes out of the microwave and setting it in front of him. “I thought those ribs were delicious, last night. McAllens is certainly a good caterer.”

“They were great, Mom,” Jervis said, his mouth full of rib.

“Well, I’m afraid I have to dress and go, Dear,” Mom said. “Have fun.”

He planned to!

 

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Dominoes 111b: Interested. Interesting.

“Are you ready to go?” Robert asked Grace, who was still surrounded by siblings.

“I guess,” she said. “It isn’t like we will get to drive together.”

Robert nodded ruefully and went down to his car, watching Grace moving slowly toward her own. They would probably have to sell one of these cars. Finances would be a bit tight. He drove for a couple of minutes, and then flipped his phone open again. It was a Saturday so Caleb would, hopefully, be free to talk.

“Hey!” Caleb said, “I was hoping you would call. I was up half the night working out the details of this crazy dream you said you had.”

“Sorry for taking away your beauty sleep, you really need it.”

“You should talk. Doubt you got any sleep last night.”

Robert blushed, and then plunged on, “So, what did you figure out?”

“I need more details, that’s what I figured out.”

“Well, Grace is in the other car, but I’ll tell you whatever I can.”

“You are the most interesting case, anyway. Grace was still sort of Grace, no? And her sister, was still her sister. But you got knocked out of the park; changed into a girl.”

“It knocked me out of the park, anyway.”

“But, from what you told me yesterday, it wasn’t completely *you*, was it?”

Robert thought about that, “No. Not completely. There was a girl there with me. At least, that is how it felt.” He paused, thinking about it. “In fact, ‘feeling’ is a good word to talk about. I probably freaked you out with all of my ‘feelings’ for you, getting married to you and all. But that was all ‘her’, whoever she was.”

“This is still weird. How could you participate in…”

“No, stop, I thought about this some last night. Think of it like this. You like to read sci-fi, and other fiction stuff; and you like to write, too. It seemed to me like this, like I was kind of an ‘author’. I had a character, and she had relationships and all, and it was like I had to write the part. It wasn’t me, not my feelings and all. I mean, like, I spent practically the whole first day crying and flouncing on the bed.”

“Naked, you told me.”

“Yeah, well, that part was me. I mean… you know… gorgeous female body and all.”

“So she was cute?”

“You loved her.”

“It would have been interesting growing up next to two cute girls…”

“Well, don’t complain, you find Jenny cute enough, don’t you?”

“Yeah, great, I wasn’t complaining. But still, two cute girls…”

“Caleb!”

“Sorry. Say, did Jenny say anything about, you know?”

“Like I’ve had a chance to ask her.”

“Yeah, I guess, I just wondered.”

“Well, get on over to my house. They’ll be planning the party and all and you can help; and be around Jenny at the same time.”

“Ah, right, bye.”

Robert chuckled. This was going to be interesting…

 

 

 

 

 

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Dominoes 111a: Jervis

“Hey!” Caleb said, “Ralph, come up here, will you?”

Ralph, looking totally confused and not a little intimidated, followed Caleb up the stairs. Jenny looked as confused as I did, and we looked at each other, and raced after them.

“Ah, girls,” Caleb said. He was in the process of closing the door, but, after a moment’s hesitation, waved us in and we joined a very confused and nervous Ralph on the bed; with Jenny sitting rather close to Ralph.

“I suppose you all are wondering why I have asked you all…” his voice broke off as a knock came at the door. He spun around and stared at the door, and then, sort of slowly, opened it.

“Dad?”

“Am I invited to this meeting?” Dad asked.

“I… ummm… sure…” he said, and Dad came and sat next to me.

Caleb just stared at Dad, who finally said, “Oh, don’t be so freaked out. You were looking all serious and worried and all, and then you invite Ralph up here, and the girls rush up… come on, Son, speak up.”

“I was just. Look, Ralph, I have a question for you. This is going to sound odd, but what do you know about a guy named Jervis?”

“Jervis? Suzy’s brother?”

“Yeah.”

Ralph shook his head, slowly. “Not a good subject. You didn’t hear?”

“No. That is, I never really heard anything solid.”

“Well, I don’t know how much of what I heard is real, but I heard some nasty stuff. There was this little girl…” he looked nervously at Jenny, “Anyway, I’ve heard some nasty stuff. Why?”

Caleb looked at me. “Bobbi had this really bad dream and he was involved.”

“He? This Jervis guy?”

“Yeah.”

Dad looked at me. “Roberta, do we need to talk?”

I knew what he was asking. Had this Jervis guy abused me in some way. I thought back, but I really couldn’t remember him, although now that I wasn’t dreaming and able to really think I was able to remember some rumors about Suzy’s brother and some girl. The girl’s family had actually left town afterwards, too.

“No, no Dad. We’ve never met. Not outside of my dream, anyway.”

We all sat and chewed on that for a minute and then the phone rang. Caleb happened to be standing next to it and he absentmindedly answered it, “Jones residence. Who? Oh, yes, she’s here. Can I ask who’s calling? Who? Grace?! Umm, would you mind if I asked you a question? This is Caleb… Ow!” he said, looking back at us. “She screamed, and is getting all hysterical with some other girl. Here, Bobby, you had better handle it.”

I picked up the phone, all eyes on me. “Hello? Hello?” I said and then paled, as I heard a voice in the background. A voice I knew. A voice I knew, although I had never heard it. “Grace?” I whispered.

“Bobbi?” she said, and I knew the voice from my dream. But had I heard it, perhaps, on campus sometime. Was this really….?

“Yes,” I said, finally.

“This is going to sound really weird,” she said, “but I just have to ask. Did you have a dream last night…?”

 

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Dominoes 110c: Data

Jervis woke before anyone the next morning, probably due to all of the excitement from yesterday. Pulling on his boxers he trooped off downstairs to the basement, grabbing a box of pop tarts and a juice. He had some work to do, if he was going to arrange another experiment before the end of break. And, after last night, he was all that much more eager. Jennifer hadn’t even given him her phone number, so that had been a definite one-evening stand, however much fun it had been. He locked the door and started opening up data…

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