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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Thirty Three

       Last updated: Friday, November 28, 2008 06:56 EST




    "So that’s what we did, Daddy," Denise said.

    Buster looked at her, twisting his thin reddish beard around in his fingers.

    "Keenan Murphy, you said?"

    "He was one of them. Egging the rest of them on, for the first part of it."

    "I thought ol’ Keenan had been playing the hero lately. Chasing down Francis when he shot at Dennis Stull. Chasing after Noelle when those guys grabbed her."

    "He’s not a hero, Daddy. He’s not a villain, either. Mostly he’s just dumb. He chased down Francis because his grandma told him to and chased after Noelle because they have the same mother. But he’s dumb. Most of his friends are even dumber."

    "Who else was with him? Names?"

    "Mitchell Kovacs. Bubba."

    "Not a surprise." Buster looked at his daughter. "Out with the rest of it."

    "And Jermaine."

    "Not a kids’ fight, then."

    "There were a couple of kids with them, I guess. Not kids the same age as Gerry and Minnie and me, though. Not fifteen or sixteen. More like eighteen or nineteen."

    "Names." Buster was starting through his checklist.

    "Bill Sanabria. Dustin Acton. I saw those two, at least. I didn’t see Nino. He used to run with Bill, but he seems to have straightened out a lot since their mom married Ronnie Bawiec. So has Olivia."

    "She’s Pat’s cousin," her mother Christin inserted into the conversation. "Bill’s mom, that is. She’s a cousin of Keenan and Noelle’s mother. Fitzgeralds, both of them. That’s how Bill connects to Keenan."

    Buster let that pass, still focusing on Denise. "Arguments?"

    "When we came out of Marcantonio’s, the usual sort of thing," Denise said. "Gerry’s home for a couple of weeks, for the holidays. Gerry Stone. Because he’s going to school in Rudolstadt, they said he’s ‘going native.’ Bill and Justin started to hassle him. Were hassling us, I should say, calling Minnie names too. Gordy Fritz and Dane Stevenson, Dane Junior, were with them to start with, but backed off right after it started, so they don’t really count. We got out of it clean and wouldn’t have bothered anyone else about it, except that Justin said something about ‘another job at the fairgrounds’ that Jermaine was doing. So we followed them."


    "They never knew we were there."

    "You’re a pip."

    "Jermaine and the others tried to corner Jarvis and Hedy when they were walking home from the laundry. While they were crossing the fairgrounds, by the community center, going over to the bridge, Jermaine came up to Jarvis and said something about Hedy."

    "Tried to?"

    "Jarvis had heard about the plan. He still has some friends who hang out at the 250 Club, even though Uncle Ken won’t have him there any more since he married Hedy. So he had friends shadowing them, too. Enough to persuade the guys with Jermaine to stay out of it, so just the two of them fought. And that’s why Jermaine and Jarvis had a fight last night."

    "Who won?"

    "A draw, more or less. Jarvis was pretty mad and gave Jermaine as good as he got. Except that in a way, Jarvis won, because Hedy got home okay. That was what they planned to do. Take Jarvis down and then take Hedy away and beat her up good. Try to make her lose the baby. Then they were going to take her back to where she came from, so she could be prosecuted for being a bigamist for marrying Jarvis. And in the election campaign, say that when Mayor Dreeson married the two of them, he knew she was a bigamist."

    "So then you went to see your Uncle Ken?"

    "Yeah. I thought it was a bit much. After all, Jarvis and Hedy’s kid is going to be his grandchild."

    "And that’s what he said?"

    "Ummhmmh. That he wished that they had beat her up. That he’d rather see her and the kid dead than have a half-Kraut grandchild."

    "You know," Buster said, "I think Ken is going overboard. I’m going to have to cogitate on all this for a while."

    "Okay. Then, after that, we went over to Benny’s and wrote up a story about it all and we sent copies to all of the papers. That’s what we did. Minnie and me. English and German, both. Naming names. Remains to be seen if they’ll publish it. The Freie Presse probably won’t, they’re so righteous, but the Daily News probably will. And maybe Rodger Rude’s column in the Times. I sure hope the National Inquisitor doesn’t. That would ruin everything. Nobody else would believe a word of it." She picked up her jacket.

    "Where are you going?"

    "Over to see Eddie Junker. See how his arm’s doing. With Minnie and Gerry. Then we’re going to a play at the church - St.Martin’s in the Fields." She zipped out the door of the trailer.

    Buster looked after her blankly. "Church?"


"Gosh, Mom, sorry I’m late. Let me get a quick shower." Missy headed for the stairs.

    "Where have you been?"

    "Out at Lothlorien. Christmas Eve. Children’s presents. Well, we also sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Ron. Do you know that he’s never actually had a birthday party in his life?"

    The bathroom door slammed behind her.

    It opened again. "Uh, he and Gerry are coming to dinner tomorrow, if I forgot to tell you before. I didn’t even invite them for tonight. I was afraid that Christmas Eve at Gran’s would be a bit much for them. Considering Thanksgiving. Anyway Gerry is going to a children’s play out at St. Martin’s. With Minnie Hugelmair and Denise Beasley. And Eddie Junker."

    Another slam and the sound of rushing water.

    Chad put his arm around Debbie. "Experience teaches us that she really can shower and dress in fifteen minutes."

    She made it in thirteen, pulling a ski cap over her wet hair as she ran down the stairs. The three of them headed toward the family party.

    "Is Ron going with Gerry?" Debbie asked.

    "No. He’s working evening shift in the lab so that a couple of other people who have kids in the play can go to it."

    Then, apparently out of a clear blue sky, Missy added, "Ron looked up his birth certificate out at the high school. His mother’s name was Mary Beth Shaw. Otherwise known as Dreamcatcher. It says that she was born in Illinois, for what it’s worth."

    Just before they got to Gran’s, she added, "He says that’s going to be it in the way of a family tree. Fairly shallow roots."

    "Oh, well," Debbie said. "I’m sure that he actually has as many ancestors as anyone else. Everybody does, after all. It’s unavoidable. He may not know who they were, but that’s a different question."



    "Oh! They are beautiful, Lenore. Really they are. Thank you so much."

    Clara was looking at a set of framed drawings.

    "I saw you yearning over the photos one day, Clara. It used to be easy to copy old ones, pretty much, but even if someone could figure out how to do it now and get the chemicals, it would probably cost the earth and the sky. But I’ve always had a knack for sketching, so…"

    "I didn’t even know you could do this, honey child," Wes said.

    Lenore glanced over at her grandmother, who was sitting on the other side of the room talking to Uncle Chad and Chandra. They were looking at something else. She wiggled a little uncomfortably. "I got it from Gran, I suppose. She knew that I liked to draw, back when I was in school, but she never really encouraged me. Not the way she encouraged Chip to play violin, later on. The reverse, if anything. She sure made a fuss when I said once that I might like to go to a school of design rather than to a regular college. I found out later - a lot later - that she actually went over to the high school and asked my counselor to tell me that it was a bad idea, if I brought it up."

    Now Wes looked across toward his mother, frowning.

    Lenore didn’t notice. "So don’t make a big production about these, please. I sneaked over and made the sketches from the photos while she was out doing her Red Cross stuff, on the excuse that I was checking the tops of her cupboards and other stuff she can’t really reach any more. She wanted to be sure the maid was cleaning them. ‘Trust but verify.’"

    "This, though…" Clara drew her index finger along some fine cross-hatching. This is not - not a ‘knack’ as you say. You have been taught. Did you apprentice with someone?"

    "Well, I took college classes at Fairmont State off and on. Over six or seven years, I got about four semesters worth of classes in, I guess. None the first couple of years after I finished high school, but after that, since my schedule at work was pretty flexible, I took a couple of courses every now and then. And if I was on campus anyway for something I should take for work, like retailing or business applications, and there was an art class, or an art history class, available that day, I would take one." She looked a little defiant. "I was working and paying the tuition myself. It isn’t as if I was wasting Dad’s money."

    "I’d have liked you to finish college," Wes said. "In anything. Underwater basket weaving would have been fine. I had a savings account for it in your name, ever since you were tiny." He laughed. "For that matter, it’s still there in the bank if you ever need it. One for Chandra, too. I wouldn’t have minded if you chose a design school. There were good ones, up-time. It wouldn’t have been wasting anything."

    "Yeah, I guess. But Gran said… well, that she had majored in art and then never used it, really. She said that only genius pays you back if you get a degree in art, not just a little flair like hers or mine. And Mom went along with her. She didn’t think it was practical, even though commercial art actually pays pretty well if a person is good at it. I couldn’t really see spending the money if I didn’t know what I wanted to do with a degree when I got it. Not nursing, for sure. Not teaching. And getting a degree wouldn’t have helped me advance at the store unless I wanted to sit in an office all day, which I didn’t." Lenore reached over, took the sketches, and wrapped them back up. "Here. This will protect them while you’re carrying them home."

    The family was passing most of the presents around the room, so everyone could admire them. Lenore dropped the sketches down into Clara’s tote bag. "Maybe it’s one reason that I liked learning these seventeenth century handwriting styles so much." A wide smile suddenly lit up her long, thin face. "Some of them are so elaborate that they are almost like drawing the words more than writing them. Every letter or filing that came to my desk because no one else could read it was an adventure."

    She looked toward the double doorway leading into the hallway. Bryant was standing there, scowling at them. Her smile faded.



    "I like this bridge. I like the way it blows in the cold wind when there is snow coming like tonight."

    "You are a risk taker at heart, considering how many packages we are carrying. All right, we’ll cross on the suspension bridge."

    In the middle of it, Clara stopped.

    "Brr," Wes said.

    "We have another present, Wesley. One more than we opened at your mother’s house."


    Clara turned around, putting down her bag and circling his neck with her arms. "You have given it to me. In less than half a year, I will give it back to you."

    She kissed him. "We are going to have a baby. I am sure of it, now. I have felt movement and also Kortney Pence said so, yesterday morning. So we will have all three of the purposes of marriage."

    "What three purposes of marriage?"

    "Oh, Wesley. I am not trying to convert you, like the up-time men who are going to class with Pastor Kastenmayer at St. Martin’s now to be confirmed next spring, but I do wish you would at least read the small catechism. Every Lutheran knows that there are three purposes of marriage."

    "Which are?"

    "The procreation of children, of course. Which now we are doing."

    "That’s one."

    "Mutual companionship and support, which we also have already. And I will need to bring a cradle to the consular affairs office after the baby is born."

    Wes didn’t blink. He could live with a cradle in the consular affairs office. And, obviously, would.

    "That’s two. What’s three?"

    She smiled up at him. "The third is that it is a remedy for lust."

    "I can endorse that. We have been polite to a lot of people all evening. Shall we go home and remedy something?" This time, he kissed her.

    Clara was quite relieved to discover that he would not expect them to forego the third purpose of marriage between the time he was notified of her pregnancy and the time she weaned the child. Some men thought that way. Apprehension about this possibility was one reason she had put off telling him about the baby as long as she reasonably could. So she happily kissed him back, for quite some time, in spite of the stiff wind that was blowing down Buffalo Creek.



    "Is that actually your father and his Kraut woman making out on the suspension bridge, right in the middle of town?" Bryant Holloway asked.

    "Looks like Dad and Clara to me."

    "You weren’t sucking up to her tonight, were you? Not a bit, of course. Insinuating yourself. Currying a little favor?"

    "I like Clara. She’s nice. She’s nice to us. Really. She goes out of her way."

    Bryant was looking at the couple on the bridge. "They should be ashamed of themselves."

    "All they’re doing is kissing each other." Lenore protested. "Wearing a batch of winter clothes. And they are married."

    "Barely in time, if the gossip that Lola picked up is true."

    "What gossip?"

    "She went in to Leahy Medical to find out if she’s pregnant."


    "What did you expect, the way they…"

    "Act like married people in love? Clara turned thirty-eight a couple of weeks ago. We had a birthday party for her. You weren’t back yet. If you really want to know, then - yeah, Chandra and I have been sort of expecting that a half-sister or half-brother would turn up one of these days. Or both. Or more, if they manage to squeeze them in."

    She laughed. "I’ve got to grant that they’ve apparently been pretty efficient about it, though. I suppose we’ll get the news officially in a day or so."

    "I don’t like that tone of voice. You’re talking back. Again. You’re getting to be more and more like your sister."

    "What’s Chandra ever done to you?"

    "She spent at least an hour this evening trying to get me to talk about what Nathan has been doing in Frankfurt and quizzing me about why he decided not to come to Grantville for a visit. If he thought it was any of her business, he would tell her himself. And nagging me to tell her why he doesn’t want her to go with him. He’s given her his reasons, and that’s actually more than she deserves. If he doesn’t want her to come, then she should do as he wants and stay here without all this griping."

    Lenore stopped walking. "Since when doesn’t a wife deserve to know her husband’s reasons for how he treats her?"

    Bryant turned toward her.

    She pushed the baby stroller so that it was between them. "We’d better get Weshelle home. I have her all covered up, but this wind is chilly."

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