Bang, Bang, Out Went the Lightsbyqhml1©
Just another story. I have friends that are deeply involved in coonhound competitions, and they gave me advice. If I got it wrong, blame me.
Ever think about words and their meaning? I do, sometimes.
Cliche is one of my favorites. In most dictionaries the standard definition is: "A phrase dulled in meaning by repetition".
In my case the cliche was a cheating spouse. I know, I know, the cliche of cliches. An occurrence so common in marriages we seem to have a whole section of the judicial system dedicated to it.
Even that has become cliche. It's no longer an infrequent event, allowing the system to become jaded, bandying around "irreconcilable differences" and "no fault" in increasing volume and boredom. So what? Big deal! It happened, now get over it Or not. Doesn't matter to the system. Deal with it. This is the age of "no fault."
Unless it happens to you. And it's always someone's fault.
Another word I find interesting is "ratshot". Ratshot is a type of ammunition, usually in .22 caliber, but available for a variety of weapons. It's basically a miniature shotgun shell, holding a few tiny balls of lead. Not lethal, unless you're a rat.
I discovered ratshot when I was twelve. We lived about a half mile from the county landfill, a mecca for scavengers, especially rats and vultures. That particular year conditions were perfect for the rat population to explode.
I had an old twenty two single shot rifle, and dad bought me two boxes of ratshot.
"Thin'em down boy, they're startin' to get into the chicken feed."
My ten year old brother and I had a ball. Dad had to buy us two more boxes of ammo. We had pretty much annihilated the rat population around the house, so we ventured farther afield.
We were in a field beside the dump, shooting rats as fast as we could reload. They were huge suckers, easily a pound or more.
I had just reloaded and handed it to my brother. I stepped back, we we gun savvy enough to stay out of the field of fire. Just then what must have been the king rat burst out of some brush at my feet.
"Look Jimmy" I yelled "Get him."
Jimmy took my advice, but not before I was clear. He got the rat, but he also put two pellets in my ankle.
I discovered two unsettling truths about myself that day. I DID NOT like pain, and I tended to react badly to being hurt. I also discovered I had a terrible temper, because when I realized what I was doing, I had my brother on the ground screaming and crying, while I screamed and cursed.
"You dumb son of a bitch, I'm gonna shove this rifle up your ass and pop a cap, see how you like it!"
Luckily, the rifle wasn't loaded. I may have actually shot him. I let him go and threw the rifle across the field. I calmed my brother down, apologized, and we agreed never to speak of it. For one thing, we were both afraid of what our dad might do, and at the very least he would never let us near firearms again. So we told out mom I scratched my ankle on a wire fence. I guess over time the pellets melted away, but who knows, they may still be in my ankle.
My temper surfaced a few times during my high school years. Soon enough word got around to not get me started because I didn't know when to quit. Although through most of high school I was only five seven and a hundred and forty pounds, nobody really pushed me. I got my last growth spurt in my senior year, going to five ten and one seventy.
I went to college on a scholarship, getting a degree in accounting and inventory control, along with a veneer of gentility and a few good friends. I had a roommate for the last three years that was from a moderately successful family, and he taught me a lot about manners and social graces. I taught him how to not take shit from anyone, ever. I think what I taught him helped him become a really good trial lawyer. I actually met my future wife at one of the parties his family hosted, although we didn't actually get together for a few years, she went to the west coast and I stayed local.
It was four years after graduation. We were celebrating Ron passing the bar. I hadn't seen many of the guest since my graduation, so there was a lot of whatever happened to so and so going on.
I asked one of our old classmates about Jenny.
"Man, that woman was hot! I bet she's married to some CEO by now, tanning by the country club pool, polishing her jewelry. Or maybe by now she's the CEO, and pays someone to polish her jewelry. The only thing hotter than her body was her brain."
Scotty and Ron were standing there grinning like idiots. I instantly knew I had said something wrong.
"What? The way you're looking at me she's standing right behind me."
I looked at Ron as he tried to keep a straight face. I knew then.
"Hello Jenny" I said without turning around.
"Give me a second while I pull this foot out of my mouth."
As I turned I saw her pull her hand off her mouth as she, Ron, and Scotty collapsed into laughter.
I picked her up and twirled her around.
"Damn, you even smell as good as you used to. Back for a visit?"
Her smile stopped.
"No, I've moved home. Things on the west coast didn't work out for me as well as I expected."
I hugged her.
"Their loss. Welcome back."
We all chatted for a few minutes before one of her girlfriends dragged her away. I looked at Ron.
"I don't know any details. My mom said she got married, but she came back alone without any rings. I'm sure she'll tell us if she wants her to know."
I was leaving, making the rounds and saying goodbye, when Jenny came up to me.
"Since you're leaving, could you give me a ride home? I'm staying with my mom, and I know it's on our way."
I smiled. A little time alone with a beautiful girl? It would do wonders for my mood.
"Sure thing. Do you need a minute to let who you came with know?"
Her frown spoke volumes.
"I would if I could find her. Sarah left with Scotty a few minutes ago. We probably won't see her for the next two days."
My frown matched hers, but for a different reason. She noticed.
In the car she asked about it.
Sarah was the slut of the group, just like every group. And Scot was the horn dog. Married, engaged, single, under age, he never passed up a chance to nail a girl, and brag about it later. I barely tolerated him through school. My attitude towards Scotty mellowed a bit after he got married. And Sarah, well she was just Sarah. Always up for a good time. She married right after she graduated, to a pretty nice guy. He had a job that required travel, just overnight every two or three weeks. She lasted a year before she went out with the girls while he was gone. In three months she was banging everybody. He caught her, and she didn't fight the divorce.
I talked to her about six months after the breakup, actually took her out. There was no spark, we were just two old friends having dinner.
She asked about my love life, I was the last of the group that was still single. I told her that when I found the right one I would settle down and be just another boring suburban husband, worrying about the mortgage and the kids getting braces. She laughed when I asked about her love life.
"I'm a party girl, Sam. I have lots of lovers but no boyfriends. I found out the hard way I'm not real good wife material. I hurt Harry a lot, and I still regret it. The next time I get in a serious relationship is when I can be sure in my mind I'll never betray him. And I mean when I'm really sure, not just when I think I'm sure."
"That's why you and I will never share a bed. You're the most serious of us all, and if we slept together it would have to mean something to you."
"That's my curse. I've heard the stories, and I'd love to stress test your mattress, but I can't because you're my only male friend, and in an odd sort of way I've always held feelings for you. Is any of this making any sort of sense?"
It was. I understood her. She had always been my best female friend, next to Jenny. I wasn't going to let sex screw up our friendship.
Still, even if it was Scotty, she knew he was married.
"Don't be too hard on her, Sam. She was pretty blitzed and you know how quick Scotty will take advantage. I'm sure she'll chew him out tomorrow. I'm a little worried about her."
I made a mental note to have a talk with Sarah the first chance I got. I tried to change the subject.
"What's the story, Jen? Are you back for good, or just paying a visit? You know everybody talks, and they noted you don't have your rings on."
She didn't say anything for a minute, watching the night sky pass by her window.
"It wasn't love at first sight, more like lust. We slept together on our first date, moved in together in three months, married four months later. We were good for each other, at least for a while. Then the cracks appeared. He liked to party more than me. I wanted kids, something we didn't talk about. He made it clear IF we had children, he only wanted one, and wanted to wait at least eight years, so we could get 'established'. He liked to buy stuff but he didn't like paying bills. What it all came down to was I had saddled myself with an immature boy, not a man. When I started telling him no, we drifted apart. One day he was just gone. I'm ashamed to say I was glad."
"My good job went the way of the economy. Without the job and a husband, there was no reason to stay. So I came home. End of story."
I didn't really know what to say.
"I'm sorry your life hasn't gone as you planned, but I'm glad you're back. It got to where if I wanted intelligent conversation, I had to go over to Ron's parents house. Even there all they talk about is law. The upside is I'm a pretty good lay lawyer."
She smiled. Everybody knew not to get us started. We had opinions on everything, usually exactly the opposite of the other. Our debates could last days. Rarely did one of us win.
She smiled, then gave me a serious look.
"Sammy, why didn't we ever date?"
It was a fair question given the time we had spent together.
"I guess I thought too much of you. Sex has a way of messing things up, especially at that age. Look how many of our friends hooked up, broke up, then spent a few months hating each other and trying to get us to choose sides. I didn't want to go through that bullshit and lose you."
She gave me THE look. You know the one I mean. The one that says "You're not gonna like this" while she proceeds to talk you into whatever "this" is. We men know there isn't a defense in the world you can use. You can't win, the best you can hope for is delay.
"Well, we're older, and I've been forced to get wiser. So, next Friday night pick me up at seven. Take me to a really good restaurant, wine me, dine me, take me dancing. I haven't been out like that in ages. I can't think of a better person for me than you. I know you won't take advantage. I'd like to say the same, but it's been a long time, and I may just get you drunk and have my way with you."
By then we had pulled up in front of her house. Giggling at the look on my face, she got out, came over and leaned into my window, and gave me a nice long kiss.
Stepping back, she grinned.
"That'll have to hold you until next Friday. Don't call me, let the anticipation build."
I wrestled all week with my reaction. A part of me, a very miniscule part, wanted me not to show up. Another part said show up and keep a distance, as though it was a chore, or a favor. The biggest part of me said "Fool, you've been given a gift. Enjoy it."
So I did. We had a great time. Danced until three. Spent forty minutes in the car steaming the windows, letting our hands roam. Fingered her off, got a hand job. Laughed because we were acting like a couple of teenagers.
We had two more dates, and lunch with her mom. I was really starting to get comfortable with her again. The debates started up like before. I was starting to take her a lot more seriously.
We didn't date the next weekend. I had commitments that took me out of town. She seemed displeased.
"Those plans don't include another female, do they?"
I laughed. "Why, matter of fact they do. I'm going..." was all I got out before she hung up on me. Strange.
I went off and took care of the business I had to attend to, not getting back until Tuesday. I hadn't been home an hour when my phone rang.
An icy voice came on the line.
"Took an extra day to bang her? The weekend wasn't enough? I think you owe..."
I hung up on her, giving serious thought to her sanity.
I didn't talk to her for three days. Then Ron's girlfriend called me out of the blue. I was surprised, we weren't particularly close.
"What's the deal with you and Jenny?"
"Hi, Becca. How's Ron? The wedding planner getting on your nerves yet? Oh, I have no form of deal with Jenny. Tell Ron I said hi."
Poor Ron. I bet he's getting an earful. Sure enough he called forty minutes later, practically begging me to meet him for a drink.
I met him and Scotty at our favorite watering hole. Scotty knew how I felt about what he had done to his wife, and kept quiet.
Before he got a start I cut him off.
"If this is a fishing expedition for Jenny, don't bother wetting your hook. We dated three times, I have to go out of town, and she goes all fatal attraction. I don't know her mindset, but I didn't make her any promises. I wasn't even given a chance to talk to her like a reasonable person. End of discussion. Bring her up again and I leave."
I blew their game plan out of the water, they didn't know what to say. I left.
Another month went by and it was time for the rehearsal dinner. I wasn't Ron's best man, but I was a groomsman. Jenny was a late addition bridesmaid. I saw her but didn't approach.
Sarah grabbed me as soon as she saw me.
"Stay close to me tonight, please. Scotty is here, and he's already drinking. I have no interest in a repeat performance. His lovemaking skills are a LITTLE lacking if you know what I mean, and I have a pretty good basis for comparison. His biggest asset is the size of his brags. That might be why his wife left him."
"Hook up with me tonight, stud, protect the fair damsel from unwanted advances. I would be very grateful later."
She giggled as I gave her my arm. We both know nothing was going to happen.
"Too bad about Scotty" she said "The score keeps changing. Last count, Scotty joined Jenny in the ranks of previously married. The only ones left unmarried are you and Ron, and Ron is on the short list, and that just leaves you. A lot of the girls newly single have you in their sights."
She frowned, thinking.
"Say, didn't you and Jenny date when she first came back? What happened there?"
My turn to frown.
"I don't know. We dated three times and I thought we were getting along famously, and then I had to go out of town. She was like a totally different person when I got back, acting like I should apologize to her. I think she got it in her head I had found someone better, and turned into bitchzilla. I haven't talked to her in a month."
"Where did you go?"
"Sarah honey, don't make me put on a Bud hat and get out my Red Man. You know where I go once a month."
My old man was a factory worker and a part time farmer. He had fifty acres he had inherited from his grandfather. Between the job and the farm, mom didn't have to work, and we had a good life. He raised three kids, and if we didn't always get what we wanted, we always got what we needed. He taught us early if we wanted something, go out and earn it rather than waiting for someone to give it to you. A lesson I valued more the older I got.
We were all grown, Jimmy was seventeen, when my mom got killed when a train derailed at a crossing. Mom wasn't even the first in line, the coal car rolled over four vehicles waiting to cross the tracks.
It nearly killed my dad. They had married when she was sixteen and her parents had to sign for her. He often bragged that his best accomplishment was not spending a night apart. Not once. Thirty three years spent in the same bed with the woman he loved. He almost died from grief.
He moped around for almost a year. Jimmy graduated and had joined the Navy. He read that people alone often led fuller lives if they had something to take care of, and he bought a bluetick hound pup from a friend of his.
Dad took to the pup right away. He got into coon hunting, big time. He took some of the insurance money and built a few kennels and started breeding coonhounds. He learned how to train and run them. He spent many weekend nights perfecting his techniques.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when he called and asked me to help him get a computer. By then I had graduated and had a decent job. I had a friend in IT build him a nice package, took it home, hooked everything up, gave him basic lessons and showed him how to use email. When I left that afternoon, he was pecking away with two fingers, having a ball.
Following his belief that if you were going to do something, do it the best you can, he signed up at the community college and took a course.
Soon he had his own website. His reputation was solidified when two of his dogs were named Grand Champions in different classes the same year.
I was shocked when I found out how valuable those dogs were, and how much money he was making. He retired from his factory job, farmed a little, and concentrated on raising his champions.
To get to Grand Champion, you start out local, go to district, then state, then region, then national. To qualify for all this you through the trials. Dad was doing fine until he tripped one night during a trial, and broke his leg in two places. It healed, but couldn't stand up to an all night hunt or the stress of competition.
That's where Jimmy and I came in. He would train the dogs and we would handle them at trials. In the spring and summer, when the preliminary trials were held, Jimmy would handle one weekend, and two weeks later I took a turn. At the national events, Jimmy and I would both attend, and take turns handling the dogs. A lot of bullshit, dog trading, and drinking took place, but we left that to the old man.
Sarah found out and thought the whole thing was hilarious, and insisted on coming. One time cured her. It was all about dogs, dogs, and anything related to dogs. There was no nightlife because it was spent in the woods with the dogs. The women there usually looked like the men, jeans and ball caps. She was almost screaming in boredom in two days. She almost screwed one of the judges[she said he looked the cleanest, just to have something to do]. When we got home, she kissed me, told me never again, and went out to do her own version of hunting. I pity the one she caught.
"You still do that shit?"
"Yes, Sarah, but we're training one of my sisters' boys, so I should be able to stop in a year or so. Dad has three Grand Champion bitches that he breeds, and one Champion male that covers twenty five bitches a year. Dad is making more money than I am."
Sarah looked odd, probably thinking about getting 'covered' twenty five times.
"So who was the bitch, and I mean that literally, that you were out with the weekend Jenny freaked?"
"Her name is Amanda Lee the fourth. He likes to name them in honor of my mom. I wonder if she'd let him if she was still alive?"
My dad had become her drinking buddy the weekend she went with me.
"I think she would. You know he still shows pictures of her at the trials?"