Harvest of Expectations Ch. 06byAutumnWriter©
Harvest of Expectations
© Copyright 2013
By Autumn Writer
Chapter 6 — Confrontation
January and February swept by fast, like the snowstorms that turned the roads to glorified ski trails that year. Jim hadn't seen Hildy since the date he had with her the night after Christmas. He tried a few times to drive up for a visit, but something got in the way.
Sometimes it was the weather and other times he was working on his project. On top of that, he was working out in preparation for the final season he would be on the University's Track and Field team.
Hildy seemed cheerful through it all, even when he disappointed her. He put her photo on his dresser. He stopped wondering if she was wearing the blue knitted set that he gave her. She never mentioned it, or asked if her photo was on his dresser or tucked away in a desk drawer.
"She's got her hooks into you now," Rich told him when Hildy's photo made its debut.
"Not true," Jim protested. "Yes, we're dating. That doesn't mean anything more than that. I'm still a free agent."
"Alright, then— I'll call Ashley and tell her you want to kiss and make up. I'd bet that she'd be up here in less than an hour."
"Some other time," Jim replied. "I'm too busy right now."
Jim tried to look away, but saw Rich give that look that didn't need words, just the same.
"Bedsides, you and Hildy aren't dating. You're just phoning."
That much was true. Whatever Jim wasn't spending on gasoline to drive to see Hildy he was surely burning up in long distance charges. He dropped her a card with a mushy verse from time to time, too, but Rich didn't need to know about that.
For a while Jim thought that Hildy's parents weren't putting through his calls to her or giving her his mail. She just seemed to be out when she was sure to be home. He got lucky when her friend, Darlene, got her own apartment on February 1. Hildy would go over to Darlene's apartment and he would call her there and the problems ceased.
That gave Jim some ideas because he and Hildy still had some unfinished business. Jim still retained his problem, although he was thinking about it less. Hildy could tell her father she was staying over at Darlene's place. Jim thought that Rich might enjoy a drive up to have a rematch with Darlene.
So, things were beginning to look up and there were even signs that the blanket of snow might even melt soon.
Jim was thinking all these things as he walked out the front door of DuPont Hall, which was the main Chemical Engineering Building in which his advisor had his office. The two had just finished a meeting to evaluate Jim's progress on his final project. The news was good.
The professor told him he could turn it in right away and get a C, or polish it up and get an A. So, polish it up it would be. It was the second Friday of March and Spring Break would be starting in about two hours. Jim thought about Hildy.
He couldn't stay away from school the whole Spring Break, of course. Besides working on his project he had his commitment to the Track Team and the first meet of the year was scheduled for the following Saturday in Virginia. But, the good news on his project made him think a couple days off would be in order. He floated the 'Darlene' idea by Rich.
"Sounds tempting, but I promised my parents I'd visit this week. Too bad. Tell Darlene I said 'Hi'."
He thought that Darlene might help out, just the same. She was a modern girl, and had recently acquired the means to help. He guessed that Hildy would be in Darlene's apartment at about seven. He waited and gave her a call.
Darlene picked up the phone sure enough, Hildy was there.
Jim:"Hildy— remember me?"
Hildy:"I had a feeling you would call"
Jim: "Spring Break has started. I thought I would pay you a visit. How about a date tomorrow night?"
Hildy: "Just what I was hoping you would say. Where do you want to go?"
Jim: "Somewhere simple. Maybe a movie. You pick it out."
Hildy:"I can't wait to see you!"
Jim:"Hildy, I had another idea."
Jim: "Well, if Darlene's got a spare room in her new apartment maybe you could stay over with her tomorrow night. Maybe I could stay over, too."
There was a pause and Jim wondered for a second if Hildy had hung up. At long last she came back on the line.
Hildy:"I'll do it. I'll have to ask Darlene, but I'm sure shell say 'yes'.
Jim:"How can you be so sure?"
Hildy:"Darlene already offered it to me a couple of times."
Jim:I like it! I'm going to stop and see my parents first and then I'll see you at seven.
Jim's situation was looking up. It seemed like it had been so long ago that he was just starting his studies at the University. As he contemplated graduation he knew that he had many options open to him. But, options came with variables and equations with many variables were more difficult to solve.
Jim was sitting at the kitchen table of his parents' home. He arrived just in time for lunch. They were talking about what his plans were for after graduation.
"I signed up for interviews with a bunch of companies. I'm a little bit behind.
Some of the other students have already had interviews."
"Don't rush into anything," his father said.
"I won't," Jim promised, "but it's something I should be doing now. Maybe I should have not gone out for the Track Team. It's taking a lot of time, but I'm committed. I can't quit now."
"Have you thought any more about staying in school and getting your Master's next year?" his mother asked.
Jim sighed. He knew his mother would bring it up. She had been for it all along. She never said it, but Jim believed that she was trying to prolong the day when he would be moving away.
"Ma, I'd like to start earning some money. I'm eager to get on with life. The Rustmobile is on its last legs. I can go back for my Master's degree later. Maybe after a few years my company would pick up the tab."
"What about that young lady you've been seeing?" his mother asked. "How does she fit in to all of this?"
It was the big variable, for he had to admit to himself, if to no one else, that he was developing feelings for Hildy. He reminded himself he had to keep a level head.
"Ma, Hildy and I are just friends. We've made no commitments..."
"Nothing official," she said, "but I can tell..."
"Martha, he has to make his own decisions about all these things," his father said. "Don't try to sway him one way or the other. He has to be happy with it."
"Good old Dad!"
His mother stopped talking for a moment, then put in the last word.
"Just promise me that you'll think about it," she told him.
"You sound like Professor Stark," Jim answered. "He wants me to take the Master's course next year. I just don't know right now."
"At least you've got the grades to make whichever decision you want," his father said. "If you need money for next year I think..."
"Dad, I couldn't take more from you than I already have..."
"Of course you could," his mother chimed in, her eyes brightening.
The conversation wasn't going the way that Jim wanted it to go.
"It's my fault. If I'd researched more I'd have more answers."
At that moment the phone rang and Jim believed he was given a reprieve, if for only a few minutes.
"It's for you," his mother said. "It's that young lady."
Jim:"Hildy, hello. What's up?"
Hildy:"I was calling you to tell me not to pick me up at Darlene's apartment. I'll be at my parents' house."
Hildy:"I'll explain when I see you. Bye."
"When are we going to get to meet this young lady?" his mother asked as he hung up the phone.
"When there's a reason to," Jim was quick to reply. "I told you, we have no commitments."
"Well you've met her parents," his mother argued, "it only seems fair..."
Jim had raised his voice and he was sorry about that right away.
"If I could just talk to her; a woman can tell what's on another woman's mind."
Jim's father came to the rescue again.
"Martha, Jim's got it tough enough. Two against one isn't fair."
"Dad to the rescue again."
"Jim," his father said, "I think that your mother is measuring you for a tux."
The phone rang again. His father answered and motioned to Jim that the phone was for him again.
Wertz:"This is Herbert Wertz. I know you're planning to take Hildy out on a date tonight. I want to talk to you first. I'm going to be in MacIver's Bar at the four corners of the village. Meet me there before you pick her up. Get a pencil and paper and I'll tell you where it is.
Jim:I know where it is, Mr. Wertz. I'm not sure I'll have time. How long do you think this will take?
Wertz:That depends. Just meet me. I'll be there at six.
After that Mr. Wertz hung up.
"Time for what?' his father asked.
"Hildy's father wants me to meet him in a bar near their house at six."
"Her father?" his mother gasped.
"I take it you don't like this gentleman very much," Jim's father said.
"More or less," Jim answered.
"I could tell," his father said. "Why don't you meet with him and see what he wants?"
"I will," Jim promised. "It's just that I would rather that he'd asked instead of ordered me. I have to go. If I don't he'll think that I'm afraid of him."
Jim never sought out confrontation and he always made an extra effort to give his elders the respect they deserved.
MacIver's Bar was a neighborhood saloon, a last holdout of a dying breed. It was at the four corners of the small village about a mile away from Hildy's house. On Saturdays it was filled with locals, watching sports on TV or just stopping in during the evening to see their neighbors and for something to do.
At six o'clock it was all but empty because the first crowd had gone home for dinner and the second crowd hadn't come out yet.
Jim opened the door to the barroom. There was an ante room between the outside door and the entry to the actual barroom, probably to keep out the cold, windy gusts in winter and keep the cold, air conditioned air in during summer. There was a window cut in the second oaken door and he looked in and saw Hildy's father seated at the far end of the bar. He swung the door open and stepped inside.
Hildy's father saw Jim right away. He stuck his arm into the air and as soon as he was sure that Jim saw him he kept his arm raised but pointed his index finger down at the barstool next to his.
"Yes, old man. I get the picture."
"Hey Bill, draw me another beer," Mr. Wertz called out to the burly bartender with a handlebar moustache. "Draw one for the young fella, too."
Jim had made his way to the bar stool to which Mr. Wertz directed him. He started to say 'hello', but the bartender spoke before he could.
"I need to see some ID, young fella," he growled.
"The young fella's with me," Wertz said. "I'll vouch for him."
The bartender nodded his head and walked away.
"That's Bill MacIver," Mr. Wertz said. "He owns the place. He knows me. I'm a regular. He knows that I mean what I say. Everyone around here does."
"I'm here like you asked me," Jim said.
"Drink your beer," Hildy's father said.
Jim took two big gulps and set the glass back on the bar.
"Thanks, Mr. Wertz."
Jim took a ten out of his wallet and placed it on the bar next to where Hildy's father had placed his own money.
"Put that away," Mr. Wertz said. "You won't need it."
Jim didn't say anything. He started to reach for the bill—he would rather have spent it somewhere else—but he pulled his hand back before the old man could see him flinch.
Hildy's father looked at Jim's money on the bar and then looked at Jim. He didn't say anything, either. Jim wondered if he would have to pick up his money in order to get him to tell why he had ordered him to the meeting at the bar.
"I suppose you want to know why I told you to come here."
Jim had an impulse to set the old guy straight, to tell him that he didn't show up because he was ordered to, but because he chose to. He didn't say anything, however, fearing to set off an argument that he would later regret.
"Well, do you?" Wertz asked again. "Do you want to know? Maybe you already know."
"I'm all ears, Mr. Wertz.
"You've got a date with Hildy tonight," he said.
"I know that already."
He regretted the wise-ass answer as soon as it left his lips.
"Hildy's my daughter."
Jim knew that, too, but kept his silence.
"You've been taking her out on a lot of dates," her father went on. "I want tonight's date to be your last one."
Jim took a deep breath. It occurred to him that being polite was not paying off.
"I doubt that it will be, Mr. Wertz."
The older man heaved a big sigh and shook his head hard to each side like he had a bad taste in his mouth. He picked up his beer and took a gulp and then set it back down.
"What do you see in my daughter, anyway?" he demanded.
"I guess that I just like her," Jim said.
It was a weak answer and Jim knew it. It seemed unfair that this older man, whom he barely knew and who didn't like him, should be able to put him on the spot that way.
"You can do better than that," Wertz said. "What do you go to that fancy college for, anyway, if you can't give a better answer than that?"
"I like taking Hildy out because I like being with her. I like her because...because..."
"Because why?" Wertz demanded, and this time it had turned into a sneer.
"Because she is such a nice person," Jim said, and he made certain that his voice reflected the conviction inside him.
"Hey, Bill," Wertz called out to the far end of the bar. "This young fella likes taking Hildy out because he thinks she is a nice person."
The bartender had made his way back to the end of the bar where Jim and Wertz were seated. Hildy's father was laughing and the bartender was laughing, too. They weren't real laughs. Jim knew it wasn't funny.
"It's none of his business," Jim said, pointing at the bartender.
Wertz and the bartender stopped laughing.
"Hey, bub..." MacIver said and moved a few steps closer to Jim.
"Never mind, Bill," Wertz said. "He's just a young fella. Doesn't know his manners, still wet behind the ears."
"Not as wet as you think," Jim shot back.
"She's my daughter," Wertz said and pointed at his own chest. "She's mine and I call the shots."
"She can decide for herself who she sees," Jim said. "It's not up to you—or even me."
Wertz shook his head again and took a few more gulps of beer.
"Let's cut out the monkey business," Wertz said. "I know why you're taking her out. It's the only reason why a fair-haired college boy like you would bother with a girl like her. I'll tell you why. It's because you're putting your big, fat, hungry dick into her every chance you get."
Jim felt the blood rushing through the veins on his neck. In a moment he would be telling the old blowhard a thing or two. He took a deep breath and reminded himself to keep his nerve.
"I wish that you had asked me instead of putting it that way, Mr. Wertz."
"I didn't need to ask."
Jim drew another deep breath.
"The fact, sir, is that Hildy and I have never slept together."
The old man snickered and drank some more beer.
"I wasn't talking about sleeping."
"I know what you meant and I was just trying to be polite."
Wertz looked away for a second. When he turned his head back to face Jim his eyes were bloodshot and filled with tears.
"Be as polite as you want. I don't believe you. Why else would you have anything to do with her? She's homely and over six feet tall. She's a freak, and she's stupid, besides."
"And she's a nice person," Jim reminded him, "and I won't accept the rest."
"And there's other things you don't know," he said and stuck his index finger in Jim's chest.
Jim moved away. He sensed that things had gone too far. He began looking for a way out, but retreat would imply an admission, and he wouldn't do that.
"Why don't you do something for Hildy, instead of tear her down? If you would show her some kindness I think it would make her feel like a million bucks. She takes a lot from you because she respects and loves you."
It was if Wertz hadn't heard him.
"This is a small town, young fella.. My whole family lives here. You're fornicatin' with her and soon it will be all over town. I've got a family reputation to protect. You'll get tired of her and go off somewhere with your new diploma and big job. She'll be left and what will she have to show for it?"
"You have no right to talk to me like that," Jim snapped back at him.
"I've got every right!" Wertz shouted and slammed his open palm on the bar.
The few patrons in the bar, as well as the owner were looking at them. He started speaking in a lower voice and leaned close to Jim so that Jim could smell the beer on his breath.
"Did you think I didn't see through that little scheme of yours at Darlene's apartment? Well, I put the QT on that!"
Jim decided it was time to leave.
"Look, Mr. Wertz, I've told you the truth about everything. Right now, I'm going to pick up Hildy and we're going out to see a movie. I'm going to keep taking Hildy out until one of us decides that it isn't good anymore. As it stands now, that's not what I'm thinking. We'll see what Hildy says about it."
He began to zip up his jacket.
"Wait, young fella, you haven't finished your beer."
"I don't want it. I'm finished."
Wertz grabbed the sleeve of Jim's jacket.
"I'm not done talking to you."
Jim pulled his sleeve from Wertz' grip. He stuck his finger in the old man's chest.
"I said, I'm finished," Jim scowled back at him and then took his finger out of his chest.
He picked his ten off the bar and then turned and began walking away. MacIver was standing halfway between Wertz and the front door.
"How much do you charge for that beer I had?" Jim asked him.
"A buck, why?"
Jim slapped a single on the bar.
"I'm paying for my own," he said and the continued walking.
"Don't take it from him, Bill," he heard Wertz yelling behind him. "Don't take it from him."
As he pulled open the door he heard MacIver call after him.
"Hey, young fella, it's on the house."
Jim heard them but didn't turn around. He opened the second door and he just kept on walking.
Jim was a guy who made his plans in a careful way. He always had a fallback plan in case his original plan didn't work out, because the objective was always the most important thing.
"Who the hell does that guy think he is?" Jim asked himself out loud as he crossed the street outside the bar and walked to the lot where he had parked his car.
He wondered to himself if he'd been as strong as he could have been in standing up to Hildy's old man. Was there something that he could have said that hadn't occurred to him? Did he leave any doubt that he wasn't one to be pushed around?
"I probably did, but it's too late now. It's time to pick up Hildy."
He conceded that he'd done enough. It was a situation that he'd neither expected nor wanted, but there it was. It was true that he and Hildy had no spoken commitments to one another, so he wondered to himself why he'd brought so much trouble on himself to be her willing defender.
"Right is right and sometimes things just happen."
And, he'd been truthful in everything he'd said. At least, it was the truth in the strictest sense because he had to concede that the old man had been half right. He had been trying to put his 'big, fat, hungry dick' into her. He had just been unsuccessful. But, it was the truth.
"Well, it's not that big or fat, but I'll admit to it being hungry. It doesn't matter, though; it's none of his business. It's between Hildy and me. And, I won't be talked to like that by Hildy's old man or anyone else."