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Pie Filling


The weather so far that year had been lousy. The Spring was dry, causing a partial drought, the Summer had been too damn' hot, causing more than a bit of melanoma in the inveterate sun-bathers, while the farmers who tried to br9ng in much needed crops cursed and nursed the cloudless skies and their crops, respectively.

As Jake Warner struggled to make his irrigation pump work he noticed a cloud of what he took to be insects blow across his fields. That was a helluva big cloud to his mind, but he paid it no more attention as the pump reluctantly thudded into action. Water at first sprayed nicely from the myriad holes in the long pipe, although as it should not be doing, it soon was issuing in jets and dribbles. Jake cursed and turned his attention back to the pump. The insect cloud grew larger, covering the entire field, then the whole farm, all four hundred acres.

Dale Watkins, a friend of Jake, was driving past and opened his pick-up window to holler some inanity about the drought at Jake. He got a mouthful of something like insects, although as he sputtered and mentally reviled the "insects," he swallowed and drove on without repeating the joke that he had so lovingly prepared for his friend.

Behind him, Alice Burton also opened her window to get some fresh air instead of the cool but stale air inside her car. She did not understand why her air conditioner wasn't working properly, but she was going to see Albert Kane at the garage as soon as she got to town. As her window completed its downward travel she drove through the almost invisible, expanding cloud and breathed some of it in, although she did not notice any insects.

When Alice pulled her overheating car into the parking space at Albert's Garage, she saw that her acquaintance, Dale, was already there, standing outside his car looking at what Albert's helper, Jimmie Gale, was trying to do change a tire. Alice parked as near as she could to the garage doors, then got out and went over to see what Dale was staring at.

Jimmie had wrestled the car tire and rim onto a hydraulic tire press and was just standing looking at it and the gauge on the press. Dale was saying something to him in a slow uninflected drawl, most unlike his usual incisive speech. Alice didn't have much of a mechanical flare, although she could fix her washing machine and Singer if they were not too fouled up, but she knew very little about auto mechanical problems. She could not quite understand why Dale would be saying such a foolish thing to an auto mechanic.

"Yew . . . need . . . a wrench . . . for that . . ., Jimmie."

« Why, what good would a wrench do? » thought Alice. She realised that the tire had to be deflated before any work could be done on it. There was a spoon-like steel piece, she saw, that was attached to a long bar. Alice's quick mind understood that by placing the spoon thingy under the bead of the tire, then pulling down on the long bar, the tire could be loosened from the rim.. Well, that was men's work, she had better not interfere. She did venture a question.

"Jimmie, is Albert around? My car's overheating and I need it fixed."

Jimmie looked slowly around from his contemplation of the puzzling tire mount. His face seemed blanker than usual, although Alice knew that he was a "good" boy although not the brightest in the town by a long shot.


"Albert. You know, Jimmie, your boss."

"Don't . . . have . . . a boss, lady." Jimmie was speaking strangely and Alice noted that his tongue seemed thick. Then she looked agin at the two males and saw that both their heads seemed swollen right around their temples. Some kind of . . .?

"JIMMIE! You know me, I taught you in fourth and fifth grades. What's the matter with Jimmie, Dale?"

Dale seemed to snap out of a reverie.

"Huh? Jimmie? I was watching . . . what was I watching? Hm. Albert? Albert. Does he live here?"

Alice was beginning to be frightened by these reactions from two people she'd known almost all her life. She knew Dale for a very intelligent man, he'd been to State College, majored in agriculture, gotten good grades and ran a very successful sugar beet farm, unusual for the area, about three miles out of town. Hadn't that been Dale's car in front of her, coming into town? Yes, his head seemed swollen, and his speech was as thick as Jimmie's..

She took several hesitant steps back toward her car, her hand reaching for the door handle. A soft hand fell onto it, making her heart beat furiously and her body jerk in surprise. Frightened, she slowly swiveled her head to see . . .

"Sorry, Miss Alice, it's me, Bonny Travers. What the hell is wrong with the men, anyways?"

Bonny had been a good student in her classes, but none of the other teachers all the way through tenth grade had a good word for her. She'd constantly been at the principal's office, always in some sort of minor trouble. She'd quit school at age sixteen. Alice suspected her of now making a living by pleasing men in ways of which Alice could not approve, although she occasionally secretly envied Bonny for her insouciant attitude toward life. Her heart slowing, Alice turned her entire body to look at Bonny.

The girl was dressed as usual in a far too short skirt . . . no, it was a pair of . . . culottes? No, just shorts, definitely shorts. Alice's gaze, fascinated as it was by the shorts, suddenly disengaged guiltily and slid upward along Bonny's bare midriff, with some difficulty past her extraordinary upper works, barely contained by her bulging sweatshirt (and, Alice assumed, by a straining bra), to her sweet face. Bonny was really a very pretty girl.

"Why, why Bonny! I have no idea what's come over these two. I was looking for Albert, but Jimmie gives me crazy answers and Dale doesn't even know where he is! What is going on?" Alice really appealed to Bonny as the more worldly of the two of them.

"Miss Alice, I pure don't know. I drove into town and there was this big cloud of something that wasn't a cloud, know what I mean?"

That last had been a phrase that Alice could not abide when Bonny had it used incessantly at school, and really could not stand now, but she ignored her distaste in her quest for knowledge.

"Why, I drove through something like that, Bonny. You are right. It really wasn't a normal cloud, but I think it was a cloud of . . . bugs, insects, wasn't it?"

"Damn' 'f'I know, Miss Alice. Oh, sorry," she added, as Alice's brow clouded. "Hey, lookie, here's that cloud again, or another one like it!"

Indeed, there was a huge discoloration . . . no, a misty obscuration . . . of the sun, which had been very bright until then. So used were the two women to the beat of the sun's rays over the hot Summer that the sudden cool felt wonderful, like a huge air conditioner. Alice noticed that Bonny's nipples stood firm and felt her own harden.

« My God! She's not wearing a bra! » thought Alice, and then blushed at her own thoughts. Why does that matter?

The two stood there breathing in the cloud as it surrounded them. Alice, then Bonny, could not help notice that the two males, boy and man, stood like statues, their chests slowly inflating and deflating. There was something increasingly odd about their heads, too, but she couldn't define it.

"What should we do, Miss Alice?"

"Perhaps . . ." Alice gathered her thoughts. "Let's get those two inside. I don't believe the mist is doing them . . . or us , , , any good."

Bonny looked askance at her for a moment, but walked with Alice to the two. Bonny looked up into Dale's eyes and said in her honey sweet, cajoling voice,

"Hey, Dale, honey, c'mon with me, hey guy?"

« M'god, » thought Alice, « I'd go with her just to hear her talk like that. When did she learn that? »

Dale didn't move, stood dumb and staring at nothing, until Bonny took his hand and led him slowly toward the gaping garage doors. As she pulled Dale inside, she shrieked and ran back outside, almost knocking Alice and Jimmie flat.

"Jee-zus, Miss Alice! There's Albert lying in there, he looks really weird an' he's beatin' his . . . he's not doing anything nice, Miss Alice." Her tone turned plaintive. "What the Hell is going on?"

"Albert is masturbating, eh, Bonny? And you don't have to keep on calling me 'Miss' Alice! I think we have a situation here."

"Miss Alice! Oh, hell, you're right. Something's very bad, all right. Albert's head's all swollen. Look, where can we get help? D'you think all the men are like these three? How about Jake Warner? He's real sensible, I know him pretty well ... " Alice shot her a look, "yeah, Alice . . ."

She savored the new right to call her former teacher by her first name, while at the same time she felt that she had to tell her the truth ". . . that way, but it doesn't matter now, does it? Let's get in your car and go see Jake."

Alice was about to agree. Her hand was in her pocketbook, feeling for her car keys, when she remembered.

"Oh, Bonny, I came to the garage because my car was overheating. I'm afraid if we drove back to Mr. Warner's farm . . . " Bonny was already looking in the two other vehicles in the yard, shaking her head at one, looking pleased at the other.

"Okay. We'll take Albert's tow truck, then, I see the keys in the ignition." Alice felt the thrill of an illicit venture run through her.

"Very well, can you drive such a large vehicle?"

"Yup. Drove a farm truck you know, growing up." Alice remembered now that Bonny had grown up on her "uncle's" farm. She was an orphan, adopted from the orphanage in the next county. Capable girl, really, had been a "nice" girl at one time, but not one to control her impulses. « Probably hadn't doped, » thought Alice. No matter now. Maybe they'd better find some more people, someone who could explain what was happening.

They climbed into the high cab, Bonny started the motor with a little difficulty and then backed into the road, turning the nose of the truck toward Jake Warner's place. Bonny put her foot down and they rumbled at increasing speed out of town, leaving a faint swirl in the almost invisible cloud which still hovered over the entire area. She changed gears without clashing at all. Alice held tight to the grab rail inside the right door, wondering if a state trooper would pull them over for speeding.

« State troopers won't bother us, they're male . . . oh, no they're not, there's a siren.. . . » Alice craned to look back as Bonny cursed under her breath. Alice couldn't see anything but flashing lights through all the towing gear in the back, but Bonny had her side mirror.

"That's a trooper, damn it, Alice! Oh, dammit, I thought we might find a sane man, but some of them are women, aren't they? I'm gonna pull on over."

The truck slowed and stopped on the berm as the trooper's car pulled up and slewed half sideways facing into the road behind them. Bonny rolled down her window and leaned out, both wrists resting on the window sill, her hands obvious. Alice took the clue and raised her hands to rest very visibly on top of her big pocketbook.

The trooper was an attractive, stocky, tough looking woman, possibly about twenty-five. The uniform did very little for her, but the automatic at her hip was authoritative.

"Okay, folks. What's the hurry? You been looking at the men? Is that it?"

"Yeah," said Bonny, a bit surprised at the last two questions.. "We saw three guys we know being real dumb . . . there was something wrong with their heads and the way they talked and we were going to see if another friend of ours had got like that, too."

"Ladies, if any man in this area is still using his brains, I can't find him. They're all gettin' queer lookin', like their heds are blowin' up, or somethin'. I've been on the horn to the barracks and I can't raise anyone there 'cept a civvie clerk, and she's scared sh . . witless and crying. I tried the patrol shift and got three, all gals. So . . . who's the guy you think might not be affected?"

Alice answered, as Bonny seemed to be shocked by the trooper's statement.

"Jake Warner, owns the farm about two miles ahead. But, Trooper, I was driving past there when I ran into the cloud

. . ."

The trooper interrupted.

"Cloud? You mean the insects?"

"Whatever it was. I didn't see any insects, but Bonny. . .?" She looked at her young acquaintance, now almost her only friend in this situation, and realised that the girl was crying.

"Why, Bonny! What . . .?"

"No more men, ever?" the girl wept, her face slobbered with tears.

"Oh, my . . .!" exclaimed the trooper, her face crinkling. She barely restrained a grin, but straightened her face and tried to resume a proper police presence. Alice caught a look that flashed between the trooper and Bonny. Both brightened, possibilities apparently occurring to both at once. Alice, not all that old, felt a twinge of . . .envy?

Alice thought that they had better know each other in the "situation," as she still thought of it.

"I'm Alice Burton. I used to teach school . . . I quit three years ago." She got no farther.

"You quit, Alice? Bonny looked shocked once again. "How come?"

"Well . . ." It really was none of her or the trooper's business, but what the . . . Hell?

"I received a legacy, I was fed up with trying to teach kids who didn't want to learn!" Alice was more vehement than she had meant to be. She suddenly remembered . . .damn, she should have . . .

"Oh, Bonny, I didn't mean that so bitterly . . . I liked teaching you, even if you were a little . . ."

"Look, Ms. Burton does this matter? I'm Trooper First Class Irene Caspar. And you, miss . . .?"

"Bonny Travers, former student, now a whore, I guess." Alice watched her blush and a rush if fellow feeling washed over her.

"No, Bonny, you might have been a might freer with your favors than I used to think was right, but you're no whore, hon'." That word surprised both of them. They were looking right into each other's eyes, ignoring Caspar, who had mounted to the truck's running board, apparently to check for weapons, something she should have done as soon as she stopped them.

Her harsh tones broke up the interchange between ex-teacher and ex-pupil.

"Look, ladies, let's get over to this Warner guy's farm and see if he's one guy who's okay, huh? I'm gonna call the three troopers who seem to be still working and tell 'em to meet us there. What did you say the name if the farm is?"

"Heck, Irene. . . " Bonny pronounced it as an English word, "Eye-reen," while Alice thought of it as French, "IrPne."

" . . . it's just called the Warner Farm, he raises grain, mostly, some garden vegetables."

Irene walked back to her car, leaned in and talked for a moment or two on the radio. Then she waved and jumped in, made the siren growl almost like a burp and pulled out around the truck, signalling the women to follow her as she turned off her flashers and drove at about forty along the same road on which Alice had come into town.

Alice contemplated Bonny's profile as the woman carefully followed the trooper car. She realised that Bonny was attractive, as a matter of fact, very attractive. Alice was, she realised, less than fifteen years older than Bonny, not yet thirty-five, which Alice, influenced perhaps by her young pupils, had always thought of as an "ancient" age. She still thought that was the end of much chance for romance, but her thoughts were changing even as she watched Bonny concentrating on her driving. Bonny was a lot more careful, Alice believed, than she had been on the hair-raising dash from town before Irene had pulled them over.

Bonny had been glancing over at Alice surreptitiously from time to time, thinking.

« She's not so damn' bad lookin', after all, is she? A bit of lipstick, some make-up . . . hell, why do I care? Damn, she is good looking. Take off that jacket an' I'll bet she's got a good figure. Why am I . . .? »

"Say, Alice, can you cook?" That was a startling question, but Alice chuckled and answered calmly,

"Yes, Bonny, I'm a good cook. You know, there wasn't a lot for a spinster teacher to do otherwise, except go to movies, shop and maybe, for some of the older ones, knit, crochet gifts, or cook."

"Heck, Alice, you're sure not so old . . . sure not old enough to be an old maid." That startled them both, for Bonny had used her "come hither" voice. Bonny blushed, but her face broke into a smile.

"I gotta tell you the truth, seems like, Alice. Never felt like this before."

"I feel a while lot different, too, Bonny. You know, you're really a very good looking girl. It's a shame . . ." Alice quit before she said what she had begun to say without thinking.

". . . that I became a whore? Yeah, I could have paid more attention and maybe graduated, maybe got married, like I should have."

Alice was about to ask if Bonny didn't like girls at all, then thought better of it. There was a short silence punctuated by the squeal of brakes as Bonny stopped just short of the trooper's bumper. She jumped down from the truck before Alice could make up her mind what to say..

"So where's this Warner, Bonny?" The trooper was looking over the fields, beautiful fields, now apparently untended. The grain looked more than ripe for combining , but nothing stirred.

"Is he married?"

"Is he, Alice?" Bonny had no idea, of course, she had never known Jake. Jake had been a beau of Alice in high school. They might have married, but Alice went away to college and decided to be a teacher, not a farmer's wife, even though she later regretted not knowing at the time that the two could be combined.

"No, he never married. Stayed lonely, as I was . . ."

"But you had kids . . . in a way of speaking, Alice! He didn't." Alice grinned back at Bonny's assumed indignation and sparkling eyes. Oh, she was kidding.

"Looks like none of us is going to have kids, folks. No men, or all of 'em crazy or dumb as hell, how can we?"

"Unless," Irene added, "we find that Warner is in his right mind?" She grinned, and the thought took all three women as hilarious, as the ramifications of a lone man with three . . . or more . . . women matured. Alice managed to grin, but the other two laughed a bit, then sobered.

"Hey, here's more co . . .police, gals," cried Bonny as three more trooper cars pulled up and parked on both sides of the road.

Irene muttered something about, " . . . not from my barracks. Don't know 'em." She put a hand on her belt, close to the holstered automatic in a casual, strictly non-threatening manner.

"What's up, trooper? You finding any sane people?" This was a corporal, a chunky woman who looked as though she could take on a riot by herself, She was cradling a long barreled weapon of some kind over one arm, flashing an ID card in her unengaged hand.. The other two looked younger, about Irene's age. They were also troopers first class, the single gold stripes on each sleeve gold.

"Yeah, these two women, but so far, the only men, . . . I guess none. These ladies think there might be a man on this farm that isn't affected, maybe." Irene had surrendered her suspicions in the face of recognizable authority.


"Warner. What's his first name, Bonny?"

"'Jake,' isn't it, Alice?"

"Yes, that what's he's called, but Jonathan he was christened,.He hated that name, so . . ."

"Okay. Let's spread out and look for the man, in his right mind or not," commanded the corporal. "If he's nuts, I've got a tranquillizer gun here. Get yours from the cars and let's go, troopers. You two ladies better stay here."

"I don't think Jake would be dangerous, corporal, but wouldn't we be better off with one of you? In case there are others who might not know us?"

"Hm. Maybe there's others around you don't know, you mean? Yeah, but stay back a couple yards an' if there's shooting, drop to the ground real fast! Got it?"

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