tagRomanceThe Bet

The Bet


It was a beautiful fall Saturday morning and Sam was out doing what he normally did on the nicer weekend days while he was at college. Well, he was doing what he did if he wasn't at his normal job. He was making his way from place to place, first on Frat row, then touring the local student bars. Hell, no, he wasn't drinking. It was nine in the morning. He was out trying to earn another few dollars to put in his college fund. He stopped his little Ranger pickup in the alley behind the first Frat house on his route. He looked around the yard and smiled. The yard was covered with empty bottles, cans and plastic cups. Looks like I'm in luck, he thought. At least this Frat had a nice party last night from the looks of things. He hoped the rest of his stops were as messy as this one. If they were, he would have a more profitable day than normal.

Sam grabbed a couple of large black trash bags and bailed out of his truck. He quickly walked into the yard and bent to begin picking up all the empty aluminum cans. Well, he stepped on them first to flatten them so more would fit into the trash bags that way. After cleaning up the cans in the yard he checked out the trash barrels. BINGO once again! The barrels were loaded with empties. By the time he finished this house he had three large 55 gallon trash bags of smashed aluminum cans.

Sam made his way from stop to stop, frat house to frat house collecting cans as he went. After making his normal stops on campus and some of the party houses just off campus Sam went on to the student bars. He almost had his little Ranger's bed filled with bagged cans even with the cab high racks he built for it. He hit the first bar and found four more bags worth of cans even after he smashed them. Off to the second bar on his route. What the hell??? There were almost no aluminum cans in the dumpster. Had the bar owner began saving them himself? He only found about a quarter of a bag and most of those cans were filled with cigarette butts or other junk so he couldn't use them. Oh, well, on to the next bar.

Crap. This dumpster was almost empty also. Sam moved on. Shit. When he got to the next bar he saw a small body bobbing up and down in the dumpster, throwing cans out of the dumpster into the parking lot. Soon a young woman climbed out of the dumpster and walked around smashing cans then she put them into bags. After the bags were full, she stuffed them into an older car. The trunk was already full of bags full of cans and she was filling the back seat now.

Sam drove up beside her car and rolled his window down to watch her work. She looked up at him guiltily, almost as if she was scared, but continued working on the cans. Sam just watched. After she finished loading her cans she glanced at Sam once again then drove off and turned into the next bar parking lot. She immediately jumped from her car and once again dove into the dumpster.

Sam followed her into the lot and stopped once again. This time he could see the fear on her face. He got out of his truck and she stopped to watch him warily. Sam looked into her car then turned his attention to her once more. He took a deep breath and said, "So, you're the one that's been taking my cans out of the dumpsters. I thought the first bar owner had began saving them himself. Then when I got to the second one and found those cans gone also I began to wonder. You've been hitting the dumpsters off and on all semester haven't you? I've noticed sometimes there are very few cans in them when I check them."

"What do you mean your cans? I've been getting the cans from the dumpsters now for almost six months. How do you get off saying they're yours? They're just going to the dump if I don't take them and sell them."

"I suppose you're right as far as it goes. I guess they're anybodies cans if they get to them first, but I've been picking them up now since I started college almost two years ago. I sell them and use the money to help live on and pay tuition. I only usually hit the dumpsters Saturday and Sunday mornings though, because I work most evenings and Saturday afternoons."

"Oh. Well, I've been doing the same since I transferred here this fall from a community college. I got a partial scholarship and I work most Saturdays and part time during the week at the book store. I can make $40 or $50 dollars a week if I hit the dumpsters Saturday and Sunday. I bet you're why I don't find many cans some days aren't you?"

"Yeah, probably. I'm a little later today than I usually am so you beat me to it today." Sam looked over at the girl's car and said, "You're making a mess in your car with all the leaking cans. Don't you have something to at least cover the seats? I can hardly stand the stale beer smell coming from my truck bed. How do you manage to drive with the cans inside? And aren't you afraid of getting stopped and getting a ticket for all those open containers?"

"They wouldn't. They couldn't could they?"

"Yeah, they would and they could. I know a woman back home that was doing just what you are. Well, maybe not just what you are. She had her back seat filled with bags of empty beer cans and got stopped at a sobriety check point. They wrote her up and she got a hellacious fine out of it. The Judge said the law had no qualifier to excuse garbage bags full of cans. It was plainly written that ANY open alcohol container in the passenger compartment was a violation of the open container law."

"You're just bullshitting me. Aren't you?"

"Nope. Sorry. So, you go to college here, too, huh? What's your name? I'm Sam Donovan."

"Traci Samuels. Yeah, I'm starting my Junior year. I transferred in from a community college near my home when I got a partial scholarship, like I said a few minutes ago."

"Well, it looks like we're going to be in competition for the cans now. I guess I'm going to have to get up a lot earlier to beat you out of them aren't I?"

Traci looked scared when Sam said that. She said, "Oh, please, don't do that. I really need the money I get for the cans. Maybe we can work something out like I get so many bars and you get so many, or something."

Sam stood and looked around for a moment. Hell, he never managed to pick up all the cans. He usually just hit the most popular bars where he knew he could make a big hit pretty fast and get back home. He could work all weekend and not get all the cans from all the bars. He said, "We could do something like that or we could work together. I never manage to hit all the bars before I have to quit and clean up to go to work. You can't get many cans in that car even if you use the back seat like you are. I have a small trailer I built with a rack on it also. We can work the best spots together and fill the truck and trailer then split 50/50 after we pay for my fuel if you want. Hell, it would be sort of nice to have someone to work with and talk to. I get tired of climbing in and out of the dumpsters all the time also. We could split that work."

The two students made an agreement to work together. To their surprise each of them had a couple of places that yielded very well indeed. They usually made around $75.00 each per weekend working cans together. While they worked together they found they became very good friends. They even occasionally studied together. They worked together throughout that fall semester and agreed to do the same during the spring semester after they returned to college after Christmas break.

During spring semester Sam and Traci managed to take three classes together also. They took Sociology, English Composition, and Business Statistics together. They were from similar backgrounds and found themselves drawn together more and more. They both grew up in the country on small farms. Traci's mother worked in town to supplement the family income. Sam's father worked in town and picked up odd jobs on the side. His mother worked on the farm raising broiler chickens in two older houses. Of course his father helped when he wasn't doing other jobs. Traci was working on a degree in Communications. She wanted to be an agricultural reporter. Sam was planning on a degree in Farm Management and Marketing.

Sam and Traci found they became very good friends while working together. Unfortunately, Sam's girlfriend didn't get on well with Traci at all. She mistrusted Traci and complained to Sam constantly about him working and studying with her. Several times during the first weeks of spring semester Sam or Traci caught Barbara watching them as they picked up cans or studied. She and her friends could almost be accused of stalking. Barbara was also embarrassed by Sam's dumpster diving and tried regularly to make him stop.

Traci and Sam were in the Library the last Sunday afternoon in early February when she once again saw Barbara hiding on the other side of the room glaring at them. She was surrounded by two of her friends. They made comments to each other then would glare at Sam and Traci once again. Traci nudged Sam and said, "Sam, she's at it again. I think we need to stop studying together or something before she explodes. I don't want to be the reason you two break up."

Sam sighed and said, "Traci you won't be. We've been sort of off more than we were on this whole year. I only saw her a few times last summer and I usually only have one date a week here. Most of the times I saw her this summer I got the third degree and got some weird vibes from her. Now that we're back here at college I'm getting more of the same. She's very controlling and has no trust of me at all.

"I'm just about fed up with her accusations about us, too. Hell, we both know she and her friends follow us around trying to catch us cheating on her. I have a friend that swears when one member of a couple accuses the other of cheating over and over like she is me that the accuser is probably the one cheating. I'm really starting to wonder if she isn't looking for a reason to break up and make it my fault. I'm almost to the point I just don't care. I almost hope she does break up with me. I've been thinking about dumping her to tell you the truth. I can't even remember why I started dating her to begin with now."

On the second Sunday in February the fecal matter hit the proverbial rotary impeller device. Barbara followed Sam and Traci into the library for their now regular Sunday study session. She stormed up to them and hissed, "I finally caught you cheating you two-timing asshole. I knew you two were cheating even if you did deny it. Well, we have pictures of you cheating now, asshole. What do you have to say for yourself?"

Sam and Traci looked up at the furious Barbara in shock. Sam said, "Barb, you know that's pure bullshit. I've never cheated on you. Can you say the same to me? I don't know what you've been smoking, but you can't have pictures of something that's never happened. You know what? I just don't care anymore. I don't need your shit. We're through. I don't ever want to see or talk to you again. Now get out of here so we can get our studying done."

"Yeah, right, asshole. We're history, but it's your fault, not mine. And I do have proof of you cheating. I have some of those pictures you say can't exist. See." Barbara threw two pictures printed on regular paper down on the table in front of Sam and Traci and stormed off. As she was leaving she hissed, "And I've told you over and over, my name is Barbara, not Barb or Barbie. I'm not some doll you play with."

Sam picked up the pictures and looked at them thoughtfully. He frowned then said, "OH, crap, of all the dumb shit. Look. They have a picture of us yesterday on Frat row. Remember we sneaked onto the porch to empty the trash can and we thought we were going to get caught? We ran off the porch and across the back yard. Just before we got to the truck you ran into me. When you pushed me I lost my balance and fell backward to lean against the truck and I grabbed you to try and keep my balance. I pulled you against me. Look. It does sort of look as if we were kissing doesn't it?

"Hell, she never even asked about it did she? She just jumped to a conclusion and exploded. To get this picture whoever took it had to have been there for a while. They couldn't have seen us in time to get their phone or camera ready to take this. They had to have known what really happened. Besides, we weren't parked more than three feet from the gate through the back hedge. This just had to be a complete set up. Screw it, we know we're innocent and if this is all she has to base her accusations on I don't need her ass in my life. She made it pretty plain she has no intentions of moving back to the farm when I graduate anyway so we were probably toast before long even if this hadn't come up. I am definitely not going to live in town and work nine to five all my life."

Traci placed her hand on Sam's forearm and gave him a weak smile. She said, "Well, I am sorry, Sam. No better than I know Barbara, though, I do think you're going to be much better off without her. Oh, well, I suppose we had better finish up on this Sociology paper if you still feel like working on it."

"Yeah, I think I can get back into the groove. We need to get it done anyway. We have to turn it in when class begins Monday morning."

Most of Sam's and Traci's class work was very easy for them. They were sailing through the courses and enjoying the classes very much. They both thought Sociology was sort of ridiculous but even then they could sort of see why knowledge of the discipline could be beneficial. That class gave them the most trouble, however, because of the discussions and opinionated students in it. Many days they both left class upset because of the ignorant opinions expressed during the class period.

As soon as Sociology class convened Monday the instructor collected the papers due. She immediately began her prepared lecture but before long she knew she was in trouble. Today's discussion was a doozy. The professor constantly had to restore order as the discussion she initiated took on a life of its own. When she initiated the discussion it was to make the point that poor people had little choice in life and needed the help of those more well to do in order to not only survive but to prosper. She hoped to show that the two separate group-the poor and those who were better off-needed to pull together, understand their group dynamics, and build a better life for all. Never had she encountered one, much less two people in her classes that took such a vehement opposition to her statements. Of course, the other two students that immediately jumped on her dissenters didn't help much. Fenton Richards was the son of wealth and he made sure everyone knew it. Terrance Sanders was just the opposite. He was from an obviously very poor background. In fact, she didn't know how he even made it into college but he was there and for some reason he and Fenton were a team. Most of the discord in class came from them.

Paula once again tried to regain control of the discussion with no success. Finally she just gave up and listened to the statements flying back and forth. Sam said, "Bullshit. I don't care who you are or what your socioeconomic background is you can begin life with nothing and become very well to do if you are willing to work and defer your wants into the future. All that is needed is someone to give you a chance. We don't need more government programs. We don't need more handouts. Anyone in this country can obtain a good education and leave college nearly debt free if they are willing to work for it and if they don't spend extravagantly. With a good education, hard work, honesty, and good ethics you can succeed."

Fenton sneered and went on the attack, getting his statement in before Terrance. Fenton said, "That's a crock and you know it. Almost no one in today's economy can get by without help and handouts. That's all the balance of Americans want any more is a free ride. You can't convince me that anyone is willing or able to get by without more money from the government. Every time something goes wrong the drones ask, what's the Government going to do about it? Well, I, for one, am tired of seeing money wasted on people who will never amount to anything and refuse to help themselves."

Terrance jumped into the fray saying, "Well, the working people, the lower income people, deserve it. All you rich assholes pay the help low wages and overcharge on everything you sell. A working man or woman has no chance to get ahead without more government help."

Traci and Sam tried to speak at the same time. Sam looked at Traci and motioned for her to continue. She said, "That's a crock and you know it. My parents only have a high school education. They started out when they married at age 18 with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few mostly used wedding gifts. Dad began working for minimum wage and mom worked for two dollars an hour and tips as a waitress for three years. They saved their money until they could rent a farm to work. They have worked together for thirty years and own their own farm and drive newer vehicles. It can be done if a person, or a couple, is willing to work hard and make the hard decisions and sacrifices. This is my third year in college and so far I am attending school full time and have no student loans. It can be done if you are willing to work and plan."

Sam looked at Traci and smiled then said, "Absolutely. There is any number of jobs out there and numerous ways to make a few dollars IF the person is willing to do it. And they are LEGAL too, not some shady job or pushing drugs or stealing."

Fenton stood and glared at Sam and Traci then said, "Yeah, right. I'm sure you would stoop to doing some of the work we have to import Mexicans to do. There is no way you would live like you would have to live to get by without another government handout that comes from taxing the people willing to work and provide employment for slackers like you."

Paula sighed. She could sort of understand Sam's, Traci's and Terrance's position but she just couldn't figure Fenton out. She was pretty sure he was only arguing because he liked to stir up trouble. He was well to do and should be against government programs and taxation to support lower income people yet he argued that government programs were the only way people in the lower classes could get by. Of course he made his statements in a disparaging manner as if he didn't approve. Perhaps he was arguing as he was because he didn't approve and was angry about the handouts. Perhaps he was one of the benevolent rich and actually felt as if they owed help to those less fortunate. She chose to believe that, to give him credit for being kind and thoughtful.

The discussion continued until finally Fenton stood and said, "I'm sick of your damn statements. If you really believe what you say, put your money where your mouth is. I'll make a bet with you to prove you're wrong."

Sam looked up at the looming Fenton and almost snarled, "Oh, yeah, how're you going to do that?"

"My family owns an old abandoned farm down in the sticks. I'll bet you that farm against all the money and property you own now or obtain during the course of the bet that you can't succeed alone with no help from our great society. You have to make your way in life with no help and no full time job. Running the farm will be your full time job. You can take part time jobs off the farm but you have to live on it and make your own way for the next four years or until you make a yearly income that is at least twice the U.S. poverty level income, whichever comes first."

"That's not what I was arguing about here. I said there was always a way for an individual to make more money than they had and to better themselves in our country without government help. There is always another way to pick up some honest income if a person is willing to do it."

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