The Bet


Fenton laughed and smirked as he looked around the classroom then replied, "Yeah, that's what I thought. You're taking back your statements now and trying to welsh. If you truly believe that you can make your living easily by doing several of those jobs and picking up the extra income you wouldn't think twice about taking this bet."

Traci looked up at Fenton and said, "No, he's not. You're purposefully trying to muddy the waters. What you are saying can be done, though. A person or couple can not only survive but they can prosper if they are willing to work and save instead of spend money foolishly for immediate gratification."

Fenton laughed and said, "I always thought you were as stupid as he is. Why don't you join him in the bet if you're so sure it can be done?"

"You know, I think I will. It'll be fun sticking it to you."

"Fine. I'll have my attorney write up the agreement and we'll sign it after our next class meeting."

"Whoa, there stud. We'll look it over and have OUR attorney review it first THEN we'll sign it IF it contains every point we have discussed here today. Now, tell us more about this farm you want us to live on for the next four years. We also need to know what we are allowed to bring with us in case we take your bet."

Fenton sneered once again and said, "You can bring anything you own and use any money you currently have in the bank or in cash. That's all. You will not accept any handouts, government or private assistance, free food, medical care, or unpaid help from any source to live. You must pay your own way completely, accepting no federal or state assistance or assistance from any private source or individual."

The next two class periods all resulted in another confrontation with Fenton. After the class Friday Sam and Traci walked from the room and building together. She said, "I'm really getting tired of his crap. We only have one more lecture today since Jones cancelled her class. It's Valentine's Day today besides. I think we need to do something to unwind a little tonight. You up for it?"

"Heck, I suppose. Since Barb bailed on me I don't have a date. What about you though? You can't convince me you don't have a date for Valentines."

"Nope. You know I don't have a steady and I guess no one wanted to ask me out in case I got the wrong idea. I don't want to sit home alone either. Both my roommates have big dates and it would be pretty depressing to watch them. I'm really not looking forward to them coming home later tonight, either. I just hope if they do come home they come alone. The last thing I need to do is listen to love making all night long. Come on, let's go out for a while."

"Hell, why not. I'll pick you up say about six?"

"I don't care. You can come earlier if you want. What are we going to do?"

"I don't know. You asked. You have anything you want to do?"

"No. Let's just get a bite to eat and hit one of the hang outs."

Sam and Traci both enjoyed seafood so he decided they would go to Red Lobster for supper then move on to one of the student bars near campus. Maybe they would see some of their friends there.

The food was good at the Lobster but the visit itself was depressing. It seemed as if the place was filled with couples celebrating Valentine's Day. When they decided to leave there was a short but heated discussion when it came time to pay the bill. Traci insisted on paying for her own meal and drinks and Sam didn't want her to do so. Finally he gave in and let her pay half the bill and they left. As they were leaving the restaurant Sam felt Traci grab his arm tightly and begin moving faster toward his truck. He turned his head toward her in surprise and saw her glaring at a BMW nearby. She quickly turned her head away from the vehicle and pulled him rapidly toward his truck.

Just as Sam started to turn his head away from the car he saw what Traci didn't want him to see. Barbara was sitting in the car kissing a young man. Her hair was mussed and the man's hand was down the top of her low cut dress. Sam knew from experience she wasn't wearing a bra because the dress wouldn't allow one. As they walked past the car Sam saw Barbara's nipple. Knowing Barbara as well as he did he was sure this wasn't her first or even her second date with the man. At least when they began going out it took him almost two months to cop a feel and he had never done so in a parking lot.

When they got to his truck Traci looked at Sam. Somehow she knew he saw Barbara. She wrapped her arms around him and said, "I'm sorry, Sam. You saw didn't you? Are you ok?"

Sam gave Traci a quick hug and smiled. He said, "Yeah, I'm fine. You know it really didn't bother me at all. I've seen her a time or two on campus with one boy or another even before she dumped me and I just don't feel anything at all. I mean, I know we used to date and I had some feelings for her, but even then I didn't think we were in love. I had my doubts you know? Tonight all I saw was a skank playing around in a car, you know?"

Traci smiled and tightened her hug briefly before letting him go. "Good. That's exactly what you saw, Sam. I know you and I know a little about her. You are a good man and you can do a damn sight better. You deserve better too. Now come on. Let's see if we can find some of the gang somewhere."

Sam and Traci both got just a little plastered that night. He was smart enough to choose a hang out near his apartment so he left his truck in the parking lot and he and Traci walked, well, really, they staggered back to his place when the bar closed. Sam offered to call a cab for Traci but she refused. "No, Sam, I really don't want to listen to the lovers banging away at my place. Can I just crash on your couch? Please?"

"Yeah, no prob, Trace."

Saturday morning they got a later than normal start picking up cans. They took a quick shower, then hit Denny's for a good breakfast before starting work. Sam looked at Traci while they were picking up cans on Frat row and said, "You know, you're dangerous. I haven't been drunk like that since I graduated from high school. You are evil to lead me to drink, woman."

Traci laughed her trademarked musical laugh and hip butted him and smiled. "I don't remember having to force even one of your many drinks down your throat, Stud. You done that all by yourself. But I do know ONE of us is dangerous. SOMEONE led poor little ol' innocent me down the path of Bacchanalian excess."

"I think we need to agree to disagree on this one. Maybe we led each other down the path. Anyway, Trace, I had fun even if this morning wasn't so much. I'm glad you talked me into going out."

The two friends completed their mornings work and went their separate ways for the remainder of the weekend.

It took two more weeks but finally they ironed out a contract all parties could live with for what was now being called "The Bet" by the students and faculty on campus who heard about it. After class one day Sam and Traci met Fenton at his attorney's office and they signed the contract with Fenton. It was written into the contract that the couple could use anything found on the old farm in any manner they wished. They were allowed to utilize the farm as if it was theirs exclusively and to sell anything found or raised on the property as if it was solely their property. Items found on the property and sold were specifically excluded from going against the contract as free items or help from others so selling them would not cause Sam and Traci to lose their bet. They also were allowed to bring any personal possession they owned with them when they moved to the farm and use them as they saw fit.

They did negotiate and write into the contract that they only had to make taxable income equal to twice the Federal Poverty level for a couple (which was $15,730 for 2014) for two consecutive years or live successfully on the land per the contract specifications for a period of four years. The contract further stated the land and any improvements or other property owned by Fenton and or his family that was on the land as of the day of signing the contract became the property of Sam and Traci if they successfully fulfilled the contract. Since she lost control of the discussion Paula decided to use it and the ensuing bet as a teaching tool and as the basis for a paper she would write for a professional journal after the bet was over.

After they signed the contract Traci looked at Sam and said, "Well, now comes the hard part of this mess."

"Well, yeah, I suppose it will be sort of difficult but it won't be as bad as you think. I mean, look how much we made just picking up cans here in town. We have a whole farm to use for income plus whatever we can pick up elsewhere. We'll be fine."

"No, Sam. The really hard part is telling my parents I'm quitting college and moving away to a farm with a man I've only known for a short time and to whom I am not married."

"Oh. Yeah, I suppose that might be just a tad tough. I hadn't even thought of telling my parents or what I would tell them about this. At least they knew I always intended to return to farming. I suppose they will be slightly upset with me about living with someone I'm not married to also but I don't think it will cause any trouble. Are you going to have serious trouble with your family?"

"No, probably not serious trouble, but Dad and Mom will be upset I'm just moving in with you. They'll immediately think the worst and will probably give me some grief about it. The old "living in sin" routine, you know. Heck, they both know I've been with boys before but they can pretend I'm still a virgin if I'm not living with a man."

"Do you want me to come with you when you tell them? Or are you just going to phone them to tell them?"

"Oh, hell, no. This is something I have to do by myself. Besides, I don't want you killed before we stick it to Fenton. I think I'll go home this weekend and get it over with. Wish me luck."

When Traci told her parents that Friday night at supper what she and Sam were going to do it was not received well. Her father looked angry but her mother stared at her in shock. She said, "Oh, Honey, NO. You can't do that. You can't move over 150 miles away and live with a man we've never even seen. How can you just drop out of college and move off to live with someone like that without even discussing it with us."

"Mom, it's not like that. Yeah we're going to live and work together but that's all. This is purely a business arrangement. If we fulfill the contract we'll be given title to the farm free and clear. It will completely pay for our college education and maybe even a master's degree if we decide to sell the land. And Sam's a really nice, honorable man. I trust him fully and completely."

"What do you mean IF you decide to sell the land? You don't mean you are thinking about living on the land with this man forever, do you? I thought you said this was only for four years."

"It is, Mom, but we haven't discussed what we'll do with the ground for sure. We might rent it or farm it ourselves or sell it. We have to see it and win the bet, uh, I mean fulfill the contract first."

"Well, we don't like it at all. When do we get to meet this young man, anyway? He can't be much of a man if he sent you home to face us alone. And what was that about a bet young lady?"

Traci muttered 'shit' to herself when her mother caught the reference to the bet. She chose to ignore the question and address her query about Sam. She said, "I don't know when you will meet him, Mom. And he offered to come with me when I told you about the deal but I told him I didn't want him to. Ok?"

"Well he should have been here. He must not be much of a man if he can't even come with you to discuss something this important. It's almost like he was afraid to face us."

Needless to say, the rest of the weekend was strained for Traci and her parents. She was very glad to get back to college and Sam. When she saw him that Sunday evening she ran to him without thinking and hugged him tightly.

Sam held and caressed Traci for a moment before saying, "I take it the weekend didn't go well?"

Traci shook her head no, "Well, it wasn't horrible. They were upset, of course, but I think they have the anger out of their systems and are on the way to accepting my decision. They want to meet you, though. Will that be a problem?"

"No, Trace, you know that won't be a problem. I wish I had gone with you to help explain. When do they want us to meet them?"

"I told them we'd come down in a couple of weeks if you agreed to come. Was that ok?"

"Yeah, whenever you want. Just let me know."

Two weeks later Sam and Traci went to her parent's home so he could meet them. They drove his little Ranger rather than her car. Unfortunately, that might have been a mistake. The truck was mechanically very sound but it had spent most of its life as a farm truck and showed it. There were a few dents; it was dirty as only a farm truck can be-straw, grain and grease everywhere and the good cleaning Sam gave it before they left didn't get nearly all of it. There were several scratches in the paint. It had mud caked underneath. There was even a spot or two of rust in the usual places over the rear wheel wells. In short, it looked like what it was-a work truck that had been used for its entire 12 years of life as such.

When they were about ten minutes from Traci's home she called her parents and told them they were almost there. Her mother and father were waiting in the yard for them when they drove up. After they parked, Sam got out of the truck and started around it to help Traci out. She didn't wait for him, however, and climbed out before he got around the front. She met him in front of the truck and took his hand. She led him to her parents and said, "Mom, Dad, this is Sam Donovan, the man I'm going to work with for the next four years. Sam, these are my parents Trevor and Wanda."

Sam stepped forward to shake Trevor's hand. As he moved, he said, "I'm pleased to meet you both."

Trevor took Sam's hand and applied just a slight amount of excessive pressure. Sam was surprised but responded with pressure of his own. Trevor's face showed a slight amount of shock when Sam added pressure to the shake instead of trying to pull away. He looked into Sam's eyes for a moment then relaxed his grip and nodded.

After he released Sam's hand from the shake he continued staring Sam down as he said, "So, you're the man who is to blame for Traci dropping out of college. I hope you know what you're doing, throwing away a chance of a good education for some pipe dream. Well, you're here, I suppose you had better come on inside."

Traci looked shocked and said, "Daddy! How could you say something like that? I told you Sam didn't talk me into dropping out of college. I explained to you two weeks ago why I am doing that. We can win, uh, successfully complete this contract and have a small farm free and clear. It will be a resource to help both of us get an advanced degree or a better start in our life."

Wanda rested her hand on Trevor's arm for a moment as she said, "Now, Trevor, you promised to be nice. What's done is done and we can't change it. As I understand it, they have signed the contract and if they back out now they will literally lose everything they own."

Wanda smiled at Sam and said, "Just ignore him, Sam. He, we, both wanted to see Traci finish college. She would have been the first person in the family to do that."

"I understand, Mrs. Samuels. My parent's were a little upset also, but like Traci said, not only will we get to put that asshole, uh, excuse me, Fenton in his place, we can prove a point and make a substantial profit if we can pull this off and complete the contract. Truthfully, neither of us has all that much to lose if we fail. Where would this country be, or where would you folks be, if we or you had not dreamed and made an attempt to achieve that dream?"

"Humphf. Well, we do understand dreams, but Traci has just given up one of her and our largest dreams. We dreamed she would finish college and make something of herself. I see the chances of that happening rapidly dwindling, now. But never mind, come on into the house and let's get comfortable while we get to know each other better."

The next 45 minutes for Sam were filled with Mr. Samuel's grilling him about their plans and harping on them dropping out of college. Traci got a lighter dose of that while she helped her mother complete the evening meal.

While they were eating, the conversation finally moved to more relaxing subjects. Unfortunately, Mrs. Samuels made the mistake of telling Traci she talked to the mother of Traci's best friend and was told the friend earned her Degree that month. Then she said, "I had so hoped I could tell Martha about your degree also and now I don't suppose I ever will."

Traci noisily put her fork down and said in exasperation, "Mother, I've told you over and over I didn't drop out of college. I am only taking a little time off from going full time. Both Sam and I intend to enroll for Internet courses while we are on the farm so we can continue our education. Neither of us is sure we can get all the remaining courses we need for our degree on the net, but if we can't we'll at least be closer to the degree than we now are. We may not be able to finish before the contract expires but we will finish. Now, could you please just drop it?"

After the meal, the four wandered out onto the porch to visit longer and watch the sun go down. That was when Mr. Samuels moved on to the other topic that was bothering him. He turned to face Traci and said, "I just don't understand how you can just up and move in with a man you've known such a short time. What if you get pregnant and he leaves you. You won't be the first young woman who fell for a line like that. I thought we raised you better than that."

"Daddy, It's not like that. We're friends and study partners. Now we're also business partners. I'm not sleeping with him. We just have to live together to do the job here."

"Yet. Maybe you're not sleeping with him yet, but I know how these things work. He'll keep working on you until he gets what he wants then you get the short end of the stick."

Sam stood and glared at Trevor. He said, "Sir, I have never made an unwanted move on your daughter or any other woman. Like Traci said, we have not slept together and there is no plan for us to start. We are friends and business partners. That's all."

Sam looked at Traci for a moment before continuing, "Traci is a fine woman. You should be proud of her. I am proud to call her a friend. I would also be a liar if I didn't say she is a beautiful woman and one who will make a fine wife and partner in the future. If anything happens between us it will be mutually decided on, but right now nothing sexual is on the table or being considered by either of us."

Finally, the evening ended. By the time everyone went to bed that Friday night, the two kids were upset and exasperated with Traci's parents and the parents were upset because they couldn't talk sense into the kids. Sam was placed in a spare bedroom across from Traci's room upstairs in the old farmhouse. Traci's parents retired to their room, an addition made after the house was built, downstairs on the first floor.

As Sam turned away from Traci to enter his bedroom he said, "Whew. That was intense. I think they're really worried about you, Traci. I don't know how we can make them feel better about this deal. I'm sorry I got you into this." He also laughed as he continued, "I'm a little surprised they even let me sleep up here in the spare room. I thought they might make me sleep downstairs on the couch or outside so they could be more sure you'd be safe."

"Well, the couch might have been an option but they are the old school sort. You are a guest and since they have the guest room that is where you will stay. I bet neither of them gets a good nights sleep, though. They will be worrying you'll slip into my room and ravish me. I know it makes no sense since if we were going to do something like that we would have all the opportunity in the world to do it at college."

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