tagNovels and NovellasThe Brass Ring Ch. 01-02

The Brass Ring Ch. 01-02


Chapter 1 JoJo & Mint

My first girlfriend ... I mean a real girlfriend, not some kid I liked ... was named Joanna. Joanna Hansen. She sat in front of me in math class. She was smart and I wasn't. Well, actually, I just wasn't as smart as she was. I used to peek over her shoulder to see what her answers were to the weekly tests Mrs. Culver made us take. I think maybe I got through that grade eleven course just because of her. Joanna that is.

I was sixteen. I'd never had any kind of fun with a girl before. I guess I was a little slow compared my buddies. They were all braggin' about how they'd fucked this or that girl, or felt them up, or played pussy-finger with them. I was getting tired of hearing it. I had to do something about it, so I asked Joanna to the sock-hop on Friday night.

She looked at me kind of funny, but then, "Okay. You can pick me up at seven-thirty."

Pick her up? With what? I had a license, but no car. "Yeah ... sure ... seven-thirty."

Shit, I was in it now. Good old Duke Hunsinger had stepped in it this time. I had only two chances, and I didn't like either of them.

"Hey, Dad, mind if I use the car Friday night. I've got a date."

"Take the bus. You know damn well it's my bowling night."

"Can't one of your friends pick you up?"

"Can't one of your friends pick you up?" he snapped back.

"It's not like I ask you very often. This is my first date with this girl."

"Far as I can figure out, this is your first date with any girl."

I turned and walked back toward my room. I'd have to call Brains or T-Man to see if I could hook up with them.

"I don't wanna see any cum stains on the back seat tomorrow morning," the old man hollered after me.

I turned around. My old man wasn't legendary for changin' his mind. I stared at him just to make sure he was serious before I started to walk back toward him.

"I don't think you'll have to worry about that," I said.

He reached into his side pocket and pulled out the car keys, handing them over to me, all the while giving me the evil eye.

"Put some gas in it if you've got more than fifty cents to spare," he snapped.

I nodded. "Thanks." I had dodged a bullet. Joanna Hansen would have her ride tonight.

She was a real good-looking girl. Not too big with the tits, but still, they were there and they were nice. Nice legs too; all the way up to her ass. She dressed nice, was always tidy. I wouldn't call her sexy, but she was plenty good enough for me. I mean, I knew a dozen other guys who would have dated her, but I got to her before they did.

That sock-hop was my first of many dates with Joanna, or JoJo, my pet name for her. We got to know each other pretty good. Real good, if you get what I'm saying. We started out just necking. I got to kiss her that first date and things just progressed from there. After I couple of dates, I got to feel her up in the movie theatre. I must have been a little rough with her, because she told me afterwards to take it easy, that I'd leave marks on her if I kept it up.

Every guy remembers the first time he lost his cherry. It wasn't one of my shining moments. I wasn't cool enough to know what I was doing, and I wasn't smart or experienced enough to realize it wasn't a first for Joanna. At least she didn't seem to be upset about it when I didn't last very long. I apologized, and that seemed to help. I got better at screwing thanks to her telling me what was good and what wasn't.

We were pretty much a steady pair for almost a year when Jake Demeter, the school asshole, decided he wanted her. Being a hero jock and a good deal bigger than me, it wasn't going to be a fair fight. JoJo tried to be nice about it, explaining all the benefits she'd have being seen with Mr. Big. I was pissed, but it was a done deal. I was out and asshole was in ... in more ways than one.

It didn't exactly kill me. Once the word got around that I was on the loose again, I got swamped with offers for dates. Well, two offers actually. Cindy Klopfenstein and Monica Purvis came around to see me as a delegation. They said I could date them anytime. There was a reason, of course. Neither of them had been on a date in recent memory. I thanked them for their kindness, but told them that I was too busted up about losing JoJo to even think about dating. I figured I could get over it about one hour after I was finished with this high school forever, and that was only a couple of months away.

Most of us kids had nicknames. I don't know why. It started when I was in grade school when one of my pals started calling me Duke because back then I had this thing for John Wayne movies. Since then, it just seemed natural to find a nickname for my friends and some guys who weren't. Just a quirk of personality, my friend Brains Nonis told me.

My proper name is Dieter Hunsinger. Can you blame me for wanting a nickname? My father's name is Helmut. Get the picture. We're squareheads. My mother's name is Slut. She took off with some guy just before my fifteenth birthday. Left me and the old man to look after ourselves. Bitch!

I don't have a nickname for the old man. He's just ... the old man, or Pop. He's not a bad guy, to tell the truth. He acts like he's grumpy all the time, but I know some of that is fake. Mind you, he's got good reason to be pissed. The old lady screwed around on him, stripped the bank account, and took off with her lover boy, never to be heard from again. The old man didn't bother to get a divorce. "Why spend money you don't need to," he said. I think I know what he means.

When I got out of school, I went lookin' for two things, a full-time job and a girl. I found both. I'd been working at the supermarket part time when I was in school. It was good for pocket money, but not much else. I wanted something better so that I could get a car, and maybe even a place to live.

I went to work for an auto parts distributor getting orders ready to ship. I was a "car nut," so I figured it would be right up my alley. It wasn't that tough, but it was what you call a "learning experience." I learned mostly how not to run a business. Piss poor inventory control, lousy customer service, too many useless employees, and too many pissed off customers.

I was sure I knew better, so a year-and-a-half later I started my own business with a loan from the bank and the old man. Actually, he became a silent partner, except he wasn't silent. One thing about him ... he knew what it took to make money and stay in business. He ran a warehouse for a big furniture outfit and he was a big part of their doing well. I had more than one guy tell me he was the brains of the outfit. The other thing about him was that he was happy as hell to tell me everything he knew. Lucky for me I listened, now and then filtering out the bullshit.

Six months after I got going, I hooked up with Patricia Peppar. The kids at school used to call her Peppermint Pattie, but I just called her Mint. She was something else. Tall, stacked, and suddenly available. She was also different. I mean, her lipstick, nail polish, and make-up were all dark. Dark red, dark purple, and black. Along with her short, black hair with some red streaks in it, she was always dressed in black or dark colors. I have to agree, she didn't do anything to make herself look sexy in the normal way. Just the same, she had a killer body and didn't dress to hide it.

She'd been going out with Turkey Neck Thompson, but somehow or another he pissed her off, and I was right there at the right time in the right place.

She liked the idea that I was a part-owner of my own business and had my own car. Yeah, I bought a beater and used my business to fix it up real fine. I traded service for service and got a fresh paint job, a new interior, and some engine parts to make it go better. What I didn't have was my own place, so most of my little get-togethers with Mint were on Friday night when I knew the old man wouldn't be home before midnight.

I stuck to my plan, and the business got better and better. By this time, Pop had quit his job at the furniture store and had come to work with me full time. He ran the place, while I looked after the customers and suppliers. We were doin' real well, and I figured it was time for me to get my own place. I told the old man that I was moving out and he about threw a fit.

"What the fuck am I goin' to do here all by myself? Why the hell do you have to move?"

"I've got a private life, you know. Me and Mint have somethin' good going. Maybe I'm going to ask her to marry me. She ain't going to want to live here. She'll want her own place."

"Fer Christ's sake, kid, this house has three bedrooms and a finished basement. If I have to go live down there it'd be better than you spendin' your money on some dump you don't need. There's better things to spend it on," he spluttered. "I don't know why you're so all fired up about gettin' married. Why don't you just shack up with her?"

I knew why he wasn't hot for me to get married to Mint ... or anyone for that matter. He was thinking about what happened to him. I pretty much ignored him about that. As far as the living at home, it did make sense. He was right about having lots of room. There was only one hitch. Mint didn't buy it.

"I'm living with my parents now, dammit. Why would I want to trade them for your father?"

"Listen, Mint, it won't be like that. That basement is a separate apartment, sort of. It'll be like having a boarder. You won't even know he's around," I said confidently.

"Are you kidding me? The only way up and down to that place is through the kitchen. How the hell are we not going to know he's around? Besides, you know how noisy I get when we're screwing. That alone could ruin our sex life."

"Look, I'm saving every dime I make in the business to get a place of my own. I'm not talking about some dumpy apartment. I'm talking a house like the old man has, or your folks for that matter. The business is doin' okay. It's getting bigger, so it won't be that long before I can afford a down payment. Just be patient, girl."

What I told her was almost true. I was saving every dime, but it was to buy a better location for my business, not a house. It was growing and needed the extra space. Besides, I needed the customers to take me seriously. I figured if Mint agreed to go along with living in the old man's house for a while, I could maybe do both with a bit of stalling.

I set up a separate account for the new business location. Okay, okay, it was my old man's idea, but just the same, I went along with it. He said I should always protect my assets. I think he was still thinking how lucky he got when the old lady took off with only the savings and checking account. He had a separate personal account himself, and that's where the real money was. It made me wonder if he didn't suspect the old lady was screwin' around on him.

The old man was never really a big fan of Mint. I suppose it might have been the weird way she looked. She didn't try to dress like every other woman you'd meet. More like some of those babes in the vampire movies. Pop said she gave him the "willies."

Mint never agreed to move in but would sleep over now and then, and the old man never had to move downstairs. I did. It wasn't that bad. It had windows, just not big ones. The bedroom had a queen size bed, the living area had a 50" flat screen TV, and the kitchen area a fridge, stove, and microwave. There was a bathroom with a big shower cabinet, the laundry room, and workshop. What else did I need? Mint wasn't impressed, but it wasn't like there was a bunch of options.

What the old man needed was what I already had -- a woman. Even though he'd been doing without for too long, he didn't make it easy on himself. He was so pissed at the old lady that he took it out on any woman that tried to get close to him. After a while, the women quit trying. I couldn't say I blamed them.

But all that changed when Marla came along. Pop was in charge of running the whole operation; Hunsinger Auto Services. I was just the idea man, looking for new products and new suppliers, working on promotions, visiting the customers, and drumming up sales. That was my job. But the old man, he made the place go. He did the hiring and firing. He watched the inventory like a hawk. He also watched the accounts receivable for any deadbeats. They got themselves up to date in a hurry or they were gone.

So anyway, we were in need of a delivery driver and the old man put an ad in the paper and we must have got fifty replies in two days. It looked like a line-up at the soup kitchen for a while as he interviewed every one of the people who showed up. That was the old man. Attention to detail, he called it. "You hire somebody, you make sure they're right for the job," he said more than once.

He'd come home at night and bitch about what a useless bunch of clowns that showed up for that job. I'd just shrug. "Hire the best of the bunch," I told him.

"Listen, kid, those people are supposed to represent this company. We gotta have confidence that they ain't going to piss off the customers, or rob us blind. I've talked to most of them, and I wouldn't hire any of them. You gotta think there's somebody out there that can do this job and not fuck it up."

That 'somebody' turned out to be Marla Wosniak. Now Marla wasn't any raving beauty. She was maybe five-two, short reddish-brown hair, big brown eyes, and built like a fire hydrant. She was about the same age as Pop, but she was a real fireball. Full of energy. I think that's what attracted the old man to her. The other thing, I don't ever remember seeing her without a smile on her face.

I could see why the old man liked her. I liked her too. Better than that, she was smart. Real smart. In less than a week, she had figured out how to cut down her delivery times by almost two hours a day. Two hours! Naturally, the old man wanted to know how, so we went down to the shipping department and asked.

"She's really smart, Boss," Freddy told him. "She figured out the quickest way to get from one place to another and before I knew it, she was back here looking for more work. You gotta keep her, Boss. She's a pistol!"

"I better talk to her. I don't want her doin' nothin' illegal," the old man said.

So he did. Well, as I heard it, the talk lasted about two hours, a dinner date, and who knows what else. All I know is that the old man didn't come home that night. He didn't come home the next night either. When he did finally show up, Marla was with him.

"Hey, Marla, how are you," I welcomed her.

"I'm great, kid. Thanks for askin'."

"I thought you should know, Marla and me are goin' out ... like on dates," the old man said with a funny look on his face. It was almost like he was embarrassed.

"No shit. Good for you, Dad. You treat her right, you hear," I added stupidly.

The old man looked at me like he wanted to bust me one right then and there, but didn't.

"He treats me like a queen," Marla said with a genuine smile. "I've never been treated better."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that. He needs somebody to care for ... and maybe who cares for him."

I could see the old man getting edgier and edgier.

"He's a sweetheart, kid. Don't you worry about me," she said, looking up at my old man with what could only be described as loving eyes.

Holy shit! The old man's in love. And it looks like she is too. Who'd have thunk it. In two days, for christ's sake!

Marla excused herself to use the bathroom and I waited to hear what the old man had to say for himself.

"You mind staying out of sight tonight?" was the first thing out of his mouth. "Me and Marla need some privacy ... you understand?"

"Yeah ... sure ... no problem," I said, a little surprised. Then, when I thought about it, I was happy for him.

"She's something special, isn't she," I said, looking him in the eye.

"Yeah. You could say that. I think maybe real special. So you be a good boy and give us some space ... okay?"

"Sure ... like I said ... no problem."

From nothing to shackin' up in two days. Even for me that would be fast. But hey, I couldn't knock it. He was way overdue. He'd earned it. He deserved it. Nobody was more entitled to a little loving than the old man.

I disappeared downstairs just before Marla came back and I heard them talking before I closed the door at the bottom of the stairs. I'm sure the old man was explaining the deal to Marla ... I wouldn't be bothering them. I hope she was okay with that.

Marla was gone when I got up the next morning. The old man was up and getting his first cup of coffee when I came upstairs. I didn't know what to say, so I didn't say anything. That seemed to be fine with him. I watched him as he sat at the kitchen table, eating his toast and drinking his coffee. He had this goofy look on his face. It was like he'd figured out that he was happy and didn't know what to do about it.

No doubt about it, he was in love. Marla love. I wondered if this meant there would be problems at work, but I shouldn't have. The only difference was that he was in a good mood most of the time. Just the same, he was checking all the things that he usually checked and making all the moves that needed to be made. Nothin' much changed, except ... he was in love.

Of course, this changed everything with Mint and me.

"Wadda ya mean we have to stay in the basement? No way, Jose!"

"Listen, Mint. This is a big deal for my old man. He's finally found someone and he's in love. I'm not going to screw it up for him."

"But you're okay with screwing it up for us? Well get this, pal. I'm not livin' in no basement. Not now ... not ever!"

It sounded like she'd made her mind up. What tipped me off was when she took all her clothes and stuff and left. I mean, she went back to her home. It looked like this was the end for Mint and me.

I felt bad about it ... for a while. Not a long while. Mint could be a demanding bitch when she wanted to. She didn't like being told no. I'm no wimp, so she didn't always get her way. On the important stuff, she found out I didn't move. Important stuff ... like my old man's happiness.

So ... there I was ... on my own again. It wasn't so bad. In fact, me and Marla got along so well that she said I ought to move back to my old bedroom instead of being in the basement. I told her I appreciated the thought, but I was just as happy down there knowing I didn't disturb them ... giving them privacy. She gave me a big hug and kissed my cheek and told me I was a good kid. Kid! I was twenty-eight for crying out loud.

After Mint hit the road, I had a few dates. None of them memorable. If a woman had her own place, we could go there and not bother anybody. I didn't have any trouble finding agreeable companions, if that's what you call it. Let's face it, I was getting laid on a regular basis.

I was getting known around town, even though I made sure everyone knew my old man was the president and I was the vice-president. It's the way I wanted it, and even though he didn't think it was fair to me, he went along with it. Marla knew the deal because my old man told her. She was now head of shipping and still making the deliveries. She could do both with time to spare. She really was something to behold.

I could see the time coming when my old man was going to have to do something about my mother. He was going to have to divorce her if he wanted to marry Marla. Now to be fair, Marla wasn't pressing him to get it done. She was happy just the way things were, but I could see it was gnawing at him.

With a little help from Brains Nonis, I set about looking for my used-to-be mother. I didn't know if she was even still alive. Brains and me got on his computer and started a search. We figured she'd keep her married name since she wasn't divorced, so we started to search. Nothing! Then we searched under her maiden name; Keppler. Still nothing.

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